Monday 12 December 2016

Last railway pics of the year?

Little update from a couple of weeks ago.  Having assumed there would be no more railway photography this side of the New Year, because of rubbish weather and a lack of trains, the last Saturday of November dawned bright with sunshine and blue sky.  The Worth Valley were running their Santa Special train service, so me and the Eldest Child nipped out to get a quick snap or two.

Thanks to the dogs/dog shit/ scary hooded youths which populate this wood a lot of the time, I avoid the place after about 1 in the afternoon, but early in the morning it seemed rather nice, and was happily deserted.

The only annoyance was a lot of the frost had gone by the second train of the day, but the upshot was the sun was in the right place.

The main loco was my favourite from the Worth Valley fleet, the American S160-class "Big Jim" suitably bedecked in tinsel.

Normally I prefer a lower-angle shot here, but it involves wearing wellies and standing in the river, and it was carrying a bit of floodwater today so we avoided it.  The shot has been published online twice so far anyway though, so obviously a few people like the angle.

The rarely-used Class 25 diesel as tail-end Charlie. 

So a nice little  unexpected chance for some train shots there in a location which I haven't been down to for a while.  Probably no more train shots this side of January 2017 anyway, so it was nice to end on a sunny shot.

Saturday 10 December 2016

Chief Scout Award Presentations, Bradford City Hall

Another older shoot from the backlog, from mid November...  We're both Scout Leaders, and one of our regular gigs at this time of year is to shoot the Chief Scout Award Presentations.

These take place at the City Hall in Bradford, over two nights, with the Lord Mayor presenting the awards.

Obviously we cannot show the pics from the actual awards on here for privacy reasons, so lots of shots of the set-up phases instead in the beautiful council chamber.

City Hall is a pretty impressive venue for this sort of thing, and actually as a location it tends to turn up in lots of TV stuff (for example it was the High Court in London during the recent version of the Great Train Robbery.  On the second night we were there, they were filming an episode of Emmerdale in the building).

Lots of cabinets full of ceremonial silverware and similar.

Back in the room, lighting was a bit of an issue, because the new bulbs in the light fittings are ridiculously bright whilst the backgrounds are ridiculously dark, which confuses the hell out of the lighting sensors.  Luckily the new SLR manages to cope, but it took a lot of trial and error to get the flashguns on the right setting.

On these occasions we both end up taking the photographs, as they do presentations from both sides of the Mayor's seat.  At least it means there's lots to do with no sitting around when it gets going.

Both shoots went well- nice to be able to combine our voluntary scouting roles with our photography stuff.  Now just the vast process of editing and getting pics printed and mounted...

Thursday 8 December 2016

Birmingham, Hobby International, and Cake...

Right, now the Wonderful World of the Tax Self Assessment is done and dusted with, time to clear some of the backlog of posts to put up.

Back last month, we headed down to Birmingham and to the Hobbycraft and Cake International Show at the NEC.  We had a list of a few arty bits we needed to pick up, and the cake show is always worth a gander.

We knew from past experience the place gets rammed, so we were in early doors on a ludicrously busy intercity from Sandwell and Dudley.  Once we'd survived the stampede of determined-looking middle aged women charging like the Pamplona bull-run down the corridors, we got in to the hall.  No pictures from the art and design section because we were too busy bargain hunting.

But the cakes though, oh the cakes... With the usual mix of fasciantion at the quality, and terror at how easy it would be to knock some of these things over, we browsed the displays.

Steampunk horse- our kind of thing.

Brilliant flowers.

Xenomorph cake.

Not sure what was used for the water, glycerine perhaps.

How is this a cake?!  Gorgeous bit of colouring work, apparently done with an airbrush.

Lovely bit of mesh on this one...

Even more intricate here.

Leaving the crowded hall, by contrast the rest of the NEC looked like a set from 28 Days Later.

Back into Birmingham, after the niceness of the art and cake show, by contrast it was time for a reminder of why I (Ben) had moved away from the place...  First of all to the Grand Central Shopping Centre which has a rather large train set inconveniently located in the basement.  God, anybody would think it was a major transport interchange.

After being wonderfully patronised by the Sales Creature in a branch of a well-known camera shop, who seemed to be amazed that Amy was the Lesser-known Female Who Could Use A Machine and I was an Idiot Who Could Be Sold A Lens Which Was Ten Times More Than The One I Actually Wanted, Amy was equally patronised by a different Sales Creature in a branch of a well-known cosmetics shop.  Feeling somewhat depressed, we headed further into town. 

Mood perked up a little when we found something for a sculpture build in the excellent Ian Allen Book Shop down by New Street Station.

Quick pic of one of the slightly-unsettlingly pink public transport options, on the tramway extension in the centre.  My Little Midland Metro... 

Our mood was considerably improved by a trip to the Ikon Gallery for tea and cake, then home to the parents and The Childs, so overall the negatives of central Birmingham were outweighed by the snackage in the afternoon and the show in the morning.

Up next in the clearing of the backlog, a shoot at the City Hall in Bradford...

Sunday 27 November 2016

Train pics... in print and published online

So over the weekend, the combination of nice weather and steam trains running on the Worth Valley tempted me (Ben) out to the lineside with the camera.  The railway have started running their Santa Special trains, hence why "Big Jim" is covered with tinsel in the shot.  I'll do a bit more in a separate post, but anyway the pic was published online on the Railway Centre website in their 'Pic of the Day' feature.  I've had a few pics published online this way over the years; OK you don't get paid a fee for it, but it doesn't matter to me- I take these pictures because I like taking the pictures, and all they'd otherwise do is clutter up the hard drive.  The link is here, to the index of pics for November:

It did get me thinking about doing a blog post though.  We both do a lot of railway photography, myself especially.  Mainly because it is nice to be able  to do something with the resulting images, we send the better ones off to the railway magazines, but our work tends in a lot of cases to be a bit on the abstract side for the tastes of most editors.  Plus there always seems to be a few very prolific photographers who get the best locations and tend to get printed more often, so we don't get a vast amount of work published in the traditional 'print' mags against such competition.

   That being said, last week we happily received the news that I (Ben) had five of my images published in 'Railways Illustrated' over the last 12 months.  I'd spotted three of them, but typically the issues where two of the others had been featured had, by the process of Sods Law, come out at a point where I'd missed looking.  

'Railways Illustrated' was the mag which published my first ever photo, this shot of a Deltic on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway; establishing the usual 'form' of my pics, I took this low-angle shot hanging out of a tree halfway along a badly overgrown footpath to nowhere.  It was an amazing feeling to see one of my pics actually in print in a mainstream magazine, and since then, it is the publication with which I've had the most success since. 

   So what have we got in this recent batch?  Well first up is this shot from Hirst Wood, in Bingley (November 2015 issue)- I was on a walk out with The Childs in 2015 and was in the right place at the right time; I've only ever seen a couple of other photographers knocking around this location, so I tend to get it pretty much to myself when I want to, but with the Settle-Carlisle shut to through-traffic at the moment due to a landslide there isn't a lot worth photographing right now.

   Moving on, to my slight surprise we have a shot from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (June 2016 issue).  Surprising because it is abstract, and a lot of the magazines don't really go in for this sort of thing, Surprising secondly because the Worth Valley has a dedicated band of established photographers who seem to be there all the time, and would appear to have the market in these pics pretty much sewn up.  Certainly since the Deltic shot I've not managed a KWVR pic in print, and on the rare occasions where I've managed to find some unusual locations on the railway and have had pics published online, these new spots tend to get a ton of photographers any following gala.  At least two I've spoken to have commented that they saw the locations in my pics and thought they'd have a go, which is a tad annoying but then this is a five-mile railway with limited pubic access, and which has been open since the 1960's, so its hardly surprising every angle has been found and staked-out by the veterans.  So it was nice to see that my lazy (in that it was shot very close to home) shot of my favourite loco, "Big Jim" got into print.

I've already put about this on the Facebook page, but here we are with a shot from the Aln Valley Railway taken over the summer (published in the October 2016 issue)- I was a little surprised at this one getting in; the subject matter is a tad unusual (the railway station is a marvelous new-build on a brownfield site, and the loco is an industrial shunter which is a copy of a 'mainline' class, so unusual enough to attract the interest of the mags), but this was the most bog-standard of the angles I took all day, and was just a snap I thought I'd include for the sake of it, not an image I was particularly in love with.

   Fast forward a bit, and this month I managed to get two shots from the Middleton Railway Diesel Gala into print too (in the December 2016 issue).  A 'standard' shot of the LMS Diesel shunter "John Alcock" parked up at Middleton...

...and a ridiculously low-angle shot taken near Park Halt.  A few of my fellow photographer friends like to comment that I take angles which are far too low, so it was pleasant to see that they'd used this one.  Worth repeating that this wasn't a trespass shot- the line is unfenced, tramway-style, at this location, and I was safely out of the movement-envelope of the passing train.

   Another thing worth mentioning is the choice in photographs- I sent them in to the mags, in amongst larger batches of images, but none of the shots were my own favourites from each of the days, and in fact were all shots I wasn't that sure about... which just goes to prove how tricky it is trying to guess what the editors will like or not.  I'm grateful certainly to have them in print though, and will keep sending in pics on the off chance.

   Finally, getting pics in print is nice (as it comes with financial reward) but I mainly send them off to an online mag, Railtalk, the editor of which I've known for a few years.  A lot of photographers send in their images; I'm happy to get the pics seen here than just cluttering up my computer, and the team behind Railtalk put a lot of effort into getting the work out there.  We have some pics in this months, and its free to view if anyone is interested:

Next time, either Birmingham, or some info on a commissioned shoot at City Hall in Bradford...

Monday 21 November 2016

Half Term... Fireworks Finale

So after the last couple of very, very wordy blogs, lets end the Half Term updates with some pretty pictures of Fireworks.

Given how awful the weather was during the day on Saturday, it was nice that the dry (if overcast) nights provided a little more opportunity for shooting pics, and happily the caravan site we were stopping on was hosting a firework display for the last weekend of the Half Term.  It has been a little while since either of us have done any firework pics, but no matter.  We also decided to leave the new SLR behind and just use the D90 given the risk of jostling and dropping into the mud…

So that was that then- a somewhat action-packed Half Term, and our last shoots in Wales of 2016.  Up next, either a trip to Birmingham or our shoot at the City Hall in Bradford, probably...