Saturday 23 December 2017

Ffestiniog Victorian Weekend, 2017

One from a while ago, on what was planned to be the last trip of the year to Wales (but wasn't in the end, as we returned to shoot those Inflate-Deflate pictures).  Towards the end of October we headed off to Porthmadog for a day on the trains, riding the Ffestiniog Railway during their Victorian weekend.  Lots of heritage stock, the older engines... all tends to be a bit more interesting than the regular service, with so many preserved items in service.

We were not, however, blessed with terribly good weather, and it was a bit dull and murky...  as can be seen in the shot above of a Welsh Highland Railway service shunting in the station whilst we were waiting for the right-away.

We got Rover tickets so we could make the most of the line, including lunch at Tanybwlch, where we watched a demonstration goods which has just passed one of the Double Fairlie locos.

At least it was a bit chilly, which meant some good dramatic steam effects.

Pretty early on in the day though, it was obvious that the light was too murky for colour pics, so I decided to aim for some grey-scale shots, though it was still rather dark.

"Palmerston" at Harbour Station.

Mixed train and demonstration goods train at Harbour.

Double Fairlie "Merddin Emrys" at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Empty slate train at Harbour. 

"Palmerston" drifting back into Harbour.

And finally, what looks to be the most fun seat on the trains...
That's probably it for this side of Christmas, though if we get chance we'll try and do something like a look back at the year, and a heads-up for what is coming in early 2018.  In the meantime, thanks to our regular readers and supporters, and Merry Christmas.

Friday 15 December 2017

Inf-Def late 2017... indoor shoot

Having done the outdoor "Inflate-Deflate" pics (see the last blog post), the next night I decided to take the project back to its roots and shoot some pics indoors.  Same basic rules as the earlier studio pics; single light source, and a black background (in this case a reading light and a cheap bed sheet bought that afternoon from Wilkinsons in town... all glamour on my shoots). 

Under normal circumstances I'd have done this shoot first as it is the less high-risk in terms of potential damage to the props; shooting outdoors poses more risk of damage and loss, which given that I couldn't replace either of these floats was a definite issue.  But the weather promised to be even worse on the second night than the first, so I had to do the shoots in reverse order.

Having gone through the long-winded process of re-inflating the toys and cleaning all the sand off them, it was time to shoot the pics.

There were some slight issues; I was convinced one of the rings was deflating (see the crease lines above), but actually it was an air pressure issue caused by how cold the room was.  Another word on the quality of these toys, as photography props for this shoot, these are about the most indestructible inflatables I've used; during the shoot the night before, they'd survived contact with sharp rocks and even brambles with no damage.  I'm not sure if, in 'normal' use that indestructibility would be worth it when compared with their size/time to inflate and deflate, but for my purposes, very useful.

Anyway, the pics turned out exactly how I'd wanted... given I'd managed to stop it blowing away into the sea and ending up in Dublin, I thought I'd do some with the polkadot-patterned ball too.

The material was surprisingly battered and marked given it had only been used on two location shoots, but I did quite like the texture.

Another successful shoot- though, again, it did prove that I should shoot some more stuff with the higher quality available with the newer SLR...  Maybe a job for later in the winter.  As a shoot though, this time went much more smoothly than the two other beach visits, which is probably a matter of experience and practise.  Odd to think that the beach-based shoots have been spread over a whole year, but these pics with the better SLR indicate a fourth visit may be in order early next year.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Inf-Def late 2017... hitting the beach

Earlier in the year, I (Ben) shot a second batch of photographs for my long-running "Inflate-Deflate" project, taking the pics on the beach in Wales.  Generally the pics were successful, but during the edit I did regret I'd used the backup camera instead of the rather superior newer DSLR we bought last year, just because the newer camera has a noticeable improvement in sharpness with night shoots.  I hadn't had much opportunity to try a new shoot over the summer due to other commitments and the short nights (I'm getting rather tired of doing photoshoots at 1am), but a trip to Wales in late Autumn seemed to offer some chances for pics.

Anyway, I recently acquired these; definitely at the higher-end of the summertoys market, these Sunnylife floats caught my eye earlier in the year in a shop window in Liverpool.  They are very expensive at RRP, but also very good quality, by far the best quality of toys used in any of these shoots.  They are also not plastered in warning labels and health and safety information, which made for a pleasant change compared to some of the other props bought in the last couple of years.  I managed to get these two floats very cheap in an end of summer sale.

Lighting for this time (learning from the experience of the earlier shoot) would be these, to allow the rings to be lit all the way around.  The long LED lights have been bought for a miniatures shoot, but would come in useful here.  I chose to leave them in their plastic wrapping from the box, as it would provide a degree of damp-proofing on the wet sand.  The inspection light was more for setting up the shots, as if anything it is a bit too efficiently bright for the shoot.

Compared to the previous two shoots, there was no drama getting to the location, beyond the fact it was pissing it down.  It was very quiet, being a wet weekend in November, but the benefit of the clocks moving, and not having to worry about feeding The Childs (being as they were visiting Chateau Grandparents), was that I was on location by 6:20 pm; no midnight photography this time!  And to save even more time on the beach -because these toys are massive and complicated to inflate with multiple chambers, needing the pressure to be equalized between them- they were blown up before setting off, though squeezing them into the car was a tad tricky.

A little behind the scenes pic of the setup on location...  As usual, a degree of trial and error was needed with positioning the lights so they were not too obvious.

Equally problems with having the remote left on in your pocket when positioning the toys...

...and the tripod shifiting into the wet sand during a long exposure. 

After a bit of experimentation, just shooting on 'no flash' mode (above) was ditched, as it made things too grainy.  Resetting to manual and a 7-10 second exposure worked rather better.

There were a couple of issues with the red base of the ring overdominating the shots, but choosing the angles carefully gave me the effect I was after with the rainbow stripes.

The wet sand also gave some excellent reflections, an effect I really wanted, which was more by luck than anything else as I had rushed out without checking the tides until I was unloading the car.

All in all, I was very happy with the way these shots turned out with these rings...

Whilst I was there, I decided to reshoot one of the shots I'd failed at last time.  I'd had a lot of problems with this, not least because I did the shots with the "48 beachballs on the wet sand last time after I'd been shooting for 5 hours, I was tired, cold, and the breeze was picking up.

Typically, as soon as I'd set up, the breeze started, not great when you need a 7-second exposure time.

I finally got one shot though, which ticked off something I'd wanted to do last time around but hadn't managed then.

So that brief shoot over, it was time to abandon and head back for a curry.  The only real annoyance was that the shoot did demonstrate I should have shot the pictures with the new SLR in the first place, meaning I may have to selectively reshoot some pics if I'm going to progress the project in any way.

But I wasn't quite done here- I decided I was also going to shoot some pics indoors too, as with the earliest shots in the project...

Monday 11 December 2017

Worth Valley October

A few pics from the Worth Valley from October.  a combination of us being busy at weekends, a limited timetable on the line, and poor weather have meant I haven't been that inclined to go taking any pics on the KWVR recently, but I got a few snaps here and there.

I was actually on the station to pick up a copy of the railways own mag, in which one of my pictures had been published, and the class 101 was about to depart whilst I was there, so I grabbed a couple of pics.

A couple of weeks later, and the Railbus was out on the service, photographed whilst walking home with the Elder Child...

On the same day, the visiting 'Black 5' was on the steam turn.  Not the shot I wanted, but then my regular photo location here was being staked out.  As more and more of the Worth Valley is being built over with housing estates, it seems even the more out of the way locations are attracting photographers, and the last few times I've been out taking photos there's someone occupying my favourite spots... I could start getting more inventive with locations, but to be honest I'm running out of stuff I'm bothered about getting pics of on the KWVR at the moment, so might just start looking further afield...

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Back To Black (pool) 2017

October saw our annual pilgrimage to the Blackpool Illuminations, to both have an evening out with a bit of exercise, and to add a few more pics to Amy's 'Light Trails' project...

We didn't do our full route this time; usually we get the tram down to the very end of the line and walk it, but then usually we go on a weeknight.  Being a Saturday this year, the trams were packed like sardine tins and we'd had about all we could stand by the time we'd reached just past the South Pier, so we bailed off.

Not a proper shot for the project, but what you get when you let the Childs all buy lightsabres...

In the end Amy didn't end up doing too many shots, as last year she covered about everything she wanted to, but she snapped a few pics, this time trying for some more zooming-out images with looser focus.

I (Ben) decided to try and get some better tram pics than I managed last year, mainly because this year a lot of the heritage fleet were out and about.

Finally, Amy making the most of the Tower being scaffold-free again this year.

So not as many pics this year, but that's mainly because last year was so good.  But we did get a nice walk out of it, and its always something we enjoy doing...

...and a pic published, in Railway Magazine (Dec 2017 issue).