Sunday 30 September 2018

Inflate-Deflate... Holiday Haunts

Usually I (Ben) prefer to do night-time seaside pics later in the year, when it gets darker earlier and there are less people around out of season.  But with a deadline to hit for an open call, I was forced to hit the beach in a Bank Holiday week, for a development of my location shoots from "Inflate-Deflate".  The concept was to use the backlit-beach tat theme to explore ideas of plastic left on beaches; so a typical beach scene would be set up, but only the plastic items would be lit, particularly the sorts of things which seem to often get dumped at the end of a day by less-responsible people...

Setting up was a lot quicker and easier with an assistant this time around to help carry everything, and most of the inflatables were partially inflated in the car, which whilst quicker, would have made for an interesting stop and search had The Fuzz wandered what we were doing driving around late at night.

We actually had two goes at this; the first night, there was a camper van skulking in the lay by (obviously trying to avoid paying to use a campsite), and when we got onto the beach it was windy and the sea rough, with rain coming in, so we abandoned and went home.  Arriving the next night found the place with only one random car in the lay by, and the sea like a millpond under a clear sky.  Perfect shooting conditions...

Building on the experience of the last shoots, there were still some issues; the lighting used for example.  The above shot shows a problem with using the strip lights, with the blow-up whale, in that individual LED light bulbs were too obvious.

This shot shows another problem, in that the tide was rising pretty damned fast (the beach is very shallow), but without drama or even waves, so without realising it in the dark the water was suddenly up and lapping around the set.  As the above angle shows however, I'd learnt from last year (where I'd had to splash around in the sea to retrieve props which had blown away) and was therefore dressed for a bit of a paddle so I could get some more interesting angles from within the sea itself...

As this shot shows, the rising tide sometimes was only noticed when lights started floating away; again, learning from last year, this time I'd wrapped each light in a seal able freezer bag to stop them from getting damaged from the sand or the seawater.

...the same floating-away issues applied to the inflatables, but at least with the sea so calm and no breeze they were easy to catch before stuff drifted too far.

These two shots show the effect of the clear sky, the moon, and the calm sea.

With the main four shots done, I decided to try and get some more individual shots of the inflatables to bulk-out the collection shot for the "Inflate-Deflate" project, though the plan really is to try this later in the year properly on a night where it gets darker quicker.  Not entirely successful, the above shot shows the problems lighting a complex shape like the unicorn, as the light taped to the neck is a bit too visible.

The modified concept seems to have gone down well with the people I've shown the shots to so far, and it was enjoyable to plan and shoot.  Waiting for the second night made it work, rather than trying to compromise on the first night, and learning from the problems of the last shoot was a good move (dressing for ending up in the sea, pre-preparing the props, sketching out plans for where everything needed to be set up etc).  The only damage was one light where the bag leaked, and the batteries had an interesting reaction with the salty water (a bag full of slightly-fizzy brown water...lovely), and two of the inflatables which were annoyingly damaged straight out of the packets.

All in all, a successful shoot, and a nice block of images for the wider concept, and a few new shots to add to the collection from the earlier "Inflate-Deflate" set.

Friday 28 September 2018

Llanberis Lake Railway August Bank Hol 2018

In what might be called traditional bank holiday weather, we pitched up at Llanberis for a mass outing at the end of August.  My (Ben's) parents, Amys parents, The Childs, Amy's God-Parents, and some family friends; Llanberis was nicely in the middle for where we were all staying, and at least there was a large indoor venue with the Slate Museum for when the weather inevitably turned manky. 

As it happened, the weather was drizzly but not too bad, so after the museum we had a wander around the lakeside, and then into the village.  Frankly we've photographed the museum to death in recent years so I mainly took photographs around the railway, which was running an intensive and well-loaded bank holiday timetable.

One good thing about the slightly cold, very damp conditions, it made for some very atmospheric steam loco pics...

Also a pretty unique backdrop; I do like how the colourful locomotives and rolling stock contrasts with the mountains and the heaps of slate-waste which dominate the place.

Super low-angle shot; by the usual technique of pushing the camera underneath the level crossing gates.  Not the sort of thing which gets published as I suspect it's both too unusual an angle and often looks like a trespass shot, but I like taking them.

Two of the diesel locomotives outside the sheds in a brief burst of sunshine.

Probably my favourite shot of the day, the Quarry Hunslet "Una" in the yard of the slate museum, during a torrential shower.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Aln Valley Railway

We've been to the Aln Valley Railway in Alnwick before, but given they are building new bits on the site and extending the line at a rapid pace, we wanted to pop in and see how things were looking after a couple of years.  In the intervening time since our last trip, they'd rebuilt a big chunk of the running line towards Alnmouth, so the ride was consequently longer than on our first visit.

Being a weekday, services were in the hands of "Drax", an industrial look-a-like to the BR Class 04, running with a brakevan.  And it also happened to be in use for "Driver for a Tenner" sessions between timetabled trains.  Well, it would be rude not to have a go, wouldn't it?

Father-in-Law is in the cab in this shot- two runs up and down the station/yard.  After he'd had a go, myself and Elder Child got in the cab, me driving and her working the air horn.  Great fun, and my first time driving a diesel loco... I'm rather feeling I've missed my calling in life.

After we'd finished playing with their train set, we had a little while to wait before catching the timetabled service down the line.

One of the newly-arrived locomotives, an Austerity tank, waiting for overhaul.  Being a weekday there were no steam locomotives running, but then I'm the sort of nerdy railway enthusiast who really likes industrial diesel shunters anyway so no matter.

Plenty of scope for photographs from the veranda of the brakevan on the run down the line... unfortunately there was a minor mechanical problem with the loco on this run (I hasten to point out it was working fine when I last touched it), but the vols and staff on site were exceedingly friendly and helpful all day, getting us back up to the station and giving us a free drink to make up for the disrupted journey.  Hopefully by the time we're back in another couple of years they'll have the route all the way to Alnmouth; given their hard work, they deserve every success with this venture.

Dippy on Tour

Just a short post today.  A few weeks ago we went into Brum to see Dippy, the National History Museum diplodocus skeleton which is visiting the city for a bit.

Not much to say; it was a tad tricky to photograph, as all we had on us was the phonecam, the lighting was a little stark, and it was a big damned thing to try and fit in.

Interesting to see it though, in hindsight we should have lugged the SLR in with us, but we didn't want to have to carry it around Brum for the rest of the day, so lesson learned, don't be lazy with the camera gear...

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland August

With impeccable timing we missed the heatwave and arrived in Wales, at the tail-end of the 6 weeks hols, as a storm front did.  Though we were there partly for a hol, and partly for a few location shoots, naturally I (Ben) wanted to get in a few bits of railway photography if it were possible.

Bank Holiday Sunday was typical for it's liquid sunshine; the only way we could have been wetter on the way from the car to Harbour Station would have been to have swum the estuary.

Still, the rain gave a nice steamy departure for "Linda" and "Blanche".

A Welsh Highland service was in the adjacent platform.

Later in the week the weather had improved somewhat...

Super low-angle of the sort which picture editors won't touch with a ten-foot pole, with the camera over the edge of the platform.

A change of location whilst we were on a geology trip up near Tanygrisau; except the quarry was closed off by the electric board (to reopen later in the year... yeah, right, will believe that when I see it; it was 'temporarily restricted' when we tried to visit it for a photography shoot a couple of years back too), so we hung around for a shot of a southbound Ffestiniog service.

Final day of proceedings, and a little walk up the Glaslyn Pass for Amy to shoot some close-up nature photography, and for me to get some pics of the WHR in the sun.  Of course it was a lovely sunny day, the day we were driving back home, but hey-ho.

This made the driver jump; I was well on the public side of the fence, but was somewhat hanging out of a tree at the time and he didn't spot me until the last second...