Saturday 18 January 2020

Return of the Railbus

One of the reasons that I (Ben) do so much railway photography is that I find it de-stressing, and a positive is also that it allows for a bit of bonding with The Childs who are at the age where they are old enough to use cameras and want to go out places, and young enough not to be antisocial grumpy teenagers yet.  

As the operating season on the preserved railways winds down towards Christmas, there usually isn't much to see, but it's nice just to head out to somewhere like the Worth Valley for an hour or two with one or more of The Childs for company, have a walk in the fresh air, and take some pictures if something is passing.

Autumn 2019 saw the return to service of the W&M Railbus, a personal favourite of mine (as it's short length opens up some new vantage points for photographs, without worrying about cutting bits of it out of shot so much).  It hasn't run for a couple of years whilst it has been undergoing repairs, so it was nice to see it back out and about.

The 'house-red' Ivatt tank was sharing duties with it, providing a splash of colour on otherwise dull days.

Resorting to a bit of monochrome to try and deal with the tuppaware-lid sky.

Damems is fast becoming my favourite spot on the line, as it's near enough civilisation to park the car, far enough away to ensure it isn't too busy, and hasn't (yet) been concreted over by Skipton Properties, though it's only a matter of a couple of years by the sound of it.  The lane down to the level crossing is in such a state that I'd only feel comfortable driving to it in a Land Rover.  Or possibly a tank, which does mean the area is quiet but for the dog-walkers, most of the time.

It's also a bit friendlier in the woods as more 'normal' people make the most of the paths.  Ten years ago the woods seemed to be the sole preserve of people walking scary attack dogs, or junkies (I've been chased out of the woods by both varieties in the past) but it's a lot more pleasant now.

It's also a nice walk back down to Ingrow Station, practising what I preached in articles I wrote for the house-mag of the railway earlier in the year.

The Railbus was making regular runs which meant lots of opportunities for photographs over two weekends, and only slightly complicated by Younger Child splashing through the river until she poured it into her wellies.  Twice.  On separate visits.

I've always thought I'd like to be a crossing-keeper as a job, though it's been pretty much eliminated on the national network.  Might be nice to volunteer at Damems, where apart from gala days you only have to open the gates a few times a day on weekdays.

Another happy outcome is that there isn't too much preserved-diesel news in the mags at this time of year as the heritage railways calm down after the summer, and there weren't many photographers out besides us (I suspect the railbus doesn't attract the same level of interest as the big locomotives but as I said, I really like it), so the upside was that I managed to get shots into three mags; December Railways Illustrated...

...Railway Magazine...

...and a somewhat experimental shot in Rail Express.

Saturday 11 January 2020

Worth Valley Railway Beer Festival 2019

The Worth Valley Railway is our nearest preserved line and offers the most opportunities for railway photography, but in recent years they haven't offered an Autumn gala.  It's a bit swings and roundabouts, as the replacement summer galas do at least mean things look nice and green in the background, but it does mean that right at the point where I (Ben) have a bit more free time after the summer hols, and want to get out taking pictures, there's nowt worth seeing.

This has been somewhat alleviated in recent years by the Beer and Music Festival, which at least gives a few days of intensively-timetabled trains with a variety of locomotives, a kind of mini-gala.  And if we can't attend as patrons, at least I can squeeze in a few hours here and there taking pictures.

This was a shot I've wanted for a long time, the climb out of Keighley.  I've been using this spot for a while, but in the summer the sun was always in the wrong place.  With the shorter days, I thought I'd see if it made a difference, which it sort-of does...

Along the line to Ebor Lane, and making the most of a public footpath beside the line for a shot of probably my favourite loco on the branch, 'Big Jim'.

The class 37 again, which was rostered for a couple of morning turns.

Same location, though with the sun (annoyingly) fading away mid-morning.

This spot between Haworth and Oxenhope seemed decent earlier in the day, until the clouds closed in.  Oh well, maybe another time in better weather.

Last of the patchy sunlight for an unusual combination at Top Field where the 2MT paired up with the 37 before taking over the train.

Finally, Oakworth, not a location I tend to photograph at, oddly enough, though I do use it as a station quite frequently in the summer.  This was just before the heavens opened and made photography a bit of a nightmare.

A positive of the Beer Festival is night-time running, and I headed out to try some arty long-exposure shots, just for the sake of experimenting (though I was also looking for some reference shots for a possible miniatures project; I wanted to see what kind of atmospherics I'd need to replicate).

The Sunday saw more trains, though worse weather.  Out for a walk with The Younger Child, I just snapped a few pics here and there, being more bothered about getting some exercise than pics.  She took the above one though, impressive for a seven year old with my Canon 350 SLR which is older than she is...

The taste of doing night pictures left me wanting to try something else on these lines, but I'll have to wait for nearer to Christmas.  Understandably given how built-up the area is, the railway doesn't do much evening running apart from a few summer Saturdays, but at least the dark afternoons in December offer a chance of a couple of trains in the dark to go and photograph.

The print mags weren't biting, not surprising as I tend to do better off heritage diesels this time of year, but Younger Child got one of hers into an online mag, Railtalk...

...and I got a few pics into the house mag of the KWVR, a bonus of being a member.

Thursday 2 January 2020

The Obligatory New Years Post

Well, that was 2019.  Best put it behind us, eh?  December turned into a bit of a rush for us, the usual seasonal business was combined with Amy doing Jury Duty which knocked a big hole in our productivity.  A family wedding was a happy distraction, then we saw New Years in with a mild dose of the Norovirus, which was less welcome.

Around all this, we were actually incredibly busy art-wise, so until we can get some proper blog posts worked up of said art, here's a quick summary...

Rushing to get it done before the Jury Duty, Amy began the overhaul of the sets and backdrops for the church nativity.  Traditionally these have been large backdrops painted on paper in the rehearsal time for the show, with a few of us adults supervising whatever children aren't practising their lines at the time.  And it's always manic, the paint still drying on the curling-paper, and too much work to do as the backdrops never survive a year in store.  So Amy decided we'd undertake a massive project, starting with acquiring some big bolts of canvas, and painting them up at home, to create items which would last a bit.  Three such backdrops were done in time for this year (one of them at least 15ft long), with more planned for Christmas 2020...

One small advantage to Amy being on Jury Duty was that I (Ben) had access to the car, which meant I could fit in some railway photography up in the Dales, and a miniatures shoot.  Thanks to the wonderful timetable Northern operates this is normally impossible for me, within the constraints of the school drop-off and finishing times, so being able to drive up to Ribblehead was a nice change, if more planet-killing.  I'd have preferred public transport from a moral point of view, but Northern have set their timetable up now to cater for Dalesmen who must commute early in the morning to the cities, not for people from the cities who might want a day out in the Dales.   

Using the car I was also able to fit in a trip to Sheffield to our old friends at Cupola Gallery (of which more anon) and to get a ton of research pictures of a preserved diesel loco at Kelham Island Industrial Museum; both for a magazine article, and for a model build for another magazine...

...and speaking of magazine stuff, I also had a written article to do, on the Anglesey Model Village in North Wales.  A rather fun write-up too, and should result in a lengthy article.

Closer to home, there hasn't been much cold weather yet for railway photography, but I did manage a few shots (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of complaining about global warming when I've been using a car instead of public transport).  Hopefully  in coming months we'll get just enough snow to stop Amy having to go to work, but not to bring the country to an utter standstill, and there will be a chance to get some nice snowy shots.

One of the reasons we haven't been that productive with photography though is a camera fault, which thankfully turned out to be relatively easy to fix, but which buggered-up a few shoots.  An attempt at some night photography on the Worth Valley fell apart because the SLR died just before the train arrived; the above shot was actually taken on the phone, as a last resort (because when I, and Elder Child, had slithered down a muddy path in the freezing dark we were determined to get some
kind of shot out of the night).  The phone did quite well, considering.

One successful bit of night photography was the above, and successful only because it was done with miniatures.  There's something to be said about doing night shots indoors, 3ft from a radiator and 1ft from a nice glass of red.  Anyway, the model was built for the RMWeb (railway modelling forum) 'Cakebox Challenge', a competition run quarterly, to build a model scene on a set theme in an 8-inch square size.  This one was on the theme of Industry, and was great fun to build as a break from other work.

As mentioned higher up, I went to Cupola Gallery back in early December, this was to drop off some work for their Under The Bed Sale, something we used to do pretty ritually but took a break from for the last couple of years.  We thought we'd enter some more stuff to clear the decks a bit, now the nature of the work we produce has changed a little.  The show opens in mid-Jan, more details nearer the time.

So, that was the obligatory round up, now for the equally obligatory 'what's coming up', partly so that we can look back on this post in a years time and laugh at how little we've achieved off this list.

The model making blog is still developing... there's lots planned for it, what has stalled it a bit is actually being busy making models!  Lots of stuff being made for competitions and another few bits for model magazines underway... more of the 'Alice in Wonderland' themed stuff coming for example, and some lengthier articles.

Art-wise, Amy is now more into her ceramics and sculptures than photography, we're hoping we'll finally get the laser cutter back to rude health rather than the less-than-reliable state it's presently in, and we might do some more printing/painting too.

As for photography?  I know the railway stuff isn't everybody's cup of tea as regards readers of this blog, but persistence and a bit of luck means I've gone from being someone who'd get the odd pic in print once every few years, to now getting pictures in at least one mag a month, so I'll be focusing even more on this field.  We have some other photography on the horizon too, and after easing-off on doing exhibitions for a while we're planning on getting a bit more involved with doing open-calls and the like this year.

2019 was a busy old year, but doing the art and photography definitely kept us sane.  Roll on 2020...