Saturday 26 December 2020

The Elf Express

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway managed, somewhat against the odds of this nasty year, to run a Christmas service.  There's not many railways that have been able to run within the Covid restrictions, but being as pretty much everywhere around here is in Tier 3, and they have a very organised system for waiting and boarding the trains, they were allowed to open.

This was good for us, as it meant that at weekends, whilst indulging in our allowed allotted exercise periods, we could snap some pictures of the trains whilst walking in the valley.  Our Childs are a bit old for the Santa trains, but we're booked on for the Mince Pie services with a bit of luck, assuming Boris doesn't drop us into Tier 4 before then.

The first Saturday of the Elf Express (the first weekend after Lockdown 2 ended) was rather nice and sunny; a bit more sunny in the country end of the valley, so the majority of shots that got published online were taken around there (compared to mine in suburbia) but I still enjoyed taking pics out and about.

The Sunday was a bit gloomier, though if you squint you can just about see the snow on the distant hills; we'd been hoping the snow might have hit lower down to add a suitably festive atmosphere to the pics, but hey-ho (or ho-ho, if you prefer).  Anyway, this was when we went for a walk out in Haworth, as 08993 shunts our family-favourite loco "Big Jim" around the sheds.

Elf Express with 78022 passing the shed.

08993 in the morning gloom.

I went back out to get some more pics when the Christmas Hols started; Phil at the railway asked me to get some more broadside shots of the carriages for the railways website.  This proved somewhat tricky, as the light was a bit poor.  Also, the paths around Oxenhope and Haworth were a sludgy quagmire.

Typically it brightened up a bit later on, when I wasn't in a decent enough location to get proper side-on shots.

I headed back out the next day when we got home from running some errands, but it was already late in the afternoon, and a very 2020 gloom was settling over the land.

High in the hills above Haworth, twinned with Mordor...

Challenging conditions to photograph the trains, but I managed to get some panning shots of the carriages.

The day before Christmas Eve, me and Elder Child were out in Haworth running errands, so I thought I'd try and get some last minute shots.  The 4F was running what might well be its last trains before the loco is withdrawn from service, so I wanted to make sure I got a pic or two of it.

We ended on a new angle for us, from the new housing estate.

Well, it was nice getting some shots of the railway; even as the world descends even further into the plague-y-nightmare, it felt genuinely very calming to be able to go out taking pictures of trains.

Thing is, these were just the daytime shots; I'd also been heading out in the early evening making the most of the trains running in the dark for some abstract pics, more of which anon...

Thursday 24 December 2020

New Toy for Christmas? 3D Printing-Pen...

Just a quick post for tonight; Amy has had chance for a play with a new bit of kit, a 3D-printing pen.

Her work are trying out a few of these with classes, and being as we're not likely to have the budget or space for an actual 3D Printer, this seems as close to the tech as we're likely to get for a while.

Anyway, Amy has been making a few demonstration pieces for the classes, including this flower....

...and something more seasonal, the Holly and the Ivy.

And a Robin :)

Merry Christmas to all; hop you all have a nice safe and healthy one.


Saturday 19 December 2020

Patterns in nature- an exhibited and published image.

Given the somewhat limited opportunities for art exhibitions throughout this horrible year, me and Amy nevertheless managed to get a couple of pieces of work into shows.  We've already the "Get Carter" exhibition (at Scunthorpe) in a previous post, and here is the next one, which featured work by Amy.  This project came about both through lockdown and through some experimentation with photoshop at work.

Back in the lockdown there wasn't a lot to photograph when confined to quarters, so Amy decided to focus on photographs of the various flora and fauna of the garden (and the surrounding countryside when the restrictions were eased a little towards the summer). 

Not sure if things were more verdant or not, or if us not having as much else to see or do made the garden look brighter, busier, and more vibrant; in any case there were plenty of flowers and plants to photograph.

Back at work in September, Amy started to experiment a bit with collage and photomanipulations of some of the images, as example pieces for work some of the classes were doing.  She then started doing more of them just as a hobby, and to create some nice, abstract pieces.

They were produced really just for personal satisfaction, but an opportunity arose to submit one of the pictures (tweaked afterwards a little to make it more abstract and graphical) for an open call show.  This call, for the Postcard Project at a London gallery, has more info here;

The picture was chosen by the organisers, turned into a postcard, and also featured in this rather nice book, compiling the various entries to the call.  Sold through galleries in both London and Glasgow, it's our first publication in a book (rather than a magazine) for a while, and was a pleasant surprise.

This makes the second exhibition of the year, and marks something of an upbeat note on an otherwise very trying 12 months.  We've some other stuff in the pipeline, and Amy is waiting to hear back about an international show, so hopefully we'll be able to share some more information on the blog in due course.

In the meantime, we wish our readers a safe and happy Christmas.

Monday 14 December 2020


There really isn't a lot to say with this post; normally, this time of year, we'd have got in a few night shoots.  Blackpool Illuminations, the odd firework display, a location shoot for something like Inflate-Deflate.  Amy had a Halloween shoot planned using LED lights in a forest, I had a shoot planned with miniatures, then of course the Tier system kicked in, followed by the second lockdown.

As it happened though, whilst we were confined to quarters, on the other side of the valley someone, or several someone's who grouped together, let off enough explosives for half an hour of window-rattling fun.

Not ones to miss an opportunity, out came the camera.  Not the best angle, but they were shot from the open window of the back bedroom rather than on the ground near the display.

We've always enjoyed the effect you can get with a little bit of long-exposure on the shots...

...and a slight tweak of the contrast levels.

That's about it then- not much to say otherwise, but makes a change on the blog from the pics of trains that have been featured recently.  Amy's also had some more abstract stuff up in an exhibition too recently, details on which, anon.


Thursday 10 December 2020

Engine Shed Inspirations

Just a quick post today, we found some old shots on a memory card whilst looking for another project.

Back in 2019 I (Ben) did a miniatures shoot set in an engine shed, based on the paintings by David Shepherd.  The shoot was for a gallery open call, and the pictures were also featured in the October 2019 issue of Model Rail Magazine.

Anyway, when I was taking the pics, I was using some low-res shots from a visit to an engine shed as additional inspiration.  The shed in question is Loughborough, Great Central Railway, which I visited with some railway photography mates about a decade ago, and I honestly thought I'd lost the pics when a hard drive died.  Then I randomly turned up an ancient memory card with the shots on.

When we were kids, you could still wander pretty openly round engine sheds at preserved railways, but it's rare now except on guided tours, which is what we were on this day.

OK it's not as atmospheric as Mr. Shepherds paintings as all the locomotives are clean and there's no clouds of steam, but it was still useful visual reference.

It also wasn't possible to get too many photographs, but it was still a nice change from standing on a freezing hillside waiting for a train to pass (which is what I should be doing today as it happens!).

And I've been doing another shoot with miniatures and steam effects too, more on this in a future post.