Saturday 23 January 2021

KWVR in the winter evenings (long-exposure abstracts)

In previous years I (Ben) have nipped over to the KWVR a few times in the winter to take some abstract, long-exposure pics of the railway running in the dark.  The Beer Festival in October offers a good chance for this sort of pic, but it does mean fairly late running, and having to be out and about until 11-ish.  

The Christmas timetable however offers trains in the twilight around 4.30pm, then properly in the dark around 5.30, which is a rather more civilised and less potentially dodgy time to be out taking pictures.  Plus the very cold weather produces interesting steam effects.  Normally I've been working, or taxiing Amy and The Childs to choir practise around this time of year, but with the lurgy putting a stop to all that sort of thing, it gave me chance to head out for a bit of pre-teatime railway photography.

The first weekend of running after the lockdown saw the sky still a bit light at 4.30, but it made for a nice image.

...but the shot afterwards, up at Haworth/Mytholmes Tunnel was rather better.

It being rather wet, we (me, Elder Child, and Father in Law who is in our bubble) took a socially distanced walk up to Haworth, but the angle of the pic wasn't great for a train in the dark.

We walked down to Haworth Station instead for the shot, but there wasn't enough space to set up the tripod without blocking the footbridge, so the shot didn't turn out well.

The following weekend, same time, we headed out to Oakworth for more of the same.  The above shot, with the lens open for about 20 seconds, was alright, but showed I still needed to experiment a bit with the settings.  It's been a while since I've done any of these shots, and stupidly I didn't keep notes about the camera settings from a few years ago (on top of which, I'm using our old camera as the weather was too manky most nights to risk the decent SLR).

Interesting how, further down the suburban end of the valley, the sky can be a noticeably different colour.  I quite liked how the streetlamp catching the wall and plants in the foreground added to the picture.

I decided to try a shot at Bridge 11 (well. I've done a lot of pics there in 2020, so it seemed fitting).  The train was going nice and slowly, mainly because (apparently) of the increasing problem of trespassers dicking about in the tunnel here...

Normally I wouldn't go up into the woods near Damems in the dark (hell, even during the mornings during the last few months it meant running a gauntlet of loose angry dogs, scrambler-bike-riding buffoons on the footpath, and gangs of piss-head teenagers).  That said, the clear sky and the moon was beautiful, and I thought I'd risk it.

Yes, I did stand in the river for this shot.  And I was passed on the way out of the woods by the inevitable gang of hooded yoofs too, but I'd already got the shot and escaped, so dodged a potential mugging.

Back up to Haworth, which proved a little more civilised than Ingrow.

Interesting effect with a panning shot.

There was only one weekend left, but I'd done a recce up near Oakworth in daylight to find some locations...

It was a reasonable spot; I went up there with Elder Child, but the focusing wasn't quite right as we were spooked a bit by the fact a couple of people were stalking us in the woods.  All we spotted were two silhouettes of chaps talking about us, then as we were leaving there was a particularly loud 'crack' of an air rifle.  We reckon we got the wrong side of a couple of idiots out poaching for rabbits in the adjacent fields.

Rather better down the path under that bridge.  The train was going very slowly, and those same voices followed us off the path afterwards... nothing worth reporting as we didn't have a clear view of our mystery watchers in the dark (and past experience of ringing the police would indicate they couldn't care less), and whoever it was following us left us alone when we reached the busy road.  The joys of evening photography.

We headed up the flooded paths up towards the tunnel, and I tried to recreate a shot I took about 5 years ago; the noise of the water rather drowned-out the noise of the train so we didn't realise it was there until it was almost too late, but I managed a couple of shots.

Finally, up to Ebor Lane.  Not the angle I wanted, but there wasn't time to get somewhere better.  The floodlights on the right kind of add something to it; and the reason I wanted to try for the pics whilst I could get it.  With Skipton Properties insisting on building over every scrap of land in the valley, it won't be long to the building work here will mean it's too busy to get photographs at this location.

Well, I managed a few shots this year... I had more time to try, with less other obligations before Christmas compared to a normal year, but all the frustrations of waiting in the cold and the dark, and the antisocial behaviour of a few locals, reminded me why I stopped trying for these kinds of pictures.  I'd idiotically assumed it would be a bit better (safer) at 4.30 compared to 9pm, but more fool me.  Next time I want to do something like this, I'll try and do the shot with miniatures...


Tuesday 19 January 2021

Damems Station... article published in Feb 2021 "Railway Modeller"

Damems Station, on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, is one of my (Bens) favourite spots on the UK railway network, and during a spell of feeling a tad depressed at being stuck indoors, and more than a little nostalgic during Lockdown One, I thought I'd write an article on the place for a model railway magazine.

Most of the mags have a 'Plan of the Month' type section, and after a bit of doodling, I thought Damems might make for a nice micro layout.  I did at least have a ton of photographs of the place, and writing/drawing about it would give me a project during the lockdown.

I didn't have time or space to make an actual layout, and I was struggling a little with the illustration work to accompany the article, so I ended up making a little mock-up using bits from Younger Child's model railway, and some odds and ends from the spares box.  The above mock-up was turned into...


I also drew out a plan of the layout, which wasn't used in the end.

So, many months later, I picked up a copy of Railway Modeller magazine (Feb 2021 issue) and was delighted to see the article had been given three pages!

I've had articles published in railway mags before, and fairly often I have work in the likes of "Garden Rail", but this is only the second time I've had a multi-page article in one of the 'big four' model railway mags.  Big thanks to RM for including me, and doing the piece was so enjoyable that I'm thinking of doing some more...

Friday 15 January 2021

KWVR, the last week before the (second) lockdown

Well, as we sit/endure/scream into the endless abyss of the Third Lockdown, here's a bit of a late submission from just before the second one.  These shots from the KWVR got a bit forgotten about with the whole second lockdown business, that kicked-in at the end of the week that these pics were taken.  We were, naturally, stuck around the local area during the November Half Term, and I decided to combine some exercise and food-shops (accompanied by The Childs... remember when that was allowed, going out somewhere not by yourself?  Ah nostalgia) with some railway photography; the soon-to-be-withdrawn 4F 43924 was rostered for the whole week.  With the country rocketing towards another crisis, I suspected this would be the last chance for a while to get some railway pictures...

It was a strange old week, both because of the general atmosphere of doom hanging over everything, and the very changeable weather.

Up above the streets and houses...

Down by the riverside between Keighley and Ingrow.

...and up at Damems too.

The murkiness did mean I got to have a bit of a play with the long-exposure settings on the camera whilst waiting for the trains.

This is the beck, between Haworth and Oakworth.

A location I don't often use, as evidenced by the slightly poorly-planned choice of angle, near Oakworth.  Needed to be either higher up, or in the factory car park.

Oakworth Station itself..  Slightly tricky lighting, but we ended up the wrong side of the crossing when they closed the gates, so had to make the best of it

Illustrating the contrasting poor weather, Ingrow in a downpour that left me soaked to my socks in about thirty seconds.

I decided I'd need to embrace the gloom a bit, and try and get some moody pics down by the old stone embankments near Keighley.  Possibly too dark and gloomy.

The final Sunday was wet and dark and miserable, which suited the national mood somewhat as Boris had just announced another 3-week lockdown (or sorts; the kids still in school, so the maximum stress and inconvenience possible).

Still, me and Younger Child headed out to get some pics of the last train out of Keighley before the lockdown kicked in.  A bit melancholy, but the combination of cold, wet weather, the climb out of the station, and the enthusiasm of the crew, meant a good show was put on, even if there was only the two of us lineside to watch it.

Friday 1 January 2021


Happy New Years; I (Ben) don't want to tempt fate by saying anything about the year just gone, the year ahead... so here's a project about Daleks.

Or to look at it another way, something inspired by a race who were forced to isolate themselves inside protective casings when they'd poisoned their dying world.  Topical.

Ok, so the BBC screened their Festive Episode of Doctor Who tonight, which features the Daleks, one of my favourite monsters in one of my favourite TV shows.  And being as just before Christmas the BBC held a 'Dalek Day', and I'd needed a distraction from a stressful and annoying meeting, I decided I wanted to do a miniatures project with the megalomaniacal pepperpots.

The first step was to review my Dalek collection, almost all of which are photography props; not bad, but not many in good nick.  I reckoned I'd want to be shooting something in a large-scale as I'd been reading up on the model shots done using the R/C toys in the recent series ("The Witches Familiar/The Magicians Apprentice", "Into the Dalek", "Day of the Doctor/Time of the Doctor").  Time was against anything too involved, as well as budget.  On the right is my R/C Dalek I got as a Christmas pressie (at age 21; never too old for toys at Christmas!), the other two were bought cheaply off eBay as spares/repairs.

I ended up refurbishing the broken black Dalek with a relatively simple paint job; the Daleks in the publicity pictures for the new ep were in silver and black, classic 80's Supreme Dalek colours, so I went for something similar, based off the episode "Remembrance of the Daleks" from the late 80's.  I painted in details with citadel acrylics, and gloss-varnished it to make it a bit shiny.

I wanted to do something with Daleks in a sci-fi (ish) corridor (more on which anon) with steam/smoke effects, and some creative lighting.  All the stuff I read up on mentioned Daleks look more menacing when shot from low-down, backlit.

The set meant some restrictions, so I ended up shooting a lot of things with dutch angles and slanty cameras.

The set was a bit of a bodge, with no budget and about a day to build it.  Amongst the detail parts repurposed was (appropriately) this set of flashing lights from a Playmobil lorry.

My trusty mini humidifiers, now onto their fourth project.

The set; I was following the set-design ethos from "Red Dwarf" which had them using walls with slats/holes/grilles to create interest and texture.  They still looked a bit bare, so I added some pipes; a flexible plastic pipe (spare part for our tumble drier) and black plastic circuit conduit.  The lights were strip-lights bought for a model railway project, the doorway is scraps of plywood and a bit of MDF, and the floor (with rails inset) are a couple of lengths of Scalextric track).  An inspection lamp provided a nice way of backlighting the Daleks.

The slightly chaotic set-up, showing yes, the set is indeed a laundry basket.  I couldn't actually paint it, and all the details had to be tie-wrapped to it...  The placing of the humidifiers was a little haphazard; the one at the front fell off, snapped the wire, and I got a small electric shock off it  All part and parcel of these 'improvised during a time of chaos' shoots I suppose.

Still, looked the part.

I wanted to try something to look like the 'storming the ship/space station' type scenes from the likes of "Into the Dalek" and "Resurrection of the Daleks".  I could only accommodate two of the Daleks in the set at any time though.

It seemed to be missing something, so I added some red 'emergency' lighting with a flashing red bike lamp.

Trying some close ups and landscape shots; lit to try and disguise the chief weakness of the toys, the guns in flexi plastic.  When the TV series used these, they rebuilt some of the details.  I didn't have time before this shoot.

I borrowed one of the New Paradigm Daleks (this is Elder Childs).  As with the actual series, I found many problems here with this design of Daleks.  To start with, the eye light wasn't working, so I had to do this in post production.

It also has problems with the gun stick, and keeping the old end up, as it were... There's an 'elevate' joke hanging there if anyone wants to pick it up...

On the plus side, the gun looked more realistic than on the other ones.

This illustrates the main problem; it's just too damned big for the set...

So, back to the Supreme Dalek, and some attempts to play with long exposure...

...and lighting effects.  When I did the shoot last year, I was trying some stuff with red LED Christmas lights to give the effect of laser guns firing.  I tried rigging up something similar this time, taping some lights to a length of brass channel/rod, but the tight size of the set limited things a bit.

I tried just flinging the lights at the Daleks...

...which gave a weird effect, but not quite what I was after.

More post-production effects, to go for a 60's look.

With the indoor shoot done, I headed out into the great outdoors the next morning...

It looked like being a decent morning for the weather, and I'd seen a load of publicity shots for the Festive Special that had the new Dalek outdoors- I wanted to try something similar with my modified Supreme Dalek model.

I was aware of how odd it would look, getting the pictures, but figured one of my usual haunts, Damems, might be quiet.

The (now sadly much-vandalised) viewing platform would allow me to get the model elevated a bit, and help with the perspective issues.

To try and replicate the atmosphere of the BBC pics, I'd taken a bit of equipment with me... one of the humidifiers is battery operated so could be used on location, and I had some spot-lamps and reflectors with me to balance the lights a bit.

Job done then- I was really happy with how the photographs came out, and might be returning to it soon (now I have some modified props) with some real pyrotechnic effects and things, shot outdoors.  There might be another development with the project too, I'll put something on here if that's the case.
Oh and the episode was good too :)

We hope everyone reading this is ok, and has had as good a Christmas and New Years as possible under the current circumstances.