Hidden Treasures: Preserved Locomotives at Saint Ghislain, Belgium; Don’t miss Brian’s Exposure Guide for old Locomotive sheds.

Locked away in an old locomotive shed at Saint Ghislain, Belgium are a wonderful collection of historic SNCB locomotives maintained by Patrimoine Ferroviare et Tourisme. See: http://www.pfttsp.be/index.php/fr/

Mauno Pajunen organized a visit to this collection and provided translation while Rousman Phillippe offered a guided tour.

I was most impressed by the semi-streamlined stainless-steel clad electric (SNCB 1805) that formerly worked TEE international services and by the Baldwin diesel locomotive built under license.

Until my visit the to the shed at Saint Guislain, I'd only seen this class of locomotive in old photos. The pitched cab profile and stainless-steel side panels are very pleasing. They just don't style locomotives like this anymore!
Until my visit the to the shed at Saint Guislain, I’d only seen this class of locomotive in old photos. The pitched cab profile and stainless-steel side panels are very pleasing. They just don’t style locomotives like this anymore!

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Photographing in a locomotive shed such as this one requires special technique.

If you just let the in-camera meter do the work you will get under-exposed (dark) images such as this. Why? Because the camera meter is trying to balance the scene for the window which leads to overall under-exposure. Action on the photographer is necessary on-site to avoid this problem.
If you just let the in-camera meter do the work you will get under-exposed (dark) images such as this. Why? Because the camera meter is trying to balance the scene for the window which leads to overall under-exposure. Action on the photographer is necessary on-site to avoid this problem.

Direct and indirect lighting from skylights in the roof and large side windows results in extreme contrast with lower regions of the locomotives bathed in darkness that tends to confuse the in-camera light meter. (A meter doesn’t know what your subject is and only provides a balanced reading and doesn’t work in this situation.)

If you are not careful you may end up with an unacceptably dark result. (see above).

By manually controlling the exposure you can compensate for the effect of windows and skylights, thus creating a more pleasing exposure inside the shed.
By manually controlling the exposure you can compensate for the effect of windows and skylights, thus creating a more pleasing exposure inside the shed.

My solution is relatively simple: manually over-expose in range of 2/3s of a stop to 1 stop, and then control highlight detail in post processing.

The easiest way to do this with a digital camera is used a manual mode and then watch the suggested exposure settings offered by the built in meter and then add 2/3s to 1 stop to the recommended value. Thus if the meter suggests exposing a f2.8 at 1/60th of second, open up the aperture to nearly f2.0 without changing the shutter speed.

Another way of doing this is by adjusting the meter to over expose by 2/3 or 1 full stop. Each camera has its own means of doing this.

In my case, I set the ISO to 400, so my average exposure was f4.5 1/60 of a second (camera meter was recommending f5.6 to f6.3, which would have resulted in an unacceptably dark image).

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I adjusted my exposure from scene to scene, while tending toward overexposure based on the meter setting and carefully gauging the histogram to avoid loosing data in the shadow areas.

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Since the highlights of the outside windows and skylights are not important to the overall scene, it isn’t a problem to allow for a loss of detail in these areas.

After exposure, I adjusted the files in post-processing to bring the mid-tones and shadow areas to an expected level.

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This was one of my favorites: a Baldwin diesel built under license. Careful exposure allowed for adequate detail of the trucks and underbody.
This was one of my favorites: a Baldwin diesel built under license. Careful exposure allowed for adequate detail of the trucks and underbody.

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The boiler was outside.
The boiler was outside.
Wide angle close up of Walschearts valve gear. Old Egide was a Belgian after all!
Wide angle close up of Walschearts valve gear. Old Egide was a Belgian after all!

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Another trick is working in confined spaces. For these images I used a super wide-angle lens, specifically a Zeiss 12mm Touit, which I purchased specifically for photography in settings such engine sheds, signal towers and locomotive cabs.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

5 thoughts on “Hidden Treasures: Preserved Locomotives at Saint Ghislain, Belgium; Don’t miss Brian’s Exposure Guide for old Locomotive sheds.”

  1. The BLW diesel was built by Cockerill in Belgium, including the engine and electric transmission.

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