Friday morning, 6 September 2019, I took position at the far end of Dublin Connolly Station platform 4 to photograph RPSI’s Empty Cravens arriving from the Inchicore Work in preparation for boarding and departure of the annual Steam Dreams excursion. (More on that tomorrow!).
I wanted to make both long telephoto and wide angle views of the train. To accomplish this I could use my FujiFilm XT1 with a telephoto and then switch to my Lumix LX7 as the train approached.
However, for the sake of convenience instead I opted to work exclusively with the XT1 for this sequence, and fitted the camera with a 18-135mm zoom lens.
There’s no one ‘right’ way to execute an image (or images) but different equipment choices will produce varied results.
One reason for my using the XT1 for the whole sequence was a function of the lighting conditions. My Panasonic Lumix LX7 is an excellent camera in many respects. However, I’ve found that it has a slightly narrower dynamic range, probably owing to smaller file size.
In many situations this subtle difference doesn’t matter, but with Friday’s lighting, I wanted to be able to pull in sky detail in post processing, and from past experience the XT1 RAW files leave more to work with than those from the LX7.
Clear evening, northward freight, five units and a deck-girder bridge; working with my FujiFilm XT1, I made this broadside view at Three Rivers, Massachusetts of New England Central’s 611 on its return run from Palmer to Brattleboro, Vermont.
My Zeiss 12mm Touit is a special application lens. It’s very wide, very sharp, and free from barrel distortion. However, its necessary to keep the camera level to avoid line convergence as a result of the wide field of view.
Nothing fancy here. Just some views I made from NI Railways trains using my Lumix LX7.
Sometimes you get great scenes in the rolling panorama from a moving train. I’m not proud, when I see a nice view I make a photo.
For some of these I’ve uses a comparatively slow shutter speed. For others I try to freeze the motion. In general, I try to avoid or minimize reflections in the windows by paying careful attention to my angles.
The other night I made this digital photograph of Boston’s South Station.
Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Touit, I set the ISO to 1600 and handheld the camera at ¼ sec.
I calculated exposure manually using the camera meter, and then intentionally increased the exposure by about ½ stop. (In otherwords I let in more light to the sensor than recommended by the meter).
In post processing, I adjusted contrast and exposure to control highlights and lighten the night sky in order to overcome two of the common failings of night photographs: blasted highlights and excessive inky blackness.
Two weeks ago, using my old Leica 3A with 35mm Nikkor lens I exposed this photograph of a northward North Jersey Coast train at NJ Transit’s Aberdeen-Matawan station .
I positioned the camera as to crop sun with the canopy over the platform.
The film is 35mm Ilford HP5 that I processed in Kodak D76 (1-1 stock solution with water) for 10 minutes at 68F, but preceded primary development with a prolonged pre-soak with a drop of HC110 developer to improve shadow detail tonality.
It was a sunny Saturday morning and the old Boston & Albany mainline was quieter than a rural Polish branch line.
Finally about 10:30 am Mike Gardner and I heard distant stirrings of an eastward freight.
We made our way to Warren, Massachusetts.
The long days of summer have resulted in the B&A route becoming unfortunately brushed in. Much of the line is largely obscured by bushes, trees and undergrowth, which make railway photography difficult.
The old Boston & Albany station at Warren remains one of my favorite surviving structures on the line; it harks back to a time when the railroad was the principle corridor for commerce in the region. Recently it has been restored.
Here we made our photographs.
A few strategic shafts of sunlight illuminate the line. I set my FujiFilm XT1’s shutter release dial to ‘CH’ (continuous high—the setting I casually refer to as ‘turbo flutter’) and waited as the train approached.
When it neared the shafts of sunlight, I held the shutter down and exposed a rapid burst of digital images, knowing that at least of one of them would place the front of the locomotive in full sun.
This satisfied my desired composition to juxtapose CSX’s modern General Electric diesel with the 1890s-era railway station building.
To demonstrate the effect of ‘turbo flutter’ as a compositional exposure tool, I’ve displayed the below sequence of images. In practice my camera exposed about three times as many photos. (Frame numbers are sequential)
Since the real cost of making a burst of exposures is very small, in this situation, I’ll happily make as many images as I need to in order to produce the photo I want. Later, if I choose, I can throw away the unsatisfactory images to save space on my hard drives.
When I learned to use my old mechanical Leica there were three primary controls on the camera; a ring to adjust the focus (gauged with the aid of range finder using a ghost image overlaid on the main image); dials to adjust the shutter speed; and a ring on the lens to change the size of the aperture (lens hole) as indicated by a logarithmic scale with ‘f-stops/f-numbers’.
Other than merely pointing the camera, I needed to understand how these controls worked to make successful photos.
Today most imaging making devices take care of details such as exposure and focus, allowing image makers to snap away without concern for the mechanics.
In many instances this freedom facilitates the ability to make photos quickly and with relative ease. Yet, this loss of control steals from the photographer crucial tools.
I still like to set my aperture manually. This has less to do with obtaining the correct exposure (since in camera metering can quickly suggest or set appropriate shutter-speed/aperture combinations) and more to do with adjusting the depth of field to manipulate my composition.
A detailed discussion of how the f-stop (f-number) is determined on a lens and what the numbers mean can fill a textbook.
What is important here is knowing a few basics, such as; a smaller f-number represents a larger aperture size and, but more importantly, how you can use this.
As the size of aperture is increased more light is let into the camera, however with a big hole comes a decrease in depth of field (relative focus); conversely, the smaller the hole size (larger f-number), the less light and the greater the depth of field (relative sharpness between near and far objects).
By using a larger aperture (small f-number, say f1.4) the relative focus will be narrow, with those points not in focus appearing relatively soft compared with the subject in focus.
This relationship becomes exaggerated with longer focal length lenses. Where a super wide angle lens offers great depth of field even with a large aperture opening (small f-number), a long telephoto lens will offer relatively shallow depth of field even when using a small aperture (large f-number, say f16).
While the f-number may used as a constant gauging mark, what is most useful is controlling the degree of relative focus to achieve a desired effect.
Personally, I like the effect of a long lens with relatively shallow depth of field because this allows me to draw the eye of the viewer.
As with many successful stories, it often helps to lead your audience on an unexpected path before giving them what they want. I’ll often tease a viewer by leaving some crucial element of an image just beyond the range of sharpness, while placing the focus on something else, like say a railroad signal. Or vice versa.
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