The other evening I made a few handheld photos of Irish Rail class 201 diesel number 217 River Fleskat Dublin’s Heuston Station.
217 was working a Mark4 set on the 2100 schedule to Cork.
There are myriad approaches to night photography. In this instance, I worked with my Lumix LX7 without a tripod.
I’m fortunate because I have an unusually steady hand. The Lumix further aids my efforts because it has image stabilization.
I set the camera to ISO 200, and working in ‘A’ (aperture priority) I manually set the lens aperture to its widest opening, which in this case is f1.8. The wider the aperture, the more light passes through the lens to reach the sensor, so having a ‘fast’ lens (one with a small maximum aperture number, such as my f1.8 lens) is a huge benefit.
This set up allowed me work with a 1/10 of second shutter speed, which is adequate speed for a static photograph.
If I had been using my FujiFilm XT1 with the kit zoom lens, my widest aperture would have been about f4.5, which is nearly two full stops slower than f1.8, which means at ISO200, I’d require about ½ second exposure to obtain a comparable result, which is too slow for a sharp handheld image in most instances.
Another way of approaching this would be raise the ISO. So with the FujiFilm set up just described, I could increase the ISO setting to 800, which would boost the effective sensitivity of the sensor by two stops (bringing me back up to 1/10thof a second using f4.5). However, this would also boost the noise level and reduce sharpness.
Back in the old days, I would have used Kodachrome, and that would have required a tripod, and probably some filters to colour-correct for the artificial light. Today, digital cameras when set to ‘auto white balance’ do an admirable job of balancing the colour for fluorescent, sodium vapor and other forms of artificial light that tend to tint an image.
Normally for night work with the Lumix, I’d dial in a 1/3 over exposure compensation (+ 1/3 on the exposure compensation dial) however in this situation the relatively bright night sky where low cloud was illuminated by lots of artificial light combined with the silver body of the locomotive and bright platform lighting, obviated the need for boosting the exposure by 1/3 of a stop.
However, I did make some very subtle changes in post processing to help visually separate the roof of the locomotive from the sky.
Monday, 11 February 2019 was bright and sunny in Dublin.
Although I was only just back across the Atlantic, I made use of the morning when I’d heard that Irish Rail 073 in heritage orange paint was working the down IWT Liner (container train operated from Dublin’s North Wall to Ballina, Co. Mayo).
As this exited Dublin’s Phoenix Park Tunnel approaching Islandbridge Junction, an Irish Rail ICR working the Hazelhatch-Grand Canal Docks service came the other way.
I hadn’t anticipated a ‘rolling meet’, but as luck had it I got two trains for the price of one.
This sequence of photos was exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 27mm pancake lens.
Pearse Station features a capacious Victorian-era balloon-style train shed. Presently this is under-going restoration making for seen very different scene today than this one that I exposed 21 years ago.
I was very impressed by the Pearse Station shed and exposed a number views to make the most of the structure.
This is among my favorites. I’m standing near the south entrance to the shed, and the illumination effects resulting from combination of the broad southward opening and skylights produce an excellent effect on the train and platforms.
My composition is simple, yet clever. I’ve centered the DART train— which some photographers would frown upon, insisting instead on arbitrary placement using rules of thirds or other preconceived notions—and so made the most of the train shed, which is really the subject of my image.
By allowing for greater amounts of interior space to the right of the train, I’ve caused visual tension, while helping to expand the space in the photograph occupied by train shed. This draws the eye away from the train, while the lighting on the front of the train pulls the eye back. Placement of the rails to the lower right corner has another effect, allowing the eye to follow lines of perspective back to the north opening of the shed.
A novice artist might crop this image by cutting the space to the right of the train, moving the corner from the rails, and thus spoiling the intended effects while placing greater emphasis on the DART train, and in so doing ruining my intended composition.
I had Velvia in my Nikon F3 and I was focused on the boats in the River Liffey, when the Saturday laden timber from Sligo rolled out of Dublin’s Phoenix Park tunnel and crossed the bridge in front of me.
Here’s a late 1990s view on Amiens Street in Dublin in front of Connolly Station.
The 1980s-era DART electric suburban train isn’t remarkable; except for a nominal change of paint and end lights, these cars look much the same today.
However, so much else has changed, which makes the photo look dated, and fascinating now.
I exposed this Fujichrome colour slide using my Nikon F3 with 135mm lens, probably in the Spring of 1998, and no later than Spring 1999. At the time of exposure, the scene seemed so unremarkable, I didn’t bother to put a date on the slide mount.
Yesterday, 30 November 2018, I located a collection of my Irish Rail slides from 2005. Among them were these views of ‘bubble cement’ trains (consisting of pressurized four-wheel powdered cement wagons) passing Islandbridge in Dublin on 26thof May that year.
These were exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) and processed at Photocare on Abbey Street in Dublin.
I scanned these using an Epson V750Pro flatbed scanner making large TIF files, then made colour and contrast adjustments using Lightroom to improve presentation. In addition, I also implemented some digital sharpening to make the photos prior to outputting as scaled JPGs (for Internet presentation) to make these appear closer to modern digital images.
Irish Rail stopped operating cement through Dublin about a decade ago, and so these views are now historic.
Yesterday, I had one frame of film left in my Nikon F3.
I’d been exposing photos of Dublin’s North Side and I wanted to process the film before dinner.
I exposed this view of Heuston Station and the old Kingsbridge (now Sean Heuston Bridge) on frame 37.
The sky was impressive; dark blue with textured clouds rolling across it like a flowing tapestry.
To make the most of the usual light, I did a few tricky things.
I exposed the film for the sky and clouds with the intention of some non-standard chemical processing.
To make the most of the shadows with out roasting the highlights, I presoaked the film in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 at 75F for 6 minutes with very little agitation. Then, I drained the presoak solution and processed the film in Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes (considerably less than the recommended time).
Yesterday was a bright sunny morning in Dublin. I coordinated my walk to SuperValu at Heuston South Quarter to neatly coincide with the passage of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner.
I timed this well and only waited a few minutes at Islandbridge Junction. Rather than my normal angle from ‘the box’, I opted for an over the wall view a little further up.
Continuing along St. John’s Road toward Dublin Heuston Station, I was surprised to hear another 071. I peered over the wall to discover that Irish Rail 073 (in heritage orange paint) had come down to shunt Belmond’s Grand Hibernian.
Dashing to SuperValu, accomplished my shopping in record time, and returned trackside to catch 073 bringing the Grand Hibernianthrough the wash, and then stopped in front of me at Islandbridge Junction. As this was happening Paul Maguire sent me text to alert me that the elusive Sperry train was on its way over to me.
Minutes later, Irish Rail 076 with Sperry came across to Platform 10 where it was scheduled to run around before heading to Bray.
I walked around to Conyngham Road to catch the Sperry train on its way into the Phoenix Park Tunnel.
Several days ago, two Dublin photographers and I converged on the Conyngham Road, where Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to Connolly Station/North Wall enters the Phoenix Park Tunnel.
Our interest was Belmond’s Grand Hibernianled by an Irish Rail class 071 diesel.
Afterwards we paid a visit to Ryan’s of Parkgate Street, a local pub just a short walk up the street and near Dublin’s Heuston Station, where I continued to make photos with my vintage Nikon F3 with 50mm f1.4 lens.
Working with a wide aperture on film allows for selective focus and the ability to select a subject and offset it against a soft background. This the opposite effect often provided by many digital cameras that tend to use a smaller aperture and sharpening software to produce greater depth of field and razor sharp images.
I used Kodak Tri-X, which I processed in Ilford ID-11 using a traditional recipe with my customized multiple-split process to maximize shadow and highlight detail.
Yesterday (Wednesday 19 September 2018) high winds attributed to storm Ali resulted in widespread transport disruption across Ireland.
Some railway lines were closed because of downed trees. It was reported that a Galway-Dublin Intercity Railcar (ICR) was damaged when it struck a tree.
In Dublin,LUAS Green Line overhead wires were damaged and service suspended between Cowper and Dawson in the city centre.
As of this morning, LUAS was still only operating a limited service in the city centre and on the southern extremities of the Green Line route.
I went to explore the turn-back operation relating to the temporary Dawson terminus. While trams were only carrying passengers as far south as Dawson Street, the trams themselves were running toward St. Stephens Green to use the facing point crossover on the north side of the Green to reverse direction.
Photos were exposed digitally this morning, 20 September 2018.
Two Sunday Mornings in a row I walked up to the line with an aim of catching an 071 class locomotive in heritage paint leading Belmond’s Grand Hiberniancruise train on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Two Sundays, two locations, two heritage locomotives (numbers 073 and 071 respectively), and two different Irish Rail scheduled trains that got in my way.
Gosh, bad luck!
In both instances, I came away with different photos than I’d set out to make.
My question: might these photos age well? Perhaps the intrusion of the ROTEM ICRs may make these photographs more interesting in years to come?
I’m not one to get overly excited when a photo opportunity doesn’t work as planned. Sometimes it’s best to just keep making photos when a scene plays out.
PSSSST! (I also made some sneaky 35mm slides that may make the most of both situations).
I’ve often heard railway photographers dismiss an opportunity with the excuse, ‘I already have that there.’
I’m guilty of this too.
However, everyday is different; locomotives and locations are only two elements that make a a successful railway action photograph.
Weather, lighting, angle to the tracks and the focal length of your lens all play important roles in the end result. Also consider the cleanliness of the locomotive and the variations in consist.
There was a period where Irish Rail 219 regularly worked the Dublin-Ballina IWT liner freights. When I’m in Dublin it is relatively easy for me to reach my standard location and catch the IWT on its down-road journey. In fact I often do this on my morning walk, or on the way to the supermarket.
Yet, it got to the point where if I knew that 219 was working the IWT, I wouldn’t bother with another photo of it in my standard location. (And yes I have it at other places too.)
Irish Rail 215. Is this my least favorite of the 201 class locomotives?
It’s probably my most photographed.
My first recognition of the 215-effect was on a trip to Galway many years ago. Friends were visiting from America and we were traveling on the Mark3 International set.
Soon after departing Dublin Heuston, it was evident that the train was in trouble. We weren’t making track speed. When we got to Hazelhatch, our train took the loop. Old 215 had failed. We waited there for about 40 minutes until 203 was summoned for a rescue.
Some months later, I returned from Boston to Dublin, and on the front page of the papers was 215 at Heuston Station—on its side! It had derailed.
And which loco worked the very first publically scheduled Mark IV set from Dublin to Cork?
Out for the down train, take a guess which loco I’m most likely to catch!
Uh! There it is again. Damn thing is a like a shadow.
This pair of photos depict Irish Rail class 201, engine number 214 at work on passenger and freight.
The top photo was exposed in July 2005. I wanted to make a photo of the 0700 (7am) Dublin-Cork passenger train departing Dublin Heuston, before the service was changed to one of the new Mark4 sets.
My theory was that this service was rarely photographed leaving Dublin owing to the early hour and backlit sun. I had months left to do this, but by July the days were getting shorter, and by the following summer the Mark 4s would be in traffic. (It pays to think ahead).
So I went to my favorite spot on the St. John’s Road, and used my Contax G2 with 28mm lens and exposed a few frames of Fujichrome Sensia (100).
The bottom photo was exposed at Mallow on 18 July, 2003 at 0622 (6:22am). I’d gone out for another train, but instead caught this late running cement that was carrying some containers at the front. The train paused for three minutes at Mallow to change crews.
These are part of my continuing series on the Irish Rail 201 class locomotives aimed to mark my 20 years of railway photography in Ireland (1998-2018).
Here’s an example of when a rainy day allows for a better photograph.
Dublin’s recently extended LUAS Green Line passes the famous Fusilier’s Arch entrance to St. Stephen’s Green.
Two problems with a bright sunny day:
the arch and foliage/trees in the park cast shadows that often make for a less simplified composition
While the popularity of the park on nice days results in a continuous procession of people in and out of the park, making it difficult to frame up a tram beneath the arch. Simply getting an unobstructed view can be problematic.
Certainly you can make some kind of photo here on a bright day, but it will look pretty different than this classical view.
On Satuday 24 March 2018, I shared Dublin’s Claude Road foot-bridge with Paul Maguire and Ciarán Cooney, as we waited for the RPSI Cravens to run from Inchicore to Connolly for a scheduled inspection of the equipment.
It had been completely sunny, but as the time for the train approached, clouds began to dapple the morning sky.
I exposed this view using a Nikon N90S with 180mm Nikkor telephoto lens on Fujichrome Provia100F slide film.
The light was in flux when I released the shutter. Was the train in sun?
I had to wait more than three weeks to find out, since I’ve just received my slides back from the lab.
I made some nominal adjustments to contrast and colour balance after scanning.
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.
I feature Irish Rail and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in my new Railway Guide to Europe, which is now available from Kalmbach Books.
Dublin’s Loop Line is a difficult bridge to picture trains upon owing to a high degree of foreground and background clutter, complex lattice girder construction, and brightly coloured graffiti.
Tank locomotive number 4 is an awkward mass and largely painted black that makes for a hard subject to picture satisfactorily, even on a good bright day.
It wasn’t a bright day; the lighting conditions were flat (low contrast) and bland.
Further complicating matters, there wasn’t more than a few seconds warning before the train entered the scene, so I needed to be poised.
Friends on board assisted my timing by keeping me up to date as to the location of the train.
I made my views from the Rosie Hackett Bridge (opened in 2014) looking down river toward Dublin Port.
Rather than work with a zoom, I opted for my fixed focal length 90mm telephoto on my FujiFilm X-T1. This gave me a wider aperture, allowed for shallow depth of field to help distinguish the train from its background, and is a very sharp lens corner to corner.
As the train clattered across the bridge I made several exposures, trying to minimize the distractions of bridge infrastructure and background clutter.
Although these are nice attempts, I’m not 100 percent satisfied, but without better light and an elevated view, I’m not sure how I could have made substantially better photos.
I’d use ‘gray’ in place of ‘dark’, but apparently the phraseology has assumed new meanings.
I could just say ‘Dublin in Black & White’, but that isn’t really correct either.
Working with my Nikon F3 loaded with Foma Classic 100 black & white film, I made these photos during March 2018 wintery weather in Dublin.
To keep my camera steady for long exposures, I used various tripods, depending on the surface and circumstance.
My exposures varied, but most were between 1 and 8 seconds. I calculated exposure manually using a Minolta IV Flash meter (in reflective mode).
I processed the Fomapan 100 film in Ilford ID-11 stock mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes 15 seconds, plus pre-soak with a token amount of Kodak HC110, then scanned negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
As a follow-up to my black & white posts: On Sunday, 18 March 2018, I also worked with my two digital cameras to expose a few choice photographs of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s The Midlander on its run from Connolly Station Dublin to Maynooth.