This day last week (13 October 2018), I traveled on and photographed Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s autumn diesel tour called The Southwestern.
Damp dark weather may make it difficult to expose over the shoulder lit three quarter views, and it may ruin Lumixes (See: Final Frame? Lumix LX7 Coils Up), but it’s ideal for making black & white photos on film.
Working with my battle-worn Canon EOS-3 with a 40mm pancake lens, I exposed this view of the train at Cork’s Kent Station using Kodak Tri-X.
On Monday, I processed the film using Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water. Following a presoak with exceptionally dilute HC110 to initiate development, I gave the film 7 minutes and 30 seconds in the ID11 at 68F (20C) with intermittent agitation.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and made nominal contrast adjustments using Lightroom.
Tracking the Light will be on autopilot for a week while Brian is traveling. New material will continue to post everyday, but notices will be delayed. See the Tracking the Light home page at: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight.
Kent Station Cork:
For me there’s something about a Victorian train-shed that begs for black & white. I made this photo on my most recent trip to Kent Station in Cork on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIA with 35mm Nikkor lens.
Tracking the Light normally posts new material daily.
Among the subjects I photograph are Irish Rail’s Cork area suburban trains.
Although not the most varied of operations (2600 series diesel railcars are the rule), the Cork Commuter system is an interesting subject. It provides a reliable, functional and well-utilized transportation system that works on a regular interval timetable.
The scenery is pleasant and over the years I’ve made many interesting images of the trains.
These are recent views made over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (2017).
Thanks to Irish Rail’s Ken Fox for recommending locations and supplying history and context.
Irish Rail’s Kent Station in Cork City is a cool place to make photos. It’s unusual curved train shed, plus antique platform awnings and brick station buildings have a Victorian appearance that offer a contrast with the modern trains that now serve passengers here.
I arrived at Kent Station, Cork on the 0800 train from Dublin.
My timing was tight; I was aiming to catch Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express under the curved roof.
After arriving in Cork, I had less than five minutes to get into position.
Although visually fascinating, Kent’s Victorian-era shed is a tricky place to make photos. The characteristic curvature makes selecting the best angle tough, while the lighting under the roof is limiting.
Using my Lumix LX7 at ISO 200, I was restricted to 1/15th of second at f2.2.
Sometimes limitations force me to make more interesting photos.
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.
Tracking the Light offers daily discussion on Photography.
Cork’s railways were once vastly more complex than they are today.
Over a three-day span beginning 7 May 2016, I was given a thorough tour of Cork’s historic railways that included: a walking tour of the route of the old Cork City Railway; a cycle tour of the route of the Cork, Blackrock & Passage; and a detailed look at the numerous railway terminals that once served this southwestern Irish city.
I made numerous photographs composed to document railway settings as they are today. In many instances service was discontinued decades ago and the lines lifted and so the role of the railway is more conceptual than literal.
Thanks to Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin, Brian Sherman, Kevin Meany and Richard Lee for their expert guidance and historical knowledge.
Now and Then: How Changes to Infrastructure Affect Composition.
Photographic pairs showing locations that have been changed by time are nothing new. Yet, usually there are decades between photo pairs, not just one year.
In the interval between my September 2013 visit to Kent Station, Cork and my subsequent visit in the first week of October this year, the station suffered damage during a fierce storm.
On December 18, 2013, high winds caused the collapse of the historic canopy that had protected the platform serving tracks 1 and 2. In the wind, the old cast iron columns supporting the canopy snapped like toothpicks, and wooden sheathed canopy turned to splinters.
When I arrived off the train from Dublin in the afternoon of October 6, 2014, I was well aware of the change to the canopy, having read about it on RTE’s internet news and again some months later in the Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society.
However, a change such as this cannot really be fully appreciated until witnessed in person. The old canopy was an important fixture of Kent Station and it altered the quality of light on the platforms, as well as protecting passengers from the elements.
In these photo pairings, my goal wasn’t to make precise comparisons to show the exact nature of the changed scene, but rather to show how the canopy, and the lack there of, affected the way I composed my images. I was keen to show the broken cast iron columns because they now tell the story.
Likewise, someday the semaphores will go. And when they are gone, I’ll no longer be intent to frame trains with them. Some other element of the scene will take their place.
When you make photos, how do you balance the elements in the scene? Do you focus on just the primary subject or do you adjust your composition to take in secondary elements, such as that offered by the platform canopy and semaphores in these images? Think about it.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.