Last week I traveled around Northern Ireland on a Translink Adult Zone 4 iLink day card, which allows for unlimited travel on NI Railways and Translink buses for a flat fee of £16. This offers great value and travel flexibility.
I arrived at Coleraine from Derry and wanted to make a photo of a train arriving at Portrush. Rather than take the branch train and wait around at Portrush for an hour to photograph the next arrival, I opted to board a bus.
Not only did the bus take less time than the train, but arrived before the connecting branch train was supposed to depart. This gave me time to explore my angles and set up my photo.
Portrush still features classic mechanical signaling, although on my visit the signal cabin was ‘switched out’. (In other words the cabin was not involved in controlling train movements on the line, which is a normal situation when there’s only one train at a time working between Coleraine and Portrush.)
Once the train arrived I made a few photos of it in the station, then boarded for the return trip to Coleraine (and on to Belfast).
The other morning I arrived in Derry, Northern Ireland with an aim to photograph NI Railways from the Peace Bridge over the Foyle.
Snow covered the distant hills while areas at right were deep in shadow. Complicating matters were clouds rolling across the morning sky, and NI Railway’s silver trains with bright yellow fronts, and reflective river waters to the left that were rapidly alternating from light to dark as clouds passed over.
Rapidly changing lighting conditions combined with these exposure extremes left me with few options to produce an ideal exposure.
If I set my Lumix in manual (M) mode, I risked getting the exposure completely wrong at the moment the train entered the optimal place in the scene.
However by using the aperture-priority (A) mode, I found the camera’s preset metering tended to over expose the snow and train.
On my second attempt, I used the aperture-priority mode with a manual override to dial down 1/3 of stop, which compensated for the dark areas in the scene while doing a better job of retaining highlight detail.
So, I wonder how my colour slides from the same place will look?
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.
My Lumix LX7 has an ‘high-dynamic range’ feature. Otherwise known by its initials ‘HDR’, high-dynamic range is a technique for digital imaging that allows greater detail in highlights and shadows by combining several images of the same subject that were exposed at different values.
The LX7 includes the HDR setting as one of the options in ‘scene mode’ (SCN on the selection dial). This rapidly exposes a sequence of images and combines them in-camera to produce a single HDR JPG. Obviously you need to hold still when you make the photo.
Also it helps to photograph a static scene or the result my get a bit weird.
In this instance, I photographed some flowers on the platform of NI Railway’s station at Whitehead, Co. Antrim (Northern Ireland).
There are other ways of accomplishing a similar result.
So I decided to compare the HDR with some manipulated versions of a camera RAW file that I exposed of the same scene. With the RAW images, I’d adjusted the file with Lightroom post processing software, selectively altering contrast, gamma, and colour saturation and colour temperature to make for a more pleasing photograph.
Specifically I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter, while making global changes to highlights and saturation.
The output of the RAW is also as a JPG, which I scaled for presentation here.
I made two versions of the RAW interpretation.
In both sets of images I’ve intentionally focused on the flowers and not the NIR train.
Last Sunday, I spent several hours photographing NI Railways and Enterprise trains at Moira, a station on the old Great Northern Railway’s Belfast-Dublin route.
The attractions of this location include a preserved signal cabin and a footbridge at the Dublin-end. Another benefit is the level crossing with a local road at the Dublin end. The barriers protecting the road drop 3-4 minutes before trains pass, which provides ample warning to prepare for photography.
This is especially helpful if you are sitting in a car nearby trying to edit texts and photos for a book on deadline.
I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
The old Belfast & Northern Counties Railway Derry Station is adjacent to the contemporary Translink/NI Railways’ station.
Where the modern station is a functional utilitarian facility with all the charm of a small town bus station, the old station sits as an elegant vestige of former times when a railway station was viewed as a city gateway and endowed with suitable architecture.
It had been a long time since I’d last traveled NIR’s Belfast to Derry railway line (in the original version of this post, I’d described this as the ‘Derry Road’ but several readers wrote into correct me, as the phrase ‘Derry Road’ refers to the long abandoned GNR route to Derry and not the present NIR line), and while I’ve been over the whole line between Derry and Belfast in stages, I’d never before actually traveled all the way from Belfast to Derry.
So, two weeks ago, Honer Travers and I organized a day out to Derry. We began our rail journey at Lisburn and traveled to Belfast Great Victoria Street where we changed trains.
After a wander in Derry, we returned by rail the way we had come.
A few weeks back on a trip to Belfast, I exposed these views of NI Railway’s CAF-built diesel railcars crossing the River Lagan.
To convey a sense of motion I panned the trains using a relatively slow shutter speed with a medium telephoto lens. By using an even panning motion I was able to keep the train sharp with the background is blurred.
I had the Leica IIIa fitted with a vintage Nikkor f3.5 35mm screw-mount lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.
And yes, I had a digital camera with me. Two, really. And I also made some colour views. I’ll tend to cover my bases when at a special location.
Honer Travers and I traveled down from Dublin on the Enterprise, having changed at Portadown to an NIR (Northern Ireland Railways) 4000-series CAF built railcar. Arriving at Lisburn, I paused to make these two black & photos of our train.
In Dublin, I processed the film using Agfa-mix Rodinal Special (not to be confused for bog-standard Agfa-mix Rodinal) mixed with water 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes.
I like to play with developer to see what I can get with different combinations of chemistry. Agfa Rodinal Special with short development time allows for fine grain and a metallic tonality. While not as rich as Kodak HC110 (dilution B), the grain appears finer with Rodinal Special.
Among the last active installations of ‘somersault’ signals has survived on NI Railways at Castlerock, County Derry, Northern Ireland.
The somersault is an antique variety of two-aspect semaphore where the signal arm and spectacle (lens) frame are separate pieces and move in opposite directions when the aspect changes. The name stems from a description of the signal motion.
Earlier this month Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I traveled from Dublin to pay a final visit to this classic signal installation and make photographs of modern NI Railways railcars with the antique hardware.
New NI Railway’s signalling is underway on this section of the Coleraine-Derry line. It is my understanding that in early November, NIR plans to close Castlerock’s cabin (signal tower) and the signals will be removed from service as part of a larger re-signalling scheme that will also eliminate this station as a passing point.
Although, I’d visited Castlerock previously, it had been a few years since I last photographed these old signals at work.
Special thanks to Colin Holliday reminding me of the pending changes to Castlerock signaling!
Some of Ireland’s finest rail-side scenery is in the North. At Downhill, Co. Derry massive vertical cliffs rise high above the Belfast-Derry line, with the great expanse of the North Atlantic beyond.
In October, lighting can be a bit tricky, as the same cliffs that make the scene and offer elevation also block the sun much of the day.
One trick: filtered sun (that is with thin cloud) makes for a less contrasty scene. By carefully exposing for the shaft of light at the center of the image, and then impose a digital graduated neutral density filter at the top of the frame, I was able to produce a balanced over-all image.
The other afternoon, I made these photos with Denis McCabe and Stephen Hirsch which feature a Derry to Belfast NI Railways railcar. While I worked primarily with my FujiFilm X-T1, I also exposed a few 35mm colour slides using my old Canon EOS-3 with 100mm lens.
As of this posting, those slides remain latent (exposed, but unprocessed), so we’ll need to wait to see if I got my exposure correct. (My notes read f7.1 at 1/250th of a second, which is consistent with the reading from my Minolta Mark4 handheld light meter, but a bit on the dark side for the camera meter).
It had been nearly four years since my last visit to Northern Ireland, so during the course of my recent exploration of Belfast with my cousin Stella (as mentioned in yesterday’s post) I took a few minutes to photograph NIR’s trains.
After arriving at Belfast Central on the Enterprise from Dublin, we changed to an NIR local bound for Great Victoria Street.
Later in the day we reversed this exercise on the return to Dublin. In the meantime, I also made a few photos from a location I previously explored along the River Dargan.
Photographing NI Railways [http://www.translink.co.uk/Services/NI-Railways/] is relatively easy, since there is ample access from public places and trains run on interval frequencies to most destinations.
In addition to these digital photos, I also exposed a handful of colour slides with my Canon EOS 3.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
I’d booked tickets on-line for my cousin Stella and I. As planned we took a spin from Dublin down to Belfast on the Enterprise.
I made a variety of photos to capture the experience. The train departed Connolly at 9:35am, as per schedule.
I’d first made this journey in February 1998. Back then Belfast still had a bit of an edge to it. I’d stepped out of Belfast Central Station on blustery damp morning and was immediately cautioned by a middle aged couple who told me to watch out where I walked.
On Friday’s trip, we were greeted by bright sunny skies and a much warmer welcoming Belfast. I was traveling light: only my Lumix LX7 and a Canon EOS 3 with just two lenses.
We rode an NIR local train from Central to Great Victoria Street, then spent the next six hours exploring on foot. We opted to return on the 6:05 pm train, which put us back in Dublin early enough for dinner and to meet a few friends.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
In November 2005, Translink NI Railways (operator of railway services in Northern Ireland) was in a transitional phase equipment-wise. New 3001 class railcars had been recently introduced, yet many of the older 80-class and Castle class railcars were still on the move.
I drove to Belfast from Dublin, and spent two days riding around on NIR trains making photographs. For the most part the days were sunny and brisk.
At that time of year, the sun in the northern latitudes tends to stay relative close to the horizon throughout the day, which can result in a stark contrasty light.
These images were exposed on Fujichrome at Coleraine, where the Port Rush branch diverges from the Belfast-Derry/Londonderry line.
Like NIR, I too was undergoing an equipment transition; I’d just recently bought a Canon EOS 3, but was still using my older Nikon F3T and N90S for many photographs.