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Digital photography has made photography of the London Underground vastly easier than with film.
ISO 400 too slow? Notch it up to 1000, or 1600, or higher.
In the old days with film I’d rarely experiment with any lens longer than 100mm underground. Not only were my longer lenses relatively slow, but trying to keep them steady at low shutter speeds was impractical.
Today, I push up the ISO and snap away.
The adjustable rear screen on my FujiFilm X-T1 is a great tool for photographing from the hip. Back in the old days, I’d take the prism off my Nikon F3T for a similar technique, but this made focusing difficult.
I made these photos in Early May 2016. For me the Underground is more than just photos of the trains and tunnels.
My Lumix LX7 with its f1.4 Leica Vario Summicron lens is another fun tool for making photos in the subway. It sure beats my ancient old Leica 3A hands down.
Park Street Station was bright enough so that even back in film days I could get passable photos of paused PCCs in black & white. But these days with the LX7 I can make very publishable handheld views in color.
Using the digital camera in the subway allows me virtually instantaneous feedback. I can check color balance, sharpness, exposure and composition on site. No longer do I need to unfurl wet negatives from stainless steel tanks to find out that I missed my exposure by half a stop.
Of course while instant feedback allows me to make adjustments to the exposure on-site, it does take away some of the thrill of anticipation.
I’ve found that subway images, like most night photos, require a manual exposure override of about a 1/3 to 2/3rds of a stop to compensate for specular highlights (caused by overhead lights and the reflections of same off shiny surfaces such as metal encased columns and enameled station signs).
In other words, I’ll set the Lumix to the ‘A’ (aperture) mode, then dial in + 2/3 overexposure with the toggle wheel. When I don’t make this correction the images appear too dark coming out of the camera. While I can adjust for this in post processing, I’d rather optimize my exposure to allow for the most amount of detail in the RAW file.
Does all that sound too complicated? By making this nominal exposure compensation to lighten my photos in camera, the resulting images will ultimately require less work on the computer and should be easier to use on the printed page.
The photos display in this post have not received post-processing, except for scaling necessary for internet presentation. Here: I have not modified exposure, color balance, contrasts or sharpness.
The Underground cleverly blends transport and style. In my experience it is one of the world’s most popular public transportation systems. Phrases like ‘Mind the Gap’ appear on mugs and T-shirts, while many shops sell stylized maps of the Underground network.
During 2013, London’s Underground network has been celebrating 150 years of service. This milestone is marked by posters and artwork around the network. For me the Underground is both a convenience and a subject for photography.
The Underground is one of the world’s most complex and extensive railway rapid transit networks, and is well integrated with the rest of London transport.
Photographing on the Underground has its challenges. Space is often constrained, it tends to be dimly lit underground, and trains and platforms are nearly always crowded. The system boasts that it carries more than 1 Billion passengers annually! At times it seems that each and every one of these billion are in the way. Yet, the passengers are the reason for the system and often make for the most interesting images.
I’ve included a small selection of photos of the London Underground that I exposed over the last week. Most were made with my Lumix LX-3, which owing to its compact size and ease of use makes it my choice camera for making Underground images. Use of flash is prohibited; a tripod is impractical, so all of my images were made handheld with existing light.