Sometimes you just get lucky!

October 03, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Many would have you believe that the art of photography is a difficult game, one that requires skill, knowledge and can only be improved by experience. The reality is that while it can indeed be all of those things, the modern digital camera can make a shot that most people would be proud of. No longer is it about the skill of getting every setting on the camera absolutely right for the conditions. Most cameras have auto settings that will adjust extremely well to the light levels. Equally its not about the developing of the film in a dark room, a process that takes extreme patience and skill. These days the most basic editing software will be able to adjust your photo to take out any imperfections in camera settings and make your photo that much better. You can, if you want, go down the route of getting every setting perfect and using the best editing software but it's only as hard as you want it to be.


All the above said you still have to have an eye for a shot. Sometimes you also will have to have a few goes at a particular shot to get it how you want it. This is where you seperate those would be photographers from the people with a passion for it. In my case of photographing steam engines I will quite often attend so called 'Steam Galas' at various railways around the country, but most often in the North of England. I will quite often have, but not always, acquired the published timetable for the day, and plan a route on foot or with car or train assistance to get various shots from different locations thorughout the day. I don't like taking the same angle more than once because quite simply, I like variety. Whilst I publish these shots online for everyone to see the first reason I take them is because I enjoy it. I'm in this for the challenge and because I get entertainment from it. Both in the taking of the shot and looking back over them.


Now, over the day I can cover quite a few miles. Depending on the railway you can cover up to 10 miles on foot, as well as using other transport, and you will double back on yourself and cover the same terrain more than once. This is just due to prefering the Sun behind me when shooting, and the way tracks tend to curve.


Im babbling now. The point I'm really trying to get to is that if I don't get a particular shot how I want it, I very rarely try again that day. I want variety, not loads of the same angle. Also if you have one failure you risk doing the same thing again if the problem has been caused by something out of your control. The most comman issue is lighting levels. even with all the modern wonders we have, a bit of Sun goes a long way, as you will shortly see!


There is one particular shot I have been trying, off and on for a few years now. It's never really worked for me how it wanted it to, mostly due to lighting but also a few of my own mishaps. This particular shot involves balancing very close to a large river. The ground underneath of full of high weeds and if you get too close becomes very slippery. You are basically risking falling in. Perhaps a bit dramatic but in order to get the shot without loads of weeds creeping into it, you have to be very close to the edge. At the very least you are risking wet feet!


Mishaps over the years include slipping whilst taking the shot, a bird flying out as the train came, light levels disappearing on me at the last second (making my photo look like i'd taken it in the dark) and finally last year another photographer standing up directly in front of me as I took my shot. Frustrating but it does happen. 


If I recall correctly I've only previously published two of my many attempts at this, which proves how annoyed I've been at the others. This year though I got it as good I could. All three of the published attempts are below. The location is Wansford bridge at the Nene Valley Railway. The River is the Nene, and the engines in order are Britannia and City of Peterborough from two points of 2013 (as you can tell by the different vegetation). My personal favourite is the bottom one, my success of the year so far. Not only did I finally get some light, but I got it with Tornado! What a difference the Sun makes!


'Britannia' crossing the River Nene (Feb 2013)


City of Peterborough crossing the River Nene at Wansford (Sept 2013)



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