It’s the shortest day or winter solstice, depending on your point of view and which hemisphere you happen to live in. For an outdoor type like me, it means fewer daylight hours for mountain walking and invariably poor quality daylight for line side photography.
So, I usually turn my attention to sorting out my photo library. A wee dig about in the archives turned up a selection of pictures from 2003, taken after dark in various locations including Plymouth, Cheltenham Spa and Darlington. The chase for mail train action meant some late nights and dealing with low light situations.
The following sequence of images were taken on photographic film, not in digital format. The challenges of night photography are all too apparent with film and you do not know what the results will be until the transparencies return from the lab. Film grain, tripod shake, cold, yellow sodium lighting on stations, wind and light flare are many of the challenges that face the nocturnal photographer, the effects of which cannot be seen at the time, unlike digital photography where the results can be examined in the rear viewer of the camera and a shot taken again – if there is time!
For railway photography is challenging action photography in the same way as sports and wildlife photography can be and our subjects can very often be moving at considerable speed. At night, photographing moving trains is not really possible without motion blur and when reasonably good record shots are your aim, trains have to be completely stationary.
Consequently, many of the night-time images I have taken are snatched in the few minutes that a train stands at a station making a scheduled call. Mail trains tended to stop for more than a few minutes for loading. Even so, with shutter speeds of 15 seconds plus and set-up time, placing oneself in the right place for the shot is not always easy. So, here’s to the shortest day and until the return of the sun in the next few months, I will ignore the cold and wet to grab the occasional night shot.