#51 – adding a bit of atmosphere 1

I’ve now been using the Nikon D700 for exactly a year, and I know this because the first place I took it was to the East Lancs Railway winter steam gala at the end of January. One year on, time for a return visit.

Other than a nightshoot at Bury, I’d not done any railway photography since then, which is highly unusual for me. However, recently I’ve been looking at quite a lot of photos, online and in books, of the ‘progressive’ style, which is one that come o the fore in the 60’s as a rebellion to the technically perfect front three quarter views that had traditionally been taken, This style is best described on this flickr page and I suppose it’s one that I’ve been doing for years without really being aware of it.

This location on the East Lancs Railway was one that I first went to maybe 5 or 6 years ago, and took some shots on rather grainy film. By the time I’d cropped it, it was interesting but no masterpiece, so I always chose a spot on the other side of the tracks. However, when I got up, it was foggy, so I thought that it would make a nice spot as I could get the train coming round the corner out of the mist, plus it is still working hard, so would be throwing out some steam.

So that I wouldn’t have to crop too much, I chose to use a 70-300mm lens, which is unusual in railway photography, but this wasn’t about getting a photograph of the engine, it was about the overall scene, and it was a bit too far away for a standard zoom. As I was unsure as to the exact composition and placement that I wanted, I took about 20 on continuous. I think this one just about has the edge.

Post-processing – as you would imagine, the light was pretty flat and so the colours were subdued, so I cut my losses and converted to monochrome. I also added some grain using Color Efex Pro to add a bit of atmosphere. Now you may wonder what the point of having a Nikon D700 is if I’m going to add grain to the photos afterwards. The thing is, I see countless modern photos of steam converted to black and white to give a nostalgic look, but they’re so ‘clean’ that they’re quite clearly taken digitally. While this will never be mistaken for Ilford HP5, I prefer it to the original digital file. Does it need more contrast? Maybe, it’s difficult to know how far to go as it was a murky day.

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