A Creative Photography Project
The beautiful sunshine this September has provided plenty of opportunities for outdoor photography. The pictures above were taken during day trips to Didcot Railway Centre just South of Oxford and we will be featuring them individually on Piranha Photography’s Instagram page.
The Railway Centre at Didcot in Oxfordshire
Didcot Railway Centre is home to numerous steam trains and carriages as well as a museum housing 200 years of railway heritage. The area to be explored covers 21 acres. Many of the locomotives have been painstakingly restored, as have the coaches and goods wagons.
A creative photography project like this one provides an opportunity to explore a new location and subject photographically and think creatively about the style of images that will be visually appealing and a bit different from others taken before.
Looking for interesting subjects
The sidings, tracks and trains presented plenty of photographic potential, which I could frame in numerous ways.
Location photography can be some of the most satisfying as it is an opportunity for creative thinking and a keen eye. Prior to the visit I didn’t know that much about steam trains, but the venue is visually very impressive and a shrine almost to the time, dedication of the oil stained volunteers. Over the course of the two days I spent at the Railway Centre I enjoyed details of the restored trains and coaches brought back to their former glory, and also photographing some of the trains and carriages yet to be repaired.
For me the peeling paint, textures and rust of the old trains added the most visual interest. There is the ever present nostalgic aroma of hot oil, steam, wood polish, and Brasso, I think if they could bottle it, they would make a small fortune.
Making the most of the light
As always I was carrying my Leica M10 for the photography but also took a few lenses on the expedition. The one I used most for the photography shown above was the 50mm Summilux, I could use the shallow depth of field to blur out other visitors or distractions.
On the theme of peeling paintwork
These photographs convey the tremendous work needed to bring one of the old steam engines and their carriages back from their current states of disrepair back to how they would have been when new. Over the years many of the old trains have become rusty with peeling paintwork. The low light of the morning sun really made the paint and rust stand out.
Photography of details at Railway Centre
The museum at Didcot is filled with interesting paraphernalia all relating to the heyday of steam when the trains were operational.
Exploring black and white
When working on a new photographic project it is worth investigating the images in black and white as well as colour, to lose any distractions from the colour and emphasise textures.
All the photographs are shot in RAW and then processed later. Lightroom is the professional photographer’s software of choice, to produce colour images with the correct contrast and exposure. Afterwards you can also try out simple conversions to black and white and importantly adjust the colour tonal response to match a favoured black and white film. Plugins are available; we like Silver Efex Pro, as there are many film types available to emulate.
The steam trains seem to suit black and white as it harps back to the old days of black and white film and news coverage in the ’50’s and ’60’s.
In summary, a day or two at an unfamiliar venue, investing time photographing something you hitherto had no idea you would take an interest in can yield great results. You may even be published in a global magazine and have an idea for a new line in cologne “essence of steam train”.
The Leica Gallery – Selected Photographs to Feature
The below photographs were selected from the above series to feature on the Leica Gallery page ‘SYMBOLS/STRUCTURES’ –
Round & About Magazine – Feature Article
Round & About – a local magazine have run a feature on the Didcot railway photography project …
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