It’s been a while since I posted some train travel pics: summer’s been quite busy and I’ve been away a lot and not scooting around London by train so much. Yesterday we travelled from South London right up to the outskirts of North London on what I still think of as the Thameslink line. It goes from the ‘burbs right across the edge of the City – Ludgate Circus (CIty Thameslink) and Farringdon – and then on out to the ‘burbs on the other side of London.
The light was amazing and I was shooting with the 5D and a 50mm1.8… it really tickles me to use an £80 lens on a £2.5K camera and I love the results, right down to the way the lens vignettes at a wide aperture. The colour and clarity are astounding…. so here’s a small selection of colour pics.
I don’t normally take pictures on the London Underground: I know that I’d hate it if someone stuck a lens in my face in the already crowded and busy platforms or trains. But the other day, as I was rushing for a train to take me up to Sheffield for the Documentary Festival, where our film is showing, I saw a shot that made me stop and dig my camera out of my bag… I only had time to grab 2 frames before the next crowd of people pushed by and a tube train came in and blocked the shot.
And a few weeks ago, we were on the way back from another film festival – the Fringe Festival in East London (can you see a pattern) – when a group of people reading on the tube caught my eye. I really like the way that each of them is lost in their own world, some with books, some eyes closed and some chatting…
Here are a few more shots – some from the Underground and some from the Overground.
At the weekend, the overland trains have a completely different atmosphere and are used in a totally different way. During the week, they shift 100,000s of commuters into the city from the suburbs and then back home again in the evening. At the weekend, the overground can be almost deserted with a few dozen people heading off to visit friends or heading to the local shops. It can be very mellow and gently soporific, gliding gently and quietly between stations, no rushing or pushing, glimpses into people’s back gardens or the rear of their houses, elevated views of suburban London, and new views of the city.
A couple of weekends ago, I spent a few hours riding a loop of the Thameslink overground line that starts from my local station and heads south to Sutton and Wimbledon, before returning northwards and ultimately arriving at St Albans. People were day dreaming, talking on the their phones and being generally quiet and peaceful. At each station perhaps one or two people got on or off from my carriage and I took some decent shots of people dozing or in one case two jolly ladies waving off a friend.
But then the peace of the carriage was disrupted by two young boys, they hurled themselves into the carriage and began taunting a large group of much larger boys on the opposite platform. The older boys seemed more amused than offended and the two young lads seemed good natured too.
Then the small one began to dare the larger of the two to slap him, to take it in turns to hit each other. Within a few moments it was clear that the smaller boy was really going for the big one, who put up with a couple of slaps and punches before he began to put his weight into it too.
They quickly became a whirl of fists and slaps that lasted a few moments before they spotted me and turned and fixed me with an intimidating glare: well, as intimidating as a 12 year boy can be to a 6’5″ 200lb 46 year old…
At the next station they hopped off and ran by my window with a cheeky smile, leaving me to take some of the landscape shots I’d set off to take.
Although I shoot colour for all my professional TV work, I’ve nearly always shot B&W for my personal stills work. But since I’ve shifted to digital last year – selling Nikon FM2 &FE2 and one of my two Mamiya 6 bodies – I’ve been shooting RAW files and converting to B&W with Silver Efex Pro. Last month I got an email from NikSoft offering me the full suite of colour software for free..
So this set is a triple test – a new 5Diii with a new 28mm 1.8 and an initial test with Colour Efex Pro. I’ve kept processing to a minimum: pulled up exposure in Aperture and then in Colour Efex added contrast, vignette and image borders. It was a dull grey April day in London so what colours there were, really sang through.
Every year it snows in Britain. And every year we’re surprised. It only takes a couple of inches for chaos to ensue: roads are closed, schools shut down, drivers lose their heads and crash into each other and confusion rules on the rail system. In one notorious incident a part of the network was shut down by a tiny snow fall because, according to the rail company “it was the wrong type of snow”.
If it only takes a few inches to bring chaos, then that’s all it takes to transform the city. I’ve been dying to shoot some pictures in the snow but never had a camera to hand or the time to do it. This year, at the first sign of snow I managed to grab a few hours on a couple of occasions. The first time, I made it about 3 stops towards the centre of London, before things ground to a halt at Elephant and Castle. Because it was the middle of the afternoon, the place was deserted with just a few people waiting around for a train to take them home. The second time, things went a bit more smoothly but that was because the snow show petered out and it all began to melt.
These shots are mostly taken on the line that runs from South East London via the City and on to North London and beyond. Some of the platforms – Loughborough Junction and Elephant and Castle – are elevated high above the surrounding streets, like Chicago’s L or some of the Paris Metro. Others, like Herne Hill or Kentish Town are on street level, surrounded by streets and houses. In the centre the line dips below ground to City Thames Link, and Farringdon.