As I started to compose this post it was just after noon on 31st December 2014 in the UK and the BBC News had broadcast New Year celebration footage from New Zealand where it is already 2015. Given the global nature of the blogiverse it somehow seems fitting to wish everyone a Happy New Year nearly 12 hours before Big Ben gets around to producing the Chimes at Midnight that will indicate that 2015 has arrived for those of us existing in Greenwich Mean Time, so without more ado… Happy New Year to all my Readers (the long suffering and the new) 🙂
Last January I wrote a Requiem for Winter – we didn’t get one last year at all. This winter again started very mild in London and although there had been a couple of light frosts in the run up to Christmas I was beginning to wonder if the chilly days of my childhood had gone for ever. Therefore, I’m pleased to report that the last week of 2014 has finally brought something resembling winter weather. We have had four mornings of very heavy frosts – the sort where you can’t tell what colour the cars outside were before Jack popped by 🙂
Imagine Alasdair’s dismay yesterday morning at being expected to go out of the centrally heated house at 7:30 into a white world that had yet to see the sunrise. It was, frankly, bitterly cold but I was determined to make the short local trip to Oakleigh Park because there was a Steam loco due through that day. So we walked up the lane to catch a 382 bus to New Southgate. Care was needed – the pavements were treacherous underfoot as were the platforms at the station when we got there.
Weekday commuter services passing through gave visual testament to the icy chill with showers of green sparks from their pantographs. “Are they supposed to do that?” asked a huddled Alasdair from inside his hoodie. The sun was just starting to peep over the horizon to the south-east and he was starting to cheer up a bit. The 08:27 Welwyn Garden city service arrived around a minute late and we boarded for the short journey north to Oakleigh Park.
There were three photographers already standing at the south end of the station when we arrived – Steam engines tend to bring out a few hardy souls. In summer there would probably be quite a few more! So I had a decision to make. Stand with the other enthusiasts or pick my own spot. I think it’s nice to get a different shot to everyone else where possible, so I beckoned Alasdair to follow me and we left the station.
Just to the north of the station is a footbridge and it was here that I chose to stand and await the steam special. One of the potential issues for photographers seeking to capture a special is knowing which line the train is likely to be on – the shot of the slow lines was relatively easy from the footbridge but if the train was on the fast lines I’d have to pick my shutter release point very carefully to avoid the overhead lines and masts ruining the image. Fortunately, I expected the special to be on the slow line as there was a fast train due through around the time that I estimated we would see the steamer emerge from Barnet Tunnel to the south of the station (approx 08:45).
The other issue with the bridge is the early morning sun; now rising above trees and directly into the camera lens. A couple of test shots confirmed that I would have to cut out the sky as much as possible and take the train from the platform side (purists prefer to be able to see the wheels and motion which are hidden by a platform).
Our steamer duly appeared around my estimated time: LNER A4 number 4464 ‘Bittern’ making steady progress up the slow line. I took three shots as she passed through the station and I present you with this tonemapped version of the event which I hope serves to bring out the coldness of the morning and the glory of steam all in one image 🙂