Developing an interest in photography

My interest in photography developed late and unexpectedly. Several years ago, as part of my French degree, I spent an erasmus year in Paris. As my ability to speak the language became less of a sticking point in day-to-day life, I became aware that (for me) French would never be anything more than a means to an end: I did not want to become a French teacher or a translator. Paris being a vibrant cultural scene, I felt inspired to create my own artful creations, and I took to art in the only way I knew how: switching on my laptop. I started to work on the path towards becoming a 3D artist and began to learn a mixture of different 3D modelling tools – including Maya, 3DS Max and Blender. I was attracted to photo-realism, and the concept that it was possible to artificially create scenes that were indistinguishable from reality. Despite following this path with some relatively successful results, I sometimes found myself limited by the quality of (freely) available textures, with which I could coat my models. Taking matters into my own hands, I read length about the merits of certain DSLR cameras and bought a pro-sumer level Nikon D7000, along with a flexible 18-200mm zoom lens.After reading some of brilliant technical advice and basic art theory courtesy of Ken Rockwell, I started my foray into some more traditional photography, taking advantage of my surroundings.
Eiffel Tower, Paris [2012]
Eiffel Tower, Paris [2012]
As evident from the image above, it is difficult to capture something original when shooting such iconic landmarks: despite managing to capture a light-dark contrast in this image split along a vertical plane-of symmetry, it still appears as tired and cliché as the postcards sold to tourists.

Focusing on lighting

Since I found the lighting component of the above image most interesting, I wanted to specifically isolate and capture light in future shoots; in particular, capturing the notion of moving light, since moving light can overlay a static scene with a fleeting highlight potentially only ever seen by the photographer.

Abstract Light, Munich [2012]
Sunset, Munich [2012]
Street, Munich [2012]
Street, Munich [2012]
Trying to find my photography feet while in Munich, I experimented with some differing styles. In the first image, the abstract light takes the primary focus and isolates light from the scene from which the image is taken (Tollwood festival in Theresienwiese), though since it is not overlaid onto a scene, feels underwhelming in terms of overall composition. The second image overlays light onto the silhouetted background, yet while the river provides the sense of movement, it does not capture the sense of a fleeting instant that could have been provided by moving light. Although the composition of the final image does not place the moving light as a central focus, it is a hint at the type of image I wanted to try and capture.

Moving light

Jumping past my photography hiatus of a couple of years, and I now live within close proximity of a railway station: an excellent opportunity for capturing some moving light. Setting up on a bridge just above the station, it became obvious quite quickly that I would have to be ready with camera setup and positioned on the tripod to capture the image before a train pulled into frame.

Stationary Train, Coventry [2015]
I set the camera to use 100 ISO, zoomed to about 55mm, focussed to the mid-ground of the frame, and experimented with the exposure and white balance until I was capturing a reasonable image (I think I ended up settling on +1.4 stops of exposure and used the in-build auto WB since it was doing a better job than I was!).I took a practice image on a stationary train (see above), then waited for several trains to pass until I got an image I was satisfied with (see below).
Moving Train, Coventry [2015]
In my final couple of attempts, I moved slightly to the left so that the converging parallel lines would move diagonally across the frame.Aware that the trains were passing through the station at a much slower rate than the vehicles on the road behind me, I took a few shots of the road – and got lucky. Only a few shots in, I took the image below.
Moving Traffic, Coventry [2015]
The ghostly image of floating light overlaying a sharp gritty background finally matched up to the style of image I was looking for.I will continue to carve out my photography style, and if you’re interested, this journey will be documented on my site here. If there is sufficient interest, I will create a short video tutorial series in taking similar photographs to the style above.Thanks for reading!

Keywords: Long Exposure Photography, Train, Station, Cars, Traffic, Paris, Munich, Coventry