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#48: Shenfield – 18/04/2019

I have new eyes and I can see!.. Let me explain. Having had a cataract operation last August, I’ve struggled a bit with focusing and had to rely on two sets of glasses as the focal point in both eyes have been somewhat out of kilter. So I’ve been using one pair of glasses for reading and one for long distance. So although when I’m walking about I have been able to see OK, when I’ve then tried to focus on taking a photograph, I’ve had to swap glasses. All in all it was manageable but somewhat clumsy.

The good news is that I had my other eye operated on last week, and almost instantly, my vision has returned so much so that from close to long distance I can manage without glasses except for close reading which I’m still in need. So a very good outcome indeed. Today’s journey was probably sooner than I should have ventured after my operation, but I was keen to try out my new eyes.

So the weather has changed for the better and today is a hot spring day for what turned out to be a nine mile hike through the Essex countryside which tested my childhood membership of the Tufty Club and latterly the Green Cross Code. All part of Britain’s road safety campaigns over the years to improve safety for pedestrians.

Shenfield Station

The station has six platforms serving Tfl Rail and Greater Anglia services. The former being the terminus out of Liverpool Street, and once the Elizabeth Line has been commissioned the station will serve trains through to Paddington and onwards to Heathrow (T5) and Reading. Greater Anglia services terminate here from Southend, and pass through from Liverpool Street through to Ipswich, Clacton-on-sea and Colchester.

The station shows off some memories of old. One in the guise of a Great Eastern Railways plaque (the forerunner of Greater Anglia) erected by the ‘traffic and civil engineering staff of the station’ commemorating those colleagues who died during the First World War.

The second is an abandoned caboose stranded on platform 1. I admire it’s dishevelled ruggedness which draws me in to take a close look, and it reminds me of my early childhood when steam trains were still the ‘norm’. I suspect the caboose hasn’t been abandoned, but merely parked awaiting transportation to some museum or rail enthusiasts destination – well that’s my hope anyway. Such is its draw that I take many pictures, trying to capture the mood of its era using a grainy B&W filter on the camera or recreating a wild west feel using post production filters; one of which makes it as my ‘picture of the day’ (see below).

Shenfield

Described by some internet commentators as a dormitory town for commuters to London and surrounding towns, I would say it’s more of a ‘one horse town’. What I mean by that is it’s predominantly one street with shops serving and meeting its local community. Without counting, I would say ladies and gents grooming salons make up the majority of shops with eateries/coffee shops a close second. With the exception of one or two unusual or decorative shops, Shenfield is a sedate town – and that is its charm and why residents are attracted here.

A Country Walk

I decide to head north out of Shenfield towards the hectic A12 dual carriageway, along the River Wid and through Hutton before returning to Shenfield several hours later. The route is a combination of busy main and country roads, often without a pavement, so I have to take particular care when walking along. I go under and over five different bridges; mostly railway bridges where in some cases the road narrows to single file traffic and the width of the bridge forms a short tunnel.

I also stop for some time (in a very safe place) on the roundabout that is junction 12 of the A12 (at this point also known as Ingatestone Bypass) and try to capture an image of the speeding traffic passing under me.

Turning off the roundabout to follow the River Wid, I walk past a newly completed housing development called ‘The Elms at Mountnessing’ (see Google map reference: Elm Gardens and River Court) and I’m struck by the exterior finish of all the houses.

The rural landscape is as you’d expect, although the country road is clearly used as a cut through for local and light industrial traffic serving the industrial estate north of Hutton and only a mile from the A12. I walk on through Hutton and I’m intrigued by a road name – Hanging Hill Lane. Its name is very suggestive, however an internet search doesn’t reveal any history of this road other than a ghostly sighting of a woman.

Brentwood

The road from Hutton brings me back to Shenfield so still looking for some local interest I decide to press on and walk a further 1.5 miles to Brentwood; and just on the outskirts I pass Shen Place Almshouses, a collection of six homes, and admire the adorned gable ends.

Around the corner is the Brentwood Cathedral of SS Mary and Helen, and as I poke my nose inside, I admire the colourful south entrance. Further inside I can also and see that Easter preparations are underway and understand why the cathedral is described as ‘…a light-filled baroque and renaissance-style Catholic cathedral with an ornate gold-leaf ceiling…’.

Even though there’s no one about, I leave quietly and end my journey, rather wearily, walking past the flint covered St Thomas of Canterbury Church which is next door to the cathedral before heading down the hill to the railway station. I leave Brentwood knowing that I’ll be home soon as the end of the line for me is at Gidea Park, only two stops down the line.

Picture of the Day

As soon as I saw this wagon I knew it would feature as my picture of the day, but I wanted to make sure I could create the right mood for it, capturing its age and derelict abandonment.

The wagon stands alone off platform 1, now disused, and cuts a sorry and unloved image ignored by most passengers walking into the station. This shot is one of a long series of pictures taken naturally and with a harsh B&W filter on the camera, the latter portraying an image reminiscent of an early newspaper picture: bold and stark – but I’m looking for something different.

If you’re familiar with Google Photos, you’ll know it comes with simple, but very effective edit features. One of which consists of 14 different filter settings. I’ve often questioned the purpose of the Modena filter as it places a yellowish tint across the whole picture. However, that’s precisely the effect I’m looking for: one that mimics old film stock, and this time it gives the feel of an early wild west colour movie.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ/5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 29mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Modena

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TfL Other Services TfL Rail

#47: Paddington (revisited) – 10/04/2019

This evening is an experiment in night time long exposure black and white photography… and although there are no new discoveries since my first visit over eight months ago, I hope you find this indulgent revisit interesting?

I also have to thank my daughter for enabling me to take these pictures as I decided to use a recent Christmas present in the guise of a new tripod; its use, essential in enabling me to take long exposure night shots. I’d researched the kind of tripod I was interested in; one that had to be lightweight to carry around, strong enough to handle my camera and zoom lenses, and compact enough to fold away for ease of carrying. I plumped for the Neewer 350C (red) as a tripod that meets my needs very well. The only compromise is its limited height, but that’s a compromise I’m happy to accept – thank you Ceri…

And why am I back at Paddington? Well, as things stand, the station will serve as a terminal for two Tfl Rail lines (soon to become the Elizabeth line): one to Heathrow (already operating), and one to Reading. Admittedly the Elizabeth line hasn’t fully commissioned all these services yet, but I feel the line’s media spotlight and current progress warranted a second visit to acknowledge this.

A little about the Station which most will know serves as the gateway to Wales and the South West of England. A station I have passed through many many times as a tourist travelling to London, and over the last 30 years, travelling to and through as a weekend commuter when I first moved to London and subsequently on work missions. At 10.30 pm at night, the station is though comparatively quiet as this animation shows.

The station is one of London’s iconic buildings created by Isambard Kingdom Brunel with its gothic style wrought iron work vaulted dome. A spectacle that fills your view no matter where you enter the station from, and one that draws your eyes upwards to admire the scale and engineering. A vision I recall in my younger days being full of diesel smoke as trains arrived and departed and smoke got caught in the domed roof.

The station also benefits from very long platforms to accommodate the pullman carriages that make up the services run by GWR in their fashionable green livery. And if you’re ever feeling particularly flush, you can always book yourself into one of their dining experiences  so as to enjoy good food whilst admiring the great scenery.

“Taxi!”

All good stations have well integrated taxi ranks to help passengers with a seamless transition from train to final destination; and equally those arriving at the station. Paddington is no different and the taxi rank is situated on the north eastern side of the station. It’s a well managed resource and directions to find it are well sign-posted. However given the size of the station, it can take passengers a good 10 minutes or even longer to get here. Not so bad when you’re travelling light, but when laddled with large, unwieldy suitcases, the effort can be somewhat frustrating.

To be honest I hadn’t taken much notice of this facility before, I guess because I’d never needed to use it, so my attention has only been cursory as I’ve walked past. But tonight, I spend quite a while, in different vantage points, capturing the movement of the slow black chain of ‘heel to toe’ taxi cabs meandering towards the pick up point before accelerating out of the station compound.

Can you spot the ghostly taxi?

This animation and few shots gives a sense of the calm patience taxi drivers exercise whilst waiting for the next train full of passengers to make their way to them.

The Basin at night

Walking along here at night is quite a spectacle as the combination of low and high rise building lighting has a rippling effect on the water, especially as the moon is rising too. In conversation with friends, they’ve commented on my bravery in walking about alone. But I don’t think it’s a question of bravery, more a balance of understanding your surroundings and being aware of those around you.

I’m not being complacent as I’ve found myself in several situations where taking the right action early, or saying/not saying something is the right thing to do. For example, as I was walking out of Merchant Square, realising there was only one exit at night and being confronted by a group of young men asking me if I wanted to buy some hashish, I diffuse a potential confrontation by making light of their offer but at the same time holding tightly onto my camera and handling my tripod in such a way that I could have used it in defence if needed…but none of this was necessary.

I hope you can enjoy these pictures of the area around the Basin as much as I enjoyed taking them. Some being taken with very long exposure times of up to 15 seconds so that I can get a good depth of field, or in some cases capturing cycle lights blinking on/off as they travel along a cobbled alleyway.

This shot of the Darcie Green floating restaurant along the Grand Union Canal is one of many I took trying to capture the mood of the revellers on board. But it was a cold night and only a few smokers braved the open top for a moment or two to ‘take in the air’.

Picture of the Day

An iconic picture taken inside Paddington Station at 9.32 pm on Wednesday the 10th April 2019.

This is one of several shots I’ve taken to get the composition and effect  just right and the settings I’m using achieves that. The particular challenge is to get the shutter speed right. Too short and the picture is dark, and too long gives a whitewashed effect. Camera stability with a 2 second exposure is achieved using the camera mounted on a low lying tripod.

The starkness of the image, taken in black and white, shows off the iron work which is captured in fine detail right throughout the station. The clock to the left, in grand Victorian style, offsets the symmetry of the picture just enough and helps draw the eye down to a statute of Paddington Bear. The long exposure also helps to create the starburst effect with the overhead lighting which a faster exposure failed to achieve.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ16; Shutter Speed – 2 sec; Focal Length – 18mm; Film Speed – ISO200; Google Photo Filter – Metro

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YouTube, Instagram, Google PhotosTriptipedia – here I share some tips I use when travelling around London. A different twist on my ‘end of the line’ story