Railway Photography by Paul Robertson
Towards the end of 2013 I became intrigued by some excellent shots that had been taken by the stalwarts of pole photography, messrs Armitage & Walshaw and wondered how to go about 'joining the club'.
Andi pointed me in the right direction towards equipment, a Harris 5mtr painting pole, an adapter (obtained from the US) to convert the thread of the pole to tripod head size, and a Hahnel Inspire wireless controller to view my cameras live view on a hand held shutter release, a bit like a fat i-phone..
So in December I did my first practice shots with the hahnel shutter release, and as I was still awaiting delivery of the adapter from the States, I used the camera on top of a monopod, oftem held aloft, or rested on the top step of my extending ladders! Some of these test shots are below:
A few days into the New Year and the postman delivered the adapter, so it was off for more tests, now 5 mtrs up! There were some issues with 'wobbliness' even in a light breeze, and a slight lag in the sensor on top of the camera transferring the liveview image onto the handheld shutter release. But with practise, and use of the motorwind some decent pics were obtained. I also dropped a handful of shots until I replaced a cable as it wasn't tight enough locating into the camera port and a breeze managed to blow this out on a couple of occasions causing me to have no control over the shutter release. This cost me 60074 in lucky sun on one occasion, but luckily I was able to repeat the same loco/location/train/sun combo the following week. Here are a few images taken with the 5mtr pole & Hahnel inspire combo:
I encountered another issue with the Harris pole when out taking the two shots below, after taking the Colas 66, I lowered the pole as the wasn't due for another 20mins or so, but a call from a mate said it was early and 2 mins behind the 66, and at that moment it could be heard coming. So in a panic trying to get the pole up, I'd not tightened the first section properly and it suddenly came crashing down, so trying to stop the big jolt on the camera as it got to the bottom, I gripped the pole, only for it to get part of my finger trapped in it and it took a big chunk out of the underside of my finger which in hindsight needed stitching. First aid followed after taking the shot of the 60 of course.....!
On Sunday 16th March, there was the chance of using the pole at the East Mids 'holy grail' location of Chevin as the DCR Railvac train was coming back from Yorkshire to Chaddesden. 56312 was on the front, it was sunny, what could go wrong? I got to Chevin around 20 mins before it was due, fellow pole users Jason C & Mick T were already set up. As I started to set up my pole, a noise could be heard, and then the Grid hove into view, panic... I got the pole up, but a connection error on the Hahnel hand held release meant I had to turn it off and restart it. It didn't get back on in time for the liveview to transmit but the shutter fired, but I was doing it blindly.. The resultant pictures were awfully composed, as would be expected. However I "thought Digi" and took a frame with no train in, composed as I would have took it, and with the back of the consist provided by Jason (Ta mate) I managed to produce in photoshop an image of what it should have looked like ! However it got me thinking, perhaps it was time to change wireless controllers...........
After deliberating on whether to change wireless controller, or even go down the 6D route which has built in wifi, I settled on ordering a Camranger wireless controller. This provides full control over the camera and its settings, so it's possible to change shutter speed, ISO etc with the camera on top of the pole. The control of the camranger is through either an I-phone or I-Pad, the reproduction of the liveview image on the I-phone is pretty small but I've managed so far, but the I-pad is now my preferrence as this reproduces the liveview image the full size of the I-pad screen. I use a music stand I-pad holder to secure it to the pole, to allow me one hand to hold the pole, and the other to operate the I-pad.
And after causing damage to the mini USB connection to the motherboard on my 5D Mk11 (caused by putting the camera on/in my camera bag still with the USB cable attached to camera &
camranger), I bought a 6D Mk11 and utilise the built in WiFi to operate the camera via the Canon App on my i-phone.
In 2018, after suffering some wi-fi connection issues causing lost shots, I bought a Canon cable release extension lead, and now use the wi-fi
purely for setting up the shot, and use the cable release to fire the shutter.