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Edition #211  December 1, 2013

Give Up Or Give It A Try

Photographer: Misko Kranjec

                                                                      Photo by Misko Kranjec

Give Up Or Give It A Try

When the photographer finds himself on the scene with the extremely bad light situation, almost in the complete darkness, without the tripod the tripod, either because he does not have one with him, or because the fast changing situation does not allow setting it, the question arises - give up or try it? With the film camera the answer would be simple, but the modern digital camera offers him more chance because of its higher light sensitivity and because trying it doesn't cost anything.

Last winter, in the midst of December, I wanted to record the roundhouse scenes at the Slovenian Railroads' Museum at Ljubljana - Šiška, where the engine crew was readying just revived big Borsig 2-8-2 locomotive for the night trip with the museum train to Maribor. I was well aware what the lighting conditions await me there, but I didn't want to take along the tripod because I knew the fast changing action won' t allow using it; besides, I will be leaving the scene aboard the locomotive as the 5th person in the cab, and the only thing missing in the already overcrowded tight cab space would be the clumsy tripod. The solution would be the monopod, but I hate it to carry it around as in 99 % of situations I don't need it - in spite of my age my hands are still steady and I am used to shoot at low shutter speeds. Moreover, if I take it with me, I have to care for it all the time, and in the heat of the action I usually forget it in some corner where I left it to free my hands, only to return and pick it at some later time. How later depends on how far I came before remembering it. Few times it was the next day, and couple of times it had to be sent after me by the train... Besides, if extended it is clumsy for carrying it over the tracks, and too annoying to collapse it and extend it every few minutes.But, before someone comes up with some smart suggestion, in essence it is that I hate whatever obstructs me in my fast moving around.

So I found myself in the middle of the cold (-14C / 7F) winter night at the big roundhouse yard lit only by two small floodlights on the roundhouse wall, by the faint light coming out of the building through the door windows, and occasionally by the two mercury vapor lights, constantly turning themselves on and off - mostly they were off. When the engine came out of the roundhouse, where I had relatively cozy, 1/15 sec at ISO 3,200 shooting conditions, the going got tough. The AF was totally unusable and the only thing I could manually focus on were the lamp bulbs in the headlights, that is when I saw them. Otherwise the focusing was a guessing game, guessing indeed, as it was too dark to see the distance marks on the lens barrel. In the shadier corners of the yard, or in the shadow side of the locomotive there was no other light source but the single 20 watt bulb under the locomotive footboard, the faint, distant glow of the city in the sky, and on the couple of times the small LED torch held by the fireman checking the locomotive mechanism or seeking the snow covered locking hole of the turntable. It was a situation in which many would give up, I believe, and perhaps rightly so. Nevertheless, I gave it a try. If it was it worth it or not - the answer is in your eyes. For me it is a definitive yes, because I came home with the story

Misko Kranjec
Misko's Flickr photostream:

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