Clan Line

If you live in Clapham or Battersea you can occasionally hear a steam locomotive, which is a little incongruous in the bustle of 21st Century London. A few months ago I decided to hunt down the source of this sound, and after a few calls found that it belonged to Clan Line, which hauls the Orient Express out of Victoria. The Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society has run Clan Line since the end of steam on British Rail, and we sorted out a date to photograph the drivers after they'd had a day at work on the footplate.

Aside from using my usual digital camera, I also wanted to try out my late uncle's 1960s Linhof, so preparation would be essential as I'd have to have all the sheet film loaded in advance. I went down to the depot the afternoon before, which was great as it allowed me to have a look at the setup, and assess the light. During the scouting trip I saw the team putting the finishing touches to the engine before it went out - to say it was spotless would be something of an understatement.

Rupert (my cousin) and Selim (my regular assistant) were helping me on the day of shooting, and we got down an hour and a half before the locomotive returned. Normally with something big and shiny you'd want a decent amount of time to work out the lighting, but we didn't have that luxury as the guys driving it would want to go home when they got back to the shed. So while we could get the lighting for the drivers nailed down by using stand-in lighting models, there would be a bit of adjustment required when the engine came back into the shed - and not a lot of time to do it. The ambient lighting was a bit uninspiring:

I wanted to create something a bit more atmospheric - how you'd imagine a steam locomotive to look in a shed, rather than the reality. Three Profoto AcuteB packs and a Canon flashlight later and things were looking good. The locomotive's boiler was blown down (very noisy) and Clan Line was brought inside.

Don and Andy were great subjects and looked remarkably fresh given that driving a large steam locomotive is such hard work - Andy had shovelled about four tons of coal during the day, which made lugging the lighting gear around seem very laid back! I shot a few photos on the M9, and then switched over to the Linhof for four shots - hopefully these will come out well, although I'm only just getting to grips with large format.

Finally, the negatives from the large format camera. I got R P Photographics to do some prints from the negatives which have come out really well: the pictures look fantastic when they're in your hands, rather than on your computer screen. And of course they have that wonderful large format look.