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Liam Barnes Interview on Railway Photography

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Liam Barnes Interview

Liam Barnes is a young railway photographer from Lancashire. You can view some of his excellent photographs on his website at Liam also has some lovely Prints, Calendars and Greeting Cards for sale, well worth a look.

1. At the age of 14 you took your first photos. What motivates you to continue taking photos?

After five years of photography I still get masses of enjoyment and a real sense of achievement from taking photos. Then to have gained a following from something that I absolutely love to do has been such a privilege.

2. You take photographs of Railways, Landscape, Wildlife, Portraits and Events. Which is your favourite and why?

It would have to be Railways, as much as I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of photography. Above all I love the social side that comes with railway photography, through which I’ve made many friends and met some brilliant like-minded people. It’s more a way of life than just a hobby, and getting involved with the Railway preservation scene as a volunteer on the East Lancashire Railway has also solidified my interest.

3. What camera and lens do you currently use?

I’ve always found the Mirrorless System that Sony produce to be the very best at the moment. I currently use the full frame Sony A7Rii body. I accompany the Sony body with their lenses too, I use a 28-70mm F3.6-5.6 for most of the Railway images that I produce. For wildlife a 70-300mm F4.5-5.6, and for portraits a 50mm F1.8.

4. Do you have a favourite steam loco and diesel train that you like to photograph?

Being brought up in L&Y territory I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘A Class’ No. 52322. Added to that, I tend to like ‘the right loco on the right line’ and with her residing on the East Lancashire Railway she always looks rather well. For a Diesel, I think a Class 40 in BR Green would be my choice of traction, especially somewhere along the S&C.

5. Which do you prefer, colour or black and white photos and why?

I think it all depends on what I’m capturing, for wildlife and portraits it would be colour by a long shot. However with railway photography I do find both equally appealing, especially if the scene I’m photographing looks ‘authentic’ as if from the days of steam, and if so then I think a black and white image fits very well.

6. Is there any other photographer that you consider as a kind of idol?

I have a number of books full of images by the famed Ivo Peters. One quote that I can particularly relate to of his goes like this… “For me, one of the greatest pleasures of railway photography has been when I have discovered some enchanting new location, and then set about trying to get the most attractive picture of the scene.” Just everything about his style of photography resonates with me and what I strive to portray now some years later in the 21st century.

7. What is your best photography tip?

One of the best tips I can give based on personal experience is that the more you practice with your camera gear, settings, lighting, compositions… the list goes on! Then you will become a much more skilled and experienced photographer, and I know it’s a cliché but learning from previous experiences is so important. I don’t say mistakes because I don’t think there are any, learn from what you’ve done and apply it to next time.

8. What kind of tools do you use for post processing?

I use Adobe Photoshop, but I really don’t like overly edited images so I keep processing down to a minimum and keep the images as natural as possible. I like to get the image ‘right’ straight from the camera, and then upload to Photoshop mainly for some cropping, touching up, and conversion from a RAW to JPEG file.

9. Some of your railway photos are a lot better than normal. What makes the good picture stand out from the average?

Especially with Railways there has always been a trend to capture what’s termed as a front three quarter shot, whilst I do these myself from time to time, I tend to ‘go against the grain’ and capture something different. That might mean exploring more of a location that others haven’t done before, or including a lot more of what’s around the focal subject to show off more of the landscape and surroundings.

10. Like myself, are you annoyed that during the Covid 19 lockdown many steam tours and heritage railways are cancelled or closed?

I’d say that I’m disappointed yes, and like many businesses our Heritage Railways and Mainline operators will see significant financial effects as a result of Covid. However I am an optimist, and I would like to think that we will see more ‘normality’ returning in 2021 with the promise of the vaccine roll out, and it will be more important than ever to support our railways to ensure they can continue to bring enjoyment and educate people for a long time to come.

11. What is the most rewarding part of taking excellent photographs for you?

I would have to say that having my work published would be at the top of the list. I feel really proud seeing my images in print and knowing that so many people will see them in magazines etc.

12. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’d certainly like to keep on doing what I love. Developing my photography skills and career further by gaining more experience and making many more memories along the way.

Liam Barnes website is well worth the visit!

Photo Details:

SR ‘West Country’ 4-6-2 No: 34092 ‘City of Wells’ is seen departing Irwell Vale on the East Lancashire Railway. Photo © Liam Barnes

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