Old photos from April 2006

Another in my series of old photos from ten years ago

One night while driving across town I decided to snap some pictures around the docks. It was only after I stopped the car and took a few photos that I realised how dodgy it probably looked.
Swanston Dock, April 2006

A panoramic view along Spencer Street, outside Southern Cross Station. Note the lack of Media House on the left. And the whole area seems quieter back then that it is now.

(View it larger at Flickr)

A panoramic view along platform 2, inside Southern Cross Station.

(View it larger at Flickr)

Mucking about on a huge pile of tanbark at a local park.
King of the tanbark!

Around this time I did a few timelapses around the house. Here I am constructing an IKEA Gorm shelf unit. These are tough but ugly. Initially it went into the (small) spare room, until the spare room became a bedroom. It lives on in my laundry.
Building an Ikea Gorm
(Animation made using GIFmaker)

Ten years ago: the Games

Ten years ago this month Melbourne was in the grip of the Commonwealth Games.

As I noted at the time, it was a good excuse to Blame The Games for any delay or anything else going wrong. (Including crowded trains.)

Blame the Games

But it was also a lot of fun. These photos are from the baton relay as it went down my mum’s street.
Commonwealth Games Baton Relay, Melbourne, March 2006
Commonwealth Games baton relay

Here’s a short video… note the lack of lots of bystanders holding up phones, taking photos/video. Ah, those were the days, pre-smartphone. (Mobile phones did have cameras, but they weren’t very good.)

These are from our day at the athletics.
Commonwealth Games Melbourne, March 2006
Commonwealth Games Melbourne, March 2006

Crowds at Richmond Station on the way home — an enlightened policy of no car parking at venues, and public transport included in Games tickets, as well as extra services, meant things actually flowed pretty well. Plus everyone seemed to be in a good mood.
Commonwealth Games Melbourne, March 2006

To get official vehicles around quickly, they had “Games Lanes”. See, it is possible to provide on-road priority… now, why can’t we do more for trams and buses?
Commonwealth Games "Games Lane" Melbourne, March 2006

Finally, a non-Games photo: I must have found this old pre-privatisation (1999) map at a station somewhere. Looks like it might have been South Yarra.
Met rail map, outdated but still on display, 2006

Photographing LED displays

LED displays are quite common on public transport. For instance in Melbourne they are used for destination signs on many trains, trams and buses. They are also used for street Smartbus indicator signs, and for non-CBD railway station “PIDs” (passenger information displays) showing next train departures.

While they are generally pretty easy to read, they are difficult to photograph well. It’s common to see displays in photos that are blank, mostly blank, or garbled, even in professional publications.

B-class tram in Rail Express
From Rail Express

The problem is caused by a refresh rate that makes the display clear to the human eye but may not be captured by the camera if it’s not set correctly.

For those of you who commonly photograph public transport, it’s worth getting it right. A photo with a blank or garbled display doesn’t reflect what people actually see.

I’ll refer below to the various types seen in Melbourne, but many would be common across the world.

With some types of LED displays, such as those used on the front of B-class trams, if you just keep snapping photos, you’ll eventually get something good. (Though using the methods below is a probably better way of guaranteeing a good picture.)

B-class tram taken by point and shoot camera

B-class tram taken by point and shoot camera

For other types of displays, including station and Smartbus Passenger Information Displays (PIDs), and particularly E-class trams, some manual settings are required.

On mobile phone cameras, you may be able to adjust the camera app Exposure settings (the +/- icon) to lengthen the exposure. This has the effect of brightening the entire photo, but at least the LED display is more likely to be captured. You can darken the photo manually later… obviously there’s a limit to how well this will work, but if you’re trying to show the LED display, then arguably that’s more important than correct brightness/white balance on the rest of the photo.

Station PID photo from mobile phone
Station PID photo from mobile phone on default settings.

Station PID photo from mobile phone with exposure set high
Station PID photo from mobile phone with exposure set high.

On a compact/point-and-shoot camera, it’s a similar story as with mobile phones. I found on my IXUS 115, none of the night or low light modes seemed to work, but bumping the exposure setting up did the job.

E-class tram taken by point and shoot camera
E-class tram photo from an IXUS 115 on default settings.

E-class tram taken by point and shoot camera with exposure set high
E-class tram photo from an IXUS 115 with Exposure set high.

No surprise that you’ll get the best results from DSLRs.

On DSLRs and other cameras capable of it, the best solution is to lengthen the shutter time. On my Canon DSLR, this is called TV (Time Value) mode — apparently on Nikons it’s “S” mode). Setting it to about 1/30 of a second seems to work well.

Station PID taken with DSLR on auto settings
DSLR on default/auto settings.

Station PID taken with DSLR with Time Value setting on 1/30 second
DSLR with TV (Time Value) mode on 1/30 of a second.

E-class trams in particular add the challenge of the fast scrolling display, but the results can be pretty good — and much better than the mostly blank display from a default shutter speed.

E-class tram photo from a DSLR on TV/shutter speed of 1/30 second

So, the next time you’re snapping something where there’s a prominent LED display, take a bit of time to try and get the best result.

More reading:

Any other tips?

Old photos from February 2006

Continuing my series of ten year old photos: February 2006.

(As usual, you can click through any of them to view them on Flickr, where you can see each photo at a larger size.)

Kangaroos near Seymour, snapped on a break during a PTUA Planning Weekend; they used to regularly happen up there. (Originally posted here)
Near Seymour, February 2006

Walking Maisie the dog at Altona Beach. Maisie is getting a little elderly now, and doesn’t go to the beach anymore. I’m betting the skyline has changed just a bit.
Altona Beach, February 2006
Altona Beach, February 2006

The scourge of the Altona Loop: the single track. This hasn’t changed, but the adjoining Werribee line has got much busier, leading to a greater likelihood of trains skipping the Altona Loop so the single track doesn’t cause small delays to cascade into bigger ones.
Altona Beach, February 2006

Collins Street and Russell Street, not too long after the tram stop there closed. Trams still have to stop for the traffic lights of course.
Collins Street, February 2006

Collins Street outside the then-Australia On Collins building, currently being redeveloped. Back then fire fighters rarely took take any care not to block trams. These days they seem to have some protocols in place to try and avoid it.
Collins Street, February 2006

My childhood home in Hotham Street, St Kilda — for a blog entry posted in March 2006. It’s remarkable how little it’s changed, at least from the outside. The garages out the back certainly hadn’t changed. Nor, I suspect, had the brown flats in the background.
Hotham Street, East St Kilda, February 2006
Hotham Street, East St Kilda, February 2006

Old photos from January 2006

Continuing my series of posts of ten year old photos

New Year’s Eve 2005/06 was the second year of all-night trains, and I sampled them for myself.

Flinders Street station at about 1am was pretty busy. Still some crowds outside, very much a party atmosphere as I recall. The platforms and trains were pretty packed, but moving well. The smaller photos are from some video I shot. The last (bottom-right) photo is after getting off the train at Footscray.
Flinders Street Station, approx 1am 1/1/2006

New Years Eve trains, approx 1am, 1/1/2006

At Footscray, people were waiting for the 82 tram, which wasn’t running all night. This seems to happen every year. Perhaps they ought to simply run every tram route all night on NYE?

The redevelopment of Spencer Street/Southern Cross Station was nearing completion, but wasn’t quite finished yet. The renaming (throwing away 146 years of brand recognition) had taken place in December 2005. No sign of The Age building, which was built some years later.

(View it on Flickr)

Inside the station. Note the temporary V/Line destination displays.
Spencer Street/Southern Cross station, January 2006

Spencer Street/Southern Cross station, January 2006

Mid-January, Sorrento Beach

(View it on Flickr)

Mural marking former site of South Melbourne tram depot
Site of old South Melbourne depot, January 2006

Old desk, old computers at home. I think this was snapped for listing the desk on eBay.
Computers, January 2006

In 2006, some signage at loop stations still indicated trains to Mornington (closed in 1981) and suburban trains to Warragul (electric trains last ran there in 1998)
Map at Parliament station, January 2006

Melbourne’s landmark Nylex clock had been restored in 2005, but had failed again by early 2006.
Nylex sign not working, January 2006

Chaos at work as someone violated fridge etiquette
Work fridge anarchy, January 2006

Eureka Tower under construction. It was completed in June 2006.
Eureka Tower under construction, January 2006