Getting Back Out and Revamping the Website

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Oh my word was last year a miserable year!  I’ve no idea if this one will be any better but hey we have to live in hope.  I mean what’s the alternative?  Getting out with my camera is a big part of my life and I’d even go so far as to say it’s part of my coping mehanism so being able to get out again, even if only briefly and with some restrictions has been wonderful.

I think we can all agree that 2020 was wretched for Bus, Train and Tram spotting enthusiasts. At times we weren’t supposed to be out and about with our cameras, at others it was variable and unclear. As a result I kind of neglected this website, (Facebook and Instagram as well), partly because there was little new content I could post, but mainly because it was demoralising. Essentially doing anything on the website reminded me how much I was trapped at home. I didn’t mind doing my bit to fight the spread of the virus by staying home, but that didn’t mean it was easy.

NK12 GDE, Fleet Number 6050 in her Go North East 'Diversity' livery shown at Chester le Street on an overcast day.
NK12 GDE, Fleet Number 6050 in her Go North East ‘Diversity’ livery shown at Chester le Street on an overcast day on one of the few spotting trips out of 2020.

Now with restrictions starting to lift I feel able to get stuck back in and sort the website. I doubt we’re going to be travelling very far from home for a while yet even with the raised restrictions, but at least now I can start looking forward to going and get planning.

Part of that has been some spring cleaning the website and thinking about how I want to go forward with it all? Like so many people 2020 brought lots of personal and work changes, some positive and some not so much. Looking for a positive, I’ve started thinking of it as a massive society-wide reset button, a breakpoint in our lives to reassess everything.

At this point, it’s unclear if there will be many rallies this year, but it is possible to start getting out ‘spotting’ safely and without breaking any guidelines or laws. So putting my optimistic hat on I’m looking forward to the summer and maybe even catching up with some friends on street corners waiting for the buses to drive past.

And on that happy thought, I’ll end this little blog post and simply say I hope you and yours are safe and well. Take care…


Photo Challenge

It’s the First Photo Challenge – #TTLPhotoChallenge

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It’s time for the first Photo Challenge. The votes are in and the theme for May will be ‘Local to Me’ (as in local to you the photographer).

The rules are simple

  1. Only photos of public transport vehicles
  2. You must be the copyright owner/photographer
    If you don’t want your photo and details to possibly be in the Challenge video then you need to let me know in advance
  3. That’s it 🙂

You can submit by sending them to me on Facebook or Instagram. If you can’t for some reason let me know and we’ll sort something out. If you’re posting them in Instagram then use the hashtag #TTLPhotoChallenge


Pretty and Sleek LNER Azuma at York

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Recently Ian fancied a trip to York for the day, well who was I to say no.  Especially if there would be a chance I could sneak off into the Railways Station with my camera.

Azuma LNER Train (800 113) at a platform in York Station, England. ISO320 1/160th f4

I do enjoy photographing the trains but I don’t get to do it very often so when Ian wanted to hang around the buses outside in the afternoon I said I’d take a look inside.  Train spotting is always very hit and miss for me as I rarely know when I can get out to do it, making planning trips difficult. I tend to grab time for it when I can as the buses always take priority.

Azuma LNER Train (800 113) at a platform in York Station, England. ISO 100 1/160th f10

This particular time I hit lucky.  Firstly there was one of the sleek, and very pretty, Azuma trains in LNER livery just standing on a platform whilst out of service.  Well, it would have been rude not to photographer her, wouldn’t it!

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So here are a bunch of photos I took of her.  Let’s hope the resurrected LNER brand has more success than previous operators on the east coast mainline route down to London.


Take care till next time

– Mara



Getting Creative Photographing Trams in Manchester

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Ok let’s get this out of the way, I love trams. No, I can’t explain why, I just do. They can also be fun to photograph but since none of the cities local us has them I don’t get to geek out as much as I’d like.

So when we visit somewhere with them it’s practically a given that I’m going to want to film and photograph them and a recent visit to Manchester was no exception.

Greater Manchester Tram in St Peters Square. ISO100 f29 0.8 sec

St Peters Square is a pedestrian zone where the tram lines are laid into the paving slabs making it perfect for wandering around to find the angle you want. Naturally, I took the ‘standard’ type shot but I also wanted to try some long exposures.

Greater Manchester Tram in St Peters Square. Fleet Number 3008b heading towards Piccadilly. ISO100 f29 6 sec

A long-exposure is when you keep the camera shutter open longer than normal with the aim of creating a special effect. You’ve probably most commonly seen it used to create those silky smooth water effects in landscape photography, but it can be used on other subjects other than the sea or a waterfall.

Greater Manchester Tram in St Peters Square. ISO100 f29 0.4 sec

It’s not something you can do just holding your camera in your hand (it’s just not possible to hold a camera perfectly still that way) so you’ll need a tripod and if it’s a sunny day a filter to prevent overexposure. The most common filter used for this is called a Neutral Density (ND) filter and you can think of it like putting sunglasses on your camera because it’s too bright.

Greater Manchester Tram in St Peters Square. ISO100 f25 10sec

These were my first experiments with long exposures using this camera and I thought the camera coped quite well. The particular filter I was using (bought for this lens so it was also being tested for the first time) didn’t come up to standard though and will be replaced as a result.

All in all, I enjoyed taking my long exposures with the trams and I hope you enjoy some of the results.

Take care till next week



You can find videos from our trip as well as vlogs over on The Transport Lens YouTube Channel.

Bus Photography

The Backend of a Bus

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We’re all familiar with the ‘standard’ bus photo, and there is nothing wrong with them, but is that all there is to bus photography? Well no, obviously not, but a quick scan of Instagram or Facebook might lead you to think it is.

Now we all know why that composition is so popular. If your reason for taking the shot is to record information about a bus or vehicle then it’s the best angle to get the maximum information, the front and side and maybe a little bit of the surroundings. The purpose of those photos is to show the vehicle, it’s features and livery but that’s pretty much it. But you can (and some people do) take photographs where the emphasis is more on the context and surroundings of the bus, placing it more in its environment. In some ways, I find this even more interesting.

Go North East NK11 FXE, Fleet Number 8322 on route X25 crossing the High Level Bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead, February 2019. ISO400 F2.8 1/200th

I found myself taking some of this form of composition recently on a visit to Newcastle. I was on a little bit of a wander before a meeting and found myself down near the High Level Bridge which spans the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead. Opened in 1849 this double-decker bridge carries road traffic (pretty much just buses on the road part) on the lower deck and rail on top.

The road section is split into 3 with a pedestrian path, a single lane for vehicles and a cycle path (made out of a second pedestrian walkway still used by pedestrians as well). What attracted me however was the wonderfully graphic nature of the structural members, I’m a sucker for a nice bit of engineering especially if it forms beautiful graphic patterns.

Arriva NK61 CYW, Fleet Number 1483 crossing the High Level Bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead, February 2019. ISO400 F2.8 1/200th

Now I’ve been known to do things that others consider crazy to get a photograph but playing chicken with traffic isn’t normally one of them. So I started off by shooting some of the people walking through the tunnel-like forms created by the bridge as they walked across. But buses kept going past… and they looked so wonderful… and the light was just perfect… and the graphic setting… I just couldn’t resist.

Fortunately, I was there at a time when there wasn’t much traffic meaning if I paid attention I could time running out and shooting some quick shots before getting back out of the road thanks to some well-placed traffic lights. All that said I only shot a few photos and decided that I’d tempted fate enough.

Go North East NK11 FXE, Fleet Number 8322 on route X25 crossing the High Level Bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead, February 2019. ISO400 F2.8 1/200th

Because I was shooting from the Newcastle side where the buses are heading onto the bridge it meant I could only get shots of the backs of the buses. Waiting till they were far enough onto the bridge to show off the bridge structure around them. They are far from the ‘standard’ three quarters bus shot, but I do like them. Perhaps next time I’ll be able to try from the Gateshead side with the buses heading towards me. That said I’d only want to try it with someone with me to keep an eye on the traffic.

As I looked at the photos on the computer for editing I couldn’t help but think about a saying I used to hear a lot. If you wanted to say someone had an unattractive face you’d say they had ‘a face like the backend of a bus’, which apart from being unflattering to the person in question was also not very nice about buses. I’ve not heard this saying recently so perhaps it’s fallen out of use due to being a bit mean, or perhaps the backends of buses have become prettier in some way. Either way, I rather like my photos of the backend of some buses on the High Level Bridge.

take care

General Blog

Bus Enthusiast Clubs – Are They Still Relevant?

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Earlier this week Ian and I attended a talk given by Martjin Gilbert the new MD of Go North East about future plans for the company hosted by the Northern Group Enthusiasts Club. I was also asked by a viewer over on YouTube if I could point him in the direction of local meet-ups as his young son loves buses and they are looking for a way for him to get involved. So, the subject of enthusiast (or spotting) communities and clubs has been at the forefront of my mind and I thought I’d put some musings down on paper. Ok, it’s a screen, not paper but you get the idea.

Go North East SK68 TXP, Fleet Number 9087, shown by the Gateshead Metrocentre December 2018

All this got me thinking about the relevance of clubs in our modern society. Have they been killed off by the internet and social media, rendered irrelevant in a changing world? Or is there still a place for them, either online or in ‘the real world’ so to speak?

Now I doubt this is a question unique to me as I’m sure many clubs have been asking themselves the same. However, I do think I have a little bit of an answer, so if you’ll indulge me as this may seem a little off topic I’d like to talk about knitting and photography. Yeah I know that might seem odd but bear with me.

Go North East NK67 ECD, Fleet Number 6308, Shown at Middlesbrough Bus Station in January 2019

When I was young the introduction of modern acrylic (manmade) yarn and cheap mass manufactured knitwear was heralded as the end of hand knitting as a craft. To the extent that knitting was branded as something for ‘old women’ only and predicted to die out when they did. Yet here we are 30-40 years later and all over the world people of all ages are still hand knitting. They’ve formed online communities on social media and small local groups meet up in libraries, pubs and village halls for regular knitting sessions.

Photography also went through a similar upheaval with a double whammy of digital photography and the internet with the death of professional photography being trumpeted left right and centre. Many camera clubs struggled to cope, their darkrooms which had been a draw for members rendered irrelevant and competition from online sources making it difficult for them to be seen as the place to go to learn. Yet one of our local clubs is now vibrant with a growing membership.

Go North East NK11 FXH, Fleet Number 8325, shown arriving at Sunderland Park Lane Interchange on service 36, February 2019. ISO 200 F6.3 1/320th

What about enthusiast clubs for buses, trains etc? Well, in my opinion, they need to adapt to the modern world, just as the photography and knitting communities did. They can’t use the structures or ‘club models’ that worked 30 years ago. Much of our lives have moved online and they need to reflect that. That said, one thing I’ve learned through my involvement with crafting and photography it’s that people still enjoy and want to be social in person. Chatting on an internet group is not the same communal experience of meeting up with people who share a similar interest. When I walked into the hall earlier in the week for that talk I ended up chatting and laughing with people in a way I never could online. Yes, I enjoyed hearing about the plans for Go North East from Martjin Gilbert, but there was a level of enjoyment because I was hearing about it in person that I never could have got from reading it on a screen in a social media press release.

Go North Easts YN56 FFH, Fleet number 6168, shown in Newcastle upon Tyne near the City Library

So what am I rambling on about, well I guess what I’m saying is that clubs, regardless of what they’re about, need to cater to the changing needs of their members. You can’t ignore the online world, but you also shouldn’t ignore the basic human love of social interaction in person. It’s a changing world and if clubs adapt I personally think that they are very much still relevant. They might be a bit scarier than an online group where you can lurk in the background and remain mostly anonymous, but then there are a lot of potential rewards as well.

What do you think? Are you a member of any clubs? If so which ones and why?

take care till next time


p.s. since the talk was about Go North East I thought I’d illustrate this post with photos of their buses

Bus Photography

My Jinx Bus Spotting Location – Durham City

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Do you have a spot which you just seem to be jinxed at? It’s becoming fairly obvious that Durham City is mine. Which is really annoying as I love Durham, it’s one of my favourite places.

For those of you who don’t know Durham, it’s a fantastic ancient city with a stunning Cathedral which sits up high looking over the rest of the compact city which the River Wear winds through. There is lots of beautiful old architecture, everything is within easy walking distance and there are plenty of places to get something to eat. All sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, there are some downsides, the huge amounts of building work going on at the moment being one of them. However, we’re interested in the buses (and possibly trains) here.

Go North East NK67 GOC, fleet number 6333 shown in Durham City March 2019. ISO200 1/500th f6.3

The bus station is awful. I’d use stronger language but I’m trying to be polite. It’s an awful dark, dingy, unwelcoming building built in the 1970s and whilst I’m aware architecture often isn’t appreciated the way it should be from the 20th century I honestly can’t think of any redeeming features apart from it’ll keep most of the rain off you whilst you’re waiting for a bus. It’s also incredibly unphotogenic, which is always high on my list of priorities.

Arriva NK15 ABX, fleet number 1600, shown entering Durham City Bus Station, March 2019. ISO200 1/1000th f6.3

So, like so many others, we tend to position ourselves at the entrance when taking photos and shooting video. This doesn’t allow you to get all the buses but most of them (mainly Go North East and Arriva although you will occasionally get a Scarlet Band etc). The station exits onto North Road and there is a spot a little way down from the station where the pavements are wide enough to stand without any hassle. At least that’s the theory. Why the theory? Because despite the ample room it’s the only location to date where I’ve actually been threatened. Not where I’ve been made to feel uneasy or anything like that, but physically threatened in a deliberate aggressive manner.

Scarlet Band MX10 KNU shown entering the Bus Station, Durham City, March 2019. ISO200 1/800th f6.3

It also seems to be the place where my batteries will mysteriously go flat even when I know they’ve been charged, tripods break and in the case of last weekend, both Ian and I forget vital bits of kit (memory cards). Add in losing a scarf and the weather doing weird unforecast things you will start to get a flavour of why I’m thinking I’m jinxed shooting in Durham.

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That said I did manage to get some footage and some photos last weekend. The footage is going up onto the YouTube channel and I thought I’d show you some of the photos here. Naturally, I’m not going to let what I’m thinking of as ‘The Curse of Durham Buses’ win, (honestly every time I say that it sounds more and more like a Hammer Horror movie), so I’ll be going again. I’m determined to have a good day shooting in Durham.

Do you have a jinx location? If so what’s happened to you there…

take care

Bus Photography

Getting Creative in Glasgow

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Recently I was in Glasgow for work for a couple of days. So naturally, I hoped to be able to photograph a few buses whilst there, especially since there are some new ones since our last visit. No video though as there was no way I could take the big tripod and sound gear.

First Bus about to enter Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow. ISO 100, 0.6 sec and f22

This was how I ended up standing at Buchanan Bus Station before breakfast, camera in hand and grumbling tummy. Unfortunately given the time of year, February, and the weather, really overcast, there was little decent light to speak of. So I was left with 3 choices. Leave and hope I could return later once the light improved. Ramp the ISO right up on the camera, or get creative. Option one was out as I really didn’t think the schedule would allow me to return. Two, ramping the ISO would definitely produce images but I’d be running a risk about the noise levels on the images and I’ve not yet tested high ISO levels on this new camera. Getting creative, option3, may or may not produce any images but would definitely be the most fun.

You guessed it, option 3 it was.

Buchanan Express about to enter Buchanan Bus Station Glasgow. ISO 100, 1 sec, f22

I did have my tiny bendy tripod with me so I was able to make use of the railings on the opposite side of the road by the entrance/exit, setting the camera up for some long exposures.

First Bus leaving Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow. ISO 400, 1/5th sec, f22

Long exposure photography is one of my favourite areas and I absolutely love the effects that can be created. I’m not talking about with photoshop but in the camera at the point of taking the image. Unfortunately, Buchanan Bus Station isn’t the most photographic location if you’re going to shift the emphasis from the buses to everything else, but hey, since when has every shot needed to be worthy of National Geographic! Are they going to win any prizes? Not a chance. Doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun though.

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Fortunately, as I wandered back to the hotel the light did improve and I found a few of the new buses down on Argyll Street and in George Square allowing me to take some more ‘normal’ shots. These more traditional shots kept Ian happy. It’s going to take me quite a while to get through all the shots and when I do I’ll look at putting a few up on our social media account like Instagram and Facebook. In the meantime here are a few of them. Oh and don’t be too judgemental about the long exposure ones, remember I just had some fun with the technique, although I suspect I’ll probably do some more in the futures are a location which lends itself more to this type of photography.

Take care till next week

Bus Photography

A Sparkly New Camera to point at the Buses

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So I missed posting a blog post last week due to illness. Fortunately, I’m recovering from the lurgy which knocked me for six, but as is always the case that meant a pile of ‘work’ to deal with that had been mounting up. I was also eagerly awaiting my new camera which had been supposedly despatched at the start of the week although the tracking code with Royal Mail was still showing them awaiting the item from the sales company days later. Honestly despite what the tracking code said on their website I was like a dog waiting for their human to come home, sitting where I could keep a lookout for the postman and jumping at any noises outside in between coughing fits and blowing my nose. When he eventually did arrive on Friday, I practically knocked him over in my eagerness to get to the parcel.

National Express BF63 ZRA, Fleet Number 7109, shown leaving Sunderland Park Lane Interchange on service 530 to Paignton. February 2019. ISO 200 f6.3 1/1250th

Once unpacked I had the excruciating wait for the batteries to charge before I could settle in and start fiddling with all the settings. Ian finds this hilarious as he believes I’m the only person on the planet to immediately spend nearly 2 hours going through all the menus turning off features before even taking a single shot. Naturally, I don’t believe this to be true as I’m sure others do the same, at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Go North East NK68 BZX, Fleet Number 727, shown arriving at Sunderland Park Lane Interchange on service 700 from Sunderland Royal Hospital, February 2019. ISO 200 F6.3 1/500th

That was on Friday, so Saturday we obviously needed to go out and test it in anger so to speak and headed to Sunderland. I was bundled up in thermals under my regular clothes and was determined I wasn’t going to let that lurgy prevent me from a few hours with cameras and buses. I took the old sick camera with us as well with the idea is use that for the vloggy bits, but that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped as about half the footage is unusable. Annoying if it’s your own fault, but incredibly frustrating when it’s the camera. So it looks like the new camera arrived just in time.

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There is still much experimenting to do with it, It’s not yet set up how I want and is doing a few hinky things I can’t figure out yet, but then that’s half the fun. Some of the footage is now up on the YouTube Channel and I’ve been able to take just a few photographs with it and I’ve included them in this post. Let me know what you think.
– Mara
(p.s. The new camera is a Canon M50 in case you’re wondering)

Sunderland Buses – February 2019 – Part 1

Sunderlnad Buses – February 2019 – Part 2

Sunderland Buses – February 2019 – Part 3 – coming soon

Vlog of the Visit to Sunderland February 2019 – coming soon

General Blog

It’s a conspiracy because I’m sick

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Remember me talking about freezing on corners in recent blog posts and on the vlogs on the YouTube channel? Well, they’ve caught up with me and I’ve come down with the lurgy. I shall spare you all the graphic details and I certainly won’t subject you to any photos of me looking like death warmed up.

So it’s just a short blog post this week to say I’m trying to sensible and stay indoors, warm, hydrated and not whinge too much. That said I do need to get in just one more whinge. If you follow the channel you might recall me saying that I really wanted to photograph the buses in the snow this year (in this vlog). Well, guess when I started coughing, sneezing and talking like an extra from a horror b-movie? Yup, that’s right. Just as the snow started falling here last week.

Tram in Rotterdam September 2018

It’s probably some sort of cosmic conspiracy but my head is too fuzzy to come up with a decent plot line, so I shall just leave you with this photo of a tram in Rotterdam. It was the first photo that wasn’t of a bus or to contain snow I found on my desktop.

Bye bye, for now, I’m sure I’ll be much better by next week and able to get out and about with my camera again. I’m off now to crawl back to bed…