Rodney Campbell's Blog

Otford Tunnel…

by on Jan.04, 2016, under Life, Photography

After a less than stellar sunrise session shooting from the cliff above the Sea Cliff Bridge we had a well earned breakfast. Choices were limited and we could only find one place open (at 7:30AM) in the area – a breakfast cafe in Coledale.

After breakfast; Deb, Gerry and I went in search of the Otford Tunnel. Gerry had once tried to find the tunnel from the northern side without luck. This time we went in search of the southern end.



NIKON D750 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 209 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

In the 1880’s a mistake was made building the rail line between Sydney and the Illawarra. The Otford Tunnel was built with too steep a grade, one in forty, trains couldn’t get through safely. The steam trains would stall, passengers and crew would choke, become overcome with fumes and suffer burns in the tunnel.

A ventilation shaft was built in 1891, but the problems persisted. Eventually the line between Waterfall and Stanwell Park was duplicated then replaced.

The Otford Tunnel is the grand tunnel, of all the six dis-used rail tunnels in the Helensburgh and surrounds area. Technically it is the No.7 tunnel on the Illawarra line, measuring a whopping 1550m in length, more than double the length of any of the other five tunnels. The tunnel is dead straight right up until the (southern) Stanwell Park end where there is a short curve.

Finding the entrance was remarkably easy – heading to the end of Chellow Dene Ave at the Stanwell Park end leads you right there. Asking one of the locals walking down the road also helped :). He informed us we could also walk right through the tunnel to the other end.

Torches out we proceeded to make our way through the tunnel and out the other side. It was a very very long walk 🙂 – 1.5km’s to be exact – over dark rough uneven ground. I’m not sure what madness overtook us to check out the entire tunnel but it’s done now so lets move on :)….

On the way through we did see a few potential shooting locations, so on the way back we decided to do a little light painting craziness inside the tunnel.

After a couple test shots with some quick light painting we settle on f/5.6 and ISO 200 as our base exposure parameters (we’d started two stops down at f/8 and ISO 100).

Pro Tip: When light painting it’s worthwhile doing some quick tests and working out what a suitable “ambient” base exposure is. There’s a few reasons for this:
– if there is some ambient light (none this time in a dark tunnel) then this sets how bright the ambient scene will be in the light painted long exposures (not too bright and not too dark).
– it determines how much and for how long you have to light paint for it to show/expose correctly in your frames (this depends a great deal on how bright your light painting implements are and how close they will be to the camera and the objects they are lighting).
– when you’re shooting with multiple people everyone uses the “same” settings (otherwise some people can have overexposed images and others underexposed – for the same take).

So back to the light painting… First up this nicely parked (it’s definitely not going to get stolen here :)), it’s seen better days, old back-hoe. I mean of course – totally expected to find that in here…

The Backhoe

The Backhoe

NIKON D750 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 193 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

Note: These photographs (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

Further along we find the ventilation shaft (a large round shaft going straight up in the centre of the tunnel – a very very long way up to the surface above). And there’s an old bath here – again of course – why not!. It’s foreground interest now and with Gerry and I adding our ghostly figures to the image we have…



NIKON D750 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 166 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

What can I say – a little impromptu light painting in the middle of the day – much more civilised (and convenient) than the middle of the night…

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