On Photography That ‘National Geographic’ Approach to Photographing the NKP 765

September 20 765 05-x

September 20 765 07-x

A couple of years ago a friend sent me a link to a gallery of photographs that documented Amtrak operations in the middle 1970s.

The photographer had received a grant that he used to pay to travel aboard Amtrak to show life on board and to charter a helicopter to make aerial images of Amtrak trains cruising on the Santa Fe through small towns in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The latter were accompanied with a short commentary that explained why he made the images in the manner that he did.

He acknowledged that his approach differed from how a typical railfan would approached photographing the trains. Railfans tend to hone in on the train, particularly, the locomotive.

But in these images of Amtrak SDP40F locomotives on the point of the Chicago-Houston Lone Star and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Limited, the photographer pulled back to show a wider perspective.

It was a tactic he said is frequently practiced by photographers working for National Geographic. The objective is to  lace the subject of the image in an environment by showing the context in which something was captured.

In this case, the photographer wanted to show Amtrak trains traveling through rural Kansas, a state known for its Great Plains topography and small towns.

I was impressed with the photographer’s compositions and unsuccessfully did a Google search to find out more about the National Geographic approach to photography.

The magazine is world renowned for its photography and articles. If you can get your work published in National Geographic, you are among the elite.

The National Geographic approach was on my mind as I stood atop the Ohio Route 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga River valley in Brecksville recently as I captured the passage of Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765.

It is not common to be able to get enough elevation in Northeast Ohio to provide a wide perspective. It doesn’t help that our region’s numerous trees tend to reduce the available vistas.

So in photographing the 765 at Brecksville, I made sure to zoom out and get some images such as the ones that you see here.

The top one is my favorite because of the clouds that seem to hover just over the tops of the trees on the horizon.

Both images convey a sense of the railroad and the train being located in a broad valley. We often use the word “valley” when talking about the Cuyahoga. The railroad and the national park even incorporate “valley” in their respective names.

There are many places to make photographs that convey a sense of place in the Cuyahoga Valley.

Yet most of the time the photographs we make of CVSR trains or even of the features of the CVNP fail to convey a sense of this being a wide river valley.

There are a few vistas in the CVNP that enable photographers to get enough elevation combined with enough openness to convey a sense in their images of this being a “valley.”

One of those I need to visit this fall when the foliage is at its peak. But the only place I know of in which you can photograph the CVSR and show that it is in the Cuyahoga Valley is on the Route 82 bridge.

There is nothing wrong with zeroing in on a train or its locomotive to capture its detail. Steam locomotives in particular have much to study and linger over.

Yet there are times when stepping back, even if it feels like you are moving out of the scene, can yield a rich image that helps to tell the story you are seeking to convey.

Commentary and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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One Response to “On Photography That ‘National Geographic’ Approach to Photographing the NKP 765”

  1. Bob Farkas Says:

    Thanks for your commentaries on your photographs. You not only give the important information but also how and why you took the images. I’m learning a great deal for them.
    Bob
    P.S. What is even better is that we can double click on the image to enlarge it to better see what you and those who have posted images photographed.

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