Facing the Challenge of Strong Lighting





Typically most photographers, especially railfan photographers, prefer well lit sunny days.

Sunny days particularly in the morning and evening have strong lighting that brings out the details that would otherwise be in shadow.

This strong lighting can bring with it its own set of challenges. Trees, utility poles and buildings can cast annoying shadows that can sometimes ruin a perfectly-lit photo.

My first example is a former Rio Grande tunnel motor at Spencer. The train itself is well lit except for the shadow of a utility pole toward the rear of the engine.

It couldn’t be helped in this instance and had I waited for the train to come closer the front would be in shadows likely ruining the photo.

My next two examples are of Nickel Plate Road No. 765.

Steam engines bring their own set of challenges to photography. In the first photo, taken at Tyrone, Pennsylvania, I had set up to what I thought would be a clear photo.

The tracks themselves were clear of tree shadows so I figured I was OK. Yet when the train came most of the steam engine was in shadow.

It took me a while to figure out what went wrong when it hit me. The smoke from the engine itself normally a desirable thing actually blocked the sun creating this effect.

This also happened to me at the Monroeville bridge, although to a lesser extent.

I guess in future steam chases I will have to not only factor in sun angles but wind direction as well.

That brings a new level of respect for those steam era photographers.

Lastly, shadows are not always a bad thing. With the NKP heritage unit at Ashtabula the coal train in front casts a nice set of shadows which lead the viewer into the object of the photo.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

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One Response to “Facing the Challenge of Strong Lighting”

  1. Bob Says:

    Well done. First there was a cloud with my name and now a shadow with my name. It tends to make a person paranoid!

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