Stumbling Into a Photograph

Nothing about this photograph was planned. At the time that it was made, I was chasing after a Wheeling & Lake Erie train that was leaving the siding at Hiles east of New London.

The case began at the northwest parking lot for the New London reservoir. You can sit there and watch trains on the CSX Greenwich Subdivision.

With a good antenna and radio you can also pick up radio transmissions on the W&LE frequency.

And so that was how I learned that a tank train I had seen earlier in the day in the Hiles siding was reading to go east.

I wasn’t sure that I could catch that train before it got to Spencer. I started to move, then sat back down. There is too much distance.

A moment later I began having second thoughts. The train will be accelerating from a standing start. It won’t be moving all that fast. In a worse case scenario I can catch it at Spencer.

So I drove out of the parking lot and on the spur of the moment decided to take a road that would go south of New London, which I thought would save time as opposed to going through town.

I had been on the road earlier that day when I had a false start trying to chase that Wheeling tank train. In that case, the conversation I heard on the radio was not the crew of the tank train.

I’m racing along eastward on a road I don’t know well but had been on earlier in the day. I make a left turn on a road that I think will lead me to Ohio Route 162.

It did, but it wasn’t the road I wanted. I turned on Chenango Road when what I really needed was Butler Road.

Chenango Road crosses the W&LE tracks, but by the time I reached them the tank train was gone. I also realized that I had the wrong road.

OK, I thought, I’ll go north a short distance and then turn east. Except that there were no crossroads.

Maybe there would be one just beyond the CSX crossing. As I was crossing the CSX tracks, I looked to my right and saw the headlight of a westbound train. That gave me a jolt.

Just as or just after I cleared the tracks, the gates started to come down. That gave me another jolt.

At that point instinct and experience kicked in. Something told me I could get a photograph of this train.

There was a dirt road to the right. I pulled in, grabbed my camera and headed for an opening near the tracks.

There was no time to think through the shot. I spotted a puddle and instinct and experience kicked in again.

In retrospect had I been standing back a little further I might have been able to capture the ditch lights and locomotive nose in the heart of the puddle rather than on the edges.

I also had the misfortune of photographing as a cloud blocked the sun. It was one of five times when that happened.

This, like most of the photographs that I made on this day, turned out to be less than ideal. It was that kind of a day.

But at least I didn’t come away from this photo op empty handed as I had earlier when just as I was catching up to the head end of an eastbound stack train on the New Castle Subdivision, I ran out of highway because U.S. 224 was closed for construction east of Nova.

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