Archive for the ‘On Photography’ Category

Better Than I Initially Recognized

September 9, 2017

There have been times when I’ve given a second or even third look to an image I made and concluded that it had something going for it that I failed to see the first or second time.

Such was the case with this eastbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight cruising through Marion.

I had been walking back to Marion Union Station with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Richard Antibus during the dinner hour of Summerail.

I had a little bit of time before the evening shows were to begin.

This is not the location from which I would have preferred to have captured this train.

Given the position of the sun, I would have liked to have been on the west side of the tracks.

But just as we got near the tracks, the gates started going down. My practice is to not to dash across tracks if the crossing warning devices have activated.

I zoomed in on the train to get it crossing the CSX Mt. Victory Subdivision by AC Tower.

I then zoomed back to get a wider perspective, which was what I initially though to be the best image that I made. That image was the one that I posted online shortly after I got home.

Yet while thinning out images from that day and moving them into storage on an external hard drive, I took another look at the image above.

What I saw that time that I had missed earlier was the nice contrast between the light playing on the nose of SD70M No. 2587 and the shadows on both sides of the tracks.

Light and shadows adds tension to an image as well as visual interest.

The contrast extends to the rails that No. 2587 and its train are about to traverse. Ditto for the rest of the train, which can be seen enveloped in shadows in the distance.

The light is also illuminating the heads of the railfans along the fence watching the train pass.

I wouldn’t categorize this as the best railroad photograph I’ll make this year and many might see it as just another train picture.

Maybe so, yet it reminds me that sometimes you have to look at an image multiple times to really see it.

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Railfan Incompetence 101

June 7, 2017

The phrase that serves as the headline for this article was uttered by fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler.

Shown is Amtrak train No. 48 crossing Erie Street in Willoughby, Ohio. This isn’t the photo angle that I would have preferred, only the one that was available.

I didn’t know that the Lake Shore Limited was coming and that is where the incompetence comes into play. I could have known that fact had I sought out that information.

And yet three days after I made this image I recognized that while it is not a great image, it tells three stories, two of which are not obvious by looking at it. The third will be apparent only to those who like to look beyond the obvious.

It took an unexpected piece of wisdom from a man I’ve met just once for me to see more than one story and one meaning of this image.

* * * * *

Story 1 is a familiar one to many photographers. Peter and I had plans to railfan in Lake County with a list of objectives we wanted to achieve. At the top of the list was photographing an eastbound Norfolk Southern train passing the Willoughby Coal & Supply Company building.

I had heard a train call a signal on the NS radio frequency and we were standing on the sidewalk of the Erie Street crossing of the NS tracks waiting for that train to arrive.

I didn’t hear enough of the radio transmission to get the train’s location or symbol. I didn’t know if it was an eastbound or westbound.

Peter thought he heard a locomotive horn to the west, but after several minutes of waiting and no train showing up, he concluded he had heard traffic noise.

We waited several more minutes and he heard another sound that he was sure was a locomotive horn.

It was. It belonged to an Amtrak P42DC that Peter spotted shortly before it reached Erie Street.

“It’s Amtrak,” he proclaimed. He later said that as soon as he said that his heart sank. My morale plummeted. We had blown an opportunity and we knew it. All we could do was watch it from three blocks away.

I had thought about Amtrak earlier in the day, but didn’t give it a second thought.

Our outing was to begin 6:45 a.m. at the Golden Gate shopping plaza in Mayfield Heights, a place where Peter and I often rendezvous for photograph outings. I knew that before we even met up that Amtrak train 48 would be out of Cleveland already.

It is scheduled to depart at 5:50 a.m. Of the four Amtrak trains that serve Cleveland, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited is the one most likely to be running on time or almost on time.

It never occurred to either of us to call Amtrak Julie or check the Amtrak website to verify that No. 48 had already departed. That was incompetence on our part.

Had we checked the status of Amtrak 48, we could have been in position to photograph the train coming around a slight curve in really good morning light.

Had we contacted Amtrak we would have learned that No. 48 had left Cleveland an hour and 28 minutes late.

Opportunities to get that Willoughby curve image don’t come along every day for either of us. We had fumbled away a good opportunity and that hurt.

I had been so focused on getting an NS train that I had locked out the CSX radio frequency on  my scanner. Had I not done that I might have heard No. 48 calling signals and we could have gotten into position in time.

As for that NS train I had heard on the radio, it turned out to be westbound train No. 149. But we stayed with the location and got an eastbound around 9:30 a.m.

Although Peter and I achieved our objective of catching an eastbound train at the Willoughby Coal & Supply building, we struck out on all of our other objectives for the day, although that was a matter of fate and lack of knowledge rather than incompetence.

As we drove home that afternoon, we agreed that it had been, overall, a disappointing photography outing with the missed Amtrak photo op casting a pall over the day.

There is a saying that chance favors the prepared mind. We had not done as much preparation as we could have.

* * * * *

Story No. 2  unfolded on the morning of the next day. During breakfast I was reading a column published in the food section of The Plain Dealer by the former restaurant critic of the newspaper, Joe Crea.

I had started reading the column the night before, but didn’t finish it because I was tired.

I have met Crea once, but I doubt he remembers me. Ironically, I met him in a restaurant. My wife knew him because she works as a copy editor for the Plain Dealer.

The column I was reading focused primarily on Crea’s experience of the past year fighting cancer.

He had been diagnosed with cancer more than a year earlier and wrote about how his life had become a series of hospital stays, treatments, consultations with doctors, successes and setbacks.

His doctor is cautiously optimistic that he has been “cured” but that is not a certainty.

There was something about Crea’s column that resonated with me even though I’ve read similar thoughts expressed by other authors.

I’m old enough to know that my being in the same position that Crea is in is not as hypothetical as it seemed even a few years ago.

Like so many people diagnosed with cancer, Crea said he has learned to appreciate that every day is a gift, even a bad day.

As I thought about that, my thoughts immediately went to the “bad day” I had just had and the missed Amtrak photo op.

Maybe it hadn’t been so bad. Sure, it had been filled with disappointments, but it had been another day of living, another day of photography, another day of watching trains go by. Our passion for railroads had prompted Peter and I to get out trackside.

Some day there won’t be any more opportunities to go trackside. Some day my ability to get out and watch a train, even if from a distance of three blocks, may be greatly hindered and I’ll long for the days when I had easy mobility.

I had seen an Amtrak train, even if I hadn’t made the best photograph of it. I can’t remember the last time that I saw Amtrak live. It probably was last year, maybe last September.

* * * * *

I’m a big fan of the concept of framing. It is a practice that all of us do, even if we are not aware of it as we do it or even know the name of the behavior.

I’ve taught the concept in my public relations classes yet many students seem to have a hard time grasping it even though they’ve done it often.

A frame is a way of calling attention to a particular aspect of something, a way of drawing attention to one thing and away from something else. It is the essence of composition in photography.

On what do you focus and what meaning do you seek to make of it?

Joe Crea was framing when he wrote in his column that when you have a condition that could take your life away sooner rather than later even a bad day is a gift

I had been framing the meaning of my Amtrak down-the-street-image from a technical perspective. The meaning I had given to it was “missed opportunity due to incompetence.”

Framed in that manner, it is an average to mediocre image. It has a lot of clutter. The train is enveloped in shadows. There is nothing dramatic that will grab the viewer’s attention and lead him/her to conclude that he/she has seen something special.

It is another hum-drum image that many serious photographers would either have never made or would have deleted from their memory card.

That is one way to frame what this image means, but it is not the only way.

I am, at heart, a story teller. Even an average or mediocre photograph can have a story to tell and sometimes those stories are more compelling than the image might appear to be at a casual glance.

The fact that this photograph is so average is the story it has to tell.

Serious photographers think of trains and locomotives in much the same way that portrait photographers think of people.

They want the object of their desire to be posed in the most ideal manner. For a photographer that means good light and composition.

The ideal way to have photographed this train would have been a wedge view that took advantage of the morning sunlight and the train coming around a curve, thus exposing more of the train.

That is how a photographer sees Amtrak, but it is not the manner in which most people experience Amtrak.

Most people see Amtrak in the manner that I did in this photograph. It is a happenstance occurrence most likely to occur at a grade crossing or while approaching a grade crossing.

It will be a spontaneous moment surrounded by the clutter of the street that we see and hardly pay attention to during our everyday lives.

Even as a down-the-street-shot it would have been better had I stepped out into the street and been able to compose the image to avoid that street sign on the left side. But I didn’t do that because it might not have been safe.

I also didn’t have time to evaluate the setting. All I could do was react.

As it is, this image has already been cropped to eliminate a utility pole on the far left edge of the original image.

We can’t plan every moment of our days. So much of life is about spontaneity and living in and enjoying the unexpected small moments. Life is not always portrait quality and big moments.

The point of this photograph is to show one of those moments. In his column, Crea urged his readers not just to enjoy those moments but to understand that what might seem like a disappointment or setback might be something else.

It might be one of those moments that makes like worth living.

Making Tough Photo Selections

May 12, 2017

One of the toughest choices for me when putting together a presentation is sometimes choosing between two similar images.

Such was the case with the two images shown above of the same Wheeling & Lake Erie train made in the same location just seconds apart. I was standing by the Old Mill Road grade crossing southeast of Spencer.

The images are shown in sequence top to bottom. Both images have much in common even if their compositions are slightly different.

In the top image, what attracts me are the three poles to the right of the lead locomotive. Pole lines are rapidly vanishing from American railroads and these three poles are all that is left of a pole line along the Brewster Subdivision of the Wheeling.

So the poles add a nostalgic touch missing from the bottom image, which shows just one pole. One pole does not a pole line make.

I also like how the top image is more reflective of the rule of thirds than the bottom image. That because the focal point of the image — the nose of the lead locomotive — is near one of the intersecting points rather than in the center as is the case with the lower image.

One advantage of the top image is also one of its weaknesses. There is an unofficial “rule” in railroad photography about showing some of the track head of a train in order to give a sense of movement and direction.

Yet you don’t want to show too much track, which may be a downside of the top image. However, this is where the three poles help salvage this image by filling what otherwise would be dead space that provides no useful purpose.

The advantage that the bottom image has over the top photo is that the train is more prominent. For many railfans, the photograph is all about the train and the surrounding environment is extraneous clutter.

The bottom image also makes better use of the trees on both sides of the tracks as a framing device, enhancing the effect of the train coming out of “hole” in the forest.

The W&LE speed lettering is more visible in the bottom image although not readable.

However, the budding trees to the right of the train that proclaims “spring” is more prominent in the top image than in the bottom.

I like both of these images, but if I had to choose just one of them to put in a presentation I would probably go with the bottom image if the audience is mostly railfans.

In my experience, railfans tend to favor trains even if many of them like a good image showing the train in an environment.

It May be Copyright Infringement, But That Doesn’t Mean There Will be a Steep Price to Pay

April 17, 2017

There’s an old joke in which a guy says that he needs a lawyer who only has one arm. When asked why, the guy replies, “because every time I talk with a lawyer he says, ‘on the one hand, on the other hand.’ ”

on-photography-newLay people might describe this as splitting hairs, but law is like that. It can be very fact and context specific, and going to court always caries a degree of uncertainty about how judges and jurors will interpret or see the facts or context in a given case.

Law also does not always have what legal scholars call “bright line” qualities, meaning that there is universal acceptance of what a law means and how it is to be applied.

It is what makes law such a fascinating field of study but such a frustrating endeavor for those seeking justice for a grievance.

In a previous column, I spoke about how if you post photographs on social media you may have your work stolen and used without permission.

Copyright law can be complex, but it is settled that the holder of a copyright has the right to control how his/her work is used in public.

The public performance clause of copyright law is designed to ensure that someone doesn’t profit from stealing the copyrighted work of another person.

So if you post a dramatic photograph of a train, say, plowing through a snow bank, someone can’t copy your image and sell it to Trains magazine while pocketing all of the money and taking all of the credit.

That is the theory behind copyright law. In practice, much of the theft of copyrighted railroad photographs is for non-commercial purposes and the remedies for that are limited.

Is it worth going to court if the thief didn’t make as much as a dime from using your copyrighted image?

Or it may be that the commercial gain that the thief who stole your photograph and used it without permission reaped was very small.

Are you going to go to the time and expense of filing a copyright infringement lawsuit over theft of a photograph that netted the thief $20?

Yes, some people have done that because “it’s not the money, it’s the principle.” Maybe so, but the principle does have a monetary cost.

If a thief steals enough photographs and makes $20 a crack, over time that adds up to “real money.” Teaching someone a lesson might have a long-term economic benefit.

Resorting to litigation is sometime necessary, but it can be clunky, time-consuming and unsatisfactory when the stakes are low. It is why there aren’t more copyright infringement lawsuits than there are.

As the proprietor of a non-commercial website, I have a set of polices about using other people’s copyrighted photographs.

As for the Akron Railroad Club blog, in a few instances I have declined to post an image that someone sent because it wasn’t clear if the sender had permission of the photographer to use that image on the ARRC blog.

A couple of times the sender assured me the photographer said it was OK to post the image and I accepted that at face value, but it was still a risk even if a small one.

With one notable exception I will not copy images without explicit permission from another website to repost on the ARRC blog. That exception is for photographs that I judge to be public relations in purpose.

Norfolk Southern, for example, creates photographs of locomotives that it has painted in a special livery.

NS holds the copyright on those photographs, but its motivation in making the image is not to make money from selling it to publications but to bolster its corporate image.

The railroad reaps public relations value when the news media and others reproduce photographs that it wants certain audiences to know about.

NS wouldn’t be spending thousands of dollars to paint locomotives in special liveries if it didn’t stand to gain something tangible from it in terms of boosting its image and reputation.

The benefit to NS from my posting news about its activities is small and the audience for the ARRC blog pales in comparison to what Trains magazine pulls in on daily basis.

I could use that fact as an excuse to get away with copying images without permission and posting them.

But I’ve drawn a line there. There is more than legal rules at stake here. I have my own reputation and moral character to protect.

Speed Limit Drops on Riverview Road in CVNP

April 8, 2017

I got an email this week from fellow Akron Railroad Club member Paul Woodring letting me know that the speed limit on Riverview Road through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park fell to 35 mph on April 4.

Although a new state law mandated the change, a story in the Akron Beacon Journal said the lower speed limit was requested by Summit County engineer Al Brubaker.

He told the Beacon Journal he wanted the speed limit lowered for safety reasons due to joggers, bicyclists and pedestrians mingling on “curvy and hilly” highways with motor vehicles.

“While drivers, riders and pedestrians will still need to use common care and caution within the park, at least we will now be able to post the county’s park roads at a more reasonable speed limit,” Brubaker said in a statement.

As Paul sees it, though, the slower speed limit makes it difficult if not impossible to chase steam trains on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Before the recent change, Riverview Road had a myriad of speed limits. From north to south it was 25 mph from Pleasant Valley Road to Ohio Route 82, 35 mph to the Cuyahoga-Summit county line, 40 mph to Peninsula, 35 mph in Peninsula to Ohio Route 303, 25 mph to the Peninsula border, 35 mph to just north of the diagonal crossing of the CVSR tracks, and 45 mph to Cuyahoga Falls where the speed limit again dropped to 35 mph.

The speed limit will be dropping on other roads in the CVNP, but Riverview is of special interest to railroad photographers because it is parallel with the CVSR tracks.

I have chased Nickel Plate Road No. 765 and Ohio Central No. 1293 on Riverview Road, but found plenty of other obstacles other than the speed limit to chasing a steam train on the CVSR.

Most notable among them is the traffic light at Riverview and Route 303 where traffic backs up when the chase is on. I’ve missed out on more than one photograph because I got hung up at that signal.

It also can be difficult to catch up with a steam train on the CVSR if you photograph it in Peninsula. The weather is usually nice in September and the town is crowded with tourists.

Finding a parking space is tough and navigating your way out of town after getting your photographs is time-consuming due to traffic. I’ve missed the photo runbys at Boston Mill because it took so long to get out of Peninsula.

Some of the photo locations that I favor require some walking to get in and out. That often means being one and done with that particular trip of the steam train.

The lower speed limits are not going to change my strategy for photographing NKP 765 – or whatever number it operates with this year – if it comes back to the CVSR in September.

I’ll determine my photo locations for the day and travel on Riverside when the train is doing its photo runbys at Boston Mill or sitting in the station where trips begin and end. In short, it requires realistic planning and not being so reactive.

Anyone who has chased a steam train has stories to tell about photographers who drove recklessly to get to their next photo op, putting not only themselves at risk of injury but other photographers and motorists who were not there to chase a train.

I also remember a time when I was standing by the CVSR tracks near the Valley Picnic area.

I thought it odd that there was little traffic on Riverview going the direction of the train.

As the train came into view I could see why. A vehicle with a guy making video was pacing the steam locomotive and traffic was backed up behind him.

It doesn’t matter what the speed limit is when someone is behaving like that.

Fellowship Outweighed ‘if Onlys’ of McKay Day

April 4, 2017

Berea is not the only home to a memorial to the late Dave McKay. Jack Norris arranged for this tribute to Dave at Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania. (Photograph by Jack Norris)

When I look back on the Akron Railroad Club’s 2017 Dave McKay Day I’ll remember the “if onlys” that surrounded the event.

If only we had had the weather of Sunday, April 2 on Saturday April 1 when the McKay Day was held.

If only I had had my camera ready when two Citirail ES44ACs that were leading CSX train Q384 showed up.

If only we had gone to dinner at 5 as we had planned I could have photographed the Wabash heritage locomotive leading Norfolk Southern train No. 294.

If only the fog that shrouded the east side of Cleveland early Saturday morning also had been in Berea when I arrived I might have gotten a dramatic image.

All of those missed opportunities have their own story behind them, starting with the fog.

As I drove south on Warrensville Road I saw how the fog created an interesting effect with the lights illuminating the RTA Green Line station platform.

I thought about turning around to go get the image, but kept going. I hoped to reach Berea before the fog lifted but by the time I arrived, it was gone. Of course I’m assuming it was as foggy in Berea as it had been on the east side of town. Maybe it wasn’t.

Photographers generally hate overcast skies because they produce flat light and little contrast. So I left my camera in its bag, which I placed on the back seat.

I didn’t regret that until I spotted the headlight of an eastbound CSX train. As it got closer something about the lead unit looked different.

The train was closing in as I struggled to get out of the car, open the locked back door, reach across the seat for my camera bag, open it, get the camera out and remove the lens cap.

By the time I did all of that the photo opportunity was gone.

I’ve only once photographed a train led by a Citirail unit, which features a pleasing gray, yellow and blue livery.

This missed opportunities annoyed me because it was of my own making due to lack of preparation.

I was prepared, though, for the Wabash unit. I had my camera with me at dinner at the Berea Union Depot Taverne. The plan was to eat and then go trackside to catch the Wabash unit.

But making photographs of other trains delayed us by 20 minutes.  Even if I still had been sitting at our table when the Wabash H unit came through I doubt I would have made the image.

I would have had to move some wood slats of a venetian blinds and the image would have had heavy back lighting.

Of the 46 train movements that I saw in Berea on this day, I made two or three images that might rise to the level of being somewhat interesting. The rest are routine images similar to ones I’ve made before in better light.

CSX is leasing about 20 of those Citirail units so maybe there will be another opportunity to get one leading a train.

I’ve photographed the Wabash heritage unit more than once and even if my plan had worked out it would have yielded nothing more than a side light image.

I can always go to Berea on days when the weather is better.

But opportunities to socialize with my fellow ARRC members are less frequent. With my plans to move out of the area within the next two years they may be quite limited.

The bigger picture is that the ARRC’s McKay Day is less about photography than it is socializing. The fellowship of the event meant more than getting some so-so photographs on a less than ideal day for photography.

Forcing Film Shooters into the Digital World

March 27, 2017

Organizations have ways of forcing people to do something they might not wish to do otherwise.

It used to be that airlines issued paper tickets to passengers. They still do, but for a fee.

The reason why this changed is obvious. The airlines save money by shifting the cost of paper and printing onto their customers.

In theory customers get the “convenience” of being able to print their tickets at home. That saves them a trip to the airport or a travel agent.

To many people, printing your own tickets is no big deal. The cost of the paper and ink for printing airline tickets – technically called boarding passes – is minuscule.

Most people who travel by air already have computers and printers at home.

Some don’t even print their boarding passes. They show a code on their smart phone sent to them electronically. No paper is involved at any step of the process.

But not everyone who still makes photographic images on film has the equipment needed to digitize their work.

Those photographers might be out of luck if they wish to enter the 2017 Trains magazine photo contest.

Tucked into the rules is this change: “We will no longer be accepting submissions by mail.”

No explanation for that rule change was provided, but it likely wasn’t a financial move.

The photographer paid all costs associated with sending slides or printed images by mail.

More than likely this rule change was for the convenience of the staff. All entries can now be kept in one location and viewed in the same manner.

There is no more having to toggle between digital entries and slides and prints.

It also might save some staff time. Winning entries submitted as slides or prints no longer need to be digitized.

But what is convenient for the magazine staff is not so convenient for certain photographs. If they lack the equipment to digitize the images they wish to submit to the contest, they will have to buy the equipment or pay to have their images digitized.

Perhaps some have a friend who has a scanner who might be willing to do it for a beer.

The rule change also is likely a reflection of the reality that few entries are still being submitted the old fashioned way.

There remains a hard core of photographers who use film to make railroad images.

Some of them have scanning equipment to digitize their images, but most of the film guys I know do not have equipment to scan slides and negatives.

Most of them strike me as unwilling to learn how to do it. I can understand why.

Like cameras, film scanners come in all shapes, sizes and price points.

Some equipment is inexpensive, but the quality of the finished product might not be satisfactory.

B&H Photo offers a guide to scanning equipment at https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/film-scanners

If you know little to nothing about digital images, reading that guide might be bewildering. You soon learn you need to know about things that film photographers do not need to know unless they are in the publication business.

I can’t say what percentage of photographers has equipment capable of scanning film images into a digital format.

Most of the railroad images I’ve see posted online were made with a digital camera.

There are not as many pre-digital images in cyberspace as there could be. Aside from its cost, digitizing equipment takes time to learn to use.

Yet the day is coming when having scanning equipment will be a “must have” if you wish to share your pre-digital photographs with others.

Slide shows remain a staple of local railroad clubs, but some events, e.g., Summerail, no longer allow programs in which images are projected directly from film.

I have a sizable collection of slides and I do not foresee projecting them again with a slide projector.

Local railroad clubs are losing members and the number of opportunities to project slides the old fashioned way is dwindling even as slide film is making a modest comeback.

As I noted in a previous column, slide film has a future, but it is tied into the digital world, particularly if you want to share your images with a circle that extends beyond your closest friends who are willing to get together in a room for a slide showing.

In the Early 2000s Some Railroad Photographers Were Skeptical About Digital Photography

March 6, 2017

I recently ran across some writings about the pros and cons of digital versus film for railroad photography.

on-photography-newIn each case, the author favored slide film. None of the authors were against the use of digital photography per se and all had experience with it.

But that was more than a decade ago. What would they think today?

Writing in Railway Photography (2003), Richard Jay Solomon said that for important (emphasis in original) subject matter he used a Leica film camera.

Writing in The Railroad Press magazine in 2004, Jaime F.M. Serensits favored slides because of their ease of storage and because he liked them.

Professional photograph Steve Smedley said he liked digital photography in his job as a newspaper photographer but favored slides for his railfan photography.

“Slides will be my medium for the next several years,” Smedley wrote in Railway Photography.

A common theme expressed by all three authors was the superior color quality of slide film.

Another theme was the fear that rapid advances in technology might mean that a photographer would not be able to “read” digital images some day. But slides are forever or at least the rest of your life.

That is a legitimate concern. At the time, most photographers stored digital images on CDs, which have been shown to have a relatively short shelf life.

In the early 2000s, USB devices, portable hard drives and storage on “the cloud” had yet to arrive or become widely available in the consumer market.

None of the authors from the early 2000s touched on a factor that has driven many photographers, myself included, into the digital world.

That issue was hinted at in the same issue of The Railroad Press in which the Serensits article appeared.

Several pages back was a feature piece on how to save money on slide film. At the time, slide professional film ranged between $5 per roll if purchased in bulk to $18 for an individual roll.

I remember a discussion I had with Marty Surdyk about slide film. He figured the cost of the film plus processing worked out to $1 per slide.

If you shot an average of one roll of film a week, that would cost $1,872 for the year. Of course not everyone shoots that much, but whatever your photography habits, the cost of film and processing aren’t cheap.

More than a decade since the works cited above were published, I wonder if those photographers are still using slide film. Does Solomon still rely on film for his most important images?

All three authors acknowledged that digital photography was likely to continue to improve. My guess is that they might still dabble in film, but their views of digital photography probably changed as digital technology evolved. They had little choice about that.

It Wasn’t Just a ‘Slide’ Show. So What was it?

February 27, 2017

I first noticed the “s” word as I wheeled a cart loaded with digital technology toward the social hall where the Akron Railroad Club was having its annual pizza party and member’s night programs.

on-photography-newA sign pointed in the direction of the ARRC “slide show.” The next day I noticed that “slides” had been used on the front page of the February ARRC Bulletin to promote the event.

Slides were shown at the event, but it was not a slide show. Digital presenters outnumbered slide presenters 6-4.

“Slide” is used by some as a generic description meaning photographic images projected by light onto a screen.

It is not unlike “Kleenex,” a trademark name that many people use interchangeably to describe any brand of facial tissue.

Kimberly-Clark, the holder of the Kleenex trademark, used to buy advertisements in Editor & Publisher to implore journalists not to use “Kleenex” as a generic term.

Slide is not a trademark, but has a specific meaning as a single frame of film mounted in cardboard or plastic.

For many years slides were the predominant medium for projecting photographs at ARRC meetings.

In the club’s early years movies were common, but they gave way to slides and, at times, video tape.

It is possible that a slide could be a photograph of a photograph, but that doesn’t happen often.

But digital is a more flexible medium that can be used to show images scanned from slides, film negatives or printed photographs. It can also be used to project movies, video and, of course, images made with a digital camera or smart phone.

One digital presenters at last Saturday’s ARRC member’s showed images scanned from prints. Another showed movies that had been digitized.

About 40 percent of the images I plan to present in my digital program next month will have been scanned from slides.

“Slide” also has taken on another meaning. I’ve come to associate it with old photographs.

Only one of the four presenters at the ARRC’s member’s night showed slides that were made within the past six months. Most of the slides shown were at least 20 years old.

I’m reminded of the trademark of another company that used to advertise in Editor & Publisher.

Xerox Corporation used to plead with journalists not to use the name of their company as a generic term for a photo copy.

But it wasn’t just journalists. I heard quite often people talk about making a “Xerox copy” of a paper document.

It is a term, though, that seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of “copy.”

The novelty of copy machines has long since worn off and there are so many brands of them that most people probably aren’t aware of which one they’re using.

And so use of the word “slide” probably will fade away as the generations that grew up making images on film pass on and slide become a novelty.

When Someone Thinks Your Hobby is Silly

February 13, 2017

A spring on the door of our dishwasher had broken so we called an appliance repairman to fix it. He been to our home before, but I’d never met him.

on-photography-newI had come downstairs to see how the repairs were going and found the repair guy talking to my wife about someone he knows who photographs trains.

I’ve never met the appliance repairman’s friend, but his name sounded vaguely familiar.

Within seconds it became apparent that the repair guy doesn’t think much of the hobby of photographing trains. “I think you’re both nuts,” he said.

It could have been worse. At least he didn’t say that railroad photographers are engaging in some sort of nefarious activity.

It was yet another example of why I am careful who I talk with about what I enjoy photographing.

The repair guy didn’t say why he thinks it strange that someone would travel for miles to photograph a particular locomotive.

Given the strident tone of his remarks, I didn’t care to explain it to him. He doesn’t want to know and probably wouldn’t understand if someone did explain it to him.

He thinks making photographs of trains is silly and nothing I or anyone else might say in response is going to change his mind.

I generally avoid people like that. It doesn’t matter what they think.

Of course some people are open-minded about the interests of others and have a genuine curiosity about the attraction of railroad photography to those who practice it.

If such a person were to ask me why I make railroad photographs I would say that railroad operations have always fascinated me and that I can’t remember a day in my life when I wasn’t interested in trains.

I don’t know why that is. Why does anyone like what they like? There are reasons for it, but sometimes those are beyond our comprehension.

Maybe it is because trains are large objects that move. I also have an interest in commercial transport aircraft for the same reason.

Maybe those are unsatisfactory explanations for why I like to photograph trains, but I sometimes wonder about those who religiously follow a certain professional Cleveland football team that loses games more often than it wins them.

They talk about what the owners, players and coaches should be doing even though no one with the team will ever hear their ideas or much care about them. Now isn’t that silly? Maybe not if you enjoy doing it and it is harmless fun.

People have passions about certain things and they seldom sit back and wonder why that is. There is no reason to do that. You like something and that’s that.

I’ve never felt a need to do “missionary work” and explain why I and others enjoy photographing railroad operations.

And yet given the post-911 climate we probably should. We probably should seek to educate the public about why we make railroad photographs.

But I don’t want to do that. If someone thinks that making photographs of railroad operations is silly or stupid, well, that’s their problem, not mine.

And yet I know that it does become my problem when their problem becomes the worldview of police officers and others with a well-meaning, but misguided sense of trying to protect national security.

In the meantime, I’m going to go about my business of photographing rail operations. I enjoy it and come to think of it maybe I need no better explanation than that.