Archive for the ‘On Photography’ Category

The Challenge Facing Operation Lifesaver

November 20, 2017

When the August issue of Trains arrived in my mailbox I was impressed with the cover image of the last Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train crossing a curving steel trestle near Sweeneyburg, West Virginia.

What a nice shot. It was razor sharp, made in bright sunlight and featured the train on a curve.

Had it been posted on a social media site scores of people would have clicked the “like” button while others would have made such comments as “nailed it” and “great shot.”

I had noticed a cluster of seven people standing on the ballast at the end of the bridge, but didn’t think anything of it.

Bonnie Murphy also noticed those folks standing a few feet from CSX ET44EH No. 3333 as it led the circus train off the trestle. And she thought a lot of it.

Murphy, who at the time was the head of Operation Lifesaver, fired off a letter to the editor of Trains that was published in the October issue.

Murphy diplomatically took the magazine to task for using an image that “sends the wrong message to your loyal readers.”

As she saw it, “photos like this may encourage others to trespass on trestles  . . .” Murphy went on to say trespassing is illegal and dangerous.

The letter cited an incident in Virginia in which a teen walking on a trestle was killed after being struck by a train and mentioned a statistic of how a vehicle is hit on average every three hours by a train.

I don’t know what Trains editor Jim Wrinn thought when he received Murphy’s letter. The magazine did not to respond in print to the letter.

Given that Murphy represents a safety advocacy group, about the only thing Wrinn could say was that no one at the magazine recognized that the photo might send the “wrong message.”

He might have made a vague promise to be more watchful before publishing photographs showing railfans trespassing on railroad property.

And what might those seven “trespassers” say? Probably little, if they said anything.

They knew they were on railroad property. They might say there is a difference between someone might get hurt and someone actually getting hurt.

Unlike the Virginia teen Murphy cited, they were not walking on the bridge.

And therein lies the dilemma for Operation Lifesaver. We have heard their messages about safety ad nauseam.

But people still take risks because they think they know what they are doing. The lure of an “outstanding” photograph outweighs the risks, which they don’t think are as high as the scolds make them out to be.

Murphy did what she needed to do and Trains let her have her say.

In her letter, Murphy asked the magazine to “help us promote rail safety and save lives.”

Murphy would be ecstatic if Trains were to kick off a campaign whose message is never trespass on railroad property ever. But that is not going to occur.

It is not that Trains or even the majority of railfans are unsupportive of the goals of OLS. It is just that everyone has their own self-interests. Sometimes those interests align and sometimes they don’t.

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A Matter of Scale

November 7, 2017

Would you have made this photograph let alone posted it? Some railfan photographers would answer “no” on both counts. Some might even say they don’t like this image.

They wouldn say the the lead locomotive is too small. You can’t read the roster number or see any of the detail.

And that, of course, is the point of this image of Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian.

We’ve all stood next to a locomotive and noticed how big they are. Most of us have stood next to an Amtrak P42DC and had the same feeling.

Yes, the locomotive seems small because of it distance from my camera, but I also like how the mountains in the background dwarf the train and remind of us that no matter how large a locomotive it, there is always something bigger.

Aside from that, I made this image because of its sense of place. It screams eastern mountains and is, in fact, a location in the Allegheny Mountains at Summerhill, Pennsylvania.

I am far from being the first photograph to make such an image. I’ve seen photographs made in the west and the east in which the mountains are swallowing the train.

I wouldn’t want to make all of my images look like that, but this view is just one of many that can be used to tell a story with photographs.

Reflections on a Reflection

October 28, 2017

Many of my favorite photographs have been created by happenstance. Such was the case with this image of a reflection of the former Erie Railroad passenger station in Kent in a pool of the decorative dam on the Cuyahoga River.

The story behind this image begins with a walk down to the observation platform that can be seen toward the right middle of the image.

My intent was to get a close-up view of the late day sun hitting the station, which is now an Italian restaurant named Treno, which is Italian for train.

The dam used to be functional, but several years ago the river was channeled away from it and into the remnants of the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal. What had been the river became dry land that was transformed into a park while the dam was renovated to become, in essence, a giant water fountain.

The top of the dam is quite high, about at the level of my eyes. I happened to notice the station reflecting in the pool at the top of the dam and thought it would make a nice photograph.

I made it but all you could see was the reflection in the water. I then lifted my camera above my head and held it over the railing in the foreground.

A Canon 60D has a foldout screen that can be angled up or down. That came in handy in being able to see what the lens was seeing. I then used the live view feature of the camera to make the image.

The result was, perhaps, my best image of the day. What appears to be a reflection from a flash toward the right end of the station is actually the sun reflecting off a window.

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.

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.