Posts Tagged ‘Light and shadows in photography’

Light, Shadows and Fall Foliage in Ravenna

July 9, 2020

I ran across this slide as part of my search for the past campaign yesterday. It was a hot and humid day so I had an incentive to stay inside in the air conditioned comfort to look at old slides.

The date of this image is Oct. 28, 2005. The Akron Railroad Club met that night and it would be the penultimate meeting we had at the carriage house of the Perkins Mansion of the Summit County Historical Society.

Ed Ribinskas probably was with me when I made this image. It was late in the day and the light was warm as it typically is in late October.

Shown is a westbound Norfolk Southern manifest freight rounding the curve in Ravenna on the Cleveland Line.

The fall foliage is past its peak but there is still plenty of color left in those trees to make for a pleasing image.

Although I had forgotten about this particular photograph, I had not forgotten about this outing because of a dramatic image I made on the CSX New Castle Subdivision in Ravenna after I got this photo on NS.

As the sunlight was about to drop out of sight, a westbound train showed up at just the right moment.

Using a Baltimore & Ohio color position light signal and a block limit sign as props, I made what I still consider one of my best late day light photographs.

No wonder that I had forgotten about getting anything on NS.

It would turn out that that 2005 outing in Ravenna would be one of the few times I would photograph there before an ARRC meeting.

We explored other locations and finally settled on watching trains most of the time before ARRC meetings in Bedford.

Going Green

October 28, 2018

A lot of companies with which you do business through the mail are trying to entice you to switch to online payment of bills.

They often use the slogan “go green,” to make it seem as though paying online is environmentally sound.

It might be in the sense that it creates less paper, but I’ve always suspected that the real motivation is cost cutting.

This image of a westbound Norfolk Southern stack train rumbling through Olmsted Falls gives another meaning to the phrase “going green” as the first block of containers are all painted green.

Signal Indication is a Shadow

March 8, 2018

It’s late afternoon in Olmsted Falls. The sun is swinging around toward the southwest and illuminating the west end of the former New York Central station, which is now owned by the Cuyahoga Valley & West Shore Model Railroad Club.

One of the latest additions to the club’s modest 1:1 scale of railroad collectables at the depot is a two-headed Type G signal.

You don’t see the signal above, but it is casting a shadow on the side of the station.

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.

Both Sides Now

May 9, 2017

I look at this photograph and I think of that Joni Mitchell song Both Sides Now. She sings about how clouds can be rows and flows of angel hair and ice castles in the air.

Clouds can add beauty and drama to an image, but they can also, as the second stanza of Both Sides Now reminds us, block the sun.

And so it was as CSX eastbound intermodal train Q010 came along as I stood atop the reservoir at New London.

My objective in making this image was clouds. I got the clouds all right, but at the crucial moment one of them blocked the sun.

Anyone who has spent time trackside has seen clouds from both sides. It is sometimes called getting cloud skunked.

I made the photograph anyway even though the train was in the shadows.

Of course, shadows can be a wonderful thing, too. But like clouds, they, too, are multifaceted. They can be your friend or they can be your adversary. Sometimes they are both at the same time.

So this image didn’t work out as I had planned, but at least I got some nice clouds.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Facing the Challenge of Strong Lighting

April 7, 2016

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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

On Photography: Using Foreground Shadows

November 10, 2015

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Foreshadowing is a tactic used by story tellers, writers and film makers to hint at a plot twist or something that is going to happen later in a story.

It is a way to hold the interest of the listener, reader or viewer as well as move the story along.

It can also be used by photographers to add interest to their images by providing contrast and visual tension.

In the case of photography, the term might be better described as foreground shadowing because you are making use of a shadow in the foreground of the image.

Shown above are two techniques that use foreground shadows to enhance an image.

The top image was made at Boston Mill of Nickel Plate Road No. 765 during a photo runby on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

The shadow in the foreground resulted from the sun sinking behind the hills and trees behind me.

In this image, the shadow has the effect of covering what otherwise would be empty space.

The reader’s eye is naturally drawn over the shadow to the locomotive, which gleams brightly in contrast to the foreground shadow.

Many photographers would rather that their trains be pristine, meaning free of bystanders cluttering up the environment.

But the 765 was executing a photo runby and the people watching it are part of the story being told by this photo.

Most of those along the tracks watching are also spotlighted by the late day light.

Another way to use foreground shadowing is to allow clouds to provide it.

That is what is happening in the middle photo above that was made of a Wheeling & Lake Erie train awaiting a new crew west of Norwalk.

When I arrived on the scene, a cloud was covering the train in shadows. But the cloud began moving and the shadow moved with it.

What does this foreground shadow add? Compare the middle image with the bottom one.

In the bottom image there is some cloud shadow in the field about half-way between where I am standing and the train.

The foreground shadow of the middle image softens the harshness of the green of the corn crop. Although this image was made just after 4 p.m., the sunlight is still harsh because it is late June.

The foreground shadow also creates a slight illusion of shortening the distance between where I am standing and the train.

As in the case of the image of NKP 765, the foreground shadow also draws the viewer’s eye toward the train because your eyes pass over the shadow. The foreground shadow creates visual tension, which encourages eye movement.

Foreground shadowing is not necessarily something you can set out to create in your photographs.

In the case of the 765 shot, it was a matter of timing. The photo runby occurred when there was still enough direct sunlight to illuminate the train.

Had it occurred a few minutes later, the shadows would be covering the train. As it was, there are some shadows from the trees on the 765.

In the case of the W&LE train, I had the right cloud conditions. I would not have been able to use foreground shadowing in the W&LE train image had it been a clear day.

As is the case in making any image, shadows can hinder your shot or they can be your friend if used in the right way.

How the shadows fall is something to watch for in the environment next time you are out trackside on a sunny day.

Photographs and Commentary by Craig Sanders

On Photography: Unintended Success

August 5, 2015

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited has been jokingly called the “Late Shore Limited” by many wags. It is not an entirely undeserved reputation given how the train often runs late.

But this is a story about a day when it wasn’t running late enough.

Peter Bowler and I were making plans to go to Painesville to catch the ferry move of the Nickel Plate Road 765.

We didn’t know when it would pass through so we wanted to get there early. We may as well get there in time to catch the eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

Our objective was to get No. 48 passing the former New York Central station, which sits on the south side of the tracks. A local group is restoring the depot, yet it still has a derelict appearance about it.

No. 48 was about 18 minutes late. Fine. That would allow more time for the sun to climb over the trees and illuminate the tracks and depot.

The light kept getting better, but shadows covered the station and the tracks.

I heard the engineer of No. 48 call a clear signal over the radio. An approaching train had that distinctive pattern of headlights and ditch lights of an Amtrak P42 locomotive.

If Amtrak had just been a little later.

The track speed for passenger trains here is 79 mph and No. 48 was doing every bit of that.

There were small pockets of sunlight on Track No. 2 and I managed to get the nose of P42 No. 193 in one of those.

The trailing P42 was No. 822, which wears the Phase III livery. How I wish the order of the locomotives had been reversed. How I wish the sun had been higher in the sky.

Every photographer has had those feelings of when conditions don’t work out the way you had hoped.

There is nothing wrong with making images of objects, moving or static, in shadows. It is just not ideal from a lighting standpoint and so much of photography is about light.

Nonetheless, the inconsistent lighting pattern in the first two images produced some intriguing images.

The sunlight filtering through the trees made the locomotive nose stand out in the top photo and highlighted the trailing unit and Viewliner baggage car in the second photo.

Note how the vegetation and a structure along the right third of the image are illuminated well in contrast with the left third that is in shadows. The front of the train has just enough direct light to create a spotlight effect.

Perhaps images such as these can be planned, but I suspect more often than not they just happen.

The third image is the one that I wished had the full effect of the rising sunlight. But that had yet to occur when the train passed by.

There were still pockets of shadows on the rails 21 minutes later when a CSX freight followed Amtrak eastward on this same track.

Such is life for photographers in Northeast Ohio. We have a lot of trees and they block the rising and setting sun.

The final image in the sequence is the going away shot and it has some of the same effect that I achieved in the first two images, although it is not quite as pronounced.

Look at the track just ahead of the nose of the lead locomotive. The tracks curve here and the the sunlight is already shining on the rails.

There is a streak of sunlight along the lower sections of the Viewliner sleepers and the first three Amfleet cars. The effect is less visible on the side of the heritage diner. It is not quite the classic glint effect, but it is close.

We often think of results in terms of success or failure. Yet many endeavors have elements of both.

This image failed in the sense that the scene with the train passing the depot was not lighted as well as I desired.

Yet I succeeded in photographing the train in this location with enough light to create a recognizable image. Could it have been better? Of course, yet I can’t make the sun rise faster or the train run later. I had to photograph the train when it was here.

I got the train I wanted where I wanted it even if not when I wanted it. Some of these images have interesting lighting that produced images that I’ve enjoyed viewing.

Overall, I would call that a success, some of it in unexpected ways.

Commentary and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Light, Shadows, Containers

March 12, 2013
An eastbound stacker approaches Ravenna Road on Track No. 1 as the motive power casts a jagged shadow over Track No. 2.

An eastbound stacker approaches Ravenna Road on Track No. 1 as the motive power casts a jagged shadow over Track No. 2.

Most photographers are keenly aware of how the available natural light illuminates their images and they do their best to work with that. But they may think of shadows as a nuisance to be worked around.

Recently I was reading an article about railroad photography that suggested using light and shadows to enhance an image. Trains magazine even made that a theme of a photo contest.

The article that I was reading was accompanied with a number of images that illustrated how shadows can be your friend in making photos because shadows provide contrast.

On a recent sunny morning, I noticed how a passing Norfolk Southern double-stacked container train cast an intriguing line of shadows as it rushed by.

NS ran a small fleet of stack trains in both directions on the Cleveland Line near Brady Lake and I made it a point to use the light and shadows as a focal point of the images that I captured.

Here is a selection of what I made.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

What I found most evocative about this image was how the shadow side of the containers contrasted with the ends and tops that are fully illuminated in the morning sunlight.

What I found most evocative about this image was how the shadow side of the containers contrasted with the ends and tops that are fully illuminated in the morning sunlight.

I’ve always enjoyed the uniform profile of stack trains, including the shadows that they cast.

I’ve always enjoyed the uniform profile of stack trains, including the shadows that they cast.

OK, it’s not a stack train, but I liked this image for the pattern that the shadows of the trees cast on Track No. 1 and the westbound manifest freight on Track No. 2.

OK, it’s not a stack train, but I liked this image for the pattern that the shadows of the trees cast on Track No. 1 and the westbound manifest freight on Track No. 2.

A few hours later the sun has moved around. When I photographed this eastbound CSX container train I had to contend with side and back lighting. The color didn’t look so good as result but converting it to a black and white image fixed that issue.

A few hours later the sun has moved around. When I photographed this eastbound CSX container train I had to contend with side and back lighting. The color didn’t look so good as result but converting it to a black and white image fixed that issue.

A lone truck trailer breaks up the uniform look of Schneider National containers that may have been added to this train at the North Baltimore, Ohio, intermodal facility. This and the photo above were taken on the CSX New Castle Subdivision in Kent.

A lone truck trailer breaks up the uniform look of Schneider National containers that may have been added to this train at the North Baltimore, Ohio, intermodal facility. This and the photo above were taken on the CSX New Castle Subdivision in Kent.