Posts Tagged ‘on photogaphy’

A Fleeting Wisp of Ohio Central Glory

April 18, 2020

I’ve been going through my slide collection in recent weeks and scanning images to post online.

It’s been a diversion from the COVID-19 pandemic and brought back pleasant memories of what seemed to have been happier and less threatening times.

The photograph above of an Ohio Central passenger excursion train, though, is not one of those recent scans.

I scanned this image several months ago but have thus far refrained from posting it because of its lackluster quality.

Yet it’s the type of image in which I find myself taking solace these days and the fact that it’s less than ideal doesn’t matter.

I made this image on July 31, 2004, on a wood bridge at the west edge of West Lafayette, Ohio. The excursion originated in Columbus and was bound for Train Festival 2004 in Dennison.

It was one of several excursion trains I photographed that day during an event like few others I experienced in Ohio.

It was not an ideal day for train photography due to overcast skies and rain and drizzle. The slide is dark suggesting an under exposed image.

This photo has been sitting in a folder on my computer awaiting a decision to post it or delete it.

Sometimes a photograph has to wait for the right moment to be displayed, a moment when the content outweighs whatever technical flaws it has.

I was always a fan of the Pennsylvania Railroad inspired livery that Ohio Central FP9A units 6313 and 6307 had.

I once sat at a table with the late Jerry Jacobson at an Akron Railroad Club event and heard him say how much it cost to get those locomotives custom painted. I don’t recall the figure, but it wasn’t cheap.

Jerry talked about that expense in the same causal way that most people speak of how much they spent for dinner at a Bob Evans restaurant. In the scheme of things it isn’t that much.

I don’t have too many photographs of the Ohio Central FP9As in this livery and I didn’t see them operate very often.

Sure, I wish I had more photographs, but having regrets is as much a part of being a railfan photographer as bragging about what you did capture.

Everyone has missed out on something and everyone has something they wish that had more of than they do.

Everyone also can speak about days when they wished the weather and lighting had been better.

Having something is better than having nothing so although this isn’t one of my best images it reminds me of a day when I was there for something special.

There never was another train festival in Dennison or anywhere else on the Ohio Central like the 2004 event that was attended by 27,000 people.

Although the two steam locomotives that operated that day are at the Age of Steam Roundhouse, Jerry sold the FP9A locomotives and they can’t be seen in their PRR lookalike livery.

During the pandemic it is easy to think about what we can’t do.

It remains to be seen what end game the pandemic will bring, but for now we can look forward to some day resuming doing things we used to do without giving them a second thought.

Yet some things are not coming back. The steam excursions and other special movements that Jerry made possible may have lasted several years but in looking back on them now their time seems to have been rather fleeting.

Fortunately, our memories and photographs of those moments are not.

How Many Photographs of Something Are Enough?

January 27, 2020

An Ohio Central train heads south of Warwick on Oct. 19, 2008. It is one of the few images I made here when the OC still used this line.

Every so often you’ll hear someone say “get your photos now” about something that is in danger of vanishing in the not so distant future.

In showing his golden oldie photographs at Akron Railroad Club programs a photographer I know was fond of saying, “It will always be there, right?”

Well, no it won’t be.

Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna and Conrail were once everyday fixtures on the railroad scene of Northeast Ohio.

But that was decades ago. Some routes these companies once operated in the region have been abandoned.

I don’t disagree with the “get ‘em now” advice yet the contrarian in me is almost screaming to get a word in on the matter.

How much is enough?

There is a difference between getting something you don’t have and making one more image of something you’ve photographed before, perhaps many times.

I have a long list of those “I never . . . instances”

I never photographed a Conrail train in Olmsted Falls even though I spent many a day just 10 to 15 minutes or so away in Berea watching and photographing Conrail there.

I never photographed a Norfolk Southern train with New York, Susquehanna & Western motive power enough it was a regular during my eary years living in Cleveland.

I never photographed Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian anywhere in Northeast Ohio other than Berea and once at the Cleveland Amtrak station and once in Alliance.

And the list goes on.

I would later atone for my sins by making hundreds or photographs of NS trains in Olmsted Falls and getting other Amtrak trains in various places in Northeast Ohio.

But I never caught the Susie Q here and in fact the only photographs I have of Susequehanna motive power was made during the 1995 National Railway Historical Society Convention’s outing to Steamtown National Historic Site.

How many photographs does any photographer need to make of a given railroad at a given location? How much is enough?

I have a small collection of photographs of Ohio Central and R.J. Corman trains operating between Warwick and Massillon.

But Ohio Central stopped using this former Baltimore & Ohio branch several years ago in favor of interchanging with CSX in Columbus rather than Warwick.

For a short time in the waning days of OC’s use of the Warwick-Massillon line, I made a few trips on Sunday afternoons to chase and photograph Ohio Central trains.

I even managed to get a few photographs of Corman trains on this line.

But is it enough? No. But will it do? It will have to.

There are many photo opportunities that are beyond your reach because you can’t get out with your camera due to work obligations or other commitments.

Photographs need to think about how active they want to be. How much time and money do you want to invest in your hobby?

People who are highly obsessed with something seldom ask “how much is enough?” Whatever they have is never enough.

But I wonder sometimes what has been sacrificed to chase every last possible opportunity.

Most photographers I know are not that single minded. I admire the work of those who are, particularly if they have excellent photography skills.

The answer for most photographers is a matter of degree. I try to regularly get out and create photographs but recognize I’m never going to have the body of work of someone who makes it a quasi career.

The question we need to periodically ask ourselves is whether we are doing as much as we could with what we have. How did you spend that sunny afternoon yesterday? Making photographs or watching a baseball game on TV?

Life is not always either or. I’ve enjoyed watching games on TV and I’ve also made it a point to sacrifice watching a game to get out with my camera.

Perhaps the answer to the question of “how much is enough?” is this: Enough to say that you recorded it even if just one time.

You don’t need everything that is or was out there. You just need enough to gain a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment from your hobby.

Canon Sells Last Film Camera

June 2, 2018

Camera retailer Canon has sold its last film camera. That doesn’t mean you can no longer buy a Canon film camera, only that it won’t come from Canon.

The last Canon film camera was the EOS-1V, which Canon stopped making eight years ago. But it has taken this long to sell out its stock.

The EOS-1V is a professional grade single lens reflex camera and part of the fifth generation of professional SLR camera bodies.

If you have an EOS-1V, Canon said it will continue to offer repairs on it through Oct. 31, 2025, although that date might move up to 2020 if parts and inventory run out sooner.

Canon has been selling film cameras since the 1930s, starting with a device it called the Kwanon.

Other camera brands, including Nikon, continue to support film photography with various products and used Canon film cameras are still on the market.

Nikon continues to list two film cameras, the F6 and FM10.

Although reports surfaced in 2006 that Canon planned to cease making film cameras, it never acknowledged that to be the case. Instead, it quietly stopped making them.

The EOS-1V was introduced in 2000 and billed as the fastest moving mirror camera with its ability to shoot 10 frames per second.

An online report indicated that the second-hand market for the EOS-V1 shows them going for between $300 and $750, depending on the condition of the camera body.

However, some expect Canon’s announcement to boost those prices. New models of the EOS-1V retailed in the $2,000 range.

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.