Posts Tagged ‘Posts on photography’

Changing Course During the Pandemic and What That Means During Normal Times

March 15, 2021

If your passion is photographing railroad operations, chances are the COVID-19 pandemic that intensified a year ago this month and changed life as we had known it hasn’t stopped you from photographing trains.

It did likely change what trains you photographed and where, whether slightly or greatly.

Such was the case with Dave Beach, who showed during a program presented virtually to the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts last week how he spent 2020.

The program title said it all in that it was a different type of year. That didn’t mean it had to be a less rewarding year.

Beach has traveled throughout the United States for decades to capture trains in action. He was aided in that quest in part because his job sometimes required him to travel.

But in 2020, Beach, like millions of other Americans, was forced to work from home and work-related travel halted as did the vacation oriented travel he had expected to do.

He quickly realized he could use the situation to his advantage to focus on railroad operations that he had seldom paid attention to over the years.

Most of these were in his backyard in Northeast Ohio.

How Beach reacted to the pandemic offers object lessons on being nimble and creative in shifting your photo strategy when an unexpected adverse situation arises that forces you to drop your original plans.

It is a matter of making the best of the opportunities you have, some of which might not be obvious. This could require a change in thinking.

For example, rather than taking a week of vacation here and there, Beach took a day off here and there and used that time to make day trips.

One of those involved spending all day traveling around Cleveland to photograph locals and transfer runs of Norfolk Southern.

These were trains that Beach had seldom been able to photograph because they often operated on weekdays when he would otherwise be in the office.

He also kept a watch on social media sites and would get away for a couple hours if he saw, for example, that something was running on the Wheeling & Lake Erie.

Beach’s parents live in an assisted living facility in Massillon and he would keep his scanner on when going to visit them and/or running errands on their behalf.

Some of the trains he photographed he learned were on the road by listening to his scanner while, say, going to the drug store.

You might remember his father, John Beach, who was an accomplished photographer in his own right and a longtime member of the Akron Railroad Club.

Dave Beach also worked on photo projects throughout the year, notably making repeat visits to two regional rail operations he had paid scant attention to until 2020: The Ashland Railway and the former Bessemer & Lake Erie.

One day he drove down to Marietta and spent the day chasing the Belpre Industrial Parkersburg Railroad, a relatively new operation that took over some CSX trackage in far southern Ohio.

In the case of the Ashland, he learned its operating patterns, but sometimes that meant finding a place to sit for awhile until one of its trains came out of the yard in Mansfield and headed for either Ashland or Willard.

Although he scored several hits, the year also brought some misses because there can be a certain unpredictability to railroad operations.

What struck me about Beach’s program is how deft you can be even during adverse circumstances that seem to be limiting if not preventing you from doing that you would have done otherwise.

There can be rewards in that, particularly in focusing on nearby operations that you’ve ignored if not taken for granted over the years.

But it takes commitment, some creativity and patience. The approach that Beach took during the pandemic can be applied to more normal times when you get tired of the doing the same old, same old.

There will always be something out there to go get that you’ve overlooked or ignored in the past. It’s just a matter of doing it.

Film Processing Another Victim of the Pandemic

January 31, 2021

One year ago, life resembled all of the characteristics of a “normal” society.

One could still sit, or stand, along a railroad track with camera in hand to photograph a passing train.

For those of us who still insist upon using the legacy technology of a film-based camera system, all was good.

Travel to a location, scope out the scenery, wait for a train, expose film, return home, then visit the local camera store to process film. Wait one to three weeks to receive processed film, inspect film, and then file film.

That was how it was in January 2020. The film I used that month was processed and received in February with the usual immaculate results.

The world suddenly changed in March 2020 with school closings, business closings, toilet paper shortages, and anti-social distancing.

But through it all, the railroads were still running freight trains. The days of spring were upon us, and what better way to maintain sanity than by being along a railroad track with camera in hand.

Photography provided for limited travel and relaxation. However, between March and June, film processing became non-existent.

With the local camera store being in lockdown mode, I was forced to accumulate four exposed rolls of FujiChrome 120 ASA100 film.

The local camera store finally reopened and the four rolls were dropped off for E-6 processing on June 16.  

For several years, the local camera store has outsourced all slide film requiring E-6 processing to a major photo lab in Parsons, Kansas

The four processed uncut film strips along with four photo CDs were retrieved on July 2.

I returned home to inspect the results. My heart almost stopped beating.

The four strips were severely over-exposed. Was it caused from the fact that the film processed was 10 years past its expiration date?

Was there a malfunction in my 26-year old Bronica GS-1 medium format camera? “Nay,” I say.

Upon further inspection of the film strips, I concluded that the black frame masking between images did not have sufficient density.

The film had exhibited evidence of being under developed. The photo CDs were also burned with all images being reversed.

The film was from the same lot that I had previously shot in January, which had been flawless. 

Never before had I encountered such a problem with commercially processed film.

So, it was back to the local camera store to inquire about what might have happened.

After a few phone calls, it was confirmed, that with COVID-19 lockdowns in place, the Kansas lab was scrambling to find and maintain those people with the knowledge to process 120 roll film. I felt vindicated.

All of my film since them has been processed to pre-pandemic quality.

Unfortunately, I was left with what I considered four rolls of garbage.

Would I be able to recover any detail upon scanning the images?

Thanks to digital technology, I could. The image above shows the raw scan with no enhancements.

The next image is the same image with increases in the yellow and red channels, and reductions in midtone brightness and overall contrast. The results are quite acceptable.

The image made during the Forest City Division of the Railroad Enthusiasts trip to Bellevue, Ohio June 13, 2020.

The joys of still shooting film.

Article and Photographs by David Kachinko

This Time I Got it Right. Or Did I?

July 29, 2020

Back in mid June I stopped in Arcola, Illinois, to photograph Amtrak’s northbound Saluki passing a massive grain elevator complex.

My objective was to recreate an image I had made here of that train in August 2012.

Since then the P42DC locomotives used to pull the Saluki have been replaced with Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotives.

My June photograph was not bad but not quite what I had wanted.

I had not spent enough time checking out the photo angles and the arrival of the train caught me by surprise and out of position.

I had to scramble to get across the street and into position and ended up photographing the train a little too soon. It was more grab shot than planned image.

Last Sunday I was again in Illinois hunting trains to photograph. I timed my trip so I could get Amtrak’s northbound City of New Orleans shortly after sunrise in Rantoul and then catch the northbound Saluki three hours later.

This time, I did it right. I checked out various photo angles well before the train arrived.

As is typical, Train No. 390 was running a few minutes late when it left Mattoon, its previous station stop.

Having ridden this train numerous times when I used to take Amtrak from Cleveland to Mattoon to visit my Dad, I knew about how long it took the train to reach Arcola.

Soon there was an LED headlight in the distance and I got into the position I wanted to be in. No. 390 was not going to catch me off guard this time.

The grain complex in Arcola that I wanted to feature is laid out in three rows.

There is a row of silos, some of then concrete, next to the former Illinois Central tracks. There is another row of metal silos to the west of those and a third row on the other side of U.S. Route 45.

Without having a drone you can’t get all three rows of the complex in a photograph with an Amtrak or Canadian National freight train.

The top photograph above is the best of the images I made as the northbound Saluki rushed past last Sunday.

Pleased with what I’d captured, I declared it “mission accomplished” and moved on to find something else.

But a funny thing happened as I was writing this post and started comparing the 2012 image with the photographs I made this year.

That June image is far more similar to the 2012 photograph than is the July image.

You can see for yourself. The middle image above was made in June and the bottom image is the August 2012 photograph I was trying to duplicate.

My opinion of an image can change as I work with it. What looked good on the screen on the back of the camera doesn’t look so good when the image is downloaded onto my computer and projected onto the large screen that I use.

Of course I’ve seen it happen the other way, too. I’ve also begun to warm to a photograph as I processed it in Photoshop and eliminated some of its “imperfections” through cropping and adjusting such things as color, tone and shadows.

In a direct comparison of the August 2012 and June 2020 images, I still give a decided edge to the 2012 photograph in terms of quality.

The 2012 rendition does better at encompassing the enormity of the grain elevator complex and the light is a little less harsh. The latter is probably the difference between photographing in June versus photographing in August at approximately the same time of day.

You may notice that in 2012 the service building to the right had white siding whereas six years later it is tan.

There is another footnote to the comparison of the June and July photographs. In June, No. 390 was carrying a Heritage baggage car in order to meet a host railroad imposed minimum axle count for Amtrak trains using single-level equipment.

But by late July the Heritage baggage car had been replaced by a Viewliner baggage car. In neither case was checked luggage being carried in that car.

All three of the images create a sense of place and do a nice job of contrasting the size of the grain complex with that of the train.

We tend to think of trains as large objects, which they are, but it is all relative to what you compare their size with.

The way that grain complexes loom over trains adds to the drama of the photograph by creating contrast.

My original theme for this post was that last Sunday I got the photo right in a way I had not done it in June.

But once I started comparing the June and July images I began seeing that really wasn’t true. That June photo was more like the August 2012 image than I had remembered.

Ultimately, it wasn’t so much about getting it right versus getting it wrong, but how I felt about what I had just created when walking away from the scene.

Upon further review, there are reasons to feel good about all three images. Although they may be similar all three have their own character that I found pleasing. Each comes with its own set of memories of the trip on which it was created.

Learning Yet Again From A Mistake Made in Willoughby

March 16, 2020

A recent issue of the weekly newsletter sent by email to subscribers of Classic Trains magazine contained an essay written by J.W. Swanberg about a rookie mistake he made in Willoughby back in 1954.

At the time, Swanberg was 15 and traveling with his parents from their home in Connecticut to visit his grandparents in Minnesota.

They stayed overnight at a tourist home in Willoughby, which Swanberg knew had mainlines of the New York Central and Nickel Plate Road.

The NKP still ran a lot of steam in 1954 but the Central did not. Early the next morning, Swanberg ventured out with his camera in hopes of catching NKP steam.

He found a crossing with “NYC&StL” stenciled on the crossbucks and thought that was the Central so he continued walking to another set of tracks.

An NYC passenger train led by an Alco PA locomotive came along. At the same time Swanberg heard the whistle of a steam locomotive on the NKP but there was not enough time to go get it.

Swanberg had only an hour before his parents would be ready to leave and he left Willoughby without getting any NKP steam that morning.

Nearly six decades later he wrote that he is thankful for his youthful mistake.

He was able to photograph NKP steam two years later during another family trip to Minnesota but that 1954 image would be the only action photograph he would ever make of an NYC Alco PA leading a train.

Reading Swanberg’s story reminded me of a mistake I made in Willoughby in May 2017.

I was there with Peter Bowler and our objective was to photograph an NS train on the former NKP line as it passed the venerable Willoughby Coal & Supply building.

We were standing by the Erie Street crossing of NS when Peter heard a locomotive horn to the west.

It was Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited which we had not known was running late that day.

I managed to get a grab shot of the lead P42DC unit crossing Erie Street but it was far from a good image because it had a lot of clutter.

If you think you might have seen this image before, you have.

I posted it on this site more than two years ago along with the story behind it headlined “Railfan Incompetence 101.”

I described how we had failed to check if No. 48 might be running late. I had locked out the CSX road channel on my scanner so I hadn’t heard No. 48 calling signals.

Had neither of those things happened we could have gotten into position to catch No. 48 coming around a curve in nice morning light.

Peter and I had a list of objectives but struck out on all of them except getting an eastbound NS train coming past the Willoughby Coal Company building.

As I got ready to write this article I went looking for that photograph of Amtrak 48 and found I had already applied the copyright line I typically place on my images posted on this blog.

I had not only forgotten that post but forgotten what I had written in it.

I thought my idea for a “one day at Willoughby” article had fallen though.

Then I read the original post and was chagrined to learn I had forgotten its most significant theme.

The day after that ill fated Lake County railfan outing I had read a column by a former restaurant critic for The Plain Dealer who had undergone treatment for cancer.

His experience made him realize when you have a condition that could take your life away even a bad day seems like a gift.

The food writer, Joe Crea, urged his readers not just to enjoy every day’s moments but to understand that what might seem like a disappointment or setback could be something else.

Swanberg wrote in his essay, which was initially published by Classic Trains in summer 2012, that the PA locomotive was not well regarded by the Central and those units spent many years trailing  in motive power consists rather than leading.

Swanberg considered himself lucky to have been able to capture an elusive NYC PA on a day when he really wanted NKP steam.

It would turn out that Joe Crea did not live much longer after writing his essay for The Plain Dealer.

I would discover later the curve image in early morning light in Willoughby would not have been the outstanding photograph I had envisioned it would be because of clutter along the right of way.

Given a choice I’d rather have the curve shot then a so-so down the street composition that shows little more than a locomotive nose.

Yet as I wrote in that 2017 essay the image I wound up with had its own story to tell and I’ve grown to appreciate that.

I have yet to again photograph Amtrak coming through Willoughby and it seems unlikely I ever will.

In the scheme of things that doesn’t matter. I’ve made hundreds of Amtrak photographs expect to make more down the road.

Yet I hope to be better prepared next time for an unexpected opportunity yet what I really want is to not forget again the wisdom of Joe Crea’s column about every opportunity being a gift.

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.

Nice Spots, But There are Better Places to Get the CVSR

October 30, 2019

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad recently posted on its website an article headlined “four of the best locations to photograph the CVSR.”

Three of the four were among the usual suspects of places to photograph the CVSR: Peninsula, Indigo Lake and Station Road Bridge in Brecksville.

The fourth location, Canal Exploration Center, was a surprise.

The article recommended photographing the latter from the bridge connecting the parking area to the CEC station.

“Looking southwest from the bridge you can get great shots of the train as it passes by the river. It’s one of the best places to see the Cuyahoga River winding through the area,” the article said.

I’ve been to that bridge and found it lacking as a photography location. It’s OK, but would be well down my list of recommended places of “best locations” to capture the CVSR.

The article illustrated each location with an image, some of which were taken from social media site Instagram.

Frankly, the creator of the article could have found better images to illustrate the article.

In fact there are better photographs of the CVSR in action elsewhere on the railroad’s website.

Weaved in among the images of CVSR trains with the four best article were photographs of features that are part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Each location was accompanied by a tip and it wasn’t always clear if the tip was for making a photograph of a train or the non-railroad related park feature.

All four locations described in the article are located in the CVNP and have parking lots. This suggests that the article was written for casual park visitors and not so much professional photographers or serious amateurs.

The “four of the best locations” are safe locations that do not involve walking on or along the tracks or a roadway to get to a photo spot.

Take Brecksville, for example. You can walk from the parking lot to Station Road bridge without even crossing the tracks.

Yet if you walk along the right of way north of the station and past the Ohio Route 82 bridge you’ll find an S curve that makes a nice photo spot. There is also a swamp that can be worked into the background.

Likewise there is a hillside overlooking the Brecksville station complex that can be reached by wading through Chippewa Creek or walking on the walkway on the railroad bridge over the creek.

I can understand why the CVSR doesn’t want to encourage people to do the latter.

And yet there are many good locations along the railroad that do not involve having to walk on or across the tracks to get good photos.

But some of those places are not located in the CVNP. Deep Lock Quarry and Sand Run metro parks come to mind.

Both have winding trails with medium-height wood fences adjacent to the tracks that will yield more interesting images of CVSR trains than Station Road Bridge.

Sure, Station Road Bridge will yield the iconic image of the Route 82 bridge reflecting in the Cuyahoga River as a train passes by. But said train will be obscured in part by brush growing along the river.

There are better angles in Brecksville to capture the Route 82 bridge and a train than from Station Road Bridge including at the Brecksville station.

The park and its railroad are worthy subjects for photography and have much to offer, which is why I found the CVSR’s article disappointing even if I understand why it was written as it was.

Consider, for example, the image the website used on its page promoting the Fall Flyer trips that have concluded for the season.

It featured a dramatic image of a train passing beneath a golden canopy of trees. Leaves carpet the track. The face of the locomotive coming at you is well illuminated by natural light.

Not only does the image say fall foliage it also shows something about the essence of the park. It’s an excellent image that made me wish I had made it.

You can get good images and sometimes even great ones at the four locations recommended in the CVSR article.

Yet as someone who has made hundreds of photographs of the CVSR over the years, only Indigo Lake might be in my top five “best” places list from a photography perspective.

Creating dramatic images of the CVSR that have a story to tell about a region, a park and its railroad often requires getting away from the usual and popular spots. It also means getting to know the park and its railroad.

The beauty of the the park is that its essence changes with the seasons and even throughout the day as the light shifts. There is much to see and capture if you are willing to work to find it.

The Art of Black and White Photography

October 19, 2019

Digital photograph has many advantages but one of most underused one is the ability to transform an image from color to black and white.

I seldom see this done and I’m just as guilty as anyone else in not thinking about doing it.

What I have learned, though, is that recognizing when to convert an image from color to black and white is an art in itself.

It works well in situations in which the colors are subdued, often to the point of the image virtually being black and white anyway.

When I was processing this image of Amtrak’s westbound Blue Water at Durand, Michigan, it all but called out for conversion to black and white.

There is strong back lighting from the sun that washed out the color.

Making the image black and white helped to draw out the contrast and enhance the mood.

Train No. 365 is waiting for time. It arrived in Durand a little early and all of the passengers have boarded.

A few onlookers are gathered along the fence waiting to see of a Boy Scout troop that boarded.

The conductor is standing by a vestibule waiting to give a highball and accommodate any late arriving passengers.

Note also the contrast in shapes of the Amfleet and Horizon coaches in the train’s consist, a testament to competing philosophies of passenger car design.

John Gruber was Influenced by the Work of Photojournalists and Brought That to Railroad Photography

October 11, 2018

Wednesday, Oct. 10, was a slow day for railroad news. Oh, there was news made and reported, but none of it involved railroad operations in the region that I cover for the Akron Railroad Club blog.

Among the news items on Wednesday was an obituary for John Gruber, 82, of Madison, Wisconsin, a noted railroad photographer and founder of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

I wasn’t going to report Gruber’s death on the ARRC blog because I wasn’t sure most ARRC members would know who he is even if they might have seen his work.

But I was intrigued when former Trains editor Kevin Keefe wrote in a tribute that Gruber had pioneered a “daring new approach to photographing the railroad scene.”

That got my attention. What was it? How was it daring?

It turns out that Gruber was an early practitioner of using a telephoto lens to, as Keefe put it, practice the art of “getting up close and personal with professional railroaders.”

This wasn’t something that Gruber thought of on his own but rather was the byproduct of the influence of newspaper photographers.

Keefe wrote that Dick Sroda of the Wisconsin State Journal and Jim Stanfield of the Milwaukee Journal inspired Gruber to go beyond what he was seeing in Trains magazine.

“It was a time when press photographers and journalists were interested in what people were doing,” Gruber once said. “I saw this as an underrepresented area of railroad photography, and I took advantage of every opportunity to document railroad people at work, rather than concentrating on equipment.”

Gruber may have built a career on people-oriented photographs, but it is not a philosophy that has caught on with most rank and file railfan photographers.

Most railfans are fixated on the equipment, particularly the lead locomotive of a train. The people working on the train, riding the train, or watching the train are an afterthought if they are thought about at all.

That is particularly true of spectators and bystanders. We’ve all heard someone lament that a railfan or a daisy picker got into an otherwise pristine image of an oncoming train. I’ve griped about that myself at times.

Although I never considered myself a photojournalist per se, I did engage in the practice during my early years in the newspaper industry.

At small town newspapers you need to make photographs as well as conduct interviews and write stories.

News organizations spend a lot of time writing about the behavior of organizations. They also report a lot of staid news about people in organizations, much of it focusing on such things as the work history of someone who was just named to a position such as vice president.

That information can be contrived and lacking a sense of authenticity even if it is rooted in reality.

But it’s the moments when people are captured acting naturally that most excites photojournalists. To capture those moments on film or megapixels takes practice, some training, and patience. In time it becomes something that you just do.

John Gruber is not the only railroad photographer who took a journalistic mindset into his work and he probably wasn’t the first.

But it became his trademark or brand to use a current buzzword.

His first photograph published in Trains featured shivering railfans photographing an excursion on the North Shore interurban line at Northbrook, Illinois, in February 1960.

That led to a friendship with legendary Trains editor David P. Morgan, who published many of Gruber’s photographs. The two would go on to become traveling companions.

Keefe wrote that Morgan would later say about Gruber that he was always “on top of the action, however unexpected and regardless of the hour. His pictures tell it like it was.”

Gruber never worked as a newspaper man, opting instead to take a job in publications and public relations at the University of Wisconsin, a position he held for 35 years.

But you don’t have to be a professional journalist to understand and practice the principles of photojournalism.

Aside from his work for the university, Gruber was an editor of the Gazette of the Mid-Continent Railway Museum.

In 1995 he began editing Vintage Rails, a magazine about railroad history and culture published by Pentrex.

After Pentrex shut that publication down four years later, Gruber moved on to organize the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, which has its own magazine and hosts an annual conference known as “Conversations.”

“I had become curious about railroad photographers — who they were, their backgrounds, their ideas about photography,” Gruber said of why he created the organization.

Other than magazine articles, Gruber wrote or co-wrote a number of books, including Travel by Train: The American Railroad Poster, 1870-1950 (with Michael Zega); Classic Steam; and Railroaders: Jack Delano’s Homefront Photography

In 1994, the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society presented Gruber its Senior Achievement Award.

You sometimes hear railroad photographers describe one of their images as having been inspired by a well-known photographer such as Philip R. Hastings, Richard Steinheimer, David Plowden or Jim Shaughnessy.

None of the images presented above were inspired by John Gruber as such. But I’d like to think that he’d appreciate them and understand why I made them.

They were all made on the same day on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and none were planned. They were just moments I saw and was nimble enough to capture. More often than not instinct takes over when these opportunities present themselves.

The top image was made at Boston Mill before a photo runby featuring Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765.

I don’t know who that boy is. He might be the son of the engineer or another members of the locomotive crew. But this experience is one he will never forget and one that many children and even adults are not fortunate enough to have.

The middle image was a grab shot of a passenger sitting in one of the open-window cars in the steam excursion. I did intend to make images of passengers watching out those windows, but you don’t know what you will get.

This guy’s demeanor captures the joy of riding an excursion, particularly one behind a big steam locomotive.

The bottom image was made at Botzum station of a CVSR engineer working the northbound National Park Scenic.

It’s one of those countless moments that unfold on the CVSR or any other passenger railroad every day. And yet it tells a story, even if only a small one, of life on the railroad.

I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to Gruber than to post the type of images he devoted his life to making.

Are Today’s Master Photographers Legendary Photographers?

August 9, 2018

I never met Jim Shaughnessy and know relatively little about his life and work other than I’ve seen his photographs published countless enough times for it to have created a sense of familiarity.

His death this week at age 84 and the tributes that have followed have led me to wonder if there ever will be another class of giants whose work is larger than life and takes on legendary status.

In a tribute posted on the Trains magazine website, Kevin Keefe, himself something of a legend in railfan publication circles, described Mr. Shaughnessy as among the “big three” of railroad photographers.

The other two were Richard Steinheimer and Philip R. Hastings. They are all deceased now and I wonder if any current active railroad photographer will someday be remembered in the same terms as these men.

A larger question is what makes a master photographer. There have been and continue to be many photographers whose work makes them masters.

They are masters because their technical and artistic skills set them apart from weekend amateurs or even the merely good.

They became known for their focus on environmental images as opposed to the roster shot style of images that were popular when they picked up their cameras in the post World War II era.

And they made their mark during the era when steam locomotive power was giving way to diesels.

“Yes, the diesel was more predictable and it quietly went about its business,” Mr. Shaughnessy once said. “It presented a different kind of visual challenge. But this was a transition era. It would only happen once. I was glad to be there for it.”

Railroading in the 21st century seems in so many ways less interesting than it was when master photographers as Jim Shaughnessy were in their prime.

There are far fewer passenger trains, far fewer railroad companies with their unique identities, and far less railroad infrastructure.

There are still compelling scenes to be captured because the geography of the United States has not changed.

But we can’t control in what times we live. We can only control what we do during those times and how we work with what we have.

Mr. Shaughnessy’s reputation was largely built on his work appearing in Trains magazine. It was this association that made him a legend.

It occurred during a time when railfan magazines, books and railroad clubs formal and informal were the primary ways of viewing photographs of railroad operations.

The editors of those books and magazines served as gatekeepers who determined whose work would be seen and how often.

Those gatekeepers themselves had larger than life status. Think David P. Morgan.

The coming of the Internet changed that. Now anyone can create a Flickr account or join a chat list and post their photographs.

A lot of mediocre and downright bad photography is getting posted and it amazes me how often the mere average or even sub-average is proclaimed as “good” or “very good” by some.

There is, of course, much good and excellent work also being posted online.

There are photographers today whose work is the technical and creative equal of that of Shaughnessy, Steinheimer and Hastings. But the “fame” of that work seems more fleeting due to the nature of the online world.

The curators of the online world are largely invisible and thus have far less known influence in legend making as men such as Morgan or Keefe. Hence, there is lack of well-known gatekeepers who have the ability and influence to anoint today’s masters as legends.

Books and magazine seem to enshrine a photograph in ways that websites cannot.

But even in the paper publishing world, quantity has swamped quality. Companies such as Morning Sun have flooded the market with books of railroad photographs, thus watering down the ability of the medium to elevate legends.

It may be that the stature accorded to the likes of the “big three” is an artificial construct created by magazine editors whose influence may not be what it seems, the reputation of David Morgan notwithstanding.

Whenever I read tributes to legendary photographers I’m struck by the dedication that they paid to their work and craft. Those attributes still exist among many photographers today.

At the same time, they actively sought to get their work published and it was that endeavor that as much as anything made their reputations as legends.

You can’t become a legend if few people are familiar with your work, particularly key people who can ensure that your work is seen by a large audience. The online world has made it easier to view the work of more photographers, but in doing that something has been lost.

When today’s “legends” pass from this world, will their work be lauded in obituaries in the same manner as that of Jim Shaughnessy? There will be efforts to do that, yet I doubt that it will have the same impact.

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.