Conrail, Middlefield Massachusetts, October 3, 1993.

Salvaging A Dark Slide From the Archives.

 

Sunday, October 3, 1993 was a fine autumn day. I was visiting New England, after some eight months in California, and met my friend Bob Buck along the Boston & Albany route at Palmer. He was reading his Sunday paper, and looked up, “Are you interested in going to the West End?”

Silly, question! Bob had introduced me to the old B&A West End a dozen years earlier, and as the living expert on the B&W, there was no better guide for my favorite line. So off we went in Bob’s Ford van, via the Mass-Pike to Westfield and then up the mountain. The railroad wasn’t especially busy that day, but we saw a few trains.

Our first stop was Chester. Then we went up to Middlefield, a location that Bob had found way back in 1946. On that day he’d watched B&A’s mighty A1 class Berkshires on freight. Those days were long gone, but Bob spoke of them as if they were yesterday! We walked west to the famed Twin Ledges where Bob had made many great photos of steam power, then as the daylight faded returned to the old Middlefield Station location (the building was demolished decades earlier).

Middlefield is a peaceful bucolic place and an idyllic setting to watch and photograph trains. Toward the end of sunlight, we heard a eastward train descending. Since I’d made dozens of photographs at this location over the years, I thought to try something a little different, and so I framed the train with these leaves around it.

Shafts of rich afternoon sun illuminated the golden foliage, casting a bit of golden glint light on the rail. It was a stunning scene. But, just as the Conrail train crawled into view, clouds obscured the sun. Poor show.

Not withstanding, I exposed this frame of Kodachrome 25 with my Nikon F3T, making a last second exposure compensation; f2.8 1/125. K25 was a forgiving film, but this wasn’t enough exposure, and the slide came back from Kodak looking dark and uninviting. Not much use in a slide show. I put it away and haven’t looked at it since. Until today that is.

Yesterday’s photographic folly has become today’s project. I can’t exactly catch a set of Conrail C30-7As working the Boston & Albany route anymore, and this image retains strong composition despite its flaws. What was merely a dark slide in 1993, can now be adjusted with Adobe Photoshop.

Below I’ve displayed four images. The original ‘Dark’ image. Plus three altered scans. Option 1 involves little more than a quick adjustment with the ‘curves’ feature to compensate for under exposure, while Options 2 and 3 involved varying degrees of manipulation to compensate for exposure, color balance and apparent sharpness. I’ve used various masking, layering and other types of selective adjustment. Which is the best image? You decide. I make no apologies, It’s an old dark slide, there’s no right or wrong.

This is an unmodified scan of the original Kodachrome slide. By my estimation its about 2 stops under exposed.
This is an unmodified scan of the original Kodachrome slide. By my estimation it’s about 2 stops under exposed.
Modification option 1, the quick fix. I simply adjusted the 'curves' feature in Adobe Photoshop to compensate for underexposure. This took all of about 30 seconds to execute.
Modification option 1, the quick fix. I simply adjusted the ‘curves’ feature in Adobe Photoshop to compensate for underexposure. This took me all of about 30 seconds to execute.

 

Modification option 2, this is a heavily modified scan, using layers and selective tools to make localized as well as global adjustments.
Modification option 2, this is a heavily modified scan, using layers and selective tools to make localized as well as global adjustments.
Modification option 3, this is the most modified of the three scans. Again, I've used layers and selective tools to make localized and global adjustments, paying special attention to the sides of the locomotive, highlight and shadow areas. I could have toiled over this for another half hour, but would it make that much difference. Pity the sun hadn't stayed out, but so be it. No one said the Photoshop fix was easy.
Modification option 3, this is the most modified of the three scans. Again, I’ve used layers and selective tools to make localized and global adjustments, paying special attention to the sides of the locomotives, highlight and shadow areas. I could have toiled over this for another half hour, but would it make that much difference? Pity the sun hadn’t stayed out, but so be it. No one said the Photoshop fix was going to be easy.

 

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4 comments on “Conrail, Middlefield Massachusetts, October 3, 1993.

  1. Tom Warger on said:

    Thank you for sharing your craft.

    I’ve always thought, “Well, there are picture-takers (like me) and then there are ‘real’ photographers…” But now I’m thinking, “Watch and learn. This is about skills, practices, experience.”

    TW

  2. DAN SMITH on said:

    2nd modification is the best – you’ve done a great job.

  3. Richard on said:

    I prefer the 2d one. The leaves on the nearby tree on the 3d are too light.

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