A Big Topic!

But What’s the Subject?

Transportation; Railroads; Railways; Railway Photography, that’s what I photograph. Right?

But what’s the actual subject? What should I focus on? More to the point; what is interesting? And, is today’s interesting subject going to be interesting tomorrow?

Looking back is one way to look forward.

Yet, there lies a paradox: When I look back over my older photos, I regret not having better skills to have consistently made more interesting and more varied images. And also, for not being more aware of what was interesting.

Conrail at signals 81.81 near Palmer, Massachusetts c1983.  What was my subject? (If you know me, you'll know the answer—hint it's not the westward freight train!). Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
Conrail at signals 81.81 near Palmer, Massachusetts c1983. What was my subject? (If you know me, you’ll know the answer—hint it’s not the westward freight train!). Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

The lesson is then is about skill: learn to vary technique, adopt new approaches and continually refine the process of making photos while searching for interesting subjects. (The searching is the fun part!)

A truly successful image is one that transcends the subject and captures the attention of the audience.

So, is railway photography really about the subject?

Should all railway photos be serious? Seriously?  Waukesha, Wisconsin, back in the day.
Should all railway photos be serious? Seriously?
Waukesha, Wisconsin, back in the day.
Are railroads all about locomotives?
Are railroads all about locomotives? Here’s a real stack train that looks like a model.
I was standing next to Jim Shaughnessy for this one! Surely that makes it a better photo, right? October 2004, Cuttingsville, Vermont.
I was standing next to Jim Shaughnessy for this one! Surely that makes it a better photo, right? October 2004, Cuttingsville, Vermont.
Sometimes, it helps to get up close and check for details.
Sometimes it helps to get up close and check for details.
Can you get too close? Ektachrome 100VS with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor 24mm lens.
Can you get too close? Ektachrome 100VS with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor 24mm lens.
Do old Alcos make better subjects? Slateford Junction at the Delaware Water Gap, September 17, 2007.
Do old Alcos make better subjects? Slateford Junction at the Delaware Water Gap, September 17, 2007.
Lonely tracks at Eagle, Wisconsin c1996. I waited, but the train didn't show up.
Lonely tracks at Eagle, Wisconsin c1996. I waited, but the train didn’t show up.
Fill the frame, don't waste space, more train, that's what its all about, always! Right??
Fill the frame, don’t waste space, more train, that’s what its all about, always! Right??

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4 comments on “A Big Topic!

  1. That looks like me behind that signal. Oh yeah, the signals are the subject of the first picture by the way!

  2. Brian Burns on said:

    Brian,

    Liked this commentary. Sometimes it’s about the train, and sometimes the scenery. I made a difficult shot of the Housatonic @ W. Cornwall, CT work. The train is a fascination, but in this case was a prop to the beautiful covered bridge. On the same note I once won a Mystic Railroad society calendar contest with some CR C30s going by some pumpkins, which were at a farm stand on the Stony Brook Branch of the B&M. What mattered more, the pumpkins, or the train?

    Your friend,

    Brian Burns

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