Classic Conrail: Altoona, Pennsylvania

Light! Leica! Action!

July 28, 1987, TSH and I were poised on the footbridge at Works waiting for westbound freights to get their helpers and begin their climb over the Allegheny Divide via Horseshoe Curve.

 

A lone SW1200 was drilling freight cars in the yard. I’ve always like EMD switchers. So while waiting for the mainline action, I exposed this trailing view of the locomotive using my Leica M2 fitted with my father’s Leitz f2.8 90mm Elmarit and loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film

A classic view of a Conrail SW1200 switcher at work. Exposed on July 28, 1987 using a Leica M2 with 90mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film.
A classic view of a Conrail SW1200 switcher at work. Exposed on July 28, 1987 using a Leica M2 with 90mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film.

 

Looking back, 1987 was a threshold year for my photography. After several years of fumbling with inadequate camera-meter-film combinations, I’d finally found a couple camera-film combinations that consistently yielded technically satisfactory results.

 

In June of that year, I’d bought my own M2. By then, I’d decided that Kodachrome 25 was the ‘right’ film for most daylight circumstances. Leica’s sharp fast lenses with Kodachrome’s extremely fine grain and exceptional dynamic range allowed me to make some very satisfactory images in a variety of circumstances.

 

Key to my winning formula was developing a working understanding of how Kodachrome 25 would react in different lighting situations. In 1986 I’d bought a Sekonic Studio Deluxe and had begun taking detailed notes on my exposures. This will be the topic of a future post.

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Tomorrow: The Old Standard