Springfield in the Dark of Night; From the Lost Negative File.

Sorry, not a vampyre story.

Back in the mid-1980s, I’d often visit Springfield Union Station (Springfield, Massachusetts) with Bob Buck .

We’d arrive in his green Ford van, typically after another event, such as a meeting of the West Springfield Train Watchers or a concert at the Springfield Symphony.

I’d come equipped with a tripod, Leica and large handheld Metz electronic flash unit (strobe). Often, I’d wrap the head of the strobe in a white garbage bag to diffuse the light (on the recommendation of Doug Moore). This eliminated the hard edge often associated with electronic flash.

[My old prewar Leicas predated electronic flash sync. However they do have a ‘T’ setting, and this allowed me to lock the shutter open indefinitely.]

I’d place the camera on the tripod, position it in a way as to minimize light falling the front element of the lens, open the shutter, then walk around using the Metz flash unit to illuminate shadowed areas of the scene as to even out the exposure. I’d keep the flash at relatively low power and make a series of bursts for the most effective results.

Typically I’d leave the shutter open for about 30 seconds.

Amtrak Budd-built SPV-2000 diesel railcars at Springfield Union Station in summer 1984. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 50mm lens. Film processed in Microdol-X.
Amtrak Budd-built SPV-2000 diesel railcars at Springfield Union Station in summer 1984. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 50mm lens. Film processed in Microdol-X. If you look carefully at the far left you’ll see a ghostly shadow. That’s me aiming the flash unit at the SPVs. I told you this wasn’t a vampyre story! (Just an electronic ghost tale.)

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4 thoughts on “Springfield in the Dark of Night; From the Lost Negative File.”

  1. Didn’t O. Winston Link also sometimes use that wandering around with a flash technique? A very fine picture of rather ephemeral diesel cars.

    1. Most of OWL’s most famous night photos were exposed using a complex system of synchronized flash bulbs, often with reflectors and multiple heads. Jim Shaughnessy and Richard Steinheimer had described to me a technique similar to the one that I employed, although they had also used bulbs. I’ve never worked with bulbs; but from what understand, the bulbs produce a longer duration flash. While this can aid night photography when the shutter is left open for a prolonged exposure, it also can make calculating the exposure more difficult.

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