Great Shot Forever Ruined—I missed the Focus.

Hard lessons. Here we have a scene never to be repeated, and one that I’ve never dared to show before. In June (or early July 1984), I caught a westward Conrail freight passing the Palmer Union Station at sunset on the then double-track Boston & Albany..

This was toward the end of regular operation of cabooses on road freights. By that time many Conrail symbol freights on the B&A were already using telemetry devices in place of the once common caboose.

A caboose rolling into the sunset. Great illustration concept. Nice light, decent framing, etc.

Except the photo is soft. Working with my Leica 3A rangefinder I’d missed the focus.

Viewed at a small size on a pixelated back-lit digital screen this old photo is nearly passable. But it fails my basic test for sharpness. Face it, I missed the focus. Like spilled milk, once you've missed the focus there's nothing you can do about it.
Viewed at a small size on a pixelated back-lit digital screen this old photo is nearly passable. But it fails my basic test for sharpness. Face it, I missed the focus. Like spilled milk, once you’ve missed the focus there’s nothing you can do about it.

And so as a result of this visual flaw, the potentially iconic image didn’t make my cut of presentable images. I filed the negative, then I misplaced it. For more than 32 years it remained unseen. I present it now only as a warning.

Even as a 17 year-old, nothing annoyed me more in my own photography than missing the focus. Back then there was no autofocus, so when I missed, I couldn’t blame the technology.

My lesson: get the focus right. Once you’ve missed it you can’t fix it. (Although with digital sharpening you can cover your tracks a little).

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Great Shot Forever Ruined—I missed the Focus.”

  1. Dear Brian:
    Don’t be so hard on yourself!
    I like the image and the soft focus–sort of like Ataget’s views of Paris. I interpreted it as fog or rain. The point is the emotion and intention, not the focus.
    Roger

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