Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

New England Central’s grade over State Line Hill climbs through Monson, Massachusetts. When I’m in Monson—where I live for part of the year—I can hear the trains as they pass through town.

In recent posts, I’ve focused my cameras on New England Central’s weekday freight, job 608, that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back.

In the long days, the present schedule for 608 finds it in a number of classic locations that are well-lit for photography.

I can go after the train on any given morning, as often as I choose, and this allows me the freedom to explore different angles, photographic techniques, and visit locations repeatedly to make more interesting images.

I like to work in black & white and I choose to use traditional film cameras with which I can craft images in the old school. I process the film myself using custom-tailored recipes, and then scan for presentation here.

Why black & white film? First of all it’s not simply monochrome. My black & white photography is the culmination of decades of experimentation. This shouldn’t imply that the photos are inherently better than simple digital snap shots, but infers that I’ve put more thought and energy into achieving my end result.

Here I’ve displayed three variations of a black & white image I exposed using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens at Bridge Street in Monson. I’ve adjusted the contrast and tonal range producing subtle differences in each interpretation. For comparison, I’ve also supplied a similar digital color view that I exposed with my Lumix LX7.

I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film image variations?

My first post-processed variation of New England Central’s 608 climbing at Bridge Street, Monson, Mass.
Here I’ve lowered the over-all contrast, which allows for greater shadow and highlight detail, but overall produces a softer tonality.
My third variation; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality and deeper blacks.
Is color better? Chime in with your opinion in the comments section.

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8 thoughts on “Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.”

  1. A second observation from my house would be the brevity of the train which is very clear in the digital and what could be a lengthy manifest as the B+W might suggest. I’m out of ideas. I did enjoy the aerial perspective for all the pics.

  2. The digital color image , to me , is the only one that gives semblance to any smoke at all. Maybe it’s my screen saver that’s a bit scratched but in the B+W images the exhaust seems to become a part of the foliage .

  3. I find the three b/w photos too “busy” with the foliage. The last of the three is easier on the eye, probably because the stronger contrasts simplify it. The color picture avoids all that because the contrast between the orange and the green “organizes” the picture for easy viewing. (I wonder if that would be so if the locomotive were in Larson Green.)

  4. Look at the back of the train in color. You can’t distinguish it from the trees in the B/W pictures.

  5. You might be reading my mind, which is a scary thing! The question came to mind as to “why” you apparently you really like to work in black and white.
    Just because something is different, that doesn’t make it wrong. Just different! I personally respect that!
    It’s as basic as all the choices we make daily or over the extent of one’s life. Just name something, anything.
    Some would ask why? We all likely get asked that question in regard to something we do or don’t like to do. Over time, that can change. My answer would be, “Because I want to or I can!” One can only guess as to why your choice is to work in B&W. Maybe because of the shear volume of photography you’ve produced, the oh so subtle variations of B&W and the thing you can do in the development of the film gives you pleasure. But, it’s your choice! “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!” “Why” is the big gray area between right, wrong, left and right. We must be mindful not to narrow that “gray” area.
    I, too have lived near (enough) to a pretty busy rail line, nearly all of my life in various locales, including the Springfield area. While I haven’t done it in a while, during my next visit to the area, I’ll make a point of visiting Palmer and/or Monson. The rail traffic there is pretty spread out but you’ve given me some input as to when to expect traffic. If I see a guy with a big camera bag or a camera on a tripod, it may be you.
    Or more in the near future, maybe I’ll wander over to the San Timoyeo Canyon and bring my camera. Yes, it’s digital and yes I’ll likely will take any shots in color. I wonder if I can take photos in B&W, if I wanted to. You just never know what an inquisitive lens might see.
    Be well!

  6. The second Black & White shows less shadow . The color is very nice and shows the smoke that is hardly visible in the Black & White photos.

    1. The color image is fundamentally different in a very tangible way than the black & white, your observation about the smoke is one of the clues. I’m curious to see who notices what’s going on first.

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