Kid with a Camera, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.


Lacking Skill but Enthusiastic

In1982, I was visiting my friend Dan Howard in Needham, Massachusetts. We’d made a day of riding bicycles to Framingham and back to photograph trains. (Neither of us were old enough to hold a valid driving license).

At the time, I was very enthusiastic about the railroad, and eager to capture it on film. Yet, I had very little conception of how to make photos. Furthermore, while I had a reasonably high quality camera, this was entirely dependant on my ability to set it properly (aperture, shutter speed, and focus)

I was using a 1930s-era Leica 3A with an f2.0 Summitar lens. This didn’t have the crutches provided with most cameras today: no auto focus, no auto exposure, no zoom-lens, and no instant response digital display window.

Simply getting film in the camera required the aid of a Swiss Army knife. While focusing the Leica using the rangefinder was a bit abstract. To gauge exposure, I used at Weston Master III light meter. With this camera I exposed  Kodachome slides, and black & white 35mm film that I processed in the kitchen sink.

Framinham, Mass.
Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens on Kodak black & white negative film; scanned with an Epson V600, and processed digitally using PhotoShop (to enhance contrast, and remove blemishes.

To simply get a photo of any kind, I had base level camera-operating skills,  but no sense for how to make real railroad photos. I didn’t appreciate conventional angles, nor did I know what to crop out or what  to feature. I knew precious little about working with light or how to make optimum use of the film media. My chemical processing skills were rudimentary, at best.

I just really wanted to make railway pictures! And, honestly, it’s a miracle that I got any results at all.

Thankfully on that day, Dan & I met a friendly and helpful grade crossing gate keeper, who manually worked the gates where former Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroad lines crossed the main street. He chatted with us and shared knowledge about when trains were coming. (Incidentally, I made a color slide or two of him working the gates, which seemed like the thing to do).

Toward the end of the day, a Conrail local departed Framingham’s North Yard, heading across the street and over the diamonds with the B&A on its way toward the Attleboro and beyond. I made this image ‘against the light’ looking into the setting sun, with a GP15-1 leading the local (which is about to cross the street) and some MBTA Budd cars in front of the old station.

Sometimes raw and unchecked enthusiasm produces a more interesting image than one crafted by skill, but hampered by ambivalence (or over thinking the photographic process.) Modern photographic scanners allow for me to interpret what I captured more than 30 years ago on film, and compensate for my lack of technical skill.





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One comment on “Kid with a Camera, Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.

  1. Dan Howard on said:

    Ah yes – November 11, 1982. That was a fun day for two kids with cameras.

    Blue Conrail GP40’s, CR patched black PennCentral SW units, manually operated crossing gates, MBTA RDC’s, and F40’s pulling horizon coaches on the Lake Shore Ltd.

    Yes, everything does change and little did we know at the time that “those were the days” for that corner of the world.

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