Tag Archives: 1980s

Sunday Test Pattern

As a youngster I’d get up early in anticipation of Saturday morning cartoons. 

I had no sense of time back then and sometimes would wake before the networks would begin their broadcast. In those situations I’d stare with anticipation at the ‘test pattern’ on the TV until the cartoons began.

Boston & Maine GP7 1575 works the Conn River yard at Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1988. Scan from a Kodachrome 25 color slide.

If you are seeing this post it’s because I’ve been too preoccupied with travel and the making of photographs to prepare a fresh post. If time permits, I’ll plan on posting again later in the day.

PS: At least my ‘test pattern’ is an original photo with a train in it!

Tracking the Light aims to Posts Every Day, even when Brian is on the road.

Retrospective in 3 Photos: Amtrak E60s in the Early 1980s.

In my early days, picturing former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics was one of my main photographic interests.

I held Amtrak’s newer E60 electrics is disdain.  These modern, boxy electrics appeared to be supplanting the GG1s. For me they lacked the historic connections, the elegant streamlined style, and the character of the GG1. They were bland and common.

I may not have been fond of the E60s. But I always photographed them. They were part of the scene, and important elements of modern operations.

Recently I rediscovered these E60 photos along with some other long-missing black & white negatives.

Amtrak E60 972 leads a westward/southward train at the PATH (Husdon & Manhattan) station in Harrison, New Jersey on a gray wintery afternoon in 1981.

Kodak Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.

The view from my grandparents’ balcony in Co-op City in The Bronx overlooked Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad Hell Gate Bridge route. I made this view using a Leitz 200mm Telyt telephoto lens attached to a Visoflex reflex viewfinder. Although klutzy, this lens arrangement allowed me to attach the telephoto lens to my Leica 3A. Focusing on moving subjects was a challenge. I made this view hand-held and while I nailed the focus  my level was completely off. I corrected the skew in post processing.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

The Curse of the Code Lines.

Oh the Wonderful Wires!

In the 1980s, I often bemoaned the ‘telegraph wires’ as I called the code lines that lined most mainlines.

Conrail's fomer New York Central main line at Churchville, New York on April 10, 1987. The infamous code lines were lurking on the south side of the tracks. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.
Conrail’s fomer New York Central main line at Churchville, New York on April 10, 1987. The infamous code lines were lurking on the south side of the tracks. Exposed on Kodachrome 25.

It seemed like more often than not, railroads placed these multiple-tier code lines on the south side of their mainlines. This inevitably interfered with my photography and plenty of otherwise good photographic locations were fouled by the rows of poles and the wires between them.

In early 1989, when Conrail was cutting down the old code lines east of Buffalo. I thought, Hurray! Good riddance!

However, I quickly realized how wrong I’d been. In fact I’d been photographing the wires for years.

On the afternoon of February 25, 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide using my college roommates's Canon A1 with 50mm lens; f4.5 1/250th of a second. The poles and wires were my primary subject, the westward Conrail  intermodal train was included for incidental interest.
On the afternoon of February 25, 1987, at Churchville, New York I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide using my college roommates’s Canon A1 with 50mm lens; f4.5 1/250th of a second. The poles and wires were my primary subject, the westward Conrail intermodal train was included for incidental interest.

Yes, the code lines made for a visual challenge. And, undoubtedly these sometimes got in the way. But they were part of the railroad. Traditionally, they were key to its operations and often serving as a crucial part of the signaling system. They had been there since the steam era. After all, the railroad was more than just locomotives rolling along at speed.

It occurred to me how I’d often improved my photographs by working with the wires. The visual elements and patterns added by the army of time-worn polls connected by rows of cables made for more compelling images.

Conrail C30-7A 6593 leads symbol freight PXSE -9 eastbound at mp397 South Byron, New York. Exposed on K25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. 'Full sun setting'-240 foot candles according to my Sekonic Studio Deluxe. Camera set at: f4.5 1/250th of a second.
Conrail C30-7A 6593 leads symbol freight PXSE -9 eastbound at mp397 South Byron, New York. Exposed on K25 using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron. ‘Full sun setting’-240 foot candles according to my Sekonic Studio Deluxe. Camera set at: f4.5 1/250th of a second. Here’s I’ve worked with the code line, using it to frame up the passing freight.

Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York finds PXSE rolling east and SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. For me the code lines and morning glint light made this a favorite sequence. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod. f6.3 1/250th of a second.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York finds PXSE rolling east and SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. For me the code lines and morning glint light made this a favorite sequence. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens mounted on a tripod. f6.3 1/250th of a second.

Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York with SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens at f8 1/250th of a second.
Sunrise at Donahue Road in Batavia, New York with SENF (Selkirk-Niagara Falls) roaring west. Exposed on PKL (Kodachrome 200) using a Leica M3 fitted to a Visoflex with 200mm Telyt lens at f8 1/250th of a second.

After the code lines were gone, the brush started to grow. And that’s now a much worse photo-hazard than the wires ever were.

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Kid with a Camera: Gun Hill Road, the Bronx, New York Summer 1980

IRT number 2 train approaches Gun Hill Road on the White Plains Road Line in the Bronx. Exposed in summer 1980 using a Leica IIIA with f2.0 Summitar lens (details unrecorded, or records lost).

This photo dates me. I found it looking through some scans for another project and it struck a chord, so I thought I’d put it up. In the 1970s and early 1980s, my grandparents lived at Co-op City in the Bronx, and every summer my brother Séan & I would travel to New York for a week-long visit. These trips provided me with great photo opportunities;  their apartment overlooked Amtrak’s former New Haven line connecting New Rochelle with Penn Station (Hell Gate Bridge route), and we would regularly explore the city. My grandfather had spent most of his life in New York and he enjoyed showing us around. This day we took a bus from Co-op city to the old IRT station at Gun Hill Road. Back then I always carried my antique Leica IIIA with Summitar lens. New York’s subway was a favorite subject and I made many photos of it, most of them not so good. I inherited this habit of photographing the subway from my father, who had been making photos of the subway system since the mid-1950s. I was only 13 when I made this image. I processed it in the sink using Kodak Microdol-X developer. I admit that my processing technique was about as raw as my imaging skills. Despite these flaws, I think I did a pretty good job of capturing the scene. That was 32 years ago! Seems like forever. I scanned it on my Epson V600 and cleaned up the scan in Photoshop. This is  full frame, although I adjusted the contrast slightly to make up for what I lost in processing.