on a frigid February 2010 morning, I exposed this view on Fujichrome using my Canon EOS-3 with a 100-400mm zoom lens.
This was one of dozens of action photos I made while traveling with Chris Guss and Pat Yough that day.
One of the great challenges in working in sub-zero temperatures is short battery life. While my Canon film camera faired reasonably well, my poor Panasonic Lumix LX3 digital camera did not. By noon two of my three batteries had gone flat.
Tracking the Light continues to post Daily while Brian is on the road.
When I was a kid, change puzzled me. I’d look back over my father’s photographs and collection of timetables and books and wonder what had happened to the trains and railroads he’d seen and experienced.
But as a young child, I’d assumed that all change was in the past. Certainly things had been different. New York Central had become Penn-Central, and Penn-Central had become Conrail. But I naively assumed that everything else would remain constant!
Then I began to notice change myself: My favorite GG1 electrics were replaced by modern AEM7s and E60s. Those old Penn-Central black diesels were become ever more scarce. Boston’s PCC cars had become fewer and fewer.
By the late-1980s, I’d witnessed enough changes to recognize that documenting the railroad required careful attention to detail, and it was important to anticipate change before it begins.
Too often, railroad photographers wait until change is already underway before they act to make photographs. Sadly, sometimes they wait too long and miss the best opportunities to photograph.
With this in mind, in the 1990s, annually I drafted lists from which to work. It’s one thing to ponder photographing time-worthy subjects; its better to have a clear and prioritized strategy!
In 1993, I was remarkably organized: I’ve included a portion of that year’s ‘photo projects’ list. If you read through this carefully, you’ll see there’s considerable foresight in my approach. I was doing my best to predict the future and act upon that knowledge.
Below are pages from that list:
I’m really glad I made these lists! We can look back today, 21 years after I wrote this list, and see that many of the subjects I hoped to document have indeed vanished or changed. The pen-marked ‘ticks’ indicated that I’d made an attempt at the item.
How did I draft this list? Did I have a crystal ball? How did I know in 1993 that SP was soon to vanish? Why did I give SP’s Modoc line high priority? What caused me to anticipate changes to Canadian Pacific east of Sherbrooke? Pay special attention to my notes and comments for the clues. In some cased my anticipated dates were premature, but my vision was pretty accurate (I’m sorry to report.)
What is on your list for 2014?
Change is on-going. Think! What can you photograph now that will soon change unrecognizably? Remember, it is the common everyday subjects that are too often ignored until it’s too late to make photographs. Don’t wait until the last minute. Keep an ear to the ground and an eye on the rail. Anticipate, plan and then act.
By 1997, the QuebecCartier Railway was among the last places in North America where sets of six-motor Alco-designed diesels worked in heavy daily freight service.
This is a remote and isolated line in northern Quebec that extends north from Port Cartier on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence into the wilderness of the Canadian Shield.
George Pitarys and Bill Linley organized a pilgrimage to photograph this remote operation. Getting there from Massachusetts was half the adventure. The two hour drive to George’s place was the first leg. We rented Ford Explorer at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport, then drove north for about 16 hours.
Along the way we collected Bill and fellow photographer Ian at the ferry terminal at Baie-Comeau (they were coming from Nova Scotia.) We stayed at Port Cartier overnight. Our first full day wasn’t blessed with the finest weather, so we focused on some railway activities nearer to Port Cartier, including a tour of the shops of the Quebec, North Shore & Labrador.
After that the skies cleared. To reach the scenic areas of the Quebec Cartier Railway requires a long drive on dirt roads into forest largely populated by swarms of man-eating black flies, thirsty mosquitoes and the occasional moose, but very little else.
Yet, our efforts paid off. We spent several very productive days photographing loaded and empty iron ore trains in the rugged scenery of northern Quebec. This view was made on our second morning.
A Fleeting Glimpse of a Maritime Alco Diesel Oasis.
I featured this image of westward Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia (say it five times fast) freight in my big book Locomotive, published by MBI in 2001. The concept of the book was very large photo reproduction of classic locomotives. There were three sections; steam, diesel and electric.
In July 1997, I made this image on trip with George Pitarys and Bill Linley. George and I had flown to Halifax from Boston. We spent three glorious days photographing in Nova Scotia and did exceptionally well with the CB&CNS. At the time the railroad ran its eastward road freight in the morning and westward train in the afternoon, which favored sun angles most of the day. George and Bill’s expert knowledge of the line allowed us to make the most of every train.
I was especially fascinated by the opportunity to photograph locomotives against the seemingly endless blue waterscape. This elevated location at Cape Jack overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence was one of the best places to make watery vistas. I exposed this on Fujichrome Provia 100F using my Nikon N90s and Nikon f2.8 80-200mm zoom lens. Exposure was calculated using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell and the camera’s internal matrix meter setting.
Here’s an excerpt from my text published in Locomotive:
The CB&CNS was created as the result of CN’s desire to spin-off lightly used feeder lines. Initially the CB&CNS was part of the RailTex family of short lines and acquired by Rail America in 1999. CB&CNS operated from Truro (in western Nova Scotia) to Sydney plus a few short branches. Until 1998, this railroad was one the final strongholds for big MLW-built Alco locomotives. These were regularly assigned to daily through freights. Most were painted in CB&CNS’s attractive black & yellow paint scheme with a large red lion to reflect the region’s Scottish heritage.
Autumn is my favorite time to make photographs. Crisp days, rich low sunlight, and bright rusty foliage make for a great combination of conditions.
In Late October 2004, Tim Doherty and I spent several days exposing photographs around Montreal. On the morning of October 24, we worked this location south of downtown which featured a shining skyline view.