Have you willingly deleted a railroad photo because of an exposure error? Or perhaps pitched an underexposed color slide? Maybe traded away a photo that you dismissed as substandard. Or maybe even dumped an entire roll into the trash because of a camera flaw?
Step back to August 1998. That wasn’t yesterday. Denis McCabe and I were photographing on the Northern Line at Balbriggan. Our aim was to catch cement trains on the move.
It was a mostly sunny afternoon with the occasional puffy cloud in the sky.
An inbound suburban train approached the platforms with Irish Rail 078 in faded orange paint leading a pair of Cravens and the requisite generator van.
Just as the train reached the optimal location for my photograph, the sun was suddenly blocked by a cloud. [Most of us familiar with making railway photographs has experienced this phenomena, and it has many names, most of them are unsuitable for reiteration here.]
Despite this setback, I released the shutter anyway, and exposed this lone 35mm black & white negative.
After I processed the film a few days later, I made prints from the best images on the roll, then sleeved all of the negatives: good, bad, and otherwise.
I never considered printing this one. At the time, seeing an 071-class diesel leading Cravens was not unusual. It happened daily. Nor was having a cloud ruin a photo in Ireland especially unusual.
I scanned the entire roll in November 2015, not for this photo, but for the better shots either side of it. It was only on close examination on the computer that it occurred to me that now, in 2016, this image is both interesting and historic.
Its lighting/exposure defect is easy enough to compensate for using Lightroom. So I present it to you now. In retrospect it offers a better lesson and a more interesting story than the perfectly lit images of cement trains exposed on the same roll.
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