In May 1992, I was on my way back to San Francisco from a visit to Southern Pacific’s Siskiyou Line. I stopped at SP’s Redding Station and made this afternoon image of a locomotive reflecting in the window.
Someday, someone might want to know what the Pacific Bell shelter was for, and wonder about the curious device positioned within!
Notice that I carefully included the station name in the view.
I exposed this on Kodachrome 25, which was a good film for daylight scenes but tended to do a poor job of rendering shadows. Yet, because the shadow areas under the station canopy are a bit dark this effect helps emphasize daylight on the locomotive reflected in the glass.
How would I make this photo digitally? First of all, I’d preset the white balance to ‘daylight’ rather than use the automatic setting. This would give the shadow areas a slight bluish tint, while maintaining more natural colors in the reflection.
Secondly, I’d set the exposure manually, and pay careful attention to the density of window reflection, while allowing the rest of the scene to go a bit dark (about ½ half stop).
Here we have a typically New England scene; a fresh blanket of snow has fallen and the sky has cleared to a clear blue dome. Perfect light right?
Not exactly. The great contrast between the brilliant bright snow and the shadow areas makes for a difficult exposure. Complicating matters was Conrail’s rich blue paint.
While I was fortunate to catch Conrail’s TV9 leaving West Springfield Yard, I faced an exposure conundrum. If I exposed for the train, I risked grossly over exposing the snow, furthermore if I simply set the camera based on the snow on the ground, I’d end up with a pretty dark slide.
In the end I compromised, and stopped down enough to retain detail in the snow, while leaving the rest of the scene reasonably exposed.
However, 28 years later I’m still not satisfied with the slide.
There are three problems. I was concentrating on the exposure and the moving train (while trying to manipulate two cameras simultaneously) and I missed the level by about two degrees. Secondly, the Kodachrome film had a decidedly red bias, which resulted in pinkish snow (hardly what my eye saw that day).
I was easily able to correct these flaws after scanning the slide. I imported it into Photoshop and made three changes.
1) I cropped and rotated the image to correct for level.
2) Using the red-cyan color balance sliders, I shifted the highlights and mid-tone areas to toward cyan to minimize the excessive red in the scene. (cyan is the color opposite of red)
3) I made a localized contrast adjustment on the locomotives by outlining the area I wanted to change and then making a slight change using the curves feature.
I’ve illustrated the original unmodified scan two intermediate steps and the final image.
On the morning of October 14, 2011, I crossed the Berkshires on the Mass-Pike as I drove west to meet with accomplished railway photographer John Pickett.
I had a few hours before our meeting, so despite low cloud and mist, I exited the highway at the Massachusetts-New York state line and drove toward Boston & Albany’s State Line Tunnel. While on Tunnel Hill Road in Canaan, New York, I noticed this colorful scene from the road side.
As I got out of the car, I heard the unmistakable sound of a train roaring west. I had just enough time to get out my Canon EOS 7 and make a test image before the train passed.
Another case of just being at the right place at the right time, and being ready to act.