Tag Archives: New York City

New York’s Pennsylvania Station; 1979 and Last Week.

Call it then and now.

Kodachrome and digital.

Both photos were made from the same vantage point on New York’s Seventh Avenue looking at the entrance to Pennsylvania Station.

From a Kodachrome slide exposed with my Leica in 1979.
Last week: July 2018, I made this view from the same place as my 1979 color slide. This time I worked with my Lumix LX7.

More than just the Taxis have changed.

Back in 1979, there were still GG1 electrics down below. And I’ve got those on film too!

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Grand Central—Times Square Shuttle revisited in Four Photos.

A short, curious, and heavily traveled part of the New York City subway system, is the two-stop Grand Central—Times Square Shuttle that runs solely between its namesake points.

Last week, Honer Travers and I made the journey on this relic.

Historically, two of my big challenges for color subway photography were exposure and color balance/color temperature.

Today, the Grand Central—Times Square Shuttle stations are brightly lit. I set my Lumix LX7 color temperature control to ‘auto white balance,’ which obviates most unwanted color temperature spikes caused by artificial light.

Other than scaling for internet presentation, I didn’t modify these images post processing for color temperature/color balance, contrast or exposure.

Lumix LX7 photo: f1.6 1/30th second.
Lumix LX7 photo: f1.6 1/20th second.
Lumix LX7 photo: f1.6 1/20th second.

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New York City’s Flushing Line November 1998.

The other day I found this Fujichrome color slide in my archives. I exposed in on a subway tour with my father back in November 1998.

Working with a Nikon F2 with 28mm lens, I made this photo from the end of a platform on the Flushing Line’s elevated structure. I like the subtlety of the autumn sky. For me this brings back memories of long ago.

Wide-angle view of New York City’s Flushing Line (that’s the number 7 train).

I recall the water color painter Ted Rose telling me about how a yellow sky stirred his memories. That was in regard to a painting he made of a wintery Midwestern scene. His memories, not mine. Similar sky though.

My dad claims that my first railway trip was on the Flushing Line in Queens, New York. That was about 1968. All I remember was the dirty floors on the subway cars, and being held up to look out the front window as we rattled along. I made no photos on that day.

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Grand Central Terminal—From A Different Angle.

Working with a Leica and Visoflex reflex-viewing attachment mounted on a tripod, I exposed this Kodak Kodachrome 64 slide with a 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto lens.

Looking toward the skylights of New York Central’s architectural masterpiece.

I calculated the exposure using an old GE handheld light meter, which I promptly dropped on the floor of the famous New York City terminal, destroying the device’s sensitive electro-mechanical photocell and needle.

That was back in 1986.

It turned out that my meter had been giving me hot readings. After I bought a new meter a couple of days later, I began obtaining more accurate daylight readings and better overall Kodachrome exposures.

However, because the meter had been encouraging me to ‘over-expose’ (allow more light to reach the film than I intended), I actually produced a better color slide here at Grand Central Terminal, because slight over-exposure was necessary to balance the lighting and bring out the grandeur of the architecture.

If I’d exposed as I intended, my photo would have appeared darker. So, what makes this photo effective was the result of accidental relative over-exposure. How about that?

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New York City’s Empire State Building 20 years Ago.

In December 1996, I made a sequence of photographs from this vantage point off 8th Avenue in Manhattan featuring the Empire State Building.

This is one of many images from essentially the same spot that I exposed to show the changes in lighting over New York City. I intended to use as a multiple slide dissolve sequence in a slide show, although I’ve yet to organize it.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon N90S mounted on a tripod.

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New York Penn Station—Not the prettiest place, But . . .

New York Pennsylvania Station is not only Amtrak’s busiest station, but it handles nearly twice the number of passengers as the next busiest. In addition to Amtrak’s long distance trains are floods of Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit suburban runs.

Busy, yes; attractive no.

It’s been more than a half century since the Pennsylvania Railroad demolished its original Penn Station terminal buildings.

Back when I worked at Pentrex Publishing in the 1990s, every so often we would need an illustration of Penn Station for Passenger Train Journal. While photos of New York’s elegant Grand Central Terminal were a dime a dozen, decent photos of Penn Station were few and far between.

Now, when I visit Penn Station, I often try to make representative views.

So, can you make interesting photos in ugly places?

New York's Pennsylvania Station at 7th Avenue. Lumix LX7 photo.
New York’s Pennsylvania Station at 7th Avenue. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak ACS64 615 at New York's Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak ACS64 615 at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

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NJ Transit display at New York's Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
NJ Transit display at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
New York's Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
New York's Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Brian’s Lost Archive: From the Depths—Twice Rescued.

 

I exposed this black & white negative in the New York City Subway about 1978.

My understanding of photographic technique was minimal, as I was only eleven or so at the time and I had just begun to learn how the process worked.

In this case, not only did I underexpose the film, but when I processed it my developer was either nearing exhaustion and/or was heavily oxidized owing to poor storage.

Underexposure and underdevelopment is just about the worse of conditions with film.

This image is from one of about 100 rolls of my early efforts that had been stored in box for decades—unprinted, but not forgotten.

Unfortunately, sometime during my travels decades ago, this box of old negs was stored away.

I’d been looking for my lost early negatives for along time, and often frustrated by my inability to find them.

Believe it or not, I dreampt where to look for the missing box, and so upon my return from Dublin last week, I was finally able to locate them.

A hundred or so rolls!

I’ll begin with this one because it has special significance for me; the man at the right is my grandfather. He had brought my brother and me to the Natural History Museum at 81st street. I made a sequence of images of the subway train arriving to bring us back to the Bronx.

Since the original negative was impossibly thin, I wasn’t capable of making a print. However, I know now how to rescue difficult images:

  • First scan the photo, as a precaution in case chemical treatment fails (but also to show the effects of my process in a ‘before & after’ sequence.)
  • Soak the negative for an hour in distilled water with a hint of Kodak Photoflo.
  • Re-fixed negatives for 3-4 minutes in Ilford Rapid fix (mixed 1:4).
  • Rinse in water.
  • 3 minutes in a Perma Wash bath.
  • 10 minutes wash in continuous running water.
  • Treat for 9-10 minutes in selenium toner mixed 1 : 9 at 68F, agitating every 30 in a well-ventilated space.
  • Rinse in water.
  • 3 minutes in a Perma Wash bath.
  • 10 minutes wash in continuous running water.

The selenium toner is the key step; this helps build density in highlight areas without changing the grain structure.

After chemical treatment,  I rescanned the negs and  worked with this  image in Lightroom to adjust exposure, contrast and sharpness.

Below are my results: not perfect, but not bad all things considered.

This is scan of the untreated negative in its natural state (not reversed digitally).
This is scan of the untreated negative in its natural state (not reversed digitally).
Reversed, the negative looked like this; muddy and dark.
Reversed, the negative looked like this; muddy and dark.
Following toning and work in Lightroom, this is what I was able to produce. Not to bad for a kid with a camera and film badly processed in a kitchen sink. Exposed c1978 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
Following toning and work in Lightroom, this is what I was able to produce. Not to bad for a kid with a camera and film badly processed in a kitchen sink. Exposed c1978 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

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Summer Sun and Stainless Steel—July 2016.

Long Island Rail Road's Hudson Yards on the westside of Manhattan.
Long Island Rail Road’s Hudson Yards on the westside of Manhattan.

Funny how the internet’s autocropping tends makes a mockery of my composition. Be sure to click on Tracking the Light to see the photo as I intended to present it.

I exposed this view of Long Island Rail Road suburban trains at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards using my Lumix LX7. Thin cloud with a hint of air pollution makes for soft brown-tinted light.

Tracking the Light is on Auto-Pilot while Brian is Traveling.

New York City’s Number 7 Flushing Line in the Afternoon—12 Photos.

The old IRT Flushing line is the first train-ride that I recall.

My dad brought me on this run before I was taking photos.

I made these images last week using my Lumix LX7.

New York City’s Number 7 Flushing Line’s curving undulating elevated structure offers a multitude of angles.

In the evening rush-hour, Flushing trains run at very short intervals, with outbound expresses using the middle track.

Court Square, Queens.
Court Square, Queens.

For my money, the number 7 remains one of the coolest transit lines in the City. (And not just because of the photography! The AC actually works on some of the cars.)

Outbound express on the middle track at 46th Street and Bliss.
Outbound express on the middle track at 46th and Bliss Streets.
Tail-end of the outbound express at 46th Street.
Tail-end of the outbound express at 46th Street.
A view of the Flushing Line from the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Woodside in Queens.
A view of the Flushing Line from the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Woodside in Queens.
Woodside.
Woodside.
Older cars at 52nd Street.
Older cars at 52nd Street.
View from the back of the train at 52nd street.
View from the back of the train at 52nd street.
46th and Bliss Streets.
46th and Bliss Streets.

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Court Square.
Court Square.
Court Square.
Court Square.

NYC_Subway_Flushing_Line_Court_Square_P1490970

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Staten Island Rapid Transit.

Here’s today’s logical continuation from Sunday’s Tracking the Light.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

On arrival at St. George, Staten Island, I had exactly 40 minutes to explore and photograph the old Staten Island Rapid Transit (Staten Island Railway).

Compared with more than 40 years photographing Amtrak, or 18 years photographing Irish Rail, that isn’t a lot of time.

Here’s what I came up with in that short span.

Here's the face of the Staten Island Railway.
Here’s the face of the Staten Island Railway.
St. George terminus.
St. George terminus.

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Staten Island Railway with the Narrows Bridge. Contrast adjusted in Lightroom.
Staten Island Railway with the Narrows Bridge. Contrast adjusted in Lightroom.
Lots of rules and warnings on the line. Gosh!
Lots of rules and warnings on the line. (see: ‘Code of Conduct’ to the left of the station sigh). No this, no that. Gosh!
The railway has an unusual off-center logo. I wonder if that signifies something?
The railway has an unusual off-center logo. I wonder if that signifies something?

All photos were exposed with my Lumix LX7.

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Staten Island Ferry—July 2016

Sunny morning. New York City. Haven’t been to Staten Island in a very long time.

Ferry’s free!

So away I went.

Photos exposed using my Lumix LX7.

Staten Island Ferry terminal in the Battery.
Staten Island Ferry terminal in the Battery.
US Coast Guard escort across New York Harbor.
US Coast Guard escort across New York Harbor.
Manhattan Skyline.
Manhattan Skyline.
Panoramic composite view of Manhattan skyline. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Panoramic composite view of Manhattan skyline. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
View of the Narrows Bridge.
View of the Narrows Bridge.
Passengers make photos and take in the see-air.
Passengers make photos and take in the sea-air.
One of the ferries docked on the Staten Island side.
One of the ferries docked on the Staten Island side (St. George).
Ferry schedule.
Ferry schedule.
Heading back toward Manhattan passing the outward scheduled ferry.
Heading back toward Manhattan passing the outward scheduled ferry.
Staten Island Ferry with famous lady holding torch in background.
Staten Island Ferry with famous lady holding torch in background.
Back in Manhattan again.
Back in Manhattan again.

(PS. Stay tuned for more New York photos.)

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NYCTA Number 7 Train, Queensboro Plaza, December 2015.

I’ll call this, Flushing Line Revisited. My first visit was with my dad about 1968. They’ve changed the cars since then

The New York metro-area generates its own quality of light. By afternoon on this day a mix of high cloud and four flavors of atmospheric pollution had tinted the skylight grayish orange with hints of smoggy yellow.

I've adjusted contrast in post-processing with the use of a digitally applied gradated neutral density filter to help balance the sky detail.
I’ve adjusted contrast in post-processing with the use of a digitally applied gradated neutral density filter to help balance the sky detail.
A slightly closer view of the same train. Note the inbound train on the lower level of the elevated structure. Both are moving.
A slightly closer view of the same train. Note the inbound train on the lower level of the elevated structure. Both are moving.

I made these views with my Lumix LX7 from the Manhattan-end of the double-deck Queenboro Plaza station. The Manhattan skyline looms in the distance.

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Tracking the Light looks at The El.

Way back in the day, before third rail electrification was the rule, compact steam locomotives worked trains on New York’s elevated railways.

Most of the original Els are long gone, and many of today’s elevated structures spanning streets in The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens stem from the electrified era.

Nearly forgotten are the Manhattan Els, all of which were torn down decades ago.

Old postcards survive that show the way things were.

Fujifilm X-T1 digital photograph.
Fujifilm X-T1 digital photograph.
Fujifilm X-T1 digital photograph.
Fujifilm X-T1 digital photograph.

In June, I made these photographs of the elevated structure that survives above the streets at Broadway and Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn. I find it astounding that when Els were more common, they were decried as ‘ugly.’ Simply bizarre.

Under_the_el_at_Marcy_Ave_red_hair_DSCF1398

Turnstile_at_Marcy_Ave_DSCF1389
When I was a kid these turnstiles scared me. I though for sure I’ll be diced to pieces. Fujifilm X-T1 digital photograph.

Tracks_at_Hewes_Street_DSCF1476

M_train_and_J_R42_at_Marcy_w_Williamsburg_Bridge_DSCF1446

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Grafitti_truck_Under_the_el_at_Marcy_Ave_DSCF1403

Bus_Under_the_el_at_Marcy_Ave_DSCF1409

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New York City Subway Underground!

In most other cities, such a title might seem to be redundant, but not in New York.

Here are a few digital photographs made in late June, designed to capture the atmosphere of the Subway (but not the aroma). All exposed with a Lumix LX7.

DeKalb_Ave_P1250742

R-train.
R-train.

Fulton_Street_tiles_P1250649

Fulton_Street_P1250645

NYC_Subway_Atlantic_Ave_P1250739

Fulton Street.
Fulton Street.
Franklin Avenue.
Franklin Avenue.
Franklin Avenue
Franklin Avenue.
Photographing the J train.
Photographing the J train.
Cortlandt Street.
Cortlandt Street.
Warning!
Warning!

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Tracking the Light on the A Train; A Post Apocalyptic Railway Journey—12 photos.

  • The far-end of this well-known Subway route was among the lines we explored on our epic June 25, 2015 tour of New York City rail-transit.Jack May, Walter Zullig, my father and I, walked from the Long Island Rail Road station at Far Rockaway to the nearby New York City Subway station (located on an elevated structure).
  • At one time this had all been part of the same route, but now there’s several blocks between rail-heads.
    The A Line Deli at Far Rockaway, amidst the sounds of sirens. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    The A Line Deli at Far Rockaway, amidst the sounds of sirens. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.

    Elaborately decorated glass bricks are a feature of the stations on the A Train route.

    NYCTA Station at Far Rockaway is decorated with colored glass. Panoramic composite exposed with Fujifilm X-T1.
    The NYCTA Station at Far Rockaway is decorated with colored glass. Panoramic composite exposed with Fujifilm X-T1.
    Far Rockaway.  Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    Far Rockaway. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.

    As we rolled westward, my father recalled visiting Rockaway Beach decades earlier when there were rows of beach-side bungalows and city streets.

    Once west of the Far Rockaway the scene changes.We got off at 44th Street and took a look around.

  • Much of Rockaway beach seems devoid of structures, with old streets vanishing into the encroaching sand. The Bungalows are just a memory. Yet, massive multistory apartments loom in the distance above the railway structure, like something out of a doomsday film.
    A concrete elevated structure keeps the tracks above the sand covered streets.
    A concrete elevated structure keeps the tracks above the sand covered streets.
    An inbound A Train from Far Rockaway. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    An inbound A Train from Far Rockaway. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    This is a strange place, devoid of people with a mixture of urban decay and encroaching beach. Panoramic composite exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1.
    This place, is largely devoid of people (except for visiting photographers) and features a mixture of urban decay and encroaching beach. Panoramic composite exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1.
    An outbound A train rattles along on the elevated. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    An outbound A train rattles along on the elevated. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
     Fujifilm X-T1 photo looking toward Far Rockaway.
    Fujifilm X-T1 photo looking toward Far Rockaway.
    Nice place for a car chase!  Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    Nice place for a car chase! Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    Outbound train as seen from the inbound platform at 44st Street.  Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    Outbound train as seen from the inbound platform at 44th Street. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    Inbound A train at 44st Street.  Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    Inbound A train at 44th Street. Fujifilm X-T1 photo.
    Colored glass at 44th Street.
    Colored glass at 44th Street.

    It’s a strange place to be. And a stranger place to make photos. This is not the New York City visited by most tourists! Yet the A train continues to JFK Airport and beyond to lower Manhattan and ultimately up-town.

    How long, I wonder, would it take to ride from one end to the other?

    Tomorrow: Broadway Junction in East New York.

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New York City Subway—prelude—June 25, 2015.

A large portion of the New York City ‘Subway’ is elevated above street level. On June 25, 2015, my dad, Jack May, Walter Zullig and I took a whirlwind tour of New York City rail transit, during which I made dozens of photos from myriad locations.

Broadway Junction on June 25, 2015. Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1.
Broadway Junction on June 25, 2015. Exposed with a Fujifilm X-T1.

New York City’s rail transit, including the subway, is undoubtedly one of the most visually complex transportation systems in North America, and presents endless possibilities for photography.

I’ll plan a series of posts featuring photos from this trip over the coming weeks.

MTA_logo_DSCF1079

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Amtrak GG1, Pelham Bay Park.

Kid with a Camera.

My brother would shout, ‘Look! A GG1!’

My grandparents lived in Coop City in The Bronx for a dozen years. Their 19th floor apartment had an open terrace that looked across the Hutchinson River toward Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad line that ran from New Rochelle over the Hell Gate Bridge toward Penn-Station.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, we’d make regular visits. I was delighted by passing of Amtrak trains, and by the time I was ten, I’d figured out how to interpret the timetable to predict when trains would pass.

Amtrak was still operating a fair few former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics, and these were my favorite. From about mid-1978, I’d keep my Leica 3A poised at the ready and if a GG1 were to appear, I’d make a color slide, or two.

While I made a great many photographs, my photographic efforts were, at best, rudimentary. Complicating matters was my general panic when a GG1 finally appeared.

As the train rolled into view, I’d try to gauge the lighting using an old Weston Master III photo cell and rapidly adjust the aperture on my Summitar lens, but my understanding of exposure was purely conceptual. In other words, I went through the motions, but really didn’t know what I was doing.

Also, I was photographing the scene with a 50mm lens, and the tracks were at least a quarter mile distant. Later, I learned to use my father’s telephoto lenses for some more effective views, but by then new AEM-7s had replaced the GG1s.

Recently, I rediscovered a box of long lost Kodachrome slides, including a bunch of my surviving photos from my grand parent’s terrace. This one is one of the few passable efforts, and will a little cropping, and some post processing in Photoshop, it isn’t too bad.

An Amtrak-painted former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric works toward Penn-Station in April 1980. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. The photo has been cropped and contrast and color were adjusted in postprocessing.
An Amtrak-painted former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric works toward Penn-Station in April 1980. Exposed on Kodachrome 64 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens. The photo has been cropped and contrast and color were adjusted in postprocessing.

Learning technique is every photographer’s challenge. My learning curve was slow, in part because it was often months between the time of exposure and when I got slides back from Kodak. By the time I reviewed my results, I hadn’t remembered what I’d done, and didn’t know what to do to improve future efforts.

By comparison, kids starting today with digital cameras can see their results immediately and have the opportunity to learn quickly. Perhaps, from one of these same terraces, some kid today has captured  one of the final runs of Amtrak’s HHP8s (recently retired from active work) or the rapidly disappearing AEM-7s!

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A View From The Bronx, summer 1978.

 I don’t have a lot of bus photos, but . . .

It was probably the first week of August. It was hot, humid, and stinky in New York City. The bus carried an aroma of garbage, sweat and diesel exhaust.

My grandmother, my brother Sean and I took a cross town bus from Coop City to Forham Road to go shopping.

My grandmother paid our fare, and we went to the back. As we stopped to collect passengers, I made a series of photos with my Leica, as you do. Right?

riding-a-NY-city-bus-circa-This was one of several photos I exposed with my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar on black & white film.

The bus was ok, but I preferred our excursions on the subway.

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New York Penn-Station, June 2014.

A Difficult Place.

Once upon a time, long long ago, Pennsylvania Railroad’s New York City terminal was among the world’s greatest railway stations.

Its architecturally enlightened design cleverly blended classical motifs and modern engineering on a colossal scale. Electrified lines brought long distance trains directly into the station. It was beautiful and functional.

Fifty one years ago the wrecking balls put an end to the fairy tale. Although, from what I’m told, in its last years the old Penn-Station was a tired, tatty vestige of its earlier days. Yet, New Yorkers were justly disgusted when the Pennsylvania Railroad ruined its once-glorious gateway to the city.

Madison Square Garden, which as someone famously pointed out, is neither! Pennsylvania Station is below.
Madison Square Garden, which as someone famously pointed out, is neither! Pennsylvania Station is below.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Penn_Station_P1050568

In its place, PRR built the present uninspired maze of passageways and escalators. I find it more confusing than Heathrow Airport. It looks something like mall, feels a bit like an overgrown bus terminal, and seems to have very little to do with railways until you descend into its bowels to hastily board a train.

In June, I decided I’d try to make some photos of the place. After all, it is Amtrak’s busiest station, thus noteworthy.

Philadelphia you say? I'll give it a shot!
Philadelphia you say? I’ll give it a shot!
Penn-Station was mobbed with railway passengers, all trying to get someplace.
Penn-Station was mobbed with railway passengers, all trying to get someplace.

Penn_Station_departure_boards_P1050488

 

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Brass railings, a vestige of earlier times. Drop down into the roar and odors that characterize New York Penn-Station and board a train for New Jersey! (That's what I did).
Brass railings, a vestige of earlier times. Drop down into the roar and odors that characterize New York Penn-Station and board a train for New Jersey! (That’s what I did).

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Times Square Shuttle

One of the World’s Shortest Subway Routes.

Lumix LX-7 photo at Grand Central of the New York City Transit Authority's Times Square Shuttle.
Lumix LX-7 photo at Grand Central of the New York City Transit Authority’s Times Square Shuttle.

I was making my way from Grand Central toward Penn-Station and took a few minutes to photograph New York City’s famous Times Square Shuttle using a Lumix LX-7.

Although I’ve been making subterranean photos since the 1970s, I find that the digital photographic medium makes the process much easier, and my results generally are better.

In the 1990s, I made many New York City subway photos using a Nikon F3T with Ektachrome 200 and various filter combinations to compensate for artificial light conditions.

Calculating exposure was difficult, and despite the filtration my color balance was never 100 percent.

For these images, I set the camera for 400 ISO, selected the ‘A’-mode (Aperture priority) and set the aperture to f2.0, dialed in +1/3 exposure compensation (my standard override for interior photos), and allowed the camera’s auto-white balance take care of the artificial light.

Times Square, New York.
Times Square, New York.

NYCTA_GCT_Times_Sq_Shuttle_P1050466

New York subway's tiled signs are a vestige of another era. After leaving the Times Square Shuttle I made my way to a change of trains to bring me south to 34th Street.
New York subway’s tiled signs are a vestige of another era. After leaving the Times Square Shuttle I made my way to a change of trains to bring me south to 34th Street.

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Grand Central Terminal, New York City.

Tribute to the Golden Age of American Railroads.

GCT_interior_P1050416

America’s most famous station, New York Central’s crown jewel, and in 2014, a great place to photograph; that’s Grand Central Terminal. It was also my gateway to Manhattan in late June.

I’d taken Metro-North from New Haven.

Metro_North_closeup_GCT_P1050389

Metro_North_platform_GCT_P1050390

When I arrived, I had a few minutes to re-explore the station and make a few photographs. I wasn’t alone in that regard. It seemed like everywhere I turned there were people aiming iPhones, or staring through the viewfinder of cameras.

GCT_interior_information_desk_P1050438

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The vast space of Grand Central’s main concourse with its trademark information desk and celestial ceiling makes for a compelling urban scene. It’s makes for complete contrast to New York Penn-Station’s maze of uninspired passageways that looks more like a run-down 1970s-era shopping mall or bus terminal. I was heading there next, by subway.

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GCT_Departure_boards_P1050445

 

Brooklyn, New York—TRACKING THE LIGHT DAILY POST

November 1998.

It was a dull autumn day. My father and I were in New York City to visit a friend. We spent the afternoon wandering around on the subway system.

An L train Brooklyn, New York, November 1998. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 24mm lens. (The route is L, not to be confused with the colloquial 'El' or Chicago's 'L', just for clarification).
An L train Brooklyn, New York, November 1998. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 24mm lens. (The route is L, not to be confused with the colloquial ‘El’ or Chicago’s ‘L’, just for clarification).

I made this photo at East New York Junction where the Canarsie Line crosses the Broadway Line.

The sky was dark and swollen and the street lights were just coming on. To make the most of the lighting, I exposed this photo on black & white film with my Nikon F3T with an AI 24mm Nikkor lens.

I’ve always felt there was an apocalyptic aesthetic to this image.

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Jamaican Sunset—Daily Post

Long Island Rail Road, March 2003.

Jamaica, Queens, New York looking west on the Long Island Rail Road. I exposed this photo on Fujichrome using my Nikon N90S with a 80-200mm Nikon zoom lens. To capture the silhouette effect I exposed for the sky, allowing detail in the shadows to fade to an inky black.
Jamaica, Queens, New York looking west on the Long Island Rail Road. I exposed this photo on Fujichrome using my Nikon N90S with a 80-200mm Nikon zoom lens. To capture the silhouette effect I exposed for the sky, allowing detail in the shadows to fade to an inky black.

It is one of America’s busiest railway junctions; LIRR at Jamaica, Queens hosts hundreds of trains daily and rush hours can be especially intense.

In March 2003, Pat Yough and I visited in the afternoon. We concluded the day’s photography by making images looking in to the rosy sunset.

I’ve always liked the arcing from the third rail, which seems to add a bit of life to the image.

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Daily Post; New York Central in 1984

 Photographing a bit of History.

New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

My friend Bob Buck of Warren had advised me to photograph old freight cars, especially those from the ‘fallen flags’ (railroads that had merged or were otherwise lost).

I kept a keen eye out for the cars of Conrail’s predecessors, which were a special interest to me.

In July 1984, I was passing Conrail’s sprawling West Springfield Yards on my way to the Boston & Albany ‘West End,’ when I saw this old New York Central ‘Early Bird’ 50ft double door car.

By that time, New York Central had been gone 16 years, and I was only 17, so the time seemed like a lifetime to me. Following Bob’s advice, I dutifully exposed a three-quarter view of the car. One frame. That is all.

In retrospect, I wish that I’d taken a few more images of the car. Today, I’d focus on the car and make some detailed views. Looking back on this car today, what I find noteworthy was that it still had its catwalks, an accessory that had been out of favor for years by the time I’d exposed this image.

New York Central 50-foot boxcar at West Springfield, Massachusetts, July 1984. Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

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Metro North Anniversaries—Part 2

 

Grand Central Terminal and the Hudson Line.

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central’s colossal architecture exudes magnificence. Lumix LX3 photo.

New York City’s Grand Central Terminal is unquestionably America’s best known railway station. This year it celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The station is also probably the most photographed in the USA. At any given time tourists and visitors are actively making images of its awe inspiring interior.

On the evening of June 29, 2013, I joined the masses in their image making crusade.

I also took a spin up the Hudson Line to Tarrytown, where I made some twilight views of Metro-North.

Grand Central’s most memorable feature is its grand concourse, a vast interior space intended to accommodate tens of thousands pedestrians daily.
Grand Central’s most memorable feature is its grand concourse, a vast interior space intended to accommodate tens of thousands pedestrians daily.

Working with both my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS7D, I made a variety of digital images. These may soon augment my older images of Grand Central and Metro-North.

Tarrytown, New York.
Metro-North at Tarrytown, New York on June 29, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
Metro-North train.
Metro-North M7 multiple unit glides into Tarrytown, New York. Canon EOS7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Grand Central Terminal.
Passengers flood from a Hudson Line train on Grand Central’s upper level. Lumix LX3 photo.
MTA Metro-North Railroad.
MTA Metro-North Railroad.
Grand Central New York City
Grand Central’s exterior is faced with a blend Bedford limestone and Stony Creek granite. Atop this façade is an enormous neo-classical sculpture of Mercury, Minerva and Hercules that incorporates a huge clock—Time keeping, is of course, integral with railway travel. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake lens.
Grand Central's concourse.
Grand Central ceiling features a unique depiction of the Mediterranean Zodiac as interpreted by French painter Paul Helleu. Lumix LX3 photo.
The ghost of an early twentieth century bicycle enthusiast crosses Grand Central's  concourse. Lumix LX3.
The ghost of an early twentieth century bicycle crosses Grand Central’s concourse. Lumix LX3.
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Metro North Anniversary Years

 

Commuter Rail at 30; Grand Central Terminal at 100 

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Northeastern commuter rail operations made the transition from private to public operation.

In 1983, after more than a decade of various forms of subsidy, operation of commuter rail service radiating from Grand Central Terminal on former New Haven and New York Central Railroad routes was conveyed to Metro-North (an affiliate of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority).

Thirty years later, Metro-North is one of America’s busiest commuter railways.

New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut’s railroad station. I remember in the early 1980s when this waiting room was closed and the old station was a rotting relic of an earlier age. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 on June 29, 2013.

 

It embodies a curious aesthetic by blending infrastructure and classic architecture from the golden age of railroading with utilitarian modern railway equipment, while offering convenient no-frills public transport.

The days of boarding a well appointed parlor car on New Haven Railroad’s exclusive, luxurious Merchants Limited at Grand Central Terminal for the run to Boston ended long ago. Likewise, New York Central’s New York-Chicago all-sleeper extra-fare Twentieth Century Limited is now the stuff of legend.

New Haven arrivals-departures.
Solari arrivals-departure board at New Haven, Connecticut, June 29, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

When the new Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913, it was the grandest and most opulent railway station in the world. It represented the power of private capital, and was New York Central’s gift to New York City.

On June 29, 2013, I made a foray in to Metro-North territory. Since I’m not a regular commuter, I have the privilege of enjoying my travels on Metro-North trains, which included my first spin on a new M-8 electric multiple unit.

Lumix LX-3 photo.
Lumix LX-3 photo.
Metro North train at New Haven.
A 1970s-era Metro North ‘M2CSR’ multiple unit at New Haven, June 29, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
Train to Grand Central.
Destination board on a new M8 multiple unit. Lumix LX3 photo.
seat check.
Brian’s seat check on a nicely air conditioned M8 heading toward New York City. Lumix LX3 photo.
M8 interior. Lumix LX-3 photo.
M8 interior. Lumix LX3 photo.
M8 EMU
Metro-North M8 passes Noroton Heights, Connecticut. June 29, 2013. Exposed with Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens. 1/60th second.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal’s 42nd Street Façade, New York City. Lumix LX3 photo.

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Pelham Bay Park Part 2, January 1984.

 

A View From Grandma’s Terrace.

In yesterday’s post, I explained that my grandparents had a Coop City apartment in The Bronx. It was on the 19th floor of a 1970s-era tower block located at the periphery of New York City and the edge of Pelham Bay Park. Looking East, it offered a view of the Hutchinson River (with Goose Island in the middle) and of Amtrak’s former New Haven line to Penn-Station on the far shore.

The best part of the apartment was the terrace, which faced the river and the tracks. As young kids, my brother, Sean, and I would spend hours sending paper airplanes and bubbles, (and sometime heavier items) off the terrace to see how far they’d go. But for me the highlight of the apartment (apart from grandma and grandpa) was the regular passage of trains.

By age 10, I’d learned to calculate running times. Eastbound (northbound) trains running toward Boston would pass 17-20 minutes after leaving Penn-Station, while Westbound (Southbound) trains were less predictable, and sometimes wouldn’t show up until after they were scheduled to depart Penn-Station.

Until 1981, Amtrak would occasionally operate its elderly GG1 Electrics, and I’d keep my Leica handy for just such an event. On rare occasions, two trains would pass in front of the apartment.

I vividly recall a frenzied moment, when Sean shouted, “there’s two trains!” I panicked and in the 10-15 seconds I had to act, I failed to locate the camera. “You missed it! I can’t believe you missed it!” Eventually, the situation repeated itself, and a photograph resulted.

By 1984, freight had been diverted off the line, while most Amtrak trains to New Haven consisted of eight to ten Amfleet cars hauled by AEM-7 electrics. The one elusive train was Amtrak’s Night Owl that passed in the wee hours (as owls do) and this train carried sleeping cars. Even at night these cars looked different than the others.

In the relative silence of early morning, trains would make an audible clatter crossing the bascule drawbridge that was just out of sight from the terrace. We were visiting for New Year’s at the end of 1983. One night during that visit, my sixth sense for trains alerted me in my sleep that the southward Night Owl hadn’t gone by at its usual time (about 3 am).

By daybreak, the Night Owl still hadn’t gone by. So, I readied my old Leica 3A, and waited. Shortly after sunrise it rolled by, and I exposed several Ektachrome slides. These might have been better if I’d used a longer lens, yet, had I done that, then the photos wouldn’t have shown all the heritage equipment, including the train’s sleeping cars, that distinguished it from ordinary North East Corridor trains. While not my greatest effort, it’s not too bad considering I was half asleep and not yet skilled with the camera.

Amtrak at Sunrise
Night Owl at Pelham Bay Park January 1984.

I found this slide last month mixed in with some ‘3rds’ (my old term for slides that were not bad enough to throw away, yet neither good enough to give away—what I called 2nds, nor acceptable for slide shows—1sts). Time has move it up a couple of degrees. I’m not giving it away.

 

See: Pelham Bay Park Part I, andKid with a Camera Framingham, Massachusetts, 1982.

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Pelham Bay Park, December 1982.

 

Amtrak AEM7 Crosses The Hutchinson River in The Bronx

Coop City in The Bronx.
Amtrak’s Bascule drawbridge over the Hutchinson River in December 1982. Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar Lens.

Between 1973 and 1985, my paternal grandparents lived at Co-op City in The Bronx, New York City. They had a great view of Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad line from New Rochelle to the Hell Gate Bridge, which carried all of Amtrak’s Boston-New York trains. Until about 1980, this route also hosted infrequent freights.

When I was younger, I’d keenly watch for trains from my grandparents 19th floor terrace, all the while hoping to see Amtrak’s aged former Pennsylvania GG1 electrics. By 1982, all of Amtrak’s GG1s had been retired.

I made this morning view of a Penn-Station bound Amtrak train approaching the bascule drawbridge over the Hutchinson River led by an AEM7 electric. The scene itself wasn’t remarkable at the time, but I’m glad I made the effort to put it on film. It fascinates me now and brings me back to another time. Although details, such as how to effectively work with backlighting eluded me, I managed to get my exposure pretty close anyway.

I was 16 at the time. I used my Leica 3A with f2.0 50mm Summitar—the camera I carried with me everywhere. A couple of years ago, I located some of my long-lost early negatives and made a project of scanning them. The miracle of modern scanning technology coupled with post-processing allowed me to finally make something of photos I’d made before I was technically competent to make decent prints.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post; “the view from grandma’s terrace.”

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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.