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It was exactly two years ago; on this day, January 23, 2014, I made this tightly composed portrait-view (vertically oriented) photograph of a SEPTA Silverliner IV at Overbrook, Pennsylvania.
Over the years I’ve made many photographs along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, and more than my fair share of views at Overbrook.
SEPTA’s Silverliners are common enough, so I tried something a little different. Using my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm telephoto, I composed a tight vertical image of the SEPTA train as it glided through the station.
Tracking the Light; Five photos on the old Pennsylvania Railroad.
A Post-Prologue to a Night Photo Challenge . . .
On December 1, 2014, I’d met my latest deadline, and so I finally had a few minutes to make photos before charging headlong into the next project.
My brother Sean lent me back my old Bogen 3021 tripod, a piece of equipment I’d not seen in many years. I’d bought this new in Rochester in March 1989 and dragged it all around North America in the early 1990s. At some point, I upgraded to a newer tripod and gave this one to Sean.
It seemed like overkill to steady my Lumix LX7 on such a heavy tripod, but it did the job.
It was cold, wet and dark, but that worked fine for me. I exposed a few photos at Overbrook, Pennsylvania, and a couple of more at Wynnewood. No GG1 electrics passed me that night. Not for a long time.
Tomorrow, I begin the first of five night photo-challenges as given to me by Blair Kooistra and Phil Brahms via Facebook.
On evening July 2, 2014, my brother Sean and I returned to Overbrook. I wanted to get there a bit earlier to focus on SEPTA’s electric locomotive-hauled rush hour services, including the named ‘Great Valley Flyer.’ Also, I wished to feature the signaling more closely. Those vintage Pennsylvania Railroad position lights won’t be around forever.
The lighting was more diffused than the previous day, but this offered different opportunities.
Often it helps to revisit locations several days in a row. Becoming more familiar with a place, helps to find different ways to photograph it.
Yet, with familiarity comes the risk of complacency. When a subject becomes so familiar that you stop seeing it in new ways, have you lost the edge? Is finding a new place the best time to make a photo, or at least perceive an opportunity?
Overbrook is hardly a new place for me, yet it is also one I’ve yet to master.
Visual Quandaries in a Fascinating Place—July 1, 2014
Overbrook retains much of its Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line heritage. Not only is it a surviving portion of four track line, but it retains an active tower, traditional PRR position light signaling, plus its old station buildings and historic signage.
It remains a busy place with a regular interval SEPTA suburban service and Amtrak Keystone trains.
Curiously, it features track-work dating to an earlier era of railroad engineering. It is located on a sweeping curve with a full set of crossovers set in and around the station and low-level platforms.
Without getting into a detailed discussion on modern railroad engineering, let me just say, that there’s no way an interlocking and station would be situated like this today.
Yet, for all this historic railroad interest, Overbrook is a challenging place to make photographs. The curvature which adds so much character to the place, also makes it difficult to find a satisfactory photographic angle. While there is lots of antique infrastructure, it’s hard to find way to include it in balanced compositions.
Further difficulties are caused by nearby trees and a large overhead arched bridge that cast shadows on the line.
On successive evenings, July 1st and July 2nd, 2014, my brother Sean and I visited Overbrook to watch the evening parade of trains. Working with my Lumix LX-7 and Canon EOS 7D, I exposed images from a variety of angles. I was particular interested in featuring the old Pennsylvania signaling.
This morning dawned with a blood-red sunrise. Something about a red sky in the morning?
What I’d call ‘winter’ has been given all sorts of new fancy names. Probably the most absurd is the ‘polar vortex.’ Next up is the term handed to today’s precipitation: ‘bombogensis.’
Call it what you like. By about 2:30 pm today 6 inches of snow was improving photography all over Philadelphia, and by 5 pm there was 8-10 inches was making for interesting images.
My brother Sean and I spent the afternoon in Philadelphia making photos of SEPTA and snow accumulation while running errands. Falling and drifting snow made for some dramatic photography opportunities.
Snow exposure I always tricky. My basic rule of thumb is to use the camera meter to set a gauging point, then open up (over expose) by 2/3s to a full stop above the camera meter. Using the histogram on the back of the camera, I then fine tune my exposure depending on the setting.