Tag Archives: #railroad photography

Solving a Plus-X Mystery

Among my thousands of black & white negatives is a three-ring binder that is largely filled with film exposed for class projects and related photographic studies when I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The other night I located a processed, sleeved and completely unlabled roll of Kodak Plus-X. Most of the film was of Conrail trains on the former Erie Railroad in the vicinity of Hornell, NY.

In the late 1980s, I regularly frequented New York’s Southern Tier to make photos. Over the course of about five years I made dozens of trips.

I have detailed photo notes from many of these trips, so while scanning the negatives with my Epson V600 scanner, I started to solve the mystery.

I recalled the day in question, but couldn’t remember exactly when it was. The sky was gray and the landscape bare, so I surmised it was early 1989. The challenge was figuring out which day, since between November 1988 and early May 1989, I made more than a dozen trips through this area.

Key to the mystery were the trains. I typically logged passing trains by leading locomotive and train symbol, while keeping track of film type, exposure notes, the time, along with other relevant details.

Conrail SD50 6746 was a clue. This was leading a westward freight. Another clue were the semaphores at milepost 337, located just west of the village of Arkport, NY. Conrail 3171 led an eastward freight and these details helped me locate the correct log sheet.

My notes from January 14, 1989 put most of the remaining pieces together and I labled both the original negative sheet with date and locations, while scanning and labeling the negatives.

Although it wasn’t noted, I recall that the black & white photos on that day were made with my father’s Leica double-stroke M3 rangefinder. I used my own Leica M2 to expose color slides.

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Spring at the Swift River Truss; Focus, Perspective and Composition—Four photos.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time studying railway imagery, observing and analyzing hundreds of thousands of individual photos.

Among the most striking are the works of Japanese photographers.

Some of their most successful photos cleverly use focus and depth of field to place the railway in its environment. In some situations this is accomplished with a single image; in others with a sequence of photos.

Last week, I emulatted the style embraced by my Japanese counterparts to produce this sequence of images at the Swift River Bridge on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Conway Branch.

Here I’m working with three primary subjects; the truss bridge, Budd rail diesel car Millie and a flowering tree. All were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

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