In recent years I’ve been making annual visits to MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont Red Line extension. This quaint relic of urban transit is a throw-back to another time.
Thanks to the wisdom and historically minded MBTA, this continues to host restored PCC cars wearing classic period paint. (today, we might call it ‘heritage paint’ but I don’t know that I approve of that term).
Back in June 1978, I visited this line with my father and exposed my first roll of Kodachrome 25 (prior to that I usually used K64 or Ektachrome).
Twenty years earlier, my father had made his first visit to the line. The cars then were double-end former Dallas PCCs, but painted nearly the same as those featured here.
The other day, Pat Yough and I spent an overcast afternoon photographing the antique PCCs. These are great vehicles to travel in and make for intriguing subjects. For me it brought back memories of living near MBTA’s Riverside Line in the early 1970s when PCCs were still the rule on that route.
If you haven’t seen it, John Gruber and I authored a compact book titled Streetcars of Americapublished by Shire that features on the cover a freshly painted former Dallas PCC near Cleveland Circle.
My Lumix LX7 with its f1.4 Leica Vario Summicron lens is another fun tool for making photos in the subway. It sure beats my ancient old Leica 3A hands down.
Park Street Station was bright enough so that even back in film days I could get passable photos of paused PCCs in black & white. But these days with the LX7 I can make very publishable handheld views in color.
Using the digital camera in the subway allows me virtually instantaneous feedback. I can check color balance, sharpness, exposure and composition on site. No longer do I need to unfurl wet negatives from stainless steel tanks to find out that I missed my exposure by half a stop.
Of course while instant feedback allows me to make adjustments to the exposure on-site, it does take away some of the thrill of anticipation.
I’ve found that subway images, like most night photos, require a manual exposure override of about a 1/3 to 2/3rds of a stop to compensate for specular highlights (caused by overhead lights and the reflections of same off shiny surfaces such as metal encased columns and enameled station signs).
In other words, I’ll set the Lumix to the ‘A’ (aperture) mode, then dial in + 2/3 overexposure with the toggle wheel. When I don’t make this correction the images appear too dark coming out of the camera. While I can adjust for this in post processing, I’d rather optimize my exposure to allow for the most amount of detail in the RAW file.
Does all that sound too complicated? By making this nominal exposure compensation to lighten my photos in camera, the resulting images will ultimately require less work on the computer and should be easier to use on the printed page.
The photos display in this post have not received post-processing, except for scaling necessary for internet presentation. Here: I have not modified exposure, color balance, contrasts or sharpness.
Way back, in the dim past of my formative years in photography, I’d travel the Boston subway Leica 3A in hand and try to make photos.
My camera skills were rudimentary, my spelling was atrocious, and trying to make photographs underground with Kodachrome film really wasn’t the most practical approach to making successful images.
But that didn’t deter me, and I’d try anyway.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had an occasion to regularly ride Boston’s Red Line subway. But, in the interval I’ve discovered that one of the advantages to modern digital photography is in the realm of subterranean urban rail imagery. (Digital spell chek helps greatly with the words too.)
Park Street Station, Boston. Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 fitted with Carl Zeiss f1.8 32mm lens.
The other day Pat Yough lent me his recently acquired Carl Zeiss f1.8 32mm lens. This fast sharp piece of glass combined with the excellent sensor on my Fuji X-T1 is an ideal combination for making subway images. Here’s just a few.
So where in the 1970s and early 1980s, I’d made dark slides and thin black & white images, today the photographs at least properly exposed!
In the 1970s and 1980s, I spent many of my formative years in railway photography exploring greater Boston. My family lived in Newton Center from 1969 to 1973, while after that my father worked in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I have early memories of riding Green Line PCC cars, watching Penn-Central commuter trains from Star Market (positioned over the Mass-Pike with a view of the parallel Boston & Albany line) as well as later experiences exploring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s transit and suburban railway lines.
As my photography improved and matured and my interest in railways developed, I explored and photographed operations ever farther from those of my earliest days.
In recent years, trips to Boston have largely been focused on Logan Airport, and I’ve made only occasional photographs in the city. Most of my recent MBTA photographs have been exposed either at South Station or at the periphery of the commuter rail network.
Without exaggeration, I can say that today I’m more familiar with Dublin, London, Philadelphia Chicago and San Francisco than I am with Boston.
Thanks to Tim Doherty, on Sunday October 27, 2013, I was reacquainted with aspects of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in and around Boston, some of which I hadn’t seriously photographed in nearly 20 years. A bright day, fall foliage, and Tim’s detailed knowledge of Boston aided our marathon photographic journey. These are among my results:
More Boston photos in tomorrow’s Tracking the Light post!