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In July 2002, I spent a week in Estonia photographing railway operations.
It was organized for me take a cab-ride on an empty oil-train in a recently imported former Union Pacific General Electric C36-7 diesel.
I was working with three cameras. Previously I’ve published color views exposed with my Contax G2 rangefinder and Nikon N90S single-lens reflex, however until today most of my black & white photos remained unpublished and unseen.
I made my black & white photos using a Rollei Model T twin-lens reflex (120 size film camera). So, rolling along at about 30 mph east of Tallinn, I made this view of a Riga-built Tallinn-area electric suburban train.
Significantly,I made this image by using the Rollei’s field-finder— which is nothing more than a pair of open squares that allow you to frame up a photo while holding the camera at eye-level.
Normally, I’d focus using the camera’s built in magnifying glass on the waist level viewer (which supplies a view through the top lens arrangement that projects onto a Fresnel screen. The down side of this viewing mechanism is that you must look down into the camera and the image is in reverse.
So exposing photos from a moving locomotive cab using the waist-finder is not only impractical, but can lend to sea-sickness.
Another advantage of the field-finder is that you are actually looking at your subject without any distortion caused by a lens. In today’s photography it rare that you actually see your subject at the time the shutter is released. You’d be amazed how this direct viewing can improve composition.
Also, the Rollei’s mechanical shutter release is virtually instantaneous.
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