On April 9, 1988, I exposed this view on Conrail’s heavily used former New York Central System ‘Water Level Route’ west of Silver Creek, New York.
Clear skies and bright afternoon sun were ideal when exposing Kodachrome 25.
For this image of Conrail SD50s working westbound I used my Leica M2 fitted with an f2.8 90mm Elmarit.
Using a telephoto with a Leica rangefinder was always a bit tricky.
Although a window in the M2’s viewfinder provided a pretty good sense for the limits of the frame offered by the 90mm lens, the camera didn’t offer any sense of the effects of visual compression or limited depth of field that are inherent to this focal length in the 35mm format.
Yet, the combination of Leica glass and Kodachrome 25 allowed me to make some exceptionally sharp images.
Every so often someone will ask if have any regrets. I’m never sure what they’re getting at, but yes, Yes I do.
My regrets? Not learning photography skills more quickly.
I made this photograph in late 1978 (slide mount reads ‘Feb 79’, but if I recall correctly, it was right around Christmas. Prompt processing wasn’t on my agenda back then).
I traveled with my father and brother to the old New Haven electrified lines. We picked this spot and set up. We were all delighted to catch this GG1 with an eastward Amtrak train. I can still feel the excitement when we spotted the old motor in the distance.
At that time I had access to all of my dad’s lenses. We probably had a 90 or 135mm with us at the time. Yet, I opted to use my 50mm.
Why? I just didn’t know any better.
Today, I look as this image and see three elements that I could have put together more effectively; the aged former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric (pantograph first), old New Haven short-arm left-handed semaphores (most American semaphores aim to the right), and winter glint light.
Now, I’d use a telephoto to feature the signals and the electric in tighter more visually pleasing composition. This what I saw at the time, I just included too much dead space in my image and the locomotive and signals are too distant.
At least I was using good glass and Kodachrome film. There’s that anyway.
Tracking the Light explores photography every day.
One of the great challenges of working with long telephoto lenses is getting the focus where you want it.
The inherent nature of a telephoto lens produces a comparatively shallow depth of field (relative field of focus). The longer the lens, the less depth of field.
So where precision focus is important with a wide angle lens, it is critical with a long lens, unless, of course, your intent is to make soft images.
Placing focus is important to me, as I’ve learned various visual tricks for directing the eye within an image by clever use of sharpness. Sometimes when photographing trains, the optimal focus point is not at the front of the locomotive; however, in this case, that was precisely my objective.
One of the reasons I’ve embraced auto-focus cameras, was that about ten years ago I concluded that I couldn’t trust my eyesight to make precision focus, especially when I had to do it quickly.
Using my new Fuji X-T1, I made this image on Friday February 20, 2015 of an Irish Rail continuous welded rail train crossing the River Liffey at Islandbridge in Dublin.
I arrived at my location a bit winded and had only a few moments to make a test photo and set the focus point (the Fuji allows for easy adjustment of the desired focus point) before the train came into view.
The equipment performed perfectly! The front of the 071 class locomotive is razor sharp. Hurray!
Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 135mm; ISO 800, f5.6 1/500th second, ‘Velvia’ color profile.