Using my Leica 3A, I made this view from a NYCTA city bus in The Bronx circa 1980.
I don’t have any notes at all from this trip.
In all likelihood, I was using a 35mm Nikkor lens with a screw-mount designed for the Leica 3 series cameras. This was a favorite of mine at the time because it required an adjustable external viewfinder that made it easier to compose than the tiny window on the camera body.
The primary subject of the photo was the subway train on what I think was the White Plains Road elevated line. At right is my brother Sean. We were traveling with our grandmother from Fordham Road toward Co-op City as part of a shopping trip.
This photo has been quietly hiding, unprinted and unseen in a glassine negative sleeve for nearly 40 years! (Try that with your favorite phone photo.)
Back in the day it wasn’t always easy to obtain a satisfactory exposure. Sometimes we got it wrong.
Such was the case on February 6, 1959, when my father made a very dark slide of a New Haven Railroad EP-3 electric leading a long distance train at 204th street in The Bronx.
Did a cloud block the sun at just the wrong moment? Did he simply use the wrong setting? Who knows. But the other day, I rescued this very dark slide from his ‘doubles file’ long stored out of sight.
By my estimate I’d say it is about 2-3 stops underexposed.
Slide Scanning in three 3.5 parts
I made three scans of this slide, from which I produced four variations of the image.
My question: all of this scanning and correction required about 45 minutes of my time. While it was neat to rescue this long forgotten image of an EP3 electric, would my time be better spent making less labor-intensive scans of properly exposed slides from the same period?
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My grandparents lived in Coop City in The Bronx for a dozen years. Their 19th floor apartment had an open terrace that looked across the Hutchinson River toward Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad line that ran from New Rochelle over the Hell Gate Bridge toward Penn-Station.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, we’d make regular visits. I was delighted by passing of Amtrak trains, and by the time I was ten, I’d figured out how to interpret the timetable to predict when trains would pass.
Amtrak was still operating a fair few former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics, and these were my favorite. From about mid-1978, I’d keep my Leica 3A poised at the ready and if a GG1 were to appear, I’d make a color slide, or two.
While I made a great many photographs, my photographic efforts were, at best, rudimentary. Complicating matters was my general panic when a GG1 finally appeared.
As the train rolled into view, I’d try to gauge the lighting using an old Weston Master III photo cell and rapidly adjust the aperture on my Summitar lens, but my understanding of exposure was purely conceptual. In other words, I went through the motions, but really didn’t know what I was doing.
Also, I was photographing the scene with a 50mm lens, and the tracks were at least a quarter mile distant. Later, I learned to use my father’s telephoto lenses for some more effective views, but by then new AEM-7s had replaced the GG1s.
Recently, I rediscovered a box of long lost Kodachrome slides, including a bunch of my surviving photos from my grand parent’s terrace. This one is one of the few passable efforts, and will a little cropping, and some post processing in Photoshop, it isn’t too bad.
Learning technique is every photographer’s challenge. My learning curve was slow, in part because it was often months between the time of exposure and when I got slides back from Kodak. By the time I reviewed my results, I hadn’t remembered what I’d done, and didn’t know what to do to improve future efforts.
By comparison, kids starting today with digital cameras can see their results immediately and have the opportunity to learn quickly. Perhaps, from one of these same terraces, some kid today has captured one of the final runs of Amtrak’s HHP8s (recently retired from active work) or the rapidly disappearing AEM-7s!