Recently I read a definition of photographic composition that said something to the effect of; ‘making order out of chaos.’ In railway photography, wires pose special compositional problems, and can lend for chaotic images if not handled carefully.
In this photo I exposed at the Illinois Railway Museum, a virtual sea of wires lace the sky and visually surround the streetcar.
As visual elements, wires typically appear as dark lines and unless they are carefully placed, they can disrupt a photograph by dividing up the frame and causing unwanted distractions. Yet, in many situations the wires are important part of the railway infrastructure.
In this case, I’ve carefully photographed the streetcar passing the electrical substation that is part of the network that supplies the car with juice, and so many of the wires pictured directly relate to the streetcar. No wires, no go.
Yet, I’m not entirely satisfied with the image. I think that if I’d played around with my angle and juxtaposition of the car, I may have been able to produce a more striking image.
In 2005, SEPTA re-introduced regular streetcar service to its number 15 route along Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue using historic President Conference Committee (PCC) trolley cars. These are painted in the old Philadelphia Transportation Company’s livery, which ads class to the service.
My brother Sean lives just a few blocks from Girard Avenue, and on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, we made a project of photographing the cars in service. While on previous trips we’ve gone for a spin, this time we drove, allowing me to make the maximum number of photos in just a limited time. We’ll take another spin on another day soon!
While SEPTA’s Route 15 seems to run on 10-15 minute intervals, not every service has a PCC. At least one of the runs was provided by a bus. I made an image of this as well because I’ve learned from my study of railways, that it is best to photograph everything and sort out the wheat from the chaff at a later date. (In other words don’t judge your subject).
This trip, I made digital images with my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D. On previous trips I’ve photographed the Route 15 in black & white using a Leica M4, and made color slides using my Nikons and Canon EOS 3.
Contemporary views of a Traditional Streetcar Route.
On the afternoon of Sunday June 30, 2013, Pat Yough and I visited Media, Pennsylvania to photograph SEPTA’s Route 101 Streetcar.
A century ago, single-track streetcar lines graced many American towns. The era of the electric trolley car faded decades ago. Today, Media is virtually in class by itself. Historic re-creations aside, where else in the USA does a single-track streetcar route serve “Main Street”?
The 101 Route is one of two SEPTA (former Red Arrow) streetcar lines radiating from its 69th Street Terminus in Upper Darby in suburban Philadelphia. The other trolley line is the 102 route to Sharon Hill. 69th Street is also served by the Route 100 high-speed interurban line to Norristown (the old Philadelphia & Western line) and the Market-Frankford elevated.