Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light posts new railway photography every day.
Working with the Leica IIIa fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon and loaded with Kodak Tri-X, I exposed this vertical grab shot of Pan Am Southern’s eastward loaded autorack train 28N at Wisdom Way in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
I often work with two or more cameras, typically one is a film body and the other digital.
On this June 2017 afternoon, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I arrived a few minutes earlier, and my primary image from the Wisdom Way bridge was a color view with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 90mm lens.
The 21mm Super Angulon is a very unusual lens, but one I’ve been working with since the 1970s. Looking back over my early work, I often achieved more satisfying results with this lens than my other tools.
For this view I wanted a dynamic angle that was more than simple documentation so I chose to skew the horizon. I also slightly panned the moving locomotive, which has the affect of softening the background while keeping the numbers on the locomotive cab sharp.
Norfolk Southern 6991 is fitted with the ‘Crescent cab,’ a design unique to Norfolk Southern, thus making it comparatively unusual in New England.
This is an old favorite location with a great name. How can you go wrong with a street called Wisdom Way? Much better than Losers Lane.
The other day, Norfolk Southern/Pan Am Southern symbol freight 14R was on its way east. I was struggling to find a suitable place to make a photograph, and the best I could come up with was old Wisdom Way.
The light was ‘wrong’ (is that possible?). So I opted for an unusual angle.
Notice that I’ve made the most of the vertical framing by allowing the length of the freight to run diagonally from the top right of the photo to the bottom of the image. This culminates with Norfolk Southern’s emblematic horse and ditch lights on the point of the common General Electric wide-nose cab diesel.
While the locomotive is dominant, my down-on angle emphasizes the machine’s angular shapes from a decidedly different perspective yet includes the freight behind it. Where does your eye fall first?
My aim is to show the power of the machine, the length of the train, and yet capture the atmosphere of the autumnal scene. Notice the dead track to the left, that’s the old eastward main, long out of service.
Would this have worked as well if I was at ground and level with the train using classic ‘over the shoulder’ three-quarter lighting and common centered composition?