Why trains? What is it about the railroad that connects to so many people? For many of us, the answer lies in childhood memories, our earliest wonder at the spectacle of a thundering locomotive, or perhaps that Lionel train under the Christmas tree. I am old enough to remember watching steam railroading on the Norfolk & Western as a boy in the 1950s. But it goes beyond that. The railroad was the prototype for that most American of obsessions, the road trip. Even though train travel has been overshadowed by the automobile and airplane, when we look down the tracks, far-away places still call, and we are pulled into the distance.
Late in the 1945, a Navy ship with my father aboard docked in San Diego. The war was over and Dad was going home. A train carried him across the country that he had fought in the Pacific to preserve and protect. He rode through the small towns and the big cities. He watched other servicemen reunited with their family on the platforms of small stations scattered across the nation. He dozed in his coach seat while America streamed by the window. Read more
Above is the set-up shot. All I needed was a south-bound freight train rolling by that lovely old Brookhaven station for a great train picture. So I waited. I had no idea how long I would have to wait, but I wanted the perfect shot that was dancing in my head. I wait some more. A headlight down the track! I get in position, but the locomotive in the distance stops, and then backs up; just an engine switching cars. Read more
My favorite photography magazine these days is PleinAir Magazine. Yes, I know that PleinAir is not about photography, but it has been a source of inspiration to me that I cannot find in the pages of the regular photography magazines with their emphasis on gear and technique.
Like most people with a camera, I am tempted from time to time to take pictures of flowers. There are lots of flowers around, they are all beautiful and it is easy to take a good picture of them. One might say that it is hard to take a bad flower picture. Even technically flawed photos of flowers—out of focus or motion blurred—often work in an abstract sort of way. What I learned though, is that it is very difficult to take a really outstanding photograph of a flower. Trains are like flowers in that respect. It is relatively easy to take a good train picture, much more difficult to take a truly great one.
So the question becomes, "What else?" Read more
During the course of my correspondence with Doug Bess about his article “My Railfan Experience in Germany,” it came out that he and I were in Germany at almost exactly the same time in ’71 and ’72. To my knowledge, our paths never crossed—Doug was stationed in Wiesbaden and I was stationed in Mannheim—but his story brought back many memories. Read more