“We worked like thieves, stealing images as train riders do, from that passing world unmasked by the railroad whose intrusion helped create it. A corridor of random and disordered beauty, the backs of buildings, a space where nothing is posed. You would walk here as a trespasser, stepping over weeds and cracked pavement, past a rusty fence, a chained dog, a string of white laundry, a man fixing his truck, a woman lying in the sun.” – Michael Flanagan, Stations: An Imagined Journey
Saturday afternoon found me over in the valley again. Here in central Virginia, “the valley” is understood to mean the Shenandoah Valley which is “over” on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains from where I live. A year and a half ago, I began working on a project to photograph a few miles of railroad that runs between Elkton and Front Royal on part of what is now Norfolk Southern’s Shenandoah Valley line.
It was a pleasant early spring day. Some snow still lingered on the north facing slopes of the mountains, but in the valley the fields were beginning to turn green, and the trees were just starting to show some spring color. In the Town of Shenandoah, I stopped in the NS yard office and asked if it was OK to take some pictures (it was) and found out that a northbound freight was leaving soon. Read more
Steve Crise is a professional still photographer and lighting designer based in Los Angeles, California. His love of trains led him into photography, and his work has been featured in Railfan & Railroad, Trains, CTC Board, Railroads Illustrated, Model Railroader’s four articles on Rod Stewart’s HO scale layout, and annual report work for the BNSF and Union Pacific. He teaches each February at the Nevada Northern Railway on the basics of night photography using his electronic strobe equipment. Steve is active in several organizations devoted to the preservation of railroad history and has traveled widely to document the remaining traces of our railroad heritage.
Edd Fuller, Editor, The Trackside Photographer – Steve, shortly after I started The Trackside Photographer, I wrote to you asking if you would be willing to write for us, and we subsequently published a great article by you called “Macro vs. Micro.” I want to thank you for that, and for taking the time to talk with us about your work. Although you are a professional photographer with clients in many different fields, the railroad seems to be at the heart of your work. How did your love of railroads come about?
Steve Crise – I’m not entirely sure how my interest in railroads came about but legend has it that I used to cry in my car seat at the Southern Pacific’s Fletcher Drive crossing when my mother would often get stuck at that crossing. Her accounting of the situation would have you believing that I hated those noisy trains, but I think it was more about not being able to see them well enough from three car lengths behind the gates. Whatever it was that lit the flame it has stuck with me all these years. And to add fuel to that fire, it seems as though just about every Christmas I received some sort of toy or model train as a gift. Wooden trains, plastic trains, Marx, American Flyer, Tyco—it goes on and on. Aside from the modeling, I used to draw and paint a lot when I was a kid. I always had some sort of project going on. The American Flyer was always set up around the Christmas tree and once we moved into a larger home, I was allowed to build a small HO layout. The layout added to my interest in real trains because naturally I wanted my layout to look as real as possible. Read more
Edd Fuller, Editor, The Trackside Photographer–Michael, I want to thank you for your generosity in sharing your work with our readers and for taking the time to talk with us. I usually start by asking about your interest in railroads, and we will get to that later, but first let’s talk about photography. You have chosen a career in photography. How did that come about?
Michael Froio – Thanks, Edd, It is a pleasure, and honor, to share my work with the Trackside Photographer, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what you are doing.
How did I get into photography? Hm. Well, I always had an interest in making photographs, at least since my young teenage years. At that time it very simply tied into my interest in trains. I wasn’t particularly good at making train photos, but while exploring the railroad (often with my father) I was always compelled to document what we found. When I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. Taking prerequisite classes like English lit and math classes bored me out of my mind. A friend and classmate mentioned he was taking a photo class, so I enrolled in Photo 110. My professor, Rachael Fermi (granddaughter of Enrico Fermi – the creator of the atomic bomb) was an incredible character. She did a terrific job teaching the foundations of photography while encouraging creativity, craft and an understanding of composition. After a few classes, I took a job as a lab monitor, mixing chemicals and managing the darkroom, typically during the evening hours. It was during this post that I fell in love with photography and the idea of teaching. Read more
Dennis Livesey in the last few years has become a well-known and respected railroad photographer. His new book Smoke Over Steamtown was published to critical reviews in Railfan & Railroad, Railroad Heritage and on Amazon. The book is available at Ron’s Books, Amazon and other fine booksellers. Shortly after the book was published, Livesey’s photographs were introduced to the general photographic community on the Photo District News website as their “Photo of the Day”. His first art gallery show, “Echos of Steam” is on display at the Valley Railroad’s Oliver Jensen Gallery in Essex, Connecticut until 10/22/2017. In conjunction with that, The Friends of the Valley Railroad elected to use 15 of his photographs for their “Railroad Calendar 2018.” His second gallery show, “Smoke Over Steamtown” is on display at Steamtown’s Visitor Center in Scranton, PA until 3/3/2018. Closer to his home in New York City, he has three images with the New York Transit Museum’s Grand Central Annex exhibit “7 Train: Minutes To Midtown.” His work has been recognized by the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s John Gruber Creative Photography Awards Program since 2013. Frequently in Railfan & Railroad and Trains magazines, his most notable article was “Transitscapes” in Railfan & Railroad’s August 2015 issue featuring his exploration of the New York City rail scene. Lastly, he was just awarded the Grand Prize in Trains Magazine 2017 “Lucky 7” Photo Contest.”
We recently talked to Dennis about his career in photography and his love of railroading.
Edd Fuller, Editor, The Trackside Photographer – Dennis, it is a real treat to have the opportunity to talk with you about your outstanding work. I suppose the place to start is with your love of railroads. How did that come about?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
As railroad photographers, we tend to feature the train as the main subject. Whether it’s a wider scenic type shot, showing the train snaking through a beautiful landscape, or a tighter telesmash accentuating the undulating terrain being traversed, it’s still a photo featuring equipment rolling along the rails. Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and look at things from a different angle. I’d like to share a recent example from that different perspective—maybe it’ll spark something in your creative mind. Read more