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In Anticipation of a Steamy Summer

January 26th, 2015

I know, I know, a train guy talking about trains again, but I was looking at Robert Lyndall's fantastic shots of the Norfolk & Western steam engines and got excited.

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The interesting thing is that this shot looks like it was taken a long time ago. The two cars on the road below were no doubt placed there to give the shot a vintage feel. And I guess it was a long time ago if you think it was a was a long time ago that Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever" was released. The 611 is a 4-8-4 J Class locomotive, the only one remaining out of fourteen that were built in the 1940s at the N&W rail shops in Roanoke. The J class series were used daily to pull noted passenger trains such as the Powhatan Arrow, the Pocohantas, and the Cavalier between Cincinnati, OH and Norfolk, VA. Between Monroe, NC and Bristol, TN, the J's also pulled the Tenesseean, the Pelican and the Birmingham Special between Monroe, VA and Bristol TN/VA. When passenger service on the Norfolk & Western was fully diselized, the J's were retired.

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The story goes that the N&W decided to run a steam-powered railfan trip in 1959 after the J Class was retired and it just so happened that the #611 was the first one in the line of stored locomotives, so they chose it. It had been involved in a derailment in the mid-50s and had gone through some repairs already, so it made a natural choice on two counts. The railroad took it out of retirement briefly and did some restoration work for the 1959 fan trip.

By 1982, Norfolk & Western had merged with Southern Railway to become Norfolk Southern. The same year, the NW 611 was brought out of retirement once again to run steam trips. Mr. Lyndall shot this one over the Southern viaduct just outside of Toccoa, Georgia.

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Mr. Lyndall is well known in railroading and railfanning for his fine selection of photography from the hey day of steam excursions on the east coast, most notably the Norfolk & Western's two iconic steam locomotives. In addition to the N&W streamlined J-Class 611, there is also the behemoth 2-6-6-4 N&W #1218.

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A word about steam engine designations. The numbers refer to the wheels. 2-6-6-4 means there are 18 total wheels on the 1218 one of the biggest steam locomotives ever built. The 1218 had a relatively short life as a revenue engine on the N&W. Built in June 1943, she was retired in 1959. Her class of steam engine regularitly pulled troops during World War 2. In 1969, the egnine wound up in Roanoke, Virginia

She was brought out of retirement in 1985 and sent to Alabama for a full restoration. She served Norfolk Southern's 1980s and 90s steam trips along with the #611 until both were retired in 1994 and eventually found their way to their new home, the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

I was 19 then and while interested in trains, didn't keep up on them as I do now. So I missed all kinds of steam excursions through the Carolinas back then. Norfolk Southern ended them in 1994... and by the time I caught this steam engine sittingon static display, I thought my chances of seeing her run steam again were on the same line as, I don't know, seeing David Lee Roth sing in Van Halen again.

But what do you know? The 611 is currently in Spencer, NC getting ready to return to steam again this summer! She had just arrived on property in anticipation of the restoration work that has been going on for the last six months. After missing out on the steam trips of the 1980s and 90s, I'm getting a second chance as are many others!

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I've seen steam trains run, but none as big as the #611. NS brought out the former Southern Railway 2-8-0 #630 and ran here and that was cool

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I've seen the former Lancaster and Chester Railway #40 run on her new home in Pennsylvania

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and I've seen the Washington & Lincolnton run on the Knoxville & Holton River

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but seeing the 611 is going to be a different kind of awesome!

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End of the Line for the Carolina Southern Railroad

January 24th, 2015

End of the Line for the Carolina Southern Railroad

The end of the line for the Carolina Southern Railroad should be sometime within the next thirty days. The railroad has been shut down voluntarily (I used air quotes in my mind when I wrote that.) since August 2011 when Federal Railroad Administrations inspectors found a number of bridges in dire need of repair. This didn't come as much of a shock to railfans in the area. They had also had several derailments in recent years and some YouTube videos of Carolina Southern trains made it apparent the tracks were in bad shape, even for ten mile per hour trains.

It's a little hard to believe, but the last time I shot the Carolina Southern Railroad was in July of 2006. It's not that far from me, but just far enough to be a pain to get there and not know if I might catch something running or not. At one time the railroad had an interesting collection of motive power:

2 ex-Canadian National Funits in Carolina Southern red and white
1 ex-Canadian National cabless F unit still in CN paint
1 ex-Southern high hood GP30, in faded and rusting SOU paint
1 ex-Norfolk & Western high hood GP18 in faux Atlantic Coast Line paint
1 grey ex-Mid Atlantic Railroad GP18
1 Pullman Green Carolina Southern GP18
2 red and white Carolina Southern GP18s

One year a few days after Christmas, we went down to catch them running. No such luck. We caught one train sitting in Mullins, SC though with the Pullman Green locomotive up front.

Carolina Southern Railroad by Joe the Photog

A year and a half later, we went back down during the hot, high sun days of summer. We had followed the line down from Chadbourn, NC, which I can spell at least three different ways, all the way to Myrtle Beach before giving up and going to Springmaid Pier. Naturally, on our way home when I was already done cussing about missing the train, we caught it in Conway.

Carolina Southern Railroad by Joe the Photog

We did a U-turn to see how far it may go. Both shots give some indication as to how much time they spent on track maintenance.

Carolina Southern Railroad by Joe the Photog

With the railroad shut down since summer 2011, the local counties and owners of the railroad sparred about getting the trains rolling again. The owner of the Carolina Southern, Ken Pippin, applied for several grants from the federal governments, but received none of them. He said he had no money to build the line back up yet. There were many articles in the local papers and stories on local TV news that hinted at the deep divide between the two parties. A group was formed to try to get the railroad operating again. At some meetings, Pippin was asked not to attend.

People in the area wrote in to the newspaper and suggested the rails be pulled up. One letter to the editor talked about trains in the past tense, as if they were relegated to history. A blog from the area railed at the intrusion of the government into private enterprise. Neither point of view carried much weight. The local leaders understood the importance of railroads in an area where tourism is the biggest industry. Railroads bring industry in which in turns means more jobs to the locals and less big trucks on the highways.

The Carolina Southern sold two of the old F units and scrapped another one, They chopped the nose of the GP18 with the identity crisis, but never ran her again before finally scraping her, too. As for the passenger cars, they got sold to the Iowa Pacific and took a detour through my hometown to undergo some work on the Lancaster and Chester.

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Meanwhile, I was kicking myself for not getting down more often. I lost some high resolution images to a hard drive crash. This was one of them.

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I took it through a painterly program and saved it as best I could. I can go back and reshoot. Oddly enough, other shots from that day survived.

Carolina Southern Railroad by Joe the Photog

And this one I found late last year

Carolina Southern Railroad by Joe the Photog

The latest news is that the RJ Corman Group has filed paperwork with the Surface Transportation Board to purchase the railroad from Ken Pippin. They believe they can wrap up the deal within the next thirty days. When they come in, the Carolina Southern Railroad will cease to exist. Corman will put a lot of money into the tack and bridges. They'll bring in new motive power painted in their own paint scheme. It will be a new day on the railroad.

Carolina Southern is still in many ways a baby among railroads. They are the third shortline operator to ply the rails since CSX spun the lines off in the late 80s. Maybe this one will stick.

Weather Or Not To Shoot Trains

December 23rd, 2014

Saturday was supposed to be a low key day for me. I had planned to stay at home and take care of a few things that needed doing there and then on Sunday, spend a day with my camera and get some trains in the view finder. The weather had set up nicely for this. Saturday was going to be cold and raining while Sunday would be warmer and nothingbut blue skies. Of course, plans are meant to be broken and as soon as I sat down in front of Facebook Saturday morning, my plans changed.

One of my Facebook friends had posted in a group I admin that the Norfolk Southern Office Car Special was in Columbia preparing to head out. So, I asked my son if he wanted to head out with me and in ten minutes, we were in the car going to intercept the train. The OCS is a special train Norfolk Southern sends out for its executives. It had been in south east South Carolina at a resort for a week. I believe they had been holding some meetings and would sometimes use the train. Now the weather was not great, but the rain was holding off, so we ended up in a nice spot I had been wanting to shoot before. The problem is that most trains run on this line either at night or when the sun angle works better in the other direction. No need to worry about sun angles on this day.

So the train comes and right away, I believe I have a workable image in spite of the weather. I've said it before, railroads run in all kinds of weather. So I go home, take care of what I needed to take care of and then sit down to edit the image. I shot maybe ten in all with two lens and chose the ninth frame to use. I had wanted to show the soccer field for the University of South Carolina behind the train as well as the stop sign to the right to better illustrate the train was going through an intersection, a somewhat unusual alignment for the railroad here. The emphasis was on the old streamliner locomotives more than the passenger cars at this spot, but I think it works well. I did something I try not to do too much and posted both a color and a black and white version here. I prefer the B&W shot, but the color shot is nice, too.

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Now on Sunday when I woke up, I could tell something was off. There was no sun shining through my bedroom window. I got up and peered through the curtains. Sure enough, it was cloudy. A check on confirmed my fears. The forecast had changed and now it was to be mostly cloudy in the Carolinas. I had two definite possibilities on where to go that day. I have lost most of the high resolution versions of my shots of the Pee Dee River Railway. They are a nice shortline about ninety miles away from Columbia. They run almost every day and they typically go into the sun in both directions. The other choice was to go up to Charlotte to the public overlook at the airport. I've never been terribly happy with my aviation shots, so this was the first choice to go Sunday when I thought the weather was going to be good.

I struck both of these off the list with the downturn in the weather and ended up taking a lazy Sunday drive with my beautiful wife. We had a nice lunch together and tackled a few stores for some last minute Christmas shopping. Then on a whim, I decided to drive through the little town of Kershaw, South Carolina. My hometown railroad serves an Archers-Daniel-Midlands plant there and while I was not expecting them to be running, they often leave their train there over the weekend.

As we pulled into town, I saw railroad cars slowly moving over one of the main roads in town. At first, I thought I had caught a Sunday train on the Lancaster and Chester, which would have been cool, but it was actually the ADM crew coming out of their plant to get some more cars. And that was really cool. I did a U-turn and had to go about two miles to get back to the other side of the tracks hoping that, one, there would be an L&C train there to include in the shot and, two, that I would beat the ADM crew back.

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As you can see, it was yes on both counts. But there was another surprise. As I happened up on the train, the sun came out for the first time all day. It probably shined all of ten minutes that day, all at the same time that I had randomly come across this train. Then it went back behind the clouds and didn't come out again. So while the day had not gone as I first imagined, it was actually a nice day, two days, really, of train photography, even if it were only two trains!

Have you ever lost a camera?

December 10th, 2014

I was surfing the web and came across this somewhat funny (though not meant to be) post about losing a camera.

It got me to thinking. I used two film Rebels for many years when I shot more than I do today. (Quanity, if not quality, of shots anyway.) I replaced one with an Elan 7 and then decided to sell both Rebels. I later replaced the Elan 7 with the first Digital Rebel, or 300D. I initially let my sister-in-law borrow the Elan 7 since she did not have a camera and had just given birth. I kinda regretted this decision thinking I would loveto still be able to shoot slides, but when she returned the camera after going digital, I literally shot one roll of film before realizing and remembering why I hated shooting film so much.

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(My Elan 7 with an old roll of film I found, unexposed.

The 300D was a good camera and a lot of my images here were taken by it, but it finally died on me and was replacedby a Canon XTi. With the advances of the Canon 60D, I decided to once again have two bodies and this is where the title of the thread comes in. I decided to stop taking both bodies out with me every time I took my gear. I had this fear of having my bag stolen and being left with only one crap lens and the Elan 7 at home. So during a move, the camera was somehow lost. My son was using it some as was my wife, but this was two years ago and the camera is still missing. No one knows where it is. Lost. Gone.

I think about this camera a lot when I'm out shooting frantically trying to repace a lens from long to short as a train approaches. Or when i want to shoot video as well as stills. It irritates me to no end to think that somewhere there is my XTi wondering where I am.

Shooting the Lancaster, South Carolina Santa Train... in the Rain

December 9th, 2014

The Lancaster and Chester Railroad in conjunction with See Lancaster has been providing Santa Train rides since 2006 and this year was no different. On Saturday, in spite of a gloomy forecast, my son, Michael the Photog, and I went up to get some pictures I've shot this train in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013 and now this year and three of those years featured weather that could only be described as crappy. I had been following the weather forecasts all week and the consensus was that both days of the train rides would be the same.

Both of the shots I have on Joe the Photog Dot Com so far were taken at West Manor Road in Lancaster. The first one shows the train going away from us. They run an engine on both sides so that at the end of the ride, the train crew only has to get off of one engine and walk back to board the other for the return trip. As the train was passing me, I noted the backgrop of the trees in the background and thought that might make a nice shot, in efect, getting rid of all of the sky.

Lancaster Chester Railroad Santa Train Joe the Photog

Getting shots of the entire train proved tricky that day. Since it was raining, the trucks under the train would all but disappear or else the rain would look like frain. I was happy with this shot though and agree with Teressa Nichole who commented that the background gavethe image a nice texture. I didn't need to do a lot in post, but the blue engine was more subdued than I wanted, so I increased the saturation. My cameradidn't give the image the contrast I thought it needed, but I was happy with it from the moment I viewed the shot on the back of my 60D. I like the way the tracks lead you to the train and the wet look addsa nice touch.

The next shot I took was of the same train at the same road. Given the cloudy conditions, I was able to get shots of both ends of the train at each stop where sunlight may have seriously hindered that plan. Here, it's most a head on shot showcasing the new blue paint on what was until recently a grey engine with yellow stripes on the nose. The Christmas wreathe is a nice, festive touch on an industrial piece of rolling stock. The grey mist and fog behind the train, in my opinion, makes the train stand out even more.

See Lancaster Santa Train Joe the Photog

As I mentioned, these engines have been painted within the last few years. Here is a comparison shot on a freight train in the summer of 2012. All three of these engines are now painted in the blue L&C corporate scheme.

Lancaster Chester Freight Train Joe the Photog

Sh-t My Copyright Infringer Says

November 7th, 2014

Sh*t My Copyright Infringer Says

The “No Shit! Really?” Defense – The infringer will claim ignorance of the law.

The “Stupid New Guy” Defense: They will blame a new employee (who apparently was never told not to steal other people’s work).

The “Bad Web Designer” Defense: They will blame someone they themselves hired to do their web site. Most web designers have contracts that read the client is fully responsible for the web site once it goes live.

The “Google Made Me Do It” Defense: They will say they did a Google Image search and the image was one of many that came up.

The “Well, yeah, I was wrong but I took it down” Defense: They will point out that they took the image(s) down as soon as they realized their mistake. (Read: as soon as you contacted them.) Try telling a police officer that, sure, you were speeding but you slowed down as soon as you saw him flip the blue lights on. Let me know how that works for you.

The “You’re Being Mean To Me” Defense: Some will turn around and claim that they are being extorted or bullied by the copyright owner. Some will even claim that copyright holders post images only to try to entice their theft, that they are baiting people to commit a crime and then go after them for a good pay day.

The “Oh, yeah! Well your picture sucks anyway!” Defense: They will try to diminish the value of the image or the artist or their agent. Or even directly slander you. Mind you, they still chose to use it, so at one time they must have thought it had some market value.

The “Short Skirt” Defense: They will say that since you posted it online, you can’t surely expect people not to steal it.

The “Deny Everything” Defense: They will rarely admit to copyright infringement in the face of all evidence otherwise, even denying it to the point of saying “that’s not how we do business.”

The “Dude, I Gave You Credit!” Defense: This only works if they gave you credit and most times, they don’t. But it also doesn’t work because you didn’t give them permission! Besides, repeat after me, “Credit don’t pay bills!”

The “But It Should Be Legal” Defense: Also known as the Todd Gurley Defense, they will blame the copyright laws or the ease of being able to illegal download an image off the web.

The “I Know You Are But What Am I!” Defense: Some will suggest it is the copyright owner’s own fault for putting the image(s) on-line in the first place.

A Brief Encounter With A Police Officer Concerning My Photography

October 27th, 2014

I just got back from shooting a train in Cayce. Cayce is a town just outside the capital city of South Carolina. If you do a search on my 500+ images here, you will find I have 34 images from Cayce for sell here. My hunch is I actually have more, but that maybe I have not tagged them all correctly. I have more shots from Cayce on Flickr and Railpictures. One of my favorite places to shoot in Cayce is off the Hwy. 12 bridge near CMC Steel. I always feel a little uncomfortable there as there is not enough room to stand off the side as I'd like. Why no one thought to add an actual sidewalk to this bridge when they built it ten years ago is beyond me. I see people walking and riding bikes over it all the time.

The CSX line passes under the bridge and, as mentioned, the CMC facility is right there, so it offers some great industrial shots and I often stand on that bridge if I know a train is coming. Today, I knew a Norfolk Southern train had just entered the yard with a transfer from Columbia. I was hoping to get them coming out of the other end of the yard with a fairly long train which would put them beside the steel mill a lot like this shot I took a few years ago --

CSX Cayce South Carolina Joe Hinson

The engines would have been different both on the train and sitting in the background and the building is now a dark brown adding some contrasting details from the last shot. I had just got there and tested a few shots while I waited for the train. There was a second train in the yard and I thought I may be able to get it behind the Norfolk Southern. Now normally I am looking around me to make sure the cars see me and, honestly, to see if a police officer is about to pull up. I have actually been stopped on this bridge before for taking photographs. But with the test shot and the idea I may get two trains in the same shot from competing railroads, I wasn't paying attention.

All of a sudden, I heard someone behind me ask if everything was all right. I turned around and was basically looking in the passenger side window of a black SUV. "Yeah, I'm fine," I reply. At first, it did not computer that the guy was an officer. The interior was all black and he was wearing all black, but then I see the dash cam and the on board computer, not to mention the badge on his shirt. So now I have gone from preparing for the photograph to being in a conversation with an officer. I'm trying to cut the camera over to record video while at the same time I realize I have the long lens on. He asks me why I'm taking pictures. I'm still not in the mindset of being questioned and dryly reply, "It's just what I do." He asks if I'm working for anybody. "No, it's just a hobby." I do mention, for some reason, that I used to work for a TV station in Columbia and give him the initials. He has misunderstood me and says, "Oh, so you work for...?" and names the station. I correct him. "Used to."

So he puts the car in park and gets out. It's bright on the bridge and I can't tell if the camera is recording video or not by looking at the viewfinder. He asks me if I have ID on me. I do and reach for it. I know some folks say we should stand our ground at this point and maybe one day I will. But I don't see the need to at this point. I hand it to him and he calls me in. Giving him my ID doesn't mean I am happy with the process by any stretch. I am upset that photography is seen as suspicious by some folks. He tells me "the only reason I'm doing this is because of the day and age we live in." I let that pass, but hope my camera is shooting video at this point.

In the distance, the CSX train starts moving. I ask him if he minds if I shoot it and he tells me to go ahead. Thinking back on it later, I'm not sure how I would have reacted if he had not said it was OK. By now, I have the camera recording video and audio. I'd like to think I would have tested him by going on and shooting the train. I can say I would have done that, but I guess there is now way to know for sure. The train passes under the bridge and the engineer gives me a toot of the horn. I suspect I may know him or that he at least recognizes me. I think about mentioning this to the LEO, but I don't.

My name must have come through clean. He gives me my ID back, thanks me and then tells me to be safe up here. He pulls off and I walk toward my car. The Norfolk Southern train never came through.

Now here's the thing. The officer was friendly the whole time. I don't have a real problem with him on the basis of our interaction today. I would like to know if I had been called in by someone or if he just saw me and decided to stop. The other time I was on the bridge, the officer told me someone had called me in. As soon as he pulled up behind me and saw what I was doing, he apologized and told me to keep doing what I was doing and he would sit there and make sure I was safe. I've been on that bridge and seen LEOs pass me by and never give me a second thought, it seemed.

Then there was the Darlington County Incident when the railroad called me in on consecutive days. There has been two cases in Spartanburg and even one in my home town of Lancaster. There was another time in Newberry, SC when a group of four of us were called in when we were waiting on a train. I want folks to realize that photographers are not the problem. I've seen people walking on tracks, setting up portrait sessions on the tracks and it seems this is OK to both the public and the police, but when a lone guy with a camera stands on public property to shoot a passing train, this is somehow suspicious and demands to be checked out.

By the way, the Hwy. 12 bridge isn't the only place to shoot trains in Cayce. One of my most popular overall shots was taken a few miles from here in Cayce Riverwalk --

Two Trains Crossing the Congaree River Joe Hinson

No one ever questions me there, people passing by, including park rangers, assumes a guy with a camera is about to take pictures.

Shooting Steam

October 23rd, 2014

This past weekend, I shot the Southern Railway 2-8-0 #630 at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga. It was only the second time I had seen this steam engine at work. The first time had been in April of 2013 when Norfolk Southern brought her over to run steam trips out of Spencer, North Carolina for a weekend. The steam bug is biting me hard now that the old Norfolk & Western #611 is in Spencer getting rady to ride the rails again. The 611 and sister unit #1218 were main stays of railroad excursions in the 80s and 90s as I was first getting into trains and railfanning, but I somehow managed to miss every single trip, including those in my own backyard. (No internet yet. Now I know when someone sneezes in the shop near the 611.) The 630 and fellow Southern` survivor 4501 were also on the main line back then, but by the time I got into serious railfanning, all four were back on display in various museums. I spent a lot of years kicking myself for not shooting steam back then.

The best hope was always for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum to get the 630 or 4501 bask out. The 630 came first and that was nice. The 4501 just got back on the rails this year, too. I saw and shot her in Chattanooga over the weekend. But the stars of the show were always the N&W engines. Some people liked one better than the other. I believe most folks prefer the streamlined 611. I was always partial to the big 1218, but was very happy when it was announced that one of these were going to be rebuilt. The people who know steam engines said the 611 was closer to being ready. It would take less time and less money to get steaming again. Buzz out of Spencer say she's halfway there and while there are no publicly announced plans, I suspect she will come out of retirement next year.

Shooting steam trains is a bit harder than regular freight trains with diesel power. You generally want rods down, so there's a matter of timing with that. If the engine is really putting out a good plume of smoke, you have to ask if you want the smoke to trail off or can you crop the plume off and still have a good photograph? Do you want contemporary aspects in the shot? There was no way NOT to shoot the parking lot in this shot, so it became a chronicle of an old steam engine in the modern day

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The shot works because of the modern cars and the folks dressed in 2014 garb with their digital cameras. Then there was this shot. I initially was not pleased with the location. I knew it was going to be a straight on shot with no scenery other than trees in the background. I almost left to find another spot, but then there was the train whistle in the background and I had to stay.

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It turned out to be my favorite shot of the day for all the reasons I just listed. It's just a train and some trees. If you get past the fact that it was taken with a modern DSLR, there's nothing to say that it could not have been taken in 1914 instead. And then there was the plume of smoke. Things just worked out really well in this shot. As I was processing it, a question arose: color or black and white? I did both versions, but ultimately chose the color version. The green really pops out against the black of the steam engine and the plume of smoke.

But black and white really goes with steam engines. it makes you think of the days before digital photography when Mr. Link was out and about and others documented a fascinating time in the history of the nation. Such was the case with the shot from tis past weekend as the #630 came back into the station. I processed my 20X30 in color and then switched to B&W. The B&W seemed to fit here better than color initially. You have to get by the Nike swoosh on the guys shoes though as well as the fast food cups. But at a quick glance, it was another shot that could have been taken early last century --

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So this was the version I initially loaded to FAA as well as the train photography site, Railpictures. Then a few nights later, I opened the color version --

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I like it, too. The lighting was a little subdued that day. It wasn't backlit exactly, but it wasn't full on sun either giving it a different look than the shot above it. What will others prefer? There's a case to be made for both shots. This time, I put them both on FAA.

Credit Dont Pay Bills

October 21st, 2014

The other day someone wrote on a Facebook group page which I admin that he was looking for a photograph to use on a flier he was making to advertise a speaker at an event. He said he didn't have "much of a budget" but would give the photographer "credit" for the usage. This always rubs me the wrong way for all the reasons everyone on this site knows -- credit don't pay bills. Besides, I don't need credit for this shot; I already know i took it. . I don’t think he ever understood what I meant by this. Which, I guess, is part of the problem. Someone actually made the suggestion that he do a web search and use what he finds, but the OP was at least clear he was not going to break any copyright laws. There's something to be said for that.

Do me a favor. Next time you’re hungry, find a place to eat. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be a local place or a chain restaurant. It can be fast food like Burger King or expensive like a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Ask to speak to the manager and when they come out, be nice and pleasant and explain that you don’t “have the budget” for a meal, but if he gives you free food, you’ll be sure to give him credit for the meal.

My first thought was to say you’d get laughed out of the place. But the truth is the manager would probably look at you like you’re a complete moron and then walk away. He’d think you’d already wasted too much of his time and arguing with you wouldn’t be worth it. I made the decision on Facebook to engage the guy. I said that while he would probably find someone willing to give away their work, I reminded him that sometimes a trade could be worked out. The event included a paid admission that "covered only the costs involved." I missed a great chance here to reply, "Well, not all costs, obviously." But sometimes a photographer would be willing to work for a trade, even a free ticket or two to the actual event if he thought it was worth it. The guy got mad and argued that i was being "flippant" which I think to him meant I was being a jerk. I probably did not handle it well and might just should have let it slide. I was posting on Friday literally right before I headed out the door on a weekend trip.

I’m still never sure how to talk to these people. It’s a growing problem. I routinely find my images online being used without permission. One of my most viewed FAA shots has never sold, but I have made more money on it than some that do sell. How? Because when I find the shot being used without my permission, I do a Print Screen of it on their web site along with one from this web site (I do this because as soon as I send my first e-mail, the shot in question will come down off their web site.) and then send an invoice. I have found a church right down the street illegally using the image. When I sent the invoice, it took them less than fifteen minutes to get back to me and pay it. A real estate in town was using the same image. I sent an invoice to them and their web site developer and both paid me.

See, I’m risking some goodwill here by complaining about not getting paid. But this photography bit isn’t cheap. I’m not going to get into a long post about all the costs involved, but it includes gas to get where I’m going, the camera and gear used to create the photographs and the time I have spent over the years perfecting my craft.

The shot that the fellow on Facebook wanted was of a circus train. The last circus train I shot came through Columbia this year, but I missed it. I timed it wrong during rush hour traffic from downtown to the I-77 bridge just outside Columbia. By the time I caught it in good sun, I had chased it 70 miles one way to Chester, SC. That meant I had to drive 140 miles total – and gas up back in town -- get a bite to eat on the way back and then sit down to process the one or two shots I managed to squeeze off as the train passed me at 55 miles an hour.

Sure. Take it. I’ll give it to you. Not.

Tip for Railroad Photographers on FAA

October 16th, 2014

Tip for Railroad Photographers on FAA

This is mostly about keywording, etc. to start with. With my railroading images here, I try to aim toward two kinds of people. It's going to sound silly, but there are 1.) those who know trains and railroads and 2.) those who do not. The first group are typically called railfans and since I got involved in FAA, I realize that not everyone who takes train pictures or buys them are railfans. Now this is not a bad thing by any stretch. Railfans can be a bit, shall we say, overzealous in their train photography. I can say this because, yes, I am a railfan. Railfans know train symbols and types of locomotives and a lot of railroad terminology. So to market toward railfans, photographers who take railroad pictures should do what they can to help railfans find their work.

For example, I see a lot of train images on FAA that is not keyworded to include the name of the railroad. A lot of railfans have a favorite railroad such as Union Pacific or Norfolk Southern. A smaller railroad is even more important to identify. Also put in the location of the shot. Folks in certain towns, railfan or not, may be looking for specific locations that they know well.

Keywording the railroad is important on steam engines as well and a little Googling is usually all you need to do to find the information. For instance, this weekend I am going to Chattanooga, TN. to shoot the Southern Railway 4501. It is operated by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. the Wikipedia page starts off -

"Southern Railway 4501 is a steam locomotive built in 1911 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Southern Railway. The engine is a 2-8-2 Mikado type locomotive, and was the very first of that wheel arrangement the railroad owned."

This gives me a lot of ideas about keywords including Southern Railway 4501, SOU 4501, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Mikado type, 2-8-2, locomotive, steam train, passenger excursion, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Chattanooga and so on.

I'll put in the caption something along the lines of "The Southern 4501 was the railroad's first 2-8-2 type steam engine." The numbers relate to the wheel arrangement, but might be getting into too much railfan terminology other than knowing the actual numbers.

For non railfans who like trains or knows someone who does, more typical keywording probably works, but the location might be important for them. They might ride the train at the TVMR and then go home and think about buying a print to remember the day. Not knowing what kind of engine it was and maybe forgetting the number, the location would help tremendously.

Another example would be train depots. Recently I sold a shot of Main Street Station in Richmond, Va. I believe they must have done a Google search and my guess is they put the name of the station in and mine was one that came up. In this case, tagging it as "Richmond train station" may have worked, but it's a good idea to find the name and tag them both ways. Depots that are now used as something other than a depot should be tagged with the old name as well as the new name. A shot of the old Union Station in Columbia is tagged as Union Station but also as California Dreaming after the name of the current owners.

Just a few suggestions to help. Please feel free to offer your own advice here or to ask specific questions. Good luck!


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