October 10th, 2014
So over this past weekend, I found myself at home during the first days of truly gorgeous weather this fall. The sky was a fantastic blue and the air was cool -- 75 degrees during the day, jacket weather at night. By Saturday evening, I had serious cabin fever. So I decided to head out, listen to my beloved Gamecocks on the radio and try to find a railroad subject to shoot. By the time I got moving, the game was underway and Carolina was leading 7-0 and driving down to score again. At 14-0, I felt comfortable that they would beat an inferior Kentucky Wildcat team. Even after the offense stumbled and scored a field goal after a Wildcat touchdown, it was still 17-7 and I was close to putting this game in the win column for us.
I had decided to go up to Kershaw, SC where the Lancaster and Chester Railroad serves an Archer-Daniels-Midland grain mill. I thought there might be something laying over the weekend there, but the place was virtually empty. Only the ADM switcher was out and it was parked in a place where even my long lens could not reach it, so I kept driving and kept listening to the game. I can't remember if Kentucky scored a touchdown or a field goal first, but they scored one of each before half to tie it at 17 all.
Luckily I found a train sitting on the main line just as the halftime radio guys began dissecting the game. I didn't need to hear anyone tell me how bad the Gamecocks played after going up 14-0; I had already heard. Besides, the L&C #2866 was on the front of this train. The 2866 is one of seven GP38s they own, but is rare for them in that is has a high short hood from it's days as a Southern Railway motor. The L&C typically runs it in the middle of three engine lash-ups, but there was only two engines on this stopped train, so it had to lead one way.
I wasn't entirely happy with the lighting, even though a full moon was giving some illumination. The nearest street lamp was slightly behind the front of the train throwing a shadow over the door. Light from the nearby Thomas & Bettes steel mill was helping, but I was not hopeful about the outcome. I was also slightly kicking myself as my company has a big flash light I could have borrowed the "paint" the train with light. I figured these would not be usable shots, but took them anyway, but I'm a photographer. That's what I do. I used the car headlights to shine enough light on the engine to be able to focus, then had the camera on a timed delay. I could start the countdown, walk over to my car, watch the shutter close and dim the lights a second or two later so as to not put too much light on one specific area.
So I got a few shots and got in my car. When I'm by myself and I am using a tripod, I leave it extended and just have it in both the passenger seat going between the front seat and the back seat. The game restarted and Carolina scored two quick touchdowns to go up 31-17, but I've seen this before. The defense can't hold a lead, so I'm cynical at this point and upset about the game, the cabin fever and the crummy shots I had just taken of the train at Thomas & Bettes. I took some more night time shots at the railroad station in Lancaster and then gassed up before heading out of town.
The game was 38-24 by this point with 11 minutes to play. And it was all downhill from there. Kentucky scored three straight touchdowns and my mood went from sour to just plain bad. I was nearing Exit 27 on I-77 by this point and about thirty minutes from home when I had the thought. I know almost as soon as I thought it. It actually seemed like I knew it was a bad omen before I even formed the thought. Yep. I said it. "This day can't get any worse!"
Now I live in Columbia, South Carolina, home to some of the worst drivers in a state full of them. And it was a Saturday night. And not only do I live in Columbia, South Carolina, I have to drive through an area known as Malfunction Junction to get home. Yeah, you see where this is going. So I am literally a mile from home when I get rear ended on an exit off the interstate. The impact knocked my glasses off as well as my rear view mirror. It seemed as hard as a previous wreck I was in where they had to replace the front end of a company car. So I'm surprised at first that the car is still rolling. I pull off the road and survey the damage. It's really dark out, but it appears to be only paint damage.
While I am the phone with 911, the driver of the car walks up to me and says, "Why were you braking? Didn't you see me?" My first thought is usually to go snarky, but it's midnight on a Saturday. He looked young. The kid might have been drinking. Not to mention I am literally on the phone with 911! So he says, "I saw your brake lights!" I'm dumbfounded we were standing on the exit I was having to slow down for. He should have seen brake lights! He should have used his own brakes!
he goes back to his car and when I get off with dispatch, I note that he is pacing around with his head in his hands. Then he stops and kicks out a light on his car. I get in my car and lock the doors. A trooper comes by and writes up a report. He puts full blame on the kid, then looks at my car and says I came out lucky. I was going to drive my 2005 Chevolet Malibu home, but the kid was going to have t have a wrecker tow his Saturn away.
So I go home and am now sure I won't be able to sleep. My neck and head hurt. My Facebook feed is full of Gamecock status updates from fans of both schools as well as the in-state rival, Clemson. I open my shots of the train. Not impressed! I do some minor editing on them before I go to bed. The next day, I open the edit up again and, well, my first thought is: "Not so bad." Maybe viewing images right after a car wreck isn't such a good idea!
In fact, it's one of my favorite shots I've taken lately!
October 3rd, 2014
Admittedly, I am not one to get into the holiday spirit around Christmas. I used to love Thanksgiving just because it was about food and fellowship, but lately, I mainly get to the last part of November and begin mentally imagining myself in a calmer, less stressful time -- say January 2nd of the next year. But in past years I have tried to get out of my holiday grumpiness and this year, that has led me to begin creating Christmas cards to sell on FAA and Pixels. One thing I realized pretty quicky was that I had not taken many Christmas pictures over the years. None that didn't include a train anyway.
For a few years (I'm not sure about this year) the railroad in my hometown has run Santa Trains out of Lancaster, SC. So those have been easy to make into cards. For this series, I used blue font to match the train locomotive on some and red font to match the season on others.
Both of these versions are done with "Merry Christmas" or "Hapy Holidays" written across the top with "from Lancaster, SC" at the bottom. Naturally, this may limit who would want to buy and send them out, so I also made one without the town's name written across the card --
Another series of holiday greeting cards I did was a snow scene of the South Carolina State House. Again, I did two version --
Then I remembered a shot I took on Main Street in Lancaster when city leaders haddecorated it for Christmas. I had shot one of the iconic landmarks in town for the Landmark Hunter Dot Com web site and realized I could use that scene for anotehr hometown-centric Christmas card.
I also created two cards using both the building on Main Street as well as the Santa Train. To finish out the card and give it more of a Christmasy feel, I used some free clip art.
The second version uses a Happy New Years greeting to replace the name of my hometown.
I'm not sure any of this is helping me get ready for the coling holidays, but it has been cool to create something with my photographs like this. The last two examples are my favorites. All of these cards are priced to sell for the holiday season. The inside of the card is blank and ready for a personalized message from you. Leave time after you order to get these shipped to your home or office so you can personalize them. You can also choose to enter a message on the inside of a card using at check out.
Buying in packs of 10 or 25 will greatly reduce the price of each card.
August 28th, 2014
I had a chance to get up to my hometown today to shoot the Lancaster and Chester Railroad. The sun was not my friend today. Or maybe the railroad's timing was not my friend as they were heading east in the afternoon where had they been heading the other direction, it would have been much more aesthetically pleasing. So as the train worked it's way toward Lancaster, I began running down the list of spots where I might stand a chance to get a good shot of it.
There is one spot I always want to shot at, but it's a bit tricky. The lighting isn't optimal, I don't believe, most of the times a train might pass there, but it's a wonderful spot on a grade and a steep curve. But there's another obstacle. The shot is on the access road to a small industry, Bowers Fibers, and they shut the fence when they are closed. So in the past I have tried to time the train so I'm not on property too long testing the "ask forgiveness instead of permission" theory.
So I almost did not go down today and then when I did, it looked like the spot had grown up with weeds and bushes. It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I shot there, but I got my shot and was pretty happy with it all things being equal --
I'm typically not one to load both a color and B&W version of the same shot to my site, but I could not decide about this one. I believe I like the B&W one better, but I was pleased enough with them to share both with you.
Later, I remembered the exact date I shot my last train there. I am a numbers guy, so remembering a date is pretty easy for me, but this one was horribly unforgettable for most of us -- September 11, 2011. Without going into a detailed story, I was a student at York Tech at the time and we still had class. At lunch, I went to the mall to watch the events play out on TV. These were the first images I had seen. I had listened to the radio on my way into school that morning, but the coverage on radio could not do justice to the scenes on TV.
So I left the mall and began heading for home in Great Falls, some thirty miles away. I remember being numb, wondering how I was even driving, wondering how the other folks on the road were remembering to use turn signals and stop at red lights. It felt like there should be mass chaos in the streets. At some point, I got off I-77 at Exit 65. I would usually take Hwy. 9 to Hwy. 99 to go home. I must have caught a train on the L&C or maybe I went down to Grace to see if one was there because next thing I recall I was at Bowers Fibers shooting a train in this spot. I remember waving at the conductor and almost shrugging to say, "I'm not sure what I'm doing shooting trains today." And he waved and almost shrugged too as if to say, "I'm not sure what we're doing still working today."
That's how I remembered it anyway lmost thirteen years to the day, when I finally went back to the same spot to shoot a train.
July 16th, 2014
In other blogs on my page, I talk about shooting what is no longer there. What I mean is that you shot it when it was there so now that it is gone, you have photographs of a time that is now gone. In railroading circles, my main two Shot It & Now It's Gone pieces are the Extension Cord Line out of Blacksburg, SC and the now dormant Carolina Southern Railroad. Two of my failures in that regard are the now demolished Springs Mills plant in Lancaster, SC and the original Pickens Railroad that ran from the namkesake town of the railroad to a connection with the Southern Railway (later Norfolk Southern) in Easley. I only got one series of shots of that line before they abandoned it and began taking the rails up.
I can say that I have done better with the "other" Pickens Railroad, the one that's not actually in Pickens, SC, but rather Anderson, SC. The former owns of the Pickens bought this line from NS and CSX and ran it as a second division of the original railroad. They also bought what were even then rare locomotives from CSX to run the line, old General Electric U18Bs. I can say that I have shot the heck out of this little line including a trip up there this past Friday with my son where I caught two trains running.
It's about an hour and a half drive to their line from where we live and naturally, we were not making nearly the time I wanted to make, but luck was on our side as we first caught them going through Belton, SC. By the time the first train got to Anderson, I realized something was up. Both crews normally meet downtown, but the train from Belton got there way earlier than I was expecting. So it was not a great surprise when they got on the line to Anderson instead of waiting around. Here, the train passes an old textile mill that is mostly torn down --
The first train got down to an area called Gluck on the map where they met the Anderson Train and basically exchanged cars with them --
You never know when a railroad will suddenly get sold or a decision is made to sell off a line of locomotives. The Georgia Central's U23Bs are on borrowed time
and maybe we will hear word that the Pickens smaller units are asll. But if so, at least I will have the pictures from when they roamed Carolina Rails.
May 27th, 2014
I was just going through the contests and came across another "Show Us Your Favorite Pet" contest. I have one shot on my FAA site of a pet, our cat, Tyla, who passed away two years ago. So I always enter these pet contests and never win.
Then I had a wild thought that I could be snarky and upload another cat photo of sorts, Chessie --
Chessie adorned many locomotives and rolling stock in the 1900s for the Chesapeak & Ohio Railroad. She was apparently a real cat at one time. But the C&O has become a fallen flag and Chessie is getting harder and harder to find. The locomotive in the photograph above has been repainted and the cat no longer adorns it. I remember when I took this shot. The three engines were sitting in Social Circle, Georgia and were not running. I had wanted to see the Chessie System one, but the orange engine beside it was pretty cool too. It was a former South Carolina Central unit from not too far from where I lived.
But it wasn't to be, so I reluctantly snapped this shot from a nearby road crossing and wondered when I may be able to get back to Social Circle. In the meantime, they not only painted the cat, but they also painted the South Carolina Central unit. It reminds me of several other posts about shooting things that are no longer there. In another time and place, I might not have even got the camera out for this shot. I'm glad I did that day.
May 16th, 2014
(Also posted as a press release)
May 16th, 2014 - Columbia, SC
Contact: Joe Hinson
Tel: (803) 577-0891
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WHAT: Photography Showing
WHEN: Saturday May 17, 2014 2 pm to 4 pm
Where: Gallery 102 at 104 Williams Street Lancaster, South Carolina 29720
Photographer Joseph C. Hinson is pleased to announce a “Meet and Greet” at Gallery 102 in Lancaster, SC on Saturday May, 17 from 2 pm to 4 pm. The event coincides with Lancaster’s Red Rose Festival taking place that weekend in historic downtown Lancaster. Two of the works were shot just blocks from Gallery 102’s location just off of Main Street. One is a photograph of the old Lancaster County Court House shortly before the recent renovation was complete. “The old court house is close to the heart of all Lancaster residents,” Hinson said, “and I’m glad the decision was made to renovate it after the fire.”
The “Lancaster Court House” photographs is a professionally printed photograph framed in a black rainbow metal frame and matted with a quality white matte. “I’ve been doing my online sales with Fine Art America,” Hinson said, “and I’ve been extremely pleased with their service and quality. “Sharing a photograph is much more than taking a good picture, as I’ve learned over the years, and the frame and matte helps make the photograph stand out better than I could have imagined.”
Another Lancaster-area print was taken in 2006 as the Lancaster and Chester Railway crossed over Main Street in Lancaster. The photograph, called simply “Main Street Train,” was made from Market Street with the historic L&C Business Office in the background. “What makes this shot so special is that it was one of the last times I personally saw them using a lot of their smaller engines on one train. As their business has increased over the years, they sold of a lot of these end cab switchers and got bigger power which makes this shot impossible to get these days.”
“Main Street Train” is also Hinson’s first metal print. The image is printed directly onto a sheet of 1/16” thick aluminum which is offset from the wall by 3/4” wooden frame. “Metal prints are extremely durable,” Hinson said. “They’re light weight; they won’t bend and they’re water resistant. But, more important, the metal really makes the colors stand out and the detail is impressive. It’s really a neat way to showcase my photography.” Hinson will also have other metal prints for sell as well as a print made on canvas including the "Columbia Skyline" shot which is attached to this e-mail. “The canvas print, like the metal prints, really needs to be seen to understand how cool it looks.”
Gallery 102 recently celebrated their one year anniversary in Lancaster. “We really want you to go to the Gallery 102 location and look around at all the great art work by all the folks from in and around Lancaster. These are very artistic folks and we hope to shine a light on them as well as my own work. So when you go to the gallery, and hopefully by a few things from one of the artists, if you don’t find what you’re looking for from me, you can ask for one of my business cards. Use the discount code in the bottom right hand corner when you visit my Fine Art America site.”
You can find the Joseph C. Hinson Fine Art America web site at josephchinson.artistwebsites.com
Gallery 102 is located at 104 Williams Street in Lancaster, SC. For local residents who know the area, it’s just off of Main Street on the block between Arch Street and Elm Street. It is owned and operated by Kevin Lilly and Carla Bryant.
Joseph C. Hinson has been a still photographer since picking up his first SLR camera in the 1990s. He now shoots digital photography using a Canon 60D DSLR. His main interests so far in photography are city skylines, interesting buildings, railroads, model portfolios and anything else that captures his eye. A Lancaster, SC native, Mr. Hinson is currently an award winning photographer living in Columbia, SC
April 20th, 2014
As a railroad photographer, I used to hate cloudy and rainy days. I considered it a personal affront to me to have to go out and shoot on days where the weather was not pristine. And, what do you know, railroads run in all kinds of weather. As I get older, I realize the sheer lunacy in worrying too much about the weather. Afterall, we cannot control the weather, unless you believe Art Bell. So instead of bitching and moaning about it, I still go out and shoot in it and sometimes get some stellar shots.
This past weekend, two railroads took a really big load from the port in Charleston, SC up to the General Electric plant in Greenville. The first day had the train going from Charleston to the CSX Railroad yard in Cayce, not far from where I live. So on Friday, I got up early and caught it going up the old Columbia, Newberry & Laurens Railroad. The shots weren't great, but I was really looking more forward to the Saturday leg of the trip anyway. So I got a few shots of it in Irmo, SC, then came home.
So as any good photographer, I kept checking the weather forecast for Saturday. Instead of getting better, the forecast actually got worse. Rain on and off all day. So on the day of the final leg of the move, I woke up with a horrendous headache. I took this as a sign not to go. A quick check of various Facebook groups told me the train had not left yet. So I took a hot bath in a dark bathroom after downing some headache meds and finally decided to make the trip.
There was one shot I had been wanting to get for some time and the weather would actually work to my advantage as I would not have to worry about sun angles and shadows. So when we pulled into town and saw the train crossing the first road, I was happy and shocked by our good timing. The railroad crew was actually having to put the train together, so it was not leaving yet which gave me plenty of time to set up my shot and shoot the breeze with some of the other railfans who were also braving the weather that day.
So with the rain, I tried to be very careful with my camera. I kept it in the bag for as long as I thought I should and then kept it under my shirt until the last possible minute. I did not want it to get wet. But then I had to put the camera up to my eye to compose the shot. Remember this was the one shot I wanted above all others that day! And as I made some last second changes to the settings and framed it as I wanted, I never noticed the one thing that was going to make me cuss that night as I processed the shots.....
Rain spots. Above the train on the right side of the frame is a big blob of rain. Dust spots can be cloned out, but a rain spot on a tree would take way more time and effort than I'd care to invest. I got some decent shots that day considering the weather, most of them without any rain spots.....
But on the one shot I wanted to turn out better than any of the rest, rain spots.
So at some point during the chase yesterday, my son and I saw a little store near the tracks and decided to take a bathroom break and get a drink. While I waited for my son, another customer came in that knew the clerk and they were talking to each other about the crowd of folks standing beside the track. Neither knew what was going on. So I told them there was a really big rail car with a big load on it for GE.
The clerk expected something really cool and got her smart phone and said she was going to take a picture. By now, I butted in and told them what it was and that my son and I had come up from Columbia. She looked excited as she waited for the train to come into view.
And finally the train came into view... first the GWI=painted unit, then the red and grey. The clerk just stood there waiting.... then the flat car. Finally the GE load came into view... and her shoulders slumped. She never took the picture.
I said, "It's a really big ass rail car," She came back around the counter and rang up our drinks. I thought about making a snarky comment, maybe even mentioning that they should probably clean their bathrooms more than once every ten years, but didn't.
It seemed like the railfans and railroaders following the train were joined by people who just happened to see it passing and fell in with the caravan. At one point, a mini van with a family in it joined and the mother was heard to say, "I never thought this is how I'd spend my Saturday morning." Since she was out at multiple stops, I assume she was enjoying it.
Just thought it was fun and funny to watch the caravan. And I couldn't help but think, "If it's this crazy today chasing a freight train in the rain, how is going to be next year when the 611 is out?"
March 17th, 2014
In my last blog, I mentioned how my day job has become my night job. Aside from the switch in shifts, I also am working more weekends, too. But working more weekends means I get more days off during the week. And as a photographer who likes to shoot trains, this isn't a bad thing as some of the smaller and more interesting rail lines tend to work mostly Monday through Friday. So imagine my disappointment when I looked at weather.com and noted that all of my off days this week would be rainy and cold. In the past, this might lead me to stay home and keep my camera in my bag. But not today. Trains run in all kinds of weather and I might as well go out and shoot them in the rain.
Admittedly, you can shoot trains from a dry and warm car in some cases such as this one. I was actually hoping for more rain as I saw the train creep up to the highway thinking it may add interest to the shot.
An industrial setting with the rain clearly hitting the highway added interest to this one for me. It was the first series of shots of the afternoon and by far my favorite. So I left East Chester in hopes of catching the other train running on the L&C and did not have to go far. I caught it in Richburg, SC then turned around and followed it back to East Chester where I went for a side view to show the high short hood of the second engine.
They stopped to meet the other train at the wye and I set up for a shot that would include both trains. But it was raining and in my haste to get the shot, I forgot to dry the lens.
Both crews had to work in tandem to clear the main line so the second train could pass. Here, two crew members have to ride the front of the train as they move the cars off the track.
The second man is now on the ground. As the train stops, he will cut the engines apart so the crews can work on separate trains again.
Then the crews split their trains up again. Two units are on the other end of the train on the far track and are clearing the switch to allow the train in the siding to come out. That train will then take the cars to the east end of the wye and leave them there.
The crew will then run light to downtown Chester to meet a Norfolk Southern grain train.
The L&C crew then coupled onto the train that the NS crew had just left.
And I called it a day.
March 16th, 2014
People refer to their "day job" to mean the job they work at while they do photography on the side. In the past two weeks, my day job has actually turned into a night job. I've been working third shift. I was initially looking forward to the move. I had been on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift and missed a lot of trains that would come through town. With multiple runs on the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus train set to run through Columbia, the move came just in time.
But as an eleven day, err, night, straight shift wore through, I found myself going straight home in the mornings and not chasing many trains at all. Then I heard that an old Southern Pacific unit had come down from Hamlet, NC the day before leading a BNSF engine. Now the train would be running the other direction for the return trip out of nearby Cayce, SC and that would put the BNSF engine on lead, but it was still enough of a rare move to get me wanting to be trackside.
I knew the one location I wanted to shoot at and when I got there, I found a fellow Fine Art America photographer already waiting on it, Reginald McDowell. (See, some people think I'm the only one who chases trains!) He said it was on the way. A quick look at the bridge told me one thing: we needed the train to hold out a little later because too much of it was still in shadows and the sun rose higher in the sky. He also told me some other news -- the railroad had to turn the engine on a wye to get them facing the right direction for the trip north. This would put the old Southern Pacific engine on lead.
Soon we heard the train struggling to get up a nearby hill. I made sure the camera was on the right settings and then put it up to my face. Looking through the viewfinder, the train slowly came into view as I went to press the shutter...
March 4th, 2014
At first glance, you might think a guy who loves to shoot trains might not care when the circus comes to town. Oh, but that’d be wrong, especially since the circus takes the train to town. For many years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has travelled North America by the rails. Two trains a year cross the country on all the major railroads with a variety of different engines pulling the way.
Since we get a circus every year in Columbia, I keep up with the schedules as often as I can. For example, this year our show is in late March and will come down from New Jersey to get to the state capital of South Carolina. But last night, one train came through on the way to Charleston. As luck would have it, it was already dark, so I took video and not stills. But it will have a return trip next week as it treks to Ohio for another string of shows.
But over the years I have been fairly lucky catching the trains through town in daylight. However, sometimes daylight means clouds and not sun as was the case in January, 2011. Here, the crew that brought the train down from North Carolina is relieved by another crew.
The four cars behind the engines house the elephants. These cars are kept separate from the rest of the train during it’s stay in Columbia.
It’s not always easy in Columbia to catch the train where it clearly shows that it’s not a typical freight. When the train comes from Charlotte and points north on North Southern, one spot I’m not ashamed to use more than once is on Sumter Street with the backdrop of the city in the background.
On the train below, I was helped by the direction of travel. It’s actually leaving town, but because of the way the train had to face at it’s next destination, the crew shoved it onto the NS line from the yard, then pulled forward. Otherwise, it would have been backlit for me this day.
Last year, the train also had to shove out of the yard, but it did so on another track and with an extra engine up front, you almost miss that it’s the circus train.
But this is when you hold the camera as the train passes looking for folks standing in the vestibule. This fellow was seen taking a picture (probably video) as the train backed up. Now he’s reviewing the image on the back of his camera.
In 2010, I caught two crew members who were watching their train enter Columbia.
And remember when I said it was hard to find spots in Columbia to show that the train is a circus train? Such was the case on this train that was just passing through the area. Sun angles pretty much left me one spot that showed the engines almost entirely. But the consecutive numbers on the lead engine almost made up for it.
One thing that has held me back in the past was my work schedule. Some years I had to hope to catch it on lunch. Other years there was money issues keeping me in town. With the train returning from Charleston next week and then coming back at the end of March, I am already scouting out locations and planning on where I hope to shoot him… provided he comes in daylight hours.
Oh, and shooting the elephants?