POSING THE "IRON HORSE"
W. R. OSBORNE
Railroad photography fascinates many amateurs who have learned the little tricks that help make good train pictures.
LOCOMOTIVE and train pictures have been made for many years, but they have only recently developed into a hobby for thousands of amateur photographers.
Today, clubs of railroad enthusiasts are scattered throughout the country and boast of a large membership composed of men, boys, and even women. In following their hobby, they are making a valuable historical record of the “Iron Road” that is well deserving of their efforts.
While these club members participate in many activities related to railroads, such as model building, collecting timetables, tickets, maps, and other data, their principal interest lies in the making of railroad photographs, such as pictures of standing engines, trains in motion, scenes along the lines and at terminals. The pic-
tures are often used in following details for constructing miniature engines, but the greater portion are filed purely for record purposes.
In railroad photography all sizes and styles of cameras can be used, but certain types have features which adapt them especially for this work.
A light hand camera is preferable because in many cases a great deal of walking will be necessary. The miniature types are good when operating in a confined space where their short focal length will be an asset. When equipped with a fast shutter they will be found satisfactory for making pictures of trains in motion, called “speed shots” by the rail fan.
The principal disadvantage of the miniature is the film size, since it will require enlargements if prints are filed for refer-
ence purposes. The most popular type is the medium-size hand camera that produces a negative of oblong shape. Such a shape has the best proportions for picturing locomotives and trains.
The 21/£x4*4 size is used by the majority of amateur railroad photographers but most advanced workers prefer a postcard size camera of the reflex type. This size has good proportions, is large enough for contact print filing, and the operating costs are not excessive. The camera should be fitted with a lens working at ƒ 6.3 or faster. A shutter speed of at least 1/200 second is desirable.
If much speed work is anticipated, a reflex camera will prove advantageous. It should have a lens of /4.5 or better, and a shutter speed of at least 1/500 second. For post-card size prints the lens used
should have a focal length of at least 7".
Excellent results can also be obtained with the cheaper cameras, but you must be careful in selecting the camera angle so that the angle of approach will be such that a slow shutter speed will stop the motion. For other than pictorial work, the nearly head-on view is not suitable.
Heavy, cumbersome view cameras are rarely used by the amateur worker in this field, although they are almost universally employed by the companies building locomotives. These manufacturers make photographs for their records showing close-up details and general views. The latter is usually a broadside shot of the machine. All extraneous matter is removed from the final print by opaquing the background on the negative. Such pictures are known as “builders photos” and some rail fans collect them by purchase or exchange. While made in several sizes, the most popular is about 3"x8". Incidentally, the engines are especially prepared for such pictures and are frequently painted with a special “flat coat” of black paint with white on certain parts of the running gear, piping, and other parts.
The faster types of films are preferable, and the orthochromatic emulsions serve well in most cases. Many of the new streamlined engines and trains are painted in vivid colors. For such work panchromatic films should be used. It matters little whether the camera is equipped for roll, pack, or cut films, although the roll and pack styles are prob-
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ably somewhat more convenient, at least while in the field.
Before going forth to take engine pictures it is wise to become thoroughly familiar with the operation of the camera for two very important reasons. First, the engine or train may be at rest in any one location for only a few moments. You must be prepared to select the proper viewpoint, adjust your camera, and make the exposure in a short space of time. Secondly, if the camera can be operated with a minimum of attention, you can be alert for moving engines and cars which might, if unnoticed, cause serious injury or delay the movement of the train.
Many things must be considered in the actual taking of railroad pictures. If the photograph is being made for record purposes, it will be necessary to have very accui’ate focus to insure perfect detail of all mechanical parts. The viewpoint should be nearly broadside, or a threequarter view from forward of the machine. The view normally should be from waistor eye-level. If it is desired to emphasize the power of the engine, a low camera angle will give the best results. Do not stand too colse to the front. This will produce foreshortening, both unpleasant and misleading to one viewing the finished print.
While it will not be possible to have an ideal location for every view, be on guard for such things as trees, poles, towers, or other objects in the background which may protrude above the engine and detract from its appearance. A slight change of position will often be helpful in correcting this condition. A sky background is the best. If clouds are present, the use of a filter will aid in rendering a more pleasing picture. Yards and terminals are naturally smoky, and you should watch carefully for any smoke, steam, or dust which might blow between the camera and the engine during the exposure.
If a steam engine is being photo-
graphed, it is best taken when the drive rods are at the lowest position. If possible, any equipment, such as ladders, tools, oil and grease cans used in repairing or servicing the engine, should be removed before taking the picture.
It is a matter of personal opinion whether or not workmen should appear in a purely record view. If they do, it is advisable to have them stand where they will not hide any mechanical part of the locomotive. It will also be best if no dense smoke is pouring from the stack and no heavy steam leaks show. A word to any of the railroad men will receive prompt attention in correcting such a condition. The companies do not care to have such conditions photographed.
Most of the machine parts are painted black and are difficult to photograph. It is very important that sufficient exposure be given. Any of the exposure meters will be found of value. Frequently you will have to make pictures during cloudy, overcast weather. If the correct exposure be used many fine results can be obtained. Such lighting presents certain advantages because of the absence of glare on the polished boiler surfaces. If the time of day can be selected, you should take advantage of early morning and late afternoon. The sun is lower on the horizon then and will illuminate the running gear as well as the boiler and top portions of the engine. At midday the wheels are buried in deep shadow, making great contrast between the upper and lower portions of the locomotive.
Examine your lens before every shot to make sure that no dust or soot has gathered on its surface. A lens cap is a necessity in the smoky, sooty atmosphere of railroad yards. Another important accessory is an efficient sunshade. A substantial tripod should also be included in your equipment. It is well to keep the camera in a case when not actually shooting.
If your camera is suitable for making pictures of trains in motion, such views can be made for records of engines and trains in certain services, or, the pictures may be made principally from a pictorial standpoint. When there is sufficient time, the track location should be studied prior to taking the speed shots.
Consideration should be given to a location that will show off the train to the best advantage. The light must come from the proper direction at the time when the desired train passes the point selected. The background should be examined with the same cai'e as for a stationary subject. It is essential that any wind that might be blowing will not cause the smoke from the locomotive to obscure the view.
When possible, a point on a heavy grade should be selected. The engine will be pulling hard then and probably throwing a smoke which will add materially to the effect of speed. On such a grade the train will also be operating at a reduced speed. This will allow a slower shutter speed and a corresponding smaller diaphragm opening, both aiding in a more nearly correct exposure and better depth of field. The ideal setup is one where the train is ascending a heavy grade, sun
to the back of the photographer, and a stiff breeze blowing toward the train and slightly away from the camera position.
Views taken on curves are especially pleasing. They show off the entire train to excellent advantage. It will often improve the view if a mountainous background shows in the distance. The train may be snapped crossing a bridge or viaduct, passing beneath a signal bridge, or emerging from a tunnel portal. Very pleasing views may be made when the ground is covered with snow or even during a snow storm. As in a portrait, the best viewpoint is a three-quarter view, made from either waist-, eye-, or raillevel according to the results desired.
The actual shutter speed used in making an action shot will depend upon the focal length of the lens, distance from the train, angle of approach, and speed of the train. For action photography, the shutter speed is the governing factor, the diaphragm stop being adjusted for the light conditions. Tables for stopping action are available in most photographic handbooks.
In addition to action views for pictorial subjects, scenes showing the overhauling and servicing of engines offer unlimited possibilities. The usual rules of composition should be applied. Shining metal, steam, smoke plumes, and clouds will provide a multitude of pleasing effects. Panchromatic emulsions should be used. Filters will be of great value. Interesting shots can also be made around engine terminals. If detailed views are wanted, close-up studies can easily be made. A small aperture and a time exposure on a tripod will give the best results for such views.
The collector of railroad pictures will want to file and index negatives and prints for future reference. Any system which will permit ready access should prove satisfactory. Most collectors mount prints in albums. Another excellent arrangement is to mount the print on a larger card and file this in a filing cabinet. Regardless of the filing method, a complete record of the view should be made covering such features as the locomotive builder, date constructed, mechanical specifications, place and date photographed, and technical data on shutter speed, lens stop, film, and weather.
Most railroad companies, sensing the good will of the rail fans, cooperate to the extent of operating special tour trains carrying the fans to points of vantage where the locomotives can be displayed for detailed study and photographing. Persons interested in making engine pictures should take advantage of these tours and avoid the dangerous practice of trespassing on railroad property. The railroad companies have a definite duty to perform and, while they frequently extend their courtesy to individuals for the pui-pose of making pictures, it is well to bear in mind that too frequent requests for such privilege of entering the railroad premises will result in your becoming a nuisance. Be considerate in seeking such permission, and, when you do obtain it, follow the most important rule of the railroads—safety first always!—fc®