Timeless Photography: What's your opinion?

I think it all comes down to preference. 

Kent is right in that just because it isn't color doesn't mean color won't work with it. Jack Delano is most definitely the perfect example of this. His kodachrome look pictures are excellent. 

Don that's a great picture of the steam escaping from, what looks like, the feedwater heater. I've always been attracted to the steam plumes to capture the essence of a scene. Artistically, steam and smoke make a steam locomotive, period. 

Here are some more: 

IMG_3296 CRIMG_3397 CRIMG_3374 Edit CR

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Rusty Traque posted:

I guess part of a timeless photo is making something extraordinary appear ordinary.

IRM 0991 05

Rusty

1970's at IRM? Track certainly wasn't as good back then as it is today - and yes, know it was all done by volunteers by hand in those days. Quite a contrast to today's IRM. Was just there on Saturday so the contrast between now and then is more vivid.

645 posted:
Rusty Traque posted:

I guess part of a timeless photo is making something extraordinary appear ordinary.

IRM 0991 05

Rusty

1970's at IRM? Track certainly wasn't as good back then as it is today - and yes, know it was all done by volunteers by hand in those days. Quite a contrast to today's IRM. Was just there on Saturday so the contrast between now and then is more vivid.

The picture was taken in September 1991.  The station tracks and platforms were being reconfigured at that time, which is why things look pretty rough.

Rusty

Rob Leese posted:

A MoPac guy posted this on Face Book, and I showed it to the Frisco groups...it generated a flood of positive comments.  For people who had the opportunity to railroad pre-1990's, this photo evokes good memories.

SLSF_Kansas

"The brakeman on Frisco Train 337, the northbound Local from Wichita to Ellsworth, KS, locks the gate after crossing the Mop Pueblo Line at Frederick, KS. 1978."  Glenn Diehl Photo

Boy, oh boy, that is timeless Great Plains railroading.  Crossings at grade on the great number of Kansas and Oklahoma branch lines were typically protected by a swinging gate.  If one of the lines was signaled (as was the MoPac in this photo) the gate would have a controller box attached to it, to set the signals to Stop. 

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

I enjoy both color and b&w. I have a large collection of b&w prints, and the quality varies and is dependent on the developer used, etc. I have always liked a "crisp" b&w, and I specifically do not like color images with the color "boosted" (i.e. vibrant). If the grass is "neon", someone got carried away in post processing the image.

I finally got a chance to read all the posts (was on a whirlwind trip in Kansas City last weekend.)   Some further thoughts.  First, while I say I can quickly spot what I call "foamer re-enactments,"  and don't consider these to be vintage, it doesn't mean I don't think they aren't very nice photos.  Many certainly are and I would take them if I had the chance (with a film camera   .)  Now on to my main point.  I think many of us here are confusing "timeless" with "vintage."  Timeless means "without time."  I.e., there are no clues as to what time/era they were taken.  They are impossible or at least difficult to date.  Vintage means they are from a specific time, i.e. the 1930s.  They are easy to date, at least within a decade, if for no other reason than the locomotives, vehicles, clothing/hairstyles, etc. seen in the image.  I will submit that all of the photos displayed so far have been vintage, but none are timeless.

 

That brings me to the question, "Is it possible to make a railroad photo that actually is timeless, and not simply vintage?"  I think yes.  That style was very popular in the past but is definitely not popular now, at least not with mainstream orthodox railfans.  Below are three photos from my own collection that I believe just might be thought of as timeless.  Anyone want to guess as to what decade they were made?  If you can't, that meets my definition of "timeless."  I'll give the answers in a later post, but first let's have some fun guessing!

 

Kent in SD

 

Balds2Plod3SDgeneric1m

The early bird may get the worm, 

but the second mouse gets the cheese!

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Enjoying the thread. A "timeless" photograph is one which could span years or eras and depicts a subject that is synonymous with something valued and valuable about, in this case, a piece of Americana. Whether or not the photographs were made during the steam era is irrelevant to me. The photos depict classic steam era images. They may be re-enactments or "show piece" machinery but, once again, it is the feeling of the image that makes it for me. I don't care if it is period correct to the last rivet.

My contribution

On The Turntable

Passengers will please refrain, This train's got the disappearin' railroad blues...

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Two23 posted:

I finally got a chance to read all the posts (was on a whirlwind trip in Kansas City last weekend.)   Some further thoughts.  First, while I say I can quickly spot what I call "foamer re-enactments,"  and don't consider these to be vintage, it doesn't mean I don't think they aren't very nice photos.  Many certainly are and I would take them if I had the chance (with a film camera   .)  Now on to my main point.  I think many of us here are confusing "timeless" with "vintage."  Timeless means "without time."  I.e., there are no clues as to what time/era they were taken.  They are impossible or at least difficult to date.  Vintage means they are from a specific time, i.e. the 1930s.  They are easy to date, at least within a decade, if for no other reason than the locomotives, vehicles, clothing/hairstyles, etc. seen in the image.  I will submit that all of the photos displayed so far have been vintage, but none are timeless.

 

That brings me to the question, "Is it possible to make a railroad photo that actually is timeless, and not simply vintage?"  I think yes.  That style was very popular in the past but is definitely not popular now, at least not with mainstream orthodox railfans.  Below are three photos from my own collection that I believe just might be thought of as timeless.  Anyone want to guess as to what decade they were made?  If you can't, that meets my definition of "timeless."  I'll give the answers in a later post, but first let's have some fun guessing!

 

Kent in SD

 

Balds2Plod3SDgeneric1m

It took me one second to notice, No pole line.

I like these photos and think they are fine compositions, but they look like today's R-O-W.

And nobody asked, but mainline without a pole line will never look right to me. 

Two23 posted:

I finally got a chance to read all the posts (was on a whirlwind trip in Kansas City last weekend.)   Some further thoughts.  First, while I say I can quickly spot what I call "foamer re-enactments,"  and don't consider these to be vintage, it doesn't mean I don't think they aren't very nice photos.  Many certainly are and I would take them if I had the chance (with a film camera   .)  Now on to my main point.  I think many of us here are confusing "timeless" with "vintage."  Timeless means "without time."  I.e., there are no clues as to what time/era they were taken.  They are impossible or at least difficult to date.  Vintage means they are from a specific time, i.e. the 1930s.  They are easy to date, at least within a decade, if for no other reason than the locomotives, vehicles, clothing/hairstyles, etc. seen in the image.  I will submit that all of the photos displayed so far have been vintage, but none are timeless.

 

That brings me to the question, "Is it possible to make a railroad photo that actually is timeless, and not simply vintage?"  I think yes.  That style was very popular in the past but is definitely not popular now, at least not with mainstream orthodox railfans.  Below are three photos from my own collection that I believe just might be thought of as timeless.  Anyone want to guess as to what decade they were made?  If you can't, that meets my definition of "timeless."  I'll give the answers in a later post, but first let's have some fun guessing!

 

Kent in SD

 

Balds2Plod3SDgeneric1m

Very interesting thoughts Ken. I pulled some definitions: 

Vintage (adj.)-denoting something of high quality, especially something from the past or characteristic of the best period of a person's work.

Timeless (adj.)-not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion.

Couldn't what we are shooting be very vintage, but also be timeless simultaneously? Just for example, I take your pictures of the ROW. They are all very vintage particularly compared to today's era, but they are also timeless because the pictures depict a subject that is not affected by changes in culture, society etc. (mostly). 

Even looking at my pictures, not to be cocky, the shots of the hostler monitoring the air pump, IMO, could be both vintage and timeless because they depict the era of steam railroading (vintage), but are also timeless because the art of hostling still is occurring today and thus has outlived any societal or cultural change. 

Just my view. Anyone have any other thoughts?

 

My take on Kent's 3 photos:

1. Geographic area: Far west, pre-1900, primitive roadbed, light rail. May be a telegraph pole line to left of trackage.

2. Geographic area: Lehighton,PA. former CNJ bridge (now gone) over LV , 1960s, is one of David Plowden's photos (pg.31;March 1966 TRAINS), note pole line to left of bridge.

3. Geographic area: Great plains, poles indicate "modern" communications line, post-1980.

Scrapiron Scher posted:

Enjoying the thread. A "timeless" photograph is one which could span years or eras and depicts a subject that is synonymous with something valued and valuable about, in this case, a piece of Americana. Whether or not the photographs were made during the steam era is irrelevant to me. The photos depict classic steam era images. They may be re-enactments or "show piece" machinery but, once again, it is the feeling of the image that makes it for me. I don't care if it is period correct to the last rivet.

My contribution

On The Turntable

This image FAILS going off the definition of "timeless" or "vintage" as SP 4449 never shared an engine terminal with the likes of PM 1225 and/or NKP 765 back in the days of daily revenue steam. Heck, I don't think PM and NKP steam shared an engine terminal back in the day either but that scenario is at least more plausible as both of those roads were based in the midwest.

The traditional Espee didn't get further east than Tucumcari, NM although I grant you the T&NO subsidiary made it to New Orleans while the SSW (Cotton Belt) subsidiary reached St. Louis, MO. However Daylight steam like the 4449 I believe operated mainly on the north/south West Coast routes out of LA. Did the streamlined Daylight painted GS-classes also operate regularly east on the Sunset Route? If yes, would El Paso, TX been the furthest east they would go? Hopefully Hot Water or other knowledgeable SP fans can chime in here...

This particular shot screams "foamer event" more than others already posted in this thread IMO.

Two23 posted:

There was a foamer from the pre-war period that used color film (Kodachrome 25) who was shooting a 4x5 camera to take some of the best shots ever.  That guy was Jack Delano in the late 1930s and early 1940s, working for the federal government.  Anyone care to argue that his color shots "don't work?" 

 

Kent in SD

No argument about Jack Delano's fine photos, but - to set the record straight - Kodachrome 25 was introduced in 1961.

The ASA speed of Kodachrome was 10 from 1935 until 1961, and 25 thereafter.  At one time it was available as sheet film.

It is my good fortune to have been befriended by two noteworthy railroad photographers who shot many Kodachrome slides at ASA 10, and really had to work hard to get good action shots.

Tom

 

Superintendent, High Plains Division (O Gauge) 

The Panhandle & Santa Fe Railway Co.

Lone Star Hi-Railers

 

There was a foamer from the pre-war period that used color film (Kodachrome 25) who was shooting a 4x5 camera to take some of the best shots ever.  That guy was Jack Delano in the late 1930s and early 1940s, working for the federal government.  

 

As Jack Delano was documenting the contemporary (at the time) scene for the federal government, (also, to say nothing of his talent...) to label him as a "foamer" is a gross injustice.

Rusty

From '38 to 1951, Kodachrome was made in sheet film, with an ASA of 8! and also type B, with a stunning 10 ASA, as I recall was used for flash.

I took many slides with the original Kodachrome 25, and even though many of them are 50 or so years old, they still look great. The developing process was changed later, for the 25, and I quit using it then, as it lacked, I thought, the quality of the older processing images.

Delano was a master photographer, only a master could have made so many great images with such slow film.

Ed

Prior to the change to ASA25 for Kodachrome, it was known as Kodachrome II with an ASA of 10 in the 35 mm size. The original Kodachrome II was lacquer dipped so that the image would not be contaminated with fingerprints. There was also a Kodachrome X which became Kodachrome 64 (ASA64) for the same reason. The K25 vs. the K64 did have a slightly different color balance. Kodak eliminated the lacquer and renamed both films. Kodak later made process changes to go from inorganic to organic dyes (biodegradable) and the long term of the biodegradable dyes is less but probably still acceptable. When Kodak launched "restraint of trade" suit against Japan, the Japanese testified that the reason Kodachrome sales were almost non existent in Japan vs. Fuji was that the Kodachrome did not render skin tones correctly. Kodak made another process change to correct this, and it was not publicly announced in the USA, and only became known when the details of the lawsuit became available, I used Kodachrome almost exclusively when the ASA was increased until I could no longer find a lab that would develop the film. (I actually used the Kodachrome Professional that was "aged" to be optimum, and had to be kept refrigerated until it was used.) I still miss it, although my scanning experience has shown that a higher quality digital camera and lens, with careful attention to depth of field and f stop is every bit as good in terms of image sharpness, although most digital cameras do not have the dynamic range that film can produce.

having said all that, the photographer makes the image, not the camera or the film (or sensor).

 

Jack Delano made his mark as a photographer in 1938-39, documenting the poverty in the Pennsylvania minefields.

He was then hired as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1940-43, his railroad photography was taken in 1942-43 for the Office of War Information, which absorbed the FSA's photography operation after the U.S. entered  WWII.
His B&W RR photography was highlighted almost 35 years ago in "Decade of the Trains; The 1940's, by Don Ball.
John Gruber has long championed Delano's photos, first as editor of "Vintage Rails" (published 1995-1999) and lately as a director of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art.

Here is a B&W image from the Don Ball book, and a Delano color transparency from 1942 of engines in the C&NW roundhouse at Proviso yard near Chicago.
Kent, if the steam shot was duplicated today, would that fit your idea of "timeless"?

 

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Borden Tunnel posted:


Kent, if the steam shot was duplicated today, would that fit your idea of "timeless"?

 

Well, what I was thinking of by "timeless" was a pretty narrow context of being very difficult to date to a time period.  Any photo with equipment in it would more or less date it, I think.  I would definitely go along with the idea of frozen in time though.    As for Kodachrome, I forgot about ISO 10 since I've never used it (of course.)  Link shot ISO 100 Kodak b&w film, so shooting an ISO 10 film would require EIGHT times as much light.  Considering Link was sometimes using enough flash bulbs to equal daylight (ISO 100 & f16,) that would be something to behold!

 

 

Rusty Traque posted:

As Jack Delano was documenting the contemporary (at the time) scene for the federal government, (also, to say nothing of his talent...) to label him as a "foamer" is a gross injustice.

Rusty

I'm always a bit tongue in cheek about foamerism.  I try not to take myself, an adult to who takes photos of choo-choos, too seriously.  That can lead to pretentiousness.   

 

 
 
Ed Mullan posted:

From '38 to 1951, Kodachrome was made in sheet film, with an ASA of 8! and also type B, with a stunning 10 ASA, as I recall was used for flash.

I took many slides with the original Kodachrome 25, and even though many of them are 50 or so years old, they still look great. The developing process was changed later, for the 25, and I quit using it then, as it lacked, I thought, the quality of the older processing images.

Delano was a master photographer, only a master could have made so many great images with such slow film.

Ed

 If the subject isn't moving, the film/shutter speed doesn't matter so much.  I sometimes shoot Efke 25 in 4x5 sheets.  However, if Delano was shooting ISO 25 (and usually at least f8) with a handheld Speed Graphic, that would be impressive!

Kent in SD

The early bird may get the worm, 

but the second mouse gets the cheese!

Borden Tunnel posted:

My take on Kent's 3 photos:

1. Geographic area: Far west, pre-1900, primitive roadbed, light rail. May be a telegraph pole line to left of trackage.

2. Geographic area: Lehighton,PA. former CNJ bridge (now gone) over LV , 1960s, is one of David Plowden's photos (pg.31;March 1966 TRAINS), note pole line to left of bridge.

3. Geographic area: Great plains, poles indicate "modern" communications line, post-1980.

Very, very close.

 

1. Edouard Baldus, Southern France, 1861.  Baldus was the first photographer to concentrate on railroads. (I have the book.)

2. Correct, 1963.  (I have the book.)

3. South Dakota, 2014.  

 

Kent in SD

The early bird may get the worm, 

but the second mouse gets the cheese!

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