When the ‘Late Shore’ Wasn’t Late Enough

Amtrak at Painesville1-x

Amtrak at Painesville 2-x

Amtrak at Painesville3-x

Amtrak at Painesville4-x

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited has been jokingly called the “Late Shore Limited” by many wags. It is not an entirely undeserved reputation given how the train often runs late.

But this is a story about a day when it wasn’t running late enough.

Peter Bowler and I were making plans to go to Painesville to catch the ferry move of the Nickel Plate Road 765.

We didn’t know when it would pass through so we wanted to get there early. We may as well get there in time to catch the eastbound Lake Shore Limited.

Our objective was to get No. 48 passing the former New York Central station, which sits on the south side of the tracks. A local group is restoring the depot, yet it still has a derelict appearance about it.

No. 48 was about 18 minutes late. Fine. That would allow more time for the sun to climb over the trees and illuminate the tracks and depot.

The light kept getting better, but shadows covered the station and the tracks.

I heard the engineer of No. 48 call a clear signal over the radio. An approaching train had that distinctive pattern of headlights and ditch lights of an Amtrak P42 locomotive.

If Amtrak had just been a little later.

The track speed for passenger trains here is 79 mph and No. 48 was doing every bit of that.

There were small pockets of sunlight on Track No. 2 and I managed to get the nose of P42 No. 193 in one of those.

The trailing P42 was No. 822, which wears the Phase III livery. How I wish the order of the locomotives had been reversed. How I wish the sun had been higher in the sky.

Every photographer has had those feelings of when conditions don’t work out the way you had hoped.

There is nothing wrong with making images of objects, moving or static, in shadows. It is just not ideal from a lighting standpoint and so much of photography is about light.

Nonetheless, the inconsistent lighting pattern in the first two images produced some intriguing images.

The sunlight filtering through the trees made the locomotive nose stand out in the top photo and highlighted the trailing unit and Viewliner baggage car in the second photo.

Note how the vegetation and a structure along the right third of the image are illuminated well in contrast with the left third that is in shadows. The front of the train has just enough direct light to create a spotlight effect.

Perhaps images such as these can be planned, but I suspect more often than not they just happen.

The third image is the one that I wished had the full effect of the rising sunlight. But that had yet to occur when the train passed by.

There were still pockets of shadows on the rails 21 minutes later when a CSX freight followed Amtrak eastward on this same track.

Such is life for photographers in Northeast Ohio. We have a lot of trees and they block the rising and setting sun.

The final image in the sequence is the going away shot and it has some of the same effect that I achieved in the first two images, although it is not quite as pronounced.

Look at the track just ahead of the nose of the lead locomotive. The tracks curve here and the the sunlight is already shining on the rails.

There is a streak of sunlight along the lower sections of the Viewliner sleepers and the first three Amfleet cars. The effect is less visible on the side of the heritage diner. It is not quite the classic glint effect, but it is close.

We often think of results in terms of success or failure. Yet many endeavors have elements of both.

This image failed in the sense that the scene with the train passing the depot was not lighted as well as I desired.

Yet I succeeded in photographing the train in this location with enough light to create a recognizable image. Could it have been better? Of course, yet I can’t make the sun rise faster or the train run later. I had to photograph the train when it was here.

I got the train I wanted where I wanted it even if not when I wanted it. Some of these images have interesting lighting that produced images that I’ve enjoyed viewing.

Overall, I would call that a success, some of it in unexpected ways.

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