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Old 09-30-2006, 03:03 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 822
Default Broadening RP's Horizons

A couple of recent reject threads got me thinking. Dave Toussaint (socalrailfan) and John Ryan both had interesting shots rejected. Dave’s for “Back Light” and one of John’s for “Bad Motive.” Both were later accepted on appeal.
Image © Dave Toussaint
PhotoID: 160231
Photograph © Dave Toussaint

Image © John Ryan
PhotoID: 159672
Photograph © John Ryan

In my opinion, and in the opinion of some others whose judgment I respect (M.J. Scanlon, John West, Christine, etc.) the shots were very good, yet did not get past the checklist nature of the screening process for getting into the RP data base. John took umbrage at his rejection, stating “I'll stop myself with the reminder that different is bad, uniformity is good, and wedge pictures will prevail.”

I don’t think this is a correct assessment, but it is an opinion that is widely shared. RP is not an invitation only or juried site, where only the best is accepted. It’s a popular site, where standards exist to keep out the less than good shots. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to screw up a Wedgie, so by meeting all the technical requirements (exposure, focus, framing), they get in by the score. Unfortunately, shots that are truly good but violate one of the “rules” established to keep out the chaff often end up being rejected. Is there any way around this, other than through the appeal process?

Do the screeners have a common viewpoint as to what constitutes a good railroad photo? Do they have a diversity of personal preferences and are these encouraged in the screening process, or is it done “by the numbers?” Is a diesel shot, with the front of the unit in shadow, but with headlights and perhaps ditch lights contrasting with the shadow, and with foreground and background scenery made more dramatic and three dimensional due to shadows, a good shot or not?

Image © John West
PhotoID: 156467
Photograph © John West

I think yes, but most American railfans have been conditioned to say no. If more of these sorts of shots were accepted, would it help expand people’s thinking? I’m not suggesting that high sun shots be accepted, as they are usually the opposite of back lit in terms of the scenery and shadows.

I ask, because as an American railfan, I never really understood back lighting until I took a trip to South Africa with a group of British photographers. I was initially puzzled to note that schedules were set up so that the trains were almost always coming out of the sun! As I learned what they were up to, I came to realize that early and late in the day, back light and extreme side light produce the sort of shadows that make the scenery come alive. Of course, it also makes for great steam shots with stunningly back lit steam, but I realize that most RP contributors are shooting diesels, so don’t want to over emphasize that point.

Image © Michael F. Allen
PhotoID: 160041
Photograph © Michael F. Allen

Finally, as an answer to folks like John, just what is the percentage of accepted vs. rejected shots on RP? I’ve been amazed sometimes at how few of the shots in the queue actually seem to show up when I click the Newest Additions link. Then again, there are days like yesterday when three Screeners Choices shots were selected in a matter of minutes.

Michael Allen

Last edited by a231pacific; 10-02-2006 at 06:46 PM.
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