Old 01-04-2007, 02:17 PM   #1
John West
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This picture was just rejected:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreject.php?id=322174

Rejection was no surprise because the image IS very dark. But I like it so thought I'd take a flyer on it and see what the screener thought. I have no beef with the screener, he simply didn't like the picture as much as I do. But it will be fun to just share it here for a couple of days.

I'm curious about what others think of it and what ideas they have to improve the image. After all it is 40 years old so I can't really go back and do it again. I might mention I tried cropping the dark areas out, but couldn't come up with anything that seemed better than basically the whole picture which I posted. Also the "cats eyes" from the low level "pot" signals are kind of cool. Maybe somebody has some better ideas. I sometimes wish I had used a flash to light the platform, yet the contrast would probably have ruined the feeling of the picture.

This kind of dark picture also indicates the value of a good screen. It looks a whole lot better on my Mac screen than here on my PC laptop where I'm writing this. The brightness and higher contrast on the Mac really make web photos zing.

I wonder how many of those old Pennsy position light signals are around. I know some are, but have no idea how many. I also suspect the old incandescent platform lights are long gone. Or maybe this scene is still there for the taking some evening, with maybe a more dramatic sky.

Thanks in advance for any comments.

John West
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:13 PM   #2
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Personally, I rather like it. And, yeah, a flash would have ruined it. This has a far more striking effect.

As for going back and taking it again, it's a shame that you can't. Unless, of course, you manage to 'borrow' the Doctor's TARDIS!.
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:15 PM   #3
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A few comments, in no particular order:

- the lamp, single, unattached (well, actually, I eventually figured out there is a second one) - there is no context for it, so we are left guessing that you might be at the end of a station platform

- low signals - the image is so dark (here, on one particular monitor) that one can't see the track and therefore one does not have the context for understanding the lights are in fact ground signals

- due to the lack of detail, the image is flat, not enough depth, foreground/background - sure, one can figure out that there is something receeding, a set of tracks, but one can't actually see it very well, just a bit in the wires - so it's a flat image with a splash of purple somewhere in the back

I have no ideas other than increasing brightness and seeing if some more detail pops out.
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:30 PM   #4
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John,

I really like the location, and the colors in your shot. I'd love to see another attempt from that location with perhaps a bit more light. When I loaded the picture, I got the bottom half without the lamp, and liked it. I'd love to see what you'd get if you moved around a bit more.
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Old 01-04-2007, 09:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC
A few comments, in no particular order:

- the lamp, single, unattached (well, actually, I eventually figured out there is a second one) - there is no context for it, so we are left guessing that you might be at the end of a station platform

- low signals - the image is so dark (here, on one particular monitor) that one can't see the track and therefore one does not have the context for understanding the lights are in fact ground signals

- due to the lack of detail, the image is flat, not enough depth, foreground/background - sure, one can figure out that there is something receeding, a set of tracks, but one can't actually see it very well, just a bit in the wires - so it's a flat image with a splash of purple somewhere in the back

I have no ideas other than increasing brightness and seeing if some more detail pops out.
JRMDC, sorry to disagree, but I think that brightening it up would ruin the "accent." I actually like how the tracks are drowned out by the darkness, and the "cat's eyes." The cat's eyes are actually a big addition to the whole scene. Though I must admit that the light on the top is a bit distracting. Other than that, it is an awesome photo. (Flash would've KILLED the accent.) Then again, this is just my opinion.

Rich
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Old 01-04-2007, 09:14 PM   #6
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I think part of the issue is the information that the picture requires of the viewer. Yes, we can infer from the limited information there that the cats eyes are ground signals. Yes, we can infer that there must be tracks receding into the background. I think that is a lot of work that the picture requires the viewer to do. Maybe I'm lazy.

Seriously, there is nothing wrong with requiring such work of a viewer. But to what end? If it is just to give a context for a cool purple glow, that isn't enough for me. Especially since a modest brightening could reveal some rails and whatnot and still leave the lights of the ground signals strong. Even stronger, as the detail would reveal the nature of their arrangement in the station area.

Actually, I like the light on top, it provides context.

Of course, just one view, there is no right answer. But John wanted a discussion!
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Old 01-04-2007, 10:01 PM   #7
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Personally, it doesn't do much for me other than the fact that it's 40 years old...
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Old 01-04-2007, 10:05 PM   #8
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I find a discussion like this very interesting. Sometimes it is very difficult for a photographer to see his images the same way others do. It's fine to shot for yourself, but in the end it is even better to create images that others enjoy. So this kind of criticism is a useful learning process. Photo clubs do this sort of thing all the time. Obviously I like the picture, but it is clearly helpful to find out why others are less excited about it (and why), or what they would do differently. Thanks.
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West
I find a discussion like this very interesting. Sometimes it is very difficult for a photographer to see his images the same way others do. It's fine to shot for yourself, but in the end it is even better to create images that others enjoy. So this kind of criticism is a useful learning process. Photo clubs do this sort of thing all the time. Obviously I like the picture, but it is clearly helpful to find out why others are less excited about it (and why), or what they would do differently. Thanks.
Pleased to participate and read what others have to say. Let's do it again!
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:40 PM   #10
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I think it is too dark.IMHO a bit of a longer exposure would have made it look much better but the light close to the camera is probably what caused the rest to be too dark.
What are those lights near the ground? It looks like there are a few critters watching you.
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Old 01-05-2007, 12:20 AM   #11
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From reading a few comments about the picture, I got the feeling people are just looking at the picture. IMO, that's not good at all because you start looking at the technical workings of the shot and yes, I understand that Mr. West asked about that as well. The light left in the photo helps put you on the platform in 1967. If that was not there you would not get a good visualization of the area or surroundings unless you were there or have been there. When I first clicked on the link and it opened my eyes went right to the dramatic sky since everything else is dark. I then went to the stop signals and THEN to the light in the top left corner following the top of the signal bridge. I'm all about getting a feeling or story from a photo or being able to feel as if I am there. Not to get off topic but a good example OTHER than this is Dick Hovey's RI shot in Burlington, IA with the train rolling practically through a front yard. Getting back to the photo in question, I think that it isn't so much the darkness (since its suppose to be a silhouette shot) that is a turn-off about it but rather the vertical pole splitting it in two. I think a bit of brightening not too lose the silhouettes but enough to get slight rail detail would be enough to make it flow a little better. If it were up to me I wouldn't change a thing. Its not only a cool photo from the 60's but its just a cool looking shot of cool looking signals. Personally, the platform lamp was a great touch. Thanks for sharing a very enjoyable photograph with us, Mr. West!
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Old 01-05-2007, 12:25 AM   #12
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The cat eyes are awesome!

Although the image has character, I agree it is overall too dark.
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Old 01-05-2007, 12:29 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
I'm all about getting a feeling or story from a photo or being able to feel as if I am there.
Keeping the discussion going...

Andrew, I can recharacterize my problem with the shot in your terms. There isn't enough info to get a story, yet too much to just have a feeling. Color and signals are great for feeling, but the rest is distracting because not detailed enough to be clear.
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Old 01-05-2007, 10:26 AM   #14
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My first impression is that I like it, especially the purple hue in the sky. However the more I look at it, I feel that it could do with some more detail in the dark areas, especially bottom left. It is a shame that there was not enough light to highlight the rail surfaces, but if that were the case then the sky would probably be a lot less interesting.
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Old 01-05-2007, 02:51 PM   #15
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It's an interesting shot, but after much consideration I think it is too dark. If it were a print I would suggest trimming two thirds of an inch or so off the bottom, to remove the unrelieved black area at the bottom. However this would probably put it outside the size parameters for Railpictures. Also I think a bit of subtle lightening of the sky in Photoshop would help considerably - I think it would stand this without losing its impact. The cat's eyes are tremendous - it wouldn't surpise me if they turned out to actually be cats!

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Old 01-06-2007, 04:13 PM   #16
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John:

Nice shot; I liked it even in it's "native" state. You could consider cropping to concentrate more on the top. I'm assuming that this is scanned from a film original; other things to consider trying might be playing with the contrast, or making the photo lighter overall. Should be fun to try some different variations; keep the increments small, and add more as necessary.

Re the position light signals, the ones I've seen recently on the Amtrak/Corridor line are now color position lights (like B&O/N&W), and I believe are only at interlockings, with the intermediates removed in favor of cab signalling. On the other hand, the Middle Division (Harrisburg-Altoona) has many classic PRR single-color position lights, and I believe that Altoona-Pittsburgh is the same.

George
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Old 01-07-2007, 03:23 AM   #17
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John,

I love the shot, just as it is. It looks like a Ted Rose watercolor! I also think it works with a slight bit of brightening, but it changes the mood a bit. Here's a quick effort using gradient masking to show how the shot could look, if you wanted to try a different feel.

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Old 01-07-2007, 03:40 AM   #18
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Michael, that looks nice. What may be worth doing is playing around with a bit of cropping and resizing (to the limits of what RP will allow), and then lightening it a bit as you have done. Actually, on my Mac screen, the original looks very much (but not quite) like your version, because the screen is bright and has more contrast than the typical PC screen, so more detail in the dark areas comes through. One of the things that intrigues me about this image is it looks a lot better on the computer screen than projected as a slide, and especially as a print. The computer screen provides a transparency or luminescence that really helps the dark image.

My thanks again to all who commented.

John
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Old 01-09-2007, 06:18 PM   #19
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John,

You might see what happens if you lighten it a bit and then print it on water color paper. If Ted Rose were still allive and you had $5,000 to burn, that would make a terrific start to a water color. Maybe paint in a G-5 on a local, receding into the distance!

That lamp is what really makes the shot. It gives it a real "noire" feeling.

Cheers,

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Old 01-10-2007, 07:17 PM   #20
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Default Do you think this will fly?

Here is a new version with some additional cropping, and lightening the bottom of the picture a bit to mitigate the total darkness. I'm trying to decide whether I like it enough to resubmit. Sometimes it's tough being a judge of your own work, especially "non-traditional" (or should I say artsy fartsy ) stuff like this. I still like those cats eyes in the dark.

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Old 01-10-2007, 07:40 PM   #21
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I like it better. One thing, to me it needs rotation, the lamp post and the top part of the center post are not vertical and that is the part I am expecting to line up.

As for submitting, I will start by answering a different question. Is it a good picture? To me, it is a jumble of lines and features with fascinating color. So to me it is visually busy, as a photograph, not good composition, the eye goes everywhere and doesn't know how things tie together. The color is not enough. So from an "artsy" standpoint, I'm not a big fan.

Now, as a RR photograph, where I learn about the scene and I know what the cats-eyes are and having catenary and position signals, it is good, I like it!, and I would submit it on that basis. People will enjoy seeing it, I have.
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Old 01-10-2007, 09:46 PM   #22
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"Leveling" the picture is a challenge because the lens perspective creates some odd angles. My initial reaction, like yours, was to level up with the horizontal signal bridge since it is the dominant visual line. But that causes other things to get catty wampus (or is a caddy wampus?). After some other unsatisfactory (to me) attempts at plain rotation, I tried using the perspective correction filter in Photoshop which is a really neat tool. Again, solving one problem created others. Among the problems was trying to minimize the totally dark areas. I finally snapped a grid on the image and lined it up with the middle bridge support, which is (for me) the dominant vertical line. At this point that's the best I figure out.
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Old 01-10-2007, 10:09 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West
My initial reaction, like yours, was to level up with the horizontal signal bridge since it is the dominant visual line.
Nope, that is not what I meant.
Quote:
I finally snapped a grid on the image and lined it up with the middle bridge support, which is (for me) the dominant vertical line. At this point that's the best I figure out.
Yup, that is what I meant!
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Old 01-10-2007, 10:22 PM   #24
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Think I got it now. Thanks.
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Old 01-11-2007, 03:21 AM   #25
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JRMDC said:
Quote:
To me, it is a jumble of lines and features with fascinating color. So to me it is visually busy, as a photograph, not good composition, the eye goes everywhere and doesn't know how things tie together. The color is not enough.
Interesting. When I look at it, my eye goes immediately to the lamp, then drops to the area under the signal bridge on the right, encompassing the sunset sky, the dark building and the tracks with cats eyes, then it moves up to the row of signals at stop. I like the composition and the mood. Sure, there are wires and stuff, but they don't distract for me. The colors and the darkness, with the single glowing lamp, lend an air of mystery.

Having the central column vertical is good, but don't worry about Perspective Control, as the eye expects to see some evidence of perspective. I tried using PC in PhotoShop, but that moves the lamp up in the frame and messes up the composition. I'd rather have the lamp lean in a bit.

I'd give it another try on RP, but I wouldn't be too surprised if it gets rejected. There are some very good shots that will never get in, because they are just too far outside the RP envelope. Thanks for letting us see this one. I've saved it to my rotating screen saver slide show file!

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