Old 09-30-2006, 03:03 AM   #1
a231pacific
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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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Old 09-30-2006, 04:07 PM   #2
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I've seen quite a few good side-lit shots get the axe as "back lit" over the years. If I had to pick a rule I'd like to see relaxed, that'd be it.

Of course, I 'm always welcome to start my own site "SideLitTrains.com" or to pick up my marbles and go home. So far, I've done neither, and generally enjoy the photos I see here.

FYI, my personal ratio of acceptances to rejections is probably around 1/10.
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Old 09-30-2006, 11:56 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Crusader
I've seen quite a few good side-lit shots get the axe as "back lit" over the years. If I had to pick a rule I'd like to see relaxed, that'd be it.
I'll have to agree there. Sometimes the time of day or situation calls for it when something "normal" or creative isn't the best option.
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Old 10-01-2006, 12:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
I've seen quite a few good side-lit shots get the axe as "back lit" over the years. If I had to pick a rule I'd like to see relaxed, that'd be it.
Quote:
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?
Ditto -

I too like photos with contrast and different angles - something other than the blue sky sun over the shoulder wedge shot. These are some of my favortie shots that were rejected here. They're still good to me, and I'm not complaining about the screening process, but I would like some feedback as to whether they are the "best of the best" or just very good (even in only my eyes).

Tank train at Newport
CP Cannon
Cove at Twilight
Doublestacks at Cove
Marysville in the morning
Transfer at CP Ruth
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Old 10-01-2006, 02:14 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonytheTiger
...but I would like some feedback as to whether they are the "best of the best" or just very good (even in only my eyes).
Sorry, but none of those shots really stand out to me, and suggest they have qualities that override their original rejection. The one that I think would be closest is Doublestacks at Cove. Had the containers been sunlit, I would really like that shot, even with no light on the nose. I like the one at CP Ruth, too, but IMO the light is too diffused to make it a dramatic enough backlight shot.

Then again, if I knew what the hell I was doing with a camera, I'd have a lot more shots on rp.net.
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Old 10-01-2006, 02:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LAHDPOP
Sorry, but none of those shots really stand out to me, and suggest they have qualities that override their original rejection.
Thanks Michael and Andrew. Even thinking outside of being one of the photographers, they are both really good shots. Mine will be resubmitted in the next 12 hours or so. Believe me RP.net approves many of the "outside of the box" photos. I know for a fact sometimes they reject one of mine just to get me to think a bit more about it, but I've had plenty of backlit and obscure photos approved here and I'm sure I'll have many more approved in the future.

To me it's a matter of getting along with the staff, not being an ass and working with them!
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Old 10-01-2006, 02:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonytheTiger
Ditto -

I too like photos with contrast and different angles - something other than the blue sky sun over the shoulder wedge shot. These are some of my favortie shots that were rejected here. They're still good to me, and I'm not complaining about the screening process, but I would like some feedback as to whether they are the "best of the best" or just very good (even in only my eyes).

Tank train at Newport
CP Cannon
Cove at Twilight
Doublestacks at Cove
Marysville in the morning
Transfer at CP Ruth
The only two that I think could be worth while spending more time on are the first and the last. I like the color contrasts between the Autumn orange and NS black. I think if you played around with the stauration and the contrast a little bit you may make it appealing to the screeners. As for the last one, I'm a sucker for GP60's and glint shots, put them together you got as winner. Not sure as why it got canned here but I think a little post-processing can get it on. The other ones just seem like they can be shot in better conditions.
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Old 10-01-2006, 02:28 AM   #8
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Rob,

You posted your CP Ruth shot back when it was first rejected and I thought it was good then and still do. I think a number of pretty good back lit shots are getting rejected here because the conventional railfan wisdom is back light is bad, but I'd like to change that thinking. Your CP Ruth shot is a heck of lot more interesting than 1/2 the sun lit wedgies that sail through the screening process.

Michael Allen
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Old 09-30-2006, 04:33 PM   #9
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Some quick thoughts designed to reduce a long winded two page response to half a page:

The”rules” are probably helpful for the beginning photogs who need some basic guidance on how to get their first wedgie posted. And we all started out taking wedgies. Fortunately those rules often seem to be honored in the breach by the screeners since some of the more creative pix do occasionally/often get in.

I don’t sense a check list so much as a desire to try to be able to justify screener choices on some objective basis, compounded by the need to work fast and push standard buttons. Which often produces nonsense results because once you get beyond the basics the whole process becomes inherently judgmental. Perhaps screeners should be enabled to call a spade a spade with a button for “I just don’t like this picture”.

If anything I'd like to see more wedgies rejected. Not because they aren't technically good photographs, but simply on the basis of repetition. Maybe there should be a button for "technically perfect common power wedgie in uninteresting scenery".

The appeal process gets at least one additional screener involved, which is good. Perhaps the screening process should have a third step allowing viewers some kind of input…..which is what is already happening informally in this forum.

While some of my favorite pix have been rejected (including the one on the left that I’m using as an avatar in protest), net net my gut feel is that the screeners are doing a pretty good job of responding to the diverse constituency that pays the bills (look where the hits are!).

But hopefully discussions like Michael’s description of his experience in South Africa will help open the eyes of screeners and viewers alike to some of the more creative aspects of rail photography. Perhaps even John Ryan’s snide remarks help in their own way.

John West

Last edited by John West; 09-30-2006 at 04:37 PM.
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