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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Pushing the editing envelope

Date: 06/29/23 16:50
Pushing the editing envelope
Author: santafe199

I do miss Kodachrome. That fact is not at all up for debate. I miss the excitement of having the mailman put my latest PK-36 return packet in the mailbox. Better yet, I miss getting that shipping box containing 15-20 or more little yellow boxes of developed slides all at once. Talk about Christmas! I think I’ve been more excited as an adult getting a large Kodak mailing box than I ever was as a kid looking under the tree on Christmas morning. And while I’m on the subject, I also miss that “chemical odor” whenever I opened a new roll of K-64 for loading in my Canon A-1. It was always reassuring knowledge that such an odor would ultimately lead to me adding another 3 dozen or so slides into my personal collection. Be they keepers or traders, it did not matter. Traders always begot more traders, ya know!

Enter the digital age. I’m aware that a lot of people suffered greatly when Kodachrome died. But my delayed suffering was from afar, at least until 2009. That’s when I knocked over (read: got lucky on) a keno machine in Laurel, MT for $600. At that point I had been getting an itch that I hadn’t felt for nearly 20 years. It was time for me to get back into regular railfan photography. So I took my bonanza to a BestBuy store in Billings and told the clerk to “educate me” on digital cameras. I walked out with a Nikon P-90 point & shoot, and I was officially back in the saddle. Of course, it wasn’t long before I moved up into full DSLR capability with a burgeoning range of interchangeable lenses. And I was slowly but surely regaining my old shooting style. It was then that I finally realized I had lost a close, personal friend with the departure of Kodachrome.

Prior to 2009 I had been in a shameful, self-imposed “railfan hibernation” beginning about 1990. I had let happen exactly what my late friend Art Gibson warned me NOT to let happen. When I hired on with the Santa Fe in 1978 he very wisely warned me to guard against letting the drudgery of the RR job cause me to lose my railfanning soul. But by 1990 I had done just that. Especially after experiencing nearly 3 full years of BN-style management with Montana Rail Link. Between 1990 and the summer of 2009 I became burned-out enough that my slide-shooting dropped off to almost nothing. Very rarely I would dust the cobwebs of my A-1 and go out shooting. But it had to be something special, like the SP&S 700. In that time span I barely ran a total of 100 rolls of slide film through my camera. Mixed into that mostly Kodachrome total were a handful of rolls of Fuji film, which I didn’t like at all.

During my so-called hibernation it got to the point where I couldn’t wait to finish a road trip or a switch shift and get the hell away from the RR. I even quit carrying my camera (GASP!) along on my road trips. Let me expand on that last sentence: “I even quit carrying my camera along on road trips through the Rocky Mountains of Montana.” Yeah, it got that bad! But the one thing that stayed with me, no matter how fleeting, was my shooter’s instinct. I would be behind the throttle somewhere deep in the boonies and look ahead to a cliff, or a ridge, or an overpass and think: “That would be a great shot!”. But for the longest time I never did anything with that instinct.

When I finally become a late convert to digital photography I was eager to learn all I could. It just so happened that my RR career ended just as I was re-emerging as a full-fledged railfan photographer. I started carrying my camera again! Especially since my new P-90 took up maybe 65% of the space my old A-1 (+ motor-drive) did. Better late than never? Well... I shot up a storm during the last few months of my train service career.

Even though I was armed with the knowledge that film & processing costs were things of the past, I felt a bit weird at first to be permanently deleting duplicate digital images. It was almost like being guilty of something. But I plowed forward. I was also introduced to the world of home photo-editing. Sorta. My last working partner at MRL was Mr Jack Dorsey, who was as much a railfan as I was. He had picked up a pocket digital camera and would occasionally play with it on our road trips. I’ve no doubt this had at least a partial influence on my coming back into “the fold”. He also talked about something called Picasa, which was a free photo-editing download from Google. When I retired and got back home to Kansas, one of the first things I did was to establish an “online” status. Right after that I downloaded Picasa and started a very clumsy self-teaching episode. My early efforts were predictably pathetic. I had to force myself to adopt the classic “a little bit goes a long way” mentality. Within a couple of years I was presented Photoshop CS-5(?) for Christmas. It took some general familiarization from an old pro (teen-age H.S. kid), but now my foot was in the door for some serious trial & error learning. A few years later I can take a nearly all-dark exposure and work wonders with it. If that darker-than-dark image was from Kodachrome, that slide would have been in a landfill many years ago.

I’m retired from train service 13 years now, and have at least 10 years of Photoshop under my belt. I do believe I’ve found a new job... ;^)

1. UP 7430 is westbound on a regular ol’ manifest at Herkimer, KS. A 1-2 combination of digital technology & Photoshop editing have converted this dark image a presentable picture. It’s 7:58 PM on the heavily overcast evening of June 2, 2023. Long past bedtime for Mr Kodachrome...

Thanks for peering into the darkness!
Lance Garrels

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/29/23 17:54 by santafe199.

Date: 06/29/23 21:21
Re: Pushing the editing envelope
Author: rrcaboose

For me, rail photography ended on April 1, 1976 with Conrail.

Before that, on yearly trips to Maritime Canada, I brought 100 roll bricks of K-64 slide film, the international version that came with prepaid Kodak mailers that I sent to Fair Lawn. Stopped at the border once and asked why so much film? After explaining that I was a railroad photographer and traded images (as RAIL SCENE) with similar folk all over the USA, the border agent wished me a good trip. Usually carried 2 Olympus 35mm cameras, think they were OM-1s, with motor drive...36 exposure roll in about 14 seconds!

TO brings back alot of memories. Thanks.

Date: 06/29/23 22:21
Re: Pushing the editing envelope
Author: ATSFSuperChief

Great photoshop tuneup Lance.

Don Allender

Date: 06/30/23 09:18
Re: Pushing the editing envelope
Author: Ritzville

Very NICE save and narrative.


Date: 06/30/23 11:08
Re: Pushing the editing envelope
Author: mdo

My excuse used to be that photography was my escape from the railroad which could be a 24/7 commitment.

Today I have over 10,000 35 mm slides but very few of trains.  I could have taken hundreds of good rr images....

Just keep shooting !


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