Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"I'm Ready When You Are"

Very welcome words I heard this week! Touching base with Bryan my graphic designer, though he's now retired, it sounds like Bryan is ready to go. Like this seasoned snowplow, wearing fresh paint and just outshopped when I photographed CN 55251 behind the Co-op fertilizer shed in Portage in 1982. And now, winter has reportedly descended on Manitoba once again!

I'm currently captioning, thinking of creating ways to describe the action in the photos I'm poised to share with readers. I will be sending the Trains volume to Bryan first, then Grains will follow.

It's amazing to be part of a great team effort, from graphic designer to contributors to your humble book creator!

Look up, look way up,
I know I am!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What to Leave In, What to Leave Out

We're older now, but we're still running. Against the wind. My Dad photographed CP 5518-3002 setting four cars over into Portage yard on July 3, 1976. I'm definitely including the photo in Trains and Grains, but cropping was a challenge.

To hone in on the train itself, some cropping was required, to get a square 126-format B&W print down to a rectangular shape. But just look at the shadow cast by the train order signal mast on a sunny Portage morning.


Look up, look way up.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Oh Caption, My Caption!

For the last two weeks, I've been faced with one question. How do I describe this? Well, it's a train at Portage la Prairie, MB. That works for one photo, but what if there are hundreds that can be described that way? 

"What language shall I borrow?" Fortunately, I'm not just captioning from what can be seen in the photo. That is acceptable if it's all that's available. Yet I have notes, numbers and consists to rely on. I have the engine numbers, dates, times, specific subdivision location and much more. But for now, in the above photo, SD's power an eastward CN freight on the Rivers Sub, with VIA's CN-CP connecting track at left and grain moving on the Gladstone Sub at right. That's the bare bones info.

I can write 20-30 captions per hour. But I still need to go back and check each caption against the original notes and the original photo, and proofread for accuracy and completeness before it all goes to my graphic designer.

Then there's the challenge of finding various verbs, sportscaster-like, to describe essentially the same action. Led by, pulled by, powering, leading, switching, backing. You know, train verbs.

Did I mention all the above is actually quite enjoyable?

And yes, for those who are asking, this will all be available come spring (and man, I hope spring is coming!) The two-volume set awaits contributions from two members. Then everything needs to get the once-over. Or twice-over.

Look up, look way up.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

It was a Good Crop!

Crop and brightness and rotate and contrast and colour! Nearly 800 photos! Two thirds Trains, one third Grains. All for my fall and winter Trains and Grains project.

What did I notice during the photo-editing process?
  • It was really, really enjoyable.
  • Grain elevator photos generally level. Train photos, not so much.
  • Poles. A lot of poles. And wires. I will not be photo-shopping them out.
  • I have viewed these photos many times but have not really 'seen' them. Like hearing someone and not really listening to them.
I'm really looking forward to sharing these photos and getting them out there for posterity. Hughton, SK in 1986 (top photo). If a New York walk-up is called a 'brownstone' then I really like these original 'brownwoods'!

Look up, look way up!

Thursday, January 18, 2018


THIS JUST IN: TWO-VOLUME SET! I'm pleased to announce that there is simply too much material for one book. With over 700 of my photos to include, I've decided to split the one-book project into a two-volume set.

Not-so-creative working titles: Volume 1 - Trains. Volume II - Grains.

When creating my books on VIA Rail, I was committed to keeping my books affordable. That means keeping postage costs manageable, as these are factored into my books' prices. As long as these books weigh in at less than 500 grams, Canada Post handles them for half the price that they would if they were 500 grams or more.

That's all the more reason to split this project up into a two-volume set. One book for the Trains enthusiasts. One book for the Grains enthusiasts. And two books for the ten or so people that enjoy both!

Look up, look way up.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

So Cylindrical, so SD! And an Announcement

As I continue the task (some would say arduous, I would say enjoyable) of photo editing, I'm enjoying the opportunity to apply life-saving technology to bring some of these early-80's photos back to life. As I was doing so, I was struck by two things...
One - how cylindrical the grain trains were. (Except if they were boxcar trains!)
Two -  most often, led by SD's. On both CN and CP. (Except of course if led by a Geep, or C-424!)

I'm thinking that an announcement will soon be in order. An exciting announcement about this Trains and Grains project. But first, a chat with my graphic designer is in order. Lemme get back to you on that.

Look up, look way up.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Good Enough? Yes!

Heard this saying before? 'A good photographer never shows his bad pictures'. I paused, thinking of that saying as I was editing these photos for my upcoming book project. Then I thought of another saying - 'every picture tells a story'. This eastbound - a ground-pounding GMD-1 trio - tells a story. I could just sit on them, not share them, and therefore never let them see the light of day. But wait, this isn't Railpictures.ca, this is my own project. So I decided to ask a focus group on Facebook. The unscientific results follow - the answers are insightful, amusing, modest, forthright and earnest. The question was: What do you think, sit on 'em or share 'em?

Share! Sometimes these are our only records, only photographs, all we have. I cringe thinking that in a quest to present only the perfect we lose the personal story told in photos like these. - CM

It suggests a time and place, not a photo contest, I say use them. -BS

Use it! Somewhere out there is a picture of the Turbo Train in Nelson, BC that no one will ever see because the photographer thought it was overexposed . -CW

Share them no matter what anyone thinks! - MW

I personally like it when photographers share roughs amongst their diamonds. It adds character and tells a story! - JB

If I didn't share my questionable shots, I'd have very little to share! - MH

I think they're beautiful! - EH

Trains don't stop and wait for you to compose your shots. That's doubly true for photographing noteworthy consists. So, so long as the photo isn't completely terrible, I say post it. – NL

Share them. Your pictures tell a story about what you could see back in the 1970's and 1980's. - NB

Share them! - SB

Something else I always heard... never throw out your bad pictures. There will come a time where where they could be irreplaceable. -MT

When I first started photographing elevators I was using a point and shoot and was very inexperienced. Since then my equipment and skill have improved but many of those early shots can never be replaced as many of those old giants have since fallen. - MZ

I'll take a poor photo of something that doesn't exist any more, any time. - SB

Some of these photos were taken with a new-to-me simple camera - plastic viewfinder, hand-cranked, subject to blurring and no manual controls. It was 110 format - remember that one - tiny negative. And I was 14 years old while taking the first ones.

The people have spoken. Those shots that are not completely terrible will be in this book! All of 'em!

Look up, look way up.