Friday, November 28, 2014

Early Inspiration: O. Winston Link

Sometimes The Electricity Fails - O. Winston Link
Very naturally, after Richard Steinheimer, the next great photographer I "discovered" was O. Winston Link. The two men are sometimes mentioned in the same breath. Link, however, achieved far more recognition and commercial success than Steinheimer.

Hotshot Eastbound - O. Winston Link
O. Winston Link was born in 1914. He grew up in New York City. He began photographing before he was even in high school, using a borrowed Kodak Autographic camera. After high school Link attended the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he studied engineering and served as the photographer for the school newspaper.

After graduation, O. Winston Link was immediately hired by public relations genius Carl Byoir as a photographer. It wasn't long before Link's photographs began to be published in major magazines, such as Life. In 1946 Link opened his own studio in New York City.

In 1955 O. Winston Link began a personal project that would include what would become his most well-known images. Link began photographing the Norfolk & Western Railway's steam locomotives at night in Virginia and West Virginia. The Norfolk & Western was the last major railroad to use steam locomotives.

Hawksbill Creek Swinging Hole - O. Winston Link
Link's photographs were posed. They were heavily orchestrated, often with the collaboration of the railroad and locals. He used complex lighting systems to illuminate his photographs, which sometimes included over 40 flashbulbs.

The pinnacle of the project was between 1956 and 1959, although Link continued to work on it sparingly until 1977. He also made audio recordings of the trains, which were made into a vinyl record entitled Sounds of Steam Railroading. Some of these recordings were used in Hollywood for sound effects.

Link had a couple personal projects after this, including the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and ocean liners. These would not become nearly as widely know as his railroad images.

In 1983 O. Winston Link retired from photography. He had a small role in the 1999 movie October Sky. In 2001 he suffered a heart attack and died. In 2004 the O. Winston Link Museum opened its doors in Roanoke, Virginia, keeping his work alive for future generations to enjoy.

Birmingham Special At Rural Retreat - O. Winston Link
What I learned from Link is that photographs can be whatever you want them to be. A photograph begins in the photographer's mind. It is the photographer's imagination that makes an image what it is. The only limitation is the photographer himself.

Nothing is impossible in a photograph. Whatever you can dream of can become a photographic image. It may take a lot of work. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

O. Winston Link was a visionary. He did things with his photography that others had not done before. His night photographs were amazing accomplishments. He made it all happen. He orchestrated it and pulled it off with perfection. Anything was possible.

Fog At The Bench

The Bench - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 250, f5.6, 1/125, 40mm.
Two weeks ago I visited my favorite spot to photograph in my neighborhood: The Bench. What is this place? Down a nondescript dead-end road there is a small unmarked dirt pullout big enough for two cars. From there a short trail leads down to a wood bench.

The view from the bench is nothing short of spectacular. About 4,000' below is California's Central Valley. You can see parts of the historic Tejon Ranch. On most days The Grapevine is visible in the distance. Down in the valley are orange groves and cattle ranches. On the far side of the valley are mountains.

This particular day was foggy. When I arrived the fog was so thick that a photograph would have looked completely white. Within a couple of minutes the clouds began to lift a little, revealing some of the hillsides and trees. This lasted about 15 minutes before the thick fog returned.
Foggy Hill #1 - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 100, f5.6, 1/200, 78mm.
I left, but came back later a little before sunset. The fog was still hanging around, but it had cleared just enough for me to capture a few photographs. Then, just before the sun was to disappear behind the horizon, some thick fog rolled back in.

I used a Nikon D3300 DSLR for these photographs. I used two lenses, a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX F/2.8G Micro and a Nikkor 55-200mm AF-S DX F/4-5.6G ED. Lens choice was based on what focal length I needed for each image.

Alien Skin Exposure 6 was used to post-process these photographs. They are in no particular order.
Two Trees On A Foggy Mountain - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 280, f8, 1/125, 40mm.
Foggy Hill #2 - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 100, f5.6, 1/320, 85mm.
Chain of The Setting Sun - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 800, f9, 1/125, 40mm.
Setting Sun Over Tejon #1 - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 250, f7.1, 1/125, 40mm.
Setting Sun Over Tejon #2 - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 250, f7.1, 1/125, 40mm.
Rock & Tree - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 180, f5.6, 1/125, 78mm.
A Tree In The Fog - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 100, f5.6, 1/125, 55mm.
Fallen - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 100, f5, 1/125, 100mm.
Tejon Elk - Stallion Springs, California
ISO 2200, f3.5, 1/125, 40mm.
This wasn't captured at "the bench" but a mile or so down the road.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Early Inspiration: Richard Steinheimer

Southern Pacific Night Train - Richard Steinheimer
December 25, 1993. I was 13-years-old.

My dad was in the Navy, and that meant moving to a new place every year or so. This time he was transferred to Alameda, California. The military housing we were assigned to was on Treasure Island, halfway between Oakland and San Francisco.

Track Forman's Watch - Richard Steinheimer
I was immediately captivated by the beauty of this place. I would get up early and watch the sunrise over Berkeley. I would watch it disappear behind the Golden Gate Bridge in the evening. It was December, and at night the San Francisco skyline was lit for Christmas.

I wanted to capture all of this. I wanted to remember. I knew that we would not live on the island for very long, and then it would be off to somewhere else.

So when my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I knew there was only one thing: a camera.

On Christmas morning there wasn't a whole lot under the tree. Service members didn't earn a lot in those days, and it was especially difficult financially to live in an expensive city like San Francisco. But there was a gift colorfully wrapped for me under the tree, and one for my older brother and younger sister, too.

Under the wrapping paper and inside a box was a Kodak 110 point-and-shoot camera and a handful of film cartridges. This was my Christmas present. It was also the very beginning of a journey that I've been on now for over two decades.

28 Degrees Below At Thistle, Utah - Richard Steinheimer
My grandparents used to give me their old magazines whenever we would visit them. Trains was one of the magazines often found in the stack. I remember when I was about 14-years-old looking at one particular issue of Trains that featured the photography of Richard Steinheimer.

I was blown away.

I was a kid who really didn't know anything about photography, but what I saw on the pages of that magazine made a lasting impression on me. Steinheimer's images were at a level above those of the other photographers that I saw.

Richard Steinheimer's photographs were easily recognizable. You could tell it was one of his images without even looking at the credit or reading the caption. There was a certain aesthetic that was unique to him.

UPRR No. 3957 "Challenger" - Richard Steinheimer
Richard Steinheimer was born in 1929 and began capturing images at the age of 17. He majored in photography at San Francisco City College and studied under renown photojournalist Joe Rosenthal. He spent the first six years after graduating as a photojournalist before settling on product photography.

Photojournalism and product photography were not Steinheimer's passion. He was passionate about railroads in the vast landscapes of western America.

For six decades, over 400 of Steinheimer's photographs were published in different magazines, mostly railroad publications like Trains. His photographs were printed in dozens of books, including several that featured his images exclusively. His photographs have hung on gallery walls, such as the Robert Mann Gallery in New York.

Armageddon And Creation - Richard Steinheimer 
Despite that, and quite sadly, most of the photography world has never seen a Steinheimer photograph. Most people have never heard of him. He might be the most overlooked and under-appreciated photographer of the last half-century.

Richard Steinheimer died in 2011 after battling Alzheimer's Disease for over a decade. He was 81.

Even though I was young when I was first exposed to his photography, there are two important lessons that I learned from Richard Steinheimer.

First, photography isn't always easy. I wish I could remember the exact quote, but it was a long time ago that I read this. Steinheimer said something to the effect of, "Photography is being in the right place at the right time, and that often means being someplace that other people are not willing to go."

Southern Pacific Steam Helper at Saugus - Richard Steinheimer
Steinheimer photographed at night, in freezing cold, during a storm, etc. He took risks. He went places few dared, and certainly at times when most were in the comfort of their homes. He put himself in the right place at the right time, even if it seemed a little crazy to be there.

The other lesson I learned from Richard Steinheimer is that photographs can speak to the viewer. His images tell stories. The viewer has an emotional response to his photographs. He made the scenes come alive and gave them meaning. His photographs were important. They were the opposite of snapshots.

I would later come to know this as photographic vision. It is something that Steinheimer had mastered like few others. Perhaps that is why some have called him "the Ansel Adams of railroad photography."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Travel: Disneyland - Photography Notes

Monochrome Curves - Anaheim, California
I found this new-leaf growth on a plant while waiting in a line for a ride. It was converted to black-and-white because color wasn't important to the image. I added contrast to make it more dramatic.

Like with my recent trip to Yosemite, I'm concluding this series with some photography notes. In this post you'll find my favorite photographs plus some other images that I wanted to comment on.

As I mentioned in the first Disneyland post, all of the photographs were captured using a Nikon D3300 DSLR with a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX F/2.8G Micro lens attached to it. All I needed was one camera and one lens and nothing else. All of the photographs were post-processed using Alien Skin Exposure 6 software.
Carthay Circle Theatre - Anaheim, California
This is a replica of a famous structure in Los Angeles that existed from 1926 to 1969. 
Red Car Trolley - Anaheim, California
This falls into the category of Street Photography. The image works because the driver (and to a lesser extent the person to the right) are looking at the camera.
Two In Mater's Junkyard - Anaheim, California
I purposely composed this back-lit, placing the strong sun at the top-left corner behind the girl. I wanted to give the feeling of late-afternoon warmth.
Ornament Valley From Radiator Springs - Anaheim, California
If Radiator Springs, Arizona, and the Ornament Valley National Park were real, this is what a photograph captured there might look like. 
Flo's V8 Cafe - Anaheim, California
Gotta love the neon lights. This makes me want to travel Route 66 and visit the real towns found along the old highway. 
Flo's Cafe - Anaheim, California
I just love how this looks and feels like a real place, as if I was at some intersection in some small town along the Mother Road and found this cafe. 
Buena Vista Street Trolley - Anaheim, California
Another "street" image. If this had been a color photograph it would have been bland and ordinary. As monochrome it looks classic. Note the use of the track as a leading line from the bottom-right corner to the trolley.
Stages of Blossom - Anaheim, California
This macro image is moody. I underexposed it slightly and added contrast and grain.  It works far better as black-and-white than color because in color the feeling is completely different. 
Columbia Sunset - Anaheim, California
The sunset wasn't actually this nice. It was quite bland and boring, in fact. I bumped up the saturation a whole bunch, and also added a semi-transparent warm-orange/yellow color layer to increase the amount of color found in the photograph. 
Blue Water - Anaheim, California
During The World of Color show lights turn the water a bunch of different colors. I thought that a photograph of the water blue was appropriate. 
Frightening Fire - Anaheim, California
If you look carefully (and squint) you can see what looks like a scary face. That was a happy accident.
Colorful Mickey Mouse - Anaheim, California
This is the post-show colors. It stayed this way for perhaps five minutes after the show ended.
Thirsty - Anaheim, California
This image was staged. Yes, the kids were thirsty, but I told them where to stand and what to do.
Future Design - Anaheim, California
This photograph is about lines, repeated shapes and contrast and pretty much nothing else.
Take Me Back In Time - Anaheim, California
Was this captured in 2014 or 1914? By not including too much I was able to create some mystery.
Rosamond Tufa - Anaheim, California
This is found on the Big Thunder Mountain ride. I learned that this fake mountain was made from dirt mined near Rosamond, California. It's supposed to resemble the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon in Utah, but to me it looks more like tufa found at Mono Lake. I guess it isn't exactly like either. I darkened the sky to simulate the use of an orange filter.
Blossom Colors - Anaheim, California
This is one of my favorite flower images. The bonus is the tiny bug. The only thing that would have made it better is if the bug was facing towards the camera. 
Tom Sawyer's Island - Anaheim, California
The only thing that makes this image work is contrast.
Columbia - Anaheim, California
This is a replica of the Columbia Rediviva, which was the first American ship to sail the globe. It was also the first ship to navigate the Columbia River (the river was named after the ship). 
Ornament Valley - Anaheim, California
These fake rocks look real enough that you would think that Ornament Valley was a real place and that this image was captured there. The only thing missing are some star trails in the black sky.
Gas, Oil, Coolant - Anaheim, California
I couldn't get enough images of the neon lights. The brilliant colors lend themselves well to photography.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Travel: Disneyland - Day 3

Matterhorn Mountain - Anaheim, California
ISO 220, f8, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 11:01 AM.

Disneyland opened later on the third day, so we slept in a little and took our time getting out of the hotel room door. We started out in Disneyland and grabbed a coffee on our way through Main Street.

The weather on this trip had been close to perfect and this day was no exception. It was a little cool (but not cold), with an overcast sky that sometimes became blue.

The first ride of the day was the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and I was happy to see that the line was short. I remember riding this as a young kid and being completely scared. I took my two "older" kids on it and they both thought it was great.
Thirsty - Anaheim, California
ISO 900, f10, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 11:23 AM.
We followed up the roller coaster with a trip on Star Tours. This was the first time we used a "Switch Pass" which turned out to be a great little secret. The way that it works is rides that have age restrictions and a "Fast Pass" line, riders with children that are too young to ride can get a pass that allows another adult rider plus the old-enough children to go through the "Fast Pass" line. In other words, each adults gets to ride once, and the kids get to ride twice.

After that we hopped on the train at the Tomorrowland station. We took a quick tour of "the Grand Canyon" and also traveled back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth (this was a hit with the kids). We got off at the New Orleans Square station and headed to Splash Mountain.

One thing that I never realized is that the "Splash Mountain" story that you see as you go through the ride is very weird. It's based on a 1940's movie called Song of The South. I've never seen the movie, and the ride made me glad that I've never seen it. It's just very strange.
Happy - Anaheim, California
ISO 3200, f9, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 11:53 AM.
We rode Splash Mountain twice and then rode The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh twice. The former ride was a big hit with the two "older" kids, while the latter was a hit with the youngest.

A great place to eat, we found out, is the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue. The food was good. The atmosphere was fun and relaxed. There was a little interactive show. It was a great stop for lunch.

After that we rode the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad twice. The line was short, but it quickly grew after our second trip. I think perhaps kids were getting out of school and parents were getting off work, and season ticket holders were making their way into the park, increasing the crowds.
Future Design - Anaheim, California
ISO 100, f9, 1/200, 11/12/14 at 11:57 AM.
At the beginning of the day we had secured some tickets to meet Elsa and Anna (from the movie Frozen). This was for our six-year-old daughter, in particular. The tickets had specific times, so that was next on our agenda. My daughter loved the experience, but the rest of us were less-than-thrilled about it (especially my five-year-old son).

The park was already decorated for Christmas, so it was no surprise that the nightly parade through Disney was also Christmas themed. We got the best real estate that we could (it wasn't great) and waited an hour for it to start.

An hour wait with three young children is not fun. They're bored. We're getting frustrated. Anyway, the parade eventually started (about 10 minutes late) and when it (finally) came it was underwhelming. I expected better.
Take Me Back In Time - Anaheim, California
ISO 220, f7.1, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 12:36 PM.
We split Disneyland before the parade was finished and headed over to California Adventure. We had one more thing we wanted to do: Radiator Springs Racers. This was something we wanted to do from the very beginning, but hadn't yet had the chance. It was now or never.

We got to Cars Land about an hour and a half before the park closed and the wait time for the ride was one hour long. I got in line with the two "older" kids and made sure I got a Switch Pass. The wait was every bit of that hour, but the ride was great and the kids absolutely loved it. Because we had the Switch Pass the kids got to ride it again with my wife with only a short wait.

With that done we headed to Buena Vista Street to visit the shops. They stay open for a time after the park closes. Then we left the park and our Disneyland adventure was over.
Elephant Bee - Anaheim, California
ISO 640, f7.1, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 1:10 PM.
We had pushed ourselves and were very tired and hungry after leaving. Thankfully IHOP had open seats and treated us well. I thoroughly enjoyed some pumpkin cheesecake pancakes myself.

When we left I really felt as though California Adventure was more enjoyable than Disneyland. It is slightly less crowded, better laid out and better executed. Disney is superb at creating feelings--making you feel as though something is real even though it is fake. In California Adventure they really nailed this. Sure, Disneyland has more rides and things to do plus all of the classic stuff, but if I had my way I'd skip that park altogether. If I could do the trip over again I'd have spent more time in the "other" park.

That's it! We spent one more night in the hotel and headed back home the next morning. Overall it was a great and memorable trip, plus I came away with some good photographs.
Psychedelic Tigger - Anaheim, California
ISO 3200, f2.8, 1/100, 11/12/14 at 1:11 PM.
Rosamond Tufa - Anaheim, California
ISO 220, f8, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 1:40 PM.
Brilliant Bloom - Anaheim, California
ISO 2500, f8, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 3:07 PM.
Blossom Colors - Anaheim, California
ISO 3200, f11, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 3:08 PM.
Monochrome Flower - Anaheim, California
ISO 2800, f11, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 3:09 PM.
Tom Sawyer's Island - Anaheim, California
ISO 320, f7.1, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 3:27 PM.
Columbia - Anaheim, California
ISO 900, f8, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 4:09 PM.
Mother & Son - Anaheim, California
ISO 3200, f4, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 4:24 PM.
Sleeping Beauty's Castle - Anaheim, California
ISO 1100, f5.6, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 4:48 PM.
Night Castle - Anaheim, California
ISO 3200, f2.8, 1/50, 11/12/14 at 5:24 PM.
Cadillac Range - Anaheim, California
ISO 3200, f2.8, 1/60, 11/12/14 at 7:40 PM.
Ornament Valley - Anaheim, California
ISO 3200, f2.8, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 7:42 PM.
RS - Anaheim, California
ISO 1800, f3.5, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 7:57 PM.
Gas, Oil, Coolant - Anaheim, California
ISO 560, f3.5, 1/125, 11/12/14 at 8:02 PM.