Some of you may remember last year about this time there was a flurry of “ten favorite shots” posts on various rail themed blogs. So far, this year has been a bit less busy. Probably a lot of things are contributing to that; I know in my case some big changes in my life had (and continue to have) a huge impact on my photography.
This is why it surprised me, in some ways, when I found myself able to pick out ten shots again for this year. (Thanks go to Dave Styffe for the inspiration on this one.)
As with last year, the order is chronological, and clicking on the image will yield the image’s Flickr page.
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In February, my friend Scott and I headed into Portland to do some shooting for half a day. Our main targets were transit, including both MAX and the Portland Streetcar. Such shooting is usually a bit like fish in a barrel, but at the same time it can get really boring for the same reason. That said, the effort is worth it, as with this image, one I feel rather proud of. To me, it captures the essence of Portland — classic 19th century buildings, a modern light rail vehicle, and every completely slicked down from rain.
Graffiti is often considered the railfan’s bane, the evil enemy. Maybe it’s for precisely those reasons that I am attracted to it? Leaving aside self-examination of my contrarian tendencies, this image stands out to me less for any particular artistic merit than because of the content. It is the first of many images from this year in this post that were selected for emotional reasons as much as artistic ones.
Here is the interior wall of a highly vandalized railroad car. Among all the grunge, the burnt out detritus, and the haphazard spray-painted tags, there were a few poems written in crayon or paint markers. This was one of them. The inscription reads:
lighter than air
Your body is the footprint of your body
– David Paz”
A very random thing to find in such a place.
This was just me, having fun. Scott and I were transit foaming again, and this shot was a “hey hold my beer while I do this” sort of thing. It was the blue hour, after sunset, and I was shooting at ISO 400 but had no ‘pod. A bike rack made a good substitute; out of a series of shots, this one stood out as having the right balance of distinguishable features and motion streaks.
Okay, it’s a gimmick shot, sue me.
This scrawling was on the side of an abandoned gas station in Dundee, Oregon. This structure was endlessly fascinating to me. Dundee — once-upon-a-time no more than an old-fashioned road town — considers itself quite upscale, a sort of Napa of Oregon. This gas station is the perfect microcosm of the town. It was once a traditional gas station. It was then converted to an antique store, and still sports fading Old English signage to that effect. However, it never panned out, and is now abandoned, housing a few old mattresses.
That is the real Dundee, not the WIne Country snootiness.
And yes, there’s more than a little Jeff Brouws in this shot.
This is a shot I took on my only day at Chehalis this year. It was a bittersweet weekend. For one, C-Town was hit by massive flooding in December of 2007, and the line was largely out of service — trains were only mile or so jaunts down the track, backing the other way — and the future of running remained unclear. For another, changing circumstances in my life were making it quite likely that this would be my last trip as a conductor for a long, long time, maybe ever.
The day is still young, and the 15 is being fired up for the runs. I’m in an old UP CA-7 caboose that we use as a crew car, changing into my uniform. This is a view I have seen off and on for four years, and feeling a bit melancholy, I snapped a frame off.
Factual: this is near Knappa, on the Portland & Western’s Astoria District, more commonly known as the “A-Line”. The same floods that hit C-Town in December 2007 also packed a wallop on the coast up here, and in this case blew a large hole in the right-of-way. By July, the like is still not fixed. With no shippers beyond the damage, it remains like this today.
Less factual: it’s the imagery that makes this work for me. On the macro level, its a metaphor for the situation that a lot of marginal branch lines are facing in today’s Pacific Northwest. On a micro level, its a metaphor for something deeper, an interest being drowned by larger powers.
Although I did take a few other images later in the year that had railroad elements in them, this photograph is one of four of what I consider to be my last railroad photographs. How permanent that is I don’t know, and certainly I didn’t plan that it would be this one.
The location is Salmonberry, Oregon, along the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad. This is yet another instance of damage from the December 2007 storms that remains unrepaired. More than a year later, the chances that it ever will be grow slimmer by the day. The POTB is truly living up to it’s legend as the Northwestern Pacific of Oregon.
I think it’s a rather ironic but appropriate subject for closing a chapter.
This is one of those “railroad in the frame but not the subject” shots I mentioned above. Like the first of my ten, it’s a shot that appeals because of the visual shorthand it has. Portland, near the north end of the Depot Yard at Portland Union Station, with new condos looming (and mostly empty) in the background.
My old photography teacher would probably yell at me for the crumbs and tell me to use a spot brush to remove them, regardless of whether they were there or not. Kinda reminds me of the apocryphal story of Walker Evans and the flees on the bed in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
My last shot is from September, and like many of my images this year, it is both introspective and contains a link to friends and family. In this case, it’s my brother’s bookshelf at his apartment. I wish I had his organizational tendencies, but it’s just not me — to picture my workspaces you’d need to add lots of random papers with notes scrawled on them that I no longer need.
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And that wraps up 2008. It was quite a year. For me, things will never quite be the same again, and though I look forward to a far brighter 2009, I can’t help but look back wistfully on 2008. I lived through a lot of changes, and witnessed many people close to me face similar or greater challenges. Although I did not travel to the Midwest for the first time since 2005, it seems I still travelled as much as ever, and still spent time with good friends. But there is a strong emotional pull the year has for me, a sense of loss, often of things I cannot quite put a name to. I think that shows through in a lot of these images.
I can’t make any promises for 2009, but I have a sneaking suspicion there will be some more images about this time of year. Now the question is, where are the 2008 ten favorite from Blair?