WHAT I LEARNED FROM REGGIE WICKHAM

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Reggie Wickham was a distinguished photographer with an international reputation.   He was also a member of the South Jersey Camera Club and a contributor to our lives but we lost him in 2016.  Last year and again this year the club sponsored a show of black and white images to honor his work and his memory.  I submitted two images but only one got in.  I dunno why but that’s the way it is in judged shows.

The opening reception was held at the Hanson-Warner building gallery in Medford last Friday night.  Barbara and I went to see the show and to schmooze with friends and colleagues.   After visiting we slipped out before winners were announced and joined other friends for dinner nearby.  While there my phone rang;  Barbara scolded me for taking a call at dinner but the caller, my friend and colleague, Beth Jackson *, was letting me know I shouldn’t have left before winners were announced.  I had earned a second place award.  That’s unusual for me so I was somewhat speechless but certainly pleased.  Shortly, Beth appeared in the restaurant with a copy of the program which had my image on its cover.  Nice.  Here is the image that received the award:

Its title is Blow Down.  In Lancaster County’s Strasburg train yard they were readying this old engine for its daily work of hauling visitors through the farmland. They keep a banked fire burning all night so as to minimize the thermal stress of running cold to hot. Periodically they have to do a so-called blow-down which purges particles that accumulate as the water turns to steam.  It’s a dramatic sight and sound and I sensed it begin just as the engineer started to cross in front of the locomotive.  A once in a lifetime moment…Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment: “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

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*   May 18th:  This post originally said that the caller was the show chair, Pat Worley.  It wasn’t; it was Beth who also as noted above then brought me a copy of the program.  I apologize.  I claim old age, a Manhattan down, a lot of cheering (Beth-led) over the phone, Barbara on me about taking the call, and our other friends arriving for dinner.  Too much confusion and too much excitement, but thank you, Beth.

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Meanwhile, what did I learn from Reggie…..a principle of good composition.  Here’s that back story.

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I was proud to know Reggie through the camera club and I enjoyed my interactions with him…except the first one.  That was the lesson moment.

Sometime around 2006 or 2007 I had joined the club and was submitting work in their monthly competitions.  One night I was pleased to win a second place with this image:

Wow!  Back lit, specular reflections, and lots of contrast; what could be better?  I thought it was pretty spiffy until Reggie came up to me and said “If I had been the judge I would have thrown out your image.”  What!?!  I was flabbergasted.  How could he say that about such a decisive moment image?  His answer:

“Your horizon     was      not      horizontal.”

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Lesson learned.  For ever ‘n ever.  Thank you, Reggie.

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For more on Reggie Wickham see this article.

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STRASBURG & LANCASTER COUNTY

A revisit of the Strasburg Railroad and the surrounding Lancaster County was overdue.  (The first visit was in 1965 but I have been back a few times since then.)   To see more images than the sample below click here

The forecasted clear day was delivered;  clear, but tough to photograph in the bright, bright sun.  Nevertheless, a colleague and I journeyed out there and it was worthwhile.  Just driving through the county towards the railroad we encountered several teams out working the land.

 My first thought was that he was dozing in the hot sun but we decided he was really trying to make sure he stayed on track.  You can see the haze we were up against photographically.

At the Strasburg Railroad facilities they were readying the old Norfolk & Western 4-8-0 Consolidation class engine, #475, for its daily work of hauling families out through the farmlands.  They keep a banked fire burning all night so as to minimize the thermal stress of running cold to hot.  Periodically they have to do a so-called blow-down which purges accumulations from the water being evaporated into steam.  It’s a dramatic sight and sound.

Then she can move out to pick up the passenger cars for their daily fan trips.

Later we drove out to a couple of the roads that cross the farmland and also cross the railroad’s main line.  We were rewarded by this sight of her returning home after picking up picnikers from Groff’s Grove along their right of way.  I wish I had taken some video to capture the pounding roar and blowing whistle as she labors past us.  What fun!

Finally, a contrast in cultures.   Steam horsepower vs. real horsepower, with a people power child on each side of the rig inserting seedlings into the soil.

There are several more images from the day at this gallery