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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A TRAIN WEEKEND – 10/27/09

Image 01

It’s been a long time since I visited Strasburg, PA to watch the action on the Strasburg Railroad.  The railroad was chartered in 1832, probably started hauling freight about 1851, and is still hauling some freight but mostly railfan families since its revitalization began in 1958.  A group of investor-enthusiasts bought it and commenced its restoration, thus saving it from the “Fallen Flags” category of so many other American railroads.  We first visited it about 1966, taking the girls on a train ride into the Lancaster County farmland, to a picnic lunch while we waited for the train to return for us.  Here, #475 is being oiled and polished in preparation for a day’s run of fan trips.

 

Image 02

This so-called 4-8-0 (referring to the wheel arrangements: four lead wheels, eight drivers, and no trailing wheels) a Consolidation class engine, lived much of its life  in service on the Norfolk & Western.  Here she has steam up, waiting to be called into service.

I have a vivid childhood memory of standing next to a large steam locomotive when the engineer, having just brought his passenger train into the old original Atlantic City train station, released some of his steam pressure.  It scared the hell out of me.

 

 

Image 03

Across the road from the Strasburg Railroad complex is the splendid Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  Here are maintained many examples of engines and passenger cars that have served Pennsylvania over the years.  There are also lots of well done, informative educational  displays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 04Here’s the classic GG-1 electric locomotive, the most distinctive locomotive design in the world.  These 79′ long engines were built in the PRR’s Altoona shops between 1934 and 1943, and some remained in service into the early 80’s.    Twelve axles were each driven by a 385-hp motor. 

While it is commonly said that the unique body design was by the industrial designer, Raymond Loewy, he simply improved on the basic design by converting it from a riveted assembly of panels into a continuous welded sheet, and streamlining the pin-striped paint scheme. 

 After their work on the PRR they continued to serve Penn Central, Amtrak, Conrail, and NJ Transit.

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I continued across Pennsylvania to Altoona, for many years a major center for the PRR.  Here I’m on the road up to the Horseshoe Curve, passing Altoona Lake, part of Altoona’s water supply system, accumulating water coming down from the Allegheny Mountains through the Kitanning Gap over which the Horseshoe Curve was built.  The curve was built in 1854 as a part of the efforts of the PRR to link east and west.  It was a means to cross the Kitanning Gap at a lower slope than would have been required in a bridge directly across the gap.  While photographing this I could hear mighty diesels pounding their way down the curve above me in the hills, and their freight cars screeching.

 

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Up at the curve there is a visitor center where one can observe the frequent east-west traffic.  This old diesel, a GP7, is a monument to all of the trains that have passed here for a century and a half.  The visitor center also includes displays on the construction of the curve and how it facilitated crossing the gap.

 

 

 

 

 

My patience was rewarded as here came a mixed freight headed downhill towards Altoona, led by two massive Norfolk Southern diesels.

Image 07