Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite Photos of 2015

Time for this once again. It seems to be an every-other-year sorta thing, which is too bad, for I made some great photographs in 2014, and instead of compiling them here for presentation, had the mistaken impression I'd make them into a one-off monograph of my photos for the year. . . .which I never completed.

Nearly every one of these photos was taken outside my North Texas backyard. Apart mostly from AvGeeking trip to DFW airport, I didn't shoot much near home. For me, I did a fair amount of travelling in 2015: California, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New York. Five trips by air, which is more than I'd probably ever made. Cheap flights. Earn miles. Save em up for next year. 

I certainly didn't push myself photographically as I had in 2014. Looking strictly at the number of frames actually archived, I shot 600 more of em in 2015 than I did in 2014--but that tells me nothing, given the sheer number of frames I made photographing airplane approaches. Quantity does not equal quality.

You'll notice that most folks pick their "top 10." It was easy to get to a top 27, then a top 18, and even down to a top 15--but there I stopped. It isn't that I couldn't sweat it down to 10--for whatever reasons--mostly emotional I guess--I stopped at 15. So there they are, presented in chronological order, along with a little about each photo.

Altamont Commuter Express/California
Made a long-weekend trip to Central California to attend the last Winterail rail photo exhibition in California--after a 37 year run in the Stockton/Modesto area it's moving on for the next phase of its life in Oregon in 2016. I'd attended roughly half of 'em, including the first one in 1978, so wanted to be there for the finale. I stayed with my friend Joe Brice in Lodi, and unlike most other trips to Winterail, spent some time photographing railroads in the local area. We got up before dawn to try to catch the California Northern's "West Side job" out of Tracy; while waiting in vain for it to show up (it never did), I photographed an ACE commuter train at the UP/CN diamond at Lyoth. I nearly didn't get this: using a new-ish camera, I forgot to check if the "motor drive" was on. It wasn't. I got this one frame, but I thought it was a dandy. Fuji X100s, 35m (equiv) 1/640th @  f4 ISO 800.

Chicago Transit Authority/ Chicago
In Chicago for the annual Center for Railroad Photography & Art "Conversations" presentation in suburban Lake Forest, my traveling mate Lance Lassen and I stayed the first night out at O'Hare to do a bit of plane spotting and catch the CTA into the city for a bit of street photography. Right off the train from the airport at rush hour. Amazing city, especially to people watch. Fuji 100s 35mm (equiv),  1/50 @ f4 ISO 1600.

The Green Mill/Chicago
Dragged Lance to the Northside for a quick visit and a blast-o at The Green Mill, venerable Chicago speak easy and jazz club. Now inhabited by hipsters who've carried on the Jazz traditions. Very cool place. Very dark. Wanted to try the quintessential Chicago Liquor, Malort. Did my shot. Will never do it again.
Fuji X100S 35mm (equiv) 1/20 @ f2.8 ISO 6400.

B52 engine pod/Barksdale AFB, Lousiana
Took my youngest one on an overnight trip to Shreveport for the nearby Barksdale Air Force Base air show. Nothing you wouldn't see at your basic airshow, except Barksdale is home for half the nation's fleet of B52 heavy bombers, and my burgeoning av geekiness required getting close to these huge death machines, the youngest of which is about my age. I was disappointed with just a couple of fly-bys; made up for it with a close visual inspection of the planes, including this sculpted object d'art, one of four twin-jet engine pods slung from the Big Ugly Fat Fucker's swept wings. Fuji XE2, 160mm (equiv) 1/55 @ f/14 ISO 400.

Living Room Interior/Dallas Modern Home Tour
Wife Mary and I are into mid-century design/homes/furnishings, and we took in the yearly White Rock modern home tour in Dallas, featuring a half-dozen or so new or preserved or renovated modern homes. This is the living room of one such restored home, decorated with vintage art and furniture and fixtures. I recall seeing this portrait of an unknown man for sale previously in a local vintage resale shop. Fuji X-E2, 24mm (equiv) 1/50 @ f2.8 ISO 800.

Dusk Landing/Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
2015 was the year my interest in aviation photography really took off. Har har. Anyway, I spent far more time runway-side than I did track-side as I really got into photographing aircraft, mainly passenger and freight jetliners. For the most part, it's been meat-and-potatoes stuff: flying 3/4 wedge type landing and take offs. Occasionally I branched out into the more artistic and difficult realms, such as dusk pan shots. Prepare to take LOTS of frames and do a LOT of editing. This was an early effort, Spirit Airways landing in July. Fuji X-E2, 200mm (equiv) 1/13 @ f4.5 ISO 1600.

Oldest son Eliot/Lake Michigan Dunes
Summer vacation was a trip into Milwaukee and a big loop around the south end of the lake to Detroit and back across the lake into Wisconsin. We spent an afternoon at Warren Dunes State Park. My son Eliot and I climbed up the several-hundred-foot high sand dune: quite an exercise. Near the top, I saw him in a pensive moment. It kind of sums up to me the indecision he must be going through as a teenager. I wouldn't want to be in his place.  Iphone5s, 4.15mm 1/4600 @ f2.2, ISO 32

Out on a Date/Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI
Another photo from the family vacation; we ate lunch in the restored diner inside the Ford Museum. Food was pretty below average, but atmosphere was great. This couple was in the booth in front of us, and managed to take a few candid frames of this cute young couple on a date, tentative staring in each other's eyes, holding hands, discussing parents and music and trying to find a common ground. The Diner dates from the 20s; some dating rituals are timeless as well. Fuji X100S 35m (equiv)  1/70@f2.8 ISO 3200.

USS United States/Philadelphia
Fall trip to the east to photograph old diesels was looking mighty grim upon arrival in Philly: hurricane blowing up the east coast looked like it might wash our plans away: pouring rain and 50mph winds. While awaiting arrival of the rest of our group, I went down to the Delaware River docks and paid my respects the the USS United States, world's fastest passenger liner, docked here for years and years while money is raised to preserve her. Paint peeling, locked up behind barbed wire gates: seems so close and yet so out of reach. Shame to see her like this. Fuji X-E2, 70mm (equiv) 1/1500 @ f/8 ISO 800.

Bath & Hammondsport Railway/ Avoca, New York
To me, context is important in railroad photographs. I shy away from basic wedge shots whenever I can--there's always that part of me working as a photojournalist. So it was chasing this small local freight up the valley north from Bath, New York. Our carload of foamers piled out along state road 415. I ran down the road to incorporate a milk farm in the shot, when suddenly a woman walked down her driveway to get the daily mail. She was a bit curious about the carload of photographers, but warmed to the idea of me including her in the photo. She got her mail, i got my shot. I gave her my card to get in touch for a print; she never wrote. Too bad--I'm sure she'd like it. Fuji X-E2, 40mm (equiv) 1/250 f9.0 ISO 400.

 Engineer Mike Matteson/Olean, New York
Spent a couple of days chasing the big Alcos on Western New York & Pennsylvania railroad out of Olean, New York. Thanks to the graces of president Carl Belke and general manager Kylie McLaughlin, I rode half of the southbound trip of the Driftwood Turn with engineer Mike Matteson. Here's a guy who loves his job, and finds joy in giving visiting photographers a patented Alco "smoke show" whenever possible. Here's Mike blasting south through Weston Mills, leaving Olean. Fuji X-E2 16mm (equiv) 1/15 @ f/14 ISO 400.

Under the Gardeau Road Bridge/Keating Summit, NY
The old iron bridge over the former Pennsylvania Railroad Buffalo line has been there for maybe a century, but its days are numbered now--closed to traffic. The one lane structure seems solid, for it doesn't shake or rattle as 12,000 horsepower of Alco locomotives blasts it one more time as the southbound Western New York & Pennsylvania Driftwood Turn tops Keating Summit. Fuji X-E2 24mm (equiv) 1/800 @f3.6 ISO 800.

 Teenager, Callow Hill Neighborhood/Philadelphia
We ended our trip to the east coast with an afternoon of photography along SEPTA's Route 15 line in Philadelphia, notable for its rebuilt PCC cars. It's huge Callow Hill carbarns take up an entire city block in West Philly, a lower-middle-class neighborhood of mostly African-Americans. The three of us--white, middle-class, self-described liberals--felt conspicuously out of place wandering the streets at dusk. We were certainly a curiosity to this teenager, about my son Eliot's age. He wondered why we were interested in the trolleys and how our cameras worked. I let him try taking a few photos with my camera, then asked him for his portrait--maybe my favorite image from the eastern trip. I still can't help wonder how much different his life is from my son's--if the things my son thinks he is entitled to match up at all with what this young man wants in life. Fuji X-E2 35mm (equiv), 1/4 @ f6.4 ISO 1250.

Break at the End of the Line/Philadelphia
Those Callow Hill trolleys go as far east as Frankford Avenue, along the Delaware River. Cars lay over around 10 minutes, giving the driver time to check his text messages before heading back west into town along Girard Avenue. I like the layers of texttures and colors in this photo. Fuji X-E2 35mm (equiv) 1/640 @ f5.6 ISO 400.

Rainy Day/DFW Airport
Last trip of the year: right after Thanksgiving to Minneapolis to watch planes, to escape the cold drenching rains in Texas. This is an impressionistic little view out the window of our MD-80 as we pushed back from gate, the pavement glossy under the rain. Fuji X-E2 70mm (equiv) 1/210 @ f5.6 ISO 1600.