Old 03-03-2018, 12:26 AM   #1
Dennis A. Livesey
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Default Where are you, document or interpretation ?

People get doctorate degrees based what truth in photography is. The question usually comes down to whether it is a document or an interpretation.

Where do you stand? Must a railroad photograph be right out of the camera for you to like it? Or can the photo processing go far from reality but still work for you?

Here are examples of mine that either looked worthless out of the camera and needed digital darkroom work or they worked fairly straight out of the camera.

What do you think?

Image © Dennis A. Livesey
PhotoID: 643452
Photograph © Dennis A. Livesey


Image © Dennis A. Livesey
PhotoID: 629660
Photograph © Dennis A. Livesey


Image © Dennis A. Livesey
PhotoID: 596187
Photograph © Dennis A. Livesey


Image © Dennis A. Livesey
PhotoID: 579754
Photograph © Dennis A. Livesey
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Old 03-03-2018, 01:41 AM   #2
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I usually try to edit as little as possible. My latest upload (the POTW) I spend a grand total of 2 minutes on (in adobe raw and elements). It was very basic editing.

This one took about 8 minutes from start to finish because I needed to adjust the sky to fix what the camera couldn't resolve in a single frame to match the actual conditions.


I would consider myself more of a documentation type, because I strive to match the reality of what I'm shooting. I'm not a big fan of turn it up in photoshop to make an image.

Loyd L.
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Old 03-03-2018, 01:54 AM   #3
Dennis A. Livesey
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Originally Posted by bigbassloyd View Post
I'm not a big fan of turn it up in photoshop to make an image.

Loyd L.

And why is that?

Is the amount of time spent on an image a mark of good or bad?

Or are you saying the more time taken the more unreal it is?

I rarely take more than a couple of minutes to process.
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I am on Flickr as well:

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"To me it looks drawn in in Paintshop. It looks like a puddle of orange on the sky." SFO777

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Old 03-03-2018, 02:54 AM   #4
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I hope no offense here, just opinions.

Ok, as a photo, I don't care how much P/S work it takes or not as long the result is probable in my view of reality and I even make some allowances.

My value Judgements -

#4 I love as a photo, finding the right place and time and sky the technical ability of balancing exposures and light. Lloyds for the same reason.

#3, #1 I love as "art". Interpretation, glad to see but in terms of this site only as a photo site I judge less.

#2 is very well done photo, under hard conditions.

Since this may turn into personal examples here are two of mine, both documentary but requiring different processing and value different by me.

Image © Robert Jordan
PhotoID: 637186
Photograph © Robert Jordan

This took a good amount of work balancing the light sources, dark and light areas. I had to double process to keep of the colors and correct others.
This is my only People's Choice, I realize I will never get a screener's choice so 4th peoples is the closest I may get.


Image © Robert Jordan
PhotoID: 649588
Photograph © Robert Jordan

This one is pretty much out of the box except a little brighter since I wanted to avoid rejection. I value this a lots since it has the elements and time of day I like the most plus Metra lights shining on the Builder in the snow at that time will probably never occur again

Bob

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Old 03-03-2018, 12:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
...question usually comes down to whether it is a document or an interpretation.

Where do you stand? Must a railroad photograph be right out of the camera for you to like it? Or can the photo processing go far from reality but still work for you?
In a nut shell - a photo depicts very closely - reality as you saw it, give or take a few SLIGHT to moderate exaggerations (color, over-shapening/ "structure", and lens conditions - vignetting, perspective and things like but not limited to long /short duration captures. An "interpretation /illustration pushes those boundaries (and /or perhaps adds and /or remove elements) to such a point, that the reality becomes fantasy.

There's nothing wrong with fantasy based on reality - provided the audience is aware. If you have your own site - it's your call, and fortunately, many are open and likely known as manipulators /illustrators. There are of course, sites for that kind of ARTwork. RP, however, is assumed by its guidelines and the majority of images, to be a site for reality based photography. As is National Geographic, Trains Magazine, and most news based papers and periodicals, other than the Enquirer.

Again - nothing wrong with manipulations and extreme exaggerations, but I believe it should be either implied, obvious, or with notice - IMHO.

Never the less - no doubt, there are likely photos on RP (and elsewhere) that are not as implied - fake pans (grinds my gears) as the accolades go towards the photographer's implied camera skills vs his/her editing skills. Added rainbows, train meets that never happened, lightning that never struck, horses that were never there, trains and paint schemes that were never there, ect. Great illustrations, but not the effort nor photographic skills, nor luck implied nor prep invested by the author of the work. Editing skills, sure - so, why not admit it, and accept accolades for that, and let everyone else take credit for the reality that is photo journalism, both behind the camera, and, yes, even in front of the screen in post.

If the above does not put you in the ballpark, ask yourself this - would you be willing to share the unedited version side by side, or upon request, as proof your image as edited was "real"? Better yet, would you accept a request by an editor for your artwork for use in a periodical as-is - one known to publish images expected by its readers to be pretty damn close to "as seen through the lens"?

I have a great example, incidentally; For the most part, I am not a fan of a solid blue featureless sky, almost to the same degreee as an overcast white sky. I posted photos on FB (fantasy land), featuring Amtrak at Secaucus Junction under beautiful blue skies with the most amazing of appealing clouds - only... the clouds were added. I'd LOVE to post as edited on RP, but RP is for PHOTOS, not illustrations. Incidentally - when I posted on FB, I asked "what edit was done, in common to all three photos". I left the answer open as I was curious how well my edits were. Apparently, it was a well executed edit. Oddly, few showed any interest in discovery as no one BUT Janusz inquired. This was just days ago. Caption will be appended for those following the thread and the REAL images from Secaucus will be added to the database on RP shortly.

And, man - would I have really loved to let the images slip into reality as they were much more appealing with clouds (that could have been there on another day - but were not). Flickr perhaps, down the road, and noted.

/Mitch
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Old 03-03-2018, 12:51 PM   #6
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I'll add - I feel every image presented to date - shy of Dennis's photo number 1 and 3 would fit my definition of a photograph (aka "real enough") unless of course, I'm being deceived in some way (something removed, added, ect). As for your first photo, Dennis - I like it. Very dramatic and I feel it could be "only" an exaggeration of the scene, especially within bounds of what might have been captured in camera and exaggerated to a modest degree in post. As for No. 3, however - that, to me, is no longer a "photo". Fortunately, it's rather obvious, and not the type of effort that I would assume is meant to "trick" or deceive.

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Old 03-03-2018, 03:36 PM   #7
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A few thoughts about what I like in a railroad photo and what I strive to achieve....

My goal has always been to process to achieve a scene the way my eyes saw it....which is different from the way my camera saw it. Very specifically, I have never been a fan of very dark images, particularly ones with little or no shadow detail. In most situations, my eyes can see that shadow detail and I want the final image to show it as well. Because of this, I make liberal use of all of the sliders that Lightoom has to offer. I really give the raw images a workout. That said, hopefully, I've mastered the balance of ALL of the controls, so my shots don't look like I just hammered the shadows. I see folks do that all the time and it doesn't look real. My goal is reality. Hopefully, I am at least close.

And a few thoughts about fine art (vs. photography)...

Digital Manipulation:

I'm not a fan of significant manipulation, and certainly not adding things to a scene. I have removed a few things from scenes to clean up an otherwise completely real scene. These include branches at the corners, errant body parts, trash, birds that look like dust specks.....and Pete Lerro's microphone muff. The only serious digital manipulation I've ever done was in this shot:

Image © Kevin Madore
PhotoID: 638718
Photograph © Kevin Madore


In that case, a Strasburg Rail Road sign which could not physically be removed was completely spoiling the scene that we were trying to create....so I adjusted the color of the banner and added the N&W Logo. I made that clear in a note to the screeners and in the caption. That was probably the most technical change I have ever done....and it pales in comparison to what most people COULD do. I don't use PS, and I don't really want the skills to ADD things to scenes, like clouds. My one rainbow shot and perhaps the shot I am most proud of was entirely real:

Image © Kevin Madore
PhotoID: 372810
Photograph © Kevin Madore


It was just dumb luck that I happened to be there. Fortunately, there were a few witnesses. The reason I am proud of it is because the owner of the locomotive, who did not witness the scene, was quite touched by it. It hangs in his residence.

Atmospheric nuclear tests and other fantasy sunrises and sunsets: Not a fan. Mother nature does a great job herself. She doesn't need highlights, saturation and contrast sliders.

Heavy Duty Vignettes: Sorry. If you notice it immediately, it's too much.

With regard to the 4 images that Dennis posted, I like 2 and especially 4. One and 3, not so much. Both 2 and 4 look like the eye might have seen them. Four is not only gorgeous and colorful, but you could study it for a very long time with all of the cool detail it has. In Image 1, I like the high contrast, which works well with the steam engine, but much of the engine is obscured by a wall and the random folks in the scene don't immediately tell me a coherent story. Image 3 has the overly heavy, top-side-only vignette and overall, it just looks really heavily processed.

Edit: Oh, and I really do like Loyd's Vegas shot. Again, it looks real to me.
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Old 03-03-2018, 04:07 PM   #8
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Sunrise/Sunset/Twilight shots are extremely hard to capture, i've always had problems with them. Especially with my older gear. Dynamic range has been an issue. This is one of the ones I worked on the hardest in photoshop and (shocking) is actually a multiple layer, multiple exposure shot. Again, as has been mentioned, trying to capture what the eye sees. In the end, it still didn't come out as well as I would have liked, but it was the best I could. I probably captured 20 different exposures of the room, and got really lucky with the exposure of the actual train coming by in the window.

Image © Troy Nolen
PhotoID: 457805
Photograph © Troy Nolen


On the complete other side of that, I took some liberties on this shot, a very mediocre shot, but the front end of my truck was sticking out from behind the snow pile on the left, so I just extended it a little with the clone tool to cover it. No harm, no foul.

Image © Troy Nolen
PhotoID: 311920
Photograph © Troy Nolen


Exposure combinations for skies, i've done lots of expecially in low light situations. This is one example where I had taken multiple exposures of the "scene" before the train arrived, the shot of the train crossing, the sky was blown out, so I combined two exposures via layers in photoshop, again, to capture what the eye was seeing

Image © Troy Nolen
PhotoID: 472279
Photograph © Troy Nolen


Admittedly, i've done some pretty egregious stuff in the past too, and some of those shots i had removed
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Old 03-03-2018, 05:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
And why is that?

Or are you saying the more time taken the more unreal it is?
That's usually the case. If the camera didn't make it, fake it.. but claim you didn't.

Loyd L.
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Old 03-03-2018, 08:27 PM   #10
Dennis A. Livesey
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The responses here land solidly on the conservative, journalistic, document dogma side. In other words, a photograph cannot be enjoyed unless reality grounded. Fair enough.

Just so you know, I am not speaking of adding/removing objects to a photo. That kind of "Photoshopping" is not what I am interested in.

I am interested in using all sliders in Lightroom to achieve a response from a viewer. I wish to do whatever it takes to achieve the mood or emotion I am trying to convey.

For me, the reaction I am looking for is like the one from someone who has never taken a photograph in their life and views the image for the first time. I don't want them to bring preconceptions, or knowledge of how the image must have been made, et all, for all of that is irrelevant. The image must exist to be or mean something. It must "be" in order not to waste the viewers time.

Like every artist, I work to please myself. However, I do realize that if I wish recognition or remuneration, I do have to consider if my work is reaching people. I accept that I may have to compromise or go in another direction if my work, in a word, flops.

I went to two NYC galleries the other day. At one, the artist used a camera to make beautiful, stunning images. The photographer, Murray Fredericks, says he did no manipulation of the Photoshop kind, just normal processing. They looked like paintings.

http://www.robertmann.com/current/

Later I went to see two new works by Adam Normandin. They are paintings that look like photographs.

http://www.bernarduccigallery.com/ar...dex.php?aid=78

So if what I do falls into what you call illustration, that is a compliment for it means to me that I am getting closer to what I want to do.

Ultimately for me, whether it is a photo or painting or illustration is beside the point. What is the point is creating a response in the viewer.

Last thought, if you wish to get better as a rail photographer, sure, look at other rail shooters, particularly when starting out. However, in order to grow look beyond rail. First look to landscape photographers, then sports, then portraits, even wedding or street. Then go even further, to the fine arts, to painting, to dance, to cinema, even writing. Be inspired by whatever you can find. Then you can grow.

“If you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person.” – Jay Maisel
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I am on Flickr as well:

"Dennis is such a God, he could do that with a camera obscura and some homemade acetate." Holloran Grade

"To me it looks drawn in in Paintshop. It looks like a puddle of orange on the sky." SFO777
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Old 03-03-2018, 10:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
In other words, a photograph cannot be enjoyed unless reality grounded. Fair enough.
Reality is beautiful, otherwise we wouldn't be out there capturing it.

I may not be the best person to be in this discussion because I couldn't care less if I'm a well known railroad photographer. Rarely do I submit here, Even more rare is my submission to any magazine (I have to be asked, and even then I usually don't), and I do not have a flickr site. You won't find me dropping 3 images a day in 20 different facebook groups either. I'm perfectly content just hanging out with a small group of friends that chase choo-choos in places you can't find on a map, and come home to send 99% of my images to long term storage to be mostly forgotten.

And that's as real as it gets.

Loyd L.
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Old 03-03-2018, 10:15 PM   #12
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In a nut shell - a photo depicts very closely - reality as you saw it, give or take a few SLIGHT to moderate exaggerations (color, over-shapening/ "structure", and lens conditions - vignetting, perspective and things like but not limited to long /short duration captures. An "interpretation /illustration pushes those boundaries (and /or perhaps adds and /or remove elements) to such a point, that the reality becomes fantasy.

There's nothing wrong with fantasy based on reality - provided the audience is aware.
/Mitch
That is exactly where I stand on the subject. Thank you Mitch for providing the response my little Southern West Virginian brain couldn't muster.

Loyd L.
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Old 03-03-2018, 10:45 PM   #13
Dennis A. Livesey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbassloyd View Post
Reality is beautiful, otherwise we wouldn't be out there capturing it.

I may not be the best person to be in this discussion because I couldn't care less if I'm a well known railroad photographer. Rarely do I submit here, Even more rare is my submission to any magazine (I have to be asked, and even then I usually don't). You won't find me dropping 3 images a day in 20 different facebook groups either. I'm perfectly content just hanging out with a small group of friends that chase choo-choos in places you can't find on a map, and come home to send 99% of my images to long term storage to be mostly forgotten.

And that's as real as it gets.

Loyd L.
Loyd,

Mitch and I both are driven crazy by how George Hiotis is so reluctant to share is images.

I am saddened by the thought of thousands of wonderful Loyd images never escaping a hard drive.

We all know that you are not a view sycophant but we would also encourage you to keep getting your images out there, no matter the subject.

Talent such as yours should not be lost.
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I am on Flickr as well:

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Old 03-03-2018, 10:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbassloyd View Post
That is exactly where I stand on the subject. Thank you Mitch for providing the response my little Southern West Virginian brain couldn't muster.

Loyd L.
Reality can be ugly; seen my close-up lately?

Reality is fine but I just encourage thinking outside of your comfort zone. This would be as a means to grow and not stagnate.

Reality will always be there. Just maybe you could look at it differently.
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My pix on RailPics:

I am on Flickr as well:

"Dennis is such a God, he could do that with a camera obscura and some homemade acetate." Holloran Grade

"To me it looks drawn in in Paintshop. It looks like a puddle of orange on the sky." SFO777
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Old 03-04-2018, 12:10 AM   #15
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“Each picture you take has power as long as it brings experience to the person who’s looking at it.” – Jay Maisel
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Dennis

I Foam Therefore I Am.

My pix on RailPics:

I am on Flickr as well:

"Dennis is such a God, he could do that with a camera obscura and some homemade acetate." Holloran Grade

"To me it looks drawn in in Paintshop. It looks like a puddle of orange on the sky." SFO777
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Old 03-04-2018, 02:39 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
I am interested in using all sliders in Lightroom to achieve a response from a viewer. I wish to do whatever it takes to achieve the mood or emotion I am trying to convey.
And therein lies the problem that the engineers among us have when we look at a really artistic photo. We may or may not like it, but if we see that others like it we are trying to figure out the technical reasons why....and failing much of the time, because we suck when it comes to deciphering emotions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
For me, the reaction I am looking for is like the one from someone who has never taken a photograph in their life and views the image for the first time. I don't want them to bring preconceptions, or knowledge of how the image must have been made, et all, for all of that is irrelevant. The image must exist to be or mean something. It must "be" in order not to waste the viewers time.
Dennis, I suspect that the audience here on the forums is not the best one with which to pursue your quest for the type of opinions you are seeking. The folks here are all fairly experienced photographers and when they look at an image, they do so with much keener eyes than does the average John Q. Public. I see images posted on various forums all the time that wouldn't even come close to cutting the mustard here, and yet people on those forums fawn all over that stuff. I suspect it is the same on Facebook. An artistic photo could get cut to ribbons on this forum and be a big hit almost anyplace else. Yes, you might evoke some emotion with a group of experienced photographers.....for about 2 seconds, before the detailed analysis begins.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
Like every artist, I work to please myself. However, I do realize that if I wish recognition or remuneration, I do have to consider if my work is reaching people. I accept that I may have to compromise or go in another direction if my work, in a word, flops.
I think that as we get older, we tend to care a little more what other people think of our work. When you're young, you at least believe you have time to grow and mature at whatever you do. When you hit a certain age (and I have), you start to realize that you no longer have "forever" to make whatever mark you're going to make. And yeah, no one likes to flop.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
Last thought, if you wish to get better as a rail photographer, sure, look at other rail shooters, particularly when starting out. However, in order to grow look beyond rail. First look to landscape photographers, then sports, then portraits, even wedding or street.
I totally agree with this. I actually do enjoy photographing a variety of other things, that required all manner of different skills related to exposure, composition, catching the moment, etc. Not that I'm any good at it, but I think it does help me improve.
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Old 03-04-2018, 03:18 AM   #17
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Sunrise/Sunset/Twilight shots are extremely hard to capture, i've always had problems with them. Especially with my older gear. Dynamic range has been an issue. This is one of the ones I worked on the hardest in photoshop and (shocking) is actually a multiple layer, multiple exposure shot. Again, as has been mentioned, trying to capture what the eye sees. In the end, it still didn't come out as well as I would have liked, but it was the best I could. I probably captured 20 different exposures of the room, and got really lucky with the exposure of the actual train coming by in the window.

Image © Troy Nolen
PhotoID: 457805
Photograph © Troy Nolen


On the complete other side of that, I took some liberties on this shot, a very mediocre shot, but the front end of my truck was sticking out from behind the snow pile on the left, so I just extended it a little with the clone tool to cover it. No harm, no foul.
Interesting story. The image looks fine to me, so I'd say you processed it well. I assuming that you didn't have flash or anything to supplement the inside lighting? Shooting an indoor scene with windows in it and having it look natural is a real challenge without flash.
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Old 03-04-2018, 04:17 AM   #18
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"Dennis, I suspect that the audience here on the forums is not the best one with which to pursue your quest for the type of opinions you are seeking."
Kevin Madore

I am looking to get a dialogue going with accomplished shooters of trains and this is the only forum of such people that I know of.

Kevin, I will say I assumed as much going in but was hoping to jog loose some thoughts others may have been feeling.

So I have to say I find it strange and unfortunate on a website that is about creating meaningful images, that the participants of said website's forum appear to have zero interest in taking their conservative photography anywhere else.

At this point, I will continue to go for the best images I can do. I relish what the next time going out will capture.

However, I am afraid that at this point it will be more of the same stuff I have done already.

Instead of that, I want to grow. Seeking the spirit of the image is the only way I see to go.
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Old 03-04-2018, 01:36 PM   #19
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Interesting story. The image looks fine to me, so I'd say you processed it well. I assuming that you didn't have flash or anything to supplement the inside lighting? Shooting an indoor scene with windows in it and having it look natural is a real challenge without flash.
Correct, no flash
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Old 03-04-2018, 04:23 PM   #20
Mgoldman
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The responses here land solidly on the conservative, journalistic, document dogma side. In other words, a photograph cannot be enjoyed unless reality grounded. Fair enough.
I think you overlooked something in the replies - a photograph CAN be enjoyed even if it is not reality grounded - just not here, on RP. Why? Because RP is a conservative, journalistic, document oriented site.

An analogy which I like to use often is that of the car show.

Most can appreciate a Shelby Mustang clone - the investment and hard work that someone may have put into a "fake" /non- authentic Shelby Mustang look-alike, whether it is was made of fiberglass, or LEGO's, or has a motor in it built by someone other than by Ford.

Most can appreciate an authentic Shelby Mustang with aftermarket wheels and a body painted in a color never available from the factory. Hell, make it chrome put giant wing on the trunk if you want.

Just don't expect a big welcome mat should you attempt compete with others in a competition or show where authenticity is expected.

There are places where such work can be better appreciated and more welcomed - for illustrations, try "Deviantart", or perhaps FLICKR, or, ironically, any number of "photography" magazines. Just keep in mind, should you submit an image to a "photography" magazine - illustrations OK in "Nature Photographer", but not so much in "National Geographic"!

As for reality - what truly impresses me - at least in "the real world" are those I would consider "Masters of Reality". That's a challenge! To find and capture a scene that stands apart from the rest without excessive use of Lightroom sliders and PS manipulations. Some of those who I believe have mastered that task with regularity include yourself. Samuel Phillips, Walter Scriptunas, Pete Lerro, Georg Trub, maybe Loyd - not sure, he needs to post more stuff, lol, those, just to name a few.

/Mitch


PS - One word of caution regarding Facebook:
Everybody loves everything... sometimes, however, "Likes" represent more respect and admiration to the author than the work itself.

Here's a link to "Deviant Art"
https://www.deviantart.com/

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Old 03-04-2018, 04:56 PM   #21
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Observation Car on Yahoo used to be a great place for circular arguments about "Railroad Art" and "Reality". I don't know what it like these days as I haven't looked in several years. The wasn't anything new brought to the table, so I got bored with it.

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art is another place where you will find like minded people. http://www.railphoto-art.org/
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Old 03-04-2018, 05:31 PM   #22
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I don't think I have zero interest in advancing but here I have less than 100% interest in making an effort that may yield no results, especially when I have plenty of 70's stuff then 90's and even later that I have only scratched the surface.

A while back I had train in the rain that people here thought was pretty good but rejected, I'll probably try to bring it back sometime but it had PAQ. I had a night shot of a barge illuminating a railroad bridge, I was thrilled when I took it, PAQ. A train coming out of the fog at the shot tower in Dubuque, PAQ. These were actually pretty straight out of the camera. I understand the concept of continuing to try but after a while you get the idea that either you are not good enough or it is not what is going to make it.

Bob
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Old 03-04-2018, 05:37 PM   #23
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Quote:
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I think you overlooked something in the replies - a photograph CAN be enjoyed even if it is not reality grounded - just not here, on RP. Why? Because RP is a conservative, journalistic, document oriented site.
I find that many people, including some here, who have solid feelings about what RP is but in reality is not.

If need to be inspired by superb, cutting edge photography, and not just the rail kind, I come here.

http://bit.ly/2FiYXIl
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Old 03-04-2018, 05:58 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
I find that many people, including some here, who have solid feelings about what RP is but in reality is not.

If need to be inspired by superb, cutting edge photography, and not just the rail kind, I come here.

http://bit.ly/2FiYXIl
Badge of honor to make it into that album - but, I'd suggest the majority of those images are in fact, grounded in reality, echoing my sentiments above in regards to the challenge of mastering "reality"!

/Mitch
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Old 03-04-2018, 06:40 PM   #25
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Badge of honor to make it into that album - but, I'd suggest the majority of those images are in fact, grounded in reality, echoing my sentiments above in regards to the challenge of mastering "reality"!

/Mitch

I agree. Grounded in reality....just very different takes on real scenes. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, if I could have one wish granted, it would be to have the "eye" for some of these innovative angles.

Amazingly, I've got 6 images on that album. Six out of 1,002.
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My RP stuff is here.

Link to my Flickr Albums. Lots of Steam Railroad stuff there from all over the US.
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