A Historic Catskill Railroad

The Delaware & Ulster Railroad, with its main terminus at Arkville, is one of the historic railroads offering scenic trips through the Catskill Mountains. It was a few months after Hurricane Irene ravaged this area–it’s in Delaware County and the next town over from Margaretville, which suffered extensive damage from the storm–that I ventured westward on scenic Route 28 to check things out at Margaretville. On the way, I stopped at Arkville and photographed some of the trains. The image here is one I selected to process and share. Below you see my original, straightforward interpretation.

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A few months ago a chance encounter with the new owner of a vintage car got me thinking about interesting ways to process images of cars and other vehicles, and my abstract of that car has been a success, sales-wise. Then a recent visit — two visits actually; I enjoyed this show so much I’ve returned a second time — to the RiverWinds Gallery in Beacon to see the exhibit “Leaving on Track 9 — The Train Show” by photographer Karl LaLonde and painter Peter Tassone inspired me to take my train photo “to the next level,” as they say.  Karl Lalonde has made some remarkable interpretations of his train images that still respect and reveal the trains as trains and not as starting points for something ultimately unrecognizable.  If you live anywhere near Beacon and can get to this exhibit, I recommend it very highly; it closes on July 7.

My interpretation of my Delaware & Ulster photo was inspired by but is by no means an imitation of Karl LaLonde’s work. First, I should say I did a great deal of experimenting, particularly by tweaking various presets in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Adjust, and wasn’t satisfied with any of them. They all seemed somehow overdone. The solution, in the end, was something quite simple: the HDR Toning adjustment in Photoshop CS5. In “Tone and Detail” I increased the detail — something of a trademark of mine, I like detail and structure — and adjusted the toning curve downward. Then I used an adjustment layer to decrease the Brightness (-10) and increase the Contrast (+30) and voila — the results are below. Tell me what you think. I’m planning to enter it into the Twilight Park Artists annual show in Haines Falls next month. At the moment, it’s for sale on FAA if you’d like to buy a print for the railroad buff in your life.

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Our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour is almost out! Click one of the links to see and/or to place an order; the book will also be available on amazon.com.

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Storm Damage Still Lingers in Catskill

On a raw, cloudy Sunday in April I ventured up to Catskill, intending to get some nice photos of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge from Dutchman’s Landing Park before heading off to the event at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Parking the car as close to the park entrance as possible, in order to give myself plenty of walking room and thus an opportunity to try out various vantage points for my photos, I gradually walked in the direction of the bridge in hopes of finding the optimum spot.

IMG_0781 sIt didn’t quite turn out that way. Instead, as I reached a point at which the shore turns inward and forms a cove, I discovered a considerable amount of devastation from one of the recent “storms of the century”–as Governor Andrew Cuomo has observed, New York and surrounding areas have had two “storms of the century” within two years, Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Wanting to find out more, once I finished photographing I drove four miles up the road to the nice Riverside Cafe in Athens to grab some lunch and ask about the cause of the damage, and was told that this had been caused by Hurricane Sandy. Here is a brief photo essay of my discoveries.

 

Looking toward the Rip can Winkle Bridge you can see, on the far shore, how the Hudson River flooded and damaged the Catskill River Walk, a lovely shoreline path leading past the 1839 Beattie-Powers House.

Looking toward the Rip can Winkle Bridge you can see, on the far shore, how the Hudson River flooded and damaged the Catskill River Walk, a lovely shoreline path leading past the 1839 Beattie-Powers House.

The sign to the right warns that the River Walk is now closed. The sign to the left is a sad reminder of what you would have seen had the storm not wreaked its havoc along the Hudson.

The sign to the right warns that the River Walk is now closed. The sign to the left is a sad reminder of what you would have seen had the storm not wreaked its havoc along the Hudson.

There's not suppposed to be water here, but there is, left from when the river inundated the land during Sandy.

There’s not suppposed to be water here, but there is, left from when the river inundated the land during Sandy.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins observed, "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things." Despite the devastation and flood damage, bright new greenery is still sprouting and lending its lovely color to this bleak landscape.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins observed, “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Despite the devastation and flood damage, bright new greenery is still sprouting and lending its lovely color to this bleak landscape.

Ashokan Deep Winter: Win a free print!

Photo 1

Photo 1

I love shooting at the Ashokan Reservoir, that once-controversial body of water in New York State’s Catskill Region whose creation necessitated the obliteration of several villages in the Esopus Valley in order to supply water to New York City. The above image, made yesterday in bone-chilling temperatures, is arguably the finest in my Ashokan Reservoir collection. This version of the picture is the original postprocessed version, done first in Raw and then in Photoshop CS5 using a few adjustment layers.

Photo 2

Photo 2

Then, just out of curiosity, I brought the photo into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and used the Tonal Contrast preset, which gives values of  25% (Highlights), 50% (Midtones), 25% (Shadows), and 20% (Saturation).  To my eye the result–here it is above–seemed a bit of overkill, but I saved it along with the original.  Then–and here is always the insidious trap with these plug-ins–the more I looked at the two versions, the more “normal” the Nik version looked, and the more “boring” the original. Not a good thing–to me it issues a powerful warning about the potential for plug-ins and filters (or at least, I should clarify, their overuse, especially in nature images) to influence what the eye will accept.

Photo 3

Photo 3

I decided to experiment with creating a third version. This is, let me emphasize, not so much a compromise as an alternative interpretation. Again it uses Tonal Contrast in Nik Color Efex Pro 4, but here I’ve changed the values to 20%, 25%, 20%, and 20%. Here it is above.

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Then came the inevitable step: a black-and-white conversion. Again, an alternative interpretation, not something to replace the color versions. I first tried it with a B&W Adjustment Layer in Photoshop but didn’t particularly care for any of the results I was getting, so I went with–guess what–the B&W preset in Nik Color Efex Pro 4. Why? Because it’s a nature/landscape image, and I’m perhaps a bit wary of falling into an overly “artsy” interpretation were I to use Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, which I especially like for my old and historic buildings. Here I used 60% (Filter Color) 34 (Strength), 8 (Brightness), and 44 (Contrast), as well as 31 and 20 for the Shadows and Highlights sliders respectively. Here you see the results.

Now comes your opportunity to win a free matted print of one of these images. Just reply in a comment to this post and tell me (1) which of the three color images you prefer; and (2) whether you prefer the color or the black-and-white.  There are no “right” or “wrong” answers–just call it a marketing survey. Please identify your preference by the number given in the caption — Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3 — to avoid any misunderstandings. From the replies received by February 17, 2013 to both questions I will randomly choose two persons to receive a 5 x 7 print, matted to 8 x 10 and signed by me. Each winner will receive the version he or she preferred.

All images are printed on high-quality professional Lustre paper, carefully matted and inserted into a protective sleeve before being carefully packed and shipped. I will notify the winners by email to request their mailing address.

Thank you for participating in my marketing survey! — Oh! At the top of the blog I described the Ashokan Reservoir as “once controversial.” You can well imagine that the destruction and flooding of such a large portion of the Esopus Valley evoked strong feelings, heartache, not to mention the loss of many homes and livelihoods. Then I recently watched an excellent DVD by renowned historian/film maker Tobe Carey on the construction of the Ashokan Reservoir, which eloquently depicted the effects this project had on the lives of those who were displaced by it. Near the end of the film, a man was interviewed who observed that if the reservoir had not been built here, this area would undoubtedly have been subjected to massive development. “What would you rather be looking at,” he asked, “this beautiful reservoir or a shopping mall?”

To this observer, anyway, that’s a no-brainer.