"The Art of Railroad Photography: Techniques for Taking Dynamic Trackside Pictures" by Gary J. Benson, published by Kalmbach Publishing Co., 210127 Crossroads Circle, P.O. Box 1612, Waukesha, Wisconsin, 53187. ISBN 0-89024-143-0, hard cover, SVz x 11", glossy 160 pages with 130 colour photos. List price $39.95 US.
For the vast number of our readers who enjoy taking pictures of trains and would like to better understand the science behind the art form, this "How to.." book is a must for your home library and well worth the investment.
The author, Gary Benson, successfully provides both beginners and seasoned railfans alike with numerous experience-based tips and techniques on how to improve photographic skills. Anyone who feels comfortable behind a camera and has spent a serious amount of time trackside will appreciate the wealth of information contained in this book. Whether the reader has had structured training or has simply graduated from a school of hard-knocks, this easy-to-read book can't help but inspire.
First, there is a generous number of excellent colour photographs taken in every conceivable lighting conditions, captioned to include useful technical data such as: make of camera (model), film type and ISO speed, shutter and aperture settings. Just studying the photos alone, assessing weather conditions, composition and sun angles, has a practical application to circumstances the reader may encounter along the right-of-way, thus increasing the probability of improved photographic results on future shoots.
Special techniques are explained on how to take better pictures at sunrise or sunset while including the sun in your field of view. Night shots are discussed using both existing light only, or supplementary artificial light. Tips on how to get dramatic pictures on a grey snowy day in the dead of winter can't help but be appreciated.
In addition, the book also includes information regarding the author's personal preferences of cameras, lens, film, filters and various accessories considered to perform the best in the field. In many instances the inclusion of such information might be considered nothing more than a paid product endorsement, but in this case it should be considered acceptable since it is based on firsthand experience. Plus, if you're in the market for new equipment and are undecided as to what to buy, such information might be quite useful. Be prepared though - I have a feeling the price tags will be real eye-openers, especially for cameras incorporating the auto-focus technologies.
If a railfan vacation is in your future, this book will inform you on how to prepare for your trip so that you can maximize your efforts while on location. It even lists 20 "Hot Spots" that are among the best in North America. For our numerous readers in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, take note that a number of locations can be reached in one day's drive, more or less.
In conclusion I found the book to be most interesting and quite educational. Plan on taking the time to read through it at least a couple of times and keep it handy as a reference manual. Happy railfanning! Now, does anyone out there have any vacation leave they don't need? Care to throw in a credit card?
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, March 1994, page 21.