My Top Ten Transit Photos of 2014

This year, I decided to take a good look at my extensive transportation photography collection over the years, then narrow it down to all of my photos from this year to pick out my 10 favorites for various reasons.  I am picking these photos based on a few things:

  • the overall composition of the photo, how the subjects sits in the frame, how the subject is shot
  • a good balance between lights and darks, background, middle, and foreground
  • the story behind the picture, a particular location where it was shot, the history behind the subject or background, the timing of the shot

Had I thought of this last year, I probably would have included some of my international grabs.  Nevertheless, here we go…

#10. DASH at King Street

I chose this because of the mere fact that this is one of DASH Alexandria’s first ever 40-foot transit buses, and it’s a hybrid-electric, meaning better for the environment.  Bonus points for the fact that all of the cars appear to yield to the bus as it turns into the King Street Metro Station.  A few more points for it being a beautiful weekday morning with not a cloud in the sky.  It would have been a better photo if there was a train above in the picture, whether entering or stopped in the station.  Grabbed this quickie because there are only a small handful of these 40-footers, about 10 of them, all used mainly on the AT8 line, DASH’s busiest bus route.

#9. Three Trains, Three Railroads

Simply put:  three different trains, on three different tracks, operated by three different railroads.  An extremely rare photo opportunity during the height of rush hour, on the platform of a railroad that actually doesn’t even allow photography without agreeing to their enormous terms and conditions.  Long story short, no pictures except with express permission but only when they say so, definitely not during rush hours.  Nevertheless, I took this one without the PATH engineer even realizing what happened.  Harrison is a great railfan spot because you can see PATH on the outer tracks, Amtrak and NJ Transit in the center tracks, and you can see the contrast between the teeny-weeny PATH subway cars and the big, gigantic Amtrak and NJT passenger trains.

Guerrilla photography is wonderful…with experience.  PATH on the left, Amtrak in the middle, and NJ Transit on the right.  Normally, a shot like this takes careful planning, meticulous waiting, and waiting for the right moment to click the shutter button.  I happened to have my camera in my pocket and whipped it out as fast as possible, waiting for that perfect moment when all three trains were in plain view with no obstructions.  Being that all three trains were going different speeds, it was very difficult to rush my camera out fo my pocket and also figure out how to compose the shot.  Waiting too soon would have caused the Amtrak train to be too far behind the PATH train,while waiting too late would have caused the Amtrak train to not only obstruct the NJ Transit train, but would have been obstructed by the overhead catenary support pole.  And I had to do it with the camera hidden from the engineer of the PATH train coming right at me.  Came out good.

#8. Bridge Plaza Bus

A rare bus model in Brooklyn on a relatively new bus route, an Orion V (Orion 05.501) diesel bus on the B32 from Williamsburg to Long Island City.  The first stop is to my right, behind me, but the bus came from looping around the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza, to my left out of view.  The J/M/Z subway line is above, and there is a billboard right by the left turn into the Marcy Avenue station.  I wanted to try this shot on a better day, but the overcast skies and light drizzle allowed me to take this shot without worrying about sun angles and glare from the bus windshield possibly ruining the shot.  The wet ground and gloomy sky made for a relatively dramatic shot, but a little painting-like effect from my Sony DSC-HX10V camera enhanced the effect.  I stood in a position where I would be close to the bus stop to catch my bus and get the “Buses Only” sign somewhere in the picture.  In this shot, the train wouldn’t add any necessary value to the picture since there is only but so much I can fit into this frame unless I crossed the street.

#7.  Boston in Maine

Former Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Blue Line 0600-series cars have been preserved by the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.  This two-car set was pulled out of the shop and taken for an early evening run, but not before I snapped a quick shot trackside.  I have been a member of the museum for about 5 years and was afforded the opportunity to ride these cars outside of their former Boston subway environment after my many visits to Boston riding these cars in passenger service.  It was a cold and brisk night, with moderate winds and no clouds in the sky.

#6.  Stop All Way

Another DASH Alexandria shot, this one taken at the other end of King Street, by the waterfront.  The King Street Trolley (not a real trolley but a replica, I guess) is stopped at a stop sign opposite the one pictured, with a line of cars stopped behind it.  I decided that while the trolley is stopped at the stop sign and discharging passengers, I would wait at the first stop going towards the King Street Metro station and grab a shot with the stop sign next to me.  I got that idea from shooting passing trains about 10 years ago at stations where a No Trespassing sign or similar was prominently posted at the end of the platform.  I just applied the concept to the street level.

#5.  Downtown DART

I love perspective shots, and it might have to do with my Architecture and related studies at LaGuardia High School, where I was an Art major from 1996 to 2000.  I love how two-dimensional media can be used to display three-dimensional forms, and perspective is used to show three dimensions when you only have two to work with.  What better background to use for a bus picture than an architecturally interesting but conservative-looking building like the Dallas County Criminal Court building?  Right in the heard of Downtown Dallas, near the West End District, the Sixth Floor Museum, and Dealey Plaza where President JFK was assassinated 50 years ago.  This is a suburban NABI-built (North American Bus Industries) Model 416 suburban with high-back seats, overhead parcel racks and tray tables, used on the 200-series Express bus routes to far-flung park-and-ride facilities on Dallas’ major highways into town.  What is interesting is that this was shot on a clear Dallas afternoon around rush hour with almost no visible traffic, save for the lone automobile at the right of the frame.  Normally, when it’s time to go home from work, the streets are filled with traffic, but when this bus went by, everyone was still on their way out the door from their offices and traffic hadn’t built up too much yet (or if it did, it was a few blocks east of this location).  I love taking shots during normally busy times and framing my subjects to appear to be the only vehicles on the road, like the calm amid the madness.

#4.East Meets West

California meets New York….well, New Jersey, really.  The photo was taken in Liberty State Park, but the backdrop is none other than the New York City skyline.  The Classic Bus Owners Association, of which I am also a member, purchased this bus and drove it across the country to add it to its extensive collection of older transit vehicles to be restored and taken around town for busfan get-togethers.  This trip involved driving ex-Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines #5128, a 1986 GM “New Look” bus, from NYC to Connecticut, to New Jersey, with stops such as Newark Penn Station, Stamford Transportation Center, and Journal Square in Jersey City.  We stopped at Liberty State Park to grab this shot near the old CNJ Railroad Terminal…which proved to be the closest and best location for shooting the New York skyline with 1 World Trade Center (a.k.a. The Freedom Tower).  We originally had an overcast cloud cover (as you can see behind the rear of the bus), but then it turned sunny with some cloud patches.  The trick was to pose the bus to display the front and side destination signs (with Santa Monica readings) along with 1WTC and do it in between the cloud cover and before sunset…and not have people in the shot, as we were in a photo line, all of us in the middle of the roadway side-by-side taking the same shot.  This shot was nearly perfect, but unfortunately, the deteriorating light settings and the close photo line meant a few shadows had to creep into the bottom of the shot…which actually add to the shot, since this was a group trip, but only includes shadows versus actual people.

#3.  #7 Train to Flushing

The #7 train, the “International Express” of the subway system, the route to the infamous World’s Fair exhibitions of yesteryear.  With some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline anywhere in the outer boroughs, I decided to take a photo from one of the three stations on the line that stand above Queens Blvd in Sunnyside.  What makes this picture special is the special train, the “Train of Many Colors” museum train being used in passenger service for the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair held in Flushing Meadows.  The first northbound (eastbound) car of the train is a 1964 St. Louis Car Company R36WF World’s Fair edition subway car, painted in the teal and white scheme for the event, in contrast to regular R36 subway cars with the teal, red, or brown colors found in the rest of the system at the time.  I chose 40th Street on the #7 because I wanted to grab a shot of the train coming up the hill with the best vantage point for capturing the majority of the skyline, while also showing the madness that is Queens Blvd below.  In this picture, Queens Blvd was eerily calm, even for a Sunday, but I had only one opportunity to grab the perfect shot since the train only had a certain number of round trips it was scheduled to make, and daylight was fading fast.  This was the fourth of a series of shots taken seconds apart to try and capture the one shot I wanted.  I took four because I wanted the signal mast out of the way of at least the face of the car but not totally out of the way since the relay box of the next signal (shown below the train) would have been in the way.

#2.  Niagara WEGO

Oh, how I love visiting Niagara Falls, especially on the way to Toronto, and especially on the Canadian side versus the U.S. side.  This natural wonder of the world never ceases to amaze me, being up close to such huge never-ending waterfalls with a constant mist and a roar like no other.  You can see the entire falls by bus, if you wanted to, by riding Niagara Falls Parks Commission’s WEGO People Mover service, with these beautifully-painted NovaBUS LFX articulated buses (they actually have 40-foot versions of this bus too) which costs $7 a day for unlimited rides.  Seeing the U.S. falls from the Canadian side is, in my opinion, much better than seeing the Canadian falls from the U.S. side…simply because you have to see the huge waterfalls from the side with the largest vantage point…right where this picture was taken.  These buses passed by every 15 minutes, and I found a high place to position myself to shoot one of them with the falls in the background.  It took about 10 tries for about two hours in the warm May sun to get it right…appearing as if the Falls are giving the bus a quick shower before completing its tour of duty.  It also didn’t help that there were too many people and too much traffic getting in the way.  I mean, I understand that it’s a major tourist destination, but I needed the shot, unobstructed.

And, without further ado, my top favorite photo of 2014…

#1.  California Fishies

My reason for picking this photo is this:  Two California GM New Look buses, one from 1968 and one from 1986, the 1968 originally from Southern California Rapid Transit District (a predecessor to Los Angeles County Metro) and the 1986 originally from Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines (now Santa Monica Big Blue Bus).  Both buses are going down 7th Avenue, in the middle of Times Square, stopping traffic while stopped in traffic, on a Saturday night.  Both of these buses are owned by the Classic Bus Owners Association and both buses are on their way to being kept and restored to their original glory.  Never mind the “2173” fleet number and Bee-Line logo, it’s Santa Monica #5128.  The SCRTD one is #3013, a New Look Suburban with underloaders like a motorcoach.  The “460 Disneyland” rollsign reading is particularly interesting since the buses are stopped right in front of the Disney Store.  A perfectly timed shot with two distinctly different GM New Looks in the middle of the Crossroads of the World, with enough light to shine onto both subjects and not need a tripod.

Happy Holidays!!!!

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