Monday, September 7, 2009

400th Posting

Port Townsend, today. We have reached some kind of “milestone” today with posting number 400. I am not sure what kind of a milestone it is. If it were number “500” then we’d be half way to “1,000.”

But 400 does represent almost two years of dedicated research, writing, and re-writing. It has been a logical extension of my “working career.”

The premise of the Blog was to write a story on each negative or transparency I had shot since age 14 up through the Big Merger. Early on, I intended to rotate between the railroads I had photographed as a young man; Canadian National, Pacific Great Eastern, Northern Pacific, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, Great Northern, and the Milwaukee Road.

But the ratio was not thought out fully. For example, I only have maybe two dozen Southern Pacific, as opposed to a lot of Canadian National. So, that format quickly died a natural death.

And so the Blog has morphed into one that is more spontaneous, which means something like “Fade to Quiet” triggers a rejoinder resulting in the Blog article, “Clark-ee Idaho” that I just published.

And that is okay. I am not the same person I was two years ago when this all started. So, it is okay to adjust objectives. In fact, to maintain “freshness” it is imperative to recast your itinerary from time to time.

I have met some fine folk through this experience. The most profound recently happened when I published “A Tribute to Johnny Bateman.” I have received some moving emails from relatives of the family. And the experience brought me around full circle to those days in Prince Rupert in the late 1950’s when I met Mr. Bateman.

Mr. Bateman was the Foreman of Engines in Prince Rupert. And he laid down a few rules for this youngster to follow if I wanted to continue hanging around “his shop!” And without access to “his shop” my railroad experience would have been very different from what is was.

If you don’t know where you are going, Any road will get you there!

What has not changed is the process. Long before a negative is scanned, a storyboard must be created. It can be as simple as a “mental” image, scribbles on a page, or a formal work of art, but before any visuals are selected, a storyboard – visual map if you will – must be created.

An article typically goes through four phases:

1. Picking the subject material. A lot of that comes from doing mindless “reps” in my “Exercise for Health” class up at Jefferson Health three times a week. I begin formulating my next article in my mind, and work out a “carrier” mechanism for the article.

2. Writing. That is the fun part, researching, writing and modifying the article, trying to present the written word in a colloquial format. Part of the success I had as a successful video producer was in insisting that the written word be as close to the spoken word as possible. “Forget the King’s English!” I decreed. “Write for the audience, not for yourself!” The goal for our training programs was to make a script flow so well, that the narrator would sound like he was talking, not reading a script.

Many times, I find conflicting, or worse, missing information or supporting documentation about my subject. In those cases, I send out emails requesting clarification, and often just pick up the dang phone and talk to the individual who can help me in person.

3. Visualizing what I have written. Many of my negatives are 35mm. And worse than that, they are Tri-X, which was selected at the time – years ago – because of its “speed.” 200ASA, and 400ASA, which got grainy fast! I use a good scanner software package, which overtime, has allowed me to produce a pretty decent print. And I calibrate my monitor and system at least twice a month.

4. Posting. Google Blogger is a free program. I know subscribers often receive two or more notifications of the release of an article. It is a free program. Many times this is the result of “unexpected results” posting to Google Blogger, requiring tweaking and re-posting. It is a free program.

In the end, while I hope you enjoy my writings, perhaps learning something you did not know about the subject presented, it is therapeutic for me. In my case, following retirement, I perceived a vast emptiness. No more interaction with employees, no more problem solving discussions, no specific goals and objectives for the day.

Writing this Blog fills many of those voids.

The author, age 15, paying last respects to CNR 5000, 4-6-2, heading for the scrap yard in late 1957. [Kodachrome ASA 64 transparency.]

3 Comments - Click here:

Eric said...

Congrats on the milestone, Robert. I go through a similar process for each post. My original plan of a post per month, from the same month some previous year also quickly vanished. I think this is the difference between a blog and a webpage, and thank goodness for that! I like the spontaneity of the blog, plus the ability to organize notes/photos that I had from years past, plus being able to share with others. Conflicting information and desire to have each post the be-all and end-all on the topic is natural, and provides a challenge to us earnest bloggers. Style and content matter most, and you've got both going for your blog. Of course I also like the emphasis on CNR content! Keep up the good work, Eric [up here in CN country]

SDP45 said...

Congratulations! I have found only a few quality railroad blogs, such as yours. I appreciate the regular posts, and know that keeping material flowing is a major task.

My blog is not so much about how I interpret history, though I have had the opportunity to do just that with the Grant County Centennial pieces I repost at the blog, after they get published in the local paper. To write those pieces takes plenty of research and time, both I have not been able to do much of this summer while holding down a 50+ hour a week job.

I really enjoy finding tidbits of history, and finding a way to share them. This last weekend I was in an antique store in Wenatchee and I found a copy from 1974 of the Wenatchee World with the headline of the roundhouse explosion there. Now I have a better source for a good photo, provided they let me use it, to go along with the ICC report I have been sitting on.

While I may not crank out much interesting reading, I agree that it is therapeutic, and I get a thrill posting stuff.

Thanks for keeping up the good work, and I hope to see post 1,000 (halfway to 2,000!) someday soon.

Ephrata, WA

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Thank you Eric and Dan for the compliments. Feedback is always appreciated!

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