Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oregon City Crossing Typology

Mini-typology of grade crossings in Oregon City.

Yesterday's post reminded me of my on-going project of photographing grade crossings. The project employs a photographic technique called a typology, where similar subjects are photographed in an identical manner to make for easy comparisons. (Railroad equipment roster photographers have been doing this for decades.) The German husband-and-wife photography team of Bernd and Hilla Becher popularized the style with their views of industrial buildings in the U.S. and Europe made from the 1960s onward. Jeff Brouws, a contemporary photographer and past presenter at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art's annual conference, introduced me to the typology.

In my case, I photograph railroad crossings by standing on each edge of the crossing and looking straight down the track. I always use a 35mm lens with the horizon slightly below the middle of the frame, and for visual consistency I always shoot on cloudy days, which is no problem in western Oregon. I try to exclude cars and any other traffic.

The top two photos in this mini-typology are the verso and recto views of the 10th Street crossing of the Union Pacific main line. The bottom two photos are the verso and recto views of the route 99E (McLoughlin Blvd.) crossing of the switching lead for the Blue Heron paper mill, which is visible in the lower right photo. The lower left photo shows the one block of street-running along Main St., which carries the Oregon City Switcher on most nights. These are the only two road-railroad at-grade crossings in Oregon City, so I was limited to this small group of four images today. Most typologies would include several grids, each with perhaps nine or sixteen photos.

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