I have always found that historical subject offer a whole host of photo possibilities that most other subjects do not. A flower given a strong Sepia tone rarely even looks good let alone makes for an outstanding image, but an old steam engine can literally pop off of the page, and when printed and framed, they will grab the attention of everyone who passes it. I will photograph anything old, but my main subjects are, #1 old steam engines and railroads, #2 American Civil War Battlefields, #3 old buildings of any kind.
I am lucky in that I live within an easy drive of over a half a dozen different historical railroad sites and museums, and I have been able to get a very large collection of rail images. One old railroad location I have shot at a lot, and even have many of my images sold in their gift shop, is the Steam Into History, Lincoln Train Line. This historical site is not only the same rail route that Lincoln took on his way to Gettysburg to give his Gettysburg Address, but the ride you can now take is pulled by an exact reproduction of the Northern Central Railroad steam engine that took Lincoln on his way there.
The #17 steam engine is a 4-4-0 wheel configuration, exact reproduction that cost $1 million to build from scratch. Almost every part was custom machined and assembled from original plans. The engine pulls several old restored passenger coaches on two runs a day. The first run is from New Freedom to Glen Rock and back. The second run goes 9 miles from New Freedom to Hanover Junction, Pa. and back. Trips are from Wednesday to Sunday, all summer and with many holiday and Autumn trips added. There are also special trips with Lincoln impersonators and even train robberies with outlaws on horseback. There is no best time of year to go there. Each season has its own special features for good images. Winter does have limited runs though (see their schedule to plan your trip there – http://www.steamintohistory.com/)
The rides take you across the rural Pennsylvania countryside, over bridges, through corn fields, along streams, and through small villages much like they were 150 years ago. All of my images here were taken at many good spots along the route, and at the two end stops, which includes the rebuilt train station at Hanover Junction. (the red building in the adjacent photo) and right next to that station is an old original farm house that is in many old photos of the Lincoln trip to Gettysburg. The building is now apartments.
The best places to get the best shots are at the New Freedom and the Hanover Junction stations where the trains will sit for a half an hour or so. This is a good time for those close-up detail shots like my drive wheel shot. On the way out of New Freedom the train also goes past an old station building that is now a snack bar, but still with the old outside look for great shots of when the train goes by it. The run also goes through an old town called, Railroad, which has another old station type building right along the tracks for another photo opp. (Note) - While you are shooting along the rail line remember this, you are walking over the exact same rail bed that Lincoln rode over that day in Nov. 18, 1863 on his way to Gettysburg.
With special subjects like this, a photographer can also add a lot of effects to their images as you can see in mine. I like the old sepia tone look that makes an image look like it was taken 150 years ago. I will also shoot each location in Infrared and convert those to B&W, and tone others. To me, almost all railroad steam engine shots look good in straight B&W, but I will usually do a good shot in both B&W and toned. The older I can make it look the better I like it.
The best shots I made of the Lincoln train is when Steam into History decks out the engine as the Lincoln Funeral Train with portrait, bunting, and flowers. My shot shown here also looks great as a B&W, but it looks a whole lot better with the dark toned shadow border effect I have shown at left. It's actually hard not to get good shots with this classic subject. When the funeral train runs there are also many period dressed people around for an old-time atmosphere. All of my railroad shots of this type are done with my Nikon D800e and either my 16-35mm, or my 28-300mm Nikon lenses, depending on how close I want to get to the subject for the composition I want. For my Infrared shots I use my converted Nikon D3200. Photoshop CS6 then cleans everything up. When I shoot subjects like old steam engines I do NOT like shots full of tourists, so I also do a lot of tight in-camera cropping, which is why I use nothing but zoom lenses.
If you love railroad photography and old steam engines, you do not want to miss going to this historical site to be a part of American history.
Opened June of 2013, Steam Into History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, educational, charitable organization. It operates a steam train that chronicles the role that York County, PA played in Civil War history and promotes the York County, PA area as a tourist destination. To see a larger gallery of pictures from Steam into History, view the Steam Into History – Lincoln's Train gallery.