Washington State

Autumn Train

Once upon a time, in the days before Covid-19, there was an afternoon train trip from Portland to Seattle. It strains credulity to say it now, but the train was bustling — or at least, busy enough that if two people wanted to sit together they might have to settle for their less-favored side of the train. The east-facing windows do not look out at Puget Sound (when the Sound arrives), and so one must expect to look over and around the heads of others.

So it was a terribly terribly difficult trip, looking east rather than west, but nevertheless, my camera came out. In fact, my camera had come out even in the waiting area of Portland’s lovely old Union Station. And I used the camera throughout the journey, window shots grabbed from a moving vehicle, a personal subgenre of landscape photography that I’ve been exploring for a few years now. There are many games to play, many points to explore on the exposure triangle, anticipating open shots, steadying the camera or going with the unavoidable blur, fitting the window frame into the image frame or not. The autumn afternoon light was gorgeous. Colors were distorted by the tinted windows and the train’s indoor lighting, but in working up this selection of images I decided to magnify rather than correct those distortions, and maybe to suggest a certain look from a certain era of film photography.

I recommend the Portland-to-Seattle train route to everyone, photographer or not. It will be possible to plan such a trip again — perhaps not soon, and yet, in the grand scheme of things, very soon. Try to get the west-facing windows. But if you can’t, no harm done.