FOR most people, a downpour in the middle of a weekend getaway in Montauk would count as an unqualified bummer.
But for Craig D. Robins of Huntington, the vacation washout became a photo op: It was an East End rainstorm last September that led Mr. Robins to take a shot of the Montauk train station that was voted best in show at a juried photography exhibition now at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages in Stony Brook.
With 151 photographs culled from more than 375 submissions, “Long Island Through a Lens” continues through today in the community room, within the carriage museum; Mr. Robins’s “Montauk Train Station” and five other prize winners (including two honorable mentions) will also be displayed from Wednesday through May 28 in the art museum, where the exhibition “The Best of Photography and Film from the George Eastman House Collection” is on view.
Every photograph has its back story, and the taking of “Montauk Train Station” plays out against that rogue element, the weather. Mr. Robins, a lawyer and longtime Montauk visitor who is an avid photographer, came upon the train station while driving around the village with family and friends in the aftermath of a teeming morning storm. “I loved the way the platform curved into the distance,” he recalled recently, “and the way the trains seemed to curve on the track as they departed.”
He took some shots, but felt dissatisfied; he knew he had not caught what the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the 20th-century masters whose work inspires Mr. Robins, called “the decisive moment.” Returning to the station alone twice more at dusk, he came up with the prize-winning image: two trains, under a still-lowering sky, set aglow by the station lights as a conductor checks his watch and a blurry figure moves along the platform.
“There was something that evoked a film still — like capturing a moment in time,” said Barbara Roux, a Lloyd Harbor photographer and installation artist who was one of two jurors.
For the other juror, Paul E. Gustafson, an associate professor of visual communications at Farmingdale State College, the image avoided the clichés of a not-uncommon subject. “You see this time and again — the train station,” he said. “But here, the people are in the right place, and the lighting is just remarkable.”
The juried show was conceived as a local companion piece to the Eastman exhibition, “which is an amazing show, but has nothing to do with Long Island,” said Eva Greguski, the museum’s art curator. “We expected maybe 30 people entering 100 photos.”
When 82 amateur and professional photographers (the show was open to both) submitted nearly 400 images, “we were very happy, and a little bit surprised,” she said.
If Mr. Robins counts as one of the show’s serious amateurs, several other award winners were professionals. Among them was British-born Chris Foster of Amagansett, who spent decades in London as a photographer, including a stint taking pictures of stars like Elton John, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and Tina Turner. It was a far less glamorous subject — “Beach Chair,” a gnarled armchair constructed of driftwood, sitting on a grassy dune — that won as best black and white photograph in the juried show.
The days of “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” are behind him, Mr. Foster said. “The thing is, I’ve always loved nature and the beach and outside,” he said.
Patricia Colombraro of Nesconset, also a professional photographer, shot the mysterious “Tree of Dreams” in a wooded area at the Cenacle Retreat Center in Ronkonkoma using an infrared filter to achieve its otherworldly effect; it won in the “digital manipulation/other” category.
Holly Gordon of Bay Shore, whose “Autumn Palette,” a painterly image taken at the Muttontown Preserve, was judged best color photograph, is a former art teacher in the West Babylon schools who retired in 1999 and now devotes herself full time to photography. “It’s my second career, my first love,” she said.
Many of the winning photographs were taken with digital cameras. So were perhaps half of all those exhibited, which probably helps account for the large turnout, Ms. Greguski said, given the minimal cost of shooting digitally.
Mr. Robins’s “Montauk Train Station” was among the photographs taken with a digital camera. Without the cost of film and developing to worry about, “I took at least 100 images in 5 or 10 minutes,” he said.
Still, it wasn’t a random process. “I was leaning against the lamppost. I was just waiting for that perfect ‘decisive moment’ ” before starting, he recalled. “You’re waiting for everything to click into place, and you have that perfect image.”
“Long Island Through a Lens” is on view through today at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Winning photographs will also be on view Wednesday to May 28. Information: (631)-751-0066 or www.longislandmuseum.org.