Ansel Adams

Capturing a county's past

Capturing a county's past

The year John McGrain started taking pictures, his hometown of Towson was a mostly rural community north of Baltimore. A railroad line that boasted a steam engine ran a busy route between his neighborhood and York, Pa. His first camera, a used Brownie, cost $1.

Today, a million-square-foot mall and dozens of restaurants anchor downtown. The rush hour resembles that of nearby cities. And McGrain captures the sights and structures of the Baltimore County seat with a $500 digital Nikon.

A self-taught photographer, historian, author and connoisseur of local architecture, McGrain, 84, has spent 70 years photographing a Baltimore County he loves, but says is rapidly...