Kodachrome with Montana’s Big Sky

Big Sky on the old Great Northern
Changing skies on Montana’s Marias Pass. On July 6, 1994, an eastward intermodal train approaches Grizzly on the former Great Northern mainline. I exposed this image less than a week after announcement of the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe merger. Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens; exposed on Kodachrome 25.
Montana Rail Link light helpers on Mullen Pass, July 9, 1994. Kodachrome 25 film exposed with a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens.
Montana Rail Link light helpers on the former Northern Pacific grade over Mullen Pass, west of Helena, Montana on July 9, 1994. Kodachrome 25 film exposed with a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens.

Look up, take in the heavens and transform a railway scene in to a cosmic image. That’s a theory anyway. During my 1994 visit to Montana, I was awed by the amazing skies for which the state is famous. Big sky and wide-open vistas can make for impressive railway images, yet getting the balance between right between atmosphere and railway is no easy chore. Here, I’m offering two of my most successful attempts. Both were exposed on Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon F3T. The peculiarities of Kodachrome’s spectral sensitivity made it a great medium for working with textural skies and dramatic lighting. Not only did Kodachrome 25 benefit from exceptional dynamic range, but also the way it translated blue light I found conducive to dramatic images featuring impressive skies.

While these slides look great when projected on a screen, and both were successfully reproduced in my 2005 book Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, I found they required a bit of adjustment using Adobe Photoshop to make them look good on the computer screen.

Different tools yield different results and I wonder how I might I use my Canon 7D or Lumix LX-3 in similar lighting situations.

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