Santa Fe freight

Santa Fe at West Pittsburg, California, November 1990.

EMD SD45-2 Under a Blue Dome.

I’ve posted this image as another example of my work with a perspective control lens. This was a tool I made excellent use of in the early 1990s. On the recommendation of J.D. Schmid, I bought a Nikon 35mm PC ‘Shift’ lens for my Nikon F3T.

Among the advantages of a perspective control lens is the ability to shift the front element. This can be used to keep vertical lines from converging, but also to alter the image in subtle ways.

Santa Fe freight
Santa Fe SD45-2 5809 thunders east with a freight at West Pittsburg, California in November 1990. Exposed on Kodachrome 25 film with a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens at f4 1/500th of a second.

It was a clear Saturday morning in the Bay Area, and Brian Jennison and I were on one of our jaunts looking at area railroads. We stopped near the old station location at West Pittsburg (no ‘h’), California. (I believe the palm trees in the distance are an indication of where the building once stood.) Here we photographed several trains.

For this eastward freight, I positioned the camera relatively low to the ground and raised the front element of the 35mm PC to near its maximum. I didn’t quite keep the camera level. The result includes a large amount of crystal blue sky, while minimizing the foreground and keeping the vertical elements of the lead locomotive nearly parallel with the image frame.

I feel the subtle effect allows the locomotive visually surge forward, seeming to charge along. This was my intent. Santa Fe 5809 is an SD45-2, a machine powered by EMD’s 3,600 hp 20-cylinder diesel.

In their heyday these were powerful machines that produced an awe inspiring low-base sound in the high-throttle positions. I hoped to convey that power visually while making use of the California sky.

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