1385 Cylinder—Is this Art?


The driving cylinder is a crucial component of a reciprocating locomotive, yet the inside of this equipment is rarely pictured.

The other day, Richard Gruber organized a tour of locomotive 1385, a former Chicago & Northwestern class R-1 4-6-0—an old Alco steam locomotive that is undergoing a thorough restoration in Wisconsin.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I made a selection of digital images depicting the engine’s running gear and cylinders.

Placing the camera inside the fireman’s-side driving cylinder, I exposed this view as Scott Lothes—Director of the Center of Photography and Art in Madison—peered into the other end.

Exposing this photo was tricky. The need for a long exposure required me to balance the Lumix LX7 inside the cylinder and release the shutter using the camera’s self timer. To select the two – second self timer interval, I had to scroll through a series of menus fairly quickly. Further complicating matters was the extreme exposure difference between the inside of the cylinder and the shop environment. I dialed in an exposure compensation then selected ‘A’ for aperture priority. This is the camera-produced JPG without adjustment to contrast, exposure or color balance.

I was delighted with the photo, as was Scott.

So, does this photo-abstraction of 1385’s cylinder qualify as art? I only make the images. What do you think?

This image is a tribute to my late friend John Gruber, who organized it on more levels than we have space to describe here.

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3 thoughts on “1385 Cylinder—Is this Art?”

  1. I’d have liked it better if you could have included the top of the cylinder. But the Lumix lens may not go wide enough for that. Maybe you can try again with a bigger cylinder?

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