NOTICE: Tracking the Light was ‘off line’ for several hours during July 14 and 15th, 2013 as a result of maintenance to the host-site. Tracking the Light should now be functioning normally. Brian apologizes for any inconvenience.
Kodachrome was the best medium for photographing the rising sun.
I made this photograph with Mel Patrick and T.S. Hoover on the morning of September 4, 1996. We were positioned on the former Denver & Rio Grande Western at the aptly named CTC siding called ‘Solitude’ (population zero) in the desert east of Green River.
Wild fires in Idaho had polluted the air with particulates. During the day this was only barely noticeable, but it made for stunningly red moments at sunrise and sunset since the particulate matter acts as a filter and alters the natural spectrum of sunlight.
Since sunlight passes through more atmosphere at sunrise and sunset than during the height of the day the filtration effect is accentuated.
Kodachrome had two advantages when working with this type of filtered light. Firstly its spectral sensitivity made the most of the red light. Secondly, the inherent quality of the film’s silver grain structure preserved the outline of the sun despite extreme overexposure, while the latitude of the film allowed for an exceptionally broad range for exposure.
Other than the particulate matter in the air, I didn’t use any special filtration to make this image.
Driving west across the United States, you reach a point beyond the Missouri River where the skies are truly clear—free from pollution and moisture—and the landscape reaches to seemingly endless horizons. At that point, you have transcended that abstract American frontier between ‘East’ and ‘West’. That was my take on it, when in September 1989, I made my first cross-country drive from Massachusetts to California. They write songs about that sort of thing.
In Tuesday’s post (March 12, 2013), I told of my misfortune caused when I lost the services provided by my Toyota’s alternator in the Utah desert and alluded to the photographs I made, despite this setback.
Immediately prior to the alternator event, I’d spent a full day photographing the Denver & Rio Grande Western in the Colorado Rockies. Then, the next day, with the alternator light ‘on,’ I spent an equally productive morning on Utah’s Soldier Summit.
The railroad was alive with trains, the weather was fine, and I made good use of my Leica M2 loaded with Kodachrome 25.
‘There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west . . .’ Although I was making photos, my drive West wasn’t really about photography. I was following old sage advice and was moving West to live. And I did, too. For five years I called California home.
There’s nothing like seeing someplace for the first time, and this trip west opened my eyes to railway photography, in ways I’d not previously experienced. Five years in California changed the way I looked at things and my photography evolved very quickly. When I came back to Colorado and Utah in later years, I was armed with new vision and a whole new set of equipment.