It’s rare that I’ll display one of my all-time favorite photos (if you are not viewing this on Tracking the Light, you’ll need to click the link to get the full image).
This has been published several times. It’s a simple image, but it wasn’t easy to make.
I exposed it in September 1991. As I’ve previously told, Southern Pacific’s Bob Hoppe had hired me for the weekend to document an event involving engine 4449.
Following a serious derailment at the Cantera Loop, where the railroad spilled toxins into the Sacramento River above Dunsmuir, California, SP organized the historic streamlined engine and train to make public appearances in the Sacramento River Canyon as a goodwill gesture.
Brian Jennison and I made the most of the three days of Daylight steam specials. Over the years, I made great use of these photos.
My choice image is this one. It clearly shows SP’s famous engine, yet captures it in motion and in silhouette.
I had two frames left on my roll of Kodachrome 25 (actually I thought had had only one left, but I also managed a photo of the tail car).
I opted for a ‘wrong side’ view of the engine, in order to make this silhouette with the oaks that characterize the rolling valley along Hooker Creek north (railroad timetable east) of Tehama, California.
To insure I kept a hint of rail in view, I needed to gain a vantage point slightly above rail level. Rather than pan the locomotive, I set my F3T on a tripod and used my Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens nearly wide open.
The locomotive approached at speed; I had only one shot at this, and timing was everything. I wasn’t quite ready when I could hear the distinctive exhaust of the locomotive rolling up the valley. Some last second fumbling with my meter, convinced me to lower my shutter speed. Thus the hint of motion blur.
Five minutes later, it would have been too dark to capture this scene on Kodachrome 25, which was the only imaging medium I had that day.
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