Tag Archives: Utah

Classic Chrome: BNSF piggyback on the Rio Grande.

The ‘Ides of March’ 1997; Sagers, Utah along Union Pacific’s old Denver & Rio Grande Western mainline.

Fellow photographer Mel Patrick and I were traveling back from WinteRail ’97 (held in Stockton, California) and made a project of photographing trains in the Utah and Nevada deserts.

It was at 6:38 AM that I exposed this trailing view of a short BNSF piggyback train heading eastward toward Denver.

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

Happy New Year from Tracking the Light!

Hale-Bopp Comet over the West Switch at Solitude.

Comet with train
Here’s one of my favorite signal photos! In March 1997, I was traveling with Mel Patrick. His superior knowledge of the movement of celestial bodies inspired a spirited drive across Utah’s desert highways in the early hours. We arrived at this location just as the signals lit for a train. I had just enough time to set up my Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens on my Bogen 3021 tripod. I exposed this on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film. This photograph is a one of a kind.

Happy New Years to you! May it be a great year for your photography.

This comet photo is timely as this year I’ll be authoring a book tentatively titled Classic Railroad Signals to be published by Voyageur Press. It will be a follow up to Railroad Signaling, that I wrote several years ago, and will feature a variety of classic American signal hardware

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Sunrise at Solitude, Utah—September 4, 1996

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.

The Rising Sun on Kodachrome.

Kodachrome was  the best medium for photographing the rising sun.

Sunrise over the tracks
The sunrises at Solitude, Utah on September 4, 1996. The roar of westward train pierced the desert silence as it passed Floy siding several miles to the east. Image exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T fitted with a f4.0 200mm lens. The exposure was calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held light meter.

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.


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Under Western Skies, September 1989

Transcending the Divide.

In September 1989, an eastward Denver & Rio Grande Western freight works toward the Moffat Tunnel where it will pass the Continental Divide.

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.

Amtrak California Zephyr
Amtrak’s California Zephyr rolls west on the Denver & Rio Grande Western through Gore Canyon, Colorado in September 1989. At the back of the train is privately owned former Lehigh Valley observation car 353. Ok, so the sky had a few fair weather clouds, but these dispersed as the day cooled. Leica M2 with Kodachrome 25.

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.

Feel the power; a pair of D&RGW SD45s in ‘run-8’ roar west on Soldiers Summit. In the distance, an eastward train approaches. I didn’t dare turn the car off, for fear it wouldn’t start again.

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.

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Gas Prices, Salt Lake City September 1989

Salt Lake City; Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 and f2.0 50mm Summicron lens.
Salt Lake City; Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 and f2.0 50mm Summicron lens.

Cross Country in a Toyota Corolla.

In September 1989, I drove my eight-year old Toyota Corolla across the United States to California, following railways most of the distance. Having spent the previous day on the Rio Grande in western Colorado, I had been pushing west toward Green River, Utah, when the car’s alternator failed just after sunset.

I took a cheap motel, then continued west on battery power. Despite the ailing Toyota, I chanced my arm, and used the morning to make photos on Soldier Summit. By afternoon, I arrived in Salt Lake City, where I located a mechanic to patch up the Toyota.

92 Cents A Gallon?

While waiting for repairs to be completed, I exposed this image of gasoline prices. I’ve forgotten what impressed me. Were the prices exceptionally low (as they might seem today) or were they extortionate?

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