Turn Around Of Engine 2449
During the course of composing this shot, fork lifting giant wheel assemblies into place and tweaking locomotive engines to create a nice composition, Brian, my good friend and assistant for the evening commented that it looks like every little boys fantasy. I believe that must be true.
Prior to the actual day of shooting I was given strict orders by the corporate offices to not disturb the work flow and safety of the environment during the course of creating this photograph. At any time, they said, “ they have the right and responsibility to terminate the photo session if you are disruptive or create an unsafe situation” Instead, as is usual for me, (and with the permission and supervision of man in charge) I had turned off the area overhead flood lighting for the south side of the train yard for over 5 hours. All the employees were very interested and helpful. Often, during the course of the session we would have several of the diesel /electrical mechanics on their lunch breaks come down from the main service building and visit the set. I always would try to accommodate their curiosity by answering questions about what we were doing, how it works, and share some of the previous images I had created over the past six months. ( I always carry a small set of art photos to help explain what these shots are all about) Inevitably these guys were impressed with the clarity of the prints in front of them, several guys also commented that it was amazing that I even got permission to be here, getting permission to shooting these trains at all is rare, and especially at night, its almost unheard of! Explaining that is was no small effort on my part. Originally I had been talking to their boss, from there I was put in touch with the Union Pacific corporate offices in Omaha, Nebraska. All in all, the process had taken over 2 months of communicating, granting permission, waiting for the right timing of a " slow night," and finally the shoot that we are finally doing now. Even to get to this point where we are, at this moment, shooting these trains was an effort. The only trick now was to actually get the shot in the short window of opportunity available.
Because of the constraints of engine availability and yard schedules etc. I had to do the shot in two halves. Just after we finished lighting the foreground engine and wheels etc. the mechanics removed our background engine and brought it into the service facility main structure for it’s scheduled overhaul. So from that point onward Brian and I were waiting there with only half of an image created. Missing the background locomotive would not be good for the overall health and well being of the picture. Commenting to Brian that half of a photo is really no photo at all, the image will not survive without the background engine. There was no guarantee that we would be getting that missing engine either. The yard foreman could not make an absolute guarantee that there would be another engine to spare for this evening, the most that can be done is try for a replacement, as they are so busy. After about 45 minutes the foreman came up to us and offered a deal. " I need a little give and take" he said. My curiosity peaked, I asked what did I need to give? "I need to turn the light back on for about 90 minutes" Wow! I thought, things are really getting worse, first a missing engine and now the lights are coming on. This was not a good development. Very quickly he followed up with what he will give me in return, "If everything works out, we'll be able to loan you a different locomotive in about one hour for the background location, we'll also be able to turn the lights off and let you resume work on your photograph." Super! As is often the case with these shots, I gladly take what I can get and make the best of it. Even thought the shot was created over the course of 5 hours, with 90 minutes of dead time in between exposing of the foreground and background locomotives, the overall shot does look seamless.
Being situated with my camera deep inside the train yard, wedged half way between 15 sets of tracks, we wound up with another active set of train tracks just 20 yards? behind the camera and tripod. Often during the course of our session there would be large trains rolling just behind us. For a few moments as they approached, with headlights blazing, our little environment would be lit up like sunshine at high noon. Inevitably followed up with the ground, tripod, camera and the local area reverberating so much that we had to suspend shooting for the 5 minutes or so that they took to pass, as the camera would be too unstable for "sharp" long exposures. Very Spooky. Nobody complained or requested that I turn on lights again-thankfully. With extra vigilance of all involved and the constant supervision of the night yard foreman, I was able to get away with creating this first of 2 or 3 images for Union Pacific Railroad. The other 2 shots will ( I expect ) be much better. Shooting a train coming out of a tunnel, or out from under a small trestle for the next shot will be "classic."
The locomotives and people are absolutely real and to scale. It's strange to see these guys standing right next to, and tucked up against these mammoth machines. Even for me- the photographer, it looks like little people working on big toys. Having finally completed this image, and with the perspective of hind sight, it's now possible for me to look past the almost whimsical differences of scale between these huge locomotives and men working on them. Instead, while looking at this photograph, I see the inherent integrity of hard work and the character embodied by all the employees I met at Union Pacific rail road, along with the tremendous power harnessed in the locomotives they all work with.