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ZION NATIONAL PARK UTAH This image was made during the fall of 2015 in SW Utah. It was one of three parks that we visited on this tri...

Saturday, July 4, 2009



My experience at Cass, West Virginia in January of 1977 was one of the most dramatic experiences that I have ever had in my career as an artist. I was working on a railroad documentary when this image was made of this country’s oldest operational gear-driven locomotive.

The snowstorm came up as I was exposing negatives in the maintenance shop, but a shrill whistle outside on the track alerted me. I visualized a great photograph in the making as I rushed out the door and set up my tripod and camera in the blowing snow.

In cases like this, I kept a clear plastic bag over the camera until I was ready to make an exposure, and then I jerk it off moments before I squeeze the bulb on my shutter release cable. A small umbrella also works quite well in a less than a moderate breeze. In this case, it was cold enough to allow the snow to bounce off the camera.

Two things happened in rapid succession that enabled me to capture what you see here. The steam vapors that were covering the nameplate started to shift back and forth in the breeze giving me a clear view of the engine’s nose. I made several rapid exposures, but I anticipated something much better so I stood my ground until the engineer stepped out of the cab to make a visual inspection of the boiler that was being tested. At this precise moment the nose was clear and just as the man turned his head toward the engine I made this exposure. It was not staged.

This is what one master photographer dubbed as “the decisive moment.” One split second sooner or later and you have lost it. Generally, you do not get a second chance. And, of course, there is one additional term: Anticipation.

Special exposure criteria and printing techniques can be applied to bring out details in the dark areas as well as in the snow. I still recommend that people study Ansel Adams’ books, THE PRINT and THE NEGATIVE for more specific instructions.


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