Friday, November 30, 2012


Lone Oak on Bald Hill Road, September, 2012

I took this photograph two months ago in September. Equinox was just a couple of days prior, so the sun was setting directly to the west. It was very dry that evening.

I imagine if I were there today it would be very different. We are in the midst of a series of rain storms, and I imagine that once hard and dusty road is now softer and muddy. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


A Plough of Different Stripes, Portola 2012

Whereas the rotary plow throws snow out of its way, this one used brute force to shove the snow aside. I do not know which one would do the best job, and I imagine that it all depended on how much snow was on the tracks. While I worked on the railroad, we never used a plow. All most all of our locomotives that were used on the hill had built-in plows on the head-end. Besides, the Tehachapi Range seldom experienced really heavy snowfall. I imagine there were a few occasions where I was on the head-end whereby we pushed a little snow out of the way. If we did, it was not anything memorable.

This is an image that I am considering printing. It only has two stars out of four, and I will allow this one to ferment for awhile.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Southern Pacific Rotary Plow, Portola, 2012

We did not have these for the Tehachapi line. They were often used on the Donner route where the high Sierra route received more snow and precipitation. Summit, at Tehachapi is at an elevation of about four-thousand feet whereas Donner is about three-thousand feet higher. There is a lot of history that goes with these plows, but that is not in the scope of my musings.

I had three basic careers during my tenure at the SP. I started out as a switchman, gave up my seniority, and then I went on the road as a brakeman. After a couple of years on the road, the SP opened up positions for apprentice engineers. I gave up my seniority again, and went into engine service. Career wise, those were good moves. I could see the handwriting on the wall, and it said that  there were to be significant changes in how the railroad used its employees.

The first clue came when the railroad closed Mojave Yard sometime around nineteen-seventy. The San Joaquin Division included Fresno Yard, Bakersfield Yard, and Mojave Yard. All SJ switchmen had seniority that was good in all three yards. I do not recall how many guys came over to Bakersfield from Mojave, but I estimate about a dozen men's positions were affected. When they moved to either Bakersfield or Fresno, they had the right to "bump" anyone with whom they had seniority over. I think everyone that came to Bakersfield had seniority over me, and so I had less to pick from at my home terminal.

That alone was enough to make me think about asking if I could go on the road. I inquired, and was granted permission to transfer over to the brakeman's extra board. I did not have to take any student trips since I was knowledgeable with the rules of the road. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


WP Number 805-A
There is something very real for me with these photographs that I am sharing. Even though I never knew much about the WP as a company, I know a lot about how their equipment worked. Take this locomotive for example, we had these on the SP, and I got to ride in the cab of several as I was taking unofficial "student trips" from Bakersfield to Fresno. I had already taken my student trips as a switchman, but my friend Wayne Johnson arranged for me to pretend to be a student brakeman. It was a treat to ride in a "covered wagon" and it is something I will always remember.

Those rides occurred in 1965. That was when we still flushed the on-board toilet onto the track. It is hard to believe  but even the passenger trains flushed onto the roadbed. I remember signs that were posted in the toilets of the passenger cars that cautioned one not to flush when the train was stopped at a station. Now I wonder about the overall insult to those men who worked on the section gangs. They had to know that we were shitting on there work projects. 

The view from the cab was somewhat restricted compared to the view from a road or yard switcher. The only way to see to the rear was to lean out the window unless the train was on a curve. The engine compartment was enclosed and extremely loud. The toilet was located near the rear of that compartment. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Colors on the Silver Screen, the Engine Facility, Western Pacific Railroad, Portola, 2012

In the mid nineteen-seventies, I worked as a "hostler" at the Southern Pacific yard at Bakersfield. My duties as a hostler were to move locomotives within the engine facility where individual locomotives were serviced, repaired and stored. There were numerous storage areas including the roundhouse, which had somewhere around a dozen bays, about another dozen tracks for individual locomotives outside and adjacent to the roundhouse tracks, the turntable, two service tracks where the locomotives were refueled and serviced, and a ready track.

I think to be a hostler that one was required to be a "promoted" engineman (engineer), because we often took consists (more than one locomotive configured to operate as a single engine) from the ready track out into the yard and onto the train. We did so with head-end power and with helper engines of eastbound trains that had remotely operated helper engines. Switchmen directed us to an empty track. We were then to proceed down to the east end of the yard. At the east end, another switchman would take us to the designated track and couple us to the waiting train. Meanwhile, another hostler would be directed by a switch engine crew to take his consist of helper units to be "cut into" the rear portion of the same train (usually somewhere in the rear third of the train).

Once the train was set (the air hoses all coupled and the train line charged with compressed air), we would conduct the air brake test. We did these functions with the remotes in an effort by management to save time for the engine and train crews. Normally, it was the train's engineer who would take the power from the ready track to the train, but that entire process took too long especially after the twelve-hour rule went into effect.

As a hostler, I loved doing these tasks because my pay was based on the weight of the heaviest engine (an engine is a locomotive or multiple locomotives that are coupled together, and that operate as a single engine) that I operated during the shift. It was fun too, whenever we took a consist down the mainline to the east end because we could go fast at main line speeds whereas on yard tracks we were restricted to ten miles-per-hour.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Two Wooden Cabooses, Portola, October 2012

I really like how this image looks as a print. I love the complementary colors, and the composition feels as right to me now as it did when I took it.

One day while I was at the museum, I sat in a bay-window caboose for awhile. Sitting there brought back memories from forty-two years ago. I used to sit in them for hours at a time back when I was a flagman (rear brakeman) on the Colton Cutoff on the Southern Pacific main line from Palmdale to West Colton.

For several months in 1971, I became a "caboose rat" (a brakeman that prefers to work the caboose over the head-end). One of my primary duties was to protect the rear of the train from being overrun by another train. I sometimes had to walk back down the tracks as far as two miles so that I could place a "torpedo" (an explosive device that was placed on the rail that emitted a loud bang when a locomotive ran over it). Often times if we knew that we were going to stop the engineer would slow down at the two mile point so that the I could get off and quickly place my torpedo. Then I would run and catch the caboose. Then if we knew for sure that we were to stop I would get off the train at a point one mile from where the caboose was to stop. I would be armed with my lantern, fusees, a red flag, and perhaps another torpedo. Otherwise  if we had an unexpected stop, I was required to walk back the full distance, and it was expected that I would do my duties to protect the train. No matter how far back I went, I always had to walk back to the caboose when I was called back by the sound of our train's locomotive's whistle signal. Needless to say, I was always in good walking/running shape. I could walk at about a mile every twenty minutes.

Senior brakemen usually preferred to work the head-end because they usually did not have to face the possibility of walking several miles during a trip. Since the job was determined by seniority  the senior brakeman usually worked the head end. Still, I liked the quiet and completely different feel to being on the rear.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


PECOS, 2007

I am wishing everyone a good and happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Pump House, Portola, October, 2012

I decided that this series of photographs that I am making of the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in  Portola forms the base for a project that I wanted to create for a long time. I think it will focus on the era when I worked at the railroad which was the post-steam period. It was the era of the first and second generation of diesel locomotives. It was an era where brakemen and switchmen still climbed on top of railcars to set or release brakes. It was the era where the sixteen-hour law was still in effect, and where men sometimes worked eight on, and eight off, or went to fifteen-hours and fifty-nine minutes a shift so that they/we would not "go dead-on-the-law", and have to rest for ten hours.

If there was any one career that suited me to a tee, it was railroading. I left it after ten years, but it never left me. I thought that many of my troubles came from the lifestyle that I adapted while railroading, but in hindsight, I think it was just me going through what I had to go through, and that it was not the railroad's doing.

I cannot reclaim the past. I have lived a good life, and I would not change any of it, but what I am saying is that railroading is in my blood, and it cannot be filtered out. Perhaps I can honor this somewhat dormant part of my being by creating this opus. I am not interested in creating a fictional account of what could have been,  but I do intend to share some of the soul of the railroad, and of myself.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Dancing Spirit Trees, a New Take, March 2012

I took this image back in March. I was always a bit bothered by my first attempt with these trees. That attempt was taken after sunset, and I used a very high ISO. The trees had a lot of blurriness in the branches as that image pushed the possible with my camera and its abilities.

I attempted to alleviate those factors with this image, and I think I did. I was able to take this image at an ISO of 50. I know too, that it is currently unfashionable  to use an aperture over f8, but I did use f16 on this image. It really looks good in black and white.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Silver Gondola, full frame

Silver Gondola, cropped

Sometimes I cannot decide which version I think is the stronger of images that I am working on (like the above). In working this image, I thought I was finished when I got to the cropped version. I let this image age for several weeks, and I thought that I was ready to print it. Just for fun, I looked at it again without the crop, and I got to wondering if the splash of brown in the lower right corner added something to the overall balance of form and color.

I would appreciate your input. If you do not wish to use the comments function please email your observation. Thanks.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Fernbridge in the Morning Light, November 2012

This is an image that almost made the cut. I really like the overall feel of the hues and luminosity. The only thing that stopped me from printing it is that it was the first shot of the day, and I had the lens set to f4. As a result, the foreground is soft, and may be enough reason to reject it. Someday I may return to see if I can take it again with the proper settings.

So far this year, I have taken at least 7000 images. Many of them are duplicates from the bracketing process, and really should only count as one in three, so maybe I have actually composed 3000 images this year. My point is that I am fairly adept at working my camera, but I still sometimes mess up, and forget what mode the camera is set to. I rarely use an "auto" setting. I mostly use manual or aperture priority, but I still need to look and see what aperture/shutter-speed combination the camera is set to.

In the previous post, I shared an image from my Spirit Tree Series. That image is also soft. It is soft because the shutter speed was one-half of a second, and the camera moved during the exposure. There is nothing that I know of in Photoshop that can fix a problem like that. Fortunately, I had bracketed that image, and I was able to use the digital negative that was two stops darker. My camera's sensor had recorded enough data so that I was able to recover it in Light Room. The print looks really good - much sharper than the one on this blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


REVELATIONS, Spirit Tree Series, November 2012

This image is another one that took me awhile to even start to understand. It elicits something in me on the cellular level, but I cannot explain what it is - which is perfectly fine. That is why I undertake the creative process. I do so so that I may better understand what was revealed to me while I was in the forest. This image is to be seen and felt.

I have yet to print it, and I think I will after I go for a walk in the woods behind the house. That should put my psych back in sync with the forest.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Unnamed Spirit Tree Series Candidate, November 2012

I took this image Sunday at Prairie Creek State Park in an area that I have been working since 2006. Discovering the tree's secrets requires that I must let go of any thought. I have to attune myself to the forest. I can only do that when I let go of any expectations, and I must quite my mind.

I can do these things in the forest. I attempt to do so at home in meditation, and sometimes I get to a quietness in my mind, but it is fleeting. Whereas, when I am in the woods seeking the secrets of the trees with my camera, I come into a place of quiet peace.

I am considering showing this along with the rest of the Spirit Tree Series in my little gallery for the next month. I think the series now comprises of about fourteen images, and that it has become a cohesive little show.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Elk Prairie Sunset, Prairie Creek State Park, November 11, 2012

By-the-way, happy Veteran's Day to all Vets. My military experience was a positive aspect of my life. I am grateful that I accept that it played an important part of my becoming an adult.

This is the third variation of this image. I am finished for awhile - I have other images that need my attention. This is from just one digital negative, and everything was processed in Lightroom.



The image that I posted last night was part of the "unprocessed" set of digital negatives that make up this image. I think that both images have their own impact, and I am not sure if one is better than the other. Sometimes, I think that I can over do an image. It often takes me awhile to come to terms with an image and its possibilities  I just need to live with them for awhile before even I know which version I want to exhibit or share on the blog. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012



This is the view I saw this afternoon just before sunset.

Saturday, November 10, 2012



I posted this image a few days ago. This morning I took a print of that image to the Redwood Camera Club's regular meeting. I shared it in the critique, and received some feedback - mostly positive. One thing mentioned was that it could be improved if I included some blue sky around the right edge. Viola, I had the sky in the original, and here it is. I think it works, but comments would be appreciated.

Thursday, November 8, 2012



I took this in January. I was on a little outing with brother Daniel. I was showing him some back roads in Humboldt County. Even though I photographed this bridge several times, I still think my first attempts with the Sony in 2006 were the most successful, but I keep on trying.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



This image is not at all ready to print, but I am sharing an interpretation of what the sunrise looked like last Friday. It may be that I do not have the details that I want in the raw files to create a look that I would print. Nonetheless, this is to me, a fun one to play with and to view.

Sunday, November 4, 2012



Because I was stuck in Portola a couple weeks ago, I had plenty of time to photograph. I did spend most of my time photographing in the railroad museum, but I did have time to explore the town. What surprised me was how few buildings in the old downtown that appealed to my aesthetic sense. This is one of the few, and quite frankly, I think it is a good one.

Friday, November 2, 2012



I went photographing with a friend today. I photographed at numerous sites, including Fernbridge, an this is the image that is talking to me.

I will be at the small gallery upstairs at the RAA tomorrow for Arts Alive. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Spirit Tree Series Redux

I just went through a stack of matted prints that I have stored in my studio. I still have copies of most     images from the Spirit Tree Series. Most of these images were printed in 2010. Some of them were in  New Mexico for a year. Those were subjected to extreme changes is humidity when they were returned here. I noticed some wrinkling of the prints. I think it was a direct result of the change from a very dry environment to a damp one. I also think that the nature of the paper that I used back then plays a contributing role in the deformation.

Last year I expanded  the series, and printed new images on the paper I now use. The new images benefited from the paper choice and from my improved editing skill set. I admit to being a slow learner. I easily get stuck into ruts on various aspects of my art. Even in my darkroom days I mostly stuck with a couple of film types (TMax 100 and Kodachrome), and I mostly printed on Seagull for black and white and Cibachrome for color.

It took me awhile to comprehend that the paper I was using in 2010 did not fulfill my needs. I was comfortable with the paper, but I lost sight of the fact that it did not fully translate my vision. I did try a couple other papers, but they were really bad, so I stuck it out. But when I saw the wrinkling on the prints that came back from Santa Fe, I knew that I had to come up with something else to print on. I did considerable research, and settled on the paper I have now been using for the past year - Canson Platine.

This paper does not wrinkle because it is made of very high quality materials, and because it is considerably heaver. The thing that really gets me is that the image quality is superb. It blows away the images from the old paper. It makes me want to reprint everything that I printed before, but I just cannot afford to do so (it costs four times as much as the old paper). That said, I am going through some of what I consider my very best, and reworking them. I will chose some to reprint.

The above image is on the short list.