Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Monkey with a Camera. . . .


Milwaukee Road helpers, L St. bridge,
Tacoma, Washington, April 1978

I suppose everyone has heard the old adage that if you put a million monkeys in front of a million typewiters, eventually one of them will write an award-winning novel.

Lately I've been making high-resolution scans of many of my favorite photographs, largely Kodachrome slides dating back to the late 1970s. What a nostalgia trip that has been! Back then, I was just a teenager, obsessed with photography and railroads and looking to make my mark on the world of railroad journalism with my efforts. Definately a kid with far more ambition than talent, eventually I learned to take a good railroad photograph now and then, and on very rare occasions, this teenaged monkey might just happen to hit the keys in the correct manner and come out with a winner.

Here's one of 'em.

It was pouring rain in Tacoma, Washington on a spring afternoon of 1978, and I was following the Milwaukee Road's Tacoma Hill helper locomotives up and down the steep grade south of town, shooting mostly black and white for what would eventually become an article in TRAINS magazine (one of my first, IIRC). Somehow, I decided to put Kodachrome 25 in the camera, and despite the miserable weather, the sun dropped under the clouds at just the right time, bathing the scene in the most wonderful, sun-drenched, saturated light. In the past 30 years, there have been few times I'd been so lucky and had such amazing light. But as an 18-year-old, I suppose I was oblivious to how beautiful the scene was, and in retrospect, how fleeting the future of the Milwaukee Road was as well.

Life rarely gives you the chance for a "do over," so once in a while, it's nice to have gotten something right the first time. . . even by accident. And that will make any monkey pretty happy.

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