I have my Dad to thank for my initial curiosity in photography. He documented much of his early adult life on slides with an Argus C3 35mm camera. When I was in Junior High school, he let me experiment with that Argus C3; I was hooked. Early photos were of skateboard safaris in the hills of Laguna Beach. Then I got into cars in my high school years. During my adult years, I moved up to a Canon A-1 system and began to fine tune my skills and did my best to capture some award winning landscape photos. I rifled through the shelves of the local libraries, looking for books to teach me the ways to improve my skills. I subscribed to several of the popular photo magazines, reading with great interest the articles that shared the work behind the images.
I married and began a family. Sadly, but rightly so, this was a time when my camera was left on the shelf, gathering dust. My camera only saw action at birthdays, school events, Christmas, and the like. The time to make photos and the money to develop film was spent raising a family of four children. Then, as my oldest turned 18, a strange event took place while vacationing in Dunsmuir, California.
It was December 1999, and I was in Dunsmuir with my brother-in-law as he researched the impact of a chemical spill into the Sacramento River a few miles north of Dunsmuir. While investigating the trip, I stumbled upon Bob Morris’s web site featuring black and white photos of the Southern Pacific. I took note of the photos and made sure to pack my camera and buy some Tri-X film. I saw my first train pass, up close and personal while at the Cantara Loop bridge.
As a child, I grew up in the shadow of the Elvas Tower in Sacramento, California. Our community, River Park, was bordered on one side by railroad tracks. My Mom had drilled it into my little head that we (myself, my brother, and my sister) were not to play anywhere near the tracks. And for that matter, we were not to play with kids that did. This admonition stuck with me well into my adult life, to the point that I was 39 years old before I had ever gotten within stone’s throw of a locomotive. So, when those helpers ran down the grade back to Dunsmuir, I was in complete awe of the power and might. I think this is partly why I prefer the lower perspective of a locomotive. The massive and powerful profile was an incredible experience for this 39 year old kid.
Ever since that trip to Dunsmuir, I have been soaking up the history of the railroads, reading books and reading articles. Listening to others talk, I hope to gather more and more knowledge of history and the current operations of the railroads. A friendship was developed with an atypical railfan that is an awesome photographer; NorthBank Fred. Fred took the time to answer my questions and to critique my rail photography. My newly found romance with the railroads was a perfect fit for my photographic past.