Friday, March 22, 2013

A "Tender" Moment

...from a photographer's notebook

I love being behind a camera, whether the image the lens is capturing gets recorded on a digital sensor or a sprocketed strip of silver coated celluloid…whether I’m high up in the Alps or roaming about closer to home, trying out one of my “new” film cameras.

If there is one “frustration” in following my photographic muse, it is that I never seem to have enough time to edit all of my work when I return from a trip. At least, not all at once. But, as long as “Terabyte” and Poly-Sleeves and slide boxes are in the lexicon, I know the worthy images I do not deal with in short order will patiently await their turn for later discovery, sometimes with Christmas morning effects on the photographer.

There is a particular joy in “re-discovering” images that, in some ways, makes up for any frustrations of the “wish I had more time for this” variety. Sometimes, the “re-discovery” takes, er, decades. Such was the case when I bought my Nikon film scanner in the summer of 2009 so that I could bring my slide and negative images into a more modern workflow. Did I ever go on a tear that summer, diving into long-unopened boxes of slides and letting the ol’ Coolscan have its way with Kodachromes and Ektachromes and all-kinds-of-other-chromes, splashing their lovely little pixels on my screen for cataloging and tweaking. Oh, yes, and re-living the rich memories of travel (and other) experiences they embodied.

Sometimes, returning to a group of images can produce a genuine Eureka moment, leading to creating a new print for an exhibit, or perhaps a new Photo Note Card design. And sometimes, it’s just a smile-maker in seeing a detail I’d obviously overlooked in my first perusal of a set of images. That was the case here. Just a small detail, but I feel just a little Christmas-morning-ish as I look at it.

If you follow my work, especially on my Foto-Community pages, you are aware of my delight in shooting the trains of the Rhätische Bahn winding through the dramatic Alpine wonderland of Switzerland’s Canton Graubünden.

In early October 2011, during two glorious weeks of Alpine early autumn, I spent several days along the RhB, whether chasing trains or riding them and shooting out of open windows.

On this particular day, my Bündner-friends Beatrice and Ruedi and I were riding the vintage steam train on an all-day excursion from Landquart to Sumvitg, along the line to Disentis/Mustér. The trip was pulled by the RhB’s lovingly maintained steam locomotive No.107 “Albula” (named for a major route of the Rhätische Bahn system).

As much fun as it is to ride in vintage coaches behind a huffing, puffing Dampflok through such choice surroundings as the Vorderrhein Gorge (the Swiss Grand Canyon), for the photographer, the experience ratchets up well before stepping aboard the vintage carriages.

No.107, a Class G4/5 locomotive, was built in 1906. She remains spry and limber thanks to all the TLC she gets from her friends and, of course, the support of the Rhätische Bahn for these special excursions.

Here, the old gal makes a dramatic statement that is, I’m certain, the Bündner-Deutsch equivalent of “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” as she backs her train into the Landquart RhB station. Her coal tender is stacked high with a sufficient quantity of coal bags for the day- long adventure, and the steam issuing from her cylinders and the smoke and steam from her exhaust stack tell even the most casual trackside observer she “has what it takes!”

After returning from that Swiss visit in 2011, I posted several RhB images on my F-C pages (you can find them all in the “Rhätische Bahn” folder), including one capturing this same maneuver, from a Fujichrome transparency. 

But the reason this digital image jumped out at me when I returned this week to the folder containing that day’s shoot, has to do with that tender. And not the coal bags peeking out the top, either!

A "Tender" Moment on the Rhätische Bahn

While the vintage carriages of the Rhätische Bahn were dark green, as seen here, if you are familiar with present day RhB trains, you know they are a distinctive bright red (giving the railroad its sobriquet “Die Kleine Rote”). With such familiarity, one could draw the conclusion that, below the unglamorous coal bags in the tender was a vibrant, perhaps impressionistic, “mural” depicting those bright red trains, passing through a forest of evergreens, perhaps along the Albula Line, under the deep blue sky of a sunny day in the Graubünden Alps..

Nice thought, but you’d be wrong ;-)

What makes me really glad I poked around again in that folder is the serendipity created by the combination of lens angle, the ambient sunlight along the platform, and the fact that unseen across the platform from the vintage train, sat a conventional red consist of “Kleine Rote” carriages, just waiting to reflect along the flanks of the tender as ol’ 107 backed her train past.

Oh, heck, maybe I will call it a “kleine” Eureka-Moment.

©2013 Steve Ember

"A Tender Moment" is now available as a Photo Note Card. To see the design, and to see a higher definition image, please follow this link.

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Blogger Susana Miguel Rebela said...

Perusing through "old pics" gran bring on such glorious (re-)discoveries and add another lovely story to a blog.
Thanks for letting us in and sharing your thoughts and memories with an exquisit use of language and a sense of humour that makes reading and watching a joy.

March 25, 2013 at 3:06 AM  

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