Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Steam in the Snow

   from a photographer's notebook...

I love steam locomotives. And I love photographing them. Come to think of it, can one actually separate those two loves? Certainly not this fella.

I have chased them and photographed them in every season, and on both sides of the Pond; but if I have a favorite time for shooting steam locomotives, it is definitely Winter.

A steam locomotive is a living, breathing, huffing, puffing creature…with personality that diesel and electric locomotives can not match. But when you can find one in a snow-covered landscape, it is even more dramatic to look at (and, of course, shoot) as it discharges voluminous clouds of steam from its cylinders into the chill winter air, and blasts that mixture of steam and coal smoke from its stack. Of course, it also issues steam from other orifices, like the safety valve and whenever the engineer blows the whistle.

And if it is pulling a train of vintage passenger cars on a wintry day, there is also the romance of steam swirling all about the carriages from the lines for steam heat, enveloping that woman of mysterious mien greeting the man in the trench coat and slouch hat, perhaps passing some clandestine object to him, carefully wrapped in a folded-over Berliner Zeitung, or just lovers taking leave of one another, before that first mighty CHUFF from the engine coaxes the romantic world on wheels into motion.

For years, I’d wanted to shoot steam in the snow, and finally got the opportunity on a visit to Germany in the winter of 2008. In the Erzgebirge region of eastern Germany, close by the Czech border, there is a narrow gauge steam railway called the Preßnitztalbahn. It operates on 750 mm gauge tracks between Steinbach and Jöhstadt, running along the rushing Wildbach through dense pine forests and into open meadows, behind black and red huffing, puffing east German steam locomotives.

I was hoping for snow to add drama and atmosphere to my shots, and was delighted when those big, fat, wet snowflakes began to swirl and intensify.

As we in the mid-Atlantic region awaited further prognostications from the weather gurus on Monday about the significant storm that was to arrive sometime late Tuesday night and drop copious amounts of wet snow all day Wednesday before it all ends…I was trying to decide which photographs to bring to the Art League Gallery Monday evening, for jurying for the March exhibit...

Well, guess I made a fortuitous choice. Happy to learn Tuesday evening that “Steam in the Snow No.2,” shot at the Preßnitztalbahn station at Steinbach, was selected for inclusion in the show.

Oh, speaking of vintage, my photograph "B-25" (not a locomotive, but the WW2 bomber) is also on display.

If you’re reading this in the local area, please join us on Reception Night, Thursday the 14th at the Art League Gallery in Old Town Alexandria, 105 N. Union Street in the Torpedo Factory Arts Center. 6:30 to 8:30 PM. 703-683-1780.

If you’d like a higher definition look at “Steam in the Snow No.2,” please follow this link to its page on Foto-Community. There, you can also see other images from that visit to the Preßnitztalbahn by navigating the folder "Vintage Steam-Europe." Also, in honor of its inclusion in the March Art League show, I'll be adding this image to my range of custom printed Photo Note Cards. It can also be purchased in archival gallery prints. If you'd like more information, please e-mail me at the address in the right column.

By the way, if you enjoy watching European steam locomotives (in enchanting miniature landscapes), may I call your attention to a most entertaining DVD ;-)

Now, to make sure I know where my snow shovel is lurking…

©2013 Steve Ember

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Blogger Susana Miguel Rebela said...

It is something funny, I never had the opportunity to travel in a steam train in the snow, but yet it is part of my memory...maybe those movies (like Agatha Christie's Murder On The Orient Express) convert visual memories into lived ones?

Thanks for sharing, Steve!

Take care,

March 6, 2013 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger TravelGal said...

You inspired me so much with this photo that I actually updated my own blog. Good work, as always. Marjorie

March 9, 2013 at 4:45 PM  

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