The Polar Express: A Huge Opportunity

Belching steam, a 400 tons steam locomotive, sat restlessly in front of me. Roaring, spewing, breathing! It seemed to be alive.

The Pere Marquette 1225 was the model for the Christmas classic, The Polar Express. Built in 1941 with a 2-8-4 configuration, it ran on rails that connected the towns of Flint and Pere Marquette with Detroit. In 1957 it was put on display at Michigan State University and is now owned by the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation.

When the opportunity to photograph a steam train came up I jumped at it. Amy, our daughter-in-law called to invite us to accompany them on a steam train excursion to Ashley, MI where the residents had set their small town up as a Christmas destination.

Two weeks ago Ellen and I travelled with our son and his family to Owasso, Michigan where we boarded the Pere Marquette steam train. In all its glory the beautiful steam engine was waiting at a level crossing.  Its beauty and power were very evident. And I had the opportunity to photograph it. Priceless!

Departing in late afternoon I was a bit concerned when I realized that our arrival would be after sun down. Would I be able to capture decent images in low light conditions?

The conductor walks the line past the locomotive prior to departure.

The conductor walks the line past the locomotive prior to departure.


Arriving in Ashley, I quickly saw that darkness was going to be my friend. The ambient light that affected my subject would work. Black subject, black background and enough light to cast the subject dramatically. How then, would I setup my camera to take advantage of these conditions?

I decided to utilize the auto ISO function on my camera. That way I could set aperture and shutter speed to capture images with a fairly wide depth of field. I was pleased with my images. They were sharp but due to the high ISO some were somewhat noisy. I found that this could be dealt with in large degree in computer. Next time though I will limit the ISO range to that which would allow me to capture the best image.



This entry was posted in My Work, Travel.

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