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Edition #207  October 1, 2013

Parallel Realities

Photographers: Tom Gildersleeve and Gordon Glattenberg

 

                                                                        Photo by Gordon Glattenberg

                                                                      Photo by Tom Gildersleeve

Parallel Realities

Any skilled photographer knows that effective utilization of lighting is the key to making really successful photographs.  It is, in fact, the single most vital requirement for quality photography.  The pair of photographs included in this posting illustrates the effect that different lighting applications can have on a scene.  They were taken on April 2, 1977 at the Saugus depot, near where I live.  Canadian Pacific 2860 visited Los Angeles at that time, and this was the return trip.  It was anticipated that the engine would be passing through Saugus at night, well in advance of sunrise, and I planned to get a night action shot of it racing by the depot with lots of steam and action. As such, I and a friend, Jim Jury, were out well in advance of the anticipated arrival of the train to set up and position probably at least half a dozen flash guns mounted on light stands, all of which would need to be hard wired to the power supply, and ultimately the camera, with roughly 1,000 feet of wire. 

It was anticipated that the train would be on the main track, which ran next to the depot.  All that changed when a southbound (EB per the SP) freight train entered the block ahead, forcing the steam train to take the siding and wait for the freight to clear.  That put it on a track significantly closer to me and my flashguns than planned.  It was stopped for a lengthy period of time, and about a hundred train chasers showed up and were milling all about the scene.  Of even more ominous concern, it was getting light out, gradually eliminating the possibility that the train would pass my camera in the dark.  It's not in my nature to give up a photo attempt without a fight, so Jim and I made a mad scramble to move the flashguns and wiring to better positions to capture the scene that was now presenting itself.  By the time the freight cleared and the Canadian Pacific 2860 moved out, we had completed most of that work but not quite all of it.  I did conclude, however that enough had been moved to make the scene shootable.  By that time the sun had already risen on the far side of the valley, but not yet here.  The first picture in the group, shot with Kodachrome 25 by my friend Gordon Glattenberg, is a well executed record of what nature actually served up, showing the scene as it really was.  It was taken within seconds of the picture I took.  Note one of my flash reflectors to the far right in his picture.  The second is the alternate reality created by flash and a faster shutter, and demonstrates what a picture can be when the photographer has total control of the lighting to the point that only what I wanted lit is illuminated and the direction of the lighting is of my choosing.  Day is literally turned back into night and the entire crowd is evaporated!  Considering how light it was, I could not have predicted with certainty that it would come out this way, but obviously it was worth the gamble.

Tom Gildersleeve

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