Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Train Story

D&S Narrow Gauge Railroad

This shot, one of the last of a Summer series for a Colorado Tourism Campaign, looks like a jump-out -of-the-car and shoot kind of image. Infact, it was one of the tougher logistical shots I've had to do. The ad was to feature Colorado's famous Durango to Silverton narrow gauge vintage rail road as it winds through the pristine wilderness to the historic mountain mining town of Silverton from Durango, Colorado. Everyone has heard of it.

Seemed simple enough.

What we didn't want was to duplicate the overdone shot of people looking out from the train window from another train window, but rather a landscape of the most spectacular view along the line...with a train in it. At the peak of Fall color. In perfect weather. No problemo, Amigo !

When producing, we tried to get the D&SRR to bring one of their vintage locomotives up to our location along with some Pullmans and park it on a spur so we could have it to our selves for an afternoon, but they had two of their trains out of service so were unable to accommodate us on that. To further challenge us, we were told that only one run would be made on that day. This meant that we had to get it right - the first and only time. When the train did make it's way past us we had several cameras set up and ready to shoot so as not to end up with five or six frames. My assistant and the Art Director were pushing buttons that day.

Smoke gets in your eyes.

As our one and only train passed us by it spewed a massive cloud of black smoke, soot and ash that filled the upper part of every frame. A total surprise to us. This would not speak well of our pristine mountains in a tourism ad. In fact, we couldn't even see the mountains for the cloud of smoke. I ended up shooting several "in-situ" plates of the landscape and was able to composite the smoke out of the scene completely. Ahhh, the digital age. Worked great!

The hike in with our gear was into a wilderness area called the Weminuche Wilderness and in some of Colorados most beautiful and remote mountains. We knew we could get in in time to set up for the single pass of the train, but getting back out would be the challenge unless we spent the night in the valley. Carrying our photographic gear along with tripods, et cetera, did not allow us to take camping gear. 

The D&SRR sends a small two man service car up the line at the end of every day as a sweep car so I had arranged for them to pick us up and drive us out to Silverton. We were just able to cram my assistant, the Art Director, me and our gear onto this little bouncy cart with wheels for our ride up the line and out and I still have grease on my gear bag from that grimy little shuttle.

There were many criteria for this one ad shot that all seemed easy enough in concept back at the agency, but in application ended up being quite an epic event. The remote location that I spent several days finding and scouting in person, the timing, hitting the weather right and beating the incoming storm, catching the fall colors at their peak. All of this added drama to the entire situation, but the outcome was worth it. 

To make things even sweeter, this was the last CTO ad shot on 4x5 film.