As I’ve just up uploaded a new website gallery ‘Trains’. Here is an account of some of the images.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of photographing trains both commissioned and for my personal portfolio. In 1988 whilst on a portfolio project in New Zealand I stumbled upon a preserved railway station in Lake Wakatipu, which housed a steam train by the name of the ‘Kingston Flyer’. There it was adjacent to the water tower in its full glory . I needed a break from just shooting landscapes of which New Zealand is extraordinary blessed. The Kingston Flyer was my muse. The romance of a steam engine in a beautiful landscape beckoned. I knew I could create a nice image at the station but the real challenge was to find the perfect position with a stunning background with a mass of sheep! or maybe a few flocks. After walking up and down the 14km preserved line with my equipment, shooting 5×4 polaroids I found my ideal spot which happened to be a 2 or 3 hundred yards from a farm house. Even better, a sheep farmer. After a mug of tea and a nice chat (about sheep shearing ) I explained my project with the farmer and his son who were willing to provide 50 – 100 sheep, but when I showed them my polaroid they pointed out that it was not their land and that I would have to be 100 yards further up the line . That 100 yards would compromise the aesthetics of the shot in that the railway line curved and would not see so much of the mountains, so I ditched the idea of the sheep, which I believe was the correct decision. Not only would they be a distraction and as I wasn’t hiring the train, it was only going to stop for a couple of minutes so my ‘focus’ would be on the train and the man on horse with the dogs , so getting a hundred sheep to position themselves in that time limit was too risky despite our shepherd’s skills.
Polaroid Type 55
Once the train driver was happy with the plan I had to wait a few days for repairs to the train. Upon my return to organise the shoot, he wasn’t to be found (no mobiles then) but while waiting for his possible appearance a coach load of Japanese tourists turned up on the platform and started to arrange photos of me with various groups, so whilst a bit confused I suddenly realised they thought I was the train driver!
The next day was to be successful . I shot the train in the landscape, exposing ,5×4 sheets of colour transparency and black and white film. Then shot the ‘Flyer’ back at the station by the water tower. I used the train in the landscape as a promotional poster which was delivered to all the creatives and art buyers in all the major ad agencies in London and worldwide. It was selected that year for the noncommissioned landscape in the Association of Photographers awards. Whilst showing my portfolio to a nameless art buyer and giving her a copy of the poster she preceded to call me ‘Lake’! (she was serious) as in the title of the poster ‘Kingston Flyer – Lake Wakatipu’ causing great amusement to the an art director who still to this day calls me ‘Lake’.
Type 59 Polaroid
Promotional poster. Original soft and moody version AOP awards book
On many occasions a portfolio or a particular image can create a commissioned job and with the ‘Kingston Flyer’ image, it attracted Art director David Bell at Young and Rubicon Advertising agency London to choose me to shoot 2 British Gas ad’s. One of them was to shoot a steam train. After a bit of research and with a lighting crew and a generator truck from Samuelson Lighting in London, we travelled to Haworth West Yorkshire, my favourite county for many commissioned ads during this early period of my career. The main commissioned shot for this press ad was for British Gas showers, so you can see the association of the steam train shot being replenished by the water tower along with the steam. The raking low sunlight mixed with our HMI daylights was a sight to behold . Once David and myself were happy that this brief was achieved nothing was going to stop me from shooting more at different angles and viewpoints which was now in darkness . Only the lighting crew could stop me from shooting masses of sheet film in which they did eventually politely ‘pull the plug’ as overtime fees would be required.