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I Did This With Kodachrome 64?

October 20, 2011

Kodachrome was the benchmark for color transparency and motion-picture films for the duration of its time on the market, 1935-2009. No other film ever came close to Kodachrome’s combination of ultra-fine grain, brilliant colors and long-life. I have slides that are nearly 60 years old that still look great, whereas 20 year-old color prints already show signs of color shifting.

Yet Kodachrome posed many problems for photographers.  With an ISO of 64, it was a very slow film, requiring full sun for best results. It was also very unforgiving, about 1/2 stop of latitude up or down.  Bottom line: you needed good light and a near perfect exposure to get a quality image.

All of this info serves to illustrate just how lucky I was (because I sure wasn’t good!)  to capture this image a mere 31 years ago:

SP 4106, a GP20E, leads a westbound grain train departing Rosenberg, TX on Aug. 27, 1980

I still actually remember this shot! I was hanging around Tower 17, just to see what might come by. It was early evening, approaching dusk, and it had just rained. Less than ideal conditions, to be sure. But I didn’t know that.

I wanted to frame the train between some signals, probably because I wanted to emulate some shots in CTC Board magazine. I drove to the intermediate signals at MP 39, about 3 miles west of Rosenberg.

The first thing I noticed when I got there was that I would have to stand in a ditch to frame the shot. I almost didn’t even trip the shutter because I was unhappy with the weeds at the bottom of the frame, but I did anyway.

Of course, I’m really glad that I did. Funny, the weeds don’t seem to be a big problem now…

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