Really cool reconnaissance plane born in the 60’s about the same time as me 😉 Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird leaked fuel on the ground cause it had to ‘get up to speed’ for the metal pieces to expand and fit together – built for flight, not sitting in the hanger. Artistic license – yes I thought the air inlet needed some cool red glow – that where a lot of the magic happens here with the ultrasonic flight and this is my art, so get over it 😉 Yeh, that blackbird/raven is flying pretty high in the background too 😉
I had been wanting to do something with this and while in Arizona for the Arizona Fine Art Expo (AFAE), I used it for a ‘challenge’ piece I called ‘SR-71 Bovine’ featuring a cow as pilot. So I decided to go ahead and finish out just the plane version to add to my collection. And for all you Air Force Farmers out there, both versions are available 🙂
Recently I saw an old rotary pencil sharpener and memories of the old models mounted on the cabinets in elementary school blossomed in my mind. Backed by volumes of SRA binders and later the portable unit window with birds flying around in the the trees as we did social studies. Getting up from the desk, walking over to the sturdy USA made machine, hand-cranking and hearing the grinding pencil, then returning with a perfectly sharpened writing instrument was a very satisfying break 🙂
My little boy JC just started pre-school this Fall and one of my favorite musicians to work to, Tycho, creates music that also brings me back to the days of gazing to the sky & clouds in wonder (one track is actually entitled ‘PBS’). I walk JC to school and pick him up every day – and looking out the window right now I can see the old school building and portable units.
I started out with an attractive Boston unit, then realized the ribbed container Berol units actually reminded me of what we used in the classroom. This was the incarnation of the ASPCO (American Pencil Sharpener Company) I was familiar with. I began looking at the older units and acquired some from the early 1900s.
So, here is my collection – looking forward to some neat fine art pieces and at least a cool coaster set! 😉
Capture the massive 1.2 million lbs of beautiful, mobile machinery that comprise this, the largest steam locomotive ever made
Honor the journey across the United States in this 150 anniversary tour
Pay Tribute to the event and the joy it is bring people along the way – Thanks Union Pacific
Continue my tribute to the Steam Powered Era, which was way too short
Catalyst: I had several train fans recently request I catch this restored historic locomotive as it made it’s way across Texas this Fall as part of the 150 year anniversary tour. Researching I realized this shoot would be a little more ‘touristy’ than I am normally comfortable with. Well, I could bring my grandson JC and that would make it ‘Okay’. And while this was not back-packing to an obscure location to capture a scene that no one else has, it is very ‘Americana’, the train and the whole event, so we’ll go with that angle. JC wasn’t able to go so I had to capture it ‘for him’.
My Plan: Ha! – the ‘plan’.. Get familiar with the train and dynamics in Luling, try to catch a couple crossings on next leg, and get something grande in the smaller town Flatonia. I had been on the Union Pacific Steam Club Facebook page, google maps, scoping vantage points considering the sun at that time of day, hourly weather, etc. On the way down I did the preparedness thing and stopped to gas up (& empty my bladder), so I could drive from Luling to Flatonia to get back ahead of the train without worrying about that. Well, I had forgotten my wallet, found $3.50 in a ripped $1 bill and some change – so there went stop 2 🙁 ah they have a viewing Pavilion – and that says too organized anyway 😉 I’m gonna gonna have to get my shot in Luling. 😉
Touristy – Yeh, that was an understatement, upon arrival I saw people parking a ways away from the stop, so I figured I’d better just pull into the lot and walk a ways. Seemed there were thousands of people out on this Wednesday midday in this small town: school kids, families, business people, train enthusiast, and a quite a few there to ‘capture the moment’..
The Stop: Right off saw my show artist friend Steve Riley down from Dallas. They were following to Eagle Lake. We caught up while waiting for the train (which was about 30 minutes late). Even though he and I were first in from the front when the train stopped, there was no setting up and getting a tripod shot. I heard lot’s of ‘photographers’ complaining people were in the way. Really? What did you expect? – this ‘event’ is for Rail-fans of all ages and people are there enjoying the moment in what many were calling a ‘historic event’. Not the shot I was after anyway, so a few snaps and I’m down the road to capture the departure.
Staking My Space: Walking towards the outskirts of town, saw my neighbor RJ setting up a GoPro on the side of the tracks. Setting up on the ‘dark side’ I asked. ‘Oh yeh I guess it might be better on the other [South] side’ he replied. Don’t get my wrong, despite being a hobbyist with a full-time job, I suspect he has as much or more photography knowledge than I do. 😉 We kept moving down the tracks, but there were people everywhere and he said the trestle up the road had several people shooting so I guess there were going to be ‘others’ the whole way. So I left RJ and headed up a little more, just short of a curve to avoid massive power-lines above it.
Ready: Found my spot, got down low to one knee.. – Okay so I was sitting on my butt, hey, I was waiting and I had on jeans so I can swivel fine. Switch to my zoom lens to be safe and watch. Finally, she – or I guess ‘he’ (named Big ‘Boy’ after all), started moving. A little light on the steam which I thought good, time “it’s” here could be steaming good. Well not so much, but I am a pretty good digital artist, so no worries.
The Shot: I know the shot(s) I want but begin to snap early just in case, 3 or 4 frames then here it comes – what I visualized. But I’m too tight so I grab the lens and crank hard (a wee bit damaged it is) to get past that threshold to 24mm. I get it framed (yes we’re talking about less than a second for all this, cause it’s ‘moving’ pretty good now. Bam, I got it and a couple extra, with the side steam going by.
Fly in the Gravy: I swivel to get the nice shot I set up of the locomotive and cars rounding the bend and ‘son of a..’ get this Norman Rockwell of saggy-ass britches from behind standing there in pure bliss watching the scene. I chuckle, get up and and shuffle to get the train rounding the bend with more people gathered around. I got my shot – I’m good 😉
We’re Done Here: I walk back to check on RJ picking up his collection of smashed pennies & nickels (he didn’t want to risk loosing a quarter). Said his GoPro got ‘steamed’ inside. He was gonna walk around the town and check it out.
When I got back to the truck, searched again for some more stray money, but I was ready to get back and start working on this anyway 😉 Turns out I could’ve made it the extra 60 some miles detouring around to Flatonia, but another day. This part of my job was done, and did witness a little History… – and a whole lot of happy people 🙂
If you haven’t fully appreciated my new work (by clicking above and following the links to a higher resolution image), you might want to do that now before reading on – cause I’m about to clue you in on some things going on here like I rarely do. 😉
View the image – What do you see? Keep looking and ponder where it’s taking you. Although the plane was initially photographed on the ground at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, I have placed it flying above the white sands near the missile range in New Mexico. The reason is beyond aesthetics.Note the custom nose art featuring my grandson JC as the ‘Little Boy’. His more ornery than angry look down as he shakes a stick below – ‘take that!’, fits the narrative well and is also a commentary on the sad removal of the nose art on many of our historic aircraft.
If you follow, ‘Fat Man’ is also there although more subtle. WW2 buffs – See where we are going? By now you’ve noticed ‘The Gadget’ in the ‘Trinity’ area of the piece. This tower and the shock-wave were initially intended to be much more subtle, but had their way when I officially released the piece on July 16 of this year 😉
There are lighting and textural effects I’ve created here to help set the mood, and of course I’ve painted in the propeller blur, changed some things, and a lot more touch-up to finish out the piece.
I’d really love to hear your overall impression of this newest aeronautical work, your thoughts on execution of the details, and especially ‘what it means to you’?
AT&SF Temple Steam Train – a glowing, ghostly version of the train in back of the Railroad museum in Temple Texas.
We were setup for a show there in August and Have some more interesting images to come…
Photographed: August, 2016
Location Railroad Museum in Temple Texas
Last Edit: September, 2016