Fill the frame
The year was 1971 and I was in my first year of photographic study at Conestoga College.
Looking back, I’m am amazed I was there. There were only 20 positions open and there were over 200 applicants trying to get one of those spots. I had to go to the college and present a portfolio. (I still have some of those prints and you will see them in future “Favourites” postings.) Somebody must have seen something in my work because here I was studying photography at our local community college.
One of our instructors was Kryn Taconis. We were told he got his start in photography during World War II in Holland, but I really didn’t appreciate what a great photographer he was until many years later.
Mr. Taconis taught us to see with our eyes first and know exactly what we were going to do before we picked up the camera. He taught us that you haven’t always got time to focus so you better be able to determine the distance to the subject without focusing. He taught us that we are not always going to be able to meter the light so we better be able to measure it with our eyes and our mind. He taught us that we might not always be able to compose an image and may have to just point and shoot. At the age of 19 I didn’t really understand the value and importance of these lessons. Today I still actually practise many of them.
To go to college I had to have a 35 mm SLR and I had just purchased a Pentax Spotmatic. The only lens I had was a standard 50 mm. If you needed special lenses you could borrow them at the college but that was reserved for 2nd and 3rd year students in most cases.
It was early in the year when Kryn Taconis was driving into our heads the fact that a 35 mm negative was too small to crop so that you had to be sure to fill your frame with the subject. We were sent out on assignment to create images that utilized the entire negative; FILL THE FRAME.
I was aware there was going to be a steam locomotive going through Preston that weekend. It was apparently the final run for engine 6218. I figured a good location would be the stretch of track just south of Concession Road by Coronation Blvd. Down by the track I waited. Then I stepped on the track to be sure of my angle, exposure and focus. Hearing the steam engine coming, I knew I would only get one shot. I had to wait until the train filled the frame.
Standing in the middle of the track I crouched down and lined up my shot. I kept saying to myself WAIT! WAIT! It got closer but the frame still wasn’t full. There was a blast of the whistle and I squeezed of my shot and jumped clear of the track.
I got about 2 steps off the track and the engine was going by me. and I quickly squeezed of an exposure as it passed. Even with a 50 mm lens I was still to close to get the entire engine in the second shot.
I honestly don’t know who was more scared that day; me or the engineer blowing the whistle to get me off the track.
These memories make these two of my favourite images.