The theme for the 2008 Awards Program was “sense of place” as related to the railroad environment. 33 photographers submitted nearly 150 images for consideration, and the high quality of their work resulted in a record number of awards. The Center honored a total of 15 photographers, who impressed the judges with their rich and varied interpretations of the theme; imagery ranged from night photos of a German steam railroad, to sweeping panoramas in both industrial and natural settings, to close-up studies of railroading’s minutest details. Follow the links above or below to pages on each award, where judges’ comments are displayed along with all of the award-winning photographs.
Olaf Haensch, Hanixbeck, Germany, receives the Center’s 2008 Gold Award for Creative Photography. He will receive $500 and his photos will be the featured images at the Center’s exhibit at the California State Railroad Museum and in the September 2008 issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine.
Haensch’s images give a sense of place to contemporary steam railroading in Germany by capturing the relationship between the railroad and its natural and cultural surroundings. Haensch impressed the judges with both his synchronized night flash photography–unconventional in style and executed flawlessly–and his use of low, moody ambient light. Haensch credits his father’s photographic influence, and says of his own work, “I want to use every opportunity to break new ground with the creative use of light.” He prefers to work around steam railroads, where “primary elements like water, fire, and steam create many different lighting situations.” Yet Haensch also recognizes taht “the locomotive alone is only a piece of steel. Trains, architecture, nature, passengers, and neighbors are intrinsically tied to the railroad and are essential parts of my photographs. These elements together truly show a sense of place.”
Fitzgerald and Mast
Two photographers tied for the Silver Award: Ken Fitzgerald of Benbrook, Texas and Jeff Mast of Canton, Michigan. Each will receive $250 and be prominently featured in the exhibit at the California State Railroad Museum and in the September 2008 issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine.
Fitzgerald captured the sense of place of a passenger train journey during an Amtrak trip between Fort Worth, Texas and Essex, Montana. His images combined bold colors, moody atmosphere, and powerful juxtaposition, and resonate on both conscious and subconscious levels. Regarding his work, Fitzgerald says, “I expand my perspective of a scene to include the interaction of a railroad subject with the weather, lighting, terrain, and people. I try to keep adding details to the image, raising the level of interest each time until I have created a still photograph that hopefully even a person who knows nothing about trains would find appealing.”
Mast submitted a portfolio of five images that were equally striking when viewed individually and as a group. He used dynamic compositions and a variety of ambient lighting conditions to portray the railroad in the landscape. “Mast’s work has such a natural feel to it,” remarked one of the judges; his presence as a photographer is subtle but undeniable, giving full voice to his subjects. Mast says he tries “to convey the environment and surroundings that fit with the main subject in the photograph.” While that subject is always something railroad-themed, Mast says he strives to “also all bring forth the surroundings to convey the setting…or mood.”