“We’re getting soaked!”
On a gloomy Saturday, November 28, 1964 in Appalachia, Virginia, I was standing at the old Inman road crossing to photograph L&N train 66 as it paused before continuing its daily trip to Corbin, Kentucky. It was raining cats and dogs, and I was joined by my friend Benny Adams. “We’re getting soaked,” he observed as I fiddled with the camera in my hands. “Just take the stupid picture and let’s get back inside!”
Until this moment, my photography had been limited to the “point and shoot” cameras of my generation, or more particularly the Kodak Brownie in my case. But, our friend Sonny Burchfield (an operator at Southern’s Appalachia yard, just behind us in this scene) had loaned me his Kodak Pony 35mm camera that day. This rather simple camera had an adjustable aperture, shutter speed and focus---in all three cases, more hardware than I was accustomed to dealing with. We had driven uptown to Mack’s Drugstore to purchase a roll of Tri-X Pan black and white film (super fast at the time at ISO 400). So, here I was standing in the rain, consulting the “poop sheet” that came with the film trying to figure out the best exposure settings. I kind of understand the concept of f-stops and shutter speeds, but only vaguely. I didn’t have an exposure meter, and there was no built in metering system in the camera, so I had to review the information on the “poop sheet” to see what was best: sunny day, cloudy bright, light overcast, heavy overcast or whatever. I must have made the right choices of aperture and shutter speed because the shot came back decently exposed, and in focus.
And so as a result of this rainy day shot, I was convinced I should aspire to a 35mm. All I had to do was talk my parents or grandparents into getting one for me as a Christmas present. Indeed, that was done---so by the end of the year, I was using an Argus 35mm camera. The march of image technology had finally reached me.