Photographer keeps eye on trains

Selection of works on display in Castle Rock

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“Steam in Castle Rock,” by Ken Smith, shows Union Pacific No. 844, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the railroad, next to the Castle Rock Grainery.
Courtesy photo
Ken Smith of Castle Rock will show recent railroad photographs through Sept. 30 at QRstorytelling Gallery in Castle Rock.
Courtesy photo
“Classic Lines,” a vintage Santa Fe engine by Ken Smith, was shot in Galveston, Texas.
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QRstorytelling Gallery in Castle Rock is featuring a one-man show of works by local photographer Ken Smith, who specializes in trains, vintage transportation and beautiful landscapes, as well as Americana. He said he would have 19 pieces exhibited and talked of his flexibility in helping a potential customer find just the right thing.

If you wonder how it might look on your west wall, send him a picture of that wall, he'll return it with the photo under consideration inset.

He travels the country shooting trains, and learns the whereabouts of vintage engines and cars through a network of railroad buffs.

“Even Union Pacific tweets,” he said, adding that “it's an adrenaline rush to see a steam engine going by at 60 miles an hour.”

This photographer, who sold his first railroad photograph more than 30 years ago, shot “Classic Lines,” a Santa Fe engine, in Galveston, Texas and the one called “Steam in Castle Rock” is shot near the weathered Castle Rock Granary — with the Union Pacific No. 844 on the 150th anniversary of the UP. (The gallery is just to the left, Smith said.)

His first photo was of the train station in Hammond, Ind., where he was working for Sears. They asked employees to submit photos and a customer saw his and bought it, followed by more sales. Sears gave him camera gear in exchange for an ongoing supply of prints to sell. The retail background has helped with a well-tuned sense of sales technique.

“People have to connect with the artist,” he says, so he makes a point of introducing himself and telling the story behind a photo, rather than gluing that story on the back of the print.

He has moved to pursuing his photography full time. “I try not to travel more than three weeks a month,” he says. “And I take January off.”

He participated in 27 shows in the past year — about one every other week — and travels to about eight states: in September, it's North Platte, Neb., and Wichita, Kan. Recently he was at Golden's Fine Art Fest. He'll seek historic sites near Ruidoso, N.M., to photograph.

Sometimes his wife and 6-year-old daughter travel with him — to the Tetons this summer, for example.

He is presently scheduling his next year, applying for 2015 shows, where the artist must be juried in.

“I also schedule pure photography time,” he adds, mentioning a plan to shoot fall colors in the San Juans.

If you go:

Smith's photographs will be exhibited through Sept. 30 at QRstorytelling Gallery, which is located in the historic carriage house at 505 Second St. in Castle Rock, “just across the tracks.” Owner Lucia McConnell says she opened in 2013 in property owned by architect Dave Hieronymous, who has his office in the Philip S. Miller home, which he moved to the property. 303-947-6286.