Herzog train landscape in California by Johnny Kerr
Herzog / California, 2017

As I challenge myself to get out of my black and white comfort zone and work in color, I’m learning to be more intentional in my use of color, much in the way I’m intentional about the tones in my black and white images. I take a lot of inspiration from cinematic visionaries such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Wes Anderson and The Coen Brothers. For my fans of black and white photography, worry not, I have no plans to abandon my monochrome work!

While circumnavigating the Salton Sea in January I spotted this scene and pulled over to explore it. I was immediately drawn to the bold capital letters, arranged to form an unfamiliar (in the English language) name. Trains are romantic. They bring to mind images of freedom, mystery, travel and adventure.

I am very focused when working. But part of my philosophy as a photographer is to also be intentional about observing and exploring my surroundings. Sometimes it can be easy to miss things if you’re too honed in on one idea. Case in point, I came to the Salton Sea primarily to photograph water scenes. Had I not looked on the other side of the road, opposite the sea, I would have missed a lot, including this image.

Herzog Railway Services, Inc. is a company offering railway track maintenance of way services. These cars were full of railroad ties soaked in creosote, a pungent odor that punches you in the face from several yards away, even out in the open air. That smell is now a (positive) part of my memory of this road trip.

Detail of Herzog image
Detail: I don’t normally manipulate my photographs in this way, but I Photoshopped in my own little addition to the existing graffiti, just for kicks. It’s so small that it would only be noticeable upon close inspection of a large print.