Giant clouds of steam billowing from the smokestacks of mighty clanking steam engines – these are some of the powerful and historical sights captured in the amazing train photography of Matthew Malkiewicz. The photographer behind the “Lost Tracks of Time” series agreed to talk to Bored Panda about his passion for traveling in the search of old trains and how it has shaped his life.

Matthew is a self-taught photographer who works full-time as an engineer. He loves fishing and traveling, and while traveling, he searches for vintage trains throughout the USA and photographs them in action.

He explains that his interest in trains started when he was just a child:  “I have a photo of myself watching a toy train run around the Christmas tree as a baby, it must have hooked me well… in my teens I received my first camera which I aimed at every train I saw.” In 2005, he bought his first digital camera and started this series.

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“My passion gravitates to the machines of yesteryear, fire breathing monsters that seem to be alive whether you have your hand against the polished steel or you are two bluffs away looking across acres of prairie grass. I envision how it must have been back in the day and try to create photographs as timeless as possible to depict what I consider a vibrantly better and sadly vanished time,”  Malkiewicz told Bored Panda

“I have a photo of myself watching a toy train run around the Christmas tree as a baby, it must have hooked me well. As a kid I had a model train layout on a piece of plywood in the basement, and in my teens I received my first camera which I aimed at every train I saw”

“This photo of the little boy watching the oncoming train is my favorite. A pure case of luck, being at the right place at the right time, ready with the proper equipment. This is from deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The child was the son of one of our train crew, completely unstaged and unrehearsed he steps in front of me and sits on the rail to watch the [train] runby. I feel it’s my best because of the spontaneity of it all. So many of my better shots comes from either free styling or completely winging it, feeding off the adrenaline rush of thinking quick on my feet or missing the opportunity.”

“Shooting trains can be compared to hunting. Get to the location early, scout out the angles, setup, take a few test shots, and then wait. Some of the trains I chase are 100+ years old, mechanical problems do happen. Patience is key, as is persistence”

“My camera bag contains three digital setups: a Canon 5D-MkIII with 70-200mm/F4.0 zoom lens, a Canon 5D-MkII with 24-70mm/F2.8 zoom lens, and the first generation Canon EOS-1DS with 50mm/F1.4 prime lens. Because of the dirty, greasy, smoky, and often times humid conditions I subject my gear to, as well as the weather’s harsh elements, I choose never to change a lens in the field. Having the 3 combos at arm’s reach gives me so much flexibility and functionality, as well as keeping the camera’s internals clean. I am an ambient and natural light shooter only – do not own any flashes or strobes.”

“For production, I feel only half the hobby is spent with camera in hand; the other is afterwards in front of a computer with Photoshop. The time spent processing averages an hour per frame, although I have plenty of 4-hour sessions under my belt for a single image.” 

Matthew had some great advice for starting photographers: “Always push the outside of the envelope, challenging yourself every time out to do better than the last. Do not be afraid of failing. Look at a lot of photography, both the classics and modern day. The more the better, decide for yourself what you like and what you don’t. Take those mental notes with you out into the field and apply them.  Start shooting before dawn, and end after dark. Take full advantage of the golden hours. Weather is your friend, adds so much atmosphere and character. Rain, snow, sleet, wind, fog, humidity; sunrises and sunsets. Take the time to learn Photoshop. Attend seminars and workshops, pick the brains of fellow photographers, and watch as many YouTube tutorial videos as you can. Lastly, shoot for yourself. Capture and create what appeals to your eye and tastes.”

We want to thank Matthew for giving Bored Panda an interview and sending us his photos. We wish him the best of luck in his work!