A movie camera, a $30 lens, and a century-old locomotive

Jordan Graff

March 11, 2022

Most stories start with a departure from the usual. For me a usual day is spent in an edit suite, coffee in hand, working away on client projects. When I joined the MAKE team in the spring of 2019, it was on the heels of a very busy season and there was no shortage of projects to edit. My first week I delivered 4 different films, which was a pace I wasn’t accustomed to. Even as the world filled with uncertainty with the pandemic my schedule was booked out for weeks at a time on projects.

So after two years of the usual, I was surprised to see a blank day on my calendar.

Around the same time, we started production on our first feature film. One of the first scenes was shot at the Strasburg Railroad and during the shoot, Derek happened to be in the engine house where they service all the steam engines. So when he found out I had a slow day coming up he suggested I run out there and film some stuff.

While I shoot a bunch of our behind the scenes I usually don’t shoot projects, but it sounded like a fun creative exercise. When I do shoot I typically use a consumer photo camera so I jumped at the opportunity to use MAKE’s recently acquired ARRI Alexa LF, a proper movie camera. 

Steve joined me at the railroad and we unloaded the equipment from the MAKE van. We have a pretty solid lens kit but I also brought along some vintage photography lenses. I wanted to try out the mir1b, which is a 37mm lens from the late 80s, an untraditional pairing for a camera like the Alexa. 

A mir1b lens, a 37mm lens from the late 80s.

We spent the morning following around Dave Lotfi, the Engine House Foreman, who showed us around and explained what we were seeing as their crew prepared engine 475, a steam locomotive from 1906, for the day’s work.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to step into someone else’s environment and hear their perspective. I’m also grateful to work for a company that encourages creative exploration and trying different things. And I’m happy to have the opportunity to break from the usual.