A selfie –  taken in an age before selfies were ever called that –  in the railway yards at Nairobi, Kenya; probably 1979.

Kenya has a great history of steam railways, because the British colonial authorities decided to open up the interior of the country, and Uganda too, by building a railway from the Indian Ocean coast at Mombasa, up through Kenya to Nairobi, and thence westwards to Kampala, in Uganda.  And many will have heard of the Man-Eaters of Tsavo, two lions who took to dragging off and devouring railway workers, as the line pushed its way inland across Tsavo’s arid bush country, in 1898.

My cousin has had a passion for steam railways all his life so that, when I mentioned that the marshalling yards in Nairobi held large numbers of old steam engines, he urged me to photograph them.  As often happened in Kenya, knowing someone did the trick, open access to the railway yards was agreed, and my girlfriend and I spent a baking day clambering about over the old engines and other derelict ironwork there.

And, as opposed to the nanny state that cossets and suffocates me today, Kenya had (and no doubt still has) a refreshing absence of Health & Safety regulations – everyone was simply expected to use their common sense –  so that the two of us were left free to scramble over whatever derelict ironwork structures we could find, with not a thought for our safety – wonderful!  Oh, irresponsible, yes, but what a breath of fresh air!  My Kenyan years have certainly affected many of my attitudes to life in general, for which I am very grateful.

Anyway, I climbed these hulks with my girlfriend, which makes her sound rather like a grappling hook I suppose, but that’s unintended, tho I have to admit that she was instrumental in getting my already portly person up and over some of the steeper bits.  She was a farmer’s daughter, used to manhandling livestock.

And so what does the picture show?  Well, its a reflection in one of the large lamps that were mounted on the front of the steam engines, to help the driver see large animals – anything up to the size of hippo, elephants and giraffe –  on the tracks at night.  Bare armed and bronzed(!), I’m wearing a safari shirt along with Photographic Hat, and levelling my wonderful OM-1 at my reflection.  Another big engine looms behind me, and either side of that there are nicely converging buildings and railway tracks, all baking in the glare of the equatorial midday.

Photographic Hat was an accessory I’d originally used in Arabia, where it had been severely scorched and bleached to not far off white.  Its crown had given up the ghost and disintegrated, so I crudely sewed a patch of old blue denim in its place.  I was of course wearing a rag on my head, but the endearing thing about it, as can be seen in this photo, was that its floppy brim came down over the gaps between my face, my glasses and the OM-1’s viewfinder, to provide shade which was extremely useful in overhead glare like this.

And what was an OM-1???  It was a truly revolutionary 35mm camera, small, easy to carry, and a masterpiece of Minimalist design – and it was supported by a veritable horde of similarly small, and excellent, lenses – Zuiko lenses!  In an old military gasmask bag, I could carry an OM-1, and three diminutive lenses – 28mm, 50mm, and 75mm-150mm – and these were my basic photographic kit in Kenya, they went everywhere with me.

And I suppose that it says something about my visual tastes, that the vast majority of my Kenyan photographs were taken at either 28mm or 150mm – I was always working at the boundaries of what I had.  Now I’m luckier, with 12mm-400mm to hand – but this would have been of little use in Kenya, as it would have been far too heavy and bulky to easily carry around, especially when on foot

OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO.


About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. Sonali Dalal says:

    Hmm you were quite thin 🙂

    I am going in for surgery on 16th. At last gathered courage :).


  2. The ultimate in selfies.
    I saw Phoenix in your sidebar. 😉
    TWEETS: 20%? 20% too much.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Thanks, Gem – glad it hits you! It seems an age ago now. And yes, holy moly, all the best critters (just how USA can one get, dahlingggg????) get into my sidebar, ma’am! 🙂

      And with the gay thing, I’m no ardent activist, but I simply believe that we are all people, whatever our race, colour, gender, age, sexual orientation, you name it, and therefore we should all have the same rights. I’m not a wedding person, ceremonies mean little to me, whereas I know that they do mean lots to many other people – and the fact that 20% of those questioned wouldn’t go to a friend’s big day because of this discriminatory attitude I find profoundly saddening … my faith in human nature takes another dive. A xxx


  3. bananabatman says:

    Nice one Adrian. It was interesting to read about the Man-Eaters of Tsavo. Also good to hear that you still rate your OM-1. I’m pleased that I can continue to be an Olympus lover.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Oh yes, Dave, the OM-1 is wonderful. Of course I no longer take any film, and after quite hard use in Kenya, my OM-1 sits as a memento – full of fungus! – in our living room. But I have wonderful memories of using it – it was just so good for the job, and such a pleasure to use. The shutter still fires, and I sometimes do wind it on and fire it – just to hear that wonderfully soft click! Thanks for your thoughts! Adrian


  4. Sallyann says:

    Great picture but as usual the technical stuff went way over my head
    maybe I’ll understand a little more after Saturday, Hubby’s booked me into a beginner’s camera course for a day. I’m struggling to find the enthusiasm to use my new bridge camera which I don’t understand.
    I’m a bit apprehensive to be honest I haven’t had any schooling for at least the last 22 years.
    Oh, now there’s a revelation, I didn’t realise I was worried before I wrote it down. wish me luck. 🙂


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Glad I’m a source of revelations!!! And I know what you mean about no schooling for decades – and I’ve found that as I get older, I’m less and less able to take in large amounts of information at one go – glad I’m out of all that now.

      But there are only really 3 things of great, fundamental importance re your bridge camera – and indeed any camera – (1) frame things that look attractive to you in the viewfinder or screen; (2) make sure these things are in focus; and (3) make sure the exposure is right – ie that whatever it is you’re photographing is neither darker or lighter than you want it.

      Good luck with the course >>> GO FOR IT!!! GOOD LUCK!!!

      Glad you like the shot – thanks! Adrian 🙂


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