Katherine Botkin Collection


Katherine Botkin’s love of railroad photography coincided with her marriage in 1975 to William Botkin, an avid railroad photographer.  It was pure chance that they met while both were working at Honeywell Photographic in Denver, Colorado.  As the advertising manager, Kate became familiar with photographic equipment; but it was Bill who really put the train in the picture.

Going out trackside in pursuit of a terrific shot started early on in their marriage.  Coming from the mid-west where the landscape was fairly flat, Kate was initially mesmerized driving west by the stunning beauty of the Rocky Mountains.  Initial forays to photograph trains were kept to locations in the foothills in hopes of capturing a stunning image of the Rio Grande Zephyr with its beautiful F unit locomotives hauling streamlined, stainless steel cars into the mountains. In the winter she was out to capture the fabulous orange and silver livery of the Ski Train against the snow.

Initially Botkin was like a blank page without knowledge of classic types of train shots or secret locations.  She had not seen the work of admired railroad photographers like Richard Steinheimer, O. Winston Link or David Plowden. Her only influence was her husband, and so she copied the master she knew.

She took to this new activity called railroad photography and found it fun, exciting, adventurous and she got to see a lot of Colorado west of Denver.  Heading north to photograph the Union Pacific was always exciting as it meant going miles off main roads on rutted dirt tracks into some very remote locations. Gradually her experience expanded to include steam locomotives on the narrow-gauge lines in southwestern Colorado and New Mexico.

At this time Kate was using a Pentax SLR camera with several fixed-focal length lenses shooting with Kodachrome color slide film.  Although she had tried a zoom lens since it seemed versatile, she found that she would change her framing of the shot she planned at the last minute as the train was approaching.  Several times she felt she sacrificed the shot or missed it entirely with the last minute focusing.  She learned that she did better with fixed focal length lenses.  Her most used lens is the 85mm.  Occasionally she uses one of her other two lenses; a 50mm or 35mm.

The whole pursuit of photographing trains came together while photographing a steam charter out of Chama, New Mexico.  On this occasion Bill rode the train and Kate chased by car.  Driving alone, she had to be conscious of a lot of variables and choose locations in an instant from the road side.  She became aware of her own independent views and at the same time fell in love with steam locomotives.

Her love of steam was really fueled by the spectacle she experienced the first time she walked into the Kimberley-Beaconsfield yard in Kimberley, South Africa.  The ground trembled with the raw power as 30 steam locomotives were all stoked and ready to head south into the Karoo Desert.  Her close-up and more head-on images from South Africa she felt captured the power present.  She loved steam locomotives.

Though photographing in many states around the U.S., the trip to South Africa began a quest to shoot steam locomotives in many parts of the world including Zimbabwe, China, United Kingdom, Romania, Ukraine, Syria, Jordan, Argentina, and Ecuador.

Katherine Botkin grew up in Minneapolis, the middle child between two brothers.  While attending college she took a semester of photography for art credit and began her long career in advertising and marketing as a graphic designer.  Visual story telling has always been a part of her life.

Katherine Botkin

Katherine Botkin Collection Overview

  • Promised gift of Katherine Botkin
  • 7,800 color slides
  • United States, especially the Southwest, with international locations including China, South Africa, Argentina, Romania, Ukraine, and Syria.

Reproduction Requests

  • Please contact Katherine Botkin directly for all image usage and reproduction requests