Since he was a child, David Honan has had a passion for trains. Today, they’re a big part of his life, thanks to the professional training and creative inspiration
picked up at Rose-Hulman.
Honan, a 2005 civil engineering alumnus, found himself working on rail-transit projects in the Seattle office of HDR Inc., a global architectural, engineering, and consulting firm. It would certainly seem like a dream come true for someone with a childhood interest in trains.
But that’s just part of Honan’s rail tale. The second part also began in a Rose-Hulman classroom, where Coordinator of Art Programs Steve Letsinger was teaching photography. Honan took the course during
his sophomore year.
“Steve Letsinger taught much more than the fundamentals of photography.
He showed us how to see an image so you can use the camera to capture it,”
Honan recalls. He learned about lighting, textures, shapes, and composition. “I went from being a guy that pointed a camera to
thinking about what I wanted to capture and then making a photograph.”
Honan’s photographic subject of choice was trains, of course. He has traveled around much of the Pacific Northwest, tracking down stunning rail scenes, composing the picture he wants, and then waiting for trains to power their way into the viewfinder. He has shared his work with friends and family members, posted photos online at DaveHonan.com, created calendars, and three years ago won Trains magazine’s annual photo contest with a breathtaking
wintry shot of the Foss River rail bridge near Skykomish, Washington.
Blending engineering with art makes perfect sense for the naturally creative
Honan, who grew up in a family of artists. For one thing, he says his train photos often depict in a picturesque way the engineering work that goes into the rail line. “I don’t photograph the train as much as the scene through which the train is going,” he points out.
But he also feels that learning to exercise a creative side pays off when working in engineering. That’s because the most obvious
solution to a problem isn’t always the best answer, and it takes creativity to move one’s mind down a less-traveled path. “If you can apply creative thought, if you can think about a problem without the bounds of what seems most obvious,” he says, “you can come up with a solution for getting from point A to point B that’s a better result.”
Steve Kaelble is an Indiana-based freelance