railfan

A Year Away

by Steve Eshom on September 13, 2014

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One year ago Friday I was on a railroad photography expedition in Vader, WA with some good friends. As you saw on dogcaught.com this was a visit to record action under the soon to disappear cantilever signals. It was a busy night and we enjoyed all sorts of trains to photograph with the signals.

As it ends up these photographs were my last.

17 days after this expedition my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. As you saw in a post I chose to take a break from railroad photography so I could focus on my wife’s treatment. With changed priorities I chose to set some of my hobbies aside.

That was a tough choice but I felt my commitment to her was the most important thing. I still escaped on most Sundays for rail fanning around town with my daughter. Heck, we even made it out the Sunday after Tammy’s surgery. I used my iPhone periodically to photograph interesting things but for the most part this period was photography free. Thanks to Facebook and my great railfan friends I kept up on the happenings around the area.

Skip ahead one year. Today Tammy feels wonderful. She recovered from chemo, surgery and radiation and as a far as I’m concerned is back to normal. She feels occasional aches and pains but they are minor. She’s healthy and cancer free so I feel like the mission is accomplished!

I haven’t recovered my photography interest though. I’m not sure why but the idea of enjoying life through the viewfinder isn’t as appealing as it once was. I know that having a health issue refocuses your creativity. She and I spent lots of time problem solving and planning which used all the creativity we could muster. The result? My creativity feels exhausted. My motivation is lost.

For now I will continue my hiatus from photography. I do plan to enjoy railfanning and hanging out with railfan friends since my interest in trains and railroading hasn’t waned at all. When my motivation and creativity return I will once again drag my camera along.

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It Takes People To Run A Train

by Steve Eshom on July 9, 2013

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series CMR Photo Freight 2013

We as railfans tend to get caught up with railroad equipment, history, rivets, and other non-human aspects of railroading.  The honest truth is trains move because of the people behind them.  The excursion I rode on the Central Montana is no different.  Without Carla, Kristi, AJ, Alan, and many others we wouldn’t have turned a wheel.

Engineer Carla

 General Manager, lobbyist, and engineer are just a few of the titles CMR’s Carla Allen holds.  On our spring excursion she did a little of each.

Running around in a couple of 1950’s era GP9’s means problems can happen.  Sure enough when we stopped at Danvers to get the power around to the other end of the train both locomotives wouldn’t load.  With a single ended siding we needed both units move the train around.  Initially Carla and Kristi worked on the issue but soon AJ and Alan were involved.  After 30 minutes of trying different things AJ and Alan popped open a cabinet and started hunting around for the issue.  Soon they discovered a balky relay which stuck in the wrong position and prevented loading.  A quick tap of a flag stick put it back in the right spot and we were in business again.  Without the right people it would have been a long walk back to Denton!

Denton Nights

Our troubleshooters AJ (left) and Alan (right) work to determine which balky relay they need to give a nudge.

With only an engineer and conductor the switching moves at Danvers would have been a challenge.  Thankfully we had a couple of additional railroaders on the excursion and they pitched in to facilitate the work.  After a quick job briefing Alan and AJ teamed up with Kristi and Carla to move the power to the other end of the train.  Without their willingness to volunteer the run around move sure would have taken longer.

AJ

AJ Shewan make a joint between our caboose and a flat car.

As you can see people make it happen, even when it is a simple excursion train…

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Lightroom Organization Tips

by Steve Eshom on July 5, 2013

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Lightroom

Matt Kloskowski wrote a post on common Lightroom organization mistakes the other day.  Before you read my comments, please go read what Matt wrote.

I totally agree with Matt’s points.  I hear criticisms of Lightroom which I believe are because new users try the things Matt mentions when starting to use Lightroom.  When they go down one of these paths they become frustrated because Lightroom didn’t work for them.  A great example is moving images outside of Lightroom.  Once you commit to using Lightroom to organize your images if you manually organize outside of Lightroom it is not going to be looking at the same information as before.  Of course it won’t work right!  My advice to new users is read up on how Lightroom works and study advice from folks like Matt.

Speeding Coal

 

In my Ligtroom Catalog this image lives in the Photos folder on my storage drive.  It has the following keywords which will help me find it
in the future: 2013 06/01 CMR Photo Freight, Cars, Signal.  It also lives in a collection called Blur which helps me identify motion blur images.

To Matt’s list I’d add some items which are to some extent corollaries to Matt’s comments but apply to the railfan community.

Organizing By Rail Artifact

Just like organizing by date, I don’t recommend organizing your images files into a folder system based on a rail artifact like subdivision name, station name, railroad, locomotive model, or locomotive manufacturer.  Once you go down the path of organizing this way you will tend to use the folder structure you created to search for things.   Doing that defeats the purpose of having a robust organizing tool like Lightroom.   Instead I recommend all the original images are placed into a single folder and Lightroom keywords are used to categorize by your favorite rail artifact data.  Inside of Lightroom you not only would have access to search the keywords you assigned, but you’d also have an indication of which images are your picks (flags, colors, stars), and the metadata associated to the image.

If you organize images by a rail artifact today transitioning inside of Lightroom to keywords is pretty straightforward and quick.  I would import the photos using the folder structure you have today.  If  you organized by station name, click on the station name folder under Folders on the left side, do Ctrl/Cmd-A to select all the images, then add a keyword for the station name on the right side under Keywording.  Lastly move all of the images to the new folder structure.  Done!

In my catalog I keyword every image with an event (why I was shooting) and keywords which tell me more about what
is in an image.  Railroad images which include a locomotive are key worded with a locomotive number.

Renaming Files

I’ve heard many railfans rename their files to include information about the photo.  For example “4449_AMTK51_trip_to _bend_taken_at_moody_oregon.jpg”.  File names are not the best way to convey meta data like this.  There are too few characters and if you forget your naming standard suddenly there is no consistency so finding something becomes even more difficult.  Instead I recommend keeping the file name as simple as possible.  For the longest time I continued to use the file name assigned by the camera.   As Lightroom detected duplicates it appended a -# (e.g. IMG-0001-5.cr2).  That was fine but I wanted it a bit cleaner so I added the d

ate and time of capture to the file name to keep each file name unique.  There are many different schemes for this so I’m not saying mine is the best way.  My though is pick a naming convention that keeps the file names relatively unique and doesn’t include caption or keyword information.

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All of my images have a modified filename which includes the date and original file name.

Those are my thoughts on organizing in Lightroom.  If any of you railfans would like my thoughts on your personal situation or catalog, drop me an email.  I’d love to get you started in the right direction.

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Sage Creek

by Steve Eshom on July 2, 2013

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series CMR Photo Freight 2013

As railfans know there are a few iconic locations where rail lines, scenery, and structures converge into unprecedented scenes.  For the Central Montana this iconic location falls beween the Hoosac tunnel and the Danvers elevators.  It is a bit of a remote spot where nothing more than a few rattlesnakes and cattle live.  Its name is Sage Creek.  The highlights of this location are of course the 1700′ long Sage Creek trestle and the nearly two mile long sweeping S curve on either side.  Add in Montana’s “Big Sky” and this spot unbeatable.

Arriving Sage Creek

 

The eastbound excursion train descends the 1% grade from Hoosac tunnel towards Sage Creek.

On the south side of Sage Creek mother nature built a viewing platform to end all platforms.  The hills which define the canyon are covered only in grass and are easy to negotiate for an ideal photographic position.  No matter what your taste I think you can find a spot on that hill which will make you smile.  For our excursion Jay and Carla worked together to put the train in various spots so everyone could have that perfect photo.

Sage Creek

Our excursion train parks in the middle of one of the beautiful railroad scenes in Montana.

On the return to Denton we stopped on the north side of the trestle for another photo shoot.  This time we set up much closer to the trestle which gives you the idea just how big it really is.

Sage Creek

Our excursion train is dwarfed by the massive Sage Creek trestle.

With a scene as giant as the S curve and trestle at Sage Creek I think  a 110 car grain train would be much more appropriate for an excursion.

 

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Overtaken

by Steve Eshom on May 22, 2013

Last weekend I attended the annual GorgeRail railroad slideshow in The Dalles, OR.  I took Friday off with plans of railfanning a bit prior to the show on Saturday.  BNSF and UP had other ideas with both railroads shutting down by 9:30am for maintenance.  BNSF worked projects at Cooks and Bates while UP just seemed to run out of trains.  By mid-afternoon trains began to move again which would set me up for the photos I planned around dark (more on that in a later post).

I found myself in downtown The Dalles as the sun began to sink.  I stationed myself on E 1st. street waiting for a westbound M-HKFI to finish their work at The Dalles yard.  While I waited an eastbound grain train approached and I captured this image as it overtook me on the city street.   What a fun place to sit and watch the trains roll by!  I ended up seeing 4 in a matter of a couple of hours at this location.

Overtaken

 An eastbound empty grain train rolls through downtown The Dalles, OR.  E 1st street parallels Union Pacific’s
track #2 through about 1/2 mile of this part of town and makes for a great place to sit and enjoy the action.

Saturday’s shows were engaging, entertaining, and very enjoyable.  I particularly enjoyed David Lange’s Up Close and Personal show which featured his unique perspective on railroad photography.   His show focused on images from his viewpoint and I will say he doesn’t shoot wedgies!  I found each of the shows contained a photographic gem. I saw several in the Rob and Austin Jacox show and a couple in Steve Carter’s review of the Spokane area.  Steve’s show particularly struck me for how he added drama to a couple of images by making the appear to move by revealing more and more of the lit area of the photograph.  Very engaging presentation.  Aaron Hockley’s presentation on train porn was a wonderful after lunch reflection on railfan photography garnering many laughs for the parallels to adult themes.  Scott O’Dell presented some very unique perspectives from the Seattle Sub including many photo locations I’d never been too before.  Martin Burwash and Charles Lange provided shows which gave a wonderful historical perspective to their subjects.  I believe the highlight though was Stathi Pappas’ talk on the world of tourist railroads.  After listening to him you really have to respect the successful tourist railroads which continue to operate.  It is a tough business and I think Stathi has a great insight on where the industry is at and what a railroad has to do to be in the game long term.

Look for more images and updates from the GorgeRail weekend in future dogcaught posts.

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