5 Straight Days – Part II

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series 5 Straight Days

As I mentioned in my earlier post I spent 5 straight days over the last weekend with railfanning related activities.   The first 3 days I spent travelling through the Columbia River Gorge with local friends and some out of town visitors.  My goal over these 3 days was to make sure our out of town friends had a great time.  I go to the gorge often enough that I don’t need to push hard to photograph everything I see.

The Northwest finally transitioned into the normal fall and early winter weather where it rains or is cloudy most days from the Cascade crest to the west.  The first day of the trip aligned perfectly with this.  Robert had the tour guide duties covered for most of the morning so I stopped off in the middle of one of the rainiest spots in Washington to gather a couple of rainy day photos.  North Bonneville lies smack in the middle of the Cascade Mountain range so it can see much more rain than other areas thanks to the ability of the mountains to wring moisture out of clouds. With a couple of trains to photograph I decided to scope out the fall colors and work them in to contrast with the slate gray clouds around.

After North Bonneville I moved east and found improving weather conditions.  The constant clouds gave way to broken clouds with some sun.  That mix was both a blessing and a curse.  Over the next two days the clouds did end up hurting some wonderful photographs by appearing at just the wrong time.  Since this was supposed to be a relaxed trip for me I didn’t worry about the variable light.  I continued photographing and enjoying what I saw.

On two different occasions the group ended up at MP 99 on the UP between The Dalles and Biggs.  The magic of this location it has sun on it through most of the day thanks to a big sweeping curve which can be used advantageously.   By now we’d joined up with visitors from California and Georgia and they were absolutely loving the location.  I was happy to see them climbing all around and getting excited for the next train.

This image gives a great example of the conditions we were dealing with over the days in the Gorge.  Fortunately the light was on the subject this time.

Friday was a washout.  Heavy rain was predicted for the Gorge and Vancouver and a MOW window opened on both the BNSF and UP that morning.   We awoke a bit late that day and took our time getting breakfast.  The visitors headed east in hopes of finding trains and better weather but instead found clouds and a shut down railroad.  They did score a few photos though.  I headed west and spent some time doing the Portland hobby shop loop with another group.  In terms of photography not much happened on Friday.

Saturday was of course slide show day and I’ll cover that in a post next week.

Sunday I did a bit of railfanning as I worked my way from Centralia back to Vancouver.  In my earlier post I presented one of my two favorite images from the day.  The other one is below.  Again, I love the contrast between the fall colors and the gray-blue hills.  Some say they don’t like cloudy days, well I do (shhh, don’t tell anyone I said that).

I walked away from these railfanning days with some images I love and some great memories.  The groups I hung out with over these 5 days have a wonderful passion for railroads and railroad photography.  Even when train traffic was slow or the light was less than desired we had a great time hanging out and waiting for the next thing.  That’s all you can ask for from railfanning weekend.

5 Straight Days

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series 5 Straight Days

Five straight days of railfanning and a slideshow.  Wow!

I just finished a 5 day weekend with my northwest railfan friends and some visitors from around the U.S. and world.  We spent 3 days in the gorge and a couple of days between Vancouver and Seattle.  To top it off we had a fabulous afternoon and evening of slideshows (http://autumnleafslideshow.blogspot.com/) at the Fox Theater in Centralia.

A northbound Union Pacific train crosses the Cowlitz River in full fall splendor.

I took a more relaxed stance on this trip and found myself enjoying the photography and railfanning experience much more.  In fact I concentrated more on helping the visitors into interesting locations rather than driving hard for my own photos.  In the end helping was more rewarding than taking all the images myself.  The fact several folks went home very happy made me feel good.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I took plenty of photographs.  I saved my photography though for the times when the light was good and the subject very interesting.  When the light was flat and boring and subject average I left the camera in the bag and enjoyed the passage of the train.

I’ll share more of my images and thoughts from the 5 days in upcoming posts, so stay tuned.


Yesterday I drove up to Ridgefield in hopes of seeing some fall colors.  It is just a touch early down here at sea level for the best colors though with the first frost of the season this morning the colors should move along quickly now.  Unfortunately the leaves in this spot won’t be as vibrant as you might see in the Northeast but there should be plenty of nice yellow here.  I may have to sneak up there again before the season is over.

UP Kalama Grain Train

Fall also means the annual Autumn Leaf Slide Show.  As usual this year I’ll be running the presentation laptop (resident A/V geek).  One of the bonuses of this job is I get a preview of the shows.  Let me tell you that from what I’ve seen so far there are some great shows and even more spectacular photography.   I think this is shaping up to be one of the best Autumn Leaf shows ever.  If you you are not aware of Autumn Leaf, drop Robert an email for an invite so you can enjoy an evening of slide show entertainment!