Denton Nights

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series CMR Photo Freight 2013

CMR 1824 leads a freight train through downtown Denton, MT passed Central Montana Rail Inc’s. shops.

On June 1st I was privileged to ride a chartered photo freight on the Central Montana Railroad.  Twenty of us chartered an 8 car train, 2 locomotives, a caboose, and two fabulous CMR employees.  In turn the CMR ran us to various photo locations between Arrow Creek and Ware where we photographed the train and worked with the crew perform run bys.   What a deal eh?  There is nothing like having your own personal train and crew to set up great photos.  Sound like fun?  You bet it was!

Friday night as the heavy rains cleared Jeff Robertson and many of the riders set up for a night photo session in Denton, MT.  Carla, the general manager and engineer, was kind enough to spot not only our train in front of the the elevators in town but pull a few of the locomotives out of the shop to anchor the scene.  This of course was one of the first of many wonderful things Carla helped us with on the excursion day.

Other than a bit of the usual Central Montana wind the night photo shoot turned out wonderful.  Jeff did a great job with the lighting and making sure everyone had a chance to do their own exposure and composition.  After I made my request I moved around to various locations while everyone else set up their shots.  By 11:45pm I was tired and headed back to Stanford for the night.

Next up: Riding the photo freight!

Summer Solstice at Fields – The Making Of

A few weeks ago I posted a time lapse video to Facebook for my friends there.  It isn’t all the remarkable of a time lapse but does have a quite the story behind it.

I knew there was a southbound out of Eugene and I had an idea for a time lapse sequence up at tunnel 6.  I drove up there as the sun was setting which would give me time to get set up while it was still light.  As I turned onto the road to tunnel 6 I had to stop.  There was a 2′ high snow drift across the road and I was stymied.  No time lapse at tunnel 6.  Strike 1.

I decided to head back down to Fields and set up there for a time lapse sequence.  I drove into the open area of the Fields slide and proceeded to set up my gear.  It was more dark now so a light was required.  I began to pull my gear out of the Yukon and suddenly realized something was missing.  I checked several spots in the rig.  Sure enough, I’d left my tripod at home.  Strike 2.

I stood there for several minutes listening to the train climb up through McCredie Springs.  I criticized my packing skills using some colorful language and pretty much figured I was doomed for any night photos.  I then sat in the rig and sulked for a bit.  Game off.

Then it hit me.  I could use something to set the camera on and get it above the level of the grass in the field.  But what?  The 5 gallon water jug I carry for extra water would work!  Game on!  I pulled it out and found an appropriate place to set it up.  I set the camera on it and looked through the viewfinder.  Not bad!  I grabbed a small piece of wood to prop the lens up a bit and composition wise I was in business.  A few test shots later and I was ready for a train.

Since the train sounded to be all EMD I grabbed the Zoom H4n and prepped it for recording.  Of course the stand for it was at home next to the tripod.  Strike 3.  I choose to just set it on the ground about 100 feet from where I stood with the camera.

When the train came out of tunnel 18 I turned on the recorder and headed back to the camera.  DON’T BUMP THE CAMERA!  I picked up the remote did another test shot and then waited for the train to come out of tunnel 17 to begin firing.  Through all 84 images I took I kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t bump something and mess it up.  I moved slowly and carefully and everything seemed to go fine.

After the DP went out of sight around the corner to tunnel 16 I ceased firing and felt comfortable picking up the camera to see what I’d done.  A quick pass through and every thing seemed OK.  Whew, I think I pulled it off!  I stood there for at least another 5 minutes and let the Zoom record the sound of the train climbing up through Fields and finally shut it off after the DP went through ‘downtown’ Fields.

Despite being out on strikes I was still able to cobble together something pretty cool.  At one moment I figured I was going to be totally out of the night photo game but the scout in me kicked in and I tried something on a whim that worked well.  Now it is time to go build a check list so I don’t forget stuff like this again!

Long Night Ahead

December 21, 2010 was officially the winter solstice which means 15 hours and 20 minutes of darkness in Vancouver…

Amtrak Cascades train 509 arrived in Vancouver around 8:35pm.  With 3 hours and 10 minutes more until it arrives in Eugene it will be on the move only a small portion of the remaining night.  Once 509 arrives in Eugene there is still much work to be done.  The train will be fueled, serviced, turned, and cleaned in preparation for departure at 5:30am on 12/22, still more than 2 hours before sunrise.  This train certainly has a long night ahead.  With an approach medium at the Oregon Slough to cross over around the Subaru Job, the night may be just that much longer.

The Port of Vancouver hosts Subaru as one of its tenants while The Port of Portland hosts Honda and Ford.  Together they generate several trains a week of new automobiles for points all over the U.S.  The problem is the two facilities are a couple of miles apart.  Enter BNSF’s Subaru Job.  The Subaru Job shuttles loaded and empty auto racks between the Subaru facility in Vancouver and the Rivergate/T6 facility at the Port of Portland.   Most evenings it departs Vancouver with loads after 6:30pm and arrives back with empties around 9pm.  At 8:57pm, with not even 1/3 of the long night past, a crewman on the Subaru Job lines the south end of the NP Pass to let the job into so the empties can be spotted.

It’s a long night ahead.