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.

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.

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.

GorgeRail This Weekend

A westbound Z-CHCPTL2 races through downtown North Bonneville, WA during GorgeRail a few years ago.

Don’t forget this weekend is the annual GorgeRail slideshow at the Discovery Center in The Dalles.  This year’s line up looks fabulous and includes dogcaught.com founder Aaron Hockley presenting an amusing look at railfan photography.  I plan to be there enjoying the shows and hanging out with friends.  I hope to see many of the dogcaught.com readers there!

Railfan Slideshows and The Mac

Back in February I discussed my new computer and the fact I purchased a MacBook Pro instead of a Windows machine.  Now it is November and I am still very much thrilled with my choice.  The MBP continues to be a low maintenance, high availability computer.  I literally spend all of my time using and zero time maintaining it.

In September I began production on my first slideshow on a Mac.  I faced some choices.  Do I use ProShow through VMware Fusion or do I use FotoMagico (FM), a native Mac app?  I was already familiar with ProShow so using it would be a non-issue for me but running it through Fusion could pose some technical issues.  FotoMagico is a native Mac app so I shouldn’t face any technical issues with it however I knew nothing about FotoMagico and how it worked.

ProShow 5 running in VMWare Fusion on the Mac.

I downloaded the beta for FM 4.0 and went about creating my first slideshow.  FM uses a very similar interface to ProShow so I came up to speed fairly quickly.  In fact after a while there were a few features of FM’s interface which made setting slide timings and audio start and stop much, much easier than ProShow.  In the end I’m certain I spent much less time in FM futzing with incremental timing changes than I would have in ProShow.

After getting a show roughed out I produced some sample outputs to see what things were looking like.  This is where things started to go off track a bit.  FM uses Quicktime to build movie file outputs.  What I found is no matter how I set up the movie file setting the result would come out washed out.  I googled the issue and guess what, I’m not the only one with the problem.  In fact Quicktime outputs on both Mac and Windows have the problem.  There are ways to make it better but it seemed there was no way to make the output look exactly like the original.  I was frustrated because my plan was to create a movie file which could be played on Windows.  Just like ProShow, the very best output was produced using the executable created from the software and not a movie file.

FotoMagico running natively on the Mac.

I was at a decision point.  Compromises existed with whichever route I chose and no single solution worked perfect.  Sounds like normal life right?  I ended up going the route of FotoMagico primarily because it is a native Mac app and secondarily because I enjoyed the user interface just a bit more than ProShow.  FM also shares more smoothly with my iPhone (and iPad if I had one).  It seems I drank the Apple Kool-Aid (apple juice?).  Additional factors played in including the fact I have several other presentations I need to do in the next year and they will all be done using my Mac so presenting them using FM’s built in player would be no problem.  On top of that the Autumn Leaf team decided to go ahead with using two presentation machines so my show for that event was able to be played off my Mac.

I do have some wish list items to send over to the Boinx software team.  I do think ProShow does somethings well that FM does not.   They are not show stoppers for me but I am willing to ask for them because they do make life easier.  If I was to continue with ProShow I would probably send a few wish list items to them based on what I learned from FotoMagico.

In the end I’m pleased with my choice.  I think FotoMagico will work well in the long term and produce the results I need.

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.

Great Slideshow

The past few weeks I’ve been busy with work and with helping Robert with the Autumn Leaf Slideshow.  The more fun part of this time period was of course the slideshow.

This year’s Autumn Leaf was one of the best ever in terms of the content, venue, and technical set up.

Content wise we had some fabulous shows from Ted Smith-Peterson, Steve Carter,  Ken Storey, Dave Honan, and many, many others.  I debuted my program, Magic! also.  All the programs contained some fabulous photography and in some cases one of a kind images which could not be made by anyone other than the person who took them.   Dave’s program and Mike Sawyer’s program also used some creative photos and presentation techniques to make their presentations interesting.  Good stuff all the way around.

The venue this year was the Fox Theater in Centralia.  The theater is undergoing renovation right now and is a bit rough around the edges but the bones are there and formed a great basis for the slide show.  It should be a wonderful venue moving forward.  Next year Robert has some ideas about how to bring some of the photography into the lobby to facilitate more discussions and to have more of people’s work on display.  Look for improvements for next year!

Technically this was one of the best set ups we’ve had at a railfan slideshow ever.  Dale Skyllingstad brought professional audio gear and a brilliant projector.  The sound quality was impeccable!  Additionally the set up was easy to complete and literally worked on the first try.  Talk about a stress free presentation!  The icing on all of this was Paul Peterson’s projector calibrator.   If you’ve calibrated your monitor (you have haven’t you?) you know just how much of a difference calibration can make.  The 6 or 7 minutes spent letting the calibrator do its job was literally the best investment of time that we made.  We did not receive one comment on the color or black level from any presenter or viewer and for me that is the best compliment.   If we do the technical set up the same next year I’ll be happy.

The one area of presentation flaw (and I emphasize very minor here) is in the shows themselves.  If you are planning to present next year expect that your show will be held more closely to the presenters guide than ever before.  While there were no major issues with shows this year we do want to notch it up a bit more for next year so expect to see a revised presenters guide, an absolute deadline for show submission prior to the event and comments from me on adherence to the guide.

As is normal there is some photography to be had on the slideshow weekend.  For me that was Sunday.  I was up fairly early and took advantage of the morning fog to take a few photos before I had to head home for the day.