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.


One of the big reasons to travel to Eastern Washington in June is the sun.  June tends to be cloudy and gloomy west of the mountains but east the sun is usually out this time of year.   Add in the fact this spring was historically cool and damp and there is a great motivation to head into the scab lands for some trains in June.

On Friday of the trip we experienced some of the best sun all year.  As we sat at Beatrice and let the trains come to us the sun, clouds, and sky conspired to form an almost a painted scene.  Thanks to the cool, wet spring the wheat  was still green and lush making what looks like a green carpet.  A great location to photograph one of the many manifests headed to Pasco for classification.

Eastern Washington is also a wonderful place for sunsets.  With no trees blocking the horizon it is easy to enjoy the very last moments the sun appears above the earth.  Add in a few of the leftover clouds from the day and it can be a wonderful scene.  We sat at Keystone from the late afternoon and into the evening enjoying wonderful train traffic and a great sunset!


Photography Day In The Gorge

Robert Scott invited me to join him and some friends in the Columbia River Gorge for some waterfall and railfan photography yesterday.  I enjoy both waterfalls and railfanning so I said yes.

The morning was quite dark and wet which was perfect for photographing waterfalls.  Even light is a great thing when working around waterfalls so the morning weather was perfect though a bit wet.  We visited numerous falls and then introduced Robert’s friends to railfan photography.  Two of the three guests jumped on the opportunity and started making some interesting photos.  The third was struggling to understand how to treat a train as a primary subject.  I think that is totally understandable if you don’t have a passion for trains and railroading.  He made the best of it though as we photographed other things like the church at Maryhill, Stonehenge Memorial, and a few other falls.

The rain and dark conditions continued into mid-afternoon when the skies broke up a bit.  Of course as the light became more interesting the trains stopped thanks to a bad frog at Home Valley on the BNSF.  Just before sunset the trains started to break loose and I found myself on a viewpoint above Cooks.  When I initially set up for the photograph shown below the light was more even and the snow capped mountains in the background stood out beautifully.  Not two minutes before the train showed up everything changed drastically.  The sun popped out from behind the dark clouds and all but obscured the mountains.  I almost gave up on the photo because the mountains I admired had mostly disappeared.  I shot the 6 image pano anyway and figured I might be able to make something of it.

The rest of the group was at the S curve east of Home Valley.   My light good fortune was their misfortune.  Not 2 minutes before the train arrived at their location the beautiful sun I saw went away and they were left with the flat light I was planning on.  Such is the luck of the draw when photographing in the Spring.

On the First Days of the Journey

On the first days of our desert adventure we visited Tehachapi.  Tehachapi is one of my favorite locations because everywhere you look the railroad is interesting.  If I lived nearby like our friend Darren, I’d love it because there is so much to see and photograph.  I’d love to be able to spend the time to wait for the right light for some of the unusual locations on the pass.

We were quite fortunate to find the grass green below the loop so we spent some time chasing the variable light and the green grass.  The results were spectacular!  In the photo above from Bealville the hills in the background demonstrate how the light was quite hit and miss. 30 seconds before I snapped this photo the entire south switch area was shadowed.   Then wham, out comes the sun!

I really had to keep my eye on things as the light changed so quickly.  The next photo is the same train passing the NSS Cliff and within a few seconds the light would again change but fortunately everything held up and the train and hills were lit just right.

Sandcut is the site of many a fabulous sunset photographs and despite that this is my first visit to this location in 4 tries.  Sadly timing of the the train traffic didn’t support a perfect sunset photo.  Instead I had to settle for this photo of the H-EVEBAR leaving Bakersfield and heading for the hill under a sky that saw sunset about 20 minutes before.

I’m ready for Tehachapi again soon!