Through The Lens 84 – Chasing the J

Christiansburg Grade

Half the fun of photography is the experience behind each image.  In the case of this image, I’ll never forget the sound of N&W 611 crawling up the grade outside Christiansburg pulling a 19 car train while doing her best Mt. Vesuvius impression, or the moment when the exhaust hit the underside of the highway bridge we were standing on, lifting the bridge upward.

 

Through The Lens 83 – Ravens Roost Overlook

Ravens Roost Overlook Sunset

This photo of sunset at Ravens Roost Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway is another case of luck favoring the prepared.  I was driving from work in Baltimore down to Roanoke for Memorial Day Weekend to photograph N&W 611 on her trips out of Roanoke.  During lunch at work I took a couple of minutes to look up potential sunset locations on the the Blue Ridge Parkway just in case I was ahead of schedule and had time to head back up the parkway after checking into my hotel.  Four traffic accidents on I-81 turned a 4 hour drive into 7 hours, but remembering one photo I saw of an overlook at the North end of the parkway, I turned east on I-64 with just enough time to get to Ravens Roost Overlook before sunset.  Sometimes you just get lucky.

Through The Lens 82 – Monocacy National Battlefield

14th New Jersey Monument - Sunrise

14th New Jersey Monument at Sunrise on the 150th Anniversary.  I managed to get a couple of photos early the morning of the anniversary before heading to work.

The 153rd anniversary on the Battle that Saved Washington is this coming Sunday.

Through The Lens 81 – Happy Independence Day

Yes, I know I’m a couple of days early, but since I post these on Fridays, this is as close as we’re going to get.  Anyway, this one is from a few years back.  I’ve only shot the Washington DC Independence Day fireworks from the Marine Corps Memorial one time and found it to be a very difficult exposure.  The monument is so dark compared to the fireworks that most of what I got was either badly overexposed fireworks or an underexposed monument.  Fortunately I got one good frame out of that attempt.  Maybe I’ll try it again someday.

Happy Independence Day!

 

Through The Lens 80 – The Last Circus Train

When Feld Entertainment announced they were closing the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, I hoped I would have a chance to see the RBBBX Circus Train that was used to move the performers and equipment from city to city.  There were two such trains, the Red Unit and the Blue Unit, one for each of the two traveling shows.  Both trains were a mile long, making them the largest passenger trains on the rails.

With the Blue Unit running 3 hours ahead of schedule May 8th on its way from Charleston WV to Long Island NY, there was little chance I would be able to catch it after work and in the daylight the next day.  Mechanical issues caused an 8 hour delay in Roanoke VA, which allowed me to catch the train between Shepherdstown WV and Sharpsburg, MD.  Sometimes you just get lucky, this was one of those times.

Through The Lens 79 – Cattleya ‘William Gee Grade A’

Blc. William Gee Grade A

A plant from my Dad’s Cattleya Orchid collection.  Brassolaeliocattleya ‘William Gee Grade A’ is a beautiful white cattleya with a yellow throat.

Photographing anything white like this is a challenge.  There’s a fine line too bright and too dark.  If you go too bright, the overexposed highlights will cause you to loose the fine details and texture.  Too dark and the white turns into a bland gray.  If you’re trying to shoot something like this, watch the histogram and make sure you have the highlight warnings turned on in your camera.  A few “blinkies” here and there is ok since you want some pure white in the frame.

Trip Report – The East Broad Top 2017

The East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company, located in Rockhill Furnace, PA is a place where time stands still.  The railroad, touted as one of the oldest and best preserved railroads, operated from 1871 until it closed in 1956.  The EBT was then purchased by a salvage company who eventually decided to operate a portion of the railroad as a tourist line starting in 1961. While operations ceased in 2011, the Friends of The East Broad Top have continued to lovingly restore the structures that make up the Rockhill Yard and Shop Complex.

When visiting it’s not hard to feel like you have traveled back in time a half century or more. So, when my friend and fellow photographer, Matthew Malkiewicz announced that he had secured access for a small group of photographers to visit this past January, I jumped at the chance to participate.

I arrived shortly after sunrise, hoping to get some shots around the yard in early morning sunlight. Unfortunately it was cloudy, but it had been several years since I had been there so found things to shoot despite the less than optimal lighting.

Moss Covered Coal Hoppers:

Moss Covered Wheels:

Wheels

A Pair of Switch Stands – notice the glove, most likely left by the last person who threw the switch, waiting to be picked up again, just like the line waits for operations to re-start:

The Three Way Switch – a very rare occurrence on railroads.  There are only two others that I’m aware of.

Once the rest of the group arrived we headed into the Roundhouse for two hours before breaking for lunch.

Locomotives Waiting:

Journal Oil Can:

Oil Can and Cobwebs:

Oil Can

After Lunch we moved into the shops complex for a couple of hours.

The Blacksmith Shop – Not many people have been in this building.  The columns rotted over the years resulting in a severe tilt to the building that was repaired in the last few years.

Blacksmith Shop

The Foundry:

Crucible

The Machine Shop was full of scenes, large and small:

Zanol Cocoa – Quality First:

Quality Cocoa

Light:

Boiler Shop:

You could spend days in a place like this and never run out of things to photograph. I hope to get to spend more time at the East Broad Top in the future.

Through The Lens 78 – Time Warp

The East Broad Top Railroad in Orbisonia, PA is one of those places where time stands still.  This shot of the roundhouse was taken this past January but could have easily been taken a half century ago.

I’ll post a trip report next Tuesday.

Through The Lens 77 – The Mighty J

The Norfolk & Western Class “J” 611 is an incredible machine. She was designed to pull the N&W’s premiere passenger trains at speeds up to 100mph. As the only example of this class of locomotive to survive the scrapper’ torch, we’re lucky she’s operational today.

In the photo above, we see her rolling past the former N&W Freight House in Roanoke.  The site is now home to the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Last week was the third weekend I photographed her this spring. Watch for the trip Report in a couple of weeks.

Trip Report – Colorado Fall Color 2016 Part 2

Devil's Lookout

Continuing where we left off in Part 1 of the trip report, after leaving Mesa Verde National Park, I drove North to Montrose Colorado to be in position for sunrise at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison became a National Park on October 21, 1999, encompasing 30,750 acres and is known for its incredibly steep cliffs and narrow canyon.  At its narrowest point, Chasm View, the canyon is 1,100ft wide at the rim, 40ft wide at the river and 1,820ft deep!  This unique steepness and narrowness is caused by the steep route the Gunnison River takes through the canyon.  It averages 34ft of drop per mile which causes the river to cut deeper into the canyon faster than the walls can erode and widen the canyon.

Island Peaks:
Island Peaks

Pulpit Rock:
Pulpit Rock

Chasm View:

Chasm View

The canyon is difficult to photograph during the day due to the huge contrast between the shadows and the sunny side of the canyon. I think this park may be best captured in the pre-dawn and post sunset light.  A second trip to better capture this park is definitely in order.

Part 3 of the trip report will cover Maroon Bells and Great Sand Dunes National Park.