Drew's Fantastic Train Photo Adventure: July 1-3

Posted by D-Halv
on Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 1

SOO GP38-2 No. 4449 and crew rumble back to Canadian Pacific's Muskego Yard in downtown Milwaukee after switching out cars at Lonestar. Canon EOS 30D, 7/1/2011, 1/800 sec, f/8, ISO 200, 141mm. Drew Halverson photos

What a great Fourth of July weekend, filled with a lot of relaxation and trains! Just a few days into my rail photography project, where I'm striving to photograph 31 different trains from new perspectives in Southeastern Wisconsin, and time is flying!

Let's kick off this weekend recap with a train that I stumbled upon in downtown Milwaukee on Friday night. On Canal Street, there's a cement industry not far from the Harley Davidson Museum. The building features a sky blue pattern painted on the side and large "Lonestar" lettering. I've noticed this area before but have not photographed it since it has what we in the railfan "business" call "lack of train." On this night SOO 4449, a beautiful GP38-2, was switching cement hoppers as I drove by. Since my camera was with me, I got the shot!

What I like:

The hot summer night vibes with setting sun, birds, and electricity, not to mention the street-running, which makes it even more tasty!

What I don't like:

The lack of detail on the locomotive's nose and plow. Part of that is the result of shooting into the sun and is to be expected. Shooting RAW, however, allows for correction in this area and I should've spent a few more minutes working with those settings in Photoshop.

What I learned:

Always have your camera. You never know what you'll come across. Also, scope out an area even if there are no trains present. Someday there will be, and you'll need to be ready.

July 2, 2011

A northbound Canadian National freight has the spotlight as it works past a shaded farmhouse at Rugby Jct., near Ackerville, WI. Canon EOS 30D, 7/2/2011, 1/800 sec, f/6.3, ISO 160, 18mm

Saturday was one of those great railfanning adventure-type days! I received word from credible sources (see July 1 blog about why good friends are so critical) that the EJE 666 was on the point of a northbound CN manifest, just crossing the Illinois-Wisconsin state line. As I sat eating my McDonald's breakfast downtown Milwaukee by the CP tracks, I received this tip. To photograph anything not in CN paint, on the point of a CN train, is rare. To capture an orange EJE unit is even more rare. To get the EJE 666, due to it's odd numerical relevance, is about as rare as coming across an albino tree sloth in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. See my favorite shot of this train from the day, and others, on my Flickr page.

For my photo challenge project, however, I set up shop at a location made famous by the late Ryan Schoenfeldt. He always managed to pull it off with more bang, primarily with early morning light, which enhanced the side of the barn. I was there in the afternoon.

What I like:

The branches framing the image, and the shaded foreground that creates a spotlight for the passing train.

What I don't like:

You know, there's not much I don't like. But I will definitely be coming back some morning when the sun is out, so I can light up the side of the barn.

What I learned:

Friends, again, are critical. Whether they provide helpful hints on pending train moves, or they're helping you get to hard-to-find locations like this one, their inspiration and navigational skills are priceless! 

July 3

The crew onboard today's westbound Empire Builder share a friendly wave as No. 7 departs Milwaukee for points west. Canon EOS 30D, 7/3/2011,  1/800 sec, f/6.3, ISO 160, 18mm

On Sunday, I was back downtown Milwaukee where the westbound Empire Builder was running late, which was lucky for me. I stood at one of my favorite spots on Grieves Street, just off of St. Paul Avenue. The CP tracks (from the Amtrak depot) join alongside this section of the street, putting you right in the action! I've done the telephoto zoom shot here, which gives the impression that the train is coming straight at you. I've also tried some wide angle views from different spots nearby. I wanted elevation this time though, so i went to the top of my Aztek! (If you ever see the orange Pontiac Aztek with the Denver Broncos logo on the back window, that's me. There isn't another one like it.) You can see that with the added height, I'm about window-level with Engineer Craig Willett (waving the orange paperwork) and crew. 

What I like:

The elevation. It's amazing the perspective you can achieve with just a few added vertical feet. In addition, the wide angle lens combined with the diverging street and tracks creates a visual "Y" shape.

What I don't like:

The overcast, of course. What photographer does? 

What I learned:

Overcast is sometimes part of the challenge and one of the reasons it's a bit easier to try new angles. If you like the result, try it again when the lighting is more to your liking. 


Flickr: "Drew's Fantastic Train Photo Adventure, 2011"
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