Saturday, February 10, 2018

In your own back yard

Sometimes great shots are as close as your own back yard...

Over Christmas I brought my DSLR with me on my travels.   Then it ended being cold enough that hading out with the camera wasn't very appealing...    But one quiet afternoon I looked out the window to see leaves on the dec.  The leaves were arranged just so, on the faded wooden deck, that it was crying out to be photographed.

One loop around the house was all I got in until my fingers got cold..   Not very adventurous, but my photo eye was in high gear.   I got photos of my leaves.    A lot of shots didn't work out. Many did.   But it was a nice reminder that if you look different, you can find inspiration wherever you go.

Things started off well with the front door

The front yard had a nice pine tree.  Tried several different shots in order to get something interesting.   I ended up getting in close.   Play with exposure.  Convert to Black & White, and got something interesting


Around the corner to the shed.   Nice and weatherbeaten.   Get the right angle, include some background, then some B&W treatment for some extra mood...

Hard at Work
"Hard at Work"

A shot of the wooded back hard.   Nice, but didn't do it for me.   It's a nice enough photograph.  but there's no reason for you to look at it.   No real subject.   Nothing for the viewer to focus on.  Doesn't bring the viewer any mood or emotion.   (I also didn't have the big zoom lens, so you can't see the fox way in the background)

The back woods.  

However there were some hydrangea with the petals in tact.   I got down close, focused on a set of petals and set the F aperture for a shallow depth of field. 

Hydrangea, Past
Hydrangea, Past

And then my leaves.   They were on a nice grey well worn porch, but the leaves had retained their nice brown colors, and happened to be scattered in some interesting patterns.   Then selected the more interesting ones to share.

Leaf study #3
Leaf study #4

There was enough texture to convert some to B&W as well.  I love the texture and the play of light that B&W brings out.

Leaf study #2
Leaf study #3

Not sure if this one worked.   What do you think?    Always a challenge when the wind picks up.

Ended my walk around the house, of course, lying on the ground.  A small almost unnoticable statuette seems to come to life when looked at form ground level.


Thanks for touring the yard with me.   I hope you've enjoyed the image, and that I've inspired you get out and shoot, no matter where you might be.

Visit my Flickr page for more images.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Can you see it?

ISS transit over the moon?

Here in New England, we're at a low enough altitude that, on occasion, the International Space Station (ISS) will be visible in the night sky.   Usually in the hour or two before or after sunset, when the station can still reflect enough sunlight to be seen from the ground.   It looks like a satellite traveling fast across the sky.   

ISS in transit over the Boston night sky

Now, a friend at work let me know that ISS would transit the moon.    That is, the ISS would pass in front of the moon.   That would make a neat photograph.

First challenge - I only have a 300mm lens - would I see anything?

Second challenge - it was too far after sunset to see the ISS as a streak in the sky - would I be able to capture the ISS based on time alone?

I head out at the appointed time, set up the tripod, set exposure to get a decent moon shot.   Then wait.   

A few seconds before the appointed time, I get heartbroken.   Light clouds have arrived and occasionally obscure the moon.  I snap away for a few seconds before and a minute or so after, blindly hoping to get something.   Visually, I see nothing cross the moon.

The only way to tell if this was worth it is to get the photos into Lightroom and zoom away.  Once I all of the images resized and aligned I started scrolling through the images, and I saw it.   

Regular moon photo 

Something special on this shot.   The ISS?? 

Close enough for me!!   I think I did catch the station.   Your verdict?

Now, to contemplate buying a teleconverter for next time...

When will the ISS fly over you?   Visit the Spot the Station web site and sign up for alerts from NASA.

My friend used the CalSky site to find the moon transit.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Railfanning: Lancaster Station

Heading north from Strasburg I made a quick stop at Lancaster train station in Lancaster, PA.  Built by the Pennsvlania railroad in 1929, back in the days when even the most remote stations wee built to be impressive.

The station underwent a major restoration, completed in 2013.   The inside of the station looks amazing, while the platforms are a mix of nostalgia and needing a bit of TLC.

Building exterior. 

Renovated lobby
Past the doors is an over-track waiting room

The way up
Stairs from the waiting room to the platform

Waiting Area
Older style platform shelter

Rivets and lattice steel.    Definitely the original shelter

It looks like the station used to have at least 8 tracks through it - almost hard to imagine a smaller city having this large a station.    The station is now down to 4 tracks - two for passenger service and 2 for freight service.

Tracks heading West.  You can see the empty space where additional tracks once were.  Also notice fencing has reduced the length of the platforms - smaller trains stopping here these days. While the right (Passenger side) is open, the left side (off camera) has a fence keeping passengers away from the freight bypass (can see more in photos below)

Shot of the above track waiting room and stairs to the platforms.
Elevators have been added opposite the stairs (brick work behind the cab car)
Oh, and the Philadelphia bound train arrives.

I was there on a Saturday morning, and there wasn't much freight action.  Just saw two freight trains in my hour there.

This train never came through the station - just backed to the switch and went back East

This train did come through on the bypass track

This young lady didn't appreciate the noise

Train?   What train? This woman barely noticed

The only predictable traffic are the Philadelphia-Harrisburg trains - Amtrak's keystone service.  If you have the Amtrak smartphone app you can tell when the next train in either direction will arrive.

Westbound Keystone train departs Lancaster station

I had no problem taking photographs in the station, and was able to get to the platform without needing a ticket.  So as long as you are responsible, you should have no problem taking photographs at the station.

Video of the freight passing through the station

Happy railfanning!!   Please add a comment if you get to or have been to Lancaster station


See more photographs on my Flickr pages.

Lancaster, PA

I recently took a short trip to Lancaster, PA.  The area is beautiful rolling farmland, worthy of a much longer visit than I gave it.   But in the day I was there, I managed to take some great photographs.

This is the heart of Amish country, with farms growing corn, tobacco and soy, with plenty of grasslands (not sure if they are unfarmed or just fallow fields).

But even just being there for a day, I took some great photos.   And a lightly clouded sky made for some outstanding black and white images.   I still would love to head back for a longer trip one day and do some more exploring.

Many of the photos below were taken from a trip on the Strasburg railroad,  which gives some great vantage points as you travel through the country side.

Clicking on most images will make them larger.

Typical farm scene

Rolling hills of grass and crops

Clouds make the scene - farmlands extending all the way to the hills.

Concentric Corn
Corn lined up in rows.

Happy Cows
Some happy cows

Some cows not happy to see our train at all.

'round the bend
Our train rolling through farmland

Corn Maze
A corn maze

Fields of Soy

High and Low Tech
Amish farmer with horse drawn equipment

A final B&W image.  Those amazing clouds...

Some more photos from this trip can be found on my Flickr album.

Rail Destination: Strasburg, PA

This year I decided to extend my PA trip to Allentown for DCI East to include a side trip to the Strasburg Railroad.

The Strasburg railroad is the oldest continuously operated railroad charter in the US.   Today' it's a tourist railroad running several steam trains per day on a short 45 minute excursion trip (an out and back ride - 4.5 miles).   The locomotives and various passenger cars are all historic equipment, restored to running condition.   Trains run hourly, and there are plenty of things to do on site for the kids.   There are occasional special trains, like a Wine and Cheese special, or a Day Out with Thomas.  (They also do limited freight service....)  The rail cars range from an open air coach (great for photos!) to an air conditioned parlor car.

Across the street is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, a large collection of restored equipment, cars and locomotives, preserved in an indoor climate controlled environment.    It's easy to take in both attractions on the same day (at a discounted price).

The trip is through the beautiful Lancaster county countryside, making the train ride a great way to see the area.  You can see some of my on-train photos here.

If you're ever in the Lancaster area, a trip to Strasburg RR needs to make it on your agenda!

Down the tracks
The previous excursion train approaches the station

Train arriving at the station.  
Steam always look great in Black & White - the clouds were an added bonus

Locomotive #90 runs around our train to pull us back to the station
Ironically, the Steam excursion turns around at the Amtrak electrified Harrisburg line.

'round the bend
Our train as we go around a bend.   Farmland runs on either side of us.

An open coach.  
Not the most luxurious, but no windows makes better photograph opportunities

One last Steam photograph

 The RR museum of PA - half the collection, as seen from a catwalk.

You can find more photos from my Lancaster trip on my Flickr pages.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Railfanning: Macungie, Pennsylvania

When I travel for any reason I always do a little research to see if there are any good railfanning spots in the area.   You never know if you're near a hotspot of how much rail traffic might be in the area.

So I'm planning on our annual trip to Allentown for the DCI East Coast finals.   Having driven around Allentown for Drum Corps, I did notice lots of tracks in the area, but had no clue what traffic went where, or where some good spots are.   Plus, not everyone on the trip is a railroad fan.   (OK, none of them are).   But I didn't want them to stop me.

The park

Searching the internet I found a place in Macungie, PA - a park dedicated for railfanning!  I found an article that details the planting of the  Flower Park adjacent to the tracks,  but only this fellow railfan's article on the construction of the station-like pavilion that sits next to the flower park and the tracks.

The only remnant of the original train station is a crumbling curb which was the station platform back in the day...   However, the flower park is quite nice, and worth walking through while waiting for trains.  Even during my August visit the park was in full bloom - the park is certainly well cared for.

Railfan Park
Entrance to the flower park off of the main street.   
Tracks are behind the white fence, and the pavilion is off photo to the right.

Macungie Station
Macungie station/pavilion.   
Flower park on the left.  Tracks on the right.  Grade crossing near the van in o the left.

As a railfan, it was nice to see a place for us.   Railfanning is often pulling your car to the side of the road or some other out of the way place near tracks where you can see trains and not trespass on railroad or private property.   Here the pavilion is adjacent to parking, provides shelter from the sun and rain, and has plenty of seating!    When I was there Saturday I also ran into some locals there to train spot as well - everyone was very friendly!

But to the trains...

An Eastbound autorack train at the crossing

The action was pretty good at the location.  I was there on a Friday afternoon and Saturday late morning, and saw many trains bother times.  Flow isn't consistent - 4 trains in one hour, then nothing the next hour sometimes.    There were a lot of trains Saturday morning as (we assumed) they were clearing the yard and sending all the trains out...

7506 returns
A Westbound mixed freight.   I'll see this same locomotive again the next day.

If you don't have a scanner, it's still easy to spot when trains are approaching.  Eastbound trains go over 2 other grade crossings before reaching Macungie, so if you keep your ears open you can hear the whistle for those crossings and be ready.

Westbound trains have no grade crossings, but looking west there is an approach-list signal, so when that turns green something is most likely on it's way.   There's also a good sight line both east west, so you can just keep your eyes open.    but trains come through at a good clip, so once you can see a train, it'll be on you within 30-odd seconds.

Macungie East Macungie West
Looking East (left) and West (right) from Macungie station

If you're ever in the area, I encourage you to visit Macungie.   The railfan park is a great resource.  There's a convenience store across the street.  If you're there on the weekend there may be other events going on in the town (there was a giant flea market and antique car show the weekend I was there).  And, if you're lucky, you'll run into some other railfans there!

Some young kids (with Mom) showed up to railfan, and were rewarded with a wave by the engineer.


While snapping photos with the SLR, I propped up the iPhone for some video.    A compendium is below.

Happy railroading!

More of my photos from Macungie can be found here.

Railfan information about Macungie.