Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Lights, Locomotive, Action!
Getting the sun, the earth and a train to align for a perfect shot
This, along with the brutal cold, was throwing a wrench into my well-laid plans. If we couldn’t get this shot off before the end of twilight, I’d have no separation of the building and train from the sky. Of course, Murphy’s Law being the operative law of my universe, the train didn’t pull in till about 5 p.m. And it seemed to take forever to get turned and watered, so by the time it pulled into place, I basically had no light left in the sky. But that wasn’t the worst of my problems!
The wind was coming from behind the train, blowing right toward my camera position. The big beautiful plume of steam that emanates from the engine’s stack was blowing horizontally right at the camera and swathing the entire platform in hot, thick steam. I shot a frame, determined that my exposure was in the ballpark and then tried to shoot as quickly as I could (but not too fast, since the units were firing at full power and I didn’t want to melt them down), hoping for a frame in between gusts of wind.
But basically, I was caught in a cloud of coal steam, and then the train was gone! Rats! I did manage one or two clean frames, and they looked best in black-and-white because, for some reason, the separation of the station roofline from the sky was more noticeable in monochrome.
If At First You Don’t Succeed... Because of my travel schedule, I’d have only one more crack, the Sunday before Christmas, at getting the train in the station at twilight before the railroad went back on its regular, non-holiday hours. It was less cold, with very little wind, and Josh and I were confident as we set up the three lights again and waited for the train.
This time, it was right on time. The engine repositioned, re-watered and was pulling into place—and kept going! It moved up another 20 yards or so past its usual waiting spot right next to the station before coming to rest, well past my lighting setup. A quick panicked conference with the engineer, and I found out that the holiday trains are so popular they had to add extra cars, and he had to move up a bit to accommodate them.
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