Trains magazine has been in publication for 81 years. The Nevada Northern Railway is completing the restoration of Locomotive 81, a 2-8-0 built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1917. This locomotive was retired almost 60 years ago, but was resurrected by the dedicated crew at the NNRY. (If you’ve ever thought about being the Engineer on a steam locomotive, go the http://www.nnry.com and click on the visit/ride tab to see how you can do it!) Could there be a better reason to have a big weekend-long celebration?
Actually, Trains magazine had plans to celebrate 80 years of publication in 2020. We all know what happened then so they delayed their party and partnered with NNRY to have a much bigger impact. And what a weekend it was!
My lovely bride accompanied me on the adventure. She patiently sat on the trains while we rode to various locations, disembarked the photographers, and then the locomotives pulled back and forth numerous times at each location to the delight of all the cameras. She also served as my assistant around the East Ely Yard, but managed to get in a few frames of her own with her cell phone. I appreciate her support of my photography hobby. Je t’ami, Mon ChouChou!
I won’t bore you with all the images from every location we visited, but I will try to share the feeling of being there. Enjoy!
As I said, I didn’t share all the images from the weekend. I hope that I have provided a nice cross section of images so you have a feel for how much fun it was, despite having to fight (figuratively, not literally) for a spot on a crowded photo line.
The NNRY received several grants in the last year to improve equipment, preserve and archive the rich history that makes this railway a National Historic Landmark, and restore the track that connects the East Ely Yard to the Magill Depot. I look forward to making more images of this wonderful piece of history.
A couple months ago, I had lunch with an old friend who had moved away and returned for a visit. In the course of catching up, he chastised me for not blogging – especially my steam locomotive images. As you can see, it still took me a while to decide to share any images. My apologies!
The 2021-2022 Eagle Season has been wonderful for me. I’m getting more and better shots than I have at any time. I credit the Eagles for being accessible and patient, but I also credit the upgrades to my camera kit. A little over a year ago, I went mirrorless and purchased a Canon EOS R5. I worked it out at the Nevada Northern Railway Photo Workshop in February (and I did share those images!), through the summer in our travels to Glacier and North Cascades National Parks, and again in Ely at the big 81 weekend (celebrating Trains magazine’s 81 years of publication and Locomotive 81’s triumphant return to the track) in October.
For my return to blogging, I’ve chosen to start with Eagle images. In early December, my youngest son and I had planned a ride in our side by side. The weather didn’t cooperate (it would have been a very chilly ride) so we changed the plan, loaded cameras into the F-150, and headed out in search of Eagles. As we drove into the ‘Hot Zone,’ the area where I’ve had great success finding Eagles, I stopped and reminded him to keep an eye on the trees on his side of the truck. He immediately responded, ‘…like that one right there!’ Sure enough, in a tree no more than 20 yards away sat a gorgeous Bald Eagle. I pulled off the road and ran back to start shooting.
As part of my new kit, I also purchased a Canon RF 800 f/11 lens. This lens, with its 800 mm focal length, allows me to bring my subjects close and fill the frame. This lens has a fixed aperture (f/11), allowing me to use a shutter priority mode and be ready for movement. The eye tracking focus feature in the R5 camera body keeps the focus point on the eye as the subject moves. The picture above illustrates how well those features work together to make a great picture.
Not all the subjects are that close, and the 800 mm focal length is constantly challenged. My camera is up to that challenge, however, as the following images show.
There’s more to follow as I continue to venture out, so stay tuned. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR
After two days of class room and shooting around the East Ely Yard, on Day 3 we climbed aboard the train and headed out for Grand Landscape Day. It was chilly, but it wasn’t snowing so that was a big plus. We boarded the train and headed out to the Hy-Line. This section of track leaves the East Ely Yard and heads toward McGill, where the smelter was located.
For the workshop, I carried two camera bodies with different focal length zoom lenses. On the tripod, I had my Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-240mm lens. My Canon EOS 6D Mk II hung from my body with a Tamron 28-300 lens. When making images of trains, I love having my camera on a tripod. I set the tripod to a low height for the vantage point I want, and I have a stable platform for exposure bracketing and focus stacking. Sometimes the action is fast and a tripod-mounted camera is not ideal, so I carried my 6D II for those quick handheld shots. In addition, the second camera body provided redundancy in case I had a problem with my primary camera.
Workshop Instructor Mike Massee captured me a couple times during the workshop. Big thanks to Mike for letting me include these images.
And so, on to my images from the day.
After several runs on the Hy-Line, we headed up to the Tunnel.
We returned to the East Ely Yard for lunch and prepared for the afternoon shoot at the Tunnel and Robinson Canyon. The crew reconfigured the train for a different look.
That ends three days of fun but challenging photography. I learned more about using flash, but also learned how to take pictures in driving snow and cold. A trip to the Nevada Northern Railway is always great, but also wonderful when one’s photographic skills are pushed to the limit.
On the drive home, I stopped by Eastgate Canyon. This canyon is located 5 miles from U.S. 50 on State Highway 722., and is the home to a band of Desert Bighorn Sheep. My lovely bride and I found them last October when we drove by, so I checked to see if I could find them. Sure enough, they were grazing on a hillside within range of my camera.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this series from the Nevada Northern Railway. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR
Due to the extreme weather conditions all morning (described in my previous post), our workshop facilitators did a wonderful job of getting the shots but also caring about the comfort of the participants. We split the outside shooting into a couple of sessions, allowing us to get inside more frequently and stay warm.
One of the great elements of this particular workshop is the lighting. Steve Crise has been a photographer for many years (no, I won’t tell you how many so you don’t guess how old he is!), and is a master of setting up a lighting system. His classroom sessions on lighting are wonderful, but then we got to put that information into practice. Because of the weather, he devised some lighting schemes inside the Machine Shop and Engine House to teach us more. For these sessions, he has each participant put the light controller on their hot shoe and control the shot.
Of course, once I got my turn at the strobe lights, my attention turned to other areas.
When the light begins to fade, we settle in for the evening session. Our facilitators got very creative for this year’s evening session. I call it, “Fun With Fire!”
We’re all in the Machine Shop, in total darkness. We hear Steve say, “3…2…1…open shutters!” We open our shutters and several strobes fire, lighting up NNRY worker Ben who is standing on the front of Locomotive 81 making lots of sparks. After a few seconds, the shutters close and we repeat the process.
And so, a day of challenging conditions and much learning for me. Shooting in a driving snow storm, followed by strobes and fun with fire – new experiences all day.
A quick note about post processing. I always shoot in RAW format, which requires that all image files are processed on a computer before being able to share them. For the snow images, I still had to tone down highlights and bring out the shadows. The interiors just needed some tone adjustments and filters. The FWF images were lots of fun. Due to the strobe lighting in some (but not all) combined with the bright sparks, each image file had to be processed independently to bring out the strengths of every image. I also use filters from the DxO Nik Collection or Topaz Studio, and I used both – sometimes together – to make the image really pop.
One more cold day in Ely, but it wasn’t snowing! Until next time – enjoy! PHOTOROGR
I knew it was going to be an interesting day of photography when I looked out the hotel room window at the driving snow storm outside. There are numerous books on taking pictures in extreme weather, and I felt prepared. The camera batteries were fully charged. I had the weather covers all ready. (I did ask the nice folks at the front desk for a couple of the hotel shower caps – they came in very handy for covering the second camera body I was carrying. It’s a great tip for those times you don’t have a rain cover in your kit!) I put on my long underwear, insulated boots, photo gloves (so I can use fingertips without freezing my entire hand), and numerous layers, and headed out.
Our first shoot is always the locomotives exiting the Engine House. On sunny days, this side of the building is in full early morning sun and the light is fantastic. This year, not so much. Still good light, but not the great direct sunlight.
I had just read Jason Bradley’s article, Winter Exposures, in the December 2020 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. In the article, author Bradley discusses the challenges of winter exposures: extreme contrast and highlights “off the charts.” He discusses the challenges of film versus digital regarding winter exposures. Basically, with film one must “get it right the first time.” With digital, “…our goal is to maximize the amount of collectible RAW data without blowing out highlights in critical areas of our composition.”
Then he gets into a lengthy discussion about ETTR, or Expose to the Right. Using this technique, the photographer will push the histogram as far to the right as possible without clipping. To explain, I defer to National Geographic’s Complete Photography.
“A histogram displays all of the brightness levels of the image, from dark to light, left to right. If high peaks slam up against the left or right sides of the graph, the image is “clipped” – it may contain areas of pure black or pure white, meaning no detail was recorded. A well exposed image will have detail throughout the entire range of darks, midtones, and bright areas.”
(Note: histograms are also used to show levels of RGB (red, green, and blue) color in an image file. Camera sensors record color as differing levels of RGB in individual pixels, but that’s another big topic altogether.)
Many cameras can be programmed to show clipped highlights using “blinkies.” Author Bradley says this, “The blinkies are terribly useful. While histograms can tell us if our highlights are going off the charts, the blinkies show us where in our composition that’s occurring.” Go to your camera’s playback menu to turn on or turn off blinkies.
Lots of things to think about while setting up for our shoot. But wait, there’s more! (…to quote a commercial…) For static subjects (like landscapes), a photographer can account for bright highlights and dark shadows using exposure bracketing (shooting the same composition using different exposures) and blend those exposures using HDR (high dynamic range) techniques. (I’ve discussed HDR in other blogs, so I won’t get into them here.) What about white balance? The built in meter will be going wild because of the snow.
So, the stage is set, except for the most important thing – I’m shooting a MOVING, BLACK locomotive in BLOWING SNOW. Exposure bracketing is not an option because the locomotive is moving. If I want a nice middle of the histogram exposure, I lose detail in the locomotive. Well, I decided the locomotive was the most important so I exposed for it and didn’t worry about the snow. By overexposing one stop, I could account for some of the white balance and keep some detail in the black locomotive. Now, did I do it for every shot? No! But these were the things on my mind as I approached shooting during the day.
That’s my discussion on shooting in the snow. Lots of challenges, but the results speak for themselves. In my next blog, we’ll get out of the snow for some indoor shooting. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR
Friday morning dawned cool but otherwise nice. The workshop participants gathered in the East Ely Depot to begin the day. We all brought some pictures of our work so we could get to know one another and the instructors could assess our photography skills, then we headed into the East Ely Yard for some pictures.
One of my favorite images from the weekend. I was able to process the image file in Adobe Camera Raw and cleanup some clutter in Photoshop. No need to use other software for a filter.
This is the NNRY’s 1956 Pontiac Hy-Rail car, used by the NNRY for track inspection. Look close and you can see the wheels that keep the car on the tracks just behind the bumper in front of the tire.
I took advantage of the open door at the RIP Building. Just inside, I found this line of wheels and axles, so I did a little focus stacking. There are four different focal planes and five exposures of each focal plane to create the image. I blended the RAW image files in Helicon Focus 7, then applied a black and white filter in Nik Silver Efex.
This is the interior of the Outfit Car, used by the crews to travel to work locations. This was our base of operations for our shoot on Sunday. For this image, I used three image files with different exposures blended in Adobe Camera Raw, some clean up in Photoshop, then a filter from Topaz Studio.
This is the interior of a Caboose, taken from the door.
This is the scene when you walk through the cupola and into the back of the Caboose from the previous image. I paused before taking the picture…thinking about the men who spent their working lives in this space. Do you think they had to sneak a little coal from the Tender to keep the Caboose warm?
After the morning in the Yard, we returned to the Depot for some lunch and the lighting class. Then we headed back into the Yard to finish the day.
This is the Photo Line. And this one was easy because of the low number of photographers.
We’re all going for shots like this…
Keep your eyes open and camera ready. Every now and then you turn and see something like this.
As the light began to fade, we set up in the Freight Depot and the 93 made several runs by us. Shutter speed is key here, depending on what you want your image to show. I used a fast shutter speed to freeze the action in this shot. I also made some shots with the 93 ‘blurring’ by.
That’s not everything from the day, but it’s a nice representation. Lots to see and lots of images to make. But wait ’til the next post – cuz the weather went bonkers on us!
Recall that a year ago, I ventured to Ely NV to participate in a photography workshop at the Nevada Northern Railway. I had a wonderful weekend with lots of great photography, so I returned for this year’s workshop. There was quite a difference in the shooting this year versus last. We had two running locomotives last year and only one this year. The attendees were different this year – an older group and not as mobile in some ways, limiting certain locations. And then there was the weather! Last year we had some older snow on the ground, but mostly just cooler temperatures. This year we got snowed on all day Saturday! You will see the snow in a future post. Shooting in snow has special challenges, but I’ll save that discussion. For now, the drive to Ely and the day before the workshop started.
The drive across U.S 50, The Loneliest Highway, was uneventful. I did, however, come across the best sky and light at Sand Mountain that I’ve ever seen.
Situated between Fallon and Middlegate, Sand Mountain is a popular recreation area. I took this photo from US 50.
The workshop didn’t start until 3 p.m., so I had some free time to fill. I had grand plans – a drive to Hamilton, a mining camp active from about 1868 for a couple decades, now a ghost town. Located 36 miles west of Ely and about 10 more miles off US 50, I headed out with high hopes. After five miles of interesting dirt road, I abandoned this quest and headed back to Ely. I caught this gorgeous view of the Diamond Mountains across the Newark Valley.
When the Nevada skies have character, they really have character! A great view from the Mokomoke Mountains in the White Pine Range.
I decided to see what was new in the East Ely Yard, so I grabbed cameras and tripod, checked in at the Museum Store, and headed into the Yard.
This sign is on the East Ely Depot. The information is correct, as those offices still exist on the second floor.
In the Yard, I found these cars. The NNRY is a time capsule as many of these cars were parked and haven’t moved in 30-40 years.
Heading into the Machine Shop and the Engine House, I found a couple surprises!
Locomotive 40 is sitting in the Engine House, waiting for its turn in the Machine Shop for boiler maintenance. My lovely bride and I were in Ely last October for its last weekend of operation.
Great light on the front of Locomotive 40.
I had the 100 mm Macro lens on the 6D II, so I shot some close ups and played with a little focus stacking. This image was made from multiple exposures and three focal planes.
Locomotive 81 is in the Machine Shop, nearing completion of its overhaul and coming back into service. The crew at the NNRY is painting the boiler jacket green, as it was in the 1950’s.
Stay tuned! There’s lots more coming – three more days of photography at the NNRY and then the drive home! Until next time – enjoy! PHOTOROGR
I can hardly believe that I haven’t posted since last May! How the time flies during a pandemic!
Well, I received a package in the mail a couple days ago. When I opened it, I found the 2021 calendar from the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely NV. I am honored and humbled to find several of my images within the calendar and on the cover, too!
I recognize that it’s already a couple weeks into the new year, but just in case you don’t have your 2021 wall calendar for your home, office, school, home/office, or home/school, please consider buying one of these. Not only are the pictures for each month wonderful, but the Railway could use your support as they, too, struggle through these frustrating times. Their website is https://nnry.com/.
Without further ado, here’s my images included in this year’s calendar!
The cover shot! This is the original. Their graphic artist made the cover look a lot more artistic, and I love the work they did on the image.
Starting the year off with a bang! This is January. The caption reads, “Happy 2021! Locomotives 93 and 40 are looking forward to a great New Year!” Locomotive 40 will be in the shop for boiler maintenance for all of 2021, but that’s just part of the life cycle of steam locomotives.
“It’s a busy morning at the Nevada Northern Railway engine house. Locomotives 81, 40, and 93 are all steamed up ready for the day. In fact, this photo was taken in October 2020. It illustrates why the railroad is a National Historic Landmark.” This is April’s featured image.
The featured image for May, although I get to see it every day. I printed this in three panels, each 13″ wide x 19″ high, and hung it above my digital darkroom (aka my trusty computer). The caption reads, “Three original steam locomotives all hot and ready for the day. From left to right, Locomotive 81, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, March 1917. Locomotive 40, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, July 1910. Locomotive 93, built by the American Locomotive Works (ALCO), January 1910. This photo illustrates why the railroad is a National Historic Landmark.” The NNRY crew is finishing up the rebuild on the 81, and it should come on line this year, for the first time in decades.
While this looks like it could have been shot in July, this was actually a frosty day last February. “The fireman is adjusting the air pump on Locomotive 93 as it gets ready to leave the East Ely yard. In the background, Locomotive 40 is done for the day and heading into the engine house.”
And there you have it! The images for the other 8 months are fantastic, so this is a must have calendar.
I’m heading back in a few weeks to make new images. Stay tuned! And Happy New Year!
When I began blogging almost 6 years ago (has it really been that long?), my blogs were all about the fun new things I was learning about photography. This blog is trying to get back to that kind of sharing.
During the recent madness, I’ve found myself staying closer to home. Because of that, I’ve actually come close to getting my money’s worth from the several photography training subscription sites to which I belong, and I’ve tried out a few new ones.
Recently, I watched a webcast about a technique called Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). Simply put, the concept involves the use of long exposure techniques to capture movement in an image. There are two main methods of creating movement: manipulating the camera or allowing an outside influence, wind for example, to create movement. Long exposures can be created by several means, but the simplest for me is to use neutral density (ND) filters to limit the amount of light passing through the lens and striking the sensor in the camera body.
Until this webcast, my use of ND filters has been limited to smoothing water to create a pleasing image. This image is one of my favorites.
This is not my first attempt at creating movement in an image. Several years ago, I participated in a weekly photography challenge, where I tried different photo techniques each week. One of those techniques involved changing the focal length on a zoom lens with the shutter open. Here was my top image from that week’s challenge.
And then there was that day several years ago when I was out looking for fall colors. I found some, jumped out of the truck, and began shooting. Thankfully, I checked my camera after a couple shots and realized that several of my camera settings had changed. I fixed the settings, but have these two interesting images as a result. I call the technique ‘Accidental Camera Movement.’
With that background information, here we are in present day. I took a drive into the Sierra Nevada Mountains yesterday to play with a new lens. I found some flowers and got a few shots, but the wind was bouncing the flowers around so I grabbed my ND filters and tried the wind movement technique. My Canon 6D Mk II was mounted on the tripod and the filters were in place. I stacked my filters to reduce light by 16 stops, which gave me a comfortable exposure 3-4 seconds. This was just right for the experiment.
Very fine art and very fun! I continued my adventure and found other subjects – including a nice waterfall – and then found a subject for trying actual camera movement. I first tried the camera on tripod, but didn’t get enough movement to make me happy. I moved to handheld and exaggerated the movement even more. Voila! (That’s my high school French kicking in!)
Yes, this is a very overdone composition, but we all have to start somewhere. This is just the beginning into this fun technique. Stay tuned to see where it takes me.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the images from my weekend with the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely NV. In a previous post, I think I mentioned that the Nevada Northern is a National Historic Landmark. The listing is because the Nevada Northern is the best preserved example of a short line railroad in the country (and probably the world). When the Kennecott Mining Company ceased operations in the Ely area in 1983, the workers simply put everything away, locked the doors and walked away. With the ups and downs of the mining industry, this was not the first time the mine had closed but the mine usually reopened within a couple weeks. Weeks turned into years and the railway assets were eventually turned over to the museum, which currently operates this historic railroad.
But it’s not just the rail yard and rolling stock that gives the Nevada Northern Railway its well-deserved historic status – there’s so much more! According to the Walking Tour Guide of the East Ely Yard, “…The complex includes a full-service rail yard encompassing fifty-six acres with sixty-three buildings, shops and structures. The museum collection consists of three steam (two operating) locomotives, six (three operating) diesel locomotives and over sixty pieces of historic railroad equipment.” The Guide continues, “…The museum also houses an extensive paper record of the railroad. The museum is also unique in that it not only preserves the artifacts of the railroad but it also is working the (sic) preserve the knowledge necessary for the maintenance and the operation of the artifacts.”
The Railway’s offices are located on the second floor of the East Ely Depot. This area is under the control of the State of Nevada, and houses all the records for the Railway’s more than 75 years in operation. These records include payroll records for all employees, architectural and engineering drawings for the infrastructure, all the paperwork necessary to operate the system (remember, the railroad was in operation before computers), beautiful historic pictures, and wonderfully preserved offices.
As I recall, the Superintendent’s Office…
…an administration area…
…and the Yard Master’s Office.
Admission to this area is a separate ticket from the Yard, but it is well worth the price. Next time I go visit, I’ll get some better images to share.
Here’s a few new images from the big boy camera.
This is the interior of the freight car, including an area where the mail was collected and sorted.
The interior of the luxurious passenger car. The stained glass over the windows is beautiful, and the seats are more comfortable than they appear.
An artistic version of Locomotive 40 pulling out of Tunnel 1.
And a few images from my mobile phone.
A monochrome version of the 40 in the East Ely Yard.
This rock cut was a tunnel at one time.
My new friend, Con, maintaining…
…and polishing the 40…he also makes it go! I love this painterly filter on this image.
A view of the Schell Range from the East Ely Yard.
I don’t do selfies very well, but I try. Yes, it was a bit chilly.
I hope that my images have enticed you to go visit Ely when the madness is over. Ely is located in eastern Nevada at the intersection of US highways 6, 50, and 93. Great Basin National Park is an hour or so away, along with a couple Nevada State Parks.