Nevada Northern Railway, the Post Script.

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.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Nevada Northern Railway Part 4! The Final Day!

As we finished our shoot the day before, we looked at the weather forecast and voted to forego the sunrise shot. Not a bad call, considering the temperatures. So, we loaded into the Caboose and headed east. If you’re looking for an adventure, the Caboose can be rented for an overnight stay. The bunks were somewhat comfy, but the ‘necessary’ accommodations are not for the faint-of-heart.

We stopped at a stream crossing and headed into the brush. The 40 pulled by us several times, but I missed the best reflection shot. Darn it!

I chose a sepia monochrome filter for this image, giving it a vintage look.

While I missed the best reflection shot (if I’d only set up about 15 yards left of this spot), this one isn’t too bad.

Back in the Caboose and down the line. We stopped at the North Yard Limit for more shots.

One of my favorite shots from the weekend. I asked the facilitators of the workshop for this composition and they happily obliged me. We were at a ‘Y’ and the 40 was running on the track left of this location. The grey sky made for a bad background, so I asked them to run on this track. Huge difference in the background. I also tried some new editing techniques to really make this image pop.

The Nevada Northern has two routes on the east side of the Steptoe Valley: the McGill Junction Route runs from the Ely Yard to the Town of McGill; the Hi Line Route runs east of the McGill Route, further up the hill. We took the Hi Line Route to a rock cut – formerly a tunnel – and spent some time taking pictures there.

We shot from over, around, and in front of the locomotive. This was a very fun place.

And just like that the morning was over. In the Caboose and back to the Ely Yard for lunch. While we were eating, the crews were busy changing up the train. When we boarded to head west towards the mine at Ruth, we found ourselves riding in style – the fancy passenger car with a mail processing car in the train. First stop – Tunnel 1!

The 40 pulling out of Tunnel 1!

With multiple runs in and out of the tunnel, shots like this were easy to get!

I only crashed on the snowy hillside one time, resulting in some soreness and a bloody shin – but I saved the camera when I fell! On westward to Robinson Canyon!

The rocks behind make for a great background, assuming you don’t get photobombed by truck traffic on the road behind. Even with multiple pulls, this was one of my best from this location.

I really like this one, as well.

Our last venue was Keystone, as close to the Ruth Mine as you can get without being in the hole.

I chose to set up on the bridge overlooking the tracks for this image. I took some liberties during processing, using multiple filters and some layer masks to get this result. Not my favorite from the shoot, but this was a fun image to edit.

So, there you have it. Four days of steam locomotives and new friendships. I look forward to shooting on the Nevada Northern again!

A little post script. These Pronghorn were on the side of US 50 on my way home. Sadly, the only time I used my Canon EOS 7D Mk II on the trip!

They posed nicely for me. uncommon for one of the fastest animals on land.

Thanks for allowing me to share my weekend with the Nevada Northern Railway with you! Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Nevada Northern Railway Part 3…

The day started early and cold. Cameras in hand (or maybe on tripod), we waited outside the Engine House for the sun to come up to begin the day’s shooting. Finally, the front of the Engine House was in full sun and the 40 and 93 started their runs!

The 93 exiting the Engine House under full steam.

One of the many side by side runs.

After multiple runs out and in the Engine House, we followed the 93 to a piece of track south of the Engine House for a different background.

The building on the right is the Master Mechanic’s Office.

Moving back into the yard, I found the 40 sitting outside the Engine House…

…with the Paint Shop is in the background. A nice side shot.

I took several images of the 40 with my camera on tripod and my mobile phone. As I started to send phone pictures to family, I heard my name called out behind me. I turned and found a line of cameras waiting to take this shot!

Even the model had his arms crossed and was shaking his head. Needless to say, I grabbed my cameras and ran out of their picture and then snuck into line with them.

Heading to the next venue on the east side of the yard, I passed by a caboose with NNRY President Mark Bassett intently watching activity in the yard.

I shared this picture with Mark, so he knows I have it.

On the east side of the yard, the 93 ran through a road crossing with an active signal.

An artistic interpretation. I used this soft filter on several of the images from this shoot. I like what it does to some images. A friend suggested that I make the light red, since I caught it in the off position. You know, signal lights flash off and on while they’re active.

After a busy morning, we took a quick lunch break and then back to work. Building on the classroom session on lighting and the previous evening’s shoot, we set up lights in the Engine House for some ‘light’ practice.

My turn to have the light controller on my camera – I set up the shot and got ready to fire. Little did I know that I would be ‘photobombed’ by Dirt, the Engine House cat. Dirt is world famous. The drive wheels from the under renovation Locomotive 81 are in the background.

Meanwhile, back in the yard…

…a different look for the 93, with a filter called Old Western. This filter makes the image monochrome and adds an old film look.

Looking northeast from the west end of the Freight Depot (right edge of the image), with the Coaling Tower and Water Tower on the left. This image is popular with the NNRY staff.

I had many more images, but chose these 10 to represent the day’s effort. One more day to come! Stay tuned.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Nevada Northern Railway Part 2…

The morning was chilly, but enthusiasm was high as we gathered for Day 1 of the Nevada Northern Railway Photography Workshop. I ate breakfast in the hotel, so I passed on the selection of donuts provided by the staff (my body was very happy with this choice). We got to know each other a little more as we shared images from past shoots. The group included accomplished photographers. Some had been to Ely before and had great images to share. One participant was from Nebraska, and was a regular contributor to the Union Pacific Railroad with his images of the steam locomotive 4014, the legendary Big Boy, recently restored and touring the country.

After our morning classroom session, we headed out into the rail yard. First stop was the Engine house, where I grabbed a few shots.

One of several images inside the Engine House. I used a softening filter to give this a more abstract look.

We spent much of the morning in the yard watching the locomotives move around the yard as they gave us photo opportunities and set up for tomorrow’s action.

The 40 powering through the yard. RIP Building behind and Coaling Tower on the left.

The 40 was our primary subject in the yard today. I tried this sepia-style filter and like the result.

The 40 approaching the ‘service station’ – the legs of the Water Tower and the dump chute of the Coaling Tower.

A popular shot among the instructors, this view of the 40 under full steam on the east side of the yard . In our final session, I was told this would make a great magazine cover.

A fun picture of the 40 framed by the base of the Coaling Tower. Great sky and the mountains in the background.

After lunch, we all enjoyed a class in lighting. I’ve never taken a lighting class before, so I really enjoyed the learning opportunity. The instructor pulled me out of the crowd and had me sit in the subject chair while he moved lights around and showed us different techniques. He gave me all the pictures he took. No, I won’t be sharing them.

A few more shots around the yard and some dinner, then we moved inside the Engine House for some strobe lighting shots. The staff set various scenes for us, we set our cameras and opened the shutters, the strobes popped and we had images. Here’s a sample of the evening’s activities.

The 40 in the foreground and the 93 in the back, with a sepia filter. Most of my night shots are black and white, since the black of the locomotives and lack of background lends itself to monochrome shooting.

Lots of steam and smoke, giving these images a surreal feel. Another participant shared his secret for enhancing the smoke and steam during processing – and it works!

The trick for enhancing the steam also works on the lights. In this image, it helped disguise that I had removed the ugly modern sodium vapor lights in the ceiling, maintaining the old time feel of the image.

I never imagined I could make images like this.

I returned to the hotel very satisfied with the day and almost 500 image files to process. Working around the coal fired locomotives is interesting. Safety First – as it says everywhere in the yard and on the front of the locomotives. I emptied a few cinders from my shoes and out of the hood on my jacket, and detected a slight odor of train in my clothes, but it was all worth it. Two more days of shooting and learning. Stay tuned and enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Night Photography Workshop…

I participated in a Night Photography Workshop at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in mid-November. The workshop started after lunch with a safety briefing and introductions, and then the fun began.

The wonderful volunteers at the Museum had the McKeen car, the 25, and the Glenbrook all fired up and running around for us. I took advantage of the afternoon light to get a few of the Glenbrook.

As daylight faded to evening light, the actors arrived and the instructor set out the big lights. First up, the McKeen car at the Depot.

The sun was setting over the hills in the background and gave beautiful light.

We spent several hours in the cold evening with the locomotives at different locations around the Museum property. This is my favorite from the evening.

Set at the crossroads on the north side of the property, the Glenbrook and the 25 have a discussion over who has the right of way.

Just for fun, I put a black and white filter on the color image, then reduced the opacity on the b/w and the browns in the image came through. I like the effect.

One of the last venues for the evening was the turntable. I had to experiment with a little low light-long exposure work.

The rear of the Glenbrook is lit by headlights from a truck parked behind and to my left. The front is natural light with about a 30 second exposure. I’ll try to get the truck lights off the next time.

The volunteers were preparing to put the Glenbrook away for the night and they invited participants into the cab. This long exposure was one of my last images on the night.

The open fire box door complements the glow of the lantern for this warm image. The low light capabilities of the Canon EOS 6D Mark II are amazing.

This workshop was a great experience and I look forward to the next workshop at the Museum.

Prints are available – send me a message.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

…suddenly, the screen went totally black…

…and the mouse and keyboard didn’t work. I had been editing some butterfly images (see below) and going from that wonderful creative process into problem resolution mode was difficult. I tried every set of keystrokes and other tricks that I have learned over many years of using a personal computer. I finally turned the machine off and tried to restart it, to no avail. I called the Geek Squad, my technology support team, and told them what happened. I described to the Agent the computer’s behavior over the past few months and what it was doing in the moments before the crash. I related my efforts to revive my machine but when I told the Agent the message I had on my screen when I tried to turn it on again, I simply heard a big sigh followed by those fateful words – sounds like a hard drive crash. At least she wasn’t suppressing a laugh.

Oh my! I disconnected everything and headed to Best Buy to visit the Geek Squad in person. Agent Trevor put my machine on the test bench, plugged it in and tried to make it work. Nothing. Agent Trevor disconnected everything and took it into the back room. Minutes passed. Agent Nate came out, mopped his brow, and told me that it just wouldn’t turn on for them either. We discussed my options. I bought a new hard drive and Agent Nate went to work.

After a few days, I got an email that my computer was ready. I was off to Best Buy. When I got there, Agent Nate showed me that the new hard drive was working. When I tried to get into my photo drive, however, nothing happened. My machine went back into the workshop with Agent Nate. After a while he came out and said that everything was dead again. We discussed my options now. The more we talked, the more I realized that my 4 and a half year old computer would not be revived.

Our discussion turned to a new computer. I decided on a new HP with an i5 processor and a great video card. I added a couple internal hard drives to facilitate my photo editing workflow, left everything with the Geeks to install the new hard drives and recover what they could from the old computer, and headed home.

On the way home, I reflected on the past couple days. First, that I had fortunately completed my monthly backup the week before the crash. I might lose the butterfly image edits, but nothing else. The RAW butterfly images were still on the SD card in the camera and I could re-edit the couple pictures I had worked on. Then the sticker shock associated with a new computer hit, quickly replaced by the excitement of having a better system that would accomplish tasks more efficiently with data storage that was better technology than the old.

In the next few days, I got out and took some pictures. I hiked up to the Kings Canyon Waterfall west of Carson City, got some shots of the steam powered locomotives at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, drove up Ebbetts Pass to see how far it was open, and recorded some of the flowers in our back yard. Without the computer, the mages sat in the cameras calling to me – we want to be edited! I had to ignore them, but it was difficult.

As time went by without a computer, I thought about when we bought our first computer in 1982 – an Apple IIe. My lovely bride was a junior high teacher and Apple had wisely put their systems into classrooms, then offered teachers a discount for buying a computer for home use. It only made sense to have the same computer at home as she had at school. As I recall, we paid more for that IIe than I did for my new machine. Of course, in 1982 dollars that was a lot of money. I gotta tell you, though, that that Apple was awesome. It had a huge (12″, I think) monitor with pixelated text. The keyboard was built into the computer case. Data storage was accomplished using bulky drives wired to the back of the computer case, and we had a case of 5-1/4 Inch floppy disks next to the computer.

We subscribed to an Apple magazine to help learn how to use a computer. The magazine contained programs for exciting things to do on your computer. I spent many hours typing in the code so I could have a digital fire on the monitor. Since keyboarding was a little different than typing, Apple included programs to teach us how to use a keyboard. Our oldest son, who was just a year old when we bought the computer, loved to use the cursor control program. There were two themes – a gnome and a bunny – each traveling in a two dimensional maze. The gnome was looking for gold and the bunny for carrots. When the gnome or bunny ran into a wall or ceiling (controlled by our son), the gnome or bunny would face you and stomp his foot. It was very entertaining to a one year old.

We used this computer for many years. While I was finishing my college degree, we added a second drive so I could move data without having to change floppy disks. We were really in heaven when I got a copy of AppleWorks, an integrated software with a word processor and spreadsheet. I wrote most of my college papers using the AppleWorks word processor. I had to take a technical writing class, so I took it in a summer session. The instructor required that all papers be written, graded, then rewritten as needed. Since I was married to an English teacher, I would write my papers on the Apple computer, have my lovely bride review them, and then print them (on our very impressive dot matrix printer). One day, I got a paper from the instructor with the only comment that I needed a comma in a sentence. Using AppleWorks, I inserted the comma and printed the paper. My lovely bride disagreed with the instructor and I agreed with my bride (of course), but I turned in the corrected paper anyway. At the end of the semester (when I had my A), I admitted to the instructor that I was married to an English teacher but I never mentioned the disagreement over the comma.

This rather long trip down memory lane shows just how much technology has grown and overtaken our lives. When I think of how simple that Apple IIe was to use, but how limited in what it would do compared to the computers of today. The same applies to telephones, automobiles and, of course, photography. I shoot digital cameras – no film at all. My cameras are simply a computer attached to a lens with a shutter that controls light hitting a sensor. My phone is a data management device that takes pictures and makes phone calls.

I was surprised at how distraught I was over not having access to a computer to edit my images. I determined that my creative process only begins when I compose in camera and release the shutter, and without the digital darkroom the process is not completed. I have also determined that I’m okay with that. Long ago, I figured out that the digital darkroom was critical to my photographic process. Many photographers like to do everything in camera and minimize their computer time but I prefer to have the camera record the light and then make my images happen on the computer. Personal preference rules – all processes are valid.

With that in mind, I need to wrap this up and get back to work configuring my new computer to my digital darkroom workflow. I’m amazed at the number of little things that I do, but have been reminded when I’ve tried to use them and they’re not there. In good news, however, the new computer makes quick work of editing. Where I waited several minutes for the old computer to move between PhotoShop and the various filters that I use, the new computer takes seconds. It’s wonderful.

The biggest lesson here is that good data storage protocols – including regular backup – are critical. And not just for your images, take care of your critical documents, too!

As for those butterflies, Agent Nate was able to recover all the images from the hard drive on my old computer and put them on my new computer’s drives, so all I had to do was re-install my editing software and apply some filters. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Ready for my Close Up, Mr. DeMille…

One of the reasons I love photography is that I never stop learning. Whether it’s a new technique or equipment or subject or even just a different way of seeing things, there’s always something to learn. Now that the Raptors have moved on to other places, my eye has turned to smaller and closer subjects – the pollenators and flowers in the back yard!

Over the years, my cameras and I have spent a lot of time in the yard and have enjoyed some success. Although Spring is still fairly new this year, I’ve had a good time so far. This is a Hyacinth, and it was the first flower to bloom in our yard. I put my Canon 6D Mk II with a 50 mm lens on a low tripod and got as close as the minimum focus distance would allow. I did not use focus stacking, but it may happen this year.

All images processed in Adobe Camera RAW and PhotoShop, with a Nik ColorEfex Pro filter.

I upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone XS a couple months ago and I’m slowly exploring its photographic capabilities. With Spring so young, the Bees are working very hard and are tough to capture…but it can be done…even with an iPhone.

This flying critter was on our Peach tree – looking forward to those peaches!I also bought a new Super Telezoom lens this year and decided to see what it would do on close up shots. Mounted on my 6D Mk II body – a full frame sensor camera – and with a minimum focus distance of more than 8 feet, the Bees are very small so the following images are heavily cropped. The end result, however, is very nice.

This Bee is on one of our Chanticleer Pear trees.

Our Flowering Plum tree has been very popular with the Bees this year.

And so it begins. Spring has sprung and it’s time for some close up. I’m ready Mr. DeMille…

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Silhouettes as Fine Art…

Last month I shared some silhouette images with you – images I made during one of the classes I took at the Winter Wings Festival. I also took a class in wildlife as fine art which is the subject of today’s post.

I was out the other day and I found these two Geese floating in one of the irrigation ditches in the Carson Valley. Geese aren’t my favorite subject and the light wasn’t in my favor, but I decided to try something new using the techniques I learned in Klamath Falls and seeing if I could make some ‘fine art.’ I made several images using various exposures. Fortunately, the Geese were just floating along so they weren’t disappearing into the distance or making great ripples in the water.

When I downloaded the images and began processing, I tried several different ideas – color versus monochrome, variations in contrast and color, and a variety of filters. I ultimately chose this single color image, processing the dark areas into silhouettes to accentuate the position of the Geese on the water and in the frame using Adobe Camera RAW, and then finishing in Photoshop and Topaz Studio.

I hope you like it. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Double D and PSC…interpretations on the Sierra Nevada Range!

In my last post, I talked about the Digital Darkroom (or Double D) and the fun I was having while exploring the application of creative filters. For today’s post, I used an image made with my PowerShot G9X Mk II point and shoot camera (hence the PS Challenge piece of the title).

I don’t remember where I was going last week, but I remember that the light on the Sierra Nevadas was gorgeous. I pulled over and got out of the truck, grabbing my trusty PowerShot, and began clicking. I always bracket exposures for my landscape shots to decide during post processing what I am going to do. I bracket up and down one stop with this camera. I used all 3 exposures to merge them into an HDR in Adobe Camera Raw, then applied filters using Topaz Studio.

Just for fun, I processed this using three different filters.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

The Digital Darkroom – How Much is Too Much?

“Owing to an inherently mechanical nature, a camera (be it film or digital) essentially produces raw images that, on their own, are rarely able to adequately communicate the enigmatic complexities and expressive nuances of a subsequently crafted fine art photograph. Post-camera image manipulation has always been a basic tenant of the photography process.”

That’s how Huntington Witherill started his article ‘Beyond the Camera’ in the November 2018 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. It caught my attention immediately! I enjoy reading Outdoor Photographer and have used information from its wonderful articles in previous posts. In the article, Witherill describes the time he got to visually inspect an original 8 x 10 inch negative produced by Edward Weston circa 1930. The negative had “…what appeared to be a considerable amount of pencil scrawling on the emulsion side …” Kim Weston, Edward’s grandson, explained that “…Edward had often used very soft pencils (and a small light-table…) in order to build density in chosen areas of his negatives…” After this experience, Witherill realized that what he refers to as ‘post-camera image management techniques’ “…comprise not only a significant part of the overall photographic process but also, in many respects, the very essence of photography technique.” He continued, “…post-camera image management techniques are a necessary and integral part of the overall photography process.”

Witherill talks about having a strong foundation in “…photography technique and craft…” to take what one sees, combined with knowledge of what a camera can record, and create a finished visual record. His process begins with knowing your equipment so you can start with a strong foundation (what I would call the best exposure) to build on using post-camera tools and techniques. The article talks about artistic expression and making the image say what the photographer wants it to say.

In the several years since I’ve been pursuing photography seriously, I’ve had similar discussions with my friends and mentors. Many of my friends have backgrounds in photojournalism which doesn’t allow for manipulation, save for minor dodging and burning (darkening or lightening) areas of an image. Other friends document events for clients, where the volume of images made does not allow time for post processing.

I consider myself an artist. I am not documenting, rather I am recording for artistic purposes. I have always favored manipulating my images, and have worked to make the subjects closely resemble the moment as I remembered it. After reading this article, however, I decided to pursue more artistic interpretations, depending on the subject.

I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun! And so, how much is too much? Only time – and future images – will tell.

With this new creative process, I have been playing with some images. The images below show a ‘straight’ version compared to¬† what I call a ‘more radical’ interpretation. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

This is an American Kestrel, processed to highlight the details of the raptor.

Same image, a little softer.

The beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains. I used a Topaz filter to make the composition a little bit abstract. I think this filter minimizes the foreground, accentuates the sky, and maintains the integrity of the beauty of the mountains.

The same image with a Nik filter to maintain the details but give more depth to the colors.