random thoughts on railroad photography, railfanning, technology, and such

Entries from August 1, 2010 - August 31, 2010


Pseudo-HDR Images from Cajon Pass

During my deep-dive into the realm of High Dynamic Range photography I have been forced to test with pseudo-HDR images which are the byproduct of a single RAW image file. (See my previous blog post, “Going to the Next Level: Learning HDR,” for a detailed explanation.) I am learning the nuances and challenges of the process, the various techniques and softwares packages available, and developing a maintainable workflow process. Above all else though, I am becoming inspired.

Here are a few of my recent pseudo-HDR tests and practice images. These photos are from the vaunted Cajon Pass region of southern California: 

Cajon Pass - Mountains, Weather, and Trains — A westbound Union Pacific manifest train (top) heads downgrade while a BNSF intermodal train follows along side on the parallel alignment as clouds cover the summits of the San Gabriel Mountains. [4/6/2006 - San Bernardino/Los Angeles Subdivisions]

Old Meets New - Seen here at Devore, CA, BNSF 6937 and BNSF 6867 (EMD SD40-2’s) are providing power for the manned helper unit out of San Bernardino, CA on April 6, 2006, and pull slowly up to the front of BNSF 4987 East, an under-powered intermodal train with this GE DASH 9-44CW on the point. Soon the train will begin a full assault on Cajon Pass.
[4/6/2006 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

BNSF 4937 East - BNSF 4937 (GE DASH 9-44CW) is on the point of an under-powered intermodal train waiting at Devore, CA for a manned helper set to arrive to assist in getting it’s train over the hill.
[4/6/2006 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

BNSF 7741 West - Prior to BNSF’s recent triple-tracking program over Cajon Pass, CA, BNSF 7741 (GE DASH 9-44CW) leads NS 8594 (GE DASH 8-39C) and an unidentfied EMD SD40-2 around the bend at Swarthout Canyon Road near Blue Cut, CA, with a westbound hot z-train.
[4/8/2006 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

BNSF 4999 West - BNSF 4999 (GE DASH 9-44CW) is on the point of a westbound stack train as she rounds a curve near Blue Cut, CA on August 13, 2006.
[8/13/2006 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

BNSF 5326 East - BNSF 5326 (GE DASH 9-44CW) and the trailing units are in Run 8 (full throttle setting) as they hustle a hot eastbound z-train upgrade near Blue Cut, CA.
[4/8/2006 - San Bernardino Subdivision]


Going to the Next Level: Learning HDR

I recently started to explore the photographic technique called High Dynamic Range photography or simply HDR. This technique is centered around the post-processing task of combining a series of images, taken at different exposure settings, to create a scene that is, arguably, more realistic, which is not possible with a single camera photo.

There is an excellent description and example HDR photos at Trey Ratcliff’s blog, Stuck In Customs. I highly recommend it.

One acceptable practice of HDR is to use a single RAW image and run it through some HDR software to create a pseudo-HDR image. Since I haven’t been shooting my photographs with HDR in mind, this is what I have to do for now, at least until I take new photos with multiple RAW images using different exposure settings. Nevertheless the results are amazing and very pleasing. I can’t wait to shoot true HDR shots in the near future - like next week!

Here are a couple of shots that I took during a trip Deb and I took to Monument Valley in Arizona. I am pleased with the results and you can get a feel for the power of HDR, despite the fact that these images are just “pseudo-HDR” photos. (Notice how all elements of the scene are perfectly exposed and in focus):


Changing the Paint Scheme

I recently began to make better use of my commute time by bringing along my Apple MacBook Pro. I now have a few hours each day when I can focus on post processing my photos and enhancing my graphics abilities. As an example of this effort, I decided to create a new landing page for ChasingSteel.com as a means to learn some new packages that I have purchased. Consequently, yesterday I updated the main page of the site, which has traditionally been a place to showcase one of my specific photographs, with new graphics as seen below on an iPad:

New Landing Page for ChasingSteel.com

The design is inspired by the older Centralized Traffic Control machines which the railroads have used since the 1930s to enhance rail capacity while providing increased safety. Today, the funtions providing by these machines are now primarily performed by computer-based systems. You can learn more about these machines from this site, Control Train Components.

My intent is change the design and look as I create new content. I have learned that I enjoy creating new “art” as much as I enjoy doing photography so now the landing page will showcase my photos and my art!

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