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

Entries from November 1, 2009 - November 30, 2009


Steel and Stars

I, obviously, enjoy chasing trains and one of my favorite locations is the BNSF’s Needles Subdivision which runs through the Mojave Desert from Barstow to Needles, California.  My wife, Deb, loves star gazing and all things astronomy-related.  It is a good mix because we both seek the same destination but for different reasons.  I love the landscape and the volume of traffic on the Needles Sub and she loves the dark sky found far from city lights.

This past week we took a three day trip out to Sand Hill and Hector, CA to chase steel and stars.  It was a very fun trip.

Normally I would shoot photos only during the daylight hours and casually star gaze with her at night.  However, this time I choose to try my hand at taking some night shots.  I discovered it was challenging and very fun from a creative perspective.

The photo at right is one of the photos that I took that night at Hector, CA.  It was the end product of five or six attempts to capture what I saw in my head.  I wanted to use her Sony DSC-H50 to explore it’s capabilities instead of my Nikon D50. 

I set the camera to “M”(anual) mode and chose the maximum exposure time available of thirty seconds and the smallest aperture.  With the camera tripod mounted I pressed the shutter release button.  While the camera was taking it’s thirty second exposure I shined a flashlight onto the track to balance it’s exposure with that of the stars.

It turns out that five seconds of light was what I finally used to created the exposure above through trial-and-error.  I like the photo very much because it exemplifies both Deb and I exactly, Steel and Stars.  I also like the fact that it was not a “planned” photo.  I was trackside in a dark sky with a camera and a flashlight and was willing to experiment.


Apple? Who would have thought?

I have been working in the IT industry for over twenty years.  During that time, I primarily deployed and supported solutions that ran on Novell NetWare and Microsoft Windows-based operating systems.  As such, I always viewed Apple and their line of computers as the “other guys” or as “the enemy,” if you will.

Well, that has all changed.

I recently wanted to buy my wife a GOOD computer to use to surf the web, do emails, and work with the family photos.  She had been using the family hand-me-downs and she deserved better.  So I began evaluating options.

I had always heard that Macs were a good computer for non-techies and was more than capable on the graphics front, so I looked at what was available.  I saw the iMac at the Apple store and asked the salesperson for a demo.

I was amazed at the capabilities of the computer, the gorgeous graphics, and the ease of use!  Consequently, I bought my wife a 24” iMac on the spot.  Ever since, we haven’t looked back.  Having so many years under my belt in IT, I am qualified to say the Mac platform, and all Apple products for that matter, are the way to go.

There is a clear advantage to using Apple products.  Apple has been able to, through awesome user interface and user experience nuances, to unleash the creative capabilities of the average “Joe.”

We now have 3 iPhones (the greatest device EVER), an iMac, an Apple TV, and countless iPods in our home.  Our lives are truly more enriched thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple.

I continue to work almost exclusively with Microsoft-based solutions, but, that is, after all, work.  I design, express, and play on a Mac!