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

Entries in San Bernardino Subdivision (2)


Inspired by a Book to Try Something New

I found myself needing to drive to work in downtown Los Angeles on a Friday a couple of weeks ago. I mistakenly thought that, since it was Friday, the traffic would be “Friday-Lite,” which is how the traffic reporters tend to describe it. It wasn’t.

I knew that going home would be bad, as is typically the case as commuters and people heading out of town for the weekend cram onto the too few freeways leaving Los Angeles. It turns out it wasn’t just bad, it was miserable. In the time it would normally take for my to complete my commute by Metrolink train service, I wasn’t even halfway home. I started to think about options to sitting in the “going nowhere” traffic jam I found myself in.

As any respectable tech-head would do, I worked my way to a Frys Electronics superstore, a mecca of sorts for us geeks, to spend a few idle hours while the traffic died down. I methodically walked up and down the aisle looking for the cool stuff that I just had to have. Considering the time I spent in there, I walked out with very little damage being done to my wallet. I spent only $100.

Creative Night : Digital Photography Tips & Techniques by Harold Davis

One item I purchased was a book on night photography. The book is titled “Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques.” (It is authored by Harold Davis and published by Wiley Publishing, Inc.) I have always been intrigued by the mystic, insight, and beauty garnered by night photography, couple that with the fact that I find myself in the dark quite a bit with Deb enjoying her stargazing activities, and it was a perfect book for me. To wit, see this post: Steel and Stars.

After getting home and settling in I began to read the book. (This is one of those books that I don’t even want to flip through pages - I just want to be surprised by the material and photos. Weird uh?). I found the material informative and written well. I like the author’s style and flow.

After reading the first few chapters I had already deduced that this was money well spent and I looked forward to trying my hand at capturing all that the nights have to offer. So after reading seventy some odd pages I was sufficiently inspired to get off of my ass and go out into night. I headed east.

I found myself searching for a suitable test subject on which to practice the techniques I had just read about. One location came to mind because of it’s abundance of passing trains and suitable lighting - the train station at San Bernardino, California, some twenty miles east of me.

As I set-up for the first shot, I opted, perhaps foolishly, to try to also capture the scenes in HDR. I now realize that I should have taken more individual images to capture the entire dynamic range of the exposures, but the longer shutter times required for night photography coupled with my haste, precluded me from making the right choice at the time.

Nonetheless, I offer the following shots of my first efforts to capture night scenes, in HDR also. I definately am looking forward to improving my abilties and plan an taking many more exposures like this in the immediate future:

San Bernardino Amtrak and Metrolink Station at Sunset - [9/25/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry. San Bernardino Metrolink Platforms - Night Test Shot 1 - [9/25/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.

San Bernardino Metrolink Platforms - Night Test Shot 2 - [9/25/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.

San Bernardino Metrolink Platforms - Night Test Shot 3 - [9/25/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.

San Bernardino Metrolink Platforms - Night Test Shot 4 - [9/25/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.

San Bernardino Trackage - Night Test Shot 1 - [9/25/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.

San Bernardino Trackage - Night Test Shot 2 - [9/25/2010 - San Gabriel Subdivision] © Copyright 2010 Joe Perry.


The Memorial Day Weekend Mega Tour - Part 5

(Continued from: The Memorial Day Weekend Mega Tour - Part 4)

It felt good to rest. So much so that I rested the entire next day, Sunday, as well. I took that time to reflect on the trials of the Cima Subdivision experience and the triumphs from the Needles Subdivision. I still did not have my fill of chasing steel yet so I sat down with my iPad and made plans for Monday, Memorial Day.

I sought some location that would work best with the rising sun during sunrise. To that end, I used an application that I have for my iPad that graphically plots the sun’s location as an overlay on Goggle’s map application for a given location for any given moment in time.

Considering my lack of sleep thus far over the weekend I wanted some place that I could reach in relative short order so that I could sleep as long as possible. Given all my requirements I settled on a curve location on BNSF’s San Bernardino Subdivision at a place called Prado Dam by the railroad.

The time to rise came quickly and I gathered my gear and set out. I reached the target location in no time at all and drove around looking for the right spot. I finally settled, for various reasons, on a location that passed under Prado Road which leveraged the road’s bridge to gain a good vantage point.  

I set-up my cameras. Looking at track side signals I could see that a westbound was lined through.  It now just a matter of time. As I waited, many locals passed me either walking or jogging. After about 30 minutes it became clear that I was “that weird guy” that just seemed out place. Here I was standing on a bridge next to a camper for no discernible reason. People were crossing the street before approaching my area. But hey, I understand, better safe than sorry. I didn’t take it personally.

Soon I heard the westbound train blow her horn for the grade crossing near the Metrolink’s West Corona station at Auto Center Drive. I instinctively looked at my watch to calculate the time it would take another westbound train to come into view once I heard them blow the crossing so I could make use of that information for future shots.

A few short minutes later a westbound unit train of tank cars, one of my all-time favorite types of trains, came into view under Interstate 91. I was in position and took a series of shots that I am rather proud of because I planned for it and it worked out:

BNSF 7415 West at Sunrise - On Memorial Day 2010, BNSF 7415 (GE ES44DC) is the lead unit on this unit train through Prado Dam, CA, just after sunrise. [5/31/2010 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

BNSF 7415 West at Sunrise 2 - [5/31/2010 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

Unit Train at Prado Dam - [5/31/2010 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

As if to compensate for the strike-out I suffered out on the Cima Sub on Saturday, the BNSF served up another gem for me. Shortly after the unit train cleared the area the westbound Southwest Chief, Amtrak Train #3, graced my viewfinder:  

Southwest Chief at Sunrise - AMTK 42 (GE P42DC) and AMTK 124 (GE P42DC) provide the power for the last 35 miles of the run of the westbound Southwest Chief, Amtrak #3, rounding a curve near Prado Dam, CA at sunrise on Memorial Day 2010. [5/31/2010 - San Bernardino Subdivision]

Once the sun had shifted I decided to move on. I headed east out of Corona bound for Union Pacific’s Yuma Subdivision in San Timoteo Canyon. I really enjoy the chase in the canyon because of the curvature of the tracks and the overall rural feeling that the area has.

Once again though I was bitten by the reduced volume of traffic and only saw two trains the entire 4 hours I spent there. Here is a one of them, a loaded eastbound auto train:

The weekend had come to close as I headed west towards home. As I leisurely motored on, I reflected on the weekend’s activities. Looking at the odometer on my truck’s speedometer I saw that I had covered nearly 675 miles! All total I “chased” 6 subdivisions to one degree or another: 

  • BNSF’s Cajon Subdivision
  • BNSF’s Needles Subdivision
  • Metrolink’s San Gabriel Subdivision
  • Union Pacific’s Cima Subdivision
  • Union Pacific’s Los Angeles Subdivision
  • Union Pacific’s Yuma Subdivision

I had planned to just spent a nice and quite few days camping near the Cima Subdivision. That wasn’t to be. Instead I went on “the mega tour,” and enjoyed the experience, but next time I think that I try to be less mega and more patient.

Perhaps I should call the Union Pacific ahead of time…