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

Entries from November 15, 2009 - November 21, 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.