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Archive for April 16th, 2009

Night Train (HDR) Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (HDR)

Who doesn’t like trains? They are a massive symbol of a great industrial age. Their importance to America‚Äôs Manifest Destiny is undeniable only surpassed by the age of flight. If you like photographing trains there are many wonderful opportunities nearby in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Here in Maryland we have the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum and the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. In Pennsylvania you can find the the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Strasburg Railroad.

The B&O Railroad Museum makes for a great day out and is conveniently located in Baltimore. It has 40 acres showcasing a number of historic railroad buildings including the historic Roundhouse and a huge collection of locomotives and rolling stock. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is a two hour drive to Strasburg Pennsylvania near Lancaster. It hosts five acres of locomotives and rolling stock from 18 different Pennsylvania railroads.

Although the museums are great, I really prefer the challenge of photographing living breathing moving locomotives under full steam. Two and a half hours away In Cumberland Maryland they run steam locomotive rides during the day. You can ride the train but you will get the best photos watching it come and go. If you choose to ride the train there is a car that has openings where they store bikes that you can lean out of the train and get some shots. There is even a curve in the track where you can shoot the front of the train from the back of the train. Just watch out or you will get a mouth full of coal ashes.

I got my best photos when the train arrived for boarding and departed for its run to Frostburg 32 miles away. Then I drove to Frostburg to photograph the train arriving from Cumberland. The highlight in Frostburg is watching the locomotive being turned on the turntable. You need a wide angle lens to get the whole train in the frame. I used a 17mm. While the train is lying over in Frostburg there are great opportunities to walk to the front of the train and photograph it on the tracks before it heads back to Cumberland. This was a great opportunity to shoot some HDR shots of the train. In fact it is almost a necessity. If you expose for the train the sky is white. If you expose for the sky the train is black. HDR to the rescue.

As a bonus I stayed and photographed the mystery dinner theater train leaving and returning from Cumberland that night. This is not a steam train but a diesel train. Where else can you stand on a train track in the middle of the night and get a long exposure of a train up close headlight beaming into the night. Make sure and bring a tripod.

Across the street from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is the Strasburg Railroad. You can ride this train as well but the ride is 20 minutes in one direction, they turn the train, and 20 minutes back. I did not like photographing the train on departure because the locomotive is hooked to the cars backwards. I got my best shots by driving two mile down the road and finding a crossroad that intersected with the train track. I waited for the train to return and photographed it going through the Amish countryside. As soon as the train passed I drove back to the station and just barely got back in time to photograph the train returning to the station. The last train of the day will pull up to the water tower providing a great opportunity for photography before they tuck it away for the evening.

Published in the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club newsletter
"THE VIEWFINDER" May 2009

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