Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Reporting from the Capitol… of California… the Great Train Expo in Sacramento and other Train Goodness

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

A few weeks ago we attended the Sacramento Great Train Expo. Usually I try to document the trip within a week or two but unfortunately my immune system was assaulted (repeatedly) which laid me up for awhile and I got behind on a lot of tasks. This ended up getting further compounded by another show. I apologize especially to those who I told would be making an appearance in this blog, please forgive me. Without further adieu… here’s my report on the Sacramento show and the accompanying trip!

My trip began with a flight from Southern Oregon to Burbank where I sat next to a nice woman who had been a teacher most of her life and we had a long conversation about a variety of topics. Here, I have to offer another apology as I lost her name and email address but hopefully she kept mine and will see this. As we discussed trains and travel, she asked me what the longest train route was and I admitted that I didn’t know but that I would find out and put it in my blog for her and my readers. A few days later, as Don and I were headed north from Los Angeles on our way to Sacramento we fortuitously heard a story on NPR’s Morning Edition on the Trans-Siberian Railway and I realized that was the answer to her question. To further flesh out the answer, someone has made a nice little page on Wikipedia attempting to document the longest passenger train journeys, the top 3 of which are all in Russia.

Trans-Siberian railway, photos by DAVID GILKEY

Trans-Siberian railway, photo by DAVID GILKEY from his NPR story titled 'Russia By Rail'

Once we arrived in Sacramento we made our way to the Cal Expo State Fairgrounds where vendors were in one hall and layouts were next door. As we were unloading the truck we could hear trains passing nearby blowing their whistles. Once we we were set up, I took the opportunity to visit the other vendors and layouts. I met Diane Rodriguez who is an artist and painter who brought many of her original works of watercolor and oil paintings showcasing locomotives and trains. She also sells prints and and cards of her works, you can check them all out on her website, www.dianerodriguezart.com.

Diane Rodriguez Art

Diane Rodriguez and some of her paintings - Photo by Cat Cook

Out of Ione, California, Comstock Construction were on hand showing off their Garden Railroad Structures. They only sell direct so you can contact them through the info on their website: Comstock Construction Their buildings are designed to endure the elements, “using water resistant adhesives, mechanically fastened joints with steel brads, or staples, and all California Redwood construction.”

Comstock Construction

Comstock Construction Garden Railroad Structures - Photo by Cat Cook

Among the layouts were the Diablo Pacific Short Line which is a non-profit organization that educates the public about railroading and the role of railroads in America. They are a modular layout with 500 feet of track and have members from hard-core modelers to youths just learning about railroading.

Diablo Pacific Short Line

Diablo Pacific Short Line - Photo by Cat Cook

Another large layout was provided by Coastal Valley Lines out of the Sonoma Valley, CA. I met two of the module designers, Allie and Joan. They and some of their designs are highlighted below.

Allie with her Coastal Valley Lines modular layout

Allie with her Coastal Valley Lines modular layout - Photo by Cat Cook

Allie's Snow-Themed Coastal Valley Lines Modular Layout

Allie's Snow-Themed Coastal Valley Lines Modular Layout - Photo by Cat Cook

Joan Fleck with one of her Coastal Valley Lines modular layouts

Joan Fleck with one of her Coastal Valley Lines modular layouts - Photo by Cat Cook

Coastal Valley Lines Stack Train

Coastal Valley Lines stack train in front of one of Joan Fleck's Module

Joan's Farm

Farm layout by Joan Fleck of Coastal Valley Lines - Photo by Cat Cook

Also at the show was Sacramento Valley N-Trak who model the greater Sacramento area focusing on fallen flags including Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, Santa Fe, Sacramento Northern, Tidewater Southern, and others.

Sacramento Valley N-Trak

Sacramento Valley N-Trak Layout - Photo by Cat Cook

I also came across this layout called the Rusty Spike Railroad Co. , a member of the Toy Train Operating Society (TTOS). I believe they will also be at the upcoming Toy Train Expo & Sale in Santa Clara, CA on Sunday March 4 from 9am to 4pm.

Rusty Spike

The Rusty Spike Railroad Co. - Photo by Cat Cook

Another group visiting from the wine country was the aptly named, Wine Country N-Scalers.

Wine Country Layout

Wine Country N-Scalers - Photo by Cat Cook

That’s it from the show, it turned out to be great even though my beloved Saints lost the playoffs that weekend (boo.) Our drive home was pretty uneventful. Except for this guy….

Overpass Northern California

The Keeper of the Overpass - Photo by Cat Cook

It was cold, clear, and beautiful out. I snapped a nice shot of Mount Shasta as from the warmth of the truck as we drove by.

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta January 2012 - Photo by Cat Cook

More blogs are in the hopper! Stay tuned… :)

 

Thanksgiving Weekend’s Railroad Show in Medford

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

This past weekend was the annual Rogue Valley Railroad Show in Medford, Oregon. This year the main floor was packed with even more layouts and displays than before and when the doors were opened on Saturday we were slammed with attendees all day long which was great to see. One of the first-timers was Laurie who I initially met at the Rickreall Train Show earlier this year, she is a photographer who was showing her work which captures rolling stock adorned with street art (aka graffiti). In August she was featured in the Douglas County, News-Review Currents; if you have a subscription you can read the article here: News-Review Article on Laurie.

Laurie's work was featured on the front page of the News-Review' Currents section August 25, 2011

Laurie's work was featured on the front page of the News-Review' Currents section August 25, 2011

Also represented was the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association whom I first met at the Eugene Train Show.  In their own words, they are a… “non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to restoring, maintaining, and operating historic railway equipment of the Pacific Northwest. [They] are the official caretakers of the SP&S 700, a 4-8-4 steam locomotive that ranks among the largest steam engines still in operation.” If you’d like to help them out you can visit their website to buy some of the goodies you can see in the picture below or become a member here: http://www.sps700.org/

Goods featured by the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association - Photo by Cat Cook

Goods featured by the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association - Photo by Cat Cook

Next door to the SP&S 700-people was Roger Rasmussen, of Coastmans, showing off his Evergreen trees & kits. His kits are handcrafted in Oregon and are incredibly realistic. The Douglas Fir Tree Kit is their flagship product offering the absolute best in detail and prototype accuracy. Another one of their products, “SuperTrunks” is made from 100% Port Orford, Oregon Cedar. It may not singlehandedly keep the Oregon forestry industry alive but hey, every little bit helps. The kits and “RediMade” trees are high quality and affordably priced. Check out the Coastmans website here: www.coastmans.com

High quality trees for scale modeling direct from Oregon - Photo courtesy of www.coastmans.com

High quality trees for scale modeling direct from Oregon - Photo courtesy of www.coastmans.com

One of the layouts was by Shaun Anscombe and depicted Hogsmeade as well as some other Harry Potter-inspired scenes. He also had some reference photos of the real-life of the train station in England (where he hails from.)

Hogsmeade Station by Shaun Anscombe - Photo by Cat Cook

Hogsmeade Station by Shaun Anscombe - Photo by Cat Cook

A train speeds through Shaun Anscombe's Hogsmeade - Photo by Cat Cook

A train speeds through Shaun Anscombe's Hogsmeade - Photo by Cat Cook

Also sharing their layout was the Lower Mackenzie Modular Railroad Club out of Springfield, Oregon.

BNSF locomotive with warbonnet paint scheme on the Lower Mackenzie Modular Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

BNSF locomotive with warbonnet paint scheme on the Lower Mackenzie Modular Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

Lumber operations on the Lower Mackenzie Modular Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

Lumber operations on the Lower Mackenzie Modular Railroad - Photo by Cat Cook

Winning first place for People’s Choice was the Southern Oregon Z-Scale Modelers out of Medford, Oregon. Check out the short video below featuring part of their layout:  It features a helicopter with rotating blades, a highway with moving vehicles, tunnels with plexiglass sides so you can see what is going on inside, and more!

This Saturday is the Rickreall Railroad Show and Swap Meet – Sponsored by the Willamette Valley Model Railroad Club – 10AM-3PM Polk at Polk County Fairgrounds Hwy 22 and Hwy 99E, 10 miles west of Salem. Over 50 different vendors on over 100 tables, a wide variety of railroad products, and inexpensive food. Since it is just a one day show (with 2 hours for setup) we can’t bring all of our modeling items, just railfan goods this trip, but hope to see some of you there!

Klamath Train Show 2011 and Two New Train Videos from 7Idea Productions

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Just over a week ago was the 2011 Klamath Model Railroad Show & Sales Event hosted by the Klamath Rails Club at the Klamath County Fairgrounds. Last year we had freezing rain but this year it was sunny and warm all weekend which made for a comfortable and happy event.

Rock formations modeled on the Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club layout (Photo by Cat Cook)

Rock formations modeled on the Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club layout (Photo by Cat Cook)

At the show I met Greg Jones of the Klamath Rails club who pointed out the rock formations he made on the club’s traveling layout. He explained his process for making the rocks included using the Woodland Scenics rock molds (shop here:Woodland Scenics Terrain and Landscaping Products) with fast-acting drywall compound you can buy at any hardware store. He gave me some examples to show you the rocks before paint is applied.

Rocks made by Greg Jones of Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club using Woodland Scenics rock molds (Photo by Cat Cook)

Rocks made by Greg Jones of Klamath Rails Model Railroad Club using Woodland Scenics rock molds (Photo by Cat Cook)

Returning this year was Robert Gavora with his Fine and Rare Books. He carries a huge collection of fascinating tomes on railroading. If you can’t attend shows in the Pacific Northest to see for yourself check out his website: www.robertgavora.com.  Here is my latest purchase, this fabulous book of Kinsey logging railroad photographs. In the early 1900s Darius Kinsey traveled around taking pictures of loggers with their locomotives, the photographs were then sold to the loggers. I’m pretty sure he has more copies of this if you are interested.

My newest book on logging railroads by Darius Kinsey (Photo by Cat Cook)

My newest book on logging railroads - Kinsey Photographer: The Locomotive Portraits edited by Dave Bohn (Photo by Cat Cook)

Another returning pleasure was getting to chat up Aaron Bentson producer of 7Idea Productions’ excellent railroad videos. The Klamath show allowed him to show off his newest production, MRL Montana Mainline Part 1: Jones Junction to Helena (click here for Blu-Ray). This release comes hot on the heels of his previous new release, Coal Trains of the Powder River Basin, out on DVD & Blu-ray last month.

Cat Cook and Aaron Bentson showing off 7Idea Production's latest releases (Photo by Don Cook)

Cat Cook and Aaron Bentson showing off 7Idea Production's latest releases (Photo by Don Cook)

As usual the Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club made the trek to share their traveling layout. Here’s a closeup of a portion featuring ‘fiber’ trees and an Athearn ready-to-run truck (buy it here: Athearn HO Ford C-Series with Van Body – California Motor Express CME). We will see more of them next month at the Rogue Valley Train Show November 26-27 2011 at the Medford Armory in Medford, OR.

Athearn RTR Truck on the road of Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Cat Cook)

Athearn RTR Truck on the road of Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Cat Cook)

Our next show is a big one, the Great Train Expo up in Puyallup, WA on November 19th & 20th 2011 at the Puyallup Fair & Event Center. Hope you can make it!

Railfans & Passengers Recruited to Observe & Report

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Do you love trains and enjoy fighting crime in your spare time? Amtrak and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) have jobs for you complete with official identification cards! BNSF has been doing this since 2006 under the Citizens for Rail Security program but now Amtrak has joined in with their Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security program. Picture, if you will, a neighborhood watch for railroads where railfans and, in Amtrak’s case, rail passengers report suspicious activities.

Once you sign up online you are able to print out your very own membership card. You are also given some direction about what type of activities qualify as suspicious. This includes things like: trespassers, unattended vehicles, suspicious objects/packages, suspicious activities or people all on or near railroad property, crimes in progress like vandalism or theft, threats against the railroad, gates left open or damaged, track obstructions, potential mechanical problems with trains and illegal dumping.

Nothing to see here, move along. Photo by Cat Cook

Nothing to see here, move along. Coast Starlight, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

So, you’ve seen something suspicious! Both Amtrak and BNSF make it pretty clear, just because you have a special badge doesn’t mean they want you to go take care of it. What they want you to do is report it! This is where the card comes in handy, as it has the number they would like you to call to report your particular flavor of suspicious activity. Before you call they want you to note some specifics first, here it is helpful to pretend you are a newspaper reporter and note the 6 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.

  • Who is being suspicious? Describe them, their vehicle….
  • What is suspicious? Describe what you saw, what occurred….
  • Where is the suspiciousness? Explain where the issue is, include streets or mile markers….
  • When was it suspicious? Relate when this happened, or when you noticed it….
  • Why/How is it suspicious? How doesn’t start with a ‘w’ but it’s in the list; include any other information that might help the police or railroad personnel.
Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Watch out! I'm official! My Citizens for Rail Security card.

Now, I know you are really liking this badge situation and feel pretty special. Like you have a special ‘in’ with the railroads but wait! There’s more…. The railroads want to make sure you understand that this isn’t an invitation to trespass. You are supposed to report trespassers, not become one! That would defeat the whole purpose. Don’t trespass even to answer the 6 W’s.  Restricted areas include places like: employee areas, maintenance facilities, unoccupied trains, engines, or maintenance vehicles, office areas, baggage areas, delivery areas, commissaries, right-of-way areas, track areas, and in-service train cars. Then there are the tracks, don’t walk on the tracks! That’s a big no-no. It’s highly illegal and highly dangerous. Only cross tracks at roadway crossings or designated pedestrian areas and when taking photos of trains always do it at least 15 feet from the closest rail.

San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station November 2009 Photo by Cat Cook

Where not to stand when taking a photo. Obviously I hadn't read the rules yet. San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station, November 2009 - Photo by Cat Cook

Of course, we should all be reporting suspicious activity whether we have a special identification card or not.  However, you may want to consider signing up with Amtrak or BNSF since the cards are handy for reminding us of rules around railroads and for providing the phone numbers to contact authorities in case of suspicious activities or safety hazards. Oh, and then there is the cool factor. I printed mine on card stock to give it that extra little ‘something’. Now, I just need a laminator to preserve my fancy ID cards for all time…

Tilt-Shifting the Rogue Valley Railroad Show

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
Last weekend was the 33rd Annual Rogue Valley Train Show which was well-attended by happy train-lovin’ people. Here’s a picture of the show floor from my perch up in the balcony where our big ol’ booth was located.
Rogue Valley Model Train Show (Photo by: Catherine Cook)

33rd Annual Rogue Valley Model Train Show - November 27th & 28th 2010 Medford Armory (Photo by: Catherine Cook)

Have you heard of Tilt-Shift Photography? It’s a way of manipulating certain aspects of a photograph to make the subject appear smaller than it really is. For example when applying this technique to a picture of a football stadium full of people everything looks like it is actually a miniature, or model, if you will.  Often when we photograph our train layouts we try hard to avoid our models looking like models but this photography approach attempts to do just the opposite – make real life appear like a miniature model! I thought this was pretty cool so I decided to give it a go with some pictures from the train show… miniaturizing real-life people who are looking at miniature trains helps satisfy my daily recommended intake of irony, let’s proceed!

So I found a tutorial on how to accomplish this. Let me state first off, I am by no means a professional photographer, I’ve never taken any classes on the correct way to use a camera or frame a shot so forgive the amateur mistakes you may be subjected to in this blog.  First we have to choose a photograph. Possibly the most important requirement of a successful tilt-shift fake miniature picture is having the right kind of photograph. You want to mimic that the viewer is looking down at a miniature so a shot from a higher vantage point looking down at the subject is key. We are going to work with the photo shown above. Next you will need a photo editor, I’m going to use Photoshop 5.0.  Here’s how we turn the above photo into a fake miniature photo:

  1. Open photo in Photoshop
  2. Press Q to enter Quick Mask
  3. Select Reflected Gradient Tool in the Toolbox
  4. Left click in the center of where you want your ‘in focus’ section of your photo to be and drag straight up to where you want it to start going ‘out of focus’ (this adds a hazy red fog to part of your photo)
  5. Press Q to exit Quick Mask
  6. Click the Filter drop down menu and select Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 7.5 pixels (the tutorial referred to above says to use Lens Blur but my version doesn’t have that, Gaussian Blur seems to do a similar effect)
  7. Press Ctrl-D to deselect the areas you selected with the gradient tool
  8. Click the Image drop down menu, select Adjust>Hue/Saturation and increase the Saturation by 80 (or to your taste)
  9. Click the Image drop down menu, select Adjust>Curves and drag the tonal curve until you like the look of the shadows (may not be necessary)
  10. Save it as a new image, voila!

    Tilt-Shift Fake Miniature Version

    Tilt-Shift Fake Miniature Version of the 33rd Annual Rogue Valley Train Show Photo (Photo by Catherine Cook)

This should (and does to some extent) look smaller, though I could use some more practice.  Below you can check out some more pictures from the show before and after my attempts at Tilt-Shifting them. First we have the Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club’s Layout:

Before Shot - Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Catherine Cook)

After Shot - Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Tilt-Shift Version - Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club Layout (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Here’s another before and after shot showcasing the Siskiyou Toy Train Club:
Before Shot - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Siskiyou Toy Train Club - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

After Shot - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Tilt-Shift Version - Siskiyou Toy Train Club - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Before Shot - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

National Railway Historical Society, Southern Oregon Chapter - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

After Shot 2 - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Tilt-Shift Version - National Railway Historical Society, Southern Oregon Chapter - Rogue Valley Train Show (Photo by Catherine Cook)

Well that’s it for my initial foray into Tilt-Shift Fake Miniature photography. To see some well-done pictures using this technique (by people who know what they are doing) check out this page: Tilt-Shift Photography

Happy Railroading!