May 2017 Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our May 2017 Chapter photo contest! Out of a field of 14 entries I have selected the top four and they are: 1st Place, Bill Ferrell, 2nd Place, Bill Grady, 3rd Place, Blair Terry and 4th Place went to Chris Dees.

We want to thank everyone for their participation and look forward to seeing your entries for our next chapter contest which will run the Week of July 31 – Aug 6, 2017.

 

The other entries were:

May 2017 Ricky’s Replies!

Ricky Bivins, Chapter President

Greetings.

Just a heads up, our meeting this month as usual is in Hopkinsville Kentucky. Our friends and members from Hop-town always put on a fine show and the venue is excellent. And I believe we will have some tasty vittles as well.

By the time you read this, our second photo contest for the year will have come and gone. I certainly hope you were able to get out and take a few shots and turn them into Jim Pearson. Remember, these photos will be in our next Chapter calendar. The winners and possibly some honorable mentions, depending on how many total entry’s we received over the year. So, get out there and take some shots when the time comes for number three.

In old business from April, we will decide on our level of involvement with the convention in Nashville. We will be checking with Bowling Green and New Haven to see if we can assist in anyway. The consensus from the members I have talk to is a low-key approach. We have trouble committing to in-house events, committing to something outside of our area might be a bit of a stretch. I would not want to commit to something and then not follow through with it and give us a bad reputation!

We also decided in April, to update and purged the Chapter email list. Steve should have a report on this in May.
During the May meeting I will confirm the mailing address for the Chapter, for some reason I have two mailing addresses on file. Once this is done I will give Matt the go-ahead on printing new biz cards for the Chapter.

Jim Pearson, by the way, lost a brother since our April meeting. David worked for the city in Madisonville and was a very interesting individual. Our condolences to Jim and family. That having been said, Jim may have a report on the Chapter Facebook page, YouTube page and a possible Vimeo page. But if not we certainly understand.

 

Tips on shooting a time-lapse railroad video by Jim Pearson

Jim Pearson

In this post, I’ll be talking about some of the many options available for shooting Time-lapse videos of railroads, or any subject matter.

        Time-lapse photography is a technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured (the frame rate) is much lower than that used to view the sequence. When played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. For example, an image of a scene may be captured once every second, then played back at 30 frames per second; the result is an apparent 30 times speed increase. Time-lapse photography can be considered the opposite of high speed photography or slow motion.

Processes that would normally appear subtle to the human eye, e.g. the motion of the sun and stars in the sky, become very pronounced. Time-lapse is the extreme version of the cinematography technique of undercranking, and can be confused with stop motion animation.

Here is my most recent time-lapse video of CSX crews changing out a bridge in Ft. Branch, Indiana.

I use a Nikon D800 full frame camera when shooting my time-lapses. While many cameras, including an iPhone, are capable of doing this, my post will center around how I do mine using my equipment. At the end of the post I’ll list some other options available and by no means will this post or list be all inclusive. The above video was shot using a Nikkor 18mm a f/8 at an interval of 1 second.

I like using the D800 for doing time-lapse because when it’s finished shooting the camera combines all the individual frames together in the camera and saves them as a video instead of individual JPG or RAW files. So far, I’ve only shot using JPG Fine because of file sizes and storage on my Compact Flash Card.

Plan Ahead – Think and plan ahead on how you’re going to do your time-lapse and pick a good subject that will have plenty of action! It’s not a good idea to arrive 5 minutes before the action starts! Also, if you’re going to have to shoot on private property then you’ll need to obtain permission first. If it’s from public access then it’s not as big a problem. Above all else when photographing around trains or other heavy equipment you need to always be aware of your surroundings, stay safe and never trespass!

Don’t Forget Anything – When shooting time-lapse you can spend several hours standing by the side of the road out in the boonies so it’s good to be prepared! Not to sound like your mom, but you should take enough water and food. If it’s winter or foul weather then spare socks, shoes, warm coat and gloves. In summer, more water, a hat and sunscreen are must haves! A fully charged cell phone and something to read will help pass the time as well. Of course, it goes without saying your camera and tripod and all the batteries you can carry for your camera.

Batteries – Shooting a time-lapse will drain your batteries quickly so always take spares! If you shoot in 1 second intervals then that’s 60 photos a minute. Multiply that by an hour (gives you 30 seconds of video at a frame rate of 30 FPS) and you’re shooting 3,600 photos an hour! If you only have two batteries then consider taking your battery charger along and charging your spare battery in the car. The key is to keep the camera shooting pictures and if you run out of juice then your time-lapse will suffer for it.

Tripod – You need a good sturdy tripod! If you only have a lightweight one then consider attaching a weight to the center pole in order to give it more stability. If the camera moves or shakes between exposure it can result in a shaky video. This is extremely important if your shutter speed is on the slow side because of the lower light levels, which can make for some interesting blur effects.

Exposure Mode – Whatever camera you use, set it to manual mode. Any other mode where the camera controls and changes the aperture or shutter speed, the camera will try to correct every change of light and color temperature, which can result in a flicker in your video. “Flicker” is known as the unwanted effect that occurs in the “time-lapse” due to slight differences in exposure between shots.

Focusing – I suggest turning off the autofocus and doing so manually instead. While the time-lapse is exposing it shouldn’t cause a problem as long as you don’t touch the shutter button on your camera, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can use autofocus to focus once you have your framing setup and then turn it off during your time-lapse sequence. Don’t forget to refocus when you change your camera position.

Shutter Speed – I tend to keep my shutter speed a bit high, but here again it all depends on the light and time of day. If you’re shooting late in the evening or at night then you may have to use a slower shutter speed. When doing so keep in mind that if you’re shooting at 1 second intervals that with a 10 second exposure (low light photography) it’s going to take more than 1 second interval to record your file to your card. You may have to adjust accordingly.

Aperture and Exposure –  All lenses have a sweet spot (it’s sharpest point). I find that 2-3 stops from your widest aperture is the best. If shooting with a f/2.8 lens then that would be at f/8. Be sure to watch your exposure throughout the day and make sure it’s consistent. The sun move and exposure changes so to make sure it’s even throughout check it every time you change the camera’s position or at least once an hour, is my rule of thumb.

Lens – This all depends on your preference. Sometimes I’ll use a 24-70 so I have the option to zoom in on different aspects of the scene without changing lenses. On the time-lapse above I used a 18mm at f/8.

Time Lapse Duration – I personally prefer having the camera shoot a photo in the 1-2 frames a second range. The CSX bridge change video was shot at 1 second intervals.

To make your time-lapse a bit more interesting visually it’s best to stop the time-lapse and re-position the camera every so often to help give more visual impact.

A good app and the one I use to figure out my interval is called PhotoPhills. It runs $9.99 in the app store, but is well worth it and does a lot more than the time-lapse calculations. Their website is: http://www.photopills.com/

The app will help you figure out how often you need to expose, how long and how much room you’ll need on your card to store all the information that you capture. If your camera doesn’t combine everything together in the end to make your video your card may require a lot of space to store the thousands of JPGs or RAW files. Here’s a link to an online version of their Timelapse Calculator you can use for free.( http://www.photopills.com/calculators/timelapse)

If your camera doesn’t combine your JPGs or RAW files then you’ll need to look for a program to combine all the resulting files into a video clip that you can edit. There are several programs available to do this, some of which are listed below.

One of the most popular is LRTimelapse (https://lrtimelapse.com/). A few others are: GBTimelapseTime-Lapse Tool and Panolapse. There is many more and to find them just do a Google search.

Here’s a good article on how to shoot time-lapse using your iPhone or iPad. There’s many other apps for doing this with your smart device. Just search your phone’s app store. How to Take Amazing iPhone Time Lapse Videos (https://iphonephotographyschool.com/iphone-time-lapse/) To give my time-lapse the polished look complete with titles and transitions I use Adobe Premiere Pro CC, the online version. It’s available for a subscription fee of $19.99 a month. There’s many other programs available to edit video however and most all do a good job

There is so much more to shooting time-lapse, but I hope this post will at least give you a good starting point and food for thought!

Here’s another time-lapse I did on replacing a switch at Mortons Gap, Ky.

May 2017 Update on High Iron Trips

Don Clayton

From Don Clayton…

Due to some conflicting schedules with the 611 excursions, we are revising our Kanawha River trip schedule. This update is shown in the attached. The BNSF trip has been removed for rescheduling.  Information on ticketing for the Piedmont & Northern trips will be available shortly.  Sorry for any confusion!

 

June 3-12, 2017:. KANAWHA RIVER RAILROAD BEHIND ex-NKP 765.  (Note: Kanawha River Railroad is a former NYC line, now operated by WATCO).

June 3: Deadhead to Pickerington, Ohio (near Columbus), load passengers, run to the village of Eclipse (near Athens) or as far as practical. Use Kanawha River Railroad unit to pull train back to Pickerington/Watkins Yard. Total is about 150 miles.

June 4: Deadhead to Pickerington, Ohio to load passengers, then run two short trips, Pickerington to Glouster and return, about 114 miles per trip. Use Kanawha River Railroad unit to pull train on all westbound moves.

June 5: Deadhead train to either Nitro or Dickinson Yard for storage during week.

June 9: Diesel trip, Charleston as far as we can go toward Enon, MP WV253 and return.  Total of about 140 miles.

June 10: Load passengers at the University of Charleston stadium in downtown Charleston and run to Maben. Bus passengers to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, deadhead train to Mullens/Elmore to wye. Deadhead move may be occupied. Total is about 170 miles.

June 11: Repeat of Saturday’s trip.

June 12: One way move from Charleston to Pickerington, Ohio, Then deadhead into

Watkins yard. Equipment will be 611 Steam Train consist plus Caritas and Cimarron

River. Pricing to be determined.

September 14-22, 2017: AAPRCO Convention in Burlington, VT

The Special Train will start in Albany/Renssalaer, NY on a route not yet finalized but

including major portions of the Vermont Rail System. The actual convention dates are

September 19-22. We will be participating with the Caritas and Cimarron River.

Clark Johnson Today, 9:07 AM

Positive Train Control Update

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a status update on railroads’ progress implementing positive train control (PTC) systems in the fourth quarter of 2016. The status update, based on railroad-submitted quarterly data, shows freight railroads continue to make consistent progress while passenger industry progress in installing and activating the life-saving technology only slightly increased.

The latest data, current as of Dec. 31, 2016, confirms freight railroads now have PTC active on just 16% of tracks required to be equipped with PTC systems — up from 12% last quarter. Passenger railroads made less progress — with a slight increase to 24% from 23%.

RELATED: Commuter rail continues to make progress on PTC

Due in large part to Amtrak’s significant progress on PTC, 41% of passenger railroads’ locomotives are now fully equipped with PTC technology, compared to 29% the previous quarter. Freight railroads’ percentage of locomotives fully equipped with PTC technology rose to 42%, up from 38%.

“We continue to closely monitor railroads’ progress implementing Positive Train Control,” said Patrick Warren, FRA Executive Director. “With less than two years remaining to complete the implementation process, it is imperative that railroads continue to meet implementation milestones.”

RELATED: NCTD files app to begin revenue service demo of PTC

Congress requires Class I railroads and entities providing regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation to implement PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2018. Only if some key implementation and installation milestones are met may railroads be eligible to obtain a limited extension to complete certain non-hardware, operational aspects of PTC system implementation no later than Dec. 31, 2020, subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s approval.

 

April 2017 The Spill with President Ricky Bivins

Greetings.

This will be short. As I forgot to send Bill my article! In the midst of spring we are all busy. Please forgive me.    

The April business meeting should be short, all we should be doing is recapping current business as it stands. Keep in mind the National convention is just a few months away and in Nashville Tennessee. That’s very close and we should be able to have a few members present. I received an update from National membership status I’m pleased to say server members have rejoined on the national level.

Our next photo session is coming up the first full week of May. May 6 will be an outing in my hometown of Mortons Gap Kentucky. We will be trackside at the city park with the convenience stores and restrooms within 2 to 3 miles. Our Hopkinsville members will host a meeting next month in Hopkinsville at the former L&N depot which is trackside in downtown Hopkinsville. I am sure there is a lot I have it covered, if you have a business side of this mountain be sure and bring it up under new business Monday night. We will see you there!

Ricky Bivins, President

 

April 2017 Update on High Iron Trips

Don Clayton

From Don Clayton…

Due to some conflicting schedules with the 611 excursions, we are revising our Kanawha River trip schedule. This update is shown in the attached. The BNSF trip has been removed for rescheduling.  Information on ticketing for the Piedmont & Northern trips will be available shortly.  Sorry for any confusion!

June 3-12, 2017:. KANAWHA RIVER RAILROAD BEHIND ex-NKP 765.  (Note: Kanawha River Railroad is a former NYC line, now operated by WATCO).

June 3: Deadhead to Pickerington, Ohio (near Columbus), load passengers, run to the village of Eclipse (near Athens) or as far as practical. Use Kanawha River Railroad unit to pull train back to Pickerington/Watkins Yard. Total is about 150 miles.

June 4: Deadhead to Pickerington, Ohio to load passengers, then run two short trips, Pickerington to Glouster and return, about 114 miles per trip. Use Kanawha River Railroad unit to pull train on all westbound moves.

June 5: Deadhead train to either Nitro or Dickinson Yard for storage during week.

June 9: Diesel trip, Charleston as far as we can go toward Enon, MP WV253 and return.  Total of about 140 miles.

June 10: Load passengers at the University of Charleston stadium in downtown Charleston and run to Maben. Bus passengers to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, deadhead train to Mullens/Elmore to wye. Deadhead move may be occupied. Total is about 170 miles.

June 11: Repeat of Saturday’s trip.

June 12: One way move from Charleston to Pickerington, Ohio, Then deadhead into

Watkins yard. Equipment will be 611 Steam Train consist plus Caritas and Cimarron

River. Pricing to be determined.

September 14-22, 2017: AAPRCO Convention in Burlington, VT

The Special Train will start in Albany/Renssalaer, NY on a route not yet finalized but

including major portions of the Vermont Rail System. The actual convention dates are

September 19-22. We will be participating with the Caritas and Cimarron River.

Clark Johnson Today, 9:07 AM

 

April 2017 All Things Trains and Photography by Jim Pearson

March 25, 2017 – The Princeton railroad station was built in 1875 and has been beautifully restored. Once housing the C&EI and L&N railways, it was the lifeline of commerce and transportation for the county. Passenger service was discontinued in the late 1960’s. The Princeton Train Depot is now home to the Gibson County Visitors Center and features a railway museum with a restored train caboose.

Sometimes I start out planning to do one thing when I set off on a railfan trip, but end up doing something different which usually results in nice photos I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise!

I try to do some railfan photography several days during the week, usually Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Mostly because on CSX’s Henderson Subdivision, which runs here through Madisonville, Ky, these are the busiest days.

Well, last saturday, March 25th, 2017, the weather was overcast and it was drizzling rain off and on most of the morning as I sat here working on the computer and trying to motivate myself to get out the door and on the road. Yes, I too sometimes have to motivate myself to take pictures! LOL

After posting a few queries on Facebook to a couple railfan groups, about current traffic for trains in the area I want to railfan, I finally decided that I was going to point my Toyota RAV4 north and see where it’d lead me!

Responses to the  Facebook posts were providing some info that trains were out there moving, just not a lot of them, so it seemed, but that never deters me as I always seem to find them. For me it’s not about the number of trains, but catching unusual or different angles, scenes or trains when I’m trackside. This day seemed to start out challenging, to say the least!

March 25, 2017 – CSX Autorack train Q247 arrives at the north end of Howell Yard in Evansville, Indiana.

Out of Madisonville I followed CSX’s Henderson Subdivision north to Evansville, Indiana and during the whole trip I only saw and heard (I use a scanner to listen to the train traffic) one train, a southbound, which I was too late in catching to get a photo! It wasn’t looking good! 50 miles and only one train? Maybe I should have stayed home, but the clouds in the sky were fantastic and I was determined to catch some trains with them!

My first stop was CSX’s Howell Yards in Evansville, Indiana. This is a spot where you can drive all the way around the yard and get good shots from various angles. My favorite location however is on the west side of the yard across from the engine service facility. This is where I caught a autorack train coming into the yard heading south and empty coal train northbound from the yard. Knowing the route the coal train would take I decided to head on north toward Princeton, Indiana to get ahead of the coal train to catch it along its way north. This way I’d be sure of at least getting a few shots with a train.

March 25, 2017 – Empty coal train CSX E234 heads through St. James Curve at St. James, Indiana as it makes it’s way north on the CE&D Subdivision.

The first spot I wanted to catch the coal train was a location known by railroaders as St. James Curve, which is just outside the small hamlet of St. James, Indiana, just past I-64 off of Hwy 41 north. After arriving and waiting about 5 minutes the coal train, E234, graced my presence as it swept through the curve into the frame to allow me to catch this sweeping photo with the beautiful clouds in the sky! First photo I was really happy with from the day!March 25, 2017 – CSX empty coal train E234 heads north through St. James Curve at St. James, Indiana, on CSX’s CE&D Subdivision.

Knowing how fast the train was moving I knew I only really had one other spot I could get to before the train and that was the restored depot in Princeton, Indiana, which was the furthest I planned on going on this trip today.

Again, I was rewarded with this shot as the coal train prepared to pass the station as it continued its trip north.

March 25, 2017 – CSX empty coal train E234 passes the depot at Princeton, Indiana as it heads north on CSX’s CE&D Subdivision. The station was built in 1875 and has been beautifully restored. Once housing the C&EI and L&N railways, it was the lifeline of commerce and transportation for the county. Passenger service was discontinued in the late 1960?s. The Princeton Train Depot is now home to the Gibson County Visitors Center and features a railway museum with a restored train caboose.

At this point I was satisfied that I had a couple nice photos in the camera, but still I wanted more!

I had been in contact with fellow railfan photographer Ryan Scott via Facebook Messenger and phone, since I got to Howell Yard in Evansville. He also was out railfanning and we decided to meet up at the depot in Princeton to visit and railfan together.

That’s where things started to change from my original plan! We spent time looking and shooting at the Norfolk Southern Yard at Princeton and along the other lines in and around town and at the Alliance Coal Mine loop where coal trains load. Ryan then suggested night photos! He’s not had much success on shooting photos at night and was looking for some tips and help. I hadn’t planned on staying trackside that late, but it had been quite awhile since I did any night work so I went for it.

March 25, 2017 – The red light from signals light up the front of NS 871 with an empty Norfolk Southern coal train that tied down in Lyle Siding at Princeton, Indiana, waiting on a crew to take it on east on the NS Southern West district.

Now, for the railfan friends of mine that read this, here’s some of the tips I passed onto Ryan as we were shooting at Norfolk Southern’s Lyle Siding and in downtown Princeton during our night shoot that you might find helpful as well.

First, before we got out of the car, where we had some light, we set our cameras as follows:

  • Turn off auto ISO if you use it and set your ISO to 250.
  • Set your camera on manual and the shutter speed to 20 seconds with your lens aperture to it’s widest opening.
  • Remove any filters that might be on the lenses you’re going to shoot with. Otherwise you can get some ghosting in your photos when the lights reflect back into the filter.
  • Place your camera on a tripod!
  • Then set the self timer on your camera to somewhere between 3-10 seconds. This is to insure that there’s no camera shake, resulting in a blurred image, when you trip the shutter.

Review your first photo on your LCD screen. If it’s too dark, increase your exposure by giving it more time, ie 30 -60 seconds. If your camera won’t allow beyond a 30 second exposure then increase your ISO setting to give you another stop of light. That means go from 250 to 500 ISO, or something equivalent. I try to keep my ISO as low as possible as this helps to keep the noise (grain) down in the photograph. Keep adjusting like this until you get an exposure that you like and feel you can work in. If the photo is too light then of course you go in the other direction with your exposure.

March 25, 2017 – Great time shooting some night action with fellow railfans Ryan Scott and Dave Kunkle! We caught this empty Norfolk Southern coal train that tied down in Lyle Siding at Princeton, Indiana, waiting on a crew to take it on east on the NS Southern West district. A big shout out to Dave Kunkle who was gracious enough to be our “grip” and use his hat to cover a bothersome light on one of the RR Boxes next to the crossing!

Focusing can be an issue when shooting at night as well. I usually bring a bright spotlight to shine on my subject to aid in focus, but since I didn’t start out planning to shoot night photos, I didn’t bring one. So, we had to improvise.

Change your focus point to center weighted so you have a single point to focus with. Then pick a bright spot on your subject and try to focus. If the camera can’t lock in the focus using the brightest spot, then see if there’s not something brighter about the same distance away that you can focus on. Another thing you can do if you are shooting with someone else, is to have your friend stand in a safe spot next to your subject and turn their smart phone’s flashlight on facing the camera and focus on the light from it. Of course you can manually focus as well, but for my aging eyesight I find autofocus works better for me.

Now, once you have the camera focused you need to turn off the autofocus on your lens or camera. Otherwise when you press the shutter button on the camera it’s going to try to refocus when you take the photo, probably resulting in an out of focus photo. I personally use the back focus button on my Nikon D800 and turn it off on the shutter button. This way I don’t have this issue. Most of your DSLRs have this feature. If yours doesn’t then you’ll have to turn it off on the lens between subjects.

Other than that, shoot a lot and check your focus after shooting each photo! Do this by viewing the photo on your LCD and zooming in tight to check your focus. Nothing more disappointing than shooting a bunch of photos to find they’re soft or out of focus, after you get back home.

As you can see from several of the photos here, I came away with some nice photos for not really having planned for shooting at night.

Oh, by the way, I left to start this trip at noon Saturday and by the time I got back home it was 12:30 am Sunday morning. Sometimes, things work that way though! All in all a good trip! Be safe out there when you’re trackside or traveling!