As I usually preface, Ottawa is far from a hotbed of railroad activity, and when the chance comes to see a train, I go for it.
With the local line near my house, I can hear the local freight run up to make a delivery, knowing it will be back in about 20 minutes. This gives me enough time to find a location to watch it return.
Nearly all the time, it is the same consist of cars, only the actual number potentially varying. I don’t usually take a camera because, well, its always the same. This particular time, I decided to take one. Just because. I chose the Fuji X-100T and it accompanying telephoto extension.
The place I like to see the train gives a good view of it coming and going. For the best shots, I should bring the X-T1 or X-Pro2 so I can affix a telephoto lens for best angles. But time is of the essence to get in position (yes I could actually plan this a bit better too).
So when I’m in the spot, a chain-link fence limits my shooting. I set the exposure as best I can and then reach over the fence and shoot continually to hopefully get something decent. I ended up with this as the best one:
Still not as crisp as it could be; good enough for Instagram. Notice the fence in the bottom right corner. This is cropped in to remove as much of the fence as possible.
And, some shots just are not usable. Like this one, that better focused on the fence rather than the train:
Given that the consist was nothing special, and it was more of an exercise in just using the camera and seeing the train, not a big deal.
Not every shot is a keeper.
On a recent outing to take my son to an appointment, I had some time to kill. Good old quarantine means I can’t wait in the waiting room. So I wandered around the location. I planned ahead, and brought my Fuji X100T with me. Such a great little camera.
I found an old structure and used the morning sun and the macro feature of the camera to shoot a few closeups of the weathered wood.
I needed to take my son to the hospital for an appointment (nothing serious to worry about).
Since I didn’t know how long the appointment would be, I took along my Fuji X100T, should, you know, something interesting happen. I’m still riffing off the chess shots I took over the weekend, so I’m on it now – the photo thing.
Along the way, looking around, the tree line looked neat with the sun, obscured by clouds, looked kind of neat. So this picture came about. I always shoot in manual mode – I set the aperture and shutter speed and ISO, so I set the shutter speed to max and the shutter equally maxed out to get this look.
While it was shot at around 9:30am, it looks like a night shot in October.
As the unspeakable (because it is spoken too much) virus keeps everyone at home, I’ve been able to approach the camera again.
See, for the last year or so, I’ve been heavily involved in local musical theatre as a lighting designer and lighting technician. So all energies and more importantly, time, has been channeled that way.
So now with the lock down/stay at home orders, theatre entertainment has been postponed. The uptick is I can now dust off the camera, and find…no…rediscover, that creative outlet.
I was stuck though, as to where to start. An inspiration. And that led me to watch Zack Arias’ video, “Inspiration is for Amateurs“, and subsequently, one of his “behind the scenes” shoot videos. The crux of the first video, is that waiting for inspiration is a waste of time. Go out and shoot. Do something. Anything. The more you do, the more ideas come up. After watching the second video – which is just his approach to shooting a personal project, I was inspired. To do something. Being a lighting designer in theatre, I dug out my strobe lights, chess pieces and board, and tried to do….something. I tried different angles, lighting angles and gel colours.
It didn’t really work out as I’d hoped. But, true to Mr. Arias, I did a bunch of stuff that didn’t work, and as I was kind of giving up, I saw something, and started new shots, and came out with…something! Not great, but my eye was starting to see things.
Further, I left everything in the room and did something else. As I was walking by it, the afternoon light gave me the next idea. I grabbed a different camera and shot a few more frames.
So, while I spent a couple hours on the “prime” ideas, I got the best pictures after. In the end, either way, I’m happy with what I got.
The first photo was shot with a Fuji X-T1 with a 16-55 f2.8 lens, with a Fuji EF-42 flash on the camera in manual mode at low power bouncing off the ceiling. The second flash is a Nikon SB-900 in slave mode, triggered by the EF-42, also in manual mode to dial in specific power and zoom level.
The other two were taken with a Fuji X-100T, only with the light from the window.
On the weekend we went to a skate path. Basically, it’s a trail through the woods and fields in an area, made of ice. You skate on the paths rather than walk it. We were going at night, and as such, needed to bring along a flashlight to see the path. Actually, after a while, we got used to the lack of light and the snow made for enough illumination to see.
I decided to bring along a camera and a monopod. I thought there might be some opportunity for some neat night shots and maybe some long exposures. I chose to go with my Fuji X100T. Its a lightweight camera, and I hadn’t been on skates for a few years. I figure the weight wouldn’t be a problem and if I did crash (I didn’t) there are less components on that particular camera. That is, its a little more expendable.
I ended up with a few shots, and we used the flashlight to try some light painting as well. It was a relatively warm night and no wind. I used the large amount of snow to plant the monopod to do the long exposures. Again, with the X100T being small, there was no worry of it tipping over the monopod and falling into the snow.
Throwback Thursday is a thing on the webs and social media.
One hundred and one years ago, on April 9th, 1917, in a small snow storm, the Canadian army acted as one unit, not under British rule, to take Vimy Ridge. A German stronghold that earlier attempts by the British and French were failures.
It was a true Canadian moment, and shows the tenacity that is Canada to this day. When some loser shot and killed an honour guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa and stormed Parliament Hill (and killed by security), I thought, “fuck you. Canadians took Vimy, you can’t do that shit to us”, and went about my day as usual. You don’t mess with Canadians. Yeah, we are super nice and stupidly polite; just don’t push it.
So last year, in 2017, I went to the 100th anniversary of the battle, where the Canadians not only took the ridge, but held it for the rest of the war. Took it with the “fuck you, it’s ours now, you’ve done enough and we will keep it right” kind of attitude. See, most immigrants to Canada, not only left their country to avoid hardship, persecution and look for a better life, they also had to endure the hardships of an untamed wilderness, brutal climate (winters can be rough, even in the 21st century). They put up with all that, so nothing much more can phase them.
Proud Canadian? Yeah.
But I digress. I was there at Vimy for the 100th anniversary. It was the warmest, most clear day of the 10 days I spent in Belgium/France. There were a lot of logistical issues, and problems. But *I* was there. And to look out over the area where the four Canadian divisions came together and made such a monumental success, make me proud.
These are a few shots from the day. I had only my Fuji X100T and teleconverter. I would have liked something more zoomy for the Vimy Flight flypast, but, hey, what are you going to do.
As the 101st anniversary comes, I look at these photos and remember the soldiers who volunteered for a truly worthy cause, the ceremonies and the trip in general.
Today at work, I heard the the train heading up to the Nylene plant. I noted the time and determined a return in five hours, putting it back around 4:30. That is around the time I’m done for the day, so I was hoping to catch the train.
As I was heading to the car, I heard the train hitting the level crossings. I hoped to meet up with it along the way. As it happened, as I came to the crossing at Herzberg road, it was slowly approaching. The speed limit is 10 mph, so it’s not exactly zipping along. As I crossed the tracks, I made a quick left hand turn down Bayfield Avenue to meet it at another level crossing.
I stopped just short of Carling at the crossing and waited for the approach and took a few quick shots.
As it went passed, I thought, since it is going slow, I’d try to meet it at Corkstown Road. From my location, it was about seven minutes away. I had a similar meet before (without camera) and figured I could make it. I doubled back to Carling to Herzberg and over to Corkstown Road. No train in sight, I check the tracks. In the flangways at the crossing, there was still snow. If the train had come, it would have been compressed or gone. A moment later, my suspicions were answered as I saw headlights. A second run-by!
I considered a third attempt down the line, but it was not to be. Still, I was happy to see the same train twice.
As an aside, when giving a title to this post, I considered “Chasing Trains”, but a quick search revealed that I had used this title last year, and the photos were only just a little ways down the tracks from the one above. Just to the left in fact. Same camera too – my Fuji X100T
While in Belgium, we visited the site/memorial of Beaumont Hamel.
The Newfoundland regiments signed up to fight for King and Country in a time when they were their own dominion, not yet a part of Canada (not until 1949). They sent a contingent over to fight, and on July 1, 1916, at the beginning of the battle of the Somme, they attacked. The Battle of the Somme was the regiment’s first major engagement, and during an assault that lasted approximately 30 minutes the regiment was all but wiped out.
Newfoundland purchased the land and preserved it and it stays to this day untouched. Shell holes and trenches remain. Although not a part of Canada yet, this is truly a Canadian place. The walking paths encircle the battlefield area and one can tour around from the Newfoundland side to the German side. From the German side, you can see a clear view of the Newfoundland position and can see how they had easy sight lines to mow down the opposition. Its terrible.
One of the cemeteries included a number of tombstones next (very close) to each other. I wondered why. I later learned that those this close together indicate comrades who died in close proximity or in the same battle together.
This is a very powerful site to visit.
While in Belgium and Flanders visiting WWI sites, we visited a German cemetery. Similar to others we would visit, it was in farmland. The vibe was very different (as most cemeteries we visited were, all had a vibe; difficult to explain, but it was there).
The German one was very sombre and low key. Interestingly, there was wifi available here, however, it was very restricted such that one could only access an app that would describe the site. That’s fine. I found it interesting to have that technology to learn about the location, accommodating the next generation to keep history alive.
The Brooding Soldier is a memorial to Canadian soldiers in Langemark, who fought in the second battle of Ypres. This was the first time the Germans used gas. Of the nearly 6000 Canadians in the battle, 2000 were casualties. They did hold the line.
This is one of those monuments I’ve wanted to see in person for a long time. Our trip to Belgium included this, and it was fantastic to see. The location is in a small village on the edge of farmland. Not only is the memorial here, but a small garden area as well. We went first thing in the morning, and it was very peaceful. Looking around, the entire area was at one time a battlefield, which is a recurring theme in this area.