Monday, December 17, 2007

Sucess: Very High Price Tag

Sometimes I'm too much of a kid for my own good.

Coming home late, getting dark out and as cold as my maiden great-aunt, somehow a two mile long train of empty autoracks pulled by a massive beast of a SD70-AC slips my attention. I see it just before turning onto the road home, instead I wheel about and go roaring off up the interstate for a dusk rendevous, giggling in my helmet like the little boy I am.

I find a favourite spot in Boyce, my last chance place before trees hem in tight, and realise autoracks are empty, SD70 hogger is using all 5K horsepower at his disposal and is doing 50+ mph.

Must hurry. Adrenaline kicking in hard, knowing I won't have but a small window of opportunity.

Find new spot.

Find better spot.

Find even better spot on steel ladder of grain silos; climb halfway up, hurting my knee with every pounding footfall on the steel steps. Almost crash face-first into metal mesh gate blocking entrance to the very top. I turn, steady myself on the cold steel railing, and aim. Grit teeth and yank lens cap off. Ten feet off the ground, I've got a nice view down onto tracks.

The train comes into view FAST. Took the first photo: fail. Too excited to turn flash off, so all I get is a distant reflection of the "shield and wings" Scotchbrite decal on nose of SD and four headlights glowing in the dark with pool of light on the ground about twenty feet in front of me. Second shot never fired; foolishly left flash up, didn't think to switch to Manual. Engine roars past, opportunity gone into the dark night.

I hadn't let my adrenaline-addled brain remember that the Manual setting was preset from last time with fstop at 16 and shutter on Bulb. The autofocus was unable to 'see' the train so it refused to release the shutter. The engineer saw the first flash and hit a very short toot of the horns at me as he roared by. I waved, climbing down the ladder with my hopes crushed. My first 'night' shoot ends in failure. So I thought.

Walking up the block to wait at the crossing I realise I've one more low-light opportunity: the cars themselves, roaring by in a frenzy of noise and buffet. I back up some twenty or so feet and take stock. The wind from the passage is freezing, rails are moving like nobody's business so the ground is vibrating my back teeth. I'm going to go for it. Raise the camera, shut off flash, walk through the pistol shooter's mantra: I fill my lungs with air, let it half out and hold. Steady my left elbow against my side, take aim carefully, and fire off two long exposures (10/13ths of a second, I find out later.) Second is juddery from so much ground vibration, but the first works far more beautifully than I could have dreamt.

Auto Racks


Blogger Jean said...


December 22, 2007 at 7:15 PM  

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