The Little Train That Could

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Venice Train Depot in Venice, Florida. I had visited this place before, however it was in the sweltering summer heat so I didn’t take the time to fully explore what was available to see. The train depot is a historic site that is still in service, but instead of black cast iron steam powered giants of the past visiting, the new hybrid of public transportation buses now visit as the depot is used as a transfer point. The depot is located on the intercoastal, where there is also a public park that offers places to eat your picnic lunch and a boat launch. Lastly, this is also where the “The Legacy Trail” begins. The trail is a ten mile paved walk/bike way. The day that I visited, it was very busy. As I was walking along, I had to keep aware of my surroundings at all times. Every few seconds I would hear the ding, ding of a bicycler going by. A friend and myself walked about a mile and turned around and headed back.

While we were at the depot, they have a full size caboose on display. It was later in the day so we couldn’t get in, however this was a great opportunity to get some photographs while there weren’t any people wandering around. Looking at this restored caboose, I thought this would make a great black and white project. This winter for us in Florida has been a different one. It has been overcast in our area for many days, which is great if you want to take portraits with nice even light. Black and white works best if there is some contrast in the scene. Not knowing what I was going to run into on my journey, I took my SB800 flash with me to create some contrast if needed, when I started shooting, I was glad that I had it.

Since no one was around, I figured that I wouldn’t look anymore strange than I already do. As I looked the scene over, I thought I would get some detail photos of the railroad spikes.

 Some days you are the hammer, some days you are the spike. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I have been trying a new technique where I shoot RAW + JPG. I set the camera up for monochrome and it gives me a black and white jpg on the fly, but leaves the RAW file in color. This way I can tell on the spot if it’s going to be worth pursuing or destined for the trash. I tried a couple of ambient only exposures, but they were all flat. This is where I broke out the flash and worked in some off camera flash. I flipped up the pop up flash on my Nikon and set my pop up to “Commander” mode and this allowed me to control my SB800 flash wirelessly. Here I am, kneeling on the ground in the rocks with the flash in my left hand with the camera in the other. I felt like I was invited to a bad game of Twister. However, this is how photographs are created. Most average “point and shooters” won’t take the time to set this up. Who cares how stupid I look, do what ever it takes to get the photo (as long as it’s legal). I had the camera fitted with my 18mm-200mm lens and I found a good composition and took a few. What I was seeing on the back of the camera ensured me that I was going to have something to work with back on the workstation.

While I was on the ground, I looked around and I was amazed to see all of the cables and different parts that make a train car go rolling down the track. Already looking quite suspicious, I figured I would go for broke. I laid down on the ground and crawled up under the train a bit. Again, I took a few ambient exposures and they turned out, well, rather bad so on with the flash. I really like this model of flash as Nikon gives you a plastic foot to use when you want it to stand up in a situation like this where a light stand wouldn’t fit. After taking a few photos and deciding what to frame up, this is what I settled on.

 Now I know what people feel like as they get ran over by a train. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

At this point, my body was telling me that it was done laying in rocks. As I got up and dusted myself off, I nearly knocked myself unconscious by hitting my head on the hitch. After the world stopped spinning, I thought this might make a great photo. This was photographed the same way as the rest in the series. I kept moving the flash in different spots to see what kind of lighting pattern I could get.

 Wanna get hitched? – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Figuring that I had done enough bodily harm for one day, I thought that I would get an easier photograph before moving on. As I walked around the side of the caboose, I saw the springs that help cushion the ride. These springs looked as if they had seen a lot of America in their time.

 Spring Loaded – Spencer Pullen © 2012

As far as the processing goes, I first ran a contrast adjustment to help tighten the look that I was going for. Next, I put them through Nik’s Silver Efex Pro software to do the black and white conversion. Having spent the time at the location, it really cut down on the post processing.

If it’s a gloomy day and you want to add some snap to your photos, just take your flash along. It will give you what you are looking for.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


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