I remember not so long ago that my fellow blogger Eric Gagnon dubbed 2015 the Year of the Mundane, as he felt that we railway shutterbugs would be well served to start paying better attention to the small details trackside (the treasures, as it were, Eric?). In that spirit, I am hereby challenging all my fellow rail enthusiasts to get out there and find something different in 2023. I haven't really realized it until now, but I have been taking every opportunity in the last six months to get a rail shot that is different. I have been exploring new areas of the city and trying to get shots with new sightlines, just for the sake of finding new ways to capture railway action.
So, let's make 2023 the Year of Different.
For me, it's partly a necessity. I have not been far afield from Ottawa lately, which means my choices are pretty slim. It's either Via Rail in the west end of the city (Nepean, in my case) or a weekly crapshoot to try and catch up with CN 589 when it makes its way to Arnprior. I wish I could catch it on one of its runs to or from Coteau in the east end, but that's going to require a fair bit of planning one weekend and some help from my fellow railfans here in the city.
So, if my choices are Via Rail or the Arnprior Turn, then my challenge will be to find new ways of shooting the same trains. To be honest, I've grown a bit tired of the Arnprior Turn. I realize it's the only game in town for most of us, but I find that it tends to dominate our energies in this area at times, to the detriment of other trains, sightlines, areas, discussions and topics of concern.
A good example of this desire for different is the recent shots I have taken near Federal Junction. This is an area of the city with some fascinating rail history. It's where the Beachburg Sub meets the Smiths Falls Sub. In the area of the Colonnade Business Park, there are a number of dormant and partially buried old tracks that once served this industrial park. You don't need to venture far into the rear parking lots of businesses to see these tracks. Given that I am in this area every week, I am now regularly getting shots of Via's evening westbound Train 59. Last week was no different as I climbed onto the Hunt Club Road overpass and took this shot from the north sidewalk.
This was my favourite shot of the all HEP consist, with a familiar F40PH-2 on point. That business to the right is the HLS Linens facility at the end of Gurdwara Road. You can also just make out the signal tower peaking out from around the bend in the tracks. Given the strong sunlight at 6 p.m. when the train goes by, I had to make sure I was on the sunny side of the train to get the best shot. I had to crop the image a fair bit to remove the wires from the image, which tend to frustrate my efforts at this location. I did keep the hydro towers visible in the shot, however, as it gives the image context.
This past weekend, as my family was recovering from a housewide outbreak of COVID, I found myself going a bit stir crazy, so I ventured out to take some train pictures in the fresh air, since our Mothers Day plans were essentially grounded. I went to Fallowfield Station and saw a typical corridor train approaching and sighed. An F40 and four LRC cars. I wondered whether I needed another set of shots of this train. I actually barely stayed at the station once the train arrived, since I couldn't think of anything creative to do. But then I had an idea.
Just down the road from the station is a recently constructed flyover on Greenbank Road, which replaced a level crossing in 2016. I have been wanting to shoot a train on that bridge since it became operational, but I have never been in a position where I could. So I left the station as the westbound took on passengers and set up at a vantage point on Greenbank Road to get a shot of the train crossing the flyover. Again, given the sun, I had to make sure I was on the sunny side of the bridge and at a vantage point free of major obstructions. With about a minute to spare, I set up and the train arrived.
I wasn't completely happy with this shot, but I think it turned out reasonably well. The sunlight was surprisingly tricky and the trees behind the bridge tended to darken the image a bit. I did want to be far enough away that I could shoot the train from a level perspective or somewhere close to level. I decided not to zoom in, because without the road in the picture, the shot would have lost some of its context. I wanted a shot of a train as part of the cityscape. That's a big priority for me right now. I want to shoot trains in the context of their surroundings, rather than isolating them in a shot where you have no idea where they are.
This shot when the train is a little further along turned out a bit better, simply because the light was more favourable a second later. It's amazing how quickly the natural backlighting can change in a series of shots.
Even when I was at the station, I tried to incorporate a few elements into my shot, to make it a bit more interesting. This shot below incorporates the safety fencing at the end of the parking lot. It's nothing special, but it's something different to look at anyway.
One final example. As I was waiting for the westbound to show, I noticed a farmer in his field on the other side of the tracks. Given the wind was whipping up the dry soil, I thought it would make for an interesting shot while I was waiting.
So here's my challenge to you. Get out there and find something different. It could be different angle, a different spot to shoot or a different trackside element. Let's expand our horizons and make things a bit more interesting.