Colorado Railroad Museum, part 1

Railroad Museum 1  

The tip came already some time ago from my German photography friend Maren Arndt. Don’t miss the Railroad Museum in Golden, if you are in this part of Colorado! Well, we finally used the last day of our journey through the southern and central part of Colorado for a visit. The kids were already back in school and so there were not very many visitors beside us. Good for photography in such a place! ;-)

Railroad Museum 2


I grew up in Germany traveling by trains that were pulled by steam locomotives. The smell of smoke and coal and the noise of the steam engine are deep in my memories. As a kid I often stood together with my grandpa Willy Stock on a bridge, west of the train station in my home town Bautzen, and we watched the busy traffic in the train yard. I don’t know if this had somehow influenced my decision to become a mechanic, and later a design engineer, but the technical and logistic side of railroads have always fascinated me. Going to the Colorado Railroad Museum stirred up all these good memories and I felt a little like a kid in a candy store…

Railroad Museum 3


I could bubble here about the technical aspects to make photos in a museum, but who cares? The bottom line for my style of photography is to keep the elements out of the frame that cry “museum”. I just want my images to tell the story about railroad heritage.

A last word about the people that work or volunteer in the railroad museum. We hear these days a lot about passion, passion in life, passion about photography, you name it. Everybody we had a conversation with in the museum, from the people at the reception desk and in the museum store to the engineers that kept some of the locomotives running, they all had a spark in their eyes, the spark of passion for railroad heritage… Love it!


Colorado landscapes: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

C&TS 484  

If you are a railroad buff and like especially steam locomotives and historic railroads, Colorado is definitely the place to go for.

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TS) is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge heritage railroad running between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. It runs over 10,015 ft (3,053 m) Cumbres Pass and through Toltec Gorge, from which it takes its name. Trains operate from both endpoints and meet at the midpoint. Today, the railroad is now the highest narrow gauge steam railroad in the United States. (source: Wikipedia)

Train station at Cumbres Pass


During the trip from the Great Sand Dunes to our next destination we followed partly this railroad between Antonito, CO and Charma in New Mexico. Right at the moment when we reached Cumbres Pass the train left the station and gave us just a few seconds to make a couple clicks.

At the depot in Charma, New Mexico


Weekend at the airport

North American AT-6F Texan, TA 920  

Not really happy with the outcome last Friday I had to go back to the airport yesterday and give it another try. The warbirds were still in town and continued their practice for the air show in Oshkosh next week. It was another typical Iowa mid-summer day, hot, muggy, and with a lot of haze in the air, however, I don’t want to blame the weather conditions for my low keeper rate yesterday. It is simple just the lack of practice with my panning technique.

A formation of T6’s approaching the Dubuque Airport


I went home after three hours and after the sky became gray again and analyzed the pictures that I made so far. The sun came out again in the late afternoon and I went back to the airport a second time.

P-51D Mustang, Gunfighter


I started shooting with a slightly faster shutter speed since I obviously wasn’t able to handle 1/60s or 1/90s that day. It doesn’t give me a full turn of the props but still blurs their rotation and leaves no doubt about that these airplanes flew with high speed and were not just “parked on a stick” that was later removed in Photoshop… ;-)

P-51D Mustang, Charlotte’s Chariot II


Not quite ready but still made the click

P-51D The Rebel  

A blog post of my friend Dave Updegraff this morning reminded me that some of the airplanes that participate in the Airventure Oshkosh in Wisconsin next week are currently at the Dubuque airport and practice for some of the air shows in this big annual event. While working in my office I heard them flying by several times this afternoon and this was another reminder for me. After work I gave it a try and went to the airport, despite a uniform gray overcast in the sky. I wasn’t even really ready to shoot some pictures when three of the planes flew close by and landed shortly after. I ripped through a series of shots and that was it! Nothing happened after that. :-(

This is “The Rebel”, Capt. Joe Joiner, a restored airplane and a replica of a P-51D flown by WWII 4th Fighter Group veteran Captain Joseph H. Joiner. Not very flattering light but at least I got one thing right. Its prop is blurred, which gives us a sense of motion, and I can see the pilot’s face and microphone in the larger original of this photo. I made the image with 1/90s and was a little surprised that I got the shot, because I have not practiced my panning technique lately. Well, there is an old German saying, even a blind hen finds a corn from time to time… ;-)


Clean up or not to clean up?

Hot Rod  

It looks like the only thing I have done lately was nature photography but I shoot other things too, just don’t show much of it in my blog here. Today I show you a couple car shots I made earlier this month. The Hot Rod Power Tour came through Dubuque almost two weeks ago and there was another event a day later in Dubuque with vintage cars on display. I don’t really care how old they are and what the whole technical background for each car is if they are just esthetically pleasing. For my wildlife photography I hardly clone out things of an image in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. This is reduced to very small cosmetic corrections in the background at the most. This is just my way to work with wildlife.

Ford Model A


When shooting cars that are on display at a show there is always some “junk” in the background that distracts from the subject. In this matter some flags, fence posts, wires, and even a motorcycle had to go. It’s a different game if someone uses the photos to tell a story about the event itself. What I call junk can become part of the story telling. I just went for the beauty of the cars. Anything else is just distracting and that’s why I have no problems to clean up a picture for this kind of photography.


2013 – Looking back, part 6

Bass Harbor 1  

Without any doubt our vacation trip to the coast of Maine in October was something I really have looked forward to. It is a wonderful landscape with many facets and endless opportunities for photography. I have loved boats and harbors since I was a little boy. Watching the lobster boats going out or coming back from a catch and all the busy activities in a wharf still fascinate me. Getting up early or staying late in the evening is the key for catching the boats in best light.

Bass Harbor 2

Just Bitchin


Many of the lobster boats got very “colorful” names by their owners. I talked to this lobster man after he landed his catch. I told him I liked the name of his boat “JUST BITCHIN”. He said that it was his two sons who told him to name it this way, because that’s what he is doing all the time, “just bitchin”… I thought that was a funny little story, worth to be told here in the blog.

Bass Harbor 3




It's all about lobsters... :-)

Lobster boat 1  

We spent the first three days in the region around Freeport, Maine. Everything here seems to rotate around lobsters. Beside eating them every day (yes, you read this right!! :-) we spent quite some time in the little harbors with their lobster wharfs to watch and photograph the lobster boats going in and out. Before they leave the dock they take big plastic barrels full of fish that are used as bait on board. When they come back the lobster men can hopefully unload boxes full of lobster. It doesn't get easier to see if they loose or make money...

We had great weather so far with killer light in the mornings and evenings. It isn't difficult to make an image that can tell a story. Watching the highlights on the boats is essential for the story telling. It is very easy to blow them out and have a picture that looks just "blahhh". I can promise you that I will post more photos of the lobster boats in the next time. They all look different and are such a great subject that tells the story about the life along the Maine coast. More to come...

Lobster boat 2



IT'S A 59

Its A 59  

Some people wrote me they liked my last photo and this made working on another one from yesterday's car event. This 1959 Chevrolet Corvette is a beauty and was parked in front of a bar, which made for a  better background than many of the other buildings in East Dubuque. I gave it a different vintage look, like Grandpa took it just out of the dusty shoe box with the old pictures in it... ;-) Have a wonderful weekend!



Vintage look


What have wildlife photography and shooting at a car show in common? Well, I don't really know but in both instances dealing with background issues would be on top of my list. But let me start with the event first. During the summer the owners of vintage cars meet ones a week over in East Dubuque across the Mississippi to show their cars and socialize with their friends and other car enthusiasts. The road going through the little downtown area is blocked for any other traffic and the cars are lined up on both sides of the street.

I have been there before and always wander slowly along the cars, look for the light, and for cars that are parked in front of buildings that make for a more natural setting and background. Quite often the car owners sit in their lawn chairs right behind the cars and this is usually a NO-NO for me. If the sun is out, the West side of the road is almost completely in the shade of the buildings and this is usually my preferred side to look for car details. For understandable reasons this is also the side where most people sit behind their cars.

All of the cars displayed in East Dubuque have  probably been photographed to death and I'm sure many pictures are technically perfect and good for any catalog, book, or brochure about vintage cars. That's good, because I don't have to walk in the same foot steps and ad another technically perfect image to the bunch out there ;-) .

Seriously, I thought giving the image of this old Plymouth a little bit of a vintage look would be worth the effort. I used NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 to produce a high dynamic range image, made from four exposures. As always with HDR images I'm staying on the more subtle side, keeping in mind the vintage look. The image got finished with a slight vignette and the usual spot cleaning and sharpening. I hope you like it. I may show a couple more sometimes soon, so please stay tuned...