Last night I got word that Providence & Worcester train NR-2 would be making a right hand turn at Plainfield, heading for Willimantic, instead of their usual run down to Groton and along Amtrak’s Shore Line. With the train’s change in plans, I also changed mine – originally I was set to meet up with a couple other photographers to light up NR-2’s trip south through Ledyard then move over to the Niantic River Bridge on the Shore Line. Since I really had my heart set on shooting a freight, and with the change in plan of NR-2, I opted to change my plans and not meet up with the others – who ended up sticking around NAN last night.
After filling up the car in Willimantic – both with gas for the engine, and coffee for me – I made my way to Baltic to set up the shot I had in mind. I really like shooting at the old feed store that is along the tracks in town – there’s some interesting angles possible there, and using the store with the old and faded/rusty Blue Seal Feeds and Purina Feeds signs as props makes for some cool photos. So I decided on setting up a simple three light setup – two Alien Bee B800s and a single Lumedyne 200 w/s. Using less lights keeps with what I’ve been trying to do more of lately with my night shots – preserve the shadows. I’ve shied away from the more “traditional” method of evenly lighting everything in the scene – what some call the “daylight shot with a black sky” look. I’ve been trying to preserve the “feel” of night in my photos – keeping as many shadows as possible, while also lighting the subject in a way that it doesn’t simply blend into the blackness.
The other thing at play this evening was a field test for something I’ve been working on for a few months – a set of homemade radio triggers that set off the flashes when I shoot the camera. I’ve had a few shots in mind that would need the triggers to reach close to a mile away from the camera – in order to do that with my current setup (Paul C. Buff CyberSync triggers), I would need to set up at least three repeater triggers to get the signal that far. Doing something like that would be cost-prohibitive, since each receiver/repeater costs about $70. Instead, I came up with a custom design that gives me the range I need, while only sacrificing some sync speed (CyberSync triggers will work up to the camera’s sync speed of 1/250 of a second, but mine will only work reliably up to 1/125 – an acceptable difference for what I’m doing), and at a fraction of the price. I plan on going into the specifics on the triggers in another, more technical post in the future – stay tuned for that. Last night was simply the short-range field test of the triggers with a moving train – I have done static tests of the triggers at about 3/4 of a mile, and they worked very reliably.
So i got to Baltic, and set up my lights and camera – while I was setting up, I could hear NR-2 working Federal Paper a few miles east in Versailles. And just as they were wrapping up their work, I completed my test shots of the lighting setup. If you’re curious, here’s a map of where I placed the lights and camera, and what direction they were all facing. Each “sun” icon is a flash, the camera is, well, the camera, and the little steam locomotive is the lead locomotive of NR-2
With everything set up, it was time to wait. But it wasn’t that long of a wait before the crossing signals up the line activated and you could hear the GEs approaching. After a couple warning flashes when they came into view, I bagged this shot of NR-2 passing by the old store in Baltic.
With that in the camera, it was time to break everything down and head back home. One shot, one kill…not a bad night. And needless to say, the homemade triggers worked flawlessly! Next up will be a shot with the flashes about a mile from the camera to really test their range…
Thanks for looking!