From a moving train

shoot-556There’s something about taking pictures from a train. You get to take shots you can not take any other way.

I always spend time looking at the window and shooting. West from Denver is the absolute best train ride in America. The tunnel district with thirty tunnels, leading to the seven mile long Moffat Tunnel. The Big Ten Curves climbing out of Denver. The steep granite sides of Glenwood Canyon. The vastness of the deserts of Utah and Nevada. There’s nothing like it I’ve ever seen. Only the trip to Machu Picchu on Peru Rail comes close.

shoot-555You pass through Ruby Canyon and see things you can only see from a train. You go through ghost towns like Cisco, Utah and Hazen, Nevada that you would probably never see otherwise. Small town America, rolling through back yards and road crossings and along rivers. It’s a part you can’t get to from the interstate off ramps, and it doesn’t even register from thirty thousand feet. These are opportunities you’d never know existed any other way.

shoot-553Oh sure, it has it’s faults. The windows are always dirty. The footing is never certain, and centrifugal force is always waiting to trip you up. Things are bouncing, rocking and rolling. The sun is always throwing reflection on the windows and trying to fool your meter in to a bad exposure. The deck is stacked against you, from the words “all aboard.”

shoot-554It’s always nice to get a shot when the deck is stacked against you. I never feel like I’ve won a confrontation or anything, I just feel like my skill has been tested and I was up to the task. It makes me smile. And the feeling of nailing the shot from a moving train just makes the discovery that much sweeter.

Photos taken on FPP Retrochrome in a Contax RTS II with a 45mm/f2.8 Tessar and Kodak Portra in an Olympus XA.

Back to the backcountry

For a while there, we weren’t spending enough time in the backcountry. I’m glad we fixed it.

As far as I can tell, backcountry as an idea is an American thing. It’s defined as “a geographical region that is remote, undeveloped, isolated, or difficult to access.” I find all of those traits desirable. The outback in Australia is much the same, I think. I’ve never been there, but I’d love to go and see what their wild places look like.

There are parts of it some people don’t care for. Some of them are the very things that I find attractive.

shoot-550It’s lonesome in many of those places.  That bothers some folks. I think it’s a good sign. When you trudge along on a trail, You’ll see categories of people. First, folks who have just popped out of their cars for a minute, looking at things. Then day hikers with small packs, out getting away from it all for a few hours.  And finally it thins out to the last two.

After three miles or so, you get backpackers, folks who are spending a night or two out in the wilds, recharging. Bigger packs, more food, usually having a bit more fun. It’s a spot of adventure, and they’re mostly all smiles. Beyond that, if you’re on a trail that leads somewhere, you get through hikers. Thin packs on thin people, whittled clean of any excess fat. Most of them are either totally silent or will stop and talk because you’re the first person they’ve seen in weeks. If you run in to them in towns, they are inhaling an impossible amount of food.

shoot-552These days, we’re mostly backpackers when time permits. One day, we want to through hike. But now, we’re in the backcountry as much as we can be. I always like it when we get far enough back that we’re beyond the day hikers. It feels like a demarcation point, passing from civilization in to the real backcountry.  It feels different, like we’re in a new country, and the trail is unrolling out in front of us, stretching on forever and always, leading somewhere we’ll never find. It’s ok we’ll never find where it goes, as long as we get to keep going, discovering, and being back in the backcountry.