chasing freight trains & photos near henryton, maryland

Sunday, March 9:  This morning I get up at the crack of dawn to drive nearly two hours to an area northwest of Baltimore, Maryland.   I’m meeting a group of people for an outing along the CSX Old Main Line arranged by an iPhone Photography group.  I bring along my iPhone as well as my trusty Olympus PEN; it turns out it’s a good thing I have my Olympus along, otherwise I’d have no pictures to show!

CSX Old Main Line
CSX Old Main Line
Railroad track
Railroad track
closeup of the track
closeup of the track

We meet in a muddy parking lot beside railroad tracks that parallel the South Branch of the Patapsco River. Along the one mile path, we walk along train tracks, some of us in the middle of the tracks, some along the edges, and some in the gravely and ice-covered bed beside the tracks.  Suddenly, we hear the long drawl of a train whistle and the ground starts to rumble. We clamber off the tracks and watch as a long freight train barrels past, shaking the earth under our feet.  It’s a thrill to be so close to the overwhelming weight and power of the train.  I tell everyone this experience reminds me of the movie The Station Agent, in which three lonely people form bonds around chasing trains.

CSX freight train
CSX freight train

As we’re walking, Michael, photography guru and organizer of this group, asks me if I have HDR on my iPhone.  To be honest, I don’t even know what HDR is, but I soon find out it’s high-dynamic-range imaging.  It captures multiple photographs at different exposure levels and combines them to produce a photograph representative of a broader tonal range.  Michael tells me I should download the app HDR Fusion, and then Pro HDR to edit the images later.  I do this immediately.  I don’t have my glasses on to read about the app, nor do I check the default setting, but I do start snapping away.  The app takes two pictures, one exposed on the darkest shadows in the pictures and one exposed on the brightest spots, and then merges them into one great photo. I’m so excited to see the photos, that I just keep snapping away, thrilled with this new discovery.

The train tracks cross over the Patapsco River, and the concrete bridge is covered in graffiti, making for interesting shots.

concrete bridge before tunnel
concrete bridge before tunnel

We then walk through an old railroad tunnel, also covered in graffiti and frozen streams of ice and icicles.  I take a lot of pictures with the HDR fusion on my iPhone, but luckily I also take some with my Olympus.  I know, I’m cheating as this is an iPhone group, but oh well.

Click on any of the images for a full-sized slide show.

After we leave the tunnel, we come upon an abandoned power station.  This place is a photographer’s heaven, falling apart, covered in graffiti and peeling asbestos and probably a million other dangerous things, but we all go inside and snap away.  I’m having so much fun with this HDR fusion because I can take the pictures and the deep shadows inside are corrected by the camera.  I can see the pictures are turning out great.  I take a few shots with my Olympus, but the shadows are too dark and the pictures don’t turn out well.

the power station
the power station
overgrown with weeds
overgrown with weeds
inside machinery
inside machinery
inside the power station
inside the power station
shadows
shadows
decay and delapidation
decay and dilapidation
inside the power station
inside the power station
out back
out back
facade of power station
facade of power station
front door
front door
facade of power station
facade of power station
the power station
the power station

Back outside, we hear the distant bellow of another train and we position ourselves along the tracks to capture the train as it barrels past.  I haven’t had this much fun in ages. 🙂

preparing for the next train
preparing for the next train
the Patapsco River
the Patapsco River
here comes the train!
here comes the train!
Woo-hoo!
Woo-hoo!
the train barrels past
the train barrels past
train and winter trees
train and winter trees

Some people from group are going to go further to the now-demolished hospital complex of Henryton State Hospital, or the Henryton Tuberculosis Sanatorium as it was once called.  It was erected in 1922 as a facility to treat African-Americans suffering from tuberculosis.  However, Michael tells me he has to leave early to teach a photography class at Calumet Photo at Tyson’s Corner.  The class he’s teaching is about learning to use the manual setting on the camera.  I decide on impulse that I want to take this class, so I leave at the same time he does and head to the class.

When I arrive at Calumet, I can finally take a few minutes to look over my pictures.  I can’t seem to find any of the pictures I took with the HDR fusion.  Michael looks at my iPhone as well, and he can’t find them either.  He says they must be there somewhere.  I check the settings on the app, and I find the Auto-Save’s default setting is to NOT “automatically save HDR images to Camera Roll.”  I also find the Save Originals is set to NOT “save original images to Camera Roll.”  What??  Why would a photo app be set to NOT save pictures?  What photographer would ever want to snap pictures only to have them disappear?

When I write to HDR fusion support asking how I can find my photos, I get this email from Cogitap Software: Unfortunately, it’s not possible to recover unsaved photos. Regarding default settings, they were the opposite before but people were complaining. It seems that it’s very difficult to make everybody happy! 🙂

Hmmm.  Very strange indeed.

Oh well.  The great HDR pictures from my iPhone are gone, but I did take some with my Olympus.  The train tracks and tunnel will still be there, so I can go back, but I need to find a partner in crime as I wouldn’t feel safe going alone.  Also I want to go on to the Henryton State Hospital, so I think it will be a full day’s outing.

For anyone interested in exploring this place, the parking area is on Marriottsville Rd, between Henryton Rd and Driver Rd.  The parking area is next to the railroad tracks that cross Marriottsville Rd.

The closest address is 714 Marriottsville Rd, Marroittsville MD 21104, if you want to use your GPS.  This is a private residence so please do not park on their property. The public parking area is very near by.

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22 thoughts on “chasing freight trains & photos near henryton, maryland

  1. How disappointing for you, Cathy. I got really excited when you were talking about these fabulous photo apps, and wondered how one uploads them to one’s iPhone. I’m hopeless with new technology. Anyway, you got some great photos from your trip. I enjoyed them so much.

    1. Thanks so much, Sylvia. I’m glad I had my Olympus along. I know there is also an HDR setting on my Olympus, but I need to learn to use it! I’m very slow on the uptake as far as technology goes. 🙂

    1. Wow, it’s nice the photos brought back memories of your dad as a train engineer. How cool. I used to work on the train at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, giving the spiel in the “caboose.” Thanks for coming along on my outing, Eileen. 🙂

  2. What a shame, Cathy! But you’ve learnt a lot and you’ll know better next time. And you still have a great collection of interesting shots 🙂 I’m so glad you’re learning all this stuff to pass on to me.

    1. I keep trying to learn, Jo, but I’m afraid my learning curve is a steep one! I would love to become more technically savvy with my photography. I have to just stop being such a scaredy cat. 🙂

      1. I keep meaning to get the manual out for my little digital, Cathy, because I know it’s much cleverer than I give it credit for. You, a scaredy cat? Dread to think what sort of quivering wreck that makes me. You’re doing brilliantly! At least you’re trying to make things happen 🙂

      2. Thanks, Jo, for the words of encouragement. I wonder how much trying I can keep doing. Trying and never succeeding ~ it gets a little tiresome. Oh well, have to keep on working at things or what else is there to do but give up?

  3. Interesting photos of the train line though I wouldn’t want to be standing where you were if a high-speed train appeared 😉 And what a great abandoned building! As I haven’t got an iPhone I won’t have any problems with the apps, but you probably have a setting on your camera that takes several images (burst mode?) and you can then blend them afterwards. I must admit it seems easier to have an app that does it for you. Hope you enjoyed your camera course. I need one of those, but nothing doing around here. I shall have to investigate further afield.
    Have a good weekend 🙂
    Jude xx

    1. I don’t think the train was really that high speed, Jude, but it did seem like it from where we were standing. It was kind of an adventure though, something I’ve missed since I returned home to the USA.

      The camera course was good and I found I do indeed have an HDR mode on my camera. Now I just need to practice using it! Practice, practice, practice, that’s what I need. 🙂

  4. These are fantastic pictures, Cathy, even if it’s not what you thought it was going to be. I just love this outing. What a great place to go to. Off the beaten path. The hospital sounds like it could prove interesting. Hope you find a partner in crime. 🙂 and I’m too far away.

      1. Yes it’s so sad. There are six missing Australians on that flight and everyone feels so badly for their families. Terrible enough to lose them this way but much worse not knowing what has happened.

  5. Cathy this is really great! You were inspired I think (I said that before I read your post here). There are so many great photos here, from many different angles. Wonderfully done! I like the way you describe the thrill of being near the overwhelming weight & power of the train – that’s it exactly. And you’re very good at clearly describing HDR – so may people cannot write about technical “thingies” (excuse me!) 🙂 I’m sorry you lost the photos – how frustrating! but what you have here is really good.

    1. Thanks so much, Lynn. This was such a fun photo excursion with other like-minded photographers. I enjoyed it so much, and I was truly inspired. I don’t know what it is about ruins that appeals to me so much. Thanks, I’m glad I explained HDR well. I have to keep it simple or I can’t understand it myself!

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