Algoma Montrealais update.

Well, as it turns out, she made one more voyage…

Over the Christmas holiday, as a matter of fact.

I was doing a little web surfing to see if I could find out where she was, and what ultimately happened to her and discovered that she made one more turn before the end of the year.  The end of the year was also apparently the expiration date of certain certifications for operation – and re-certification would have been costly.  The folks at Algoma have received some new boats of late, and that apparently figured into the fate of the Algoma Montrealais.  The last I can find is that she’s sitting in the Montreal area.

As I was searching, I found many others captured her last voyage in image and video forms.  You can check those out by simply searching “Algoma Montrealais last voyage”.

A photographer who goes by Gales of November captured her upbound at Port Huron from the Sarnia (Ontario) shore as she was passing by the Fort Gratiot Light.  It’s a great image that you can view here.  Yeah, I know, I’m referring you to another photographer’s work – but I’m not too proud to admit that I admire the image, and that I’m a bit jealous.

Below is one of my last photos of her next-to-last downbound voyage before she disappeared into the mist south of St. Clair, MI.

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For more photos of the Algoma Montrealais and Great Lakes Boats, just click here.

You can read my original post on the Algoma Montrealais here.

Sometimes, you need a little luck.

I was asked about this picture recently.  Specifically, “how did you do it?”

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Well, from a technical standpoint, it’s easy to explain.  Nikon D-80 camera, Sigma 18-200VR lens, ISO 320, 1/800 shutter speed, aperture of f/9.

From a practical standpoint, you need a little luck.

We were on a Na Pali Coast cruise from the north shore of Kauai, and we came across a school of Spinner Dolphins.  They seem to be natural hams for the camera, and probably have figured out that we humans act silly when they play for us.  That was the first bit of luck.

Then – the guessing began.  You have to pick a dolphin (or small group of them) and try to track them with your camera.  And repeat.  And then, repeat again.  All the while, you’re hoping for that spectacular break and jump – and when that happens, you have to remember to be quick with the shutter instead of watching it.

What tends to happen is that all of the dolphins that are jumping and making those spectacular displays and memories for the babbling humans are those that you’re not tracking.  By the time you turn and focus on them, it’s over…

Sometimes, you need a little luck.

It all came together for me in a brief moment – the jump, the focus, the exposure, and the timing.  While I wished at the time that it was closer and on the other side of the boat so this wasn’t a silhouette shot – there is something about the shape and form of the dolphin that is accentuated by its’ silhouette.

I wish I could tell you that it takes a mastery of skills that only a few have achieved, but then, I’d be lying to you.  It does take the right ISO, aperture and shutter speed.  It does take patience.  (And, thank the programmers, developers, and engineers that made digital photography a reality – because there would be a lot of expensive and wasted film in the process!)

But, to be honest, sometimes, you just need a little luck…

You can find the image here on Laughing Frog Images, or you can start from the Main Gallery Page.



RAW. Just shoot it!

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone who had some nice new mirrorless camera gear.

I asked them if they were shooting RAW format and jpeg format, just RAW format, or just jpegs.  They answer was “just jpegs.”

To which I replied: “RAW.  Just shoot it!”


Many of us have digital cameras that will capture images in RAW format in addition to jpeg.  RAW is somewhat of a generic term for a “raw” image file that stores everything that the camera sensor captured when you clicked the shutter.  Some cameras only capture the jpeg, which is compressed and processed for optimal results according to the camera manufacturer’s software.  The jpeg images are also smaller than RAW files – sometimes by as much as 75%.

So, why shoot RAW (which in reality has many different filename extensions – .nef, .raf, etc. – it’s whatever the manufacturer wants to call it) if you have to process it and it’s a bigger file?

In simple terms, it presents a wider range of editing and processing options, particularly if the jpeg is overexposed or underexposed.  You might be really unhappy with your jpeg – but you can probably make a winner out of the RAW file in your editing software.  RAW images can have an exposure latitude of +/- 2 stops or more – that’s really a wide margin for error.  You can also work to bring out the shadow detail in a RAW file, or tone down the highlights to even out an image.

I have to admit that when I first got a camera that was capable of shooting RAW images (a Fuji S-9000 9MP all-in-one) – I didn’t shoot RAW.

Confession time: I was intimidated by the notion of digital processing more so than anything else, and was under the (mistaken) impression that the jpegs my camera put out were the best that could be done with the image.  One word: WRONG!

I started to play around with RAW, and as I got comfortable with processing images, actually reached the point where now I only shoot RAW.  It started to get to be too much to organize and keep straight. Most of my processed images are saved as jpegs (although some are saved as lossless .tif files if I really had to do some work on them – and then saved as jpegs) for posting.  You can always convert the RAW image to whatever file format you’d like, but you can never work backwards to the original information and quality of the RAW file.

You can use the software that came with your camera, or download free software such as Picasa by Google or Gimp, or buy software (Acdsee, Adobe, Corel, onOne, etc.) to process your RAW files.  It might take some time to learn the software, and you might actually have to read the instructions, but it’s well worth it!

So, in case you missed my point…  RAW.  Just shoot it!

UP on the ex- Western Pacific

The former Western Pacific Railroad traverses through the Feather River Canyon between Portola and Oroville, CA.  This is breathtaking and relatively unknown scenery.

The WP was taken over by the Union Pacific over thirty years ago, so I never got to see the line as WP.  As close as I can get it to the real thing is the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola (check out that gallery here), which is well worth visiting if you’re in the area.

The WP that I have come to know is under the Armour Yellow of the Union Pacific, and it’s still a remarkable line to photograph.

I had started to put some of my images from the former WP into the UP, and came to the realization that they might well get lost in there.  They need to stand on their own!  So, there’s something new on Laughing Frog Images – the UP on the ex- Western Pacific Gallery.

I tend to get less than ideal weather in the Feather River Canyon, and the photos reflect that.  However, life isn’t always blue skies and sunshine – and I’ve never been one to put the camera away if I’ve made the journey and the time to photograph something.  Sometimes, I’ve felt that the sun takes the same time off that I do, but digital photography has made that much easier to deal with than it was in the days of ISO 64 Kodachrome!

The BNSF has trackage rights over the WP, and that will be a separate gallery as well.  I contemplated that idea for a while, and for similar reasons, decided to make that its’ own gallery.

At some point in time, there are two more galleries coming that are related to the WP.  These will be of the eastbound and westbound trips of the 2014 Feather River Express as viewed from the train.  (Yeah, I know, I promised those a while ago, but they’re still works in progress!).


BNSF Pasadena Sub Gallery Added

The BNSF Pasadena Sub Gallery has been added to Laughing Frog Images.

The current Pasadena Sub is actually owned by Metrolink – the Los Angeles regional commuter rail system.  The western half of the Pasadena Sub is now part of the Metro Gold Line, a light rail commuter line.  Freight service from San Bernardino to the MillerCoors brewery in Irwindale is provided by BNSF.

Back in The Day, the Pasadena Sub was a prime passenger route for the Santa Fe – all of the name trains that stopped at Pasadena passed over the subdivision.

The Pasadena Sub local freight was handled by two to four GP-30/GP-35 units before they were largely retired. I though it was cool to be photographing some of this action with my 1.2 megapixel digital camera way back when that was the cat’s meow.  And now… I want to smack myself upside the head, because the usable print size of those images is about 4″x6″ on a good day…  I included a few images from the early days of digital to look at, if nothing else.  I do have some slides to find and scan, but for the most part, my quality stuff of the Pasadena Sub doesn’t include the Blondes (Santa Fe’s blue and yellow version of the Warbonnet applied to locomotives in the latter part of the 20th century).

Of late, the power has been ex-Santa Fe GP-60Ms that were children of the reborn Super Fleet and delivered in the classic Warbonnet paint scheme in the early 1990’s.  They were built for speed to handle priority intermodal traffic from Chicago to Los Angeles and Richmond.  And now, most of them are serving out their time on local and regional freights on the former Santa Fe lines.

Pasadena Sub

I decided to break out the Pasadena Sub and give it its’ own gallery owing to the many shots of the GP-60M’s in their Warbonnet paint.  If you get a Santa Fe leader, and work the angles right, it could be 1995, and not 2015…

Despite the fact that I live in close proximity to the Pasadena Sub, I don’t get to photograph it much, as it’s a weekday-only operation for the most part, and I have this thing called work…

Enjoy what I’m able to share with you of the BNSF Pasadena Sub!

Great Lakes Boats Gallery Added

The Great Lakes Boats Gallery has been added to Laughing Frog Images!

No, it’s not little boats on the Great Lakes.  What would be called a “ship” if it were on the oceans is called a “boat” on the Great Lakes.  I don’t know the story – it just is. Keep in mind that some of these “boats” are 1000 feet long!  Kinda changes ones perspective on the word boat, doesn’t it?

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On the other hand, an ocean going boat on the Great Lakes is known as a “salty.”  Ocean, salt water, well, that makes a little more sense.

There are also tugboats and barges, retired boats serving as barges, and ATBs (Articulated Tugs and Barges) like the Lakes Contender and Ken Boothe Sr. that ply the Great Lakes, and you’ll eventually see some of those here as well.

The St. Clair River between Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair is a renowned boatwatching area.

Those who follow railroading and photograph trains have

Those who follow Great Lakes boats and photograph them have, whose world headquarters is in Port Huron, Michigan in land once occupied by the Pere Marquette / Chesapeake & Ohio / Chessie System / CSX rail yards and carferry docks.

The Great Lakes Boats gallery compliments the standalone gallery for the Algoma Montrealis – the last Canadian steam ship on the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes Boats gallery will feature boats I’ve photographed on the St. Clair River, Detroit River, St. Lawrence River, and Welland Canal over the years.  This gallery will take some time to fill out, as some of the images have to be located and scanned.

Check out the gallery for something different!

PH&D Collages added!

For the 30th anniversary of the end of the PH&D as we knew it, I created five PH&D collages as viewed through my lenses and captured on Kodachrome from 1982-1984.

Four versions of the PH&D collages were donated to and auctioned off at the December 2014 meeting of the Port Huron and Detroit Railroad Historical Society to help them in their fundraising efforts.

Now, all five are available on Laughing Frog Images in the Port Huron and Detroit Color Collages gallery.  Any of them will print in full in 2×3 format – any other ratio will result in cropping.

As with the main Port Huron and Detroit in Color gallery, half of the profits from this gallery will be donated to the PH&D HS.

If you don’t purchase a PH&D product from Laughing Frog Images, please visit their page, and consider joining or making a donation to assist them in bringing Alco S-1 #52 home!


New Videos added to YouTube

There have been three new videos added to YouTube on the the Laughing Frog Images YouTube channel

Two are of the Conway Scenic Railroad in New Hampshire back in 2009 when they were still running their FP-9A units.  These engines are streamlined cab units based on a design that dates back to before World War II.  The Conway Scenic operated these units on the former Maine Central Railroad Mountain Division between North Conway and Fabyans, NH.  They were wearing out brake shoes on a regular basis, and as a result, they were traded to PanAm Railways for two freight locomotives with dynamic brakes (similar to the regenerative braking on today’s hybrid cars) to reduce maintenance and operating costs.  Take a trip back to the 50’s and listen to the sounds that defined passenger railroading for a generation.

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The third video is a little more contemporary from 2011, showing a Union Pacific freight train with six SD9043MAC diesels in Sandpoint, WA on a train northbound from Spokane, WA to the Canadian Pacific Railroad in British Columbia.

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We invite you to take a few minutes to check them out.

There will be more short videos of New England railroading in 1994 added as soon as we figure out how to use the new video software we just acquired.

Happy New Year and stay tuned!