Behind the shot: Passing time on Amtrak

Last January, a friend and I took the Amtrak Zephyr train from San Francisco to Denver with stops in Truckee and Salt Lake City to ski (plus skiing in Colorado after we arrived). It was a great trip full of great skiing and new experiences. But a long trip.

To pass the time, I slept some, read some, listened to podcasts some, and, of course, took pictures.

This first image was in the observation car, which is first come, first serve for seating, so you have to get there early to stake out a spot. For this particular picture, I got up before sunrise and was fortunate to have the observation car to myself!  The warm light from sunrise in eastern Utah made the shot.

Shot an sunrise in the observation car of the Amtrak Zephyr train, somewhere in eastern UT.

While the whole trip was scenic, the segments through Glenwood Canyon and coming down from Moffat Tunnel were especially beautiful. Here, the low light at sunset coming down through multiple tunnels on the way into Denver, provided the longer exposures needed to get the long motion blur. I stood in the very last car and looked out the door’s window (it was dirty, but for this it didn’t make a huge difference; I did clone out a few water spots later). I would look ahead in the car to see tunnels coming and going and time my shots accordingly, usually triggering it right as we left the tunnel.

Coming around the mountain

Exiting one of the shorter tunnels. The red hue is the reflection of the train’s rear light.

A few final thoughts: Be extra courteous if you’re using a tripod. A lot of people are walking around and you don’t want to get tripods banned! Finally, take your time and experiment… you have hours and hours to pass!

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