Train Wreck

Author: Amy Ganske

If you are in the Whistler, B.C. area sometime you might consider taking a short, easy hike to one of the area’s iconic sites – Train Wreck.  Briefly, in 1956, a train crashed into a rock cut and three boxcars loaded with lumber were wedged in obstructing the railroad line.  Owners of a nearby logging company were called on to use their machinery (a few D8 Cats) to move the boxcars. The boxcars were dragged into the woods and left to an unknown future.

Beautiful falls on the Cheakamus River. Energetic and inspiring. A nice stop for R&R and a few pics along the way to your destination.


The abandoned boxcars have been given new life at the hands of graffiti artists and daredevil mountain bikers.

IMG_1527Here is how we got there:
Function Junction is a small community just a few miles south of Whistler on Highway 99. At the stoplight in Function Junction go east (a left if coming from Whistler, right from Vancouver) and take an immediate left into a parking lot. (Free parking! A rarity here.) Park. Walk westward, across the stoplight intersection into the town, across IMG_1429the  railroad track. Look for a sign directing you to Flank Trail – in a creekside wooded area. Walk a little ways and you will see the Flank Trail trailhead marker (a large sign with a map) and that’s where you will take a LEFT onto the unmarked trail.  Soon you will pass two old picnic tables.


Continue on, under the highway, and soon you will come to two painted boulders on your left. The trail continues between the boulders.



(A shorter route would be along the train track until you were directed to Train Wreck with an arrow pointing the way in blue. However, it is illegal to walk the track. AND, you would miss the beautiful Cheakamus River along the trail.)


There were times we wondered if we were still on the correct trail. However, be assured that if you stay between the river and the railroad tracks you are on the right path. The trail is frequented by walkers, runners and friendly dogs.

Amy Ganske is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

That Strange Green Glow

Author: Beth Ruggiero-York

Have you ever noticed a green or sometimes purplish glow in the sky of your night images? I’m not talking about the Northern Lights. It’s a bit less distinct than that. What I’m talking about is “airglow,” a natural phenomenon caused by various processes and chemical reactions in our upper atmosphere and prevents the night skies from being completely dark, even with all other light pollution (including stars) removed! Airglow is an aurora-like phenomenon, but it is rare to see with the naked eye. Longer night exposures, though, will reveal it in your photos. Without explaining the science behind airglow, what you need to know is how it affects your night images, and whether to embrace it or try to eliminate it.

My first encounter with airglow was the same night as my first encounter with aurora. I don’t think it was a coincidence at all, but in both cases that night at Mono Lake, I had no idea what I was seeing. After photographing the night sky over Mono Lake and seeing a bright red glow showing up in the images, which I dismissed as light pollution from Reno, I turned south to photography the Milky Way rising. As odd as the red glow over the lake was, even odder was the green glow of the Milky Way – a strong green glow. Here is one of the original, unprocessed images from that night.

green glow

At the time, I thought something was wrong with my new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens or my camera body, the Nikon D800e. I “color corrected” the images, and everything looked normal, but I kept the original greenish images.

green glow1

That I was able to correct the color and eliminate most of the green cast (it is still visible close to the horizon) shows that it can be corrected out of your images.

Several years later, though, I am not so sure about eliminating this natural phenomenon from my night images. In fact, the more I learn about it, I have decided to embrace it. After all, would you try to get rid of the colors in the night sky that we know as Northern Lights?

[Check out this amazing image of airglow in Chile less than a month ago:]

For answers to all your questions about night photography, check out my book, Fun in the Dark: A Guide to Successful Night Photography, at

Blog post by Beth Ruggiero-York, photography instructor for AHPW



Fall in Northern Arizona

Author: Meng Tay

Fall is an exciting time in Arizona.  It represents change.  For those of us living in southern Arizona, it means a relief from the hellish heat of Arizona.  No longer will you be smacked with the heat when you go outside to pick up your morning paper.  Everything pumpkin start showing up:  Pumpkin Bagels, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Pumpkin Waffles, etc.

To truly appreciate Fall, one must leave the brownish landscape of the desert to where Mother Nature does her magic every year.  Up in the higher elevations of Arizona, cooler weather means a change in color.  Trees are bracing for winter and the leaves are turning yellow and some, red.  This is not quite New England, but it’s close.

On a recent trip with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops (AHPW), we visited two places in Northern Arizona:  Flagstaff and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.   The workshop was led by Zen Photographer, Shane McDermott.  Shane hails from Vancouver Island, Canada, but has lived in Flagstaff for about 10 years.  Zen because of his calm demeanor and approach to photography.  He is into meditation and yoga and the environment.  You can see his work in Arizona Highways Magazines and at this site:

We started and ended the workshop in Flagstaff.  Flagstaff may be a small college town but it offers many beautiful photo opportunities. Places like Hart Prairie, Lockett’s Meadows, Sunset Crater, Snow Bowl, all are blessed with fall colors.  Even downtown (or Old Town as some would call it) Flagstaff, have some interesting buildings that deserve some photo shoots.

It’s about a 5-hour drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, passing through a remote Indian reservation, then as you turn into Highway 89A you see some interesting geologic formations in Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs.

From the entrance of the Grand Canyon, it’s about a a 14-mile drive to the Lodge.  This is more than a boring stretch.  On both sides of the road, the aspen trees are bursting with golden color.  If that doesn’t make you want to stop to take pictures, a herd of bison lazily grazing in a broad meadow alongside the road will.  Don’t get too close.  These are not friendly animals.  Many a tourist have been gored.

Grand Canyon Bison1-0526

If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, either the South or North Rim, your first sight of it will blow you away.  You can see the beauty of the canyon without having to take a hike.  The Lodge has a couple of terraces and a sun room where you can relax and enjoy the views.  A 15-minute walk to Bright Angel Point will give you some excellent photo opportunities.  Our group had a sunset and a sunrise shoot at this location.

We spent two days at the Grand Canyon, shooting at different locations that Shane had scouted.  Seeing a majestic view is one thing.  Being able to capture it in an artistic photograph is another.  This is where Shane’s creativity comes in.  The camera is just a tool to capture what you see and what your mind interprets.  The end result, the photograph, is how you see or feel about your subject.

Come join us for a memorable trip to the Grand Canyon or other beautiful places in Arizona.  You can find out more about Arizona Highways Photo Workshops at:© Meng Tay

Meng Tay is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Capture Your Moment: Phototrap: The Ultimate Photographic Trigger System

Kathleen Reeder will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about her presentation of the “Phototrap: The Ultimate Photographic Trigger System” she will co-present with inventor Bill Forbes.

Long nosed Nectar Bat at Elephant Head in Amado, Arizona

Long nosed Nectar Bat at Elephant Head in Amado, Arizona

In this session, you will learn:

The Phototrap is made in Arizona and offers durable construction in a compact transport case.  The system will work with any camera or flash unit that can be triggered remotely.  The Phototrap can be wired directly to a camera or to flash.  The infrared sensors work in any lighting situation and allow you to capture those challenging photographs.

With the Direct Mode, the emitter and detector beams are placed to face each other in a straight line.  Use this mode for subjects passing through at a high rate of speed such as bats. With the Reflect mode, the beams are set up at angles to each other in a V or L formation.  This mode works well with hummingbirds, bats and other moving subjects, as you can see in the picture below!

Male Broad-billed hummingbird, photographed in Southern Arizona 2012-04-13_296

Capture Your Moment: Figuring Out Flash

Amy Horn will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about  “Figuring out Flash” by Amy Horn.

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I know we all treasure the warm light in the golden hour of the day, but there are many occasions that I can’t find that light in a previously scheduled portrait shoot. So, I use flash. And not just for portraits, I use flash in macro, food and nature photography. Flash certainly won’t help me light the Grand Canyon, but if it is a smaller subject, flash is my best friend. With a flash unit for my camera, I can control the quantity, quality, color, and direction of light.

In a recent senior photo shoot, a cloud rolled in just as the photo shoot began. I was stuck with heavily shadowed canyon light. Luckily, I had my flash unit and wireless triggers. In a short minute or two, I was setup with artificial light and captured my shot. In comparing the “with and without” flash images, I like how the artificial light filled in the shadows on his face and the contrast to the background draws my eye to him. During my breakout session on Flash, I will demonstrate five tips on how a small burst of flash can turn a snapshot into a work of art.

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Look for a future post about Amy’s second learning session, “iPad Workflow for Photographers” and for more information on the individual sessions visit our “Capture Your Moment” page.

Red on the Rim

Author: Greg McKelvey

The Mogollon Rim, stretching from near Flagstaff to New Mexico, is more than a unique topographic and geologic feature.  It’s forests are home to numerous, albeit hidden Mountain Maple and small groves of Aspen trees.   Not the grand vistas surrounding the San Francisco Peaks and nothing like the New England hardwood forests, the Rim Country does have fall displays to fill the portfolio of any professional photographer, publication amateur enthusiast.  The question is where are they?

Take a Sunday fall drive on the USFS 300 road, and you will likely pass yellow flames of aspen, some even with ponds to capture the reflections.  The occasional sighting of small red maple trees is evidence that there is more. Some experienced folks know of a few isolated red and orange maple groves, many just below the Rim.  A few experienced photographers hike Horton and See Canyons for wonderful fall displays.  The more one explores, the more one finds.  Makes sense, yet not all that easy for the visitors.

Google Earth offers a shortcut that may well enhance the probability of finding exceptional fall shots!

Google Earth is a free program that uses the most up to date satellite imagery available.  Open the program and find your house and likely you will see your car in the driveway.  As they add new imagery, they do not discard the old!    With satellite data back as far 1992, their historical record of images may well capture a place at that unique time.  Such is the case in the hunt for fall colors in parts of the Mogollon Rim.

Note the difference in the image taken in June 2014 over the intersection of the Rim Road 300 and USFS 84 and the images captured in October, 2012.  See the red?

Perhaps not evident until zooming closer (see below).  The Mable and Aspen show on USFS 84 are known to many, often photographed and worth a revisit each year.   What was not evident is the extent of these colorful trees.  I have visited this location for more than 10 years , yet until I saw the  October 2012 Google Earth capture, I did not know how far I could find special color.  Mind you these are not the grand vista, yet are wonderful walks in the forest where my camera never stops clicking.

Red on the Rim 4

Note individual red trees.

To find the stack of images that Google Earth stores:

  • Open Google Earth
  • Navigate to a National Forest near your
  • Zoom in a bit to see roads and familiar places
  • Click on the date in the lower left hand side of the display next to Tour Guide a clock and find the 1992 button (this would be the oldest image on file).
  • Click and it opens a time slider at the upper left.
  • Slide to the right looking at the dates. Earlier images are in Black and White while many are taken in summer.
  • Surf and slide until you find the time of year you plan to do your work.

In the case of USFS 84 maple / aspen grove, the image from September 2010 and October 2010 shows nothing, but October 2012, wow the forest lights up.   From that base, we have found and visited locations,  some with splendid foregrounds and colorful skies were we would not have known to look.  I want to explore a new place each year, and I have a robust list of fall color locations worth checking.

Hey this might work in other places for other subjects.   Who knows?  I think I see carpets of wild flowers on one May image so far from a road that it not well photographed??

Greg McKelvey is a participant at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Should You Use Infrared or Laser When Shooting Motion?

Author: Jeff Cox

I have used the Nero trigger’s laser function for photographing birds, especially humming birds. With the Nero you can set the threshold, a delay in milliseconds and how many frames to take each time the beam is disrupted.  A laser pen is required but not provided. The laser beam must be lined up exactly to the little senor on the module. Lining up the pen’s laser beam with the Nero module I place the pen first, making sure it won’t move. Then put the Nero module on a light stand so it can be adjusted easily. With the pen turned on I put my hand in front and follow the path to the module on the light stand. Now I can adjust the stand as needed. Make sure  the laser beam is pointing to the side of the bird or animal that will not show in the photo. Anything breaking the beam will trigger the camera. It should also be noted that any movement of either the laser or module will also trigger the camera and you will have to reline both again. Its best to do when there is little or no wind or where birds or animals can’t sit on either part.

It should also be noted the Nero also has these features: lightning, sound and time-lapse and HDR.

My newest toy is the CAPTUR module pro by Hahnel. The main reason for getting this was the infrared feature. There are two parts; the control module and the infrared module. Both can be screwed in a tripod or a light stand. Setting up is easy. Turn the control and select IR setting you will get a small red light. Next arrange the IR module some distance from the control and turn it on.  With IR module pointing in the general direction of the Control its red light should turn to green. The green light indicates the control is receiving the IR signal. . In the IR model you can setup a delay before shooting starts, set a shot count, and duration of burst/exposure with continuous/bulb.

You will need to purchase a 2.5 mm cable for your type of camera you have.  (these are sold separately). I also have an extension cable and adaptors (2.5mm to 3.5mm). I use the extension cable so that the camera doesn’t have to be close to the control module. So far I’ve only tried the IR setting without making any other changes. Since the modules are not aligned perfectly when either sensor is blocked the camera will fire. This is much easier that aligning the laser. My first trials with this was setting each module on either side of a bird feeder or bird bath. The photos below were the results. I cropped them to emphasis what I liked most and to show scenes I couldn’t taken any other way.  Oh, be sure to set the number of exposures you would like. I forgot and left the setting on infinite and filled my card without realizing it. We have active bird feeders.

Some birds will enjoy the bath while others do the splashing.

The CAPTUR module will also do sound, time lapse, light/lightning, and laser modes. Each mode can be controlled  similar to the IR mode. It is comparable to the Nero trigger both are alike with some of the functions but the setting are different on each device. For the price difference the CAPTUR module pro is a much better deal.

I should probably mention a Vello device also uses IR.  But, it doesn’t work as well because it appears almost anything triggers the camera.  The IR covers a huge area and any little movement with set it off.  I found that I couldn’t count on the Vello to be reliable.

In conclusion the infrared is a better way to capture motion than using a laser. This is just a brief explanation of how I used infrared to remotely capture birds.

Jeff Cox is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.