I need advice and I thank you in advance

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by dlubin, Oct 15, 2017.

  1. dlubin

    dlubin TPF Noob!

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    Scenario: Taking a cross country train trip across the Rockies. I want to record the entire ride from my sleeper car in 4k UHD. Camera will probably be on a tri-pod looking out of the picture window.
    questions:
    1) What camera would be best without breaking bank
    2) Long duration recording, what techniques or SD cards will I need to hold that much data (I will have a lap top, external hard drive and USB connection, I will also have AC power). Thinking 16 hours a clip
    3) Filters to prevent reflection from window and glare?
    4) what else do I need to know?

    Thanks


     
  2. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Is there a reason you want to record the entire trip? Are you really ever going to watch it all? Most of the view on a train ride, even through the Rockies, is going to be pretty boring.

    If anything I’d think you might be better off mounting a go pro on the window somehow and shooting a time lapse of it or something.

    I’m not really an expert on video cameras, so I can’t make camera recommendations specifically.
     
  3. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    In long clips, the sensors heat up, possibly a lot. Start looking for cameras that claim long video clips.
     
  4. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    I usually ride Amtrak's California Zephyr at least once a year from here in Iowa to California and back. I'll be on the CZ again the last week of this coming March.
    I've made video from my roomette, from the railfan window at the back of the train and from the Sightseer Lounge (SSL) car. On the train I use a monopod and a JOBY GorillaPod SLR Zoom/with Ballhead
    Will you have an upper or lower level Roomette, a Bedroom, the Family Bedroom, or the H (Handicapped) room?

    Frankly, the best videos are put together from clips that are rarely longer than 15 seconds.
    Get this: How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like a Pro
    And once you're back home get this:
    How to Edit Videos That People Want To Watch

    Your best bet is a small GoPro type 4K action sports camera, extra batteries and extra memory cards.
    GoPro HERO Session
    You might even want 2 4k action cameras.
    Eonfine 4K Sport Action Camera, 2 Inch LCD Screen 16 MP Full HD 1080P 60fps Wi-Fi Remote Control Waterproof Sports Camera with 170 Ultra Wide-Angle Lens, Including Full Accessories

    There are video worthy sights on both sides of the train and if you're in a roomette or regular bedroom you won't know until you board which side of the train your sleeper will be on. If you've already booked your trip what sleeper number/letter do you have?

    As far as reflections in the windows, filters are of limited use.
    The only sure way to eliminate reflections is to make a cover out of black material that you can attach to the window, out of the camera field of view, and drape over the camera.
    Though the windows are tinted, and even with a drape, when the Sun is on your side of the train there will be a lot of glare from the stuff on the outside of the window which significantly reduces the contrast of stills or video. You will want to wash the inside of the window about 2x a day because it gets a coating of diesel exhaust soot on it that contributes to glare and loss of contrast when the sun is on your side of the train. There is no way to wash the outside of the upper level sleeper windows, or the rear 'railfan window' in the door at the end of the train.

    However, it helps a great deal to keep light colored things stowed so they can't reflect light inside the sleeper accommodation. Roomettes have 2 bright white pillows in them that I cover with a black hoodie in the daytime so they don't reflect in the window. For the same reason I wear black clothing so my clothes don't reflect in the window.

    In Denver when westbound the windows of the SSL car get washed, but the SSL car tends to fill up during the extended service stop there in Denver in anticipation of sightseeing/picture/video making on the climb up the Front Range and the 'Tunnel District' approach to the Moffat Tunnel under the Continental Divide.

    Here is a YouTube video that has lots of views:


    And one that's fun to watch:
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
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  5. dlubin

    dlubin TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, Keith, we are in a full two person sleeper, I think facing north although not sure yet. So you think think short gopro clips? at specific points?
     
  6. dlubin

    dlubin TPF Noob!

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    1. Thanks, Keith, we are in a full two person sleeper, I think facing north although not sure yet. So you think think short gopro clips? at specific points?

      EditDeleteReport
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    [​IMG]
     
  7. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Yes, if you want to make a video that documents your trip suggest short clips and before you travel finding out in advance which side of the train the various popular sights are on.

    Sounds like you have a Roomette then.
    Superliner sleeper car roomettes are for 2 people max and roomette passengers share the one upper level bathroom, 3 lower level bathrooms, and the one shower on the lower level.
    Bedrooms are 3 people max & each bedroom has a bathroom/shower.
    Amtrak Car Diagrams @ CraigMashburn.com

    The bi-level Superliner sleeper cars the CZ uses can be put in the consist with either end leading, so like I said before, you won't know in advance which side of the train your sleeper berth will be on until you board.

    A Superliner sleeper car has 14 roomettes. Roomettes 1 to 10 are on the upper level. Roomettes 11 to 14 are on the lower level.

    Sights on the CZ route - Amtrak Rail Discussion
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
  8. bratkinson

    bratkinson No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As a frequent Amtrak passenger, life-long railfan, former railroad employee, and amateur photographer, and having shot many thousands of stills from Amtrak (and pre-Amtrak) trains, I have a couple of thoughts.

    Let me state up front that I do not, have not, and never will take videos. But I do have a couple of video concerns.

    First is the need for MASSIVE storage capacity (500 GB???). I won't attempt the math but shooting video at 4K will fill up memory cards quickly. My 23 megapixel camera can fill a 16gb card with about 200-250 images in raw format or 1000 or so as JPG. Shooting video at 20fps will definitely require multiple 32gb or larger memory cards.

    Another issue is camera stability. While traveling through mountainous terrain, trains are limited by their horsepower per ton (2-5HPT for freight trains, perhaps 10-12HPT for passenger trains, compared to 50-100 HPT for a typical 3000-4000 pound automobile) so speed going uphill rarely exceeds 20-30 mph. Going downhill, speeds are also kept in the 25-35mph range as the tracks curve frequently and the need to keep roughly 1000 TONS of passenger train 'under control' (120-130 tons per locomotive, 75-80 tons per passenger car). Freight trains these days are often in the 8K-15K TONS have always been a challenge to take safely downhill. While running alongside the basically level, twisting turning Colorado River, the track is close to the water and therefore has curves every 1/4 mile or so, which also require limited speeds. At those speeds, the double-deck Superliner cars ride very smoothly, but there is still some gentle rocking from side to side and even a minor jolt or two as they go over switches, sometimes switching from one track to an adjacent track. So, no matter what, there will be some 'jerkiness' to the resultant video every now and then. While a tripod may seem to make sense, unless you are in a full bedroom (letter A-F, not a numeric roomette designation), there will not be sufficient room to spread out the legs. One alternative, however, would be to stand/setup in the vestibule. That way you can shoot through the window in each of the doors. I frequently do that. And the trick is to clean the windows ahead of time while the train is still in the station! I wet a couple of paper towels in one of the bathrooms and take a couple of dry ones and clean away. Be sure to let the car attendant know what you are up to and why, otherwise he may think you're some kind of train nut like me. I think for best stability, I'd get a suction cup camera mount that sticks on to windows. They're compact, and give great stability to your camera. I don't know if they can accommodate a ball head, but that would be a thought. On rough track, hand held while holding on to one of the grab rails might provide better camera stability.

    Be advised that opening the little windows in the doors while in motion is a significant safety risk. Whether it's flying debris kicked up by the train or trains on an adjacent track that are sometimes as close as 3-4" on curves, anything 'outside' of the train is a candidate to get clobbered. 60 years ago, I used to throw rocks at passenger and freight trains that were 3 short blocks from my house (I was a baaaaaaaad boy). Kids still throw rocks these days, too! Perhaps 30 years ago, I was in a sleeper on a gentle curve when a swinging, open door of a truck trailer on a freight train going the other direction hit the side of the car and rocked it a good 2-3"! At the next stop, I got off for a few seconds and showed the vertical crease in the side of the sleeper car next to my window to the attendant and told him I saw it happen.

    Also be aware that while going though the mountains, the twists and turns of the route will take you from bright sunlight to full shade in no time at all, and even into a tunnel every now and then. So either trust the auto exposure level capabilities of your camera or be ready to change settings often.

    It's a good hour+ from starting the ascent after leaving Denver to the Moffat Tunnel. 40+ years ago, I think I took about 2 rolls of slides (36 frames each) headed uphill as there are 8-10 short tunnels the train goes through before the 6 mile long Moffat Tunnel (Moffat Tunnel - Wikipedia). Exiting on the west side of the tunnel, you're immediately in ski country. As indicated by other posters, unless your goal is to produce a 12-16 hour long Youtube video of your trip, you'll be better off taking perhaps 2-5 minute scenes. After that, you'll be along the banks of Colorado River on the left side for several hours. During the summer, various rafting companies have groups of 3-5 rafts full of thrill seekers, and they frequently moon the train! After Glenwood Springs, things generally level out all the way to Salt Lake City. It's also fairly fast running after Glenwood Springs as well.

    For what it's worth, I rode the Zephyr in May 2016 on my vacation as I hadn't ridden that route in at least 20 years. I was surprised at the large areas that had burned in previous years. As I was traveling in early May, based on the amount of new growth, I figured the fires must have happened in 2014 or 2015. It seemed a bit odd to see what used to be pine tree forests reduced to single trees about 70-100 feet apart with no limbs on the lowest 6-7 feet, then normal growth above that. There were ruins of various 'out in the boondocks' groups of homes (3-10 or so) that the only thing seen was chimneys and foundations, much like the LA area is getting these days. There were other groups that had obviously been completely rebuilt after having been burned. I figure in perhaps 10 years or so, it will be hard to distinguish what had recently burned from 'old growth'.

    Arrival at Salt Lake City is after dark. But it's always fun to turn off the lights in the room and be able to see the lights of the towns the train is going through. The next morning, you're somewhere around Reno, or Truckee NV. Until about 8-10 years ago, you could see 'the biggest little city in the world' out your window. Google Image Result for https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/41/Reno_arch.jpg/220px-Reno_arch.jpg But no more. Due to outcry from the residents of freight and passenger trains blocking numerous crossings, the Union Pacific Railroad rebuilt the route through town in a trench and all the streets are overhead. So a view down Main St and the big RENO sign is no longer available from the train. At Truckee, you'll start the climb into the Sierras. Not as high and nowhere near as stark as the Rockies, it's always a pleasant ride through the almost endless forest of pine trees. There's still a couple of snow sheds and tunnels on that portion of the route, too. Snow sheds are like lean-tos over the track that keep any snow slides from blocking the tracks. One side is attached to the mountain, the other is open to the valley below save the supports for the 'roof'.

    As the OP did not state which train they would be riding over the Rockies, it was assumed to be the Amtrak California Zephyr. As others have stated, there's lots of ever-changing scenery outside your window, especially in the mountains. For me, as a still photographer, there are countless great shots to be taken, summer, fall, winter, and spring. The OP did not indicate WHEN they were traveling, either, so I'll assume sometime this fall or early winter. As you may be aware of, there's already been snowfall in the northern portions of the Rockies this year, so you will do well to pack some heavier clothing.

    Some will say the Zephyr route through the Rockies is the best. However, the Empire Builder route across the 'top of the country' (sometimes within a mile of Canada!) is always an enjoyable route through the Rockies and the Cascades, too! Ride the portion of the train the separates off at Spokane WA and goes to Portland OR, the bulk of the route is along the Columbia River...also very scenic, but not as 'pretty' as the Colorado River, though. But the ultimate trip through the Rockies is aboard the 'Canadian', which runs from Toronto Que to Vancouver BC. Canada's equivalent of Amtrak is VIA. At the current exchange rate of about $1.25 Canadian to $1.00 US, it's an instant 25% discount! I did that trip about 35 years ago when there were two VIA routes over the Rockies and so I went West on one route and East on the other. In the 8 days or so I was on those trains, I went through over 40 rolls of film, mostly in the Rockies. I got tired of shooting waterfalls every 1/2 mile or so. And when looking at the pictures, people commented on all the pretty yellow flowers on the mountainside. Those were fully mature aspen trees in the fall! I now know what an ant in downtown Manhattan in NYC must feel like!

    As mentioned by others above, the sightseer lounge car which has extra large windows and even windows that curve up to form part of the roof will quickly fill with passengers. If that's a consideration for you, I'd want to go there while the train is still in the Denver station, maybe even sooner! So be sure to be eat your free breakfast (all meals are free for sleeping car passengers) in the diner at 6:00AM sharp so you can get a seat in the lounge car.

    Lastly, take time to actually ENJOY the trip rather than spending your waking hours fussing with your camera and worrying about what's the best shot, best exposure, is there a better shot ahead, etc. These days, I simply sit quietly, perhaps listening to music, and watch the ever changing scenery and wonder about the lives of the people whose cities and homes I'm passing through.

    Oh...almost forgot... If you have an even numbered roomette 2-14 (1-10 upper level, 11-14 lower level), or a bedroom (letters A-F), MOST of the time (but not guaranteed), you'll be on the right hand side of the train (eg, north side while traveling westward). If you are a roomette with number 15-24, you're in the 'transition dormitory' car at the front of the train and the even numbers there will always be on the right side of the train as there's a staircase at the front of the car down for access to the baggage car ahead. The front half of that car is curtained off to passengers and is the dormitory for the dining and lounge car staff.

    Also, be sure to check out Amtrak Route Guides: Train Route Guides | Amtrak, Superliner car diagrams: amtrak superliner layout - Google Search:, and even sites for first time and unfamiliar Amtrak passengers: first time amtrak rider - Google Search.

    ENJOY YOUR TRIP!

    I just remembered about reflections... The reflections 'issue' is biggest when you are in a well lit area of a car. Shooting while in the lounge car will almost always have interior reflections on the windows. As you can't turn off the lights (or sunlight flooding the car, either), the best choice is to put the hood of your camera lens tight against the Lexan window pane (glass). I'd even consider getting a proper sized rubber hood and that way I can shoot at an angle to the glass more easily. Otherwise, just position yourself as best as possible to minimize reflection of bright surfaces in the car.

    While in your roomette, however, I will close the curtains to the hallway, turn off the light, and use the dark blue blanket to cover up any light colored surfaces such as the tray table. That way, everything in the room is comparatively dark, and won't show up as a reflection in the window, giving you freedom to shoot from just about any angle.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
  9. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Because of there are more & bigger windows in the SSL car, reflections are more of a problem in the SSL car and there's not much you can do to diminish them.

    The Empire Builder doesn't get closer than about 20 miles to the Canadian border. It looks like that closest point is about 8 miles east of Bonners Ferry in northern Idaho (between mile posts 1359 & 1360).
    Amtrak's Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle gets within 30 feet or so of the Mexican border approaching El Paso, at Anapra (mile post 1290).
    Just like the highways the tracks have mile post signs, speed limit signs, and signs that give the engineer other info, like that the train is approaching a grade crossing. If you watch for the speed limit signs you will see that the speed limit for freight trains is usually lower than the speed limit for passenger trains.

    Once the California Zephyr joins up with the Colorado River the train crosses the river many times so the river is seen on both sides of the train for the 250 or so miles the river & the tracks are close together.

    There are some 29 or 30 tunnels in the Front Range 'Moffat Tunnel District' between the Big 10 Curve and the Moffat Tunnel itself.
    The first tunnel is between MP 23 & 24. The last tunnel before the 6.2 mile long Moffat Tunnel is between mile posts 40 & 41.
    There are many more tunnels on the route west of the Moffat Tunnel.

    Keep a sharp eye out for the 'Moon' portions of the Colorado River along the tracks.

    Meals are not free for sleeper car passengers. The meals are paid for in advance as part of the price of the sleeper accommodation.
     
  10. dlubin

    dlubin TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, not a roomette, full sleeper, I guess for three or four people but there are only 2 of us, bathroom in room
     
  11. dlubin

    dlubin TPF Noob!

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    so
     
  12. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    That is called a Bedroom, and they are for no more than 3 persons.
    However, the B&C, D&E bedrooms in a Superliner car have a slide back partition between them so the 2 bedrooms can be converted to a Bedroom Suite to accommodate a party of 4. The A Bedroom doesn't have a sliding partition and has a tad less space then the B, C, D, E bedrooms.

    Pack a power strip because there are limited outlets in a sleeper for charging things.
    Take a Virtual Sleeping Car 3D Tour on the Long-Distance Train | Amtrak
     

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