Moving To Sparks, Nevada


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Apr 30, 2012
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Soldotna, Alaska
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So I'll be moving to Sparks, Nevada. I'll be coming from Alaska, where the scenery is just breathtaking, and since I do a lot of nature photography, it's kind of left me wondering what kind of stuff there is to photograph in the area.

I can't drive because of medical reasons, and am actually in the process of getting on disability because of that condition. But again...what is there? I imagine street photography is fairly popular there, and might dive into that, but other than street stuff, I just have no idea what there is. If anyone can give me any ideas and recommendations to look into, I'd really appreciate it.
I use to have family near there. For awhile there wasn't much in their town which was outside of sparks. However it's all started to develop, from what I hear. That being said there should be some nice desert landscape. The better ones are outside of town though.

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Sparks is right near the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
You could catch the westbound Amtrak #5 train (California Zephyr or CZ) in Reno @8:36 am and ride it up to Truckee in the morning (arrives 9:37 am) and then catch the eastbound #6 CZ back @ 2:28 pm to be back in Reno @ 3:56 pm.
The round trip train ticket for a coach seat would cost you about $26 ($13 each way). If you book early you might get a Saver fare for $10 each way ($20 total)

You could take photos from the Sightseer Lounge (SSL) car, more photos in Truckee around the train station there, and again in the SSL car back to RNO.
The train follows the Truckee river between Reno and Truckee.
By the way, in typed Amtrak train speak Reno is RNO and Truckee is TRU.

If you want to go by Donner Lake and over Donner Pass you would need to go to Colfax, CA (COX) an back, about $60 round trip ($30 each way).
If you book far enough in advance you might be able to get a Saver fare which is about $48 round trip from RNO - COX - RNO ($24 each way).
The only trouble with that trip is if you want to do it in one day you only get to stay in Colfax for about 20 minutes before you have to catch the #6 train back to RNO.

If you want to travel in style from RNO to COX you could get a Roomette for $140 or so, then get a coach fare back, or the other way around, a Roomette from COX to RNO might be a bit less $$$.

If your disability is also considered a handicap, and it is available, you could book the sleeper cars bigger (and has a private bathroom) H Bedroom (H = handicapped) for the price of a Roomette.
If the H Bedroom is available non-handicapped passengers can book it, but at the higher (usually 2x to 3x higher than for a Roomette), Bedroom sleeper berth price.
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I cannot say with specificity what you might find in Sparks. I can say there are numerous styles of photography; 50 Different Types of Photography Styles with examples for your inspiration

Category:Photography by genre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I would take a good sized bet people still get married, still have babies, still have family get togethers, still drive cars and still have festivals and parades.

I cannot see any location in the US that does not play music and make things only to tear them down later. Water is everywhere as are living things.

Macro photography is something you can do anywhere.

The sun rises and the sun sets; it is always either day, night or in between.

Photography is merely a matter of seeing what is there and what is possible.

Once you say you cannot, then you will only see what you cannot do.
Thanks for the replies. Donner Lake and Pass actually sounds like a lot of fun!

Guess the only think I can really do is go exploring when I get there...get advice from people as I can get it and kind of take things from there.
Thanks for the replies. Donner Lake and Pass actually sounds like a lot of fun!

Guess the only think I can really do is go exploring when I get there...get advice from people as I can get it and kind of take things from there.
Since you're used to Alaska, you will miss that scenery and climate, but the high dessert has charms also.
Train travel is way different than air travel.

The California Zephyr goes along the south shore of Donner Lake but the tracks are well above the lake.
On Google Maps you can follow the train tracks.
Coming into Truckee on the right side of the train before the station is a track loop used to turn the winter snow clearing and other maintenance equipment around used to keep the tracks over Donner Pass cleared.

Leaving Truckee the train again starts climbing.

From about 3 miles or so out of Truckee you can look out the north (right) side of the train and see a tunnel above that the train will go through in a few minutes.
If you're lucky there will be a fright train on those uphill tracks going in the opposite direction your train is going.
At 5 miles the train switches back via Horseshoe Bend (a nearly 180° curve). Donner Lake is on the other side of the ridge and you pop out of the tunnel at China Cove on Donner Lake.

Volunteers from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento ride the train both ways between Sacramento and Reno and have a scripted commentary they announce over the train public address system. At one point railing along Donner Lake is a bald eagle nest between the lake and the train. The volunteers usually give everyone a heads up the train is approaching the nest. The nest is not right by the tracks and can be a challenge to spot if you don't already know right where to look.
But you get a second chance to see everything on the return trip.

The west loop used to turn snow clearing/maintenance equipment around is at Blue Canyon but with trees in the way only a small part of it be seen from the train.

A few miles before/after the train reaches/leaves Colfax is Cape Horn, a 180° curve that gives train passengers a look down Robbers Ravine 1500 to 2000 feet into the North Fork of the American River canyon - if your train is not on the tracks that go through a tunnel there. The part of the mountain there at the Cape Horn curve had to be shored up way back in the day when the line was first created and the shoring is known as the Chinese Walls. Since the walls are below us, we can't see the walls from the train.
The slope from Cape Horn up/down to/from Colfax is the steepest grade on the Zephyr’s route.
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Good to know there are TPF forum members living near me. I'm from Quincy, CA, about 80 miles NW of Reno/Sparks. No photo clubs in the area that I know of. I think I'll try to make a meeting of the Reno Photo Club.
I stayed for a week in Graeagle, CA last year and it was stunning scenery. Lots of wildlife and mountains pooring with color and blue skies. I seen bear, bobcat, caribou, eagles, hawks, etc. 60 miles from Sparks. I went there for my nieces wedding but I was not into photography then. I stayed in a villa off a golf course and it was very nice, plus reasonable. I'm going back next year and bringing my gear.

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I think you will like it in Sparks. It's no Alaska, but it is a great spot for varied photography. From the glitzy lights of the downtown casinos, to barren deserts with 200 mile views, to pine forests with snow capped peaks - all in the immediate area.

Public transportation is good, and the ski resorts offer cheap shuttles from Reno. If not for skiing, for getting to the beautiful mountains and majestic Lake Tahoe.

Good to know there are TPF forum members living near me. I'm from Quincy, CA, about 80 miles NW of Reno/Sparks.

Wow, just drove through your town Saturday :)

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