It's Good If You Have A Camera With You  by  Misko Kranjec
...as most of the best shots I've never taken happened in front of my eyes when I was not carrying the camera. Simple and sad truth that every photographer knows. Same goes for the opposite - how often I had camera with me and nothing happened. Just dragging the dead weight for nothing... Fortunately the rule is not so strict and bulletproof as are the Murphy's Laws and every so often it pays to have the camera at hand
This Saturday afternoon, while going to the shopping center at the outskirt of the town, I took my 5D with me. There was not any particular reason for this - it was well into the afternoon of a late, colorless autumn day and the dark, heavy clouds of a passing weather front were lazily crawling across the sky - definitely not the tempting conditions. However, the shopping centre is close to the small Ljubljana Moste freight yard and somewhere in the back of my mind was probably the idea to drop a quick glance at the yard while there. Not that I was expecting to see something special, after all it was the Saturday afternoon and this small yard, used as the receiving and departing yard for the nearby container terminal was probably without any action, but... As I said, the best thing happens when your camera is at home, so I tossed it on the back seat, just in case.

I did what I had to do at the center and I was just packing the purchased items into the trunk when the weather front suddenly opened and through the slit the setting sun threw the golden low light on a city already sinking into the gray evening. The buildings were set aglow, popping out of the dark sky, as if some invisible hand would turn them on, and the ambience changed instantly from drab to magic.

I quickly shut the trunk and jumped into the car, trying to reach the Moste freight yard as soon as possible, as I knew this light won't last long. The long line of the cars leaving the center never moved so slow, so it appeared, and I was nervously glancing at the sky. The slit has widened considerably, but the sun was already very low and the front was moving, threatening to cover it again.

Finally I reached the yard and as I expected it was idle. The vacated yard goat was growling silently on the outermost track and the string of flatcars loaded with the tank containers carrying the chemicals was waiting for the engine and the evening departure to Koper. Nowhere a soul and much less any action could be seen.

However, the light was splendid and the sunlit white containers were boldly standing out of the dark sky. I quickly took few shots and then I started to look where else I could exploit the magic of moment. I set toward the mainline in hope that some train would come soon along this usually busy double-track line, but as darned, not one was in sight anywhere on this 5 miles long straight stretch. It is always so, there are plenty of them until you really need one. At that moment they stop running - until it is too late...

Fortunately I saw the puff of a white steam rising into the sky next to the bold silhouette of the Ljubljana power and thermal heating plant, one of the two in the city and the one that's fired with the coal. The puff was coming from their fireless 0-6-0 locomotive, used to switch the cars on tracks inside the plant, pushing them on and off the car unloader. I instantly saw one more opportunity and hastily crossed the mainline, heading toward the plant.

The steam rising from behind the bushes hiding the locomotive and her train was coming closer and the sharp staccato of the exhaust was getting louder every second. The locomotive was built on the frame of the US Transportation Corps 0-6-0T and even if running "cold", it retained its special "American" chook-chook-chook sound, which I remember from my childhood and which was so different from the usual German and Austrian steamers running here.

When the locomotive hit the short section of clear between the bushes and the plant fence I was still too far, the recessed area in front of the tracks was spattered with the roofs of the garden shacks, and I was shooting straight into the sun - all the elements needed for the failed photo. Oh yes, I took it, just to prove myself once more that some things simply don't work. Ah well, at this age I should know...

When I finally reached the tracks leading into the plant the locomotive was already well inside the fenced yard, steaming but standing still and waiting for another high-sided gondola to be emptied.. It didn't show any intent to come out again but, fortunately, the gates were left wide open. Having just 24-105 mm lens on the camera I was too far for the close shot and for a moment I was playing with the idea to use the opportunity and sneak in, but with so many security cameras pointed at the gates I knew it won't last long before the guard would boot me out. And, after all, the locomotive is just few miles from my home and she'll be working whole winter long, so what the heck...

Standing at the gates I took few shots and then the big cloud sailed across the sun. The magic was gone and the world sunk back into the dreary grayness of the cloudy evening. The show was over. It was short, lasting maybe 15, 20 minutes, but it gave me the chance to produce couple of shots I like, and foremost, it gave me the necessary dose of the "dope" needed to sustain the mundane daily work until the next occasion to be at the trackside arises.

If I think I had left then the camera at home... Maybe I wouldn't eat myself but probably my wife and our dog would have somewhat spoiled evening. The moral? Ah, well, never mind...
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