Ospreys and Trains in Ridgefield, WA

April 20, 2021

I’ve been wanting to get out for some train pictures for months but things always get in the way (“lazy” is a thing, right?). Finally I had the opportunity: my son needed a ride from the car repair place to his work. That meant getting up early; and is job is near the freeway, so I knew I could head up to Ridgefield, Washington and be back by noon.

One of my favorite train picture spots was near the entrance to the Ridgfield National Wildlife Refuge. There is a wide safe area next to the tracks where I could see signal lights to let me know when a train was on its way. Unfortunately for me, a couple of years ago BNSF and Western Wildlife Lands built a new bridge over Lake River and the railroad tracks. The entry to that little spot of heaven now has a locked gate on it. But I’ve found another spot along Railroad Avenue in the town of Ridgefield, a mile or so north of my original spot. It’s not perfect but it is enough when I need a fix.

As I was walking along the road looking for a good vantage point I noticed a big swooping pair of wings to my southwest. “Hmm, I just missed an opportunity” I thought. When I finally took my eyes off the railroad tracks and looked west I saw an enormous nest on top of a pole with a bird on top.

Osprey nest!

What do you know? A pair of osprey! I swapped my Sony A7R3 for my Sony RX10M4 to get closer.

A pair of osprey at Ridgefield, Washington

They’d spend a few minutes hanging out together; but, before long one or the other or both would take off.

Osprey leaving its nest

I could get fairly good photos of them in the nest but once they were in flight, they were harder to track. But I got a couple of shots.

Soaring osprey

The birds would soon be out of sight, flying over Lake River and out to the Columbia River. A couple of times one came back with some *LARGE* sticks for the nest. Another time I saw one cruising over Lake River looking for brunch. Y My little Sony RX10 IV camera impressed me with its reach. Here the osprey is diving for a fish; I estimate it is a little short of a quarter of a mile from where I stood.

Fishing osprey

ou can see a picture I took up in Kalama, Washington of an osprey with breakfast here.

Eventually, the traveller would return to the nest – this time empty handed clawed.

Osprey returning to the nest

There wasn’t a lot of train action, but I did capture a Cascades passenger train heading north to Seattle.

Northbound Amtrak Cascade passing through Ridgefield, WA

This looks like a new-ish type of locomotive. Also, it doesn’t have the transition car curving down to the passenger cars.

After Amtrak cleared the block,a southbound Union Pacific manifest came by, exercising the UP trackage rights on the BNSF line. While the sun is perfect here for the southbound trains, there isn’t much of a window for a picture.

Southbound Union Pacific in Ridgefield, WA

I waited a bit longer but nothing else was rolling, so I decided to try my luck with bird pics at the refuge. I love these little red-winged blackgirds; they hang out on top of a tiny platform providing a beautiful backdrop.

Red-winged blackbird at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

But I didn’t have any luck with other birds. I need Jay with me for that; he’s got the eye and the knowledge. With no other birds in sight I grabbed a picture of a flower.

Foliage at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

On the way home I took the backroads into Vancouver to see if I might have any luck in the rail yard and Amtrak station. As I got there, the UP train I saw earlier was passing the depot and over the Columbia River bridge into Oregon. There was some interesting graffiti on some of the cars; this one struck my fancy..

I walked along the platform but not much else was coming down the road. Then across the yard I saw this BNSF 25th anniversary Heritage Locomotive. I think there are only about a dozen of locomotives with this paint scheme. If you look closely (click on the image to get a closer view) you can see the heralds of the various railroads that merged over the years to eventually become the BNSF: Burlington Route, Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific railroad combined into the Burlington Northern years ago. I’m not sure, but I think the Frisco Line, Colorado railway, and Spokane Portland and Pacific were folded into the Santa Fe. Then 25 years ago BN and ATSF merged into the BNSF. If anyone asks, I think they should have kept the Santa Fe colors.

BNSF 25th anniversary of the ATSF and BN merger.

A couple of notes about the photography. Other than the first picture of the osprey nest, the bird pictures were taken with my 1-inch sensor Sony RX10 IV. I love it for wildlife photos because it has a 600mm equivalent zoom lens and excellent tracking taken from its big brother the A9. The train pictures were taken with my Sony A7R3 with a 24-70mm lens.

A week ago I watched a Matt Kloskowski video where he talks about his changed opinion on noise reduction and sharpening photos. For years, Matt said you could get all the sharpening and noise reduction you need with Lightroom and/or Photoshop. When he concentrated on landscape photography, he could shoot on a tripod with as long an exposure as he wanted to get a sharp, low-noise photograph. As he started taking more wildlife pictures – which require fast shutter speeds and higher ISOs – his photos needed a little more help post processing. After watching the video linked above I decided to give Topaz’ Denoise AI and Sharpen AI a trial. I am impressed with the Denoise AI app. Here is a blow up of the graffiti picture above. First the original – you can see a lot of noise in that red background (click to get a closer view).

Pre Topaz Denoise AI

Here is a blow up of the same picture after applying the noise reduction from the Topaz tool,

I have not been as happy with the Sharpen AI tool. When I tried it on the bird pictures, I got a lot of vignetting on the bird borders. It is most likely I haven’t figured out how to get the best results yet, so I won’t show samples here. It isn’t fair to show a bad picture and blame it on the tool.

Anyway, I’ve been a big fan of Matt Kloskowski and trust him implicitly. I think I’ll turn the trial into a purchase.

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