No, not that Mayan calendar nonsense. You do understand that just as our calendar ends on December 31st, you just roll over to a new calendar, right?
In this case I'm talking about the imminent winter storm. Oh look, The Weather Channel is naming them now. Welcome to Winter Storm Draco. It's been nearly 300 days since we had any appreciable snow -- and while there are blizzard conditions in some places, West Michigan isn't expected to get more than a few inches.
But that's for Friday. Here on Thursday it was just wet. Lots and lots of wet. Cold and raining.
A Day Trip to Chicago
Mrs. Dr. Phil ventured off to see Pat and Will and meet Emma (from New Zealand by way of Siem Reap). We could've driven, but it's a lot of driving, and well, the rain with threat of snow at the time we had to make plans. The day trip via Amtrak gives you about five hours plus on the ground. Given that I'd slow them down, and if I didn't have my vehicle, I doubt we'd all fit in their car, I dropped Debbie off at the Holland Amtrak station in the cold rain and dark.
Then I drove around to the Paragon bank parking lot and maneuvered the Bravada so that I could briefly open a window and keep the Nikon D1X and lens dry. It turned out to be pretty challenging to get pictures. At ISO 800 and shooting wide open at 55mm f5.6, I was running long shutter speeds. Then the autofocus was getting confused by the large rain drops, so I had to go to manual focus. And the bright headlights and side ditch lights of the locomotive threatened to mess up the exposures, so I switch to Manual mode. If it wasn't for the outstanding Vibration Reduction of the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6G VR DX AF-Nikkor, I doubt I'd have gotten anything this good.
Ten minutes before train time and I was struck by the bright red color of the berries on this tree out my front windshield lit up by my headlights. 1/8th of a second exposure. (Click on photo for larger.)
Amtrak's Pere Marquette coming into Holland MI from Grand Rapids. By 8:29am EST I got the exposure up to 1/30th of a second. (Click on photo for larger.)
I had the longer 70-300mm lens, but it isn't VR, so I never put it on. This stuff is a lot easier to shoot in the summertime. (Click on photo for larger.)
Former Amtrak EMD F40PH locomotive, turned into a cab control baggage car (known as a "cabbage"). The actual locomotive is a GE P40DC pushing on the rear of the train. With the train in the station, the front fouls the grade crossing at 8th Street and so the gates and lights continue running until after the train leaves. I wanted to move to a different angle, but forgot that when the lights were flashing, the idiots dive out of 8th Street and carom through the slalom curves of the Paragon bank parking lot I was in like they were running some damned Grand Prix race. So I managed to turn the Bravada around and shoot out of the driver's window instead of the passenger window, but didn't get a chance to do the wide angle shot I'd planned. (Click on photo for larger.)
Before the Amtrak train left, I could see a headlight in the distant siding. I thought it was the CSX freight that often runs either before or after the Pere Marquette, but it turned out to be some local switching run. (Click on photo for larger.)
Pictures Or It Didn't Happen
As for Mrs. Dr. Phil's trip, she had a great time and it sounds like they spent hours having lunch at the Russian Tea Time before wandering by the Land's End store in Sears so she could look for a new winter jacket.
Pat, Mrs. Dr. Phil, Will and Emma at Sears in Chicago, taken by a helpful salesperson. (Click on photo for larger.)
No pictures of the arrival of the evening train on account of darkness. On the other hand, the rain had stopped, which made the rendezvous all much easier. (grin)