2013 – A Year in Review

Where to even start about 2013? On paper, it didn’t seem like a huge year- not a lot of big trips, not a ton of photos taken, a record-low number of miles on the Subaru -but in terms of change, personal growth, and big things professionally? 2013 was a pretty big deal. If the past twelve months have taught me anything (and they’ve taught me a lot) it’s that you never know where you’ll end up in the space of a year, and that luck certainly favors the prepared. That said, this will be a pretty short gallery of photos, so if you’re looking for a huge, artful spread of eye-catching images, I don’t really know what to tell you. Maybe you should follow me on Flickr. And now onto the photos…
Previous years:


2013 saw IndyCar return to Pocono Raceway, in scenic Long Pond, PA. The last time a race of this kind (it was CART, back in those days) was held at Pocono the year was 1989, when yours truly was but a tiny race fan. It was one of the first races I remember clearly, with Danny Sullivan winning the event. He also won Nazareth, the next race I remember attending. Of course, from this small sample size, I assumed that Danny Sullivan won every race he entered, because I was a kid and kids think weird things like that. So anyway, Pocono hosted its first race in nearly 25 years, over July 4th weekend, and it was wonderful. Here are some somewhat related thoughts on my experiences:

1. Saturday’s Alright for Racing

If you’re a race fan, you know this. Going to the race on Sunday? You better be there on Saturday. In IndyCar, the race weekends are only two days, which means they cram a LOT into the day before the race, even more if there’s an Indy Lights event happening. From 9AM to 6PM there was something happening on track, and when there wasn’t, that just meant you should’ve been in the pits, enjoying the greatest bargain in racing, namely…

2. The best $20 You’ll Ever Spend

This is what separates IndyCar racing from its mouthbreathing third cousin, NASCAR: they actually WANT you to see the racing up close. Along with the general admission fee for Saturday, an extra Mr. Hamilton will gain you access to the pits, paddock, AND garages of the track. There, you’ll see the cars (like, if you really wanted to, you could touch them. And they’d likely let you, if you asked), the drivers, everything. Fancy yourself a photographer? You can take as many pictures as you like. Pictures like this:


or, if closeups of drivers aren’t your speed, how about mechanics working on a car behind the pit wall?
Also, I’m not the biggest Penske fan in the world, so here’s a photo of Will Power’s broken down car:

3. The Best Fans in Racing

Know how there’s that stereotype of the beer-swilling shirtless redneck “WHOOOOO!!!”-ing every time the drivers come past him on the track? Ever been to a race where that guy (and 10,000 of his closest friends) are actually doing that? Yeah, it sucks, doesn’t it? The nice thing about open-wheel crowds is that the folks there are actually there to watch the race, not get so drunk that the sunburn doesn’t start to hurt until Tuesday. I’ve had more good conversations with strangers at IndyCar races than I have at any other sporting event, and this weekend was no different. Plus, the amount of people wearing Nazareth Speedway attire made me miss my dearly departed home track more than I thought possible.

4. Good Lord, Pocono is HUGE

Somewhat off topic, but this is worth mentioning. I live an hour from the greatest race course in the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so I’m no stranger to what a 2.5 mile-long racecourse is all about, but Pocono is a bit different. It only has three turns, for one thing, and all three turns are completely different, based on turns from other famous tracks (Trenton, IMS, and Milwaukee, if you were curious), with straightaways of varying lengths connecting them. This means it’s a very long way from the front straight to Turn 2. Binoculars are a must. The cars were lapping the course around 220 MPH all weekend, due in large part do the recent resurfacing that made IndyCar’s return to Pocono possible.

5. Oh Yeah, the Racing

There were two races over the weekend- the Indy Lights series race, held on Saturday, and the Pocono 400 on Sunday. Remember what I said about Saturday? You should have been there: plenty of passes for the lead, the South American Driver of the Future Carlos Muñoz winning the race, and the other driver from Nazareth, Sage Karam, coming in second. Plus, you can watch the Saturday activities from any seat in the grandstand, so the aforementioned $20 meant you could watch the race from way up top in the slightly more expensive seats.

Let’s talk a minute about ticket prices, if you don’t mind. Saturday was, as discussed, $40 if you wanted to walk around the pits, or $20 if you just wanted to sit in the grandstands all day and see racecars. Sunday? Get this- general admission was $45. Seriously. For 400 miles of 200+MPH racing, with free parking. I know this sounds like I’m working for the Mattiolis here, but that’s a bargain. Also, if you have kids (I have cats, but maybe you have kids. Good on you. Kids are great!) they were free on Saturday and half price on Sunday. Beat that, every other televised sport! Pro tip: get there early on race day, because those roads do not handle traffic all that well. Just a heads up.

Sunday was awesome. My brother’s high school classmate and noted local driver Marco Andretti, who had been fastest in every session held on track all week, sat on pole, sharing the front row with two teammates from Andretti Racing. As part of the special championship of oval racing (I forget what it’s called and I’m too lazy to look it up right now), the cars lined up and started three-wide, which made for a great first lap, and first lap accident, with James “The Mayor of Hinchtown” Hinchcliffe wrecking hard in the first turn and bringing the crowd to their feet. The attendance was pretty decent, too, with more than 30,000 people showing up for the race. Anyway, 400 miles went by rather quickly. Some notes:

1) My favorite current driver, Takuma Sato, wrecked right in front of us, stupidly. We literally threw up our hands in disgust.
2) Marco’s consistently idiotic team ran him out of gas as he lost a commanding lead and finished 7th. The crowd was irked.
3) Speaking of Andretti, I think this is a weekend they’d like to forget altogether.
4) The IndyCar Radio broadcast was the PA feed for the race. That could change for 2014 and I wouldn’t mind. Heck, let me call the race, it can’t be all that different from college club hockey.
5) For having such an engaging twitter feed, the Herta car is having a TERRIBLE year. Tagliani deserves better.
6) Chip Ganassi surprised pretty much everyone and somehow found his cars finishing 1-2-3.

Friendly Kiwi Scott Dixon won the race. He seems like a nice enough guy, and I’m glad he won. Popular diabetic Charlie Kimball finished second, and Scottish brogue machine/former Mr. Ashley Judd Dario Franchitti finished third. All in all, an excellent race. I wish that Tony Kanaan had finished better, but he won the 500 this year, which is better than anything else that will happen in racing in 2013.

Personally, the weekend was everything I could have asked for: As previously noted, my dad and I rather enjoy racing, and his birthday was on the 7th, so getting to spend the weekend with him and my brother at the track was pretty special. On Sunday, my aunts Amy (who used to have a massive crush on Geoff Brabham) and Martha (former president of the Gerhard Berger Fan Club. I’m not kidding.) came out too, so it was a delightfully Capwell affair.

I heard from someone that the Mattioli family signed a three-year contract with IndyCar, which means this time next year I’ll be front and center at Pocono Raceway, booing the Penskes, rooting on the backmarkers, and getting sunburned with the rest of my fair-skinned family. Until then, thank you to Pocono Raceway, and happy birthday to my dad, the coolest race fan in my life:

2012- The Second Half


That’s all I can really think when I look back on 2012. Since we last spoke in August, I won a photo contest, I drove across the country, I shot some weddings, I shot a massive six-weekend event in Orange County, and I got a kitten. That’s a lot of stuff! Have a look!

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s have a great 2013.


In case you want to see how things went last year (rather well, I’d say!), have a look here.



It’s the end of 2012, which has been an amazing year, and I want to share with you a few things that have made my year so fun. I’m a photographer, first and foremost, but I’ve spent this year honing my video skills. Some for fun, some for clients, but all of it has been a wonderful adventure for yours truly. Here are a few examples of what I’m up to when I’m not shooting stills…


Alex and Lou Do Landing, NJ

In January, Alex, Dave and I went to our friend Peter’s house to work on his train layout. I had just gotten my HERO GoPro, so playing with it was a top priority. Hilarity ensued…

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This was also the setting for the first of many, many time lapses I’ve created this year. Here we are cleaning Peter’s layout and returning it to working order:

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Rally Bethlehem Township!

My brother and I had some fun with the GoPro, too. We took a few laps around our mom’s neighborhood, with a variety of camera placements. Sort of seems like you’re watching some very exciting auto racing coverage, assuming excitement can occur at 35mph in suburbia.

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When I’m back east, I spend a lot of time watching trains in my old haunts around the Lehigh Valley. NS’s Reading Line, which runs west from Allentown to (you guessed it!) Reading, is one of my favorite rail lines to frequent, and at night I like to sit in my car somewhere along the tracks, set up my camera, and let the trains go by. Well, this being 2012, I decided I’d also try my hand at shooting some train video. I was also able to combine another love of mine, audio recording, to try to tell the entire story of what it’s like to sit trackside at night:

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Swimming and Seeburg

Along with my field recordings adding some personality to my tiny contributions to web-based moviemaking, another reason I dabble as much as I do with video is that it’s the perfect vehicle to trot out my weird obsession with obscure  music. A favorite catalog of mine, the Seeburg Background Music System, is a great source of inspiration for me when I’m cobbling together the footage I’ve shot. Here’s a bit of swimming pool fun I had with the GoPro, my brother, and our cousins. Waterproof cameras really are fun.

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Hello, Martha!

The very talented Laura submitted her fine works to a contest put on by Martha Stewart Living. Not only was she the sole Hoosier selected as a finalist, but her charming little animals ended up on the magazine’s website this winter! All of that is to say, part of Laura’s submission was this video I made of her making some stuffed animals.

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French Lick Scenic Railway

I often find myself in French Lick, what with all that event shooting I do, so I have a fair amount of video from the time I spend there. Here’s a video I made of this year’s Polar Express event- keep an ear out for that aforementioned obscure music!

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Before the Polar Express began, though, those tents had to go up! Here’s a time lapse of a long day of temporary structure construction, nicely packaged into a sub-two minute piece of video:

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The Fall Trip

Every October, my group of friends get together to take photographs of trains and hang out with each other outside in the foliage. We pick a different place every year to meet up, and in 2012, it was back to the spiritual home of our little club- Cresson, PA, on the west slope of the Alleghenies. Here’s a short video of some trains passing.

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Lakeside Story

In September, I shot the wedding of my good friend Dave Honan and his beautiful bride Cortney. Since this wedding was just outside Seattle, and since this is my website you’re looking at, it should come as no surprise at all that the decision to drive out there for it was both the easiest and least surprising choice I’ve made in a while. My companion on this trip was the versatile and similarly self-employed Laura, whose stuffed animal business took a back seat to the duties of DeLorme navigator, food choice maker, and assistant wedding photographer.


Among the many things we did on the way there was a trip through some of my favorite terrain on the continent- the area west of Salt Lake City along the former Western Pacific and Southern Pacific lines that eventually meet in Wells, NV to head west through Palisade Canyon. Our mission was pretty specific this time, which stands in stark contrast to my normal western trips that are dictated by a complex math equation involving how many places I can get to if I deprive myself of enough sleep for the three days needed to make it back home before some very pressing engagement. Well, this time I left a full eleven days between departure and the wedding I had to shoot, and this left plenty of time for the foolhardy, but oh so awesome endeavor I’m about to explain.


2012 is Union Pacific’s 150th anniversary. UP, like most modern Class 1s, is extremely conscious of its image to the public, and to that end they maintain a stable of pristine vintage locomotives and passenger cars. This equipment tours the system to celebrate big events, important railroad functions, and sometimes I think they just take it out for fun, because if I ran a railroad, I know that’s what I’d do. Among this sparkling museum-like collection of railroad history is their lone steam engine, 844. It spent most of 2012 going from place to place to help celebrate the railroad’s sesquicentennial, and in late September it departed its homebase of Cheyenne, Wyo for an eventual terminus of Sacramento, CA. This meant we’d be in the same general part of the country as 844, and a plan was born.



The Plan.



West of SLC, but not yet to the lovely oases of Wendover or West Wendover (two distinctly different places, which if you’ve been there, you understand why) is a massive expanse of salt, craggy mountains, and, if you go far enough north from Interstate 80, the western shore of the Great Salt Lake. From a sightseeing perspective, I don’t think there’s much draw, but from a train nerd perspective, there’s a massive reason to brave the nearly thirty mile-long gravel road that winds its way from the off-ramp: SP’s Lucin Cutoff.


Because I’d hate for you to have to leave this page to google what the Lucin Cutoff is, I’ll explain it in a few long sentences: The original transcontinental railroad went from Omaha to the west coast, and its most treacherous, most all-around-pain-in-the-ass, slowest stretch of track happened to be just north of the Great Salt Lake, near Promontory. Remember reading about the Golden Spike in grade school? Well, this is the neck of the woods where that happened. In 1905, the Southern Pacific  said “hey, this whole bottleneck north of the lake seems like a real mess, what if we just built a bridge OVER it and then reaped the monetary benefits of shippers using our new, easy way through Utah?” (paraphrased quote, may not be factually accurate) and built a massive, twenty mile-long wooden bridge over the Great Salt Lake, that also nearly bankrupted the railroad. Seriously, think about that: it was 1905, in the middle of a state completely devoid of trees, and they built a gigantic timber bridge over a lake. Awesome. The bridge continued to serve the railroad well into the 1950s, when they began constructing an earthen fill to replace the aging structure. Not quite as cool, but still, this was something I had to see.


844 was slated to depart Ogden on September 22nd, so the idea was to get up to Lakeside and survey the shooting opportunities the afternoon before, and then camp out that night. Here’s the thing about the drive to Lakeside- it’s LONG, and pretty spooky in its overall desolation. The many signs warning you of unexploded ordnance, military exercises in progress, and to “drive at your own risk!” would be enough to scare off most people, but we were on a mission involving trains, so throwing caution (or common sense, whatever) to the wind was imperative.


The roads weren’t bad, for the most part: pea-sized gravel, nicely maintained, it all felt sort of like a really easy rally stage on an old Colin McRae game. That is, until we came to the end of the military installation and passed into Huge Potholetown, Utah, adjacent to Upper Rocky Switchback City. Mind you, I was in my Subaru WRX, a fine vehicle for many things, but getting up a gigantic rocky hill? White knuckles, copious swearing, and a fair amount of luck got us to our vantage point for the next 18 or so hours:

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The Trains.



Here’s the thing about camping a few hundred feet above a lake to the east and a massive dry lakebed to the west: you’re going to have a lot of warning of oncoming trains. I was getting scanner reception for thirty miles in both directions, and were it not for the smoke in the sky from the late-summer forest fires out west, I would have seen trains from just as far away. This was the first time I’d ever experienced anything quite like this, and the fact that we were pretty much the only two people for dozens of miles was a weird feeling. The wind was fierce, especially once the sun had gone down, but considering we were on the highest point in the middle of a flat expanse of land, this was not surprising. The coyotes calling from hilltop to hilltop all night was a bit unnerving, I’m sure they were as interested in us as we were of the passing trains. And the trains were plentiful! From the moment we got there, UP had them running like streetcars all night, to the point that getting out of the car to shoot them all got a bit tedious. Eventually, a fitful sleep came over me after a few hours of some of the most fun night shooting I’ve ever done. Moonlight, stars, and trains twenty miles away- there aren’t a lot of places where you’re going to see that!



The Main Event.


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Morning arrived, eventually, with the sun shrouded by clouds. This wasn’t a massive deal for me since the shot I was going to get of 844 was directly into the morning sun. The freight trains dried up in preparation for this special move, so we were left with some time to make tea and eat a fantastic car trunk breakfast of Triscuits and avocados, which sounds horrid but was really quite good and would keep us full for most of the morning.


Around 8:30, 844 toned up the dispatcher…


…and in a little more than a half an hour, a VERY short train with curious little puffs of smoke following it, slowly crossed the lake in front of us. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this train was completely dwarfed by the lake, even at 300mm it was hilariously small, as you can see:



As per their plans, the train parked itself at Lakeside siding for a half an hour to do routine maintenance. This worked out wonderfully for my purposes, because that happened to be directly below our perch, so many pictures were leisurely snapped while the tool car guys did their thing:



The sound of the idling steam (do steam locomotives idle? I’m a bad railfan for not knowing the proper term) and intermittent whistle blasts reverberated off the walls of the hills and mountains that surrounded the lake’s shore, and the whole area was awash in the glory that is UP 844. Seemingly just as quickly as the train had arrived, though, it was gone, its drivers thundering across the lake’s salt-crusted evaporation ponds, and eventually out of sight. What an experience!

Powerhouse Museum Photo Contest Winner!

Some great news out of Australia this morning- one of my photos was selected as a winner in this year’s “Trainspotting” photo contest, put on by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney! My photo of a train in Nipton, CA, taken on my April trip to Nevada and California, won the “Diesel electric or electric trains or trams” category. This is a HUGE honor, as this contest features incredibly tough competition from all over the world, and the photos picked this year, and in years past, are very, very good.  Nipton, CA

2012… So Far

Not gonna lie, I’m having an awesome year so far. I’ve been all over the place, I’ve had some really fun gigs, I’ve met a bunch of really awesome people, I got glasses, and i am taking some REALLY good pictures. Well, at least I think they’re good. I’ve made a little gallery of the first half of 2012 so you can see what I have been up to. Here’s to a strong finish to the year, and hopefully many more photos to put up on this here website!

A Bit About Myself

My professional life and my recreational life are, at times, rather intertwined; I’m someone who loves railroading, and all that goes along with it, and I’ve been fortunate (VERY fortunate) to derive a fair amount of my actual work from that love. Fans of my website will recall some of the work I’ve done with NS, but what I’m going to share with you here is something slightly different- my work with, and for, tourist railroads. The past few years have been wonderful in that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know so many fascinating people involved with the friendly world of tourist railroading. Here are some of my favorites.

This is Rick. Rick runs the Indiana Railway Museum, in French Lick, IN. He’s also the single hardest working, chicken-with-his-head-cut-off, constantly busy dude I’ve ever met. To show Rick at rest would be a gross misrepresentation of the man, so here he is leaning out of a moving coach in 20º weather during Polar Express, doing what he does best- “putting out fires.”

Close on the heels of Rick in the fictitious contest of “He who does the work of twenty people, while getting less sleep than any of those people,” is Rodney at the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railway, in Romney, WV. Rodney does it all, every weekend the Eagle is open, from driving people around, to running locomotives, to staying up late with me to spot engines for a night shoot, to taking tickets from passengers. He’s a guy who will do anything and everything to keep things running smoothly and safely.

This is Allan, he’s the head guy at TVRM’s shops. I mean “guy” because from what I gathered from talking to him, he’s someone who is in on everything from turning the massive drive wheels to UP’s 844 to welding and fabricating the new firebox for the museum’s own steam engine of renown, Southern 4501. He’s a guy with more stories about more crazy train happenings than anyone I’ve met in the business, and I only hung out with him for a few hours! If you ever have the chance to see the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, check it out- it’s an amazingly run place from top to bottom, and Allan is at the top of that list.

Meet Courtney Wilson. He’s the Executive Director of the B&O Museum in Baltimore. If you want an example of a Guy Who Gets Things Done, look no further. He’s got his finger on the pulse of every bit of the Museum’s operations, and just so you know, the B&O Museum is pretty much the granddaddy of them all- huge collection of one-of-a-kind equipment, second-to-none preservation facilities, and all set in a truly historically significant place. Here he is in the Museum’s shop building.

While in Bryson City, NC I had the opportunity to do some shooting on the Great Smoky Mountains RR for RailEvents, during their Dinosaur Train weekend. Here’s the GSMR’s senior engineer, Eric “Spider” Pittman. I shot this in the cab of their venerable GP-7, during a switching move. Between shoves, Spider had a story for every crossing, curve and wayside building- truly a guy who’s “qualified” on his railroad! He answered my copious questions about the history of the line, the lineage of the motive power, and everything else, and if you’ve met me, you know I ask a LOT of questions!

Last but not least, this is Jesse. I’ve been down to the Potomac Eagle a few times, but it wasn’t until recently that I had the pleasure to meet Jesse. He was a longtime C&O employee, who now runs trains on the weekends for fun in his retirement. He and his wife come to Romney from Eastern Ohio multiple times each summer- she works the ticket office, he runs the shuttle trains, and to spend time with either of them is to know what it means to live life to its fullest. Just make sure Jesse gets a cab with air conditioning, and he’ll tell you stories of railroading as it once was until it’s time to head home for the day. A class act, all the way.

So there you have it. To see a few more photos of train stuff, and train people, check out the gallery below.


2011 Year In Review!

2011 was a hell of a year for me – I was published more this year than any year previously, I expanded my commercial business exponentially, and enjoyed some great trips with some great friends in between all that boring business stuff. I also spent a LOT of time shooting film, something I plan on doing even more of in 2012. Hope this was as great a year for you as it was here at louiscapwell.com! Here are some pictures: