Friday, February 22, 2013

Ominous News for the Ocean

VIA Rail's president, Marc Laliberté, delivered a speech to the Canadian Club in Montreal on February 11 entitled "Change, transformation, modernization and collaboration".

VIA's accompanying press release contains some interesting data on ridership on 2011 versus 2012, including some ominous numbers for the Ocean.

This paragraph is particularly damning:
For the long-distance routes, adjustments to the frequency in scheduling that took effect during the fourth quarter improved the performances for the Ocean and the Canadian. The occupancy rate for both of the services reached 67% in November and December 2012, compared to 58% for the same period in 2011. The average number of passengers per train improved on both trains, up from 121 in 2011 to 126 in 2012 for the Ocean between Montréal and Halifax. The Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver welcomed 168 passengers on average in 2012, compared to 148 in 2011. (emphasis mine)

Remember that the Ocean was cut from 6 trains/week to 3 trains/week... yet ridership only improved by 5 people per train, on average. If you believed VIA's rhetoric, ridership per train should have jumped by much more than 4% as people just took the next day's train. What seems to have happened is that people who would have ridden the cancelled trains found another method of transportation.

Despite VIA's words about intermodality, word is that the Ocean is just missing connections with the Maritime Bus service. Let's suppose we want to go from Montreal to Saint John. The Ocean is supposed to arrive in Moncton at 12:45 and the bus leaves at 1 PM. Sadly the Ocean is usually not on time and it misses the bus, which doesn't wait for the train. The connection is too tight. And if you want to grab a bus at Truro to head south... wayyy too late. At least you can catch the westbound train with the current schedule.

Transport Action Atlantic is fighting to raise awareness of the slow death of the Ocean and they need your support. Read their plain words on the VIA cuts. You can start to help by joining them or the national organization Transport Action.

You can read Marc's speech here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Lightroom Editing Example

I have been using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 to manage my photos for several months now. It is fantastic and I can't say enough good things about it. What I would like to do today is show you how I edited a photo to produce this:
CN 2553 in Winnipeg 2013/02/13

Here's the before and after photos:
CN 2553 Lightroom Editing Example

One of the many great things about Adobe Lightroom is that it lists every edit you have done to a photo. Here's what I did to this photo.
  1. Crop and straighten. Pretty basic and this should be done on almost every photo.
  2. Enable lens profile. This allows Lightroom to compensate for a particular lens, in this case my Canon 18-55mm lens. Generally it compensates for pincushioning on wide angle shots, etc.
  3. Adjust white balance. You can see the "before" photo is bluish, very common for overcast photos with a lot of snow. You have to tell your camera or editing program what is "white", easy enough when there is a lot of snow!
  4. Shadows. Lightroom has a handy slider to lighten or darken shadows, so I cranked it up to +52 to brighten up the underside of the engines.
  5. Contrast and Exposure. I increased both by about 17.
  6. Luminance Smoothing. The original was a bit grainy, even though it was shot at ISO 100. The smoothing can get rid of some grain but you have to be cautious not to use too much or you lose all detail. Luminance smoothing is also handy in portrait photos to get rid of some blemishes, wrinkles, and so forth.
  7. Clarity. I just love this slider in Lightroom to bring out detail. I was fairly conservative and only used +17 as too much Clarity in snow makes everything look harsh.
  8. Saturation and Vibrance. I cranked both of this up some to make the colours of the engine and containers "pop".
  9. Spot Removal. I used the spot removal in Lightroom to get rid of the fibre optic warning post in the right of the frame.
It took about 10 minutes but I think these edits dramatically improved a dull photo. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Train Tribute Show

"Pete the Rocker" contacted me to let me know of a tribute show he is doing on his "The Shoebox" show on CJSR in Edmonton. Every year, Pete and his son Brian pay tribute to Pete's dad, who worked for the CNR for 48 years as a carman and on the "big hook" wrecking crew. The show will air on February 27, 2013 from 7 PM to midnight (Mountain time). You can listen to them in Edmonton at 88.5 "on your FM dial", live online, or via podcast at Shoebox Radio's web site. Their tribute shows from 2011/2/23 and 2012/2/29 are also on the web site.