Thursday, January 28, 2016

10 Questions for Michael Berry

This series is modeled after the "Interesting Railfan" series in Railroad magazine from years ago. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it. (See all in the series)

Michael Berry is a railfan based in Montreal. His photos have been published in several magazines and he is very active in social media. He's also a new father!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Me on CP 9733 on display at
Exporail, July 24 2011
I grew up in Montreal West, which had and still has numerous CN and CP lines passing through it. The house I grew up in was just a block north of CN’s busy Montreal subdivision and a 5 minute walk from the AMT (ex-CP) Montreal West station, so I’ve seen and heard trains all of my life.

I’ve also taken AMT commuter trains off and on since I was a teenager (I currently commute to work on the AMT from Lasalle to downtown Montreal). On top of my passion for trains, I also have a huge passion for music (Rock, Soul, Blues, Country, etc.) and have a CD collection in the hundreds. I even work in the music industry, working in the licensing department of Stingray (

I’ve been married since 2012 to a woman whose father is an ex-CP employee. Our first vacation was to Train Festival 2009, I proposed to her at Exporail and our honeymoon was at Conway Scenic Railroad, so trains are an important part of our relationship!

2. Why do you like trains?

That is a good question, one I can’t completely answer! Growing up in Montreal West with trains everywhere, I have to assume it kind of rubbed off on me. I’m also a history buff, so that might be a factor as well, as railways have such a fascinating history (I have hundreds of railway books in my collection, as well as even more magazines, timetables, etc).

While I have been interested in trains since I was a kid, the bug really bit me in 2005, about the same time I got my first digital camera. I’ve been taking photos on a very regular basis since then.

3. Where’s your favourite place to railfan?

It’s hard for me to pick just one place. The Peel Basin near downtown Montreal is a nice location that I can go to on the way to work which allows for photos of a wide range of passenger trains with the skyline of downtown Montreal as a backdrop.
AMTK 68 by the Peel Basin, Montreal, July 17 2015
The Angrignon overpass over CN’s Montreal sub near Lasalle, Qc is a great spot (albeit somewhat difficult to access) which offers a nice vantage spot for eastbounds in the morning and westbounds in the afternoon.
CN 528 seen from the Angrignon overpass, Montreal, June 22 2014
Finally, I visit Exporail (The Canadian Railway Museum) very often, roughly once a month.

4. If you could railfan anywhere, anytime, where and when would it be?

I’d have to go with Montreal in the mid to late 1950’s. You had a fantastic mix of steam and diesel, as well as locomotives from CN, CP, New York Central, Boston & Maine and Delaware Hudson.

A close second (and not in Canada, but close) would be the Rutland Railroad’s island-hopping line through Lake Champlain, whenever I drive through that area I can’t believe a railroad built a line there.

5. What’s your favourite railway?

My favourite railway is CP, the history and the allure of ‘the world’s greatest transportation system’ has always meant a lot to me, and there’s hometown pride in the fact that CP was based out of Montreal for 110 years. That being said, I photograph CN trains much more often than I shoot CP trains because CN runs a lot more trains in Montreal than CP does.

6. You’re very active on What are your best tips on how to get your photos approved there?

Before I answer that, I’d like to say that while getting photos approved by is sometimes a frustrating process (you know it! - Ed), the screening process has really helped make me a better photographer and a better editor of my photos (considering I didn’t edit them at all before!).
Montreal West station, November 8 2012
If you want to start getting photos accepted on their site, start with the basics, i.e. a sunny, 3/4 wedge shot where the train is not cut off. Also make sure that the photo is properly exposed. You don’t necessarily need a fancy editing program. I do all my editing in Iphoto, with simple things like adding contrast, leveling, sharpening, etc.

Finally, get used to your photos being rejected, probably a lot at the beginning. Don’t take this personally. Even I still get some of photos rejected. Most of the time the rejections are legitimate and fixing the photo will improve it.

7. What’s your workflow for processing and sharing your photos?

Well I’m not a patient person in general, so I’m impatient to upload my photos almost as soon as I get home and then share them on a number of sites. I often have more photos edited and ready to be uploaded then I want to upload in a day, so I have various folders with photos that are edited and ready to, but not yet uploaded. I upload to Flickr,, and very often.
CP 133 at Dorval, June 9 2014

8. What gear do you use when railfanning?

I try to keep it relatively basic, I only have one camera body (a Nikon D5100) and an all-in-one lens (a Sigma 18-250 mm) and a scanner (Uniden BC125AT). I’ll usually have the latest copy of the Canadian Trackside Guide, some extra batteries and a meal/snacks with me depending on how long I think I’ll be gone.

9. What recommendations would you give to the beginning railfan to improve their photos?

Master the basics first - shoot the train with the sun at your back, don’t cut the train off if you can, make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to ‘stop’ the train. Once you have the basics, you can try more adventurous locations, angles, etc.
CN 368 on the CN Lac St-Jean sub, March 24 2014

10. How’s life with the new addition to the family?

It’s unbelievably great! My wife and I are so happy to have a healthy baby girl and we are both anxious to bring her to Exporail once the weather warms up!

Thanks, Michael, and best wishes to you, your wife and daughter! Remember that kids are great railfan companions...

You can find Michael at:

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