Over a year ago Tracey and I stumbled upon the old train yard in Big Valley, AB while on a family outing and we’ve been dreaming of the day we could shoot there ever since.
The remnants of the abandoned train yard took my breath away and I knew it would be the perfect backdrop for an edgy photo shoot.
It was built in 1912, a year after the Canadian Northern Railway laid track in Big Valley. The roundhouse, stockyard rail yard and maintenance/repair facilities can still be toured and there is enough remaining of the structure to see how each bay would have been used.
Sadly, more than a decade after the train yard was built, the Canadian National Railway (a merger between the Canadian Northern Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific) decided the site at Big Valley wasn’t needed and the rail yard was destined to become a historical site.

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The train yard at Big Valley, AB.

I knew that I wanted to shoot at dusk and I was hoping that dramatic lighting would really make our grad (Janaye) pop off the background. That meant we had to shoot with a strobe and so I dragged one of our Alien Bee strobe lights with a 10 degree honeycomb grid to the window and remote triggered it using our Pocketwizard’s.

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One of our Alien Bee strobe lights.

It took us quite a while to get the settings just right. The narrow grid meant the light had to be aimed just perfectly to throw light on her face instead of the wall and I wanted it to be perfect. Both Janaye and Tracey were extremely patient as I worked to make sure it looked right.

Here you can see how we had the light positioned to make sure we were lighting just Janaye's face and upper-body.
Here you can see how we had the light positioned to make sure we were lighting just Janaye’s face and upper-body.

By the time we were finished it was cold and a bit windy (Thanks for putting up with us Janaye!) but the final shot was absolutely worth it! We took over 1,000 frames at this session but this one picture was “the picture” of the shoot to me. I’m so glad we finally got a chance to shoot at Big Valley.

The finished shot was more than worth all of that work.
The finished shot was more than worth all of that work.

Stay tuned later this week for another blog post featuring more photographs from Janaye’s grad session.

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