[intro-paragraph]Boasting one of the largest collections of roller coaster photography on the web, CoasterGallery.com has long been a valuable resource. I interviewed Joel Rogers, the man behind the site, to learn more about his fun hobby and his interesting day job.[/intro-paragraph]
Joel B: Describe the beginnings of CoasterGallery.com.
Joel R: “Joel’s Roller Coaster Gallery” started way back in 1999. As an AOL member, I found myself with four free webpages that I could make! I started with just a few personal pictures and some shots of my vacation. But as time went on, the pages became more about coasters and less about me. I purchased the CoasterGallery.com domain name in 2000, and I have been adding t0 the website ever since then.
Joel B: What do you do when you’re not visiting theme parks? Do you have a day job? What are some of your hobbies?
Joel R: While I love photographing coasters, my real job is being a pilot. I currently fly the Airbus at the world’s largest airline. I also play handbells in a choir, do severe storm spotting and observe the weather for the National Weather Service. I am also called KC0NHX on amateur radio. But my biggest joy is being a father to two of the cutest little girls anywhere. (The baby has only been on 2 coasters, but my elder daughter has been on 18!)
Joel B: It looks like you have pictures of most of the amusement parks in America. How many parks are left in the States?
Joel R: I have been on almost 600 roller coasters, so I have covered the majority of large parks in the U.S. The biggest parks I am missing in the States are Lagoon Park and Magic Springs & Crystal Falls. Once I visit those parks, the only parks left will have just one or two coasters. On the positive side, I just visited 12 parks in Europe, so CoasterGallery.com will soon be adding a ton of new pictures!
Joel B: What are some of the most photogenic amusement parks in your opinion (both large & small)?
Joel B: How do you decide which theme parks to re-visit?
Joel R: It is a combination of what new coasters a park has as well as my travel schedule. I usually visit parks on my days off, but I sometimes get to ride coasters when on a long overnight when flying for work. Since I am at the mercy of my airline’s work schedule, I don’t always get long days off in cities with the parks I want to visit, but it is a nice perk when it works in my favor.
Joel B: How often do amusement parks grant you special access so you can take pictures from viewpoints that the rest of us can’t? Are there any particular pictures that you can share with us that are taken from unique locations or vantage points?
Joel R: I have been fortunate to get access to some areas of parks not open to the public, but I rarely ask for such treatment. There are a few parks that have opened themselves up to me, and others that have offered coaster tours during American Coaster Enthusiast events, but of course I always respect the parks’ wishes and never go anywhere without permission!
Joel B: From your 3,000+ picture gallery are there any pictures that are your favorites or really stand out in your mind? Do you have any photos framed?
Joel R: It is hard to pick a favorite of my three or four thousand shots in the Gallery, but let me try… I recently got to stand within the structure of the Coney Island Cyclone, which was a huge thrill. I was lucky that the pictures turned out OK during this once in a lifetime experience. This summer, I got to photograph two coasters that still require brakemen to ride the train. It was amazing to see that history in action. (Yes, I still haven’t posted those shots yet, but check back in a month or two!)
On the other hand, I get bored of taking shots of some coasters. After riding and photographing dozens of Vekoma Boomerangs or SLCs, it’s hard to find a new view that I haven’t shot before.
Sadly, I don’t often print out my own pictures. I don’t have any coaster pictures currently hanging in my home.
Joel B: Do you ride most of the roller coasters that you photograph? Or do you only chose to ride certain coasters?
Joel R: With the exception of a few kiddie rides that wouldn’t allow adults, and a couple of coasters that weren’t operating when I visited the park, I have ridden every coaster I have in the Gallery. I will ride every coaster at least once. Now there are some that are too rough that I don’t want to re-ride, but there are many that I would love to ride again… and if I have time, I do!
Joel B: I’ve written in my reviews that certain roller coasters gave me the experience of what I imagined it would be like to fly in a fighter jet (Alpengeist) or in a space ship like the Death Star Run from Star Wars (Montu). Since you’re an actual pilot, I have to ask you which type of roller coasters or specific roller coasters have reminded you the most of flying?
Joel R: My airline flying is nothing like roller coasters. I do all I can to provide a nice smooth and boring ride to my passengers. However, I used to be a flight instructor and I did some acrobatic flying which has some similarities to coasters. In light planes, I can do some maneuvers similar to what looping coasters can perform. However, a roller coaster doing loops and rolls close to the ground with the wind blasting me in the face is nothing like my flying experiences at altitude in an enclosed cockpit.
I used to spend a lot of time teaching students how to stall airplanes. As the wing looses lift and the plane drops, it is somewhat like the airtime on a good coaster. However, no coaster yet does a long plunge like a fully developed aircraft spin.
Joel B: Imagine you won a $1 billion lottery and you could build your vision of an ideal amusement park. Describe it. What would it look like? What types of rides would it have?
Joel R: Tough question, but fun to consider. Intamin, B&M, and the Gravity Group would be spending a good deal of my money! I think my park would have some great coasters, a variety of thrill rides, plenty of shade and air conditioning, really good food, and beautiful landscaping. And is it too much to ask for short lines everywhere?
Photos courtesy of Joel Rogers and CoasterGallery.com.