Thursday evening, Kris and I took a drive up to the former Grand Trunk Railway route, operated by Genesee & Wyoming’s St Lawrence & Atlantic. We caught up with photographer Andrew Dale, and drove east to West Paris, Maine intercept the westward road freight 393.
A mix of old and new camera technologies allowed me to push the envelope of railroad night photography.
I attached my old Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens (which I retreived from storage in Dublin last month) to my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. This is a ‘fast’ lens, and a full stop and third faster than my 70-200mm Z-series zoom.
Working with a mix of street lighting and a hint of dusk in the sky, I made a hand held pan photo of the lead locomotive crossing West Paris’s Main Street.
I bumped the camera ISO to 40,000, and set the 105mm to f1.8, this allowed me a shutter speed of 1/160th of a second. I set the shutter speed, aperture and focus manually.
Our recent ride on the Berkshire Scenic included several stops and photo run-by. On the return run from North Adams, we paused at the South View Cemetery. I opted for a position well away from the line in order to make pan-photos.
For these images, I set the camera lens to f22 to allow for use of a comparatively slow shutter speed (1/30 second at ISO 200). Then as the train passed, I used my body to pan with the train to keep my desired point of focus in constant movement with train. The slower shutter speed lets the background blur while camera motion keeps the train sharp.
Perhaps the most important thing about executing a successful pan is to release the shutter while continuing to move with the train.
During my visit to Dublin last month, I stayed the Ashling Hotel across the Liffey from Irish Rail’s Heuston Station. This gave me ample opportunity to revisit this old haunt during my wanders around the city.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I made this selection of views around the station during my final 24-hours before flying to Boston.
I’d made my first photos at Heuston upon arriving by train from Galway in February 1998, more than 24 years ago!
Sunday, May 22, 2022, Conway Scenic Railroad’s Special Railfan Photographer’s Mountaineer, brought more than 100 guests up to Crawford Notch and enabled them to make photos at various places along the line.
In my capacity as Manager of Marketing & Events, I helped to organize the trip, and traveled on the head-end to work with the crew to select photo stops and spot the train.
A secondary condition of this role was that in several intances I was able to make uncommon views of the train, often in situations I needed to climb down from the lead locomotive ahead of final positioning or during other aspects of the operation.
Among the 400 photos I exposed that day were these views of recently restored Boston & Maine F7A 4268. All of these images were exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
Sunday, May 22, 2022, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its Railfan Photographer’s Mountaineer over Crawford Notch, NH.
This was the first time recently restored Boston & Maine F7A 4268 made a trip over the Mountain Division for Conway Scenic Railroad, and the first time that Conway Scenic had the two B&M F7As working in multiple with former Maine Central GP7 573.
All three were painted in the classic EMD-designed maroon & gold scheme.
It is rare that Conway Scenic operates three diesels in multiple.
The weather cooperated nicely.
I helped organize the photo stops and run-bys and traveled on the head-end in both directions.
Conway Scenic advertises boarding times rather than departure times. This train boarded at 9am, and departed 2 minutes ahead of schedule. We performed 8 special photo stops in addition to the normal run around at Crawford Station. The train arrived back at North Conway almost an hour ahead of its target. In other words, it was an extremely successful trip.
I made more than 400 digital images and haven’t had time to look at most of them. Last night, the day had caught up with me before I could go through my images. Today Conway Scenic has another special trip.
More Boston & Maine F7A photos to come in later posts!
Last weekend, Kris and I visited the Berkshire Scenic Railway with the New York Central System Historical Society.
We boarded the BSRy excursion train at Adams, Massachusetts for a short spin up to North Adams and back.
The railway had arranged several photo stops for us. The first of these was at Zylonite, where we paused at the old Boston & Albany station. Clouds parted and the sun emerged. BSRy ran their mixed consist of a former New York Central SW8 diesel hauling two former Lackawanna commuter cars and a Budd RDC. This performed several photo run-bys for passengers.
I exposed these images using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series Nikkor zoom lens. Files were processed and adjusted in Lightroom, where I made nominal corrections to constrast, color temperature, and saturation.
On Friday, May 20, 2022, the 470 Club in cooperation with Conway Scenic Railroad, assembled a three unit consist of former Maine Central GP7 573 bracketed by former Boston & Maine F7As 4266 and 4268. B&M 4268 was restored to service last month using the guts of former North Coast GP9 number 1757.
This is the first time all three vintage EMD diesels have worked together on Conway Scenic. All are painted in the 1940s-era EMD designed maroon and gold livery that mimics the hues of autumn foliage in New England.
The locomotives were operated in multiple as a test to see if all were performing satisfactorily and run up and down ‘The Hill’ within North Conway Yard Limits.
I traveled on one of the test runs, as well as making photographs for the railroad.
On Sunday, May 22, 2022, these three locomotives will be the intended consist for the Railfan’s Mountaineer, a specialthat will run from North Conway over the Mountain Division to Crawford Notch and return for the benefit of photographers and locomotive enthusiasts.
These images were made with my Nikon Z6 and 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom lens.
Last month I was invited on an official tour of Irish Rail’s Inchicore Works. I joined a small group of journalists preparing a feature on the upcoming 175th Anniversary open house that occured about 10 days later (after I returned to the USA).
On my casual walk-around I had the opportunity to chat with a variety of Irish Rail employees and retirees.
In addition to some photos of locomotives and railcars, I made numerous vignettes of the shops and the details thereof using my Lumix LX7.
In a future post, I’ll include some more of the locomotive photos.
In my years visiting Dublin, I often noted changes to the character of the city between my visits.
On my April 2022 visit was the first in two an one half years, largely owing to travel complications imposed by Covid-19 and the demands of my full-time job at Conway Scenic Railroad.
Among the changes to Dublin during my extended abscence was an upgrade to the city bus fleet and changes to many of the bus routes. Notably, Dublin Bus now operates a fleet of distinctive looking modern Hybrid buses.
Having traveled on Dublin bus for nearly 23 years, I found this change worthy of a few photos. Especially while the buses were still new and clean, and operating on a mix of new and old routes.
Photos exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Tracking the Light normally covers rail, but occasionally looks at other transport!
In yesterday’s Tracking the Light, I described the challenges of when a fluffy cloud obscures the sun beneath an otherwise blue sky. The opposite is a burst of direct sun through an otherwise overcast sky.
On Thursday, May 12, 2022, after departing Bernardston, Massachusetts, Kris and I zipped down to Pan Am’s yard at East Deerfield and set up at the east end overlooking the Connecticut River Bridge. Here the Deerfield hump engine was gradually shoving a long cut of cars. This is a blue, black & white, EMD switcher working with slug..
About the same time an eastward freight moved on the the bridge on the opposite track.
For a brief moment a burst of sunlight illuminated both trains on the bridge, making for a stunning setting in cosmic light.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!
In this scenario, the exposure trick is to quickly getting the optimal exposure and not to allow the highlight areas to receive too much light relative to the rest of the scene.
Fair weather clouds pose a challenge for railroad photographers. When on a sunny day, if a small puffy cloud covers the sun at the moment a train approaches it creates a difficult situation.
The cloud darkens the scene, changes color temperature, diffuses the light on the ground, and increases the difference in exposure between the sky and subjects on the ground.
Back in my Kodachrome days, having a small puffy cloud obscure the sun bascially ruined the photograph.
The other day at Bernardston, Massachusetts, I was in place to photograph the southward Vermonter cross a 19thcentury multiple stone arch bridge.
I could hear the horn blowing. The sun was bright . . . And then, as the train came into view, a small puffy cloud momentarily covered the sun.
I exposed a sequence of digital photos as the train rolled over the bridge. Later, working with Adobe Lightroom, I made a number of changes and adjustments to my files to present several alternatives to compensate for the effects of the clouded exposure.
On Thursday, May 12, 2022, Kris and I stopped by the railroad station at White River Junction, Vermont to catch train 55, the southward Vermonter.
It was a clear bright morning and pleasantly warm.
I made this pair of photos using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.
I recalled to Kris my first visit to this station back in May 1985 when my pal T.S. Hoover and I had driven over night to witness the crew change on the northward Montrealer. An event that occurred in the wee hours shortly before sunrise.
Yesterday, May 11, 2022, it was bright sunny and warm in Conway, New Hampshire. The only train on the move was Conway Scenic’s ballast extra. So I conferred with the ballast train crew before they departed the yard (with engine 252 and a rider coach—for use as a shoving platform and to carry the crew between work sites), and then intercepted the train at Conway as they were putting the consist together.
In the afternoon, I tracked down the train again to make the most of the bright day.
All of these images were exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera with 24-70 Z-series zoom.
On May 10, 2007, I organized 37 photographers across North America to document railroading over the course of one 27- hour span.
I chose May 10th for several reasons: It was the anniversary of the Golden Spike at Promontory, Utah, which marked completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad; It was also the anniversary of New York Central’s 999 on its world famous speed run, and it was my friend, Eamon Jones’s birthday. (Eamon spent his working career running engines for Irish Rail).
I, along with all the other photographers, spent the day photographing railroad operations. Early in the day, I captured Genesee Valley Transportation’s Matt Wronski removing a blue flag from the Falls Road Railroad shop at Lockport, New York. This image was exposed on Fujichrome.
I was one of only a few photographers that exposed film on this day. Among the other film photographers were my father Richard Jay Solomon—who made photos around Palmer, Massachusetts, and Hal Reiser—who spent the morning with me on the Falls Road Railroad.
The Railroad Never Sleeps was published by Quarto Press and was sold in book stores around the continent.
Among the objectives of my recent trip to Dublin was to retrieve some of my old Nikkor lenses that I’d kept there over the last 18 years.
I’d left these lenses there back in 2019 expecting to return in a few months, only to have the world change in my absence.
In the meantime, I’d bought a new Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera system with an adapter to attach classic Nikkor lenses and I’ve been waiting for the day to play with some of the classic glass stored in Dublin.
Previously on Tracking the Light, I’ve shown examples of my Nikkor f2.5 105mm telephoto attached to the Z6.
The photos exposed here were made with an Nikkor AF-DC f2.0 135mm telephoto lens. All were exposed at the widest aperture (f2.0) to allow for very shallow depth of field (narrow range of focus). This is an imaging technique often employed in portraiture but rarely in railroad photography.
Controlling focus is a powerful photographic tool because it helps direct the viewers eye. Often modern digital imaging systems facilitate great depth of field but make it difficult if not impossible to make use of shallow focus.
Although not used in these photos, the AF-DC f2.0 135mm lens has an additional control ring to adjust the lens elements to offer a soft edge specifically for portraits. I will explore that feature of the lens at a later date.
The subject of these images is 470 Club’s recently restored Boston & Maine F7A 4268 that sits on the plow track at the North Conway.
Toward the end of April, for the second morning in a row, I was in position at ‘the box’ on St Johns Road in Dublin to witness the passing of Irish Rail’s down IWT liner.
It was a cosmic alignment. The sun came out just as three trains converged upon Islandbridge Junction. The first was an ICR that emerged from the Phoenix Park Tunnel and stopped across from Platform 10. The second was an ICR heading toward the tunnel.
Then the down IWT liner emerged from the tunnel weaved around both ICRs on its way through the junction.
Sometimes, it helps to be in place at the best spot and just wait out the action.
Exposed in April 2022 using a Lumix LX7 digital camera.
It was like old times again! Last week, Irish Rail’s General Motors diesel 073 in retro paint was working the down IWT Liner (Dublin North Wall to Ballina, County Mayo).
I’d met fellow photographer Jay Monaghan along Dublin’s St Johns Road. The sun had cleared away the clouds, and while I went to the famous ‘Box’ that overlooked the wall, Jay took a position closer to track level.
In my Nikon F3, I had a fresh roll of Kodak Ektachrome 100. I fitted the camera with a telephoto lens to make a classic photo, portrait format to feature the Wellington Testimonial. As the liner came around the corner at Islandbridge Junction, I exposed a couple of color slides, and then popped off a sequence of digital photos with my Lumix LX7.
After long last, I was photographing a freight from my old spot.
These digital photos were made in April 2022, but they reminded me of my efforts from years gone by! (I sent the slides in for processing on Monday and hope to get them back next week).
In March Kris & I arrived at Jim Thorpe, PA in time to travel on the midday Lehigh Gorge Scenic train. We were please to find Reading & Northern’s recently acquired former Norfolk Southern F-units on display near the old CNJ passenger station.
Exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
The two magnificent bridges at Safe Harbor, Pennsylvania are vestiges of the Pennsylvania Railroad from its days in the early 20th century as the busiest freight railroad in North America.
The line on top bridge was abandoned by Conrail c1990 no longer carries track. It is now used a by a trail system. This bridge originally carried PRR’s low-grade freight cutoff from Parkesburg via Shocks Mills to Marysville, PA. The bottom bridge is part of the Port Deposit route and still used by Norfolk Southern. The electrification was discontinued early in the Conrail era.
I first visited Irish Rail’s Connolly Station in February 1998.
That seems like a lifetime ago and the station facilities have been greatly altered since my early visits.
On Monday, 25 April , 2022, we transfered from the LUAS to Irish Rail’s DART at Dublin’s Connolly Station and on the way between the tram and the train, I exposed this Lumix LX7 photo 29000 and 22K series railcars under the old roof.
Although these are common varieties of trains in Ireland, there’s a certain thril of seeing them again in an historic setting, which reminds me that the common today will someday seem captivating. Everything changes and it helps to have been away for spell to better appreciate the effects of change.
An open eye can produce creative vision and a record for history.
On April 27, 2016, I was visiting Bordeaux, France with my father Richard Jay Solomon. I made this view using my Lumix LX7 of a Bordeaux Tram crossing the river Garonne.
The Bordeaux tram system makes extensive use of a ground based electrical power distribution system to avoid the necessity for overhead wires. To minimize the danger of electrocution this system is designed so the positive feed is only activated when the tram is over the individual hot feeds.