Cork Commuter Revisited.

Two or three times a year I make a visit to Cork.

Among the subjects I photograph are Irish Rail’s Cork area suburban trains.

Although not the most varied of operations (2600 series diesel railcars are the rule), the Cork Commuter system is an interesting subject. It provides a reliable, functional and well-utilized transportation system that works on a regular interval timetable.

The scenery is pleasant and over the years I’ve made many interesting images of the trains.

These are recent views made over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (2017).

Kent Station Cork. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Passengers await the arrival of a 2600 railcar at Kent Station.  Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

Schematic map of Irish Rail’s Cork Commuter network.
Glounthaune, Co. Cork.
Approaching Glounthaune, Co. Cork.
St. Patrick’s Day observers watch a passing 2600 railcar while waiting for Glounthaune’s parade. Exposed on Tri-X using a Leica IIIa.
Moments before Glounthaune’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Exposed digitally with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon lens.
Littleisland signal cabin.
Cobh, Co. Cork.

Thanks to Irish Rail’s Ken Fox for recommending locations and supplying history and context.

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Irish Rail Mark4 in Verdant Countryside.


The most scenic portion of Irish Rail’s run from Dublin to Cork is the final stretch from Mallow to Kent Station Cork.

A few days ago, Ken Fox, Sean Twohig and I made a survey of this area of Co. Cork looking for locations to picture the Mark4 trains, which are among the only regularly scheduled locomotive powered passenger trains remaining on Irish Rail.

I exposed this view between Mourne Abbey and Rathduff. The lush greenery dotted with blossoming gorse makes for a bucolic scene.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 55mm; 1/500 second, ISO 1000.


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Kent Station, Cork—Three Evening views.

Irish Rail’s Kent Station in Cork City is a cool place to make photos. It’s unusual curved train shed, plus antique platform awnings and brick station buildings have a Victorian appearance that offer a contrast with the modern trains that now serve passengers here.

I exposed these views on 16 March 2017.

Digital image exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon.
Black & white film photograph exposed on Fuji Acros 100 with a Leica IIIa fitted with a screw-mount 35mm Nikkor wide angle lens.
2600 railcars bask under sodium vapour lamps at Kent Station Cork. Digital image exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon.

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Limerick Junction by Night.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon, I exposed this evening view at Limerick Junction.

At right is the down train from Dublin Heuston destined for Cork Kent Station, on the left is the shuttle train to/from Limerick .

FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon set at f3.2, 1/15th of a second, handheld, ISO 3200.

I imported the camera-RAW file into Lightroom, and made nominal adjustments to the contrast while lightening shadow areas. Significantly, I cooled the colour temperature to compensate for the harsh effects of sodium and fluorescent lights to make for a more natural appearing colour balance.

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The Secret Muse—Seeking Vision.

Here’s key to a secret, one tightly held: More often than not I make photographs for a specific audience.

This has myriad manifests. It may be something as simple as photographing a friend’s favorite locomotive, or capturing a location once shared by a fellow photographer.

However, often it goes deeper. I’ll aim to capture a scene by working with light, shapes and subject in a way that I hope will appeal to a friend.

Sometimes, I’ll simply forward these photos directly to the person in question. To my father, I’ll send photos from my travels in Europe, to my mother, I’ll email photos of my friends and acquaintances.

I might forward an image to an editor that I made to pique their interest.

If I score something really unusual, I might goad a fellow photographer hoping to push them into exposing a similar or better photograph.

In April 1988, I made this photograph of Conrail’s BUOI working east through the Canisteo Valley near West Cameron, New York.

Yet, often my very best photographs are those that I make to fulfill a personal ideal.


Ok, my most successful images are those I made to please me.

One last secret. I rarely publish these.


Because I don’t need to.

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LUAS Cross City Progress—March 2017 North Side inspection.

Over the last few years works have been underway in the Dublin city centre to install tram tracks and related infrastructure for the LUAS Cross City extension of the Green Line.

Last week, Mark Healy and I made a walking tour on Dublin’s North Side to inspect progress on this route.

Part of the route uses the former Midland Great Western Railway right of way from its old Broadstone terminus to Broombridge.

Looking south on Marlborough Street.
Marlborough Street.

Looking toward Dominick Street Upper.
Looking toward Broadstone on the old Midland route, now with LUAS tracks.
LUAS at Phibsborough.
Looking toward Broombridge.

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Are Two Trains Better Than One?

Last year Irish Rail cleared its cuttings on the northern approach to the Phoenix Park Tunnel in Dublin in preparation for introduction of a regular passenger service over the line to Grand Canal Docks.

This work had the secondary effect of improving a number of photo locations, such as this view from the Dublin’s Old Cabra Road.

Last week on advice from Colm O’Callaghan, I opted to work from this vantage point to photograph an Irish Rail empty ‘Spoil train’ [that carries debris left over from line works etc] that had been scheduled to run to the North Wall in Dublin.

Shortly before the focus of my effort came into view an empty Irish Rail passenger train arrived and was blocked at the signal outside the tunnel.

My question to you: are the photographs made more interesting by the presence of the passenger train?

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 135mm.
A wider view from the same vantage point.

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Narrow Gauge Monochrome—A Different Approach.

Five alternative views of Ireland’s Bord na Mona railway.

Here I’m trying something different: Working with an old Leica IIIa fitted with an ancient screw-mount Nikkor 35mm lens, I exposed some Fomapan 100 black & white film.

Instead of my normal process, I opted to soup the film in Ilford Perceptol. I mixed the stock solution from powder. Recommended development time was 8 minutes, but I cut this to 6 minutes, then after complete processing (stop, fix, hypo-clear and wash) I toned the negatives with a 1-9 Selenium solution to boost highlights (and then rewashed).

It was my first time working with Perceptol; overall I was pleased with the results, which yielded fine grain, broad tonality and a somewhat softer over-all image than what I’d been getting using ID-11.

This camera-lens-film-developer combination seems to have worked well with the rustic Bord na Mona narrow gauge industrial railway. I’ve opted to display a handful of the dozen or so monochrome images I exposed that day.

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Clean Orange Locomotive—an Easy Catch.

In early February, I was running a few last minute errands before my Trans-Atlantic journey.

Crossing the Boston & Albany on South Main Street in Palmer, Massachusetts, I saw a New England Central local approaching with an impressive cut of interchange.

In the lead was clean New England Central GP38-2 2048 in Genesee & Wyoming corporate paint. Although I’ve made countless hundreds of photographs from this location over the years, I won’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.

So for the sake of a couple of minutes detour, I made these images at CP83 using my Lumix LX7.

New England Central 2048 at Palmer, Massachusetts in February 2017. Filtered winter sun makes for nice light to photograph locomotives.
The train was moving slowly, which allowed me time to make several images as it passed. This angle features GP38-2 2048 from a closer, more broadside angle, while retaining a good view of the old gas building, which is a prominent Palmer-area icon.  Lumix LX7 photo.

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Dublin’s LUAS at Smithfield—March 2017.

Last week I used my Lumix LX7 to exposed this view of an eastbound tram on the LUAS Red Line at Smithfield.

This is an example of a low angle photograph, intended to make for a slightly more dramatic image. When I was much younger I made many photos of streetcars from this lower perspective, but not the sake of drama.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Tracking the Light!

Here’s a variation on a theme: another view of Irish Rail’s IWT liner at Stacumny Bridge near Hazelhatch.

Irish Rail locomotive 088 leads the up IWT Liner at Stacumny Bridge on 13 March 2017. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Brian is Traveling for St. Patrick’s Weekend. New Material Daily!

Irish Rail Heritage Locomotive Works the Sperry Train.

Service Notice: Brian will be traveling for the next few days. New Tracking the Light posts will go up daily, but email notices may be delayed. To see the most recent posts, please check:

On Monday, 13 March 2017, I photographed Irish Rail 071 in heritage paint working the Sperry rail-defect detection train. (The Sperry equipment is in a yellow container at the middle of the train).

I’d planned these photographs at ‘the Gullet’ (west of Islandbridge Junction between Dublin Heuston and Inchicore) on the previous Friday, but the train was canceled. Patience and persistence paid off in the end. (There’s your tips for the day).

Irish Rail 071 works west  on the morning of 13 March 2017. Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with 18-135mm lens. File adjusted for contrast using Lightroom.
Exposed using a Panasonic Lumix LX7.
Trailing view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

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Sunny Day on the Bog.

Bord na Mona (Irish peat board) operates an extensive network of narrow gauge industrial railways in the Irish midlands.

It has been nearly two years since I last explored this fascinating diminutive railway in action.

It helps to have the sun to photograph Bord na Mona, as the bog can be outright dreary on a dull wet day.

The sun seemed to have emerged from the lingering blanket of dampness that lately has prevailed across Ireland, so Denis McCabe and I made a foray to Shannonbridge, County Offaly location of the busiest Bord na Mona railway operation.

A laden Bord na Mona train clatters across the bog on the way to Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly. Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1.
This side view offers an interesting perspective on the locomotive and laden peat wagons. Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Bord na Mona trains come clattering along, often running in pairs or groups, but patience is often needed to find trains on the move.

Check out Tracking the Light’s archives for previous posts on the Bord na Mona.

Further Adventures with Irish Narrow Gauge.


Bord na Mona’s Ash Train

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Views from the Gullet.

Irish Rail’s section of three tracks running from Islandbridge Junction to Inchicore in Dublin runs upgrade through a cutting (parallel to Con Colbert Road) known colloquially as ‘The Gullet’.

On Friday, 10 March 2017, I exposed these photos over one half an hour.

My primary subject was Irish Rail’s elusive spoil train that was expected up-road. When this passed, I relocated.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm prime lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm prime lens.
Irish Rail GM diesel 072 leads the empty spoil train on 10 March, 2017. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm prime lens.


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Brooks Avenue, Rochester, New York on a snowy Sunday Morning.


A classic Kodachrome color slide scanned then scaled for internet presentation.

It was a bright and clear Sunday morning in January 1988 when I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron at Rochester & Southern’s Brooks Avenue Yard near the Rochester Airport.

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Freshly Painted Irish Rail 232 catches the sunlight at Stacumny Bridge.

Sunlight? What’s that? After weeks of cold, wet, windy weather, we had a rare sunny afternoon in Ireland on Wednesday 8 March 2017.

Irish Rail class 201 number 232 was in fresh paint and working the up International Warehousing & Transport liner from Ballina to Dublin.

I traveled with Colm O’Callaghan to Stacumni Bridge near Hazelhatch on Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork mainline. This is the section that was rebuilt with quad track a few years ago.

I made these images using my Fujifilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm prime lens.

While waiting for the up-IWT Liner, I made this view of an Irish Rail ICR (Intercity Rail Car) heading down road from Dublin.
Irish Rail 232 is in fresh green and silver paint. Exposed digitally using FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm fixed lens.

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DART on the Loop Line at Dusk

Is this a railway photo?

At dusk on the evening of March 2, 2017, I exposed this view of the River Liffey in Dublin.

An Irish Rail DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) electric train is crossing the Loop Line bridge on its way to Connolly Station.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7; f2.2 at 1/5th of a second, ISO 200. Camera mounted on a Gitzo mini tripod.

The most prominent elements of the image are the Custom House, an 18th century relic of the British Imperial presence in Ireland, and coloured lights reflecting in the Liffey. The railway takes a secondary role.

When the Loop Line bridge was built in the late 19th century, pundits moaned that it spoiled the view of the Custom House. Were they lazy or just being ironic?

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Fujichrome on the Minobu Line.

Working with my Nikon N90S, I exposed this vertical view (portrait orientation) from the back of Minobu Line train looking back toward Fuji, Japan.

Earlier in the day,  I’d made some photos at Fuji on Kodachrome, just to be ironic.

This exposure, however, was made on Fujichrome.

An April 1997 view of Japan’s Minobu Line.

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Brian’s Finnish Railway Program on tonight in Dublin

At 7:30pm tonight, Thursday 9 March, 2017, I plan to  present my illustrated lecture called Night Trains, Pendolinos, Iron ore, Timber and Trams to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin.

This will be delivered at the IRRS premises near Heuston Station in Dublin (opposite the entrance to the car park). I will begin at 7:30pm (1930).

VR’s IC-274 arrives at Oulu, Finland on it’s overnight run to Helsinki. I traveled on this train. Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera.

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Timber Train After Midnight

That’s an Eric Clapton Song right?

Shortly after midnight on the morning of 26 July 2015, Dv12 diesels depart Oulu yard with a laden timber train.

I exposed this view thanks to the help of my Finnish friend and railway guide Markku Pulkinnen.

To make the most of the northern sky, and to capture the unusual quality of light, I made contrast and exposure adjustments to the RAW file using Lightroom.

On Thursday 9 March, 2017, I’ll present my illustrated lecture called Night Trains, Pendolinos, Iron ore, Timber and Trams to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin.

This will be delivered at the IRRS premises near Heuston Station in Dublin (opposite the entrance to the car park). I will begin at 7:30pm (1930).

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Warm Spring Afternoon along the Canal at Enfield.

On 14 May 2003, I exposed this trailing view of Irish Rail’s Sligo Liner rolling west along the old Royal Canal near Enfield, Co. Meath.

The liner was hauling kegs of beer, mostly Guinness. Long after it left my view, I could here the class 071 locomotive with its EMD 12-645 diesel roaring a way in the distance.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor lens.

I intentionally included some foliage in this photograph. Not only do the leaves help block sun from causing flare by hitting the front element of my lens, but they add a sense of depth that would be lost without them.

Washington Union Station—a PC view.

[Viewers on Facebook will need to click the link here to Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light.]

Exposed on Kodachrome using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC (perspective control) lens.

In the 1990s, I often worked with a Nikkor 35mm PC (perspective control) wide angle lens.

This allowed for a degree of correction using a shifting front element to minimize the effects of convergence of vertical lines on the film plane.

In this November 1992 view of Washington Union Station, I made good use of perspective control to keep front of the building from the appearance of falling away from the viewer. (A common complaint with wide angle architectural views).

While a very useful tool, I eventually sold the lens because I felt that it wasn’t sufficiently sharp in the corners, also it was comparatively slow (just f3.5 at its widest aperture.).

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Cal-Train at Oyster Point—June 1991.

Consider this composition. Since the eye is naturally drawn to the front of the on-coming locomotive, I’ve made for a more complex image by placing this primary subject off-center.

When setting up this photograph, I was interested in secondary emphasis on the jointed rail, then still in use on Southern Pacific’s mainline at Oyster Point, railroad-timetable east of the old Bayshore Yard.

Note the careful framing of the on-coming train beneath the crossover of the codelines. This one of several compositional elements in this photograph that has been  employed to emphasize railroad technology.

I was also interested in the wafting sea fog, a common atmospheric condition of the summer climate in San Francisco.

Key to my interest and another  crucial compositional element was the dual-headlight arrangement on the Cal Train F40PH-2 locomotive. Although not purchased by SP, these were the last locomotives delivered new to feature the once-standard SP lighting arrangement—a classy characteristic of SP diesel operations.

By 1991, the application of oscillating headlights (commonly called ‘Mars lights’) had fallen out of favor and the practice was already on the wane. The headlights standout because of the slightly backlit lighting that leaves the front of the locomotive dark.

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Burlington Northern, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It was bitterly cold when I exposed this view of the Burlington Northern in Minneapolis, Minnesota in January 1994.

Kodachrome was an ideal film for working with contrasty low winter sun.

Working with Kodachrome 25 and a borrowed Nikon F2, I carefully positioned myself to take advantage of the exhaust cloud from the distant power plant that nicely diffused the evening sun.

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Helsinki Tram—long pan.

In Aug 2001, I used my new Contax G2 rangefinder to pan this Helsinki tram. A version of this image was published as two page spread in April 2005 Trains Magazine.

Rangefinders offer several advantages when making pan photos.

On Thursday 9 March , 2017, one week from tonight I’ll be giving my Illustrated Lecture called Night Trains, Pendolinos, Iron ore, Timber and Trams to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin.

This will be delivered at the IRRS premises near Heuston Station in Dublin (opposite the entrance to the car park). I will begin at 7:30pm (1930).

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Irish Rail 071 at Heuston Sidings

Below are two views of Irish Rail’s 071 with a ballast train at the old Guinness sidings at Dublin’s Heuston Station.

This locomotive has been popular with photographers since its repainting in the 1970s heritage livery last year.

What I’m trying to demonstrate here are the various effects of lighting and technique. One view was made on black & white film in the fading daylight of early evening. The other is a digital colour photo exposed the following morning.

Which is the better photograph?

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X with a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens. Film processed using Ilford ID11 stock mixed 1 to 1 with water.
Lumix LX7 photo, contrast adjusted in post processing.

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GO sunset—Sunnyside, Toronto.

Bitterly cold with a clear sky; that was Toronto on the evening of February 8, 2010.

I exposed this photo of a GO Transit train using my Lumix LX3. While this was a great little camera, it suffered from poor battery life. On this cold day, I rapidly worked my way through all three of my rechargeable batteries and had to take time midday to recharge one.

Exposed using a Panasonic Lumix LX3; f2.8 1/320 second ISO 80. Set manually. Vivid color profile.

By the time I made this frame, the last battery was flashing red, yet I had enough juice left for a few more photos.

My LX7 is a better camera and the batteries are much improved. Word to the wise: always carry a spare battery.

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This old PCC—memories of another time.

In October 2014, I photographed this old MBTA (Boston) PCC car at the Connecticut Trolley Museum at East Windsor, Connecticut.

Just a rusty old ruin; but the car and its Kenmore destination board, brought me back to the early 1970s when my family lived a few blocks from MBTA’s Riverside Line at Newton Centre.

This route had been the  Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, and was converted to a trolley line in 1960.

As young child, I was permitted freedom to wander around the neighborhood. My fascination with railways naturally brought me to the trolley line.

One afternoon, I’d been watching the PCC’s coming and going in front of the old B&A station. I’d often traveled on the cars with my parents, and I understood how the system worked.

Taking a chance, I quietly boarded one of the cars through the back door. I rode to Kenmore Square, where I boarded another car and returned to Newton Centre. I might have been five at the time. More than 40 years passed before I told anyone of this adventure. 🙂

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Wisconsin Central and Wig Wags at Fond du Lac.

The old wig wag style grade crossing signal is now virtually extinct. However, in the 1990s, a fair number of these signals could still be found in Wisconsin.

This is an excerpt from my book Railroad Signaling (first published by MBI 2003):

One of the first standard types of automated visual grade crossing warning was the automatic flagman, a signal commonly known as a ‘wig wag’. [This was] adopted as a standard crossing device by the American Railway Association in 1923. A standard wig wag is actuated by a track circuit and consists of a paddle with a red lamp that gracefully swings back and forth in a horizontal pattern when a train approaches [and] usually accompanied by a bell . . . [at one time] the wig wag was the preferred type of grade crossing protection in the Midwest and far west. [They were] largely supplanted by modern flashing signals and crossing gates.
Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens.

I was traveling with Marshall Beecher on the morning of August 3, 1996, when I exposed this view of Wisconsin Central’s southward freight ANPR-A approaching a grade crossing on the former Chicago & North Western line in Fond du Lac. This line saw less traffic than WC’s near by former Soo Line mainline over Byron Hill, but the attraction was these antique signals. Notice my use of selective depth of field.

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Mass-Central at Gilbertville—an example of digital photography.

I find one of the great benefits of digital photography is the ability to carry a high-quality imaging machine with me at all times. Also, other than the initial investment, the relative cost of individual photos is inconsequential.

As result, I’m unhindered by weight or cost in the seeing and making of photos.

Does this make for better images? Not necessarily, but it facilitates me to make a more complete record of my travels and capture ordinary scenes such as this view of the Mass-Central at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on a brilliant October 2014 afternoon.

Looking south on the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on October 14, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

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In the Dark: 30 Seconds, Five Years Ago.

On February 25, 2012, I exposed this 30-second exposure at New England Central’s yard in Palmer, Massachusetts.

I mounted my Lumix LX7 on heavy tripod, and actuated the shutter using the self-timer to minimize vibration. Note the effect of the clouds moving.

This is a scaled JPG made from the unaltered Lumix LX3 JPG file.
By adjusting exposure and contrast in the RAW file I was able to produce this improved version. Notice the detail in the shadow areas that was lost in the JPG.

Despite the long exposure, the resulting digital image was still too dark and required work in post-processing using Lightroom.

In addition to lightening shadow areas, I also lightened the entire exposure by about full-stop, while controlling highlights and softening overall contrast.

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Tracking the Light test pattern.

Back in the old days of television when a broadcasting problem developed a test pattern would appear.

Eventually the problem (of which the details remained elusive) would be resolved and the programming would resume.

Please note that if you do not see a photo below, then Tracking the Light is experiencing a problem today.

However, if you do see a photo than perhaps the problem has been resolved.

This is a test.


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Oulu Roundhouse, September 2001.

In September 2001, I used a Contax G2 rangefinder to expose this view of a VR (Finnish Railways) Dv12 diesel at the Oulu roundhouse.

Oulu, Finland, September 2001. My first trip to Finland began as an excuse to put my new Contax G2 through the paces. I used this compact rangefinder from 2001 to 2007.

On Thursday 9 March , 2017, two weeks from tonight I’ll be giving my Illustrated Lecture called Night Trains, Pendolinos, Iron ore, Timber and Trams to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin.

This will be delivered at the IRRS premises near Heuston Station in Dublin (opposite the entrance to the car park). I will begin at 7:30pm (1930).

Tracking the Light posts everyday!

Multi-coloured Tram Glides Down Harcourt Street.

The gloom of last Sunday afternoon in Dublin was briefly brightened by the appearance of this specially painted tram, dressed in the latest advertising livery.

Having spotted the tram arriving at St. Stephens Green, I hoofed it up Harcourt Street, where I selected a spot near the Albany House Hotel to photograph its outbound run.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light features something different every day.


Tracking the Light Extra: Mr. Railroad

It was a pleasant surprise for me this morning when I checked Facebook and learned that Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt has nominated me as Mr. Railroad in the magazine’s on-line blog Train of Thought.


This is a real honor and thought I’d pass it on to Tracking the Light’s readers. I guess all those hours scouring libraries and making observations trackside has finally caught a bit of notice.

Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s Daily Blog focused on Railway Photography.



Railway photography by Brian Solomon

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