An Unusual Scene: MBTA at South Station, Boston December 2017.

I made this night photo at South Station with my Lumix LX7.

Recently I was looking through a MENSA puzzle book that contains nearly impossible puzzles. It inspired me to post this image.

This is an unusual scene for Boston. Keen observers of MBTA operations should be able to spot what makes this an uncommon view. What’s at my back is an important clue.

Do you know what makes this an uncommon photo?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Nocturnal View—South Station on Atlantic Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts.

The other night I made this digital photograph of Boston’s South Station.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Touit, I set the ISO to 1600 and handheld the camera at ¼ sec.

I calculated exposure manually using the camera meter, and then intentionally increased the exposure by about ½ stop. (In otherwords I let in more light to the sensor than recommended by the meter).

In post processing, I adjusted contrast and exposure to control highlights and lighten the night sky in order to overcome two of the common failings of night photographs: blasted highlights and excessive inky blackness.

Boston’s South Station facing Atlantic Avenue.
Here’s a screen shot of my reduced Jpg with the EXIF data. This shows how the camera was set. Notice ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, and white balance fields.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

Amtrak HST at Kingston, Rhode Island.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 12mm Zeiss Touit, I made these views of an Amtrak High Speed Train at Kingston, Rhode Island.

Digital photograph exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
Digital photograph exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

These trains are typically assigned to Amtrak’s Acela Express services on the Northeast Corridor between Boston, New York and Washington.

But are they Acelas if they aren’t working those scheduled trains?

And, when Amtrak’s newest high speed trains (note lack of capitals) assume Acela Express services (presuming the marketing name remains unchanged), what can we expect to call the old HST sets?

Sometimes railroad photography really is about the train.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Amtrak 163 at Providence, Rhode Island.

Amtrak ‘Cities Sprinter’ ACS-64 number 633 tows one of its sister electrics with train 163 as it arrives at Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday, December 2, 2017.

I exposed this view using my Lumix LX-7.

Amtrak’s line at Providence is charmless, but functional. Heavy electrification in an urban environment is rarely picturesque. To make a satisfactory image of a moving train takes patience, skill or both.

This is a routine view of American passenger rails in action, nothing sexy, and nothing complicated or tricky photographically.

Lumix LX-7 digital photo exposed at 12:19pm on December 2, 2017; ISO 80, f4.0 at 1/400th of a second, handheld with adjustable camera zoom lens set to the functional equivalent of a 65mm focal lens on tradition 35mm film camera.
Here’s a screen shot of the photo with a window showing the EXIF data stored with the digital file.

Does my cross-lit midday view of a Siemens electric with 1970s-era Amfleet passenger cars work for you?

Tracking the Light posts every day.

Sunrise at Worcester Union Station

Autumn sunrise. No two are the same. The mix of clouds and particulates in the air make for endless mixtures of texture and color.

Last week I arrived in Worcester to take the 7am MBTA train to Boston.

I made these sunrise views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens handheld.

Worcester Union Station: MBTA 011 with the 7am train to Boston.
Worcester Union Station.
December sunrise in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Working with the RAW files, I made some minor adjustments in Lightroom to balance highlights with shadows and tweak color balance.

The RAW file is not what your eye sees.

Where the in-camera Jpg uses a pre-profiled set of parameters in regards to color saturation, contrast etc. The digital RAW file represents the data as captured by the camera and is comparable to a film negative; it represents an intermediate step that requires adjustment and interpretation to produce a pleasing photograph.

I typically expose both a pre-set in-camera Jpg (often with one of Fuji’s digitally replicated film color profiles, such as Velvia) and a RAW file simultaneously.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

Housatonic at Housatonic—Revisited!

In June 2016, I posted on Tracking the Light some views of the Housatonic Railroad at Housatonic, Massachusetts (located along the Housatonic River).

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2016/06/14/housatonic-railroad-at-housatonic-an-example-of-contrast-control/

In November 2017, I returned to this location in advance of the approaching northward Housatonic freight NX-12 that featured two early 1960s-era GP35s in the lead followed by 32 cars (28 loads, 4 empties) and another GP35 at the back.

I find the railroad setting here fascinating. The combination of the traditional line with wooden ties and jointed rail in a setting of old factories, freight house and passenger station makes for a rustic scene out of another era.

Working with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens I made a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X. And, I also exposed a sequence of digital color photos using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Freight house at Housatonic, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X with a Nikon F3 fitted with a 50mm Nikkor lens. Film processed in Kodak D76 1-1 with water for 7 minutes 20 seconds at 68F.
Freight house and factories, looking north from the westside of the tracks. In today’s railroad world, this scene is decidedly rustic. 
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to improve shadows and highlights.
Tri-X black & white photo of Housatonic Railroad freight NX-12 working northward.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to lighten shadows and control highlights.
Tri-X photo with 50mm lens.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.

Tracking the Light posts daily!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the End of the Day; Twilight at Mechanicville, New York.

Here’s a photo from my lost archive.

I’d spent November 24, 1984 with some friends exploring railroads in the Albany area.

Delaware & Hudson had recently been included in the Guilford network and its operations were being melded with Boston & Maine. At the time, D&H still had a lot of old Alco diesels.

We had stopped by Mechanicville earlier in the day, and I made a selection of photos (that I’ll post at a later date) then we drove via Schenectady to Rotterdam Junction to photograph Conrail.

On the way back east, we made another visit to Mechanicville, when I exposed this twilight view. This is an evocative image that represents a symbolic twilight as well as a literal one.

Exposed with a Leica 3A on Kodak Tri-X, processed in Kodak D76 1-1.

It was twilight for the D&H Alcos; twilight for the old Mechanicville Yard; and twilight of the brief colorful and busy era on Guilford before a series of strikes changed everything.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Amtrak Pepsi Can on Kodachrome—High Resolution Scan (and how I made it).

I have thousands of properly exposed Kodachrome slides from the 1980s and 1990s. This view of Amtrak 502 was exposed at Oakland, California 16th Street Station in August 1992.

Gradually I’ve been scanning these into my archive. I’ve experimented with several different scanners and software, using various settings and techniques.

So far, I found that I get sharpest and most colorful scans by using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 driven with VueScan 9×64 (version 9.5.91) software.

For more on VueScan see: www.hamrick.com

VueScan offers me a high degree of control, but I’ve found requires a bit of practice and experimentation to obtain the best scans.

I typically scan Kodachrome 25 slides at 4000 dpi (dots per inch) and  then output as a Tif file to obtain the greatest amount of data. For this slide I opted to make a multiple pass scan to retain a higher degree of shadow detail. (VueScan offers the multiple pass option under its ‘Input’ pull down menu).

To make the most of the scan for internet presentation, I imported the Tif file into Lightroom and lightened the shadows and balanced the highlights, before outputting as a scaled Jpg. (The original scan remains unchanged during this process).

Kodachrome slides recorded tremendous amounts of information and the original Coolscan Tif is far too large to present here.

Incidentally, a version of this photo appears on page 148 of my book Modern Diesel Power (published by Voyageur Press in 2011). The scan in the book was made by my publisher and isn’t the scan presented here.

Tracking the Light posts Daily

 

The Famous Keddie Wye

BNSF in the Feather River Canyon Part 2

The old Western Pacific Junction at Keddie, California between WP’s east-west transcon line from Oakland to Salt Lake City and the Inside Gateway/High Line route north to Bieber was once one of the most photographed bridges in California.

What’s not evident from most photographs is that this impressive looking bridge can be viewed from California Highway 70—the main road through the Feather River Canyon.

The famous Keddie Wye.

On a dull October 2003 afternoon I made this view of the famed ‘Keddie Wye’ (as the junction is popularly known).

Contrast and texture make this photo work. My color slides from that day of the train crossing the bridge are less impressive.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

Tracking the Light Publishes Something New Everyday!

Housatonic Railroad at Canaan Union Station—November 2017.

A little more than a month after the events of 911, the historic Canaan, Connecticut Union Station was destroyed by fire.

Thankfully the classic structure has since been reconstructed and today it stands along the Housatonic Railroad line where the old Central New England route once crossed.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens set at 98mm.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a 90mm Fujinon prime lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a 90mm Fujinon prime lens.

I made these photos last week on a visit to Canaan. Sometimes it helps to be in position at a sunrise and watch how the light changes as the sun climbs into the sky.

I featured the old Canaan Union Station in my book Railroad Stations published by MetroBooks in 1998.

For more information on the station see: https://canaanunionstation.com/history/

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

Boston & Maine Railroad in the 1980s; Working with some Underexposed Photos.

In March 1984, I borrowed my father’s Rolleiflex Model T and exposed a roll of 120-size Ektachrome of Boston & Maine freights in the Connecticut River Valley.

The Rollei was an old camera and there was nothing electronic on it. Setting the camera was entirely up to the photographer. I was still in high school and my skills at using a hand-held light meter were less than perfect.

In short, the combined effect of snow on the ground and my lack of experience left me with some seriously underexposed medium format transparencies.

Scanning lightened the photos significantly, yet the results still demonstrate my failure to expose properly. To make for a more pleasing images I needed to adjust exposure and contrast in post processing. However it was important to scan the transparencies in such a way as to capture as much information as possible.

I was disappointed with my results and left the uncut film in the box that it was returned to me from the lab. I left them there for 33 years and only re-discovered them a few weeks ago. (Try that with your digital photos. No actually, don’t try that!).

With the technology now at hand I decided to see what I could do to make these photos presentable despite serious underexposure (suffering from receiving insufficient light).

Working with an Epson V750 flatbed scanner, I scanned the transparencies (positive color film) using VueScan 9×64 (version 9.5.91) software.

Scanning, like photography, is an art and I’ve found to make the most effective scans often requires a bit of knowledge and skill.

I’ve worked with both the Epson and VueScan software, and while both produce excellent results, for this effort I chose VueScan because it allowed me greater control of the scanning process.

To extract more information from these difficult photos, I opted to make multi-pass scans, which do a better job of capturing detail in high-lights and shadows. The software combines the data in the final file.

This is a screen shot of the VueScan work window. Notice the histogram at the left. This shows the distribution of data in the image relative to highlights, middle areas and shadows. The graph thus indicates that too much of the data is toward the shadow end, thus the unfortunate effect of gross underexposure.
This is the input control window. Notice that I’ve selected to make a multiples scan with three samples. This gathers greater amounts of information from the image than a single pass scan. While not necessarily immediately evident to the naked eye, this provides a base with which to adjust the photograph in post processing. In other words I’ll lighten the image after scanning, but want to retain as much detail as possible.

Once scanned, I then imported the Tif files into Lightroom for post processing adjustments. The photos presented here are scaled from the original tif files (which are far too large for internet presentation).

Here’s the lightened scan after scaling for internet presentation. Keep in mind that original transparencies are nearly opaque.

The results are not perfect, but vastly superior to the muddy, dense original chromes.

To allow you to better understand how I’ve set up the scanner with the VueScan software, I’ve included screen shots (above) of the various sub-menus which show the various options and parameters I used.

There is more than one way to make a scan, and I’m sure if I continue to play with these chromes I may get an even better result. However, I have thousands of photographs that need scanning, and I’m limited to 24 hours a day.

For more on VueScan see: www.hamrick.com

Tracking the Light posts daily!

BNSF in the Feather River Canyon-1

On October 30, 2003, I spent a day photographing BNSF and Union Pacific trains on the old Western Pacific route through California’s Feather River Canyon.

This exceptionally scenic route has long been a popular place to picture trains.

Although photogenic, one of the conceptual problems with the canyon making the balance between train and scenery work.

Too much train, and the canyon becomes a sideshow. Too much canyon and the train is lost in the scenery.

One way to make balanced is through the clever use of lighting.

That’s what I’ve done here.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

I’ve pictured an eastward BNSF climbing through Rich Bar, and by back lighting the train, I’ve helped emphasize it’s form that might otherwise be lost in the darker reaches of the canyon.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Everyday.

Baldwin in the Yard

On my visit to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania last month, I made this late afternoon view of a Baldwin switcher in the ‘Train Yard’ outside the museum’s ‘Rolling Stock Hall’.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7 digital camera.

For a dozen interior views exposed in the Rolling Stock Hall, take a look at this morning’s Tracking the Light post:

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania-A Dozen New photos.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania-A Dozen New photos.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is one of my favorite American railway museums both because of its great collection of Pennsylvania Railroad, Reading Company, Conrail and Amtrak equipment, and for its stunning interior presentation that makes railroad equipment compelling to look at.

I exposed these photos on a visit in mid-November 2017 with Pat Yough having spent the afternoon photographing the nearby Strasburg Railroad at work.

FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. Here’s a trick for making more effective museum photos in a dimly lit environment such as the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s main hall: over expose by about 1/2 a stop (let more light in). This avoids blocking up the shadow areas.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Among the fascinating aspects of the museum’s static collection are the numerous vintage freight cars that span a century of service. Too often the common freight car—the backbone of American railroad freight transport—is overshadowed in preservation by more glamorous equipment.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

January 2018 Trains Magazine Features my Column titled ‘Tickets Please!’

This is the cover of the January 2018 Trains. My column appears on page 17.

Yesterday I received my copy of the January 2018 Trains Magazine that features my most recent column.

Using my Lumix LX7, I made the photo illustrating my text on-board an SNCF TGV high-speed service from Brussels to Lille back in April 2017.

A photo of my iPhone displaying my E-Ticket is this months illustration. Note Tracking the Light business card to the left of the phone.

Below is a view of the same train at sunrise in Brussels prior to departure. Although unstated in the article, this was part of a trip across Europe during my research for my up-coming book on European Railway travel.

Exposed with my Lumix LX7; ISO 80 f1.8 at 1/13 of a second handheld at Brussels Midi. Photo ©Brian Solomon 2017.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Amtrak 603 Then and Now.

Over the years I made countless photos of Amtrak’s block-like E60 electrics working underwire.

So for me it’s a bit strange to see one of these 1970s-era machines on static display outside of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania alongside a PRR DD1 electric and some other classics, including a 1980s-era AEM-7 (topic of a future Tracking the Light Post).

Exposed using a Lumix LX7 in November 2017.

Since today Amtrak 603 represents the E60 fleet, I scanned through my archives to locate photo of 603 at work on the Northeast Corridor. It’s pictured with a long distance train on August 1, 1986 at Linden, New Jersey.

I made this view on Kodachrome using a Leica 3A fitted with a 200mm Leitz Tellyt using Visoflex reflex attachment.

I couldn’t have anticipated then that engine 603 would someday be a museum piece!

Tracking the Light is Daily!

Chessie System Against the Sun; Lightroom instead of Darkroom!

On a trip to the Pittsburgh area, I made these black & white photos on Tri-X in February 1987 at New Castle, Pennsylvania.

While, I like the effects of back lighting on this westward Chessie System train, I was thwarted in my efforts at producing satisfactory prints.

Complicating my printing problems were edge effects that had resulted in un-even processing that affected the sky highlights more dramatically than shadow areas.

This is a scan of the original black & white negative. The photo suffers from flare, uneven processing and less than ideal contrast. Also the sky is a bit over processed and thus appears too dark on the negative (and too light in the prints).

After about a half dozen attempts using Kodak double-weight paper I’d given up.

The other day this roll of 120 Tri-X finally worked its way to the top of the scanning pile, and after scanning at high-resolution, I thought maybe I’d try to work with the back-lit photos using Lightroom to see if I could improve upon my printing efforts from 1987.

This is the un-modified scan from the negative. I’ve not made any corrections to contrast, exposure, or provided localized improvement. Nor have I spotted the image.
Here’s the photo after my first round of corrections.

Instead of dodging and burning on the aisle, working digitally I’ve applied digital graduated filters to control highlights and shadows, contrast, and the overall exposure.

After some more adjusting this is my final image. Not perfect, but a big improvement over the muddy mottled original photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Amtrak Northeast Direct Heritage Unit in Motion.

Two weeks ago I caught Amtrak engine 184 in the Northeast Direct heritage scheme working train number 56 (northward Vermonter).

 The light was fading, so I upped the ISO on my FujiFilm X-T1 to 1000 and exposed these views using my 27mm pancake lens.

Although I set the shutter to 1/320 of a second, the relatively fast train still necessitated panning to keep the locomotive sharp. Panning had the effect of setting off the background in a sea of blur and conveying a sense of motion to the photos.

The Northeast Direct livery was briefly applied to locomotives in the mid-1990s. Engine 184 was repainted in this livery in 2011 to commemorate Amrak’s 40th Anniversary.

White balance was set at ‘daylight’ in order to better retain the blue glow of dusk.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Modern Monochrome: Three Views at Carneys Point, New Jersey.

On my visit to Carneys Point, New Jersey earlier this month, I exposed a few select frames of Kodak Tri-X using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.

Previously, I posted a selection of the digital color photos that featured Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11. See: Bright Day on the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. https://wp.me/p2BVuC-59B

I processed the film yesterday (Monday, 27 November 2017) using my two-stage development recipe:

By starting with ‘presoak’ solution that features a very weak developer, I allow for increased development in the shadow areas. My primary developer for this roll was Kodak D-76 stock solution diluted 1-1 with water.

While I intentionally  under processed the film to avoid excessive highlight density, following stop bath, fixing baths, and rinse, I then soaked the negatives in selenium toner (mixed 1 to 9 )for 8 minutes to boost highlights to my desired ideal.

The results are these broad-toned monochromatic images with delicate silvery highlights.

A side effect of this process is the exceptionally archival quality of selenium toned original negatives that without any expensive storage conditions should long outlive my digital photos.

Conrail Shared Assets CA11 works at Carney Point, New Jersey.
The old Bell Telephone logo is a blast from the past.
My special ‘presoak’ developer aids in greater shadow detail.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

Four Motor GEs at East Deerfield.

I made this view of a pair of Pan Am Railway’s recently acquired four-motor GE diesels at East Deerfield Yard.

When they were new in the 1980s, these locomotives were intended for moving intermodal trains at top speed.

Conrail’s B40-8s (DASH8-40B) were routinely assigned in sets of three to trailvan and double stack trains on the Water Level Route, while Susquehanna’s similar locomotives would work its double stack trains on the old Erie Railroad ‘Southern Tier Route’

So, I find it odd to see them now in faded CSX paint at Pan Am’s East Deerfield.

Perhaps, its an appropriate photographic metaphor to picture them in fading afternoon light passing the shell of the old tower.

Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

 

Zoom Lens at Millers Falls.

A ‘zoom lens’ is a lens with adjustable focal length. Often the term is confused with a telephoto. Where a zoom lens may be a telephoto, it isn’t necessarily so.

In the case of my 18-135mm Fujinon lens, this is a wide-angle to medium telephoto range zoom.

I used this to good advantage the other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts to make a sequence of photos of New England Central’s southward road freight 611.

Both of these photos were exposed from the same vantage point. All I did was adjust the focal length of the zoom as the train approached.

Telephoto view; 18-135mm zoom lens set at 116mm (equivalent of 174mm on a 35mm film camera).
Wide angle view from the same vantage point. 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens set to 23.3mm (equivalent to a 35mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.) Incidentally; when making these comparisons it is crucial to distinguish between historic  film size and the focal length of the lenses. Both photos were exposed digitally.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Big Orange & Black Diesel; When Color Works.

Since Genesee & Wyoming took over Rail America, gradually the fleets of diesels operated by the component railways have been repainted into G&W’s corporate livery of orange and black with yellow highlights.

This traditional paint scheme had been used by the original G&W short line railroad for decades.

 

Here I’ve put the brightly colored diesels in scene that makes the most of the scheme.

New England Central 611 is southbound at Northfield, Massachusetts with locomotive 3475 in the lead. A cloud has briefly diffused the morning sun.

To make the most of the lighting and the scene, I made this telephoto view looking down a road, visually placing the orange and black locomotive in front of a yellow house.

The dominance of orange and yellow for the primary subjects works well in the late autumnal scene, as these colors mimic the muted foliage and grasses associated with the season.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Connecticut River Crossing—Contrast Adjustment.

Last week I exposed this view of New England Central 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer) crossing the Connecticut River at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

New England Central 611 crosses the Connecticut River at East Northfields, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Fuji Film XT1.

To compensate for the back lit high-contrast scene, I made a few necessary adjustments in post processing.

Working with the Camera RAW file, I applied a digital graduated filter across the sky and locally lowered highlight density, while altering the contrast curve and boosting saturation.

I then made global adjustment to contrast and saturation across the entire image, while brightening the shadow areas. The intent was to better hold detail in the sky.

To make this possible, it was necessary to expose for the sky, and allow the train and bridge to become comparatively dark. I did this knowing I’d make adjustments after the exposure.

For more detail on this photographic technique see: Irish Rail 085 with Ballast Train at Sunset—lessons in exposure and contrast adjustment. 

Tracking the Light Posts Everyday!

Dusk at Elm Street, Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Dusk at Elm Street, Norristown, Pennsylvania.Dusk at Elm Street, Norristown, Pennsylvania.

I exposed this view using my Lumix LX7. The angle of view is equivalent to a 24mm lens on 35mm film camera.

The ISO was set to 200, White Balance at ‘Auto’, shutter speed 1/25th of a second, and f-stop at ‘A’ (aperture priority which resulted in a f2.2 setting).

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Pennsylvania Station at Twilight.

Pat Yough said, ‘You’ve never been here before?’

‘No, somehow I missed this.’

‘How’s that possible?’

I’d been to Gap, Pennsylvania many times to photograph Amtrak trains. But I never ventured railroad-east along the Main Line to Christiana, instead driving Highway 30 toward Coatesville.

I should have  known better.

Often the most interesting locations are away from the main road.

There’s your tip for the day!

Former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Christiana.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Christiana.
The old Main Line. Now Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Amtrak’s Keystone at Gap, Pennsylvania.

A mid-afternoon Amtrak Keystone train from Harrisburg, works the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania.

Today’s ACS64 ‘Cities Sprinter’ electrics are to Amtrak what the 1930s-1940s era GG1s were to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

ACS64 660 leads Keystone service number 670 eastward at Gap. (Engine number versus train number).

Note my framing of the locomotive between the two catenary poles, leaving room for the farm in the distance and the tree at the far right.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Steam Tableau.

Last week (November 2017) I made these picturesque tableaus of the Strasburg Railroad in its classic Pennsylvanian Dutch settings.

All were made with my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.

Over the years I’ve made more than a dozen visits to the Strasburg Railroad, but this most recent trip was the first time I’d exposed digital photos here. I guess it’s been a while since my last visit.

Esbenshade Road.

Cherry Hill Road.

Tracking the Light posts Every Day!

 

 

Strasburg No. 90 in Steam.

 

Gauzy afternoon light in late autumn is a great time to photograph steam locomotives at work.

The combination of a relatively low sun angle with slightly diffused shadows, provides directional light with moderate contrast that nicely illuminates the locomotive’s boiler components and reciprocating parts while offering excellent color rendition.

Cool atmospheric conditions make for ample effluence of locomotive exhaust allowing for classic portrayal of a steam locomotive at work

This lighting situation is generally superior to harsh midday summer sun that tends to leave locomotive detail in inky shadows and atmospheric conditions that leave steam exhaust largely invisible to the naked eye.

Pat Yough and I re-examined Strasburg Railroad in mid-November and made a variety of classic views of locomotive no. 90 at work.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

Eclectic Diesel Consist Crosses the Road.

The real topic is about how to use a wide angle lens when faced with a backlit subject.

Last week, while photographing Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11, Pat Yough and I were faced with finding suitable locations for the northward run. Complicating our challenge was the clear blue sky, which resulted in harsh back lighting at most locations.

Our train had an unusual consist of four diesels, led by one of CSX’s new SD40E3 ‘Eco’ units, but also featured one of Norfolk Southern’d former Conrail SD80MACs (third unit out).

We scoped several locations and ultimately settled on a broadside view near Penns Grove, New Jersey where the railroad crosses Perkintown Road.

To make the most of this setting, I opted to use the large tree by the side of the road as compositional frame, and exposed a series of images with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit.

Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11 works northward at Perkinstown Road near Penns Grove, NJ.
A variation of the previous image; one of more than a dozen digital images I exposed as the train worked across the road crossing.

This extremely sharp lens allows for exceptional clarity in backlit situations. In post processing I lightened shadows and nominally reduce the contrast to minimize unpleasant qualities associated with back lighting.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Bright Day on the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines—6 New Digital Photos.

It’s nice to have the sunshine.

Last week, Pat Yough and I explored Conrail Shared Assets former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines south of Paulsboro, New Jersey.

I made these views with my FujiFilm XT1 and 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

This was entirely new territory for me. Pat drove, while I helped navigate using an old DeLorme atlas and my iPhone.

Among the highlights was CSX 1707, one of its relatively new SD40E3 ‘Eco’ locomotives.

Looking northward at Pedrickstown, New Jersey.
Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11 at Pedrickstown, New Jersey.
Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11 at Pedrickstown, New Jersey.
Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11 at Carneys Point, New Jersey.
Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11 at Carneys Point, New Jersey.
CSX SD40E3 number 1707 led Conrail Shared Assets 1707 on the northward journey.

In addition to these digital images, I also exposed a few black & white negatives and some color slides with my Canon EOS-3 and 40mm pancake lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Photographing SEPTA’s Rarest Electric at Jefferson Station, Philadelphia

SEPTA has a small fleet of electric locomotives; seven are AEM-7s (kin to Amtrak’s now retired fleet), one is a similar model ALP44 built by ABB Traction in 1996.

This one SEPTA ALP44 carries the road number 2308. It is among the regional rail operator’s most elusive locomotives. NJ Transit also operated ALP44s, but these have been out of service for a number of years.

Last week (November 2017) I was in the right place at the right time and caught 2308 arriving at Temple University (station) with a train destined for Thorndale. I boarded and traveled to Jefferson Station (formerly called Market East), where I made these images using my Lumix LX7.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Soon SEPTA will be receiving a fleet of new Siemens-built electrics, so I would assume that old 2308 is on borrowed time.

Recognizing rare equipment is part of making interesting railway images.

Is SEPTA’s 2308 the modern-day equivalent of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s DD2 electric (a rarely photographed, one-of-a-kind machine that looked similar to PRR’s common GG1)?

 

Tracking the Light posts Daily.

Photography with an Independence Pass: A dozen new photos.

Last week, I bought my SEPTA Independence Day Pass at 1234 Market Street.

For a mere $13 this allows for unlimited travel on the SEPTA network (with a few minor restrictions). See SEPTA: www.septa.org/fares/pass/independence.html

I made good use of the pass, traveling over several heavy rail routes to make photos.

One of the greatest features of this pass is the ability to get on and off trains without concern for cost, or trying to explain to the conductor where I’m are traveling to. This allows me to change my plan on the spot if I see an interesting location.

SEPTA offers regular interval service on most of its suburban lines, with extra trains in the evening rush hour.

Lumix LX7 Photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo at Berwyn, Pa.
FujiFilm XT1 photo at Berwyn, Pa.
Lumix LX7 photo on the Main Line at Merion, PA.
Lumix LX7 photo at Glenside, PA.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo at Glenside.
Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
SEPTA Silverliner IVs approach Temple. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Interior of a Bombardier coach. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA Silverliner IV interior. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA at 30th Street Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

These digital photos were made using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Dusk at Cynwyd; SEPTA’s most obscure branch?

Dusk is a mystical time to photograph; highlights are subdued, shadows are deep, while the prevailing light is soft and cool. Window light is equivalent to the outdoors, and railroad signal light seems more intense.

The short SEPTA line to Cynwyd in the northwestern Philadelphia suburbs is a vestige of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Valley line that once reached northward into anthracite country.

Today Cynwyd is the end of the line.

Until last week, it was one of the last segments of SEPTA’s Regional Rail network left for me to travel.

I arrived at dusk, and in that ‘blue hour’ and I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.

All things being equal I would have used a tripod, but I didn’t have one so with the XT1, I boosted the ISO to unusually high levels to compensate for the dim conditions.

FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm lens. ISO 1600.
FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm lens. ISO 1600.
Lumix LX7 ISO 200.
FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens. ISO 1600.
FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens. ISO 3200.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

Diesels Under Wire on the Main Line.

Not just any old ‘mainline,’ but the famous Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Main Line— so called because it was built as the ‘Main Line of Public Works’ in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

I made this view of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian taking the curve at Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Where most of the trains on this line draw power from the high-voltage AC catenary, Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian changes from an electric to a diesel locomotive at 30th Street to avoid the need to change at Harrisburg.

This is Amtrak’s only service on the former PRR west of Harrisburg. The lone long distance train on what was once a premier passenger route, and unusual on the electrified portion of the line.

I exposed this sequence at Berwyn using my FujiFilm XT1 and 18-135mm zoom lens.

To make the most of the curve and autumn color, I positioned myself on the outside of the curve at Berwyn. The chug of Amtrak’s P42 diesel alerted me to the approach of this westward train.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

Tracking the Light Extra: Live from Trenton, New Jersey.

I’m posting from Amtrak’s WiFi on-board the Vermonter enroute to Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

It’s cold, wet, dim outside.

Here’s a few views from my Lumix LX7 at Trenton, New Jersey, exposed just a little while ago.

View from McDonalds at Trenton Transportation Center. November 13, 2017.
Amtrak train 172 arrives at Trenton.
Looking toward New York City.
Pan photo of an arriving NJ Transit train.

Keystone train with old Metroliner Cab car.

Amtrak train 56, the Vermonter arrives at Trenton.

Tracking the Light posts Daily.

Railway photography by Brian Solomon

%d bloggers like this: