Below are a few more photos from last Saturday’s 470 Club Special over the Maine Central Mountain Division.
Heavy early season snow made for a cosmic setting at Fabyan, NH where the locomotives ran around the train for the return run to North Conway.
Conway Scenic Railroad’s track patrol wasn’t as impressed with the snow as the passengers on the special. Prior to the train’s arrival at Fabyan, the members of the patrol had to remove numerous fallen trees which had succumbed to the weight of the early season snow.
Sun at Fabyan made for some interesting photo opportunities.
These images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer and adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.
New England Central Railroad (NECR) began operations of the former Central Vermont route in February 1995. Initially, it ran the railroad with a small fleet of largely former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio GP38s numbered in the 9500-series.
In 1998, NECR was in the process of renumbering these locomotives into the 3800-series, which logically echoed their model type.
In October 1998, photographer Mike Gardner and I spent a morning photographing the southward 608 on its run from Palmer, Massachusetts to New London, Connecticut. The lead engine displayed its new 3800-series number, but the trailing engine still had its old number.
Many of the GP38s have carried these 3800-series numbers ever since that time.
Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon N90S with Nikon f2.8 80-200mm AF zoom lens. The freight is crossing the Yantic River at Yantic, Connecticut.
A few weeks ago on Tracking the Light, I described my early experiences with Kodak’s Ektachrome LPP (a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition), of which I received a free-sample from Kodak back in August 1993.
Among the other photos on that roll, was this view exposed shortly after sunrise of Amtrak’s Los Angeles-bound Coast Starlight crossing Southern Pacific’s massive Benicia Bridge near Martinez, California.
I had loaded the film into a second-hand Nikkormat FTN that I fitted an f4.0 Nikkor 200mm telephoto.
This slide sat in the dark until I scanned it on October 6, 2020.
Last Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Conway Scenic operated a work extra to Conway to assist with preparations for the annual Pumpkin Patch event being held for the next three weekends.
The train was organized with relatively little advanced notice, and the only available locomotive was former Boston & Maine F7A 4266, owned by the 470 Club. Our other locomotives were out on passenger assignments or out of service awaiting repairs or maintenance.
Since the cab of the locomotive was facing railroad timetable west, the decision was made to use a caboose as a shoving platform and the train reversed from North Conway down the former B&M branch to Conway.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG files using Iridient X Transformer and then imported into Adobe Lightroom for final adjustment.
Yesterday, October 15, 2020, I made a late season foliage photo of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer descending from Crawfords at milepost 79 near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm prime telephoto, I set the ISO to 1000. I needed relatively high sensitivity because I was working in the shadows of the trees and mountain side and wanted a sufficiently fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the train, while using a smaller aperture to minimize headlight bleed.
Then I imported the Fuji RAW files directly into Adobe Lightroom for processing, while making a comparison set of files by importing them first into Iridient X-Transformer which converts the files to a DNG format and then imported these into Lightroom.
As previously described on Tracking the Light, the Iridient software does a superior job of interpreting the Fuji RAW files.
On a visit to New York City in 1998, my father and I made a trip on the Flushing Line of the New York Subway.
I exposed these photos using Fuji Sensia II (100 speed slide film) with my Nikon N90S.
Last week I digitized the slides using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner powered by VueScan software.
To make the most of the dark contrasty images I opted for multiple pass scans—a feature offered by VueScan that is similar in concept to the HDR setting used my some modern digital cameras—that blend several scans of the same image at different exposure values into one file to maximize shadow and highlight detail.
After exposure, I adjusted the scans using Adobe Lightroom and outputted these images with watermark for internet presentation.
Today’s photo is in honor of my late-friend, Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts, who would have turned 91 today (October 12, 2020).
In the 1940s, Bob Buck made priceless photos of New York Central’s Boston & Albany around Warren, and elsewhere across the railroad. For most of his life he ran Tucker’s Hardware, later Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, which was a gathering point for those interested in railroads.
On December 6, 1992, I exposed this photo of an eastward Conrail freight, probably SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester RR) climbing through Warren behind six General Electric B23-7s.
I had Kodachrome 25 film loaded in my Nikon F3T and I used a 35mm PC (Perspective Control) lens, all neatly leveled out on a Bogen 3021 tripod with ball head.
The pronounced chugging of multiple FDL diesel engines powering these locomotives as they ascended the grade through Warren would have announced the approach of the freight several minutes before the headlight appeared west of the old Warren Station.
The making of this image would have coincided with one of my countless visits to Tucker’s Hobbies in the 1980s and 1990s.
Since 1983, I’ve been photographing EMD GP’s in the Guilford gray, white and orange.
A few weeks ago, when Kris Sabbatino and I went to chase Pan Am’s SAPPI locals on the old Maine Central Hinckley Branch, I was looking forward to catching Pan Am blue locomotives in Maine.
Yet, at this late date, finding a vintage Guilford engine on the move is a novelty. How many remain?
I made this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit at Shawmut, Maine. I converted the Fuji Raw file using Iridient software, which does a superior job of interpreting the Fuji data. I then imported into Lightroom for final processing.
On November 24, 1998, photographer Mike Gardner and I were wrapping our photography for the day, having spent it following the old Erie Railroad mainline in New York state. A railroad then operated as part of Conrail’s Southern Tier District.
Just after sunset, we were visiting the old bridge (since removed) over the east end of the Gang Mills Yard (near Corning, New York). A bit of evening ‘drop under’ sun had tickled the clouds pink, when a headlight appeared to the west.
Working with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm lens, I made a sequence of photos on Kodachrome 200 of the passing Conrail piggyback train. This film offered speed, but it was difficult to work with. Not only was K200 grainy, but it had a fairly narrow expose latitude as compared with either Fuji Sensia or Kodachrome 25.
At the time I made the slide, I’d exposed for the sky, aiming to retain the texture and color, but as a result the tracks and train were a bit under exposed. Last night, I made a multiple pass scan from a slide in the sequence. Then in post processing, I lightened the foreground, while adjusting color and contrast for a more pleasing image, yet one that hopefully looks like it was exposed on Earth, and not on Mars.
Below are two comparisons. The first is the unadjusted scan (scaled for internet), the second is my adjusted scan.
In the summer of 1993, I attended an event in San Francisco hosted by Kodak to debut a new Ektachrome slide film. As part of the event, Kodak gave everyone a sample of LPP, a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition.
I had recently bought a Nikkormat FTN from a co-worker, and promptly loaded the camera with the new film.
It was mid-August, when I climbed to the top of a hill over-looking Southern Pacific’s Cal-P route with a view of Suisun Bay/Carquinez Straits and the stored navy ships anchored there.
Curiously, this SP westward freight had a Conrail C32-8 in consist. This was one of ten built as test beds for Conrail in summer 1984 and routinely operated on the Boston & Albany route through the 1980s. They were known as ‘camels’ because of their hump-back appearance. It was odd to see such a familiar locomotive so far from home.
When I bought my Nikon Z6 a few weeks ago, the camera package came with a 24-70mm zoom (designed for the Nikon mirrorless system) and an FTZ adaptor that allows a variety of older lenses to be fitted to the Nikon mirrorless digital cameras.
This adaptor was among the attractions of the Z6 system, because it will allow me to experiment with a variety of my older lenses.
Saturday evening, I fitted my Nikkor f2.5 105mm telephoto to the Z6 and traveled with my girlfriend and photography partner Kris Sabbatino to the dam and park in Chocorua at Tamworth, New Hampshire.
Long ago, I learned that it is best to test a new equipment combination in a relaxed, non-pressurized photographic environment; in other words, NOT when a train is approaching at speed. The park was a perfect place to play with my new set up.
My old lens has manual focus and manual aperture controls, which requires greater attention than the 24-70mm. The camera’s viewfinder has a colored focusing aid to assist with manual focus lenses (when optimal sharpness is reached the focused area is highlighted in red), yet picking a focus point is still pretty tricky.
Also, the lens has older coatings that were designed to produce the best color with film, and are different than the coatings optimized to work with the digital system. This results in somewhat softer color rendition.
The lens is a very sharp piece of glass, and when used wide open (f2.5) allows for photos with very shallow depth of field.
Below are a few examples.
Soon, I’ll begin testing my other older lenses and try photographing some railroad subjects.
The railroad takes on different characters when view from line-side versus that when view from from the locomotive cab.
The perspectives and impressions you get when standing on the ground are very different than the views from a locomotive cab in motion.
Part of this is the difference in elevation. Part is where you can safely stand in relation to the railroad and how lineside obstructions alter your view.
Over the last few weeks and months I’ve made various headend and walking trips on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
Among the most interesting places is the area east of Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.
Below are two views exposed three days apart from the same location near milepost 83 looking west. One is from the ground of Conway Scenic Railroad’s train 162—the eastward Mountaineer, the other from the headend of the westward train.
Last week I received my latest in a long line of cameras that began with an Exakta back in 1972.
Over the last six months, I’ve been considering an upgrade to my digital cameras.
Sensor technology has progressed and my ability to work with digital photography successfully has matured.
I considered a variety of cameras in my price range including Canon, FujiFilm, and Panasonic Lumix.
I was looking for a camera that will augment my existing cameras while providing demonstrably better or different image quality.
Two events pushed me toward my purchase: The first was the loss of service of my 18-135mm zoom for my Fuji XT1. The second was the loss of service of my Panasonic LX7.
After careful and lengthy consideration, I ended up purchasing a Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera on the recommendation of photographer Pat Yough.
I plan to continue to use my Canon and FujiFilm digital cameras as well as my film cameras. Plus, I’m in the market for another Lumix!
The Nikon’s excellent full-frame sensor and the ability to use my older Nikon lenses on the new camera, plus the price point were among my considerations. I bought the camera with a 24-70 zoom.
Below are a few of the photos from my first day out with the Z6 on a wander around western Maine with my girlfriend and photography partner Kris Sabbatino. All were made with the 24-70mm and processed using Adobe Lightroom.
I may take me a while before I obtain the full visual benefit of this new tool, as it has a lot of buttons, functions, menus and features to explore and learn.
I am not new to Nikon, as I bought my Nikon in the form of an F3T in 1990, but this is my first Nikon Digital camera.
In the 1990s, I chased the glint with Kodachrome in my cameras.
Sometimes on the remote chance of getting a one in a 10,000 shot, I’d set up on some lightly used section of track in the golden hour on the off chance that I’d be rewarded.
My chances were better than the lottery
Sometimes I got lucky.
Last Saturday, September 26, 2020, I was driving around western Maine with Kris Sabbatino. We stopped near Bethel to get bottles of water at a convenience store. Ahead of me in line was a woman who spent $81 on a six pack of beer and lottery tickets.
Personally, I feel that lottery tickets are a waste of money. Although my grandfather had phenomenal luck with cards and lottery tickets and sometimes won.
Instead of spending money on the lottery, we took a slight detour to the old Grand Trunk tracks. This is now Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic. Operations are infrequent and largely nocturnal. The number of daylight trains through Bethel in a year can be counted on one hand. This year I’ve been aware of only three.
Despite these remote odds, I set up in the glint light and waited for a few minutes.
I was only rewarded with this sunset view of empty tracks. Yet my odds of success were far better than the lottery and I saved money on the tickets.
On Friday evening, September 25, 2020, I exposed this digital photograph on the former Maine Central Mountain Division at 4th Iron using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
There are four iron bridges between Bartlett and Sawyers along the Saco River. The easiest to photograph is 4th Iron, which not only can be seen from Highway 302—that runs parallel to the railroad—but even has its own parking area complete with a sign ‘4th Iron’.
I liked the spot because of the bright red trees on both side of the Sawyers River.
The train pictured is Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer that was returning from Fabyan to North Conway, New Hampshire.
Last Sunday, September 27, 2020, while following Pan Am Railway’s SAPPI-3 with Kris Sabbatino, I made this close-up view of the train led by GP40 345 on the Hinckley Branch near Waterville, Maine.
I was working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. For post-processing, I imported the camera RAW in to Iridient to produce a DNG file, which I then imported into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.
As previously explained on Tracking the Light, Iridient software has a superior means of interpreting the Fuji RAW files for adjustment. However, the difference is very subtle and can be best noticed on extreme enlargement.
Which leads to a photographic quandary: is there really value in making image of superior quality if only a handful of viewers can appreciate the difference?
Today, I am posting three variations of the same image file.
This is from Sunday’s chase of Pan Am Railway’s SAPPI-3 and pictures the freight crossing Martin Stream near Hinckley, Maine.
The bucolic setting was side lit–a condition that presents a contrast challenge. I made the image using my FujiFilm XT1 with 28mm pancake lens.
Recently, and on the advice of my old pal TSH, I purchased Iridient software, which offers a different interpretation of the FujiFilm RAW files.
Below are examples of the in-camera FujiFilm JPG (using Velvia color profile), a DNG file converted from the Fuji RAW by Adobe Lightroom, and a comparison DNG file converted from RAW using the Iridient software.
All were then scaled and exported using Lightroom. I made identical color and contrast corrections to the two DNG files. (My interpretation, not Fuji’s)
My intent is to compare the Iridient processing with Adobe’s. The Camera JPG is a third reference.
Since this is one of my first experiments with the Iridient software, I cannot claim to be a master of working with it.
In the title, I’m using curious as adjective to mean ‘unusual’ for alliterative effect.
Saturday, September 19, 2020, Kris Sabbatino and I briefly visited Rockland, Maine.
Years ago I’d photographed the short freight turn that brings cement from the Dragon cement works in Thomaston to a rail-barge transload on the Rockland waterfront.
I was curious if this operation was still running, so after a visit to inspect the Rockland roundhouse (still standing, still housing a locomotive), we followed the short branch that meanders through the neighborhoods down to the water.
Here we found a selection of the unusual pressurized cement cars used in the cement circuit. The wheels were shiny, so I we concluded the service still operates. Perhaps one of these days we’ll return to catch it on the move again.
Yesterday, September 18, 2020, I traveled on the headend of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer to scope autumn view points for publicity photos.
The trees have hints of the autumn palette and I noted a variety of places near the top of the mountain where I hope to revisit over the coming weeks.
It looks like some of the best color will be near the famous Willey Brook Bridge and Mount Willard Section House in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. We’ll have to wait and see how the autumn colors manifest this season.
I made these views from GP35 216 using my Lumix LX7.
On August 26, 1986, Art Mitchell was giving photographer Brandon Delaney and me a tour of Maine railways.
We had perfect Kodachrome weather.
Among our stops was Maine Central’s Bangor Yard, where I made this view of GP38 255 working an eastward freight.
I was fascinated by the antique switch lamp in the foreground, which was still part of the railroad’s functioning equipment and not merely a decoration.
I had Kodachrome 64 loaded in my Leica 3A, and I exposed this color slide with a 65mm Leitz lens mounted using a Visoflex (a Rube Goldberg-inspired reflex view-finder attachment) on the screw-mount pre-war (WW2) 35mm camera.
This somewhat awkward camera arrangement was my standard means for exposing color slides at that time. I made careful notes of my exposure, which was f8 at 1/200th of a second. (My Leica 3A used some non-standard shutter speeds.)
Today, I find the GP38 interesting because its sister locomotive, number 252, is a fixture at the Conway Scenic Railroad (although at present it is out of traffic and awaiting repairs).
In July 1983, ,Bob Buck and I were attending a weekly summer gathering of the West Springfield Train Watchers, a semi-formal group consisting of mostly retired railroaders who assembled with permission of the railroad at the west end of Conrail’s West Springfield, Massachusetts yard.
I say ‘semi-formal’ because member Norvel Parker printed cards for all the members. Somewhere I still have mine.
Toward the end of the evening, I made this photo with my Leica 3A of a westward freight making a pick-up.
In later years, I photographed some of the members, which was probably far more valuable as a record, than making photos of the trains.