Lately, New England Central’s (NECR) Willimantic-Palmer freight 608 has been running on favorable schedule for photography.
If you’ve been following Tracking the Light lately, you might have gleaned the mistaken impression that New England Central’s northward freight can only be photographed hard out of the sun at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
In fact on its present schedule there are many nicely lit photographs of the northward run between Willington, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts, this time of year.
And, when the crew turns quickly at Palmer, there can be a host of very nicely lit locations in the southward direction.
It helps to know where and when to go. I’ve been at this a while. Back in Central Vermont Railway days (precursor to New England Central) and before I could drive, I’d chase this line on my bicycle. By the time I was 15 I knew all the best angles.
These views are from one productive morning a few weeks ago. More to come!
But an exercise in making better photos on overcast days.
Last month, two days in a row I hoofed it up to Blackhorse Avenue following the good advice of fellow photographer Colm O’Callaghan in order to make photos of Irish Rail’s class 071 diesel- hauled trains.
Blackhorse bridges Irish Rail’s branch the connects Islandbridge Junction with Dublin’s North Wall via the Phoenix Park tunnel. The north-facing portal is just out of sight around the corner in the cutting.
This is a nice place to make photos of Dublin-bound trains bright overcast days. Elevation allows me to minimize the sky, while an old stone-faced overbridge makes an effective frame that adds depth and historical interest to the photos.
Both were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a fixed focal length (‘prime’) 90mm telephoto lens. One makes use of the landscape (horizontal) orientation, the other is a portrait (vertically) oriented photograph.
Which photo do you feel is more interesting?
And yes, I also made black & white photos of these trains.
These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.
On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.
So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?
There’s nothing like a carefully executed panned photograph to convey a train at speed.
I’ve covered the panning technique a number of times on Tracking the Light; essentially this accomplished by using a comparatively slow shutter speed (in this situation I chose 1/60th of a second) and moving the camera with the subject as it passes through a scene.
The real trick is maintain smooth full-body motion and continue to pan after the shutter is released. Novice pan photographers often violate this rule and stop panning the moment they release the shutter, which tends to result in badly blurred photos.
Yesterday (May 18, 2017) I was traveling with Tim, a friend and fellow photographer, who suggested this location at North Hatfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Maine Connecticut River line.
Rather than make a conventional image, I opted for a series of panned views, of which this is but one in a sequence.
This time, I processed it using Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for eight minutes, rewashed and scanned.
One small change; in this instance, I gave the film a little more toning than previously, which should make for slightly more silvery highlights. This is a subtle change, and probably barely perceptible on internet presentation.
Compositionally, I’ve made an effort to include the village and not just focus on the locomotives.
I’m by no means done with this project, and I’ll continue to post with more photos and insights over the coming weeks. (Including some color views to please Dave and others morally opposed to black & white).
It was a clear blue dome and working with my Lumix LX7, I made these photos of trams working the streets of Zürich, Switzerland.
Zürich continues to paint its trams in its classic sky-blue and creamy white livery. This photographs well when the sun is out, but can be challenging on dull days.
The Lumix LX7 when used with the add-on external viewfinder is an excellent tool for urban street photography. I like the LX7 because it allows me to make both Jpg and RAW digital files simultaneously. The RAWs were especially useful here as I could more easily adjust contrast in post processing.
A few days ago, I displayed black & white photos I made at Stafford Springs, Connecticut in hard morning sunlight. See: Going Against the Grain.
Where the earlier images used an unusual film type (Foma Retropan), today’s image was made on Ilford HP-5, but with some special processing.
In both posts, black & white photos feature New England Central 608 (a freight that runs between Willimantic, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts) passing downtown Stafford Springs shortly after sunrise.
Today’s image was exposed from Main Street in Stafford on the opposite side of the tracks from the earlier photos, which provides a different perspective on the train and village.
Part of this exercise is aimed at demonstrating black & white photographic technique, however I’m also hoping to show how different angles at the same location can result in significantly different photos.
Also, that it’s possible to make interesting photos in difficult lighting situations, if you apply a creative approach to your photography.
I’m done here yet! To be continued on another day.
Last month I made this photo of a tram near its terminus in Basel, Switzerland.
Working with my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens, I exposed a roll of Ilford HP5, rating it at 320 ISO. I processed the film in Agfa (formula) Rodinal Special (mixed 1-30 with water) for 3 minutes 25 seconds at 68 degrees F.
By design, this resulted in acceptable negatives, slightly on thin (light) side. Then, after fixing (two stage) and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in selenium (using a 1-9 mix) for nine minutes with regular agitation.
Selenium toner is poisonous, so I wear latex gloves and perform the toning outside to avoid breathing the fumes, and pre-rinse the film prior to bringing it back inside.
Toning the negatives in this way boosts the highlights, giving the images a slightly silvery glow, while improving archival stability.
For this photo, I made some additional changes in post processing.
After scanning, I imported the file to Lightroom, and digitally lowered the contrast and highlight density of the sky-area in the top 1/3 of the frame.
My intent was to produce an image with a darker moody tonality and glistening highlights. I wonder if this will translate to the internet well?
In general, I object to cropping, especially when executed by someone other than the photographer.
I accept that in the realm of publishing it is a necessary evil, and that with the internet, Facebook and other imaging venues embrace cropping without consequence of how it affects photographs.
Yet, occasionally I find necessary to crop one of my photos.
Last I month I made an image of an Italian ETR 610 Pendolino from the south-end of the station platform at Arth-Goldau, Switzerland. While focused on the impressive looking train, I inadvertently included a portion of a mast on the platform that appears as an out of focus blob at the left of the image.
While I often like to work with selective focus, in my opinion this accident in no way enhanced the photo. Furthermore once playing with the cropping feature in Lightroom, I found that cropping other elements of the line side infrastructure materially improved my photo.
Extra trains are always a bonus; but an unexpected extra using antique equipment is a real treat!
Three weeks ago on our exploration of Swiss railways, Denis McCabe and I were photographing the steeply graded rack railway on the Wengernalbahn near Grindlewald-Grund where the scheduled passenger trains operate on half hour intervals.
In between the regular scheduled trains, we caught a wire train-extra and this passenger extra with heritage equipment.
All in the metaphoric shadow of the Eiger and the Jungfrau, two of the most famous Swiss mountain in the Swiss Bernese Alps.
Swiss railways tend to be known by three letter abbreviations of their names.
The initials ‘BLS’ represent the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon Bahn, a standard-gauge mainline trunk-line with several branches in central western Switzerland.
It was a pleasant evening three weeks ago, when Denis McCabe and I photographed a procession of BLS freight and passenger trains at Spiez. What I found remarkable was the great variety of equipment operated by this colourful Swiss line.
I exposed these photos over the course of an hour using my FujiFilm X-T1.
On the weekend of May 5-7 2017, I attended and spoke at the New York Central System Historical Society Convention held in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
The theme of the convention was the Boston & Albany and it was dedicated to my friend, the late-Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts. Key to the convention events was a chartered MBTA train that operated from Worcester to Boston.
I gave the banquet talk focusing it around Bob Buck’s B&A experiences and photography as well as my own B&A work.
Special thanks to Society and convention organizers, especially Joe Burgess, Bill Keay, and Rich & Nancy Stoving.
I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
The other morning in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, I exposed this view of New England Central’s northward freight that runs daily from Willimantic, Ct., to Palmer, Massachusetts.
The train was coming hard out of a clear morning sun. Using a Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor 35mm screw-mount lens, I exposed this view on Foma Retropan 320.
Retropan is a comparatively coarse grain emulsion that offers a distinctly different range of tones than expected with Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X, or other black & white films in the same sensitivity range.
It also produces a characteristic halo-effect in bright highlight areas.
I processed the film more or less as recommended using Foma’s specially formulated Retro Special Developer, and then scanned it with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. I made minor adjustments to contrast in Lightroom.
As I anticipated, my results from this experiment are more pictorial than literal.
Tracking the Light posts something different every day.
I was standing on the shore of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva near the historic Chillon Castle on an afternoon in late April 2017. Above me a clear blue dome provided wonderful polarized light, while SBB sent along a steady parade of scheduled trains, with something passing by every five to ten minutes.
Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I’d expose a burst of images whenever a train reached near the optimum gap in the foliage, then pick out the best of the lot later.
It really was like, ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ to quote a cliché.
I’m not talking about surreptitiously documenting nefarious underworld dealings of Sicilian criminals, but rather the trains and operations of Switzerland’s Montreux-Oberland-Bernois railway line.
This narrow gauge line famously operates via the Golden Pass route offering hourly long distance trains as well as local services to communities along its lines.
In April, it was among the routes that Denis McCabe and I explored.
We were fortunate to have clear blue skies, which when combined with stunning Alpine scenery makes for great photographic possibilities.
I’d researched a variety of potential locations, and opted to photograph around Gstaad and Gruben, where open Alpine meadows, tall bridges, and distant mountain peaks made for great settings.
Traveling to Gstaad, we hoped off a train that had 14-minute pause in its schedule, and on the recommendation of photographer Barry Carse, immediately set out to find the high viaduct beyond the station.
We found it easily enough, and went charging up a steep slope to position ourselves above the bridge, only to find there was a well-established trail already there! This made getting back to the station much easier.
Here’s a small sample of my digital efforts at Gstaad. My primary focus was exposing color slide film with my Nikon; and those images are en route to the lab now.
Tracking the Light aims to publishing new material each and every day.
This Saturday, May 6, 2017, I will present a variation of my Boston & Albany program to the New York Central System Historical Society convention, to be held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
I am listed as the guest speaker and my illustrated talk will begin at about 7pm. This will feature material from the Robert A. Buck collection, and images from the lens of William Bullard (early 20th century photographer), as well as a selection of my own work on the B&A, which spans more than 40 years.
For information on the convention and registration forms see the New York Central System HS website: www.NYCSHS.org
Among the most attractive modern trains I experienced traveling in Switzerland at the end of April were Transports Publics du Chablais’s (TPC) modern narrow gauge trains on its AOMC route that connects Aigle and Champéry.
TPC’s new Stadler railcars were clean, comfortable and nicely styled. These compact articulated narrow gauge vehicles are designed to work both adhesion and rack sections of TPC’s line.
Inside they are spacious, bright, and offer magnificent views of the Alpine scenery through large windows.
The ability for passengers to look out forward and trailing windows is an excellent feature.
I especially liked the styling treatment, which embraces TPC’s bright green livery and works with the curves of Stadler’s standardized modern railcar pattern. This is a pleasant contrast to many modern Swiss trains that wear dull, garish, or otherwise visually challenged liveries.
Denis McCabe and I traveled the length of TPC’s AOMC route. The most impressive section is the climb from Monthey to Champéry, where long sections of the line climb sharply into the mountains.
I exposed these photos of TPC’s new trains using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Here’s one solution to a difficult lighting problem: A few days ago when I was photographing along the shore of Lake Geneve at St. Saphorin, Switzerland I had a nice clean over-the-shoulder sun lit view for eastward trains, but was looking directly into the blazing morning sun for westward trains.
The scenery was too good to let the photographic opportunity pass.
So what did I do? I changed lenses. Specifically, I opted to use my Zeiss 12mm Touit on FujiFilm X-T1, and then stop all the way down.
What do I mean by ‘stop down’? This is a traditional photographic term that means to close the aperture by a full-stop increment. Say from f4 to f5.6. (Each one-stop change doubles or halves the amount of light reaching the film/sensor. Opening up a stop doubles the light, closing down halves it.) To ‘stop all the way down’ is to close the lens to its smallest aperture. In the case of my Zeiss lens, this is f22.
With the 12mm Tuoit, at f22 the tiny hole with the very wide-angle focal length combine to allow for a sun-burst effect. To take advantage of this sun-effect with a moving train, I had to increase the ISO to 1250, (because f22 lets in much less light to the sensor than I normally would during daylight.)
The secondary difficulty with this image is the narrow exposure latitude of the digital media. By exposing for the sun, I’ve had to seriously underexpose for the front of the locomotive.
To compensate for this, I manipulated the RAW camera file in post-processing (after exposure) using Lightroom, which allowed me to brighten the shadow areas and control the highlights.
I’ve included a screenshot of the Lightroom work panel that reveals how I’ve adjusted the slider controls on this specific file.
Significantly, Lightroom makes a working overlay file and DOES NOT alter the original RAW image. Working on the RAW directly would damage the original file. I advise against working directly with the original. Always make a copy.
There’s something inherently attractive about a railway along water, be it a river, pond, lake or the sea.
SBB’s line along Lake Geneva is a fine example of waterside running. Not only does the lake exhibit wonderful aqua hues, but is surrounded by vineyards, snow capped Alpine peaks and other beautiful scenery.
The trick is finding locations where you can place a train with the water in a pleasing composition.
Easier said than done.
I’d found this location at St. Saphorin by searching the internet and studying Google maps. Last week, Denis McCabe and I arrived by train and made the short walk from St. Saphorin station to a foot bridge designed to grant access to the lakefront for bathers.
Not only did SBB provide transport, but fielded a nice variety of trains. About every five to ten minutes something came rolling along. Below is a sample.
Probably the best thing about the smart phone that I was coerced into acquiring is the interactive map.
When in Italy, I found this map useful in finding locations.
With a touch of the screen, my position was immediately located. Railway stations are highlighted in blue, and I found it easy enough to calculate both distance and estimated walking time.
Using this technique, I navigated my way through the touristy bits of Firenze (Florence) and found the station at Firenze-Statuto, which was a busy place to watch and photograph trains. I’ll call that a successful use of the new technology.
Tracking the Light is post automatically while Brian is traveling.
An FS (Italian State Railway) articulated electric locomotive leads a northward freight at Framura on Italy’s Mediterranean coast.
Using my Lumix LX7, I made this photo in the minutes before sunset in early April 2017. To make the most of the camera’s RAW file, I adjusted contrast and exposure in post processing using Lightroom and outputted this as a JPG sized for internet presentation.
Tracking the Light is posting automatically while Brian is traveling.
A few weeks back I posted some views from the Old Cabra Road bridge where an Irish Rail ICR arrived on scene and partially blocked my view of the ever elusive spoil train. (See: Are Two Trains Better than One?)
Just to clarify the significance of that event: Irish Rail ICRs (Intercity railcars) are the standard passenger train on most routes in Ireland.
Furthermore, a public App for your smart phone will alert you where these trains are running most of the time. Finding an ICR on the move is easily accomplished.
By contrast, the spoil train is difficult to find, even for veteran observers. It doesn’t run often, rarely has a rigid path, and tends run off path even when given one. It doesn’t appear on an App, which makes it even harder to find.
It’s like a ghost train and I’ve missed it more times than I’ve managed to picture it.
Colm O’Callaghan and I scored views of the spoil train from Old Cabra road a few days ago. This was one of my favorite from the sequence.
Persistence and patience are the lessons for the day.
It was a bright April 2017 morning when I arrived at Genova Piazza Principe. The station is scenically situated in an open area between two tunnels.
The challenge of making visually impressive photos of Italian railways lies in finding ways to handle the infrastructure effectively.
Italian Railways are very heavily built and largely electrified. The result is a plethora of columns, poles, masts, wires and other necessary, yet visually distracting elements that can make finding a clean composition a difficult task.
Throw in some graffiti, litter, and a few dodgy shadows, and a photo can appear overly busy and cluttered, so careful attention to detail is a must.
Tracking the Light is posting automatically this week while Brian is Traveling.
Milano Stazione Centrale (Milan Central Station) is a monumental railway terminal that faces the Piazza Anrea Doria. . . [the station’s] design was the result of an architectural competition held in Milan in 1913 . . . Although the plan dated from before World War I, its blocky style and super human scale seems to typify the public architecture of the interwar Fascist period. [Milano Stazione Centrale] was one of the last great railway stations built in Europe before World War II.
Tracking the Light is Posting Automatically while Brian is Traveling.
The Peter Witt was a widely built steel-body center-door streetcar noted for its early use of the ‘pay as you enter’ system, where passengers paid fair to the motorman and eliminated need for a conductor. Exiting passengers used the center door to minimize delays during stops. The car-type was named for its designer, the Cleveland Street Railway commissioner, who originated the car arrangement about 1915 . . . The Peter Witt was adopted in Italy in the late 1920s.
I exposed these images of a venerable Peter Witt working the streets of Milan earlier this month (April 2017) using my Lumix LX7.