CSX Q422 at Palmer, Massachusetts

These days most of CSX’s scheduled through car-load freights tend to traverse the east end of the old Boston & Albany during darkness.

True, there’s a couple of intermodal trains, and Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited during the day, but if you want to see an old-school freight train in daylight you’ll have a long wait.

Early in the morning of June 23, 2017, I went over to CP83 (control point 83 miles from South Station) on spec to see if I could catch some freight on the move.

I have a sixth sense or really good hearing (or both), because I stepped out of the car, and I could hear a distant freight with GE diesels laboring toward Palmer.

I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with my fast (f2.0) 90mm lens and walked up to the South Main Street bridge, where I’ve made hundreds of photos over the years.

As the train approached, I realized that it wasn’t an intermodal train, as I expected, but a carload freight. It was CSX’s Q422 (Selkirk, New York to Worcester, Massachusetts).

At 5:29am I made these photos with my camera set to ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld. The ability to raise the ISO to a faster (more sensitive) setting combined with my fast telephoto lens allows for photos like this one.

ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.
ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.

In my old Kodachrome 25 days, my exposure with my Nikon F3 and f2.8 135mm lens (offering an equivalent focal length to the 90mm with the small sensor on the X-T1) would have been: f3.5 at ¼ second. The resulting image of this moving train would have been dramatically different.

 

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Making Sunrise—CSX near Palmer, Massachusetts.

Since 1986, the interlocking east of Palmer at the east-end of the dispatcher’s controlled siding has been known on the railroad as ‘CP79’ which describes it as a ‘control point (remote control power switches and signals) 79-miles west of Boston’.

Friday, morning (June 22, 2017), I anticipated a westward freight just after sunrise, and set up looking across the farmer’s field west of CP79, looking toward the rising sun.

Working with an external graduated neutral density filter, I carefully exposed a sequence of photos, including pictures with the train. Then working with the camera RAW files in Lightroom, I manipulated contrast, exposure, color temperature and color balance, to make for better balanced more pleasing photos.

With extreme lighting conditions I find that post processing is a necessary, if tedious, part of the photographic process.

Below are my results.

Here’s the equipment: FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens. It is fitted with an externally mounted Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter with an aftermarket filter holder. I can rotate the filter left or right, and adjust it up and down in order to meet my specific requirements. The 0.9 filter works out to be about 1 full stop at its darkest.
In anticipation of the westward CSX train, I made a series of photos to show changes in the lighting. The interesting part of the scene is also the most difficult part to make a acceptable exposure.
Changing lighting conditions makes for added challenges.
CSX Q009 rolls west toward Palmer, Massachusetts.

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My Secret Revealed! Follow up on ‘Four views at Bridge Street Monson’.

Did you ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s detective story called ‘The Purloined Letter’? Essentially Poe reveals that sometimes the best place to hide something is in plain view.

Two days ago (Thursday June 22, 2017) in Tracking the Light I posted a subtle puzzle called:

Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

While on the surface this was a comparison between black & white and color images; in fact it was a more complex comparison between similar photographs.

One clue was the following, “I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film images?”

The other major clue was in the title, “Two Takes, Four Views.”

A little background. On May 16, 2017 I made the color photo of New England Central GP38 3809 leading train 608 upgrade. A few days later, I was following the same train with the same locomotive-consist and I had the opportunity to return to Bridge Street and make another image from the same location. Rather than repeat my efforts in color, I opted to make a black & white photograph with my Leica.

The secret: The fundamental difference between the images is that they were exposed on different days.

Thus there are subtle differences in the angle of the camera to the train, the lighting (higher in the B&W photo as a result of being exposed about an hour later), the locomotive exhaust is different (which several viewers commented on), the train consist itself is different (although the locomotives are the same), and in the elapsed days between images the leaves on the trees had grown to obscure more the track in the distance (which is why it is more difficult to see the freight cars in the black & white views).

Admittedly, by comparing color with black & white it was easy to steer many viewers from observing the other, and more subtle, differences between the black & white and color images. I further hid my secret by directing the observer to study variations in tonality between the three variations in the B&W images.

Would you have noticed more quickly if the leading locomotive had been a different engine in the color view?

Exposed on May 16, 2017.
My third of three black & white variations; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality.

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Oh, and by the way, I prefer the color view over the black & white, the light was much nicer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ware? June 15, 2017.

It’s a town with a funny name.

Massachusetts Central serves Ware on a mix of former Boston & Albany and Boston & Maine lines.

For the last few years the railroad has stored two of its antique locomotives in the Ware yard, including its unusual former Southern Railway EMD NW5 number 2100.

I have many images of this locomotive in various paint schemes over the years; hauling freight, switching the yard, and working excursion trains.

I made these photos the other day with a Nikon F3 fitted with an old school (non-AI) Nikkor 24mm lens (a favorite tool of mine for making unusual and dramatic images).

24mm view in the afternoon.
A vertical engine photo with a wide-angle lens, and I clipped the pilot. The travesty of it all!

My process was also unusual. Working with Ilford HP5 rated at ISO 320 (instead of 400), in the dark room I allowed the film to get a very small degree of base fog to thus raise the detail in the shadow areas, while under-processing the film in Kodak D-76 (stock solution mixed 1-1 with water) by nearly 40 percent. Instead of an 11 minute time as recommended, I cut my time to just over 7 minutes, but raised the temperature to 73 degrees F for increased activity. This also boosts the grain a little but that adds to the texture of the photos and clearly distinguishes them from digital images produced by modern cameras.

 

As you might guess, I’m not opposed to visual characteristics in a photo that hint at the process that created them.

 

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Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

New England Central’s grade over State Line Hill climbs through Monson, Massachusetts. When I’m in Monson—where I live for part of the year—I can hear the trains as they pass through town.

In recent posts, I’ve focused my cameras on New England Central’s weekday freight, job 608, that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back.

In the long days, the present schedule for 608 finds it in a number of classic locations that are well-lit for photography.

I can go after the train on any given morning, as often as I choose, and this allows me the freedom to explore different angles, photographic techniques, and visit locations repeatedly to make more interesting images.

I like to work in black & white and I choose to use traditional film cameras with which I can craft images in the old school. I process the film myself using custom-tailored recipes, and then scan for presentation here.

Why black & white film? First of all it’s not simply monochrome. My black & white photography is the culmination of decades of experimentation. This shouldn’t imply that the photos are inherently better than simple digital snap shots, but infers that I’ve put more thought and energy into achieving my end result.

Here I’ve displayed three variations of a black & white image I exposed using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens at Bridge Street in Monson. I’ve adjusted the contrast and tonal range producing subtle differences in each interpretation. For comparison, I’ve also supplied a similar digital color view that I exposed with my Lumix LX7.

I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film image variations?

My first post-processed variation of New England Central’s 608 climbing at Bridge Street, Monson, Mass.
Here I’ve lowered the over-all contrast, which allows for greater shadow and highlight detail, but overall produces a softer tonality.
My third variation; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality and deeper blacks.
Is color better? Chime in with your opinion in the comments section.

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Summer Solstice Special.

It was an early sunrise this morning; ruby red with feathered clouds.

Sunrise in Monson, Massachusetts on June 21, 2017. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. Camera-JPG, no changes in post processing except to scale the image for internet presentation. That’s the sky how it looked this morning.

After catching the early glow, I wandered to Palmer, Massachusetts to make a few photographs along the old Boston & Albany route.

Although quiet during midday, CSX’s B&A route sees an intermodal train each way within about an hour or two of sunrise. Patience paid off.

Here’s a sample from this morning’s efforts (June 21, 2017).

CSX Q009 approaches CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.
CSX Q009 at Palmer, Massachusetts. I’m pushing the limits of digital image data-capture: Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).
A BNSF locomotive was trailing on the Q009. It’s rare that I’ve photographed a BNSF locomotive on the B&A route.
CSX Q009 tail-end at Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).
CSX intermodal train Q022 works east at Tennyville in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.
CSX Q022 passing below the ‘Tennyville Bridge’ (Route 32) in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 Fujinon lens.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 Fujinon lens.

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MBTA in the Summer; a Lesson in Midday High-Light.

For the discerning photographer, summer midday high-light presents difficulties with contrast and deep shadows.

In my Kodachrome days, I’d put the camera away from 10 am to after 2 pm during June-July. Kodachrome’s palate and contrast didn’t work with midday high-light and the slides would suffer from inky shadows, exceptionally harsh contrast, and bleached highlights.

Using digital photography and post processing, I can overcome some of the difficulties presented by summer high sun by adjusting color temperature and carefully controlling highlight and shadow detail.

Another tool is the external graduated neutral density filter. By attaching one of these filters to the front of the lens, I can darken the sky to better hold highlight detail and color saturation, while lightening the lower portions of the image area to make for a better balanced exposure and increasing the relative amount of data captured.

Final adjustment is still required in post processing to lighten shadows.

MBTA train 1403 from North Station, Boston passes Shirley, Massachusetts. I’ve lightened the shadows and controlled the highlights to make for a better balanced image. The lighting is still straight up, but the effect is less objectionable.
In both this view an the above image, I’ve used a graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail and color saturation.
In this view high clouds have slight softened the sun at MBTA’s Wachesett Station.
This scene would have been a nightmare with Kodachrome. Bright whites in the foreground, dark green trees at the sides and noon time sun! Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1.

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June Morning Sun at Ayer.

June can be a challenging time to make photographs. There can be wonderful rich sun for couple of hours in the morning, and again in the evening, while during the day high-light presents difficulties with contrast and deep shadows. (Topics for future posts)

Last week, Rich Reed, Paul Goewey, Felix Legere and I arrived at Ayer, Massachusetts in good morning light.

MBTA and Pan Am Railways kept us busy for a little while. And I made these images using my FujiFilm X-T1.

I gauge my digital exposure using the camera’s histogram (a graph displayed in-camera that shows pixel distribution), and as a result I aim to capture the maximum amount of data by balancing the highlight and shadow areas.

If need be I can then adjust the exposure and contrast in post processing to make for the most visually appealing image without sacrificing the amount data captured

I’ve listed my exposures below each photo to provide a frame of reference.

The old Boston & Maine Ayer Tower is a relic of former times. The containers at left comprise the water train that comes down on Pan Am from Maine. ISO 400 exposed at f7.1 at 1/500.
MBTA train 1400 from Wachusett approaches its station stop at Ayer. ISO 400 exposed at f9.0 at 1/500. I’ve stopped down (reduced the exposure) by 1/2 stop to compensate for the reflective surface at the front of the MBTA train.
MBTA train 1400 is back lit at Ayer. Locomotive 2000, an HSP46, works at the back of the consist. Exposed at ISO 400 f9.0 1/500. Working with the camera RAW file, I’ve adjusted highlight and shadows in post processing to make for a better balanced image. (Lightened shadow areas and darkened highlights within the control  parameters as necessary to prevent a lost of data in the final image; excessive changes to the exposure will clip highlight or shadow areas and result in less information being displayed in the processed image).
Pan Am Railways is operating some former CSX GE-Built DASH8-40Cs in road freight service. A pair of these locomotives lead symbol freight EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland) out of Ayer’s Hill Yard on the east leg of the Ayer wye. The light gray building to the left of the train and the shadow it creates makes for a difficult exposure situation. ISO 400 f10 at 1/500th of a second.
ISO 400 f10 at 1/500th of a second. Although this image is a scaled version of the in-camera JPG, by working with the RAW file, I could have lightened the shadow area to the left of the locomotive to reveal more detail. I’ve opted not to do this however.

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Hidden Treasure: 19th Century Stone Arch over Stony Brook.

It always surprises me when I find some vestige of former times that I’ve managed to overlook.

Last week my on the advice of Felix Legere, we explored the old Nashua, Acton & Boston Railroad right of way near Forge Village east of Ayer, Massachusetts.

This 24-mile 19th century railroad was among the lines melded into the Boston & Maine system. In 1875, it carried three passenger trains daily between Nashua and Concord Junction. Near Forge Village it crossed the Stony Brook railroad and a trolley line on an overpass.

The NA&B was an early casualty of Boston & Maine retrenchment and abandoned about 1925.

Today, part of the right of way is maintained as Tom Paul Rail Trail. Felix led our expedition to the railroad’s vintage stone arch bridge over Stony Brook (for which the Stony Brook Railroad was named).

Bridge over Stony Brook. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a 50mm Summitar.
Looking east.
View made with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

I made the color photos with my FujiFilm X-T1, and the black & white with a Leica IIIa with 50mm Summitar lens.

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Railfan’s Bridge at East Deerfield—my First Farewell.

The old McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) has been a popular place to photograph trains since the steam era.

Known colloquially as the ‘Railfan’s Bridge,’ this vantage point has been featured in articles in TRAINS Magazine Railpace, and other popular literature for decades.

I first visited with my father and brother in the early 1980s, and have made countless photos here, many of which have a appeared in books, calendars, and of course on Tracking the Light.

My friend Tim coined it the ‘waste too much film bridge’ in the early 2000s, owing to our propensity to make an excessive number of photos as Guilford freight trains switched in the yard.

Although hackneyed and perhaps over frequented, it’s been a great place to catch the sunrise, make photos of the locomotives and freight cars, and work the evening glint.

At times, I’ve seen as many as 30 photographers here, all vying for position.

Imagine my surprise last month, when Tim and I arrived to photograph the elusive and much followed Pan Am Railways office car train, expecting to find a wall of lenses, and instead realized that we were the only photographers on site!

In the evening glow, Pan Am Railway’s prized former Canadian National FP9s lead the company office car train off the Deerfield Loop track at the west end of East Deerfield Yard. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
. You can see that the trees have been cut in preparation for the heavy works, expected to begin shortly. Lumix LX7 photo.
How many thousands, or tens of thousands, of photos have been exposed from this vantage point over the decades? FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

I used this opportunity to make some photos of the old bridge, soon to be replaced by a new span located 40 feet to the west.

Why is this my first farewell? Simply, the bridge isn’t yet gone. After it is, perhaps I’ll post a ‘final farewell’.

 

I wonder how the new vantage point will compare?

 

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Railroad Station at Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Three freight railroads, plus Amtrak share the tracks at Bellows Falls. Yet on the morning of my visit last week not a wheel was turning.

I worked with the cosmic morning light to make a few photos of the old station building and the railway environment.

Not all great railway photos need trains. And Tracking the Light is more about the process of making railway photos than simply the execution of ‘great train pictures’.

Fog and sun; Those specks in the sky are birds.

For these images I worked with my Lumix LX7 (color digital photos) and a Leica 3a with screw-mount 35mm focal length Nikkor lens (black & white photos exposed on Kodak Tri-X and processed in Ilford Perceptol).

 

I have my favorites. Can you guess which these are?

 

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Bartonsville Covered Bridge—Seven Origninal Photographs.

In 2011 a late summer storm swept away the old Bartonsville Covered bridge.

A year or so later a replacement bridge built to the same pattern as the old one was completed.

I made these views on my trip to Vermont on June 7, 2017.

The black & white photographs were exposed using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens, both in the morning on the east end, and in the afternoon on the west. The color views are products of my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Compare this image made on Kodak Tri-X (rated by me at ISO 320, Kodak sells it a ISO 400) with the other black & white photos exposed with the same camera but on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa photo on Fomapan 100.
Bartonsville Covered Bridge.
Bartonsville Covered Bridge.
Vermont Rail System 263 approaches the Bartonsville Covered Bridge. Fomapan 100. Image adjusted in Lightroom to improve contrast.
Image made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1.
Image made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1.

I like the ability to make photos of a traditional appearing subject using traditional cameras and film. This requires skill and technique. However, it’s also nice to be able to work with more than one camera and in various media at the same time.

Any favorites?

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Chester, Vermont—Revisited.

I don’t recall the first time I visited the old Rutland Station at Chester. It was in the Steamtown-era and lost in the fog of my earliest memories.

I do recall watching Canadian Pacific steam locomotives run around the excursion train here in the days before I regularly made photos.

Yes, there was a time when I didn’t always carry a camera.

Those days ended on my tenth birthday when Pop gave me my own Leica IIIa.

That camera rests on the shelf waiting to be repaired. In recent years I’ve been playing with identical IIIa bodies of the same period (late 1930s).

Here are a few views of Chester exposed with various cameras on June 7, 2017.

The details are in the captions. Any favorites?

Lumix LX7 view in the morning at Chester.
Lumix LX7 view in the morning at Chester.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100. Afternoon view with VRS 263 in the distance.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Vermont Rail System freight 264 heading north (west) toward Rutland approaches Chester. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 18-135mm zoom lens.

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Cavendish: A Study in High Light.

High sun in June doesn’t offer the most flattering light. Straight up and down sun, with harsh contrast, and inky shadows conspire to make for difficult photos.

Last week, Paul Goewey and I waited at this rural grade crossing near Cavendish, Vermont for Vermont Rail System’s southward (eastward) freight 263. Slow orders and other delays resulted in a much longer than expected wait.

I had Fomapan 100 black & white film in the Leica 3A. I’ve been experimenting with this Czech-made film since October last year. Among its benefits is its exceptional ability to capture shadow detail.

To intensify this desirable characteristic, I processed the film with two-stage development. First I let the film soak at 68F in a water bath mixed with a drop of HC110 and Kodak Photoflo for about 3 minutes.

For the primary developer I used Ilford Perceptol Stock for 5 minutes 25 seconds at 69F with very gentle agitation every 60 seconds. Then stop bath, two bath fixer, 1st rinse, Permawash, 10 minute second rinse.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson Perfection V750 Pro flatbed scanner, then imported the negatives into Lightroom.

Ideally my chemical processing should yield negatives that don’t require work in post processing. But in this case I found I needed to make minor adjustments to contrast and exposure.

I’ve presented two examples; one is scaled but otherwise unaltered. The other has my exposure and contrast adjustments.

The unaltered image. This is scaled for internet presentation but not adjusted for contrast or exposure.
By making minor adjustments with Lightroom, I lightened the shadow areas to make better use of the detail captured by the film, softened the overall contrast, lowered the highlights, and used a digitally applied graduated filter to adjust highlights in the sky to make the clouds stand out better.

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Mount Holly, Vermont—June 7, 2017; close and closer.

When is closer better?

Vermont Rail System’s freight 263 climbs at Mt. Holly, Vermont.

Working from a selection of photos I exposed on Wednesday June 7, 2017, I’ve picked these two similar views as a composition comparison,

Both were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 fixed telephoto.

Red diesels and lush green scenery under an azure sky make for a pleasant railroad setting. So, which view do you like better?

Version 1; The locomotives are slightly further away and there’s more greenery.
Version 2; I’ve opened up the aperture about a half stop to lighten up the red engines, which occupy the majority of the photo.

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Vermont Rail System—Cuttingsville Trestle, June 2017.

June 7, 2017 was a rare crystal clear day. Paul Goewey and I headed north to Vermont to retrace the path of the old Rutland Railroad, and retrace our own footsteps.

Many years earlier, we had made a similar trip to this railroad to photograph Maine Central RS-11 802 that had been loaned to the Green Mountain Railroad for the run from Bellows Falls to Rutland.

Where our 1983 adventured occurred in November on a gloomy gray day that soon turned snowy, this most recent trip benefitted from very fine conditions.

As we drove toward Rutland on Vermont Highway 103, we recalled the details of the earlier trip

In Rutland we located VRS freight 263 that was getting ready to depart. Positioning ourselves on the grade to Mount Holly we waited. Once the freight passed our first spot we entered in its pursuit, as one does, to make more photographs.

On the right Paul Goewey makes a digital photograph of Vermont Rail System GP40-2 303 working upgrade with train 263. Although I also exposed a black & white image, I made this digital photo using a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens. Working with the RAW file in Lightroom, I altered shadow areas, increased saturation, and made other nominal adjustments aimed at improving the image quality for presentation on the internet.

Among the spots we preselected was this view of the Cuttingsville Trestle. I selected an angle similar to that featured by famous photographs made in Rutland Railroad days by accomplished photographer Jim Shaughnessy.

I’ve included the technical details in my caption above.

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On the LUAS with an iPhone

Back on 9 April 2017, I exposed this view of my iPhone while traveling on Dublin’s LUAS Green Line.

The photo displayed on the phone was of a tram I’d photographed a week earlier in Brussels using my Lumix LX7  that was the featured post on Tracking the Light.

Lumix LX7 photo of my iPhone on 9 April 2017. A photo of a photo of tram on a tram.

You could call this ‘Tracking the Light on Tracking the Light.’

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Sunset, CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts—June 7, 2017

It’s that time of year when the setting sun aligns with CSX’s  old Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts.

I made these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

The camera’s color profile was set to ‘Velvia’ mode. White balance at ‘A’ (automatic). While I exposed both a  Camera RAW and Jpg simultaneously, these views are strictly camera-produced Jpg files scaled for internet presentation.

FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. Exposure = 1/500 f7.1. Auto white balance.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 at f13 1/500th of a second at ISO 400.

Gauging my exposure with the in-camera matrix meter, I set the aperture and shutter speed manually leaning toward ‘under exposure’ to ensure good highlight detail.

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Passenger Trains in Florence [Firenze S. M. Novella]

In April, I used my Lumix LX7 to expose this view of modern Italian passenger trains, including the Italo (at right)—a privately operated high-speed train—at Firenze S. M. Novella [Florence main station.]

Filtered noon-time light made for a painterly-like setting.

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Obscure Subway—Lausanne Metro.

When I think of subway systems, New York, London and Paris immediately come to mind, as do Moscow, and Washington D.C.

I’ve traveled on subways in many cities over the last year including; Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Köln, Brussels, Boston, Prague and Vienna.

How about Lausanne?

In April, Denis McCabe and I briefly visited Lausanne, Switzerland and went for a short spin on the Lausanne Metro.

I’m not a fan of subways with exterior doors.

My primary complaint is that exterior doors make photography difficult. But also  these raises the cost of construction, maintenance  and operation without providing much benefit to passengers.

Not withstanding, I made this image at the Flon station using my Lumix LX7.

Exposed at ISO 80 at 1/25th of a second at f1.8 using a Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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Orange Locomotives on the Roll—611 works North.

New England Central’s 611 works from Brattleboro to Palmer and return.

The other day, Paul Goewey and I intercepted this freight on its northward run.

A former Conrail SD40 was in the lead, and a recently painted Providence & Worcester DASH8-40B was trailing. Two out of three locomotives wore Genesee & Wyoming’s corporate livery.

Then the sun came out.

We drove to a preselected location north of Barretts, Massachusetts and I made these photos with my FujiFilm X-T1.

To make for a more interesting composition, I positioned my camera to include the overhanging branch. The juxtoposition of the branch, clouds and train make for a nice triangular arrangement that is more interesting to look at the than just a train crossing a field. But would this work if the locomotives were black or dark green?
611 is often a very long freight.

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Amtrak 449 at West Warren—Modified RAW file.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed a camera RAW file of Amtrak’s 449 at West Warren, Massachusetts on May 31, 2017.

This location is old hat for me. I’ve made dozens of images of Amtrak here over the years.

Unaltered Camera RAW file. Although this was scaled for presentation, no changes were made in regards to constrast, exposure, color saturation or composition.

Here I’m presenting two versions.

The top is the completely un-modified camera RAW (no changes to color, contrast, shadow or highlight detail) that I converted in Lightroom to a JPG for internet presentation

On the bottom is a modified RAW file (saved as a Jpg for internet presentation). Here, using Lightroom I’ve applied a mask to the sky area to improve the exposure and better pulling in cloud detail, while adjusting for color and saturation.

The modified RAW file, converted to a Jpg for presentation here. The sky has been alternated using a mask, while a semi-circular mask was applied to the nose of the locomotive to minimize the effects of glare.

I applied a small circular mask on the front of the locomotive to reduce the effects of glare. In addition, I made overall changes to contrast, while boosting saturation, and lightening shadows slightly.

The end-effect is a more saturated and pronounced sky, lighter shadows, a slight warming of overall color temperature, and better controlled highlight areas.

If you don’t like these, you can try it yourself sometime. Amtrak 449 passes West Warren daily between 245 and 310 pm

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July 2017 Trains Magazine features Brian Solomon’s column on pages 16-17.

In July 2017 TRAINS, I look back at the effects and consequences of the Beeching Era on British Railways. Take a look on pages 16-17!

I’ve illustrated this discussion with a photo I made on the preserved Great Central Railway in 2004. This was part of a sequence exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO100) color slide film (Tracking the Light tie-in).

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Sunrise Glint; Trams in Rome.

On April 6, 2017, I was up early to make photos of streetcars plying Rome’s streets.

Here, I’ve taken position where streetcars nip beneath the throat to Rome’s main passenger terminal. My goal was to work with the rosy rising sun to make some glint photos using my Lumix LX7.

These photos are all from the camera produced Jpg files. A little work in Lightroom might make for improved presentation, but that’s a topic for another day.

Any favorites?

I’m looking toward the rising sun working with glint, flare and silhouette—great elements to play with in the composing of interesting and potentially dramatic photographs.

By standing in the shadow of the railway overpass, I’ve blocked the sun from hitting the front element of the camera lens, thus eliminating the effects of flare, while retaining the glint on the side of the street car. I made several variations of this type of image, by playing with the light.

These narrow gauge cars work the vestige of an old interurban line.
Narrow gauge cars paused at a signal.

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Smith’s Bridge, Monson, Massachusetts—May 31, 2017

Years ago I’d ride my ten-speed bicycle to the Stafford Hollow Road Bridge in Monson, Massachusetts. I’d wait for Central Vermont’s freight to New London.

If I was lucky, I’d catch CV working upgrade with GP9s/Alco RS-11 making a healthy roar as they approached Stateline Summit.

On the morning May 31, 2017, I was leaving the Monson Post Office (having just mailed a letter to Ireland) when I heard New England Central 608 (running south from Palmer to Willimantic) tackling the grade in town.

I was surprised to see a Providence & Worcester GP38-2 in the lead. I supposed since New England Central and P&W are now both in the Genesee & Wyoming family it makes sense that the locomotives of these two connecting lines would get a bit mixed up.

Regardless, I knew that this would make for an interesting photograph. Among the places I caught 608 was at my old Stafford Hollow Road location.

My late friend Bob Buck had photographed here since the 1940s and always called the location ‘Smith’s Bridge’. I know he would have been delighted to see these photos of a P&W GP38-2 leading the southward freight.

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Catching Rail Freight on the Way to the Airport.

Opportunity is the operative.

At the end of April, Denis McCabe and I were on our way to the Basel Airport on the airport bus (image omitted). On the way, we spotted an over bridge on the double-track line that connects Basel with France.

Arriving at the airport, we concluded that we were too early to check in for our flight, so rather than waste time milling around the airport, we doubled back to the bridge, a mere 10 minutes away.

Among the photos I made in the interval at the bridge was this trailing view of an SNCF freight heading to France from Switzerland.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

 

Tracking the Light Post something new EVERY day!

(It’s more or less true).

Evening Sun, Southward Freight and a Signal Lesson.

Two weeks ago, my friend Tim and I made photos of Pan Am Railway’s EDPL crossing the Connecticut River at Holyoke, Massachusetts.

A short history: Back in 1982, Conrail spun off some New England routes, including a group of former New Haven Railroad lines in Connecticut. Providence & Worcester and Boston & Maine were among the lines that picked up former Conrail routes.

A vestige of this acquisition, is Pan Am Railway’s (which operates the old Boston & Maine) East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut freight.

Since this Pan Am freight works over Amtrak’s cab signal equipped Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line, the leading locomotive must be fitted with cab signal equipment on that portion of the run.

Since Pan Am only has a few locomotives so fitted (including MEC 352 seen trailing in this view), so today’s train was led by (leased or borrowed?) Providence & Worcester GP38-2 2009 that has the necessary cab signaling (installed for use on P&W’s North East Corridor freight assignments.)

This has been a common occurrence in recent years. Significantly, P&W has been acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming family, and it will be interesting to see how much longer locomotives will operate in the older P&W livery.

Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.

For the record: this photo was made on former Boston & Maine trackage, which is not cab-signal equipped. (Cab signal territory will begin about a dozen miles to the south of this location, once on Amtrak trackage)

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CSX at Palmer-Low angle gives the appearance of a model railroad photo.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1, I tilted and extended the rear display screen so that I could hold the camera close to the ground. By doing this I photographed from an unusual perspective with a telephoto lens.

Since the angle is very low, the foreground is blurred, and the verticals are kept perpendicular to the horizon, the effect makes the photo appear like those often made of model railroads.

One of the circumstances that made this image possible, was a complete lack of automobiles in front of the old Palmer (Massachusetts) Union Station—now the popular Steaming Tender Restaurant.

CSX GP40-2s, working local freight B740, reverse through the points at CP83 during a switching move in May 2017.

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400mm view at Stateline Summit.

Using my Canon 7D with a 100-400mm zoom lens, I exposed this view of New England Central 608 approaching Stateline Summit on the Connecticut-Massachusetts boundary.

I selected this perspective to illustrate the undulating grade profile of the former Central Vermont Railway approaching Stateline Summit. The train is crossing the ‘false summit’ while the top of the grade is the rise in tracks near the switch stand.

I’m standing north of the state line looking south; the train is in Connecticut.

Looking south toward the northward New England Central 608 at Stateline.

While this camera-lens combination doesn’t represent my sharpest equipment, it is useful for photos like this one.

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New England Central—Southward with 608 on May 17, 2017.

Earlier in the month I’ve highlighted various photographic adventures with New England Central 608 (freight that works from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back). Today’s post focuses on the southward journey.

Over the years, I’ve photographed many trains climbing the former Central Vermont Railway grade over State Line Hill, and beyond into Connecticut, so this chase is old hat for me.

Yet, I’m always looking for a new angle, or to place today’s train in a classic setting that I may have captured years ago.

These views are all from the morning of May 17, 2017 and exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Do you have any favorites?

New England Central 608 at Bunyan Road in Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 from Academy Hill/Main Street Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 at Stateline looking toward Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central tracks at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
Tight telephoto view of NECR 608 at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
South of Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
New England Central 608 viewed from the Track 9 Diner in Willington, Connecticut.

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Processing Old Film; Union Pacific in the Blue Mountains.

So what do you do when you find an old roll of black & white film? A roll that has sat, exposed but unprocessed, for years, for decades.

You could throw it away. But that would be a dumb thing to do. There is another option.

Back in July 1991, my old pal TSH (a regular Tracking the Light reader) and I made an epic two and half week trip across the American West.

On that trip I exposed dozens of rolls of Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Nikon F3T. But I also brought my Leica M2, and exposed a few rolls of black & white film.

While I processed some of the black & white shortly after the trip, for reasons I can’t justify, two rolls of Ilford FP4 remained unprocessed.

These have followed me through the years. I had them so long that I’d forgotten when I’d exposed them. They were mixed in a bag with other unexposed film.

July 23, 1991, a Union Pacific unit train ascends the Blue Mountain grade toward Kamela, Oregon, passing a location known Bodie. I processed this film in May 2017 using my customized process. The results would have been better if I hadn’t waited more than a quarter century, but they aren’t bad considering. One of the defects of the long process time is an increase in grain size.
Union Pacific SD60M at Bodie, Oregon Jul 23, 1991. Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
At the back of the unit train were a pair of SD40-2s working as helpers.
Some great sound from these locomotives.

Several years ago, I worked out a special process for getting good results from old black & white film. I’ve processed rolls up to 40 years after exposure and found presentable images on them.

Although the latent image remains in the film’s silver halide crystals for decades, simply processing the film in the ordinary fashion won’t yield desirable results.

I’ve found it necessary to work with multiple stage development, which requires unusually long process times. Key to making this work is a carefully measured antifogging solution. I will detail this process in future posts.

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Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017.

On May 6, 2017, I made a few rainy afternoon photos of Boston’s Green Line streetcars along Beacon Street.

These were exposed old school; a Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5, exposure calculated using a hand-held Minolta Mark IV light meter.

In these views, I’ve divided up my frame to account for the white sky and the effect of contrast and tonality. Do you think these photos would work in color?

Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017. Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).
Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).

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Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine at Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Last week, on my way to Greenfield, Massachusetts, I learned there were a pair of westward freights heading over the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.

Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) was nearly ready to depart East Deerfield yard, while empty autorack train symbol 287 (coming from Ayer, Massachusetts) was to run around it and proceed west first.

I opted for a different angle, deciding to make photos from the passenger platform built to serve Amtrak’s Vermonter in 2014.

I made these views with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Thin morning cloud/haze helped soften the effects of backlighting at this location.

Pan Am symbol freight 287 works west at Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Wide angle view; Pan Am symbol freight 287 works west at Greenfield, Massachusetts.
About 20 minutes after 287, Pan Am’s EDRJ came into view. In the lead are two of the former CSX GE-built Dash8-40Cs. I made this view to show more of the environment, including the chain-link fence by the passenger platform.
Wide view of EDRJ.
Nice shade of blue on Pan Am painted EMD diesels. Wouldn’t the GE Dash8-40Cs look nice in this paint?

Subtle control in post processing can really make a difference.

These images were adapted from the camera RAW files. I adjusted shadow contrast among other small changes to further balance for backlighting.

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MBTA Gone Retro—Looking Back at Park Street.

Yesterday’s post featured contemporary views of MBTA’s Park Street Station in Boston. See: http://wp.me/p2BVuC-4Pk

Today’s post goes back in time.

I made this view of an Arborway-bound PCC car about 1980. I’d exposed the photo using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar, probably on Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.

I  scanned this from a print I made back in the day. During that period (1978-1982) I often traveled with my father to Boston and I made a lot of photos of MBTA transit operations. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep precise notes on this print.

Here’s one of the photos displayed yesterday for comparison.

Green Line streetcars use the upper level at Park Street.

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Lumix Underground; MBTA Park Street—Boston, Massachusetts.

Earlier in the month, I changed from the Red Line to the Green Line at Park Street, reminding me of visits to Boston decades earlier.

I don’t ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway often anymore so it’s something of a novelty when I visit.

These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 with the white balance set to ‘auto’ (key to help balancing the variety of artificial light in the station).

Lumix set at 80 ISO.
Green Line streetcars use the upper level at Park Street.

There are not many subways where you are allowed to cross the tracks at grade.
Waiting for a southbound Red Line train.

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New England Central—Making the Most of a Sunny Morning.

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!

Leica view on black & white film—Ilford HP5 rated at 320 ISO, processed in Ilford Perceptol developer and toned with selenium. NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut. FujiFIlm X-T1 digital photo using in-camera. Velvia color profile.
Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NER 608 about to cross Rt319 north of Stafford Springs.
A few minutes later at Stateline (on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border). Note the passing siding. I’m standing on Route 32 looking southward.
Leica view at Stateline.
Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts, near the site of the old Central Vermont Railway Monson Station (gone more than 60 years).
Leica view on HP5 at Washington Street.

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Railway photography by Brian Solomon

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