Unusual Locomotives Cross the Millers High Bridge.
There’s something very ‘October’ about Millers Falls. It’s just a bit spooky and has an air of decay and rust about it. The village has seen better times, but it’s a great place to photograph trains.
On October 22, 2013, Amtrak ran a set of light engines on New England Central from Palmer to North Walpole.
I spent the morning at Millers Falls photographing New England Central and Pan Am Railways freights, and culminated my efforts with this image of Amtrak’s engines crossing the Millers River on the high bridge.
This pin-connected deck truss dates from the early 20th century and like just about everything in Millers Falls has a look that harks back to another time.
I exposed the image of the bridge with my Canon 7D fitted with a f2.0 100mm lens. I made some minor adjustments to the RAW file in post-processing to adjust color balance, saturation and contrast to improve the look of the silver locomotives against colorful autumn trees, then converted the file to a relatively small Jpg for display here.
While several locomotives have been painted in the new corporate colors (or rather, G&W’s traditional paint scheme), many of New England Central’s locomotives remain in various former liveries, including the railroad’s original blue and yellow.
On Monday October 28, 2013, New England Central job 610 (a turn that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer, Massachusetts) sported a pair of nicely painted G&W locomotives.
My dad and I made chase of this train on its southward run. I exposed digital still photographs, while Pop made some video clips with his Lumix LX7.
The sun was playing tag with us, but the locomotives were so bright and clean it hardly mattered if the sun was out or not.
In recent months, New England Central’s operations have been altered. This has benefits for photography. Since the times trains tend to run have changed, different locations have opened up for photographic possibilities.
For many years, New England Central operated a southward freight from Palmer, Massachusetts in the early morning (typically as job 608), this worked into Connecticut (to Willimantic and beyond) and returned in the afternoon or early evening.
Now, on many days, the railroad runs a turn from Willimantic to Palmer (often as job 610), that goes on duty at Willimantic in the morning, runs northward to Palmer, and returns. From my experience the return times vary considerably.
Once I was aware of this change, I began thinking about various places to make photographs based on afternoon lighting angles. Last week, I heard 610 working south from Palmer. I was in luck as a pair of vintage GP38s in the railroad’s original scheme (the locomotives were painted by Conrail in preparation for New England Central’s February 1995 start up).
Track speeds south of Palmer make following a train easy enough. My first location was Stafford Springs, where I’ve often exposed photographs of New England Central. From there I followed southward.
My final location of the day was at the Connecticut Eagleville Preserve, where the line passes an old Mill dam (I’m not well versed on the specific history of this dam, but the arrangement is common enough in New England, where in the 19th century water powered local industries. For more information on the park and area see: http://www.willimanticriver.org/recreation/pg_park_eagleville-preserve.html).
Afternoon sun favors this location, and I made the most of the light, waterfall and autumn foliage as well as the GP38s.
Broadside View of the Old New Haven Railroad Bridge.
What better than a bright sunny Sunday afternoon to execute a classic image of a big bridge.
Amtrak operates the former New Haven Railroad line between Springfield, Massachusetts and its namesake Connecticut city as a branch off its primary North East Corridor route.
In addition to shuttle trains running between Springfield and New Haven, the Washington D.C. to St Albans, Vermont, Vermonter travels this line daily. Infrequent freight services are operated by Connecticut Southern (sister operation to New England Central) and Pan Am Southern/Pan Am Railways.
Although much of the line is scenically challenged as it runs through built up suburban and urban areas of central Connecticut, it does have a few garden spots. I think the scenic highlight is this crossing of the Connecticut River near Windsor Locks.
I’ve made various views of this bridge over the years, and last Sunday (October 20, 2013) I thought I’d look for something a little different. There’s a lightly used road that follows the east bank of the Connecticut south of the bridge, and here I found a safe place to park and walk to the river,
A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) revealed the northward Vermonter was operating about 9 minutes behind its scheduled time. I was in position a good 20 minutes before the train and so had ample time to make test shots to pick the best angle and exposure.
I made this photograph with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.8 200mm lens. The train rolled across the bridge at a restricted speed so it was easy to pick off several frames. The bigger challenge will be to catch one of the freights on this bridge. It’s been a good few years since I’ve succeeded in that mission.
On the afternoon of October 20, 2013, Amtrak train 54, the Sunday Vermonter crosses the Connecticut river on a 107 year old former New Haven Railroad span. Canon EOS 7D fitted with an f2.8 200mm lens.
New England is famous for its autumn foliage. When making railroad photos in the season, are the leaves the subject, the setting or simply background?
On the morning of October 17, 2013, I made a series of photographs of Pan Am Railway’s (Pan Am Southern) westward freight symbol 190ED between Erving and East Deerfield. Leading the train were a pair of SD40-2s in the latest corporate scheme.
I made my way to the former Boston & Maine bridge over the Connecticut River where there was some very colorful foliage in the foreground and background. Incidentally, this is the location of the ‘icon photo’ used to introduce Tracking the Light.
As the freight eased across the bridge, I had ample time to compose several images. Working with my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm lens, I exposed a non-conventional image focused on some foreground foliage, and used a low aperture to deliberately allow the locomotives to be out of focus.
I then changed my focus to the locomotives and bridge and exposed several more conventional images. I also had time to pop off a color slide with my dad’s Leica M4.
I realize that the image focused on the leaves won’t appeal to everyone. But I find it a bit evocative. It’s more about the foliage than the train, yet the train remains the subject. You cannot help but see the engine’s headlights, like evil eyes, peering from beyond the leaves.
As an aside, the lead locomotive interested me. Pan Am 606 is a variation of the SD40-2 produced with a longer than normal short-hood or ‘nose’ to house 1970s-era radio-control equipment. At this point in time this feature is a left over from an earlier time and its original owner. Pan Am neither has a need to use such locomotives in mid-train remote service, nor is the locomotive like to remain so equipped. But it is a visually distinguishing feature that sets it apart from other locomotives on the railroad.
The Lumix LX3 has a sliding switch above the lens that allows control of the camera’s aspect ratio (in other words the relative dimensions of the frame). This gives the photographer the ability to compose images using different proportional rectangles and easily change from one to another as it suits the composition.
I find this an extremely valuable tool when making railway images. There are three basic ratios, 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9 (popular as the HDTV video format), as well as a 1:1 square ratio (that must be accessed using the camera menu). Most of the time I use the 3:2 aspect because this makes maximum use of the sensor area.
The 16:9 aspect gives a broader rectangle that can be very useful in landscape style images. It is a good format for photographing railway locomotives and equipment broadside, and can be used to accentuate a variety of compositions.
Keep in mind, the aspect ratio simply determines the dimensions of the rectangle and does not affect the focal length of the lens (controlled separately).
Someone might ask, ‘why not just shoot everything with the sensor at its maximum and then crop later?’
I find that using the different aspect ratios in the field changes the way I see and thus allows me to compose images that I might not recognize otherwise. While I could certainly crop after exposure, having the ability to work on site produces a different photograph (and perhaps more intuitive) than one cropped later.
I’ve included a variety of 16:9 aspect images exposed over the last ten days. Along with a comparison between a 3:2 and 16:9 aspect of the same subject.
This pair of image demonstrates the relative dimensional difference between the 3:2 aspect ratio (top) and the 16:9 aspect ratio (bottom).
On the Morning of October 25, 2009, I brought my brand new Lumix LX3 out for a test run. I had just received my first digital camera and this was a trial to see if it was any good.
I’d bought it on the recommendation of Eric Rosenthal. My initial hope for the camera was to use as a light meter and to make photos of friends.
That morning I drove to East Brookfield and made this image of the old Boston & Albany station. Two eastward trains came by and I photographed those on film, not trusting the new purchase for anything important.
I later drove around making photos of local architecture in the autumn color. I soon found that the LX3 was an extremely powerful tool capable of very sharp images and useful for making a great variety of railway photos.
Approximately 11 months later, I received a phone call from Dennis LeBeau of the East Brookfield Historic Society: the station had been torched by vandals and gutted. For another year or so the skeletal remains of the building remained trackside as a sad reminder of what had been.
This Lumix image is exactly four years old today. In the interval, since I made this image I’ve released the LX3’s shutter more than 15,000 times.
A Clear Autumn Day to Photograph a Shiny Blue Bird.
Today, Massachusetts Central assigned one of two recently acquired GP38s to its weekday Palmer-South Barre local freight. Although Mass-Central received the two locomotives earlier this year, it is my understanding that today’s train is the first regular revenue service run to use one.
The train departed Palmer this morning with the GP38 leading Mass-Central’s 2100 and 960. The second two locomotives were left in Ware, while the freight continued up the Ware River Valley on the former Boston & Albany branch.
Both of the Massachusetts Central’s GP38s have been beautifully painted in a livery inspired by the classic Boston & Maine ‘Blue Bird’ scheme. Although most of Mass-Central’s current route uses former Boston & Albany tracks, the railroad began as a switching operation on vestiges of Boston & Maine’s Central Massachusetts line around Ware.
Historically, the Central Massachusetts was a Boston & Maine route between Boston and Northampton, although it hasn’t served as a through route since the 1930s. Massachusetts Central still operates a few segments of old B&M trackage, notably in Ware.
Trains Converge on Palmer; 2 Hours of Non-stop Action.
In the 1980s, Trains Magazine occasionally ran articles that featured ‘hot spots’ illustrated by sequences of photos showing different trains passing the same place over the course of hours.
These always caught my attention. While the individual images ranged from pedestrian to interpretive, the collective effect produced an understanding of how a busy spot worked.
Trains tend to arrive in clusters. Hours may pass where nothing goes by except a track car, then trains arrive from every direction. The astute photographer has learned when to make the most of these situations.
Palmer, Massachusetts can be a busy place, if you’re there at the right time. CSX’s east-west former Boston & Albany mainline crosses New England Central’s (NECR) former Central Vermont line at grade. An interchange track connects the two routes and serves as connection to the former B&A Ware River Branch operated by Massachusetts Central.
Afternoon tends to be busy. Among the moves through Palmer are Amtrak’s Vermonters that use CSX’s line between Springfield and Palmer, and NECR’s line north of Palmer toward Vermont. There isn’t a direct connection to allow an eastward train on the CSX route to directly access the NECR’s line.
To compensate for this, Amtrak’s trains must use CSX’s controlled siding to access the interchange track, and this to reach the NECR. This requires trains to reverse direction. As a result, Amtrak trains either have locomotives on each end or run with a push-pull cab control car.
On the afternoon of October 17, 2013, the interchange track proved one of the busiest lines in Palmer and was used by a succession of NECR, Mass-Central, and Amtrak trains.
Complicating matters was Amtrak 57 (southward Vermonter) which was running more than an hour behind its scheduled time, and so met its northward counterpart at Palmer. New England Central was also busy with no less than three trains working around Palmer about the same time.
I’ve put the following photos in sequence with the approximate times of exposure. I stress ‘approximate’, since my digital camera’s clocks not only didn’t agree on the minutes passed the hour, but were set for different time zones as a function of recent travel.
It was a nice bright day too. Patrons at Palmer’s ever popular Steaming Tender restaurant (located in the restored former Palmer Union Station) were entertained with a succession of trains passing on both sides of the building.
Not bad for one afternoon! Yet, not a CSX train in sight. These days much of CSX’s business passes Palmer in darkness.
Seeing Images; Railway Photographs without Trains.
New England can be a challenging place to make railway photographs. While it provides endless quaint and picturesque settings, and in the autumn features wonderful light and bright foliage, compared with many other places, train movements are sparse, and simply finding trains on the move can be difficult.
So why wait for trains to make interesting railway images? I don’t.
Over the last three decades I’ve exposed tens of thousands of railway images in this region. And while I often capture trains in their environment (and on the move), I don’t rely upon trains to make images.
Below are selection of images exposed while driving around central New England observing railways.
The trains do run. Off in the distance, the sounds of Electro-Motive diesels reverberate off distant hills, a whistle blows, and soon headlights illuminates the rails. Later posts will focus on the trains; at work, in the light and on the move.
Applying an Old Technique with Today’s Technology.
The other day I arrived at Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine East Deerfield Yard shortly after sunrise. Although not a wheel was turning, there was some nice light and I made a selection of images.
My challenge was in the great contrast between the ground and sky. With my Lumix LX3, I found that if I exposed for the track area, the dramatic sky was washed out (too light), and if I exposed for the sky the tracks area was nearly opaque.
With black & white film, I would have compensated my exposure and film development to maximize the information on the negative, then dodged and burned critical areas on the easel in the dark room to produce a nicely balanced print. I’d done this thousands of times and had my system down to fine art.
I applied this same basic philosophy the other morning at East Deerfield. I made several exposures from different angles. In one of these I slightly overexposed the sky to retain some detail in the track area.
The in-camera Jpg from this still appears both too dark and too contrasty (from my perspective having witnessed the scene). Rather than be content with this inadequate photograph, I took a copy of RAW file that I exposed simultaneously (one the benefits of the LX3 is it allows both a Jpg and a RAW to be exposed at the same time) and imported it into Photoshop. (I always work from a copy and I NEVER manipulate or alter the original file).
Under the ‘Image’ menu, I selected ‘Adjustments’ and then ‘Curves’; I then adjusted the curve to produce a more balanced over all exposure. This is possible because the RAW file has more information (detail) in it than is visually apparent.
While this improved the image, I still wasn’t satisfied. So I selected the ‘Dodge and Burn tool’ (which appears in the tool bar as a angled gray lollipop). Using the ‘Dodge’ function, I very slightly and selectively lightened track areas and foliage that I felt appeared too dark.
Then I used the ‘Burn’ function to selectively adjust the sky areas. If I’ve done this successfully, the scene should appear very close to the way I saw it. Similar techniques can be used to make for surreal and unnatural spectacular landscapes. While I may do that later, that’s not my intent today.
While modern tools, like those of the traditional darkroom, allow for improvement over in-camera images, the effort does take time. I estimate I spent 10-15 minutes adjusting this photograph.
Because this adds time to the work on the photograph, I don’t want to have to do this any more often than necessary. Most of my photographs are ready to go ‘in-camera’ (as it were).
It was 16 years ago that Mike Gardner and I drove to New Hampshire to photograph Guilford Rail System’s WJED (White River Junction, Vt., to East Deerfield, Mass.) freight. It was a clear October day and the foliage was nearing its peak.
We found the train near Claremont Junction and followed it south to North Walpole, where I exposed this color slide.
Leading the train was GP40 340 lettered for Guilford’s Boston & Maine component. I like this trailing view because the color of the tree above the train mimics the orange band on the engine. Also the three-head General Railway Signal searchlight at the left offers a hint of the Boston & Maine from an earlier era.
Here, Autumn offers multiple connotations. At one time the White River Junction to Springfield, Massachusetts Connecticut River Line was a busy Boston & Maine route, handling more than a half dozen passenger moves and several freights daily, plus those of Central Vermont Railway. By 1997, Guilford’s operations on was limited to just a few weekly trains.
View of a Line 40 Years after Closure; Abandoned but not Lifted.
Pennsylvania’s East Broad Top is among the most fascinating railways in the eastern United States. Largely built in the 1870s to tap coal fields in the Broad Top region, it was constructed to the three-foot gauge standard and remained that way until closed to traffic in 1956.
A short segment at Orbisonia operated steam excursions from 1960 until 2011, but the remaining portions of the railroad have sat derelict in the mountains since it closed as a common carrier. Although unused, much of the track remained in place. Especially interesting were the tunnels at Sideling Hill and Wray’s Hill.
In September 1996, Thomas M. Hoover and I made a project of exploring EBT’s disused lines and facilities. I also made several trips to photograph the railroad’s excursions.
Heuston Station (known as King’s Bridge Station until its 1966 renaming) is a multimodal transport hub. In addition to being one of Irish Rail’s primary long distance and suburban stations, it’s also an important LUAS tram stop (one of only a few with a turn-back siding) and a terminal bus stop for 145 and 747 buses.
I made this time exposure with my Lumix LX3 on Monday morning. Since I didn’t have a tripod, I set the camera on a waist-height railing and set the self timer for 2 seconds to minimize camera shake.
I had the camera set in its ‘Vivid’ color mode which enhances the blue effect of dawn while making red lights more prominent. To calculate exposure, I used the ‘A’ aperture priority setting with a +2/3 (2/3s of a stop over exposure to add light to the scene).
This override is a means of compensating for the dark background and dark sky combined with bright highlights from electric streetlight (which have a tendency to fool the camera meter).
By virtue of its operations, Bord na Mona peat trains tend to operate in pairs. This suits both loading and switching, since trains often need to reverse into or out of temporary loading spurs.
So, when one train appears, its ‘buddy’ is usually close at hand. Sometimes these operate very closely, often only a few yards apart, other times they might separated by five or ten minutes.
Mid-morning, laden trains return toward Lanesborough while empty train prepare to head out to loading areas in the surrounding bogs. The result is that a parade of trains tend to converge on double track sections near the Lough Rea Power Station.
Once the loads are in and the empties have gone out, the line is again quiet, although maintenance trains will occasionally appear during these lulls. After lunch the whole sequence repeats.
For the photographer the bursts of intense action is both opportunity and a challenge. Everything seems to happen at once, making for chances to catch two or more trains in a photo. However, if you are out of position, you could miss everything.
Headlights are often not illuminated in daytime and sometimes it is the sound of a train that gives you advanced notice.
The bogs are quiet enough. Listen for the sounds of Wagon Master locomotive roaring along with a syncopated clatter of wagons. The trains don’t travel very fast, but you need to be ready for when they arrive.
See yesterday’s post for more on Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough netwrok:
Close Ups, Details and Alternate Views: A Look Beyond the Obvious.
While photographing Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge last week, I was looking for different angles. I’ve made nearly a dozen trips to the Bord na Mona in the last year and I wanted to capture the essence of the operation up close.
This is a gloss free industrial railway. It’s like a big beat-up tin plate train set that has seen lots of use, and doesn’t adhere to prototype railroading in any normal conventions.
Tracks are laid down here and there. Curvature is very tight, in many places there’s no ballast. Junctions appear with little notice. And the trains bounce along at a grinding amble.
See previous posts for more views on the Bord na Mona:
A Busy, Bright and Clear Day Visiting Irish Narrow Gauge.
Last week, Mark Healy and I made another venture to photograph Bord na Mona’s (Peat Board) three-foot gauge industrial railway. This time we chose the network focused on feeding the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesborough in County Longford.
Although we departed Dublin under cloudy skies, by the time we reached the Midlands, the clouds parted and we enjoyed most clear sunny weather for the remainder of the day.
From past experience, I’ve found that clear days are by far the best time to photograph Bord na Mona’s trains at work. The heavily harvested moon-like landscape of the peat bogs doesn’t translate as well on dull days. Also, the brown and cream livery on the locomotives and aluminum peat wagons look best with sun on them.
Finding a clear day in the Irish Midlands isn’t so easy. The weather is famously dull and changeable. On more than one occasion I’ve found that a forecast for fine weather proved overly optimistic.
For this excursion, I brought four cameras. Yes, four. In addition to the two digital cameras (Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D), I had my Canon EOS-3 and a Rollei Model T 120-size camera both loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F.
There’s certain types of images that I still like to put on film. Also, while I expose a lot of digital images (and make multiple back-ups of each and every file) I’m very reluctant to trust digital imaging for long term applications.
So, in the event of a digital apocalypse, I’d like to have a few Bord na Mona photos on color transparency film for posterity.
My film has yet to be processed, so here are a few of my recent digital results.
Tune in tomorrow for more highlights from this most recent Bord na Mona adventure!
While waiting for my southward train, an 8600-series DART set pulled into platform 6. It was the first DART set that I’ve seen featuring the new Irish Rail logo.
This logo was introduced a few months ago, and thus far I’d seen it on some of the Mark IV and 22000-series Intercity trains as well as a few ‘HOBS’ ballast wagons (HOBS is an Irish Rail abbreviation for ‘high-output ballast system’).
The sun was out brightly, which made for a good opportunity to document this nominal change.
The all-black variation of the logo on the front of the DART car is different from what I’ve seen on other equipment.
From my experience, It’s always a wise move to photograph these types of changes as soon as they appear, because you never know when some little change might turn out to be a short-lived one-off.
On the morning of October 14, 2011, I crossed the Berkshires on the Mass-Pike as I drove west to meet with accomplished railway photographer John Pickett.
I had a few hours before our meeting, so despite low cloud and mist, I exited the highway at the Massachusetts-New York state line and drove toward Boston & Albany’s State Line Tunnel. While on Tunnel Hill Road in Canaan, New York, I noticed this colorful scene from the road side.
As I got out of the car, I heard the unmistakable sound of a train roaring west. I had just enough time to get out my Canon EOS 7 and make a test image before the train passed.
Another case of just being at the right place at the right time, and being ready to act.
In October 2005, I arranged through official channels at Genesee Valley Transportation to ride Delaware-Lackawanna’s trains PT98/PT97, and interview railroaders about their work as part of research for my book Working on the Railroad (published by Voyageur Press in 2006).
On the morning of October 13, 2005, I joined the crew in Scranton for their run to Slateford Junction near Portland, Pennsylvania. After a bit of switching we were on the road. The weather started out dark and damp, and didn’t improve any throughout the day.
The primary emphasis of my trip was the crew and many of my photographs from the day depict engineer Rich Janesko and conductor Shawn Palermo at work. These were featured in the book.
On the return run, I opted to ride in the second locomotive for a little while to make images of the train climbing west through the Delaware Water Gap on the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline. It was on this section that my father had photographed Erie-Lackawanna’s Phoebe Snow more than 40 years earlier.
We departed Slateford Junction in early evening. I exposed this image from the fireman’s side of former Lehigh Valley Alco C-420 number 405. Leading is a former Erie-Lackawanna C-425 (running back on home rails thanks to GVT’s policy of Alco acquisition).
I used my Nikon F3T with an f2.8 24mm lens mounted firmly on a tripod in the cab and set the shutter speed at between ¼ and 1/8th of a second to allow the trees and ground to blur.
I was trying to emulate the effect that Richard Steinheimer achieved on his famous cab ride photos at night in a Milwaukee Road ‘Little Joe’ electric.
View from Delaware-Lackawanna’s westward PT97 at the Delaware Water Gap, west of Slateford Junction, Pennsylvania on October 13, 2005. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3T and 24mm lens.
Low Sun at a Hackneyed Location—Nine Years Ago Today.
On the evening of October 12, 2004, I exposed this photograph from the popular ‘waste too much film bridge’ at the west-end of Guilford’s East Deerfield, Massachusetts yard. I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands of images over the years from this spot. I’m not alone.
I’d followed a local freight (ED-4?) from the Hoosac Tunnel east on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg line. This was the locomotive from the local. Having dropped its train in the yard, it has come to the west end and will reverse into the engine house tracks.
The shaft of light of the setting sun made for an opportunity. Rather than make a standard view, I opted for this wide angle image that features the locomotive’s high short -hood. This was one of the railroad’s second-hand GP35s noted for this arrangement. (short/long are used to describe the hood length, while high/low the height, thus the contradictory sounding description).
The low angle of the sun allowed for light across the front of the locomotive, while the rest of the scene is draped in shadow. You can see the shadow of the bridge I’m standing upon in the distance.
This was a favorite location of mine on the old Boston & Albany west end. The curve and cutting were built as part of a line relocation in 1912 aimed at reducing curvature and easing the westward climb toward the summit at Washington, Massachusetts.
There are several commanding views from the south side of the rock cutting near milepost 129, west of Chester, Massachusetts. My friend Bob Buck had showed me these locations back in the early 1980s, and I’ve made annual pilgrimages ever since.
Conrail was still going strong in 1996, although the forces were already in play that would see the line divided between CSX and Norfolk Southern. In less than three years time, this route would become part of the CSX network, and has remained so to the present day.
Conrail’s SD80MAC were new locomotives and several pairs were routinely assigned to the B&A grades east of New York’s Selkirk yard.
What makes this image work for me is that the foliage has just begun to turn and has that rusty look. Also, the train is descending on the old westward main track, which allows for a better angle.
After Conrail reworked the B&A route in the mid-1980s, bi-directional signaling on this section allowed them to operate trains in either direction on either track on signal indication. The result is that moves such as this don’t require unusual attention on the part of either dispatchers or train crews.
This photo appeared in my article on Conrail’s SD80MACs that was published in RailNews magazine about 1997.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 color slide film using a Nikon F3T with 28mm Nikkor lens.
In October, Ireland doesn’t normally experience whole hillsides of brilliant red and orange autumnal foliage like in eastern North America, but the trees do get a bit rusty, and when the sun comes out it offers a pleasant mix softened pastels and bright colors.
On October 10, 2010, I was on my way over to Wexford Street for an Irish friend’s farewell party, when I exposed this sequence of images on James’s Street. It shows a LUAS Red Line tram taking the corner on its way to the Red Cow from the city center. I was using my Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens. The yellow tinged trees and hazy sun is characteristic of Autumn in Dublin, when it’s not raining. The LUAS Red Line just recently celebrated its 9th birthday, having opened for traffic in September 2004.
My YouTube Video, ‘A Tram Called LUAS‘ has received more than 4000 views. If you haven’t seen it, take a look! Please give me a ‘thumbs up/like’ if you enjoy it. Thanks!
Finding peak autumn color is always a challenge, and finding it with a train moving can be even more difficult. It always seems that the best color isn’t anywhere near the tracks. On this day in 2004, the view at Mt. Holly was an exception to the rule.
Check out my Dublin Page ‘Recent Images of Dublin‘ on Tracking the Light for recent photos of architectural gems opened to the public on the weekend of October 5 and 6. I visited a dozen sites and exposed a variety of interesting photos.
On the morning of October 8, 2009, I made a project of photographing Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad’s westward freight HNME (Hornell to Meadville) that was working along the former Erie Railroad mainline in northwestern Pennsylvania.
I started before dawn near Niobe Junction and followed the train to its terminus at the former Erie yard in Meadville, Pennsylvania.
Speed restrictions on the line made for ample opportunities to photograph the freight as the sun brightened the sky.
See Tracking the Light post from December 11, 2012, Erie October Morning, for more images of this train exposed on October 8, 2009.
It was a brilliant clear afternoon ten years ago, when Tim Doherty, Pat Yough and I followed Guilford Rail System’s EDMO (East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Mohawk Yard, Schenectady, New York) freight westward into the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.
Rich blue skies, rusty foliage and a great sunlight make October a great time to photograph in New England.
I exposed this image on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 28mm Biogon lens. At the time Canadian Pacific Railway EMD SD40-2s were commonly assigned to this run, which made it a popular photographic choice.
I spent a lot of time exploring Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass in 1990. Among my favorite locations was ‘Old Gorge’, sometimes referred to as ‘American,’ where SP’s line rides briefly on an open shelf some 2,000 feet above the American River.
This offers a stunning view of the American River Canyon, but can be a pretty challenging place to effectively portray a train on film.
On this day in July 1990, I’d been following a westward SP freight downgrade, and driven as close to my location as was practical, and then walked to this ledge overlooking the line.
The classic whine of dynamic brakes preceded the train by several minutes. I made several exposures as the train came into view.
In this situation, I used the camera and lens handheld, and made a slight adjustment to the shifting element front element. Instead of aiming the camera down toward the front of the locomotive, as I would with a conventional 35mm lens, I aimed toward to the far rim of the canyon, while lowering the front element downward to take in the tracks.
As the train passed, I panned the nose of the leading SD45, exposing this frame when it was roughly parallel with the film plane.
Since I didn’t have the camera completely level there is still a bit of line convergence, yet the overall view helps put the magnitude of the canyon in perspective with the train without the locomotive appearing too small or seriously distorted.
I’ve posted this image as another example of my work with a perspective control lens. This was a tool I made excellent use of in the early 1990s. On the recommendation of J.D. Schmid, I bought a Nikon 35mm PC ‘Shift’ lens for my Nikon F3T.
Among the advantages of a perspective control lens is the ability to shift the front element. This can be used to keep vertical lines from converging, but also to alter the image in subtle ways.
It was a clear Saturday morning in the Bay Area, and Brian Jennison and I were on one of our jaunts looking at area railroads. We stopped near the old station location at West Pittsburg (no ‘h’), California. (I believe the palm trees in the distance are an indication of where the building once stood.) Here we photographed several trains.
For this eastward freight, I positioned the camera relatively low to the ground and raised the front element of the 35mm PC to near its maximum. I didn’t quite keep the camera level. The result includes a large amount of crystal blue sky, while minimizing the foreground and keeping the vertical elements of the lead locomotive nearly parallel with the image frame.
I feel the subtle effect allows the locomotive visually surge forward, seeming to charge along. This was my intent. Santa Fe 5809 is an SD45-2, a machine powered by EMD’s 3,600 hp 20-cylinder diesel.
In their heyday these were powerful machines that produced an awe inspiring low-base sound in the high-throttle positions. I hoped to convey that power visually while making use of the California sky.
Tracking the Light posts new material daily. Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!
I was driving west on I-84 aiming for the Hudson River. It was a bitterly cold autumn morning before dawn and the sky above was a clear blue dome. I made a spot decision, to get off the highway and make a few photos around the old New Haven Railroad station.
I exposed this view of Metro-North FL9 2023 with the iconic silhouette of the station’s Italianate clock tower beyond. The locomotive was one of several restored in its as-built 1950s-era New Haven paint scheme.
The combination of the early hour and frosty conditions provided for an almost surreal light, but little in the way of personal comfort.
Using my Nikon F3T fitted with a 35mm perspective control lens; I composed this view with the camera mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod with ball head. By keeping the camera level and adjusting the shift on the front element of the PC lens, I kept the vertical elements parallel.
I continued my drive west, and the rest of the day was spent productively along the former New York Central Hudson Division between Peekskill and Beacon, New York.
During my fifteen years in Ireland, few railway locations have changed as much as the area around Hazelhatch. I made this photo of a single 121 leading the empty gypsum train (destined for Kingscourt) on June 17, 2000 from Stucumny bridge.
It was my first visit to Stucumny. I was there with Colm O’Callaghan and Mark Hodge, who were well familiar with the spot. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was an air show going on at the nearby Baldonnel Aerodrome. While waiting for the up gypsum we watched the airborne acrobatics.
Every so often the sun shines in Ireland. When it does, it helps to be in position to make photographs. As it happened, on Friday September 27, 2013, Colm O’Callaghan and I were at Stacumny Bridge, near Hazelhatch in suburban Dublin.
Our aim was to photograph the down IWT (International Warehousing and Transport) liner which had an 071 class diesel leading. Stacumny Bridge is a favorite location to catch down-road trains mid-morning because of the broad open view of the tracks and favorable sun angle. I’ve post photos from this location on previous occasions.
While waiting for the liner, we got word of an up road wagon transfer. And caught that a few minutes before the liner came down. Then we heard that there was a permanent way department (PWD or ‘Per way’) ballast train coming up road as well. This was one of the elusive high output ballast trains (HOBS) I’ve mentioned in other posts.
Although an annoying small cloud softened the light at Stacumny when the HOBS roared up road. We pursued the train up to Dublin and caught it again reversing into the old Guinness sidings at Heuston Station.
For the all hours scouring the countryside for photos on dull days, it’s rewarding to catch a clattering of interesting action in just over an hour on a bright day. This is down to watching the weather, combined with patience and persistence and a good bit of luck.
Tomorrow: Tracking the Light looks back 13 years at Stacumny Bridge. What a change!
Tracking the Light posts new material on a daily basis.
Last week, I traveled by train from Dublin to Cork to make photographs and visit with friends. I was traveling light and only brought two cameras, my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 3. In addition to some Velvia 100F, I also played around with some Fuji 400 color print film I had stored in the refrigerator.
Initially I focused my attention on Kent Station, which features a unique curved train-shed that make it one of the most interesting railway structures in Ireland. Signaling at the Cobh-end still retains a few mechanical semaphores.
Later, I worked east making a variety of images at Glounthuane (Cobh Junction) where Cobh and Midleton lines come together. The Midleton line had been closed for decades and was only reopened for passenger service in 2009. Years earlier, I’d explored the then derelict line.
Where that visit was blessed with bright sun through out the day, on this recent trip I experienced more ordinary Irish weather.
Here are a few views from the two cameras. Special thanks to Ken and Janet Fox and Donncha Cronin for location advice and local transportation. Also thanks to John Gunn Camera shop on Wexford Street in Dublin for color negative film processing and prints.
Tracking the Light posts new material daily. Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!