DAILY POST: In the Spirit of Christmas


Cold, Holiday Lights, and Trains.

New England Central
New England Central’s local freight with locomotive 3015 idles in front of the Palmer Yard (Massachusetts) office. I exposed several images, this one was at about 15 seconds.

The other night in Palmer, Massachusetts an arctic breeze was blowing, but that didn’t stop me from making time exposures to capture the holiday spirit.

I exposed these photos despite numb hands and cold feet. I used my Lumix LX-3 (choice night camera in cold weather) fitted to a large Bogen tripod.

Years ago, I fitted plastic-foam pipe insulation to the tripod legs (as per recommendation by experienced cold-weather photographer Mike Gardner). This makes it easier to handle the tripod when it’s very cold.

My exposures varied from about 1.6 seconds at f2.8 (ISO 200) to 25 seconds at f4.0 (ISO80). I set the camera manually using the histogram from test exposures to gauge my settings.

Christmas lights on dark nights make for exceptionally difficult contrast. If you overexpose to allow good shadow detail the lights get blown out (losing their color[s] as a result). Underexpose to feature the lights and the sky and shadows turn to an inky black.

Somewhere in between is a compromised setting. Rather than ponder the subtleties of the histogram as the blood in my toes congealed, I opted to take a series of images, one after the other, and select the best of the bunch in a warm environment later on.

Palmer's star railroad themed restaurant is the Steaming Tender; this has been colorfully decorated with holiday lights. I made a series of exposures from several angles. This one was exposed correctly for the lights and looked good in the histogram, but appears too dark in my opinion. I prefer the image below.
Palmer’s star railroad themed restaurant is the Steaming Tender; this has been colorfully decorated with holiday lights. I made a series of exposures from several angles. This one was exposed correctly for the lights and looked good in the histogram, but appears too dark in my opinion. I prefer the image below.
This is about one stop brighter. While I feel it looks better overall, one noticeable flaw is that the 'Steaming Tender' sign is overexposed and the lettering isn't readable. Ultimately the solution may be to blend the two images in post processing, but I've not bothered to do that yet.
This is about one stop brighter. While I feel it looks better overall, one noticeable flaw is that the ‘Steaming Tender’ sign is overexposed and the lettering isn’t readable. Ultimately the solution may be to blend two images of different exposures in post processing, but I’ve not bothered to do that yet.
New England Central's 3015 pauses in the yard for a 25 second time exposure. I wonder if the car adds an element of interest to the photo? If not now, maybe in years to come. Lumix LX3 photo.
New England Central’s 3015 pauses in the yard for a 25 second time exposure. I wonder if the car adds an element of interest to the photo? If not now, maybe in years to come. Lumix LX3 photo.
Palmer Mass.
Looking toward CP83 (interlocking at the west end of Palmer) and the old Union Station (now the ever-popular Steaming Tender restaurant). A westward CSX intermodal train from Worcester is gliding through the scene. I exposed this at about 5 seconds at ISO 200. It is about 1.5 stops ‘over exposed’ as per the camera meter, but by using a much lighter exposure I’ve captured the effect of the moonlit high clouds and textures of the snow. On the downside, some of the Christmas lights have blown out (become seriously overexposed).

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One thought on “DAILY POST: In the Spirit of Christmas”

  1. That car is ugly, if not boring to look at! How about a 1959 Chevrolet Impala instead? The day will never come when this car pictured will excite any interest from a design point of view. What an uninspired looking blah of a car!

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