Sunset Under the Shed at Heuston Station, Dublin.

September 20, 2014.

There’s only a few days during the year when the setting sun pierces deep into the darkness of the train shed at Heuston Station.

On the evening of September 20th, I made this image using my Lumix LX7 of the 7pm departure to Cork.

I had my camera set using the ‘A’ aperture priority mode, which automatically selects a shutter speed based on my manual selection of an f-stop. To compensate for the extreme contrast between the darkness shed roof and bright sunlight, I used the manual exposure over-ride to stop down (underexpose). This was necessary if the in-camera meter tries balances the scene it would have led to a total loss of highlight detail.

ISO 80 f2.8 1/80th of a second. RAW file manually adjusted to control contrast and exported as a scaled  Jpg for internet presentation.
ISO 80 f2.8 1/80th of a second. RAW file manually adjusted to control contrast and exported as a scaled Jpg for internet presentation.

An alternative means to select the exposure, would have been to use the camera in ‘M’ mode and manually select both shutter speed and F-stop, but in this situation that would have taken too much time.

I had only a few moments to catch the Station Inspector with his arm raised to give the train the signal to depart.

To make the most of the information captured in this instant, I worked with the RAW file to make some contrast adjustments in post-processing. Using Photoshop, I adjusted contrast locally in highlight areas, while making some over all adjustments to the scene to best portray what I’d seen with my eye.

I wanted to retain the glint effect on the underside of the shed roof while making sure the relatively small silhouette of the Station Inspector wasn’t lost in the direct glow of sunlight.

After making my adjustments I export the file as a Jpg and then scaled this for internet presentation. The camera RAW file is 12.MB, much too large for presentation here, while my scaled image is just 737KB.

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Tracking the Light Special Post: Emerald Isle Express on the South Wexford Line

Monday, September 29, 2014.

Looking west toward Duncormack, Wexford on the rusty South Wexford Line. A black & white print of a train climbing the grade here decorated my wall for years. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Looking west toward Duncormack, Wexford on the rusty South Wexford Line. A black & white print of a train climbing the grade here decorated my wall for years. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Today saw a rare movement on a line devoid of regular traffic. Railtours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express train was operated as empty carriage across the length of the South Wexford line from Rosslare Strand to Waterford.

Looking east toward the Robinstown Level Crossing. September 29, 2014,  exposed with my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Looking east toward the Robinstown Level Crossing. September 29, 2014, exposed with my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Railtours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express is a high-end tour train making a week-long tour of Irish Rail. This position-move was the most direct means of getting the train from Wexford to Waterford and saved a lengthy deadhead via Dublin and Cherryville. It was operated by Irish Rail in conjunction with the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

This was the first time I’ve photographed a train on the South Wexford in about six years. This line is storied ground: it was a favorite subject of mine a decade ago when a regular passenger service ran from Rosslare Harbour to Waterford using vintage General Motors diesels, and Cravens carriages like those that traveled the line today.

It was also the route of seasonal sugar beet trains that loaded at Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford for processing at Mallow, County Cork. Between 1999 and 2005, I made more than 50 trips to photograph the sugar beet, a project that resulted in thousands of color slides, black & white negatives, and DAT audio recordings. I could make a book of it.

Today, I traveled down from Dublin with Mark Healy to catch this unusual move. It was strange (and sad) to see this once-familiar line with rusty rails and heavy over growth along the right of way.

While my best photos of the day were exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F with my trusted Canon EOS 3, I’ve published a few of my digital results here.

The Emerald Isle Express works west of Robinstown, County Wexford on September 29, 2014.  Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The Emerald Isle Express works west of Robinstown, County Wexford on September 29, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The Emerald Isle Express works west of Robinstown, County Wexford on September 29, 2014.  Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
The Emerald Isle Express works west of Robinstown, County Wexford on September 29, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
FInally after weeks, months, and years of disuse a train comes to polish the rails. (I'm not counting the weedsprayer, inspection cars, or other perway moves, for the sake of sentiment.) The Emerald Isle Express works west of Robinstown, County Wexford on September 29, 2014.  Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
FInally after weeks, months, and years of disuse, a train comes to polish the rails. (I’m not counting the weedsprayer, inspection cars, or other perway moves, for the sake of sentiment.) The Emerald Isle Express works west of Robinstown, County Wexford toward Duncormick on September 29, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Rusty bullhead track at Ballycullane, County Wexford.
Rusty bullhead track at Ballycullane, County Wexford.
The Emerald Isle Express passes Ballycullane, County Wexford on September 29, 2014.  Regular schedule passenger service was withdrawn in 2010. The last sugarbeet train passed in early 2006—more than eight years ago. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
The Emerald Isle Express passes Ballycullane, County Wexford on September 29, 2014. Regular schedule passenger service was withdrawn in 2010. The last sugarbeet train passed in early 2006—more than eight years ago. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Trailing view at Ballycullane, County Wexford. Lumix LX7 photo.
Trailing view at Ballycullane, County Wexford. Lumix LX7 photo.

Special thanks to everyone at Irish Rail, Railway Preservation Society Ireland, and Railtours Ireland for making this unusual move possible! (And thanks to Mark for the lift!)

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High Dynamic Range Experiments—Summer 2014.

Playing with the LX7.

Among the built-in features of the Panasonic LX7 is a HDR—High Dynamic Range—setting in ‘Scene Mode’.

The theory behind HDR is the ability to produce a digitally exposed photograph with better highlight and shadow detail through post-processing blending of two or more images of the same scene exposed at different light settings. (In other words, a multiple exposure).

A common way to accomplish this is to place the camera on a tripod and make three images of identical composition with one image over-exposed (too light), one normally exposed, and one underexposed (too dark). Then combine all three images as multiple exposure.

When done effectively this can be used to overcome the limited dynamic range inherent to digital sensors. It can also be used creatively through extreme exposure variations to produce some outlandish images with nightmare skies and penetrating shadows.

The LX7s feature makes exposing a basic HDR style image exceptionally easy as the camera automatically takes three photos in rapid sequence and processes them immediately in-camera to produces a blended Jpg available for viewing.

I found this most effective in high contrast scenes, such as sunsets, that might be difficult to capture because of the camera’s limited exposure range. In other situations, it seems to flatten the contrast and doesn’t necessarily make for a more pleasing photograph.

Another point, if the scene isn’t static, ‘ghosting’ will occur of moving elements. My sense is that camera’s software must have a comparative feature that attempts to minimize the effect of ghosting, but the results can appear unnatural if not outright bizarre. Especially, when the subject, say a passing locomotive, become transparent!

Below are a few of my experiments. With most I’ve first included a comparison image (an ordinary non-HDR photo) exposed in the normal way.

This is the non-HDR normal photo. I've intentionally selected a high contrast scene to test the difference between a normal image and the HDR. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in 'A' mode.
This is the non-HDR normal photo. I’ve intentionally selected a high contrast scene to test the difference between a normal image and the HDR. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode.
Exposed in HDR mode. Notice that this does a much better job of retaining shadow and highlight detail. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR 'scene' mode.
Exposed in HDR mode. Notice that this does a much better job of retaining shadow and highlight detail. It is easier to see into the cab of the train and the clouds are better separated from the blue sky. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR ‘scene’ mode.
This NJ Transit train had paused at Princeton Junction in high midday June sun making for an ideal opportunity to test the effect of HDR. This my 'normal' non-HDR comparison image. Note the nearly opaque underside of the locomotive where wheels and equipment are lost in an inky black. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in 'A' mode.
This NJ Transit train had paused at Princeton Junction in high midday June sun making for an ideal opportunity to test the effect of HDR. This my ‘normal’ non-HDR comparison image. Note the nearly opaque underside of the locomotive where wheels and equipment are lost in an inky black. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode.
This is the HDR photo of the same scene. By using multiple exposures, the HDR feature has added detail to the shadows making equipment on the underside of the locomotive more visible. I'm not sure if I like the effect on the trees, which to me seem like a painted backdrop compared with those in the normal photo above. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR 'scene' mode.
This is the HDR photo of the same scene. By using multiple exposures, the HDR feature has added detail to the shadows making equipment on the underside of the locomotive more visible. I’m not sure if I like the effect on the trees, which to me seem like a painted backdrop compared with those in the normal photo above. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR ‘scene’ mode.
I thought I'd try the HDR feature on a rapidly moving train. Here one of Amtrak's Keystone trains is passing Princeton Junction at speed. Notice the effect of double exposure where the cab car is ghosted into the coach. This is curious aberration, but probably not the best solution for railway action photography.  I don't have a 'non'-HDR image of this scene. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR 'scene' mode.
I thought I’d try the HDR feature on a rapidly moving train. One of Amtrak’s Keystone trains is passing Princeton Junction at speed. Notice the effect of double exposure where the cab car is ghosted into the coach. This is curious aberration, but probably not the best solution for railway action photography. I don’t have a ‘non’-HDR image of this scene. Princeton Junction, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR ‘scene’ mode.
This high contrast scene at Overbrook, Pennsylvania in early July 2014, made for another opportunity to make comparisons. This is the 'non-HDR' image, exposed with Lumix LX7 in 'A' mode.
This high contrast scene at Overbrook, Pennsylvania in early July 2014, made for another opportunity to make comparisons. This is the ‘non-HDR’ image, exposed with Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode.
SEPTA at Overbrook, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR 'scene' mode.
SEPTA at Overbrook, exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR ‘scene’ mode.
Sunset at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Owing to the extreme contrast of the scene, I opted to expose for the sky in the normal (non-HDR) image. If I exposed to make the tracks lighter, I'd lose the effect of the sunset. Exposed with Lumix LX7 in 'A' mode.
Sunset at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Owing to the extreme contrast of the scene, I opted to expose for the sky in the normal (non-HDR) image. If I exposed to make the tracks lighter, I’d lose the effect of the sunset. Exposed with Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode.
Here's the HDR image. While it retains sky and track detail, it radically altered the effect of sunset. Is this a more realistic portrayal of the scene? Exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR 'scene' mode.
Here’s the HDR image. While it retains sky and track detail, it radically altered the effect of sunset. Is this a more realistic portrayal of the scene? Exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR ‘scene’ mode.
View of an Irish Rail ballast train at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin. This is the 'non-HDR' comparison, exposed with Lumix LX7 in 'A' mode.
View of an Irish Rail ballast train at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin. This is the ‘non-HDR’ comparison, exposed with Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode.
While waiting for the ballast train to get the signal, I took the opportunity to make an HDR comparison. It was free, so why not? However, I don't think this improved the scene, now it just looks washed out to me. Exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR 'scene' mode.
While waiting for the ballast train to get the signal, I took the opportunity to make an HDR comparison. It was free, so why not? However, I don’t think this improved the scene, now it just looks washed out to me. Exposed with Lumix LX7 in HDR ‘scene’ mode.

This is a work in progress, and I’ll follow up in more detail in a later post.

 

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Digital Camera Comparison: LX3 versus LX7

Not a Competition.

Lumix cameras. My old LX3 is at top left. Top right and bottom are LX7s. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.
Lumix cameras. My old LX3 is at top left. Top right and bottom are LX7s. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

My first digital Camera was a Panasonic LX3 that I bought in late 2009 on suggestion of my digital photography advisor, Eric Rosenthal.

At the time, I’d planned to use the camera as a light meter, to make supplemental photos, and to photograph in social situations where having an email ready photo quickly was an advantage.

In the first few months, I occasionally used this camera for railway action photos, but for the most part I continued to rely on my Canon EOS-3s for important situations.

CSX Q006 rolls south along the Hudson River at Iona Island, New York in March 2012. Lumix LX3 photo.
CSX Q006 rolls south along the Hudson River at Iona Island, New York in March 2012. Lumix LX3 photo.
Rural station at Riachos T. Novas, Portugal. Lumix LX3 photo.
Rural station at Riachos T. Novas, Portugal. Lumix LX3 photo.
Lisbon Metro. Lumix LX3 photo.
Lisbon Metro. Lumix LX3 photo.
Train interior, Porto, Portugal. Lumix LX3 photo.
Train interior, Porto, Portugal. Lumix LX3 photo.

I gradually concluded that the LX3 was a fantastic image-making tool. For the next five years I carried this camera everywhere. I exposed more than 64,000 images with it. I’d still be using it, except it broke! (Some observers suggest that I wore it out) The digital display at the back of the camera stopped functioning reliably.

My father lent me his LX7 for a few weeks, and I quickly concluded that I needed one.

Overall it is a much better camera.

On the downside, it is nominally larger.

On the plus side:

  • 1) It is easier to use.
  • 2) When set up properly there’s virtually no delay in making an image from the time the shutter is released.
  • 3) It cycles much faster.
  • 4) It has a better lens, which lets more light in and has a longer telephoto setting.
  • 5) It offers a variety of features that allow for more creative images, including: a built in neutral density filter; an automatic High Dynamic Range mode that rapid blends three images in a sophisticated manner.
  • 6) It has a traditional aperture ring.
  • 7) It has a built in level that can be displayed on the screen.
  • 8) It has the option of an external digital viewfinder.

Over coming weeks, I’ll continue to discuss the virtues (and drawbacks) of these various cameras. Incidentally, recently Panasonic announced another new camera, the LX100, which looks to be even better than the LX7.

The LX7 has excellent reaction time; I stopped the Acela Express at speed at Princeton Junction. The train was moving faster than 125mph. LX7 photo.
The LX7 has excellent reaction time; I stopped the Acela Express at speed at Princeton Junction. The train was moving faster than 125mph. LX7 photo (uncropped, unmodified—except for scaling for internet usage).
The LX7 is easy to use and well suited to making railway photos. LX7 photo.
The LX7 is easy to use and well suited to making railway photos. LX7 photo.
Irish Rail ICR's roll along a speed near Clondalkin. The camera's small size makes it easier to shoot through fences, such as those on highway bridges over the track. LX7 Photo.
Irish Rail ICR’s roll along a speed near Clondalkin. The camera’s small size makes it easier to shoot through fences, such as those on highway bridges over the track. LX7 Photo.

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Alco Diesels at Emporium, Pennsylvania.

Experiments with a Digital Camera.

On the afternoon of February 6, 2010, Pat Yough, Chris Guss and I were photographing along the former Pennsylvania Railroad at Emporium, Pennsylvania. This route is operated by the Western New York & Pennsylvania, a short line famous for its late-era use of Alco Century diesels.

I was primarily photographing on Fujichrome using my pair of Canon EOS-3, however, I was experimenting with my relatively recently acquired Panasonic Lumix LX3.

Western New York & Pennsylvania’s westward Driftwood Turn (the ‘DFT’) was switching near a grade crossing in nice winter sun. This gave me ample opportunity to try various modes with the Lumix, so I varied the aspect ratio (the parameters of the frame) and sampled various built-in color profiles.

Lumix LX3 set at 16:9 aspect ratio with standard color profile.
Lumix LX3 set at 16:9 aspect ratio with standard color profile.
Lumix LX-3 using 16:9 aspect ratio in the vertical.
Lumix LX3 using 16:9 aspect ratio in the vertical. An annoying wire has interfered with my composition!
Here I selected the 4:3 aspect ratio which maximizes the use of the sensor. I selected the 'Natural' color profile which is slightly less saturated than 'Standard'.
Here I selected the 4:3 aspect ratio which maximizes the use of the sensor. I selected the ‘Natural’ color profile which is slightly less saturated than ‘Standard’.
I wanted to see how the digital camera would cope with extreme backlighting and flare.
I wanted to see how the digital camera would cope with extreme backlighting and flare.
I like the sunburst effect but I was disappointed by the lack of highlight detail. I found that the Lumix couldn't match the dynamic range of Fujichrome, which limits its ability to capture high contrast situations. My LX-7 has an 'HDR' feature that partially overcomes this problem, but is only useful for static situations (topic for another post).
I like the sunburst effect but I was disappointed by the lack of highlight detail. I found that the Lumix couldn’t match the dynamic range of Fujichrome, which limits its ability to capture high contrast situations. My LX-7 has an ‘HDR’ feature that partially overcomes this problem, but is only useful for static situations (topic for another post). 16:9 aspect ratio; ‘Standard’ color profile.

I was curious to see how the camera handled backlighting and flare, so I made a few cross-lit silhouettes to push the limits of exposure. These are a few of my results. The files are unaltered except for scaling for internet display. I haven’t adjusted color or exposure in post processing, nor have I cropped them.

As regular readers of Tracking the Light are aware, since that time, I’ve made great use of the LX3. I wore it out, and a few months ago I replaced it with a Panasonic Lumix LX7, which is an even better camera.

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Tomorrow: LX3 versus LX7!

 

Daily Post: Southern Pacific 4449 at Redding, California.

On Assignment with Southern Pacific, Part 2.

August 31, 1991. I’ll put this in the ‘forgotten images’ category! I remember the trip, I remember the day, but until I scanned it, I’d completely forgotten that I’d made this photo on black & white film.

SP Daylight 4449 crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.
SP Daylight 4449 crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

As I’ve describe in my previous post, Daylight Beauty at Hooker Creek. Southern Pacific had organized the streamlined engine to make a public appearances in the Sacramento River Canyon as a goodwill gesture following a serious derailment at the Cantara Loop (which spilled toxins into the river above Dunsmuir), and the railroad had hired me for two days to make photographs of the PR event. Brian Jennison provided transport, and the two of us spent a long weekend making numerous images of SP 4449 with Daylight train.

 

I exposed this image on the first day of excursions using my Leica M2 with 50mm lens. I’ve published many of the color slides I exposed from the same trip, including views I made on Kodachrome with my Nikon F3T at this bridge.

 

Some can be found in my book The American Steam Locomotive published by MBI in 1998, Steam Power published by Voyageur Press in 2009. Also, Audio Visual Designs used my photo of SP 4449 at Redding on a picture postcard back in the 1990s.

 

Finding this picture was a pleasant surprise. Compared with earlier years, I have relatively few black & white images from the 1990s in California, although I went through a phase where I’d use the Leica loaded B&W during the ‘high light’ when Kodachrome yielded substandard results.

 

In this case, I made the most of the situation by using two cameras and different types of film, I obtained a variety of photos from location. Also, the locomotive repeated the exercise the following day. By then, I’d re-loaded the Leica with Kodachrome 25.

Tight crop on the locomotive from the same b&w negative. SP Daylight 4449 crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.
Tight crop on the locomotive from the same b&w negative. SP Daylight 4449
crosses the curved tower-supported plate girder viaduct at Redding, California on August 31, 1991. Exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

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Tomorrow: Alcos in the snow!

 

 

 

 

Special Post: Happy Birthday Richard Solomon!

Featuring Rare Photos!

Today is my father’s birthday.

Richard has been photographing railways for decades and brought me on many of my earliest railway excursions, including a trip on the Flushing Line in Queens way back in the day.

Richard has worked with Leicas, a Rolleiflex, and a Linhof 4×5 view camera. Today has also a few digital cameras to play with including a Lumix LX7.

Many years ago he gave me my first camera, and after I wrecked that one, he gave me another, and finally a Leica model 3A. I continue to wear them out.

Regular viewers of Tracking the Light will recognize the subjects and locations. Together, Richard and I have years of continuous photographic record of railways in the United States and around the world. His photographs have appeared in many of my books.

Richard in eastern Pennsylvania in October 1964. He's sporting two Leica Ms, including one with 135mm telephoto, and a Rollieflex Model T (Which I wore out, but eventually replaced).
Richard in eastern Pennsylvania in October 1964. He’s sporting two Leica Ms, including one with 135mm telephoto, and a Rollieflex Model T (Which I wore out, but eventually replaced).
Last October my father an I photographed New England Central's southbound freight (Job 610) passing Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Photo by Brian Solomon
Last October my father an I photographed New England Central’s southbound freight (Job 610) passing Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Photo by Brian Solomon
Richard goes for a spin at the Railroad Museum of New England. Photo by Brian Solomon with Canon EOS 7D.
Richard goes for a spin at the Railroad Museum of New England. Photo by Brian Solomon with Canon EOS 7D.
A brand new Pennsylvania Railroad Budd Silverliner rolls through North Philadelphia. Richard was panning with his Rolleiflex Model T. He exposed this on Kodacolor negative film, which I scanned using an Epson V600.
A brand new Pennsylvania Railroad Budd Silverliner rolls through North Philadelphia in 1963. Richard was panning with his Rolleiflex Model T. He exposed this on Kodacolor negative film, which I scanned using an Epson V600.
Richard has made good use of his Rolleflex cameras. He bought the first on a trip to Germany in 1960, and used it to expose this classic image of the North Shore Electroliner on the streets of Milwaukee in June 1961. Richard's North Shore photos have been published by David P. Morgan in TRAINS Magazine and by William D. Middleton in his books.
Richard has made good use of his Rolleflex cameras. He bought the first on a trip to Germany in 1960, and used it to expose this classic image of the North Shore Electroliner on the streets of Milwaukee in June 1961. Richard’s North Shore photos have been published by David P. Morgan in TRAINS Magazine and by William D. Middleton in his books.
On August 20, 1960, Richard exposed a Kodachrome slide of this American-style PCC car on the streets of Charleroi, Belgium using a Kodak Retina 3C. See comparison photo below.
On August 20, 1960, Richard exposed a Kodachrome slide of this American-style PCC car on the streets of Charleroi, Belgium using a Kodak Retina 3C. See comparison photos below.

I returned to the same street in Charleroi last month and made similar views of trams. I actually went to almost the same spot as the above photo, but exposed a couple of colour slides, which remain latent. Perhaps at some point I’ll do a ‘now and then’ comparison. (Film and film).

LX7 view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.
LX7 view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.
Canon 7D view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.
Canon 7D view in Charleroi, Aug 2014. Photo by Brian Solomon.
Richard on a recent visit to New Haven, Connecticut. Lumix LX3 photo.
Richard on a recent visit to New Haven, Connecticut. Lumix LX3 photo.

Happy Birthday Pop!

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EMD F-units in the Minnesota Iron Range

Twenty Years Ago Today.

An A-B-B-A set of General Motors Electro-Motive Division F9 diesels leads a set of empty iron ore jennies at the Kramer Tunnel on September 24, 1994.

Exposed on September 24, 1994 with a Nikormatt FT3 with a Nikkon 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film.
Exposed on September 24, 1994 with a Nikormatt FT3 with a Nikkon 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100 slide film.

I’d traveled to the Iron Range with Mike and Tom Danneman. We spent three intensive days making photographs. It was early autumn and the trees were tinged with color. The Dannemans led the way, as it was my first visit to the Range.

We spent just one day photographing LTV Mining, which was one of the last operations in the United States to still routinely assigned four-unit sets of Fs to heavy freight.

A cropped version of this image appears on page 50 of my American Diesel Locomotive, published by MBI in 2000.

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Old Budd Cars Don’t Rust

 Bellows Falls, Vermont.

It was the morning of August 28, 2010. My father and I had arrived at Bellows Falls, on our way to St. Albans. It was quiet and nothing was moving on any of the three freight railroads that serve the town.

East of the passenger station there were a few old Budd RDCs stored on former Rutland Railroad sidings. I took a few minutes to made some photos with my Lumix LX3. My father has some nice Kodachrome slides of Boston & Maine and New York Central cars working in the 1960s. I remember riding them out of Boston in the 1970s.

Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.
Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.
Vestiges of another era at Bellows Falls, Vermont. Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.
Vestiges of another era at Bellows Falls, Vermont. Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.
New York Central was first to install Budd Rail Diesel Cars in revenue service. They were known as 'Bee Liners.' Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.
New York Central was first to install Budd Rail Diesel Cars in revenue service. They were known as ‘Bee Liners.’ Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX3.

One of the benefits of Budd’s Shotwelded stainless steel construction is that the cars won’t rust. Yet, the overgrowth makes for some interesting studies in decay. The cars still reflected the light nicely.

More than 30 years earlier we’d explored these same sidings. Back then there were decayed vestiges of wooden sided boxcars around the place, and considerably few trees.

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Irish Rail’s Nenagh Branch

Roscrea Revisited—August 2014.

I first visited Roscrea in August 1998. Denis McCabe was giving me a tour of rural Irish stations, and we stopped there to intercept the branch passenger train running from Ballybrophy to Limerick.

Back then the train consisted of an 071 diesel, a steam heating van and two ancient looking Cravens carriages. It was a cloudy morning.

Fast forward to August 2014, and Denis and I made a return visit to Roscrea. While I’ve visited this rural station on several occasions in the intervening years, what struck me was how little the station and its environs have changed.

Irish Rail station at Roscrea, County Tipperary in August 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX7. (And yes, I also made a color slide, for the sake of modal consistency and archival longevity.)
Irish Rail station at Roscrea, County Tipperary in August 2014. Exposed with a Lumix LX7. (And yes, I also made a color slide, for the sake of modal consistency and archival longevity.)

The old signal cabin is still open and active; the mechanical semaphores remain as I remember them, the station building seems unchanged. Compared to many of the station I visited in 1998, this is one of the few that still looks the same. The Celtic Tiger years didn’t result in unnecessary uglification—er, I mean improvement—to Roscrea.

In 2004, Irish Rail replaced the traditional locomotive-hauled steam-heated Cravens with a more modern railcar. Today 2800-series railcars in the latest green and silver paint work the Nenagh Branch. Exposed with a Canon EOS-7D.
In 2004, Irish Rail replaced the traditional locomotive-hauled steam-heated Cravens with a more modern railcar. Today 2800-series railcars in the latest green and silver paint work the Nenagh Branch. Exposed with a Canon EOS-7D with 100mm lens.
Exposed with Lumix LX7.
Exposed with Lumix LX7.

On the downside, you must know where the station is in the village. I don’t think there was any sign off the Motorway or in the town itself giving any hint of an active railway station there. It’s a real pity too. The Nenagh Branch is one of those throwbacks to another age. Unsung, unloved, and largely ignored, it soldiers on in a world that time forgot.

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Tomorrow: Old Budd Cars Never Rust.

 

Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset

Empties Climbing Away from the River Blackwater at Corbane.

In August 2014, Denis McCabe and I continued our on-going exploration of the Bord na Mona (Irish Peat Board) narrow gauge railway network. (see: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013, and Bord na Mona’s Ash Train, among other previous posts).

We followed a pair of empties from Shannonbridge, eastward toward Ferbane. Access is limited, owing to the nature of the bogs. Toward the end of the day, we set up at the N62 highway overpass, where the Bord na Mona’s line climbs away from the River Blackwater.

Bord na Mona's three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

My challenge was making the most of the backlit scene. The sun was setting almost immediately behind the train. I opted for my 200mm lens in order to compress the perspective, eliminate the sky, and minimize the effects of flare. I positioned myself near post on the side of the road to help shade the front element of my lens.

Here the effects of backlighting combined with the long telephoto lens make for a cinematic look; the exhaust of the locomotive is more pronounced, the wavy condition of the tracks are exaggerated, and the pastoral scene made more impressive.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.

I particularly like the silhouette of the train driver in the cab, which emphasizes the human element.

My only disappointment with the photos is that the following train hadn’t effectively enter the scene. (Often Bord na Mona trains working in pairs follow one right after the other. In this situation, the following train was just around the bend.) But, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to make images with two or more Bord na Mona trains, so I’ll settle for this one of a lone train.

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Special Post: Culture Night 2014 photos posted to my Dublin Page

Check out Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page to see lots of great photos of Dublin’s 2014 Culture Night event.

18th Century the Casino at Marino. This remarkable building is a visual enigma; it seems much larger on the inside than it does on the outside. Lumix LX7.
18th Century the Casino at Marino. This remarkable building is a visual enigma; it seems much larger on the inside than it does on the outside. Lumix LX7.
The Casino at Marino exudes 18th century elegance. Lumix LX7 photo.
The Casino at Marino exudes 18th century elegance. Lumix LX7 photo.

Mt_Joy_Square_number3_P1070656

Dublin's Writers Museum on Parnell Square.
Dublin’s Writers Museum on Parnell Square.

Click on Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page for photos of Dublin’s 2014 Culture Night event!

Tracking the Light posts new photographs every day!

American River Canyon in October Snow.

Union Pacific on Donner Pass; Standing in Steinheimer’s Footsteps.

Among my favorite locations in California is the spectacular overlook at ‘American’ or ‘Old Gorge’ (if you have a really old time-table) located on the former Southern Pacific crossing of Donner Pass east of Alta.

Here the railroad crawls out on ledge high above the waters of the American River. It’s a on sustained 2.2 percent grade, so eastward trains are in full throttle which makes for sublime sound show.

I was in position on an overcast afternoon, October 30, 2003. The American River Canyon was filled with a thick fog. To the west I could hear traditional EMD 16-645E3 diesels roaring in Run-8. That meant SD40-2s. Real locomotives.

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X with I processed by hand in San Francisco. After initial processing I toned the negatives in a selenium solution mix 1:9 with water for 9 minutes, 1 minute agitation (in a well-ventilated area).
Exposed on Kodak Tri-X which I processed by hand in San Francisco. After initial processing I toned the negatives in a selenium solution mix 1:9 with water for 9 minutes, 1 minute agitation (in a well-ventilated area).

As the train approached, the atmospheric pressure changed and the fog rose out of the canyon and enveloped me. Although it was only the day before Halloween, all of sudden it began snowing furiously. Visibility dropped to nil, and the roar of the eastward freight grew intense.

Working with my Rolleiflex Model T loaded with Kodak Tri-X, I exposed a series of images. It was a memorable moment on Donner.

 

Union Pacific SD40-2s emerge from the fog and snow at ‘American’ on their ascent of Donner Pass.
Union Pacific SD40-2s emerge from the fog and snow at ‘American’ on their ascent of Donner Pass.

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Tomorrow: Irish Narrow Gauge Sunset.

 

In the Shadow of Tuscarora Mountain.

Working with November Light.

Norfolk Southern eastbound near Mexico, Pennsylvania with a former Conrail General Electric DASH8-40CW in the lead.
Norfolk Southern eastbound near Mexico, Pennsylvania with a former Conrail General Electric DASH8-40CW in the lead.

The former Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division is one of the busiest freight routes in the eastern United States. On November 5, 2001, Mike Gardner and I spent the afternoon on Middle Division photographing Norfolk Southern freights.

The combination of pastoral Pennsylvania scenery, low November sun, and steady parade of freights made for lots of opportunity to make interesting railway images.

I’m always looking for a new angle. Here I worked with light and shade to sculpt scenes that captured the character of the place as well as the trains passing through it. I exposed these images using my Nikon F3 with Fuji Provia 100F.

Piggyback trailers roll toward the Tuscarora Mountain on their eastward journey along the Juniata River Valley.
Piggyback trailers roll toward Tuscarora Mountain on their eastward journey along the Juniata River Valley.
USGS topo map showing Mexico and Tuscarora, Pennsylvania.
USGS topo map showing Mexico and Tuscarora, Pennsylvania. I made my photos near the Olive Branch School, across the Juniata from Mexico.

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Tomorrow: Snow on Donner Pass in October!

 

Special Post: Thursday September 18, 2014: Irish Rail 215 works Mark4 set.

New Photos!

Last week I posted photos of freshly painted Irish Rail class 201 number 215 working the IWT liner. Today, it worked to Cork and back. I photographed it a little while ago passing Islandbridge Junction.

Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork. I panned this using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1/40th of a second at f10, ISO 100. 12:45pm on September 18, 2014.
Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork. I panned this using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1/40th of a second at f10, ISO 100. 12:45pm on September 18, 2014.
Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork, seen approaching Heuston Station in Dublin at 12:45pm on September 18, 2014. Lumix LX-7 ISO 80, f3.5 1/500th second.
Irish Rail 215 works at the back of a Mark4 set from Cork, seen approaching Heuston Station in Dublin at 12:45pm on September 18, 2014. Lumix LX-7 ISO 80, f3.5 1/500th second.

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Irish Rail: Action on the Quad Track at Clondalkin.

September 1, 2014.

Irish Rail’s only four track mainline transits the west Dublin suburbs. This was built toward the tail-end of the Celtic Tiger boom years. Rail traffic flows in fits and starts, but midday on week days can result in some interesting action.

Irish_Rail_Mark4_at_Clondalkin_IMG_8545

Irish Rail 229 leads IWT liner.
Irish Rail 229 leads IWT liner.

Irish_Rail_rail_trucks_at_Clondalkin_MOD1_IMG_8572

The prize this day was catching Irish Rail’s General Motors-built 071 class locomotive 079 hauling the elusive per-way ‘Rail trucks’ (rail train) on its run from Platin (on the Navan Branch) to the per-way depot in Portlaoise.

I worked with my Canon EOS 7D, which handles the cloudy bright lighting conditions admirably.

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Tomorrow: November Light along the Juniata River.

 

Nederlandse Spoorwegen and a Gap in the Sky.

Finding the Light and the Rain

I saw an opening in the sky to west. So I made my way to the nearest set of tracks. The Netherlands is criss-crossed with busy electrified lines. And this mainline near Tilburg looked promising, if not sublimely scenic.

Over the course of a about half an hour, the light became steadily more dramatic. With low sun setting over the North Sea to the west, illuminating a thin deck of clouds. All the while it was raining lightly.

NS emu sunset_Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.
NS emu sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.
NS line at  sunset_Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.
NS line at sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.
NS Spinter sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.
NS Spinter sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.
NS signals at sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.
NS signals at sunset Berkel Enschot, Netherlands. August 2014.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen at Den Bosch

A Look at the the Other ‘NS.”

Fish with man-legs, scenes of torment and pleasure gardens, along with medieval apocalyptic visions were among the topics painted by Jheronimus van Aken aka Hieronymus Bosch who hailed from the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or ‘Den Bosch.’

This is a city of narrow canals, winding cobblestone streets, traditional market squares, surrounded by post World War II ‘Lego-block’ sprawl.

Market square Den Bosch in August 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
Market square Den Bosch in August 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

The railway station is an unusual blend of an 1896-built iron and glass train-shed with modern facilities.

My visit to the station was brief. I explored for about half and hour, making a variety of images. I was surprised by the arrival of one of NS’s older Hondekop ‘dog face’ EMUs. I’d photographed some of these ancient units back in the 1990s and didn’t realize that any remained in traffic.

The old shed dates from 1896. Lumix LX7.
The old shed dates from 1896. Lumix LX7.
NS operates an interesting variety of distinctive equipment. There's no mistaking these Dutch trains for those in other countries. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
NS operates an interesting variety of distinctive equipment. There’s no mistaking these Dutch trains for those in other countries. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
I found the shed to be very photogenic. I made this study from a modern mezzanine using my Lumix LX7.
I found the shed to be very photogenic. I made this study from a modern mezzanine using my Lumix LX7.
Blast from the past! One of the older 'dog nose' electric multiple units.
Blast from the past! One of the older ‘dog nose’ electric multiple units.
Den Bosch station with a decorative lion. Exposed from an escalator using my Lumix LX7.
Den Bosch station with a decorative lion. Exposed from an escalator using my Lumix LX7.
An express train passes on a middle track with an electric locomotive shoving at the back.
An express train passes on a middle track with an electric locomotive shoving at the back.

As across most of the Netherlands, passenger trains operate on regular interval frequencies (typically every half hour) to most major points.

The station was remarkably clean, and despite the dull light, made for an interesting place to photograph.

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Check my Dublin Page!

Recent Photos Added.

Panning the pedestrians crossing Abbey Street, Dublin.
Panning the pedestrians crossing Abbey Street, Dublin. September 2014.

See: Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page 

This features September in Dublin, including moody images of O’Connell Street, Abbey Street and etc.

 

Big Viaduct at Mineral Point, Pennsylvania.

September 5, 1997.

Among the iconic locations on the former Pennsylvania Railroad ‘West Slope’ (west of the summit at Gallitzin) is a massive curved stone-arch bridge near Mineral Point, known as ‘The Big Viaduct.’

In the early hours of September 5, 1997, Mike Gardner and I drove down a heavily brushed in road that had once been the right of way of a Johnstown Traction Company’s electric line.

Mike was dubious when I urged further forward progress into the inky gloom and thick bushes. It seemed like an adventure into the rain forest.

We arrived at on overlook near the famous bridge just as the first hints of daylight colored the sky. A thick fog covered the ground, but the fuzzy twinkling spots above told us that it would be a clear morning.

In the distance, I could hear Electro-Motive diesels whining in dynamic as they approached with a westward Conrail freight. Despite the fog and gloom, I set up my Bogen tripod, attached my N90s with 24 mm lens, and when the train passed, made a series of long exposures with Fujichrome Provia 100F.

A Conrail freight growls downgrade across the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F with a Nikon N90s with 24mm lens. Time exposure: about 8 seconds with camera on tripod.
A Conrail freight growls downgrade across the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100F with a Nikon N90s with 24mm lens. Time exposure: about 8 seconds with camera on tripod.

Soon the sun crawled above the hillsides and began to burn off the fog, Conrail ran a procession of trains, mostly westbound. Later in the morning when a clear blue dome prevailed I relocated trackside to make a view of an eastward freight climbing across the bridge.

A westward Conrail freight emerges from the fog near the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Kodachrome 200 using a Nikon F3T with 80-200 zoom lens.
A westward Conrail freight emerges from the fog near the Big Viaduct. Exposed on Kodachrome 200 using a Nikon F3T with 80-200 zoom lens.
Conrail 6180 east at Big Viaduct Mineral Point PA September 5, 1997. Nikon N90S with 28mm lens, Fujichrome Provia 100F slide film.
Conrail 6180 east at Big Viaduct Mineral Point PA September 5, 1997. Nikon N90S with 28mm lens, Fujichrome Provia 100F slide film.

It is mornings like that one, 17 years ago, that make me wish I was right now trackside in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and not thousands of miles away in front of a computer, writing about the experience.

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Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse, Toronto

May 1985

Looking down from the CN Tower on Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse in Toronto.
Looking down from the CN Tower on Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse in Toronto.

I exposed this vertigo inducing view from the sky-reaching CN Tower using my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar and Kodachrome 64.

It was a glorious clear morning and I was visiting Toronto for the first time. After the tower, I wandered around on the ground making a few select images.

While the nearby Canadian Pacific roundhouse at John Street survives as a museum, CN’s Spadina Street was demolished a year after my visit, and almost everything in this view has been erased from the scene.

Looking down from the CN Tower on Canadian National’s Spadina Roundhouse in Toronto.

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Tomorrow: Mineral Point, Pennsylvania.

 

Special Post: Irish Rail EM50 at Islandbridge Junction

Inspection Car on the Move—September 12, 2014

Irish Rail’s track geometry car followed today’s Dublin to Ballina IWT Liner.

This unusual piece of maintenance equipment is among the more elusive subjects on the Irish network. I was surprised to see it when I peered over the wall on the St John’s Road this morning.

Irish_Rail 218 leads Friday's IWT liner with EM50 on Platform 10. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens.
Irish_Rail 218 leads Friday’s IWT liner with EM50 on Platform 10. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens.
Irish_EM50_at_Islandbridge_Junction_IMG_8688
Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake lens. Friday September 12, 2014.

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Rotterdam Metro

August 2014.

On my short spin on the Rotterdam Metro I made these photos with my Lumix LX7.

Rotterdam Metro at Wilhelminaplein. Lumix LX7 photo.
Rotterdam Metro at Wilhelminaplein. Lumix LX7 photo.
Rotterdam Metro at Centraal Station.
Rotterdam Metro at Centraal Station.
Rotterdam Metro Centraal Station.
Rotterdam Metro Centraal Station.

Rotterdam_Metro_Centraal_Station_map_P1060081

It’s amazing how well digital cameras perform when photographing in the difficult lighting of subterranean railways.

This was just brief glimpse of a railway that hereto I was only vaguely aware. Perhaps there will be another opportunity further exploration on another visit.

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Special Post: More views of Irish Rail 215

Sunlight and a Clean Locomotive.

As a follow up to yesterday’s special post, I’ve included a few more photos. Since Monday, Irish Rail’s freshly painted class 201 number 215 has been working the IWT Liner between Dublin and Ballina, Country Mayo.

Wednesday's IWT Liner passes Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station, Dublin. Thin cloud diffused the sun. Lumix LX7 photo.
Wednesday’s (September 10, 2014)  IWT Liner passes Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station, Dublin. Thin cloud diffused the sun. Lumix LX7 photo.
Today's (September 11, 2014) Ballina to Dublin IWT near Clodalkin-Fonthill Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
Today’s (September 11, 2014) Ballina to Dublin IWT near Clodalkin-Fonthill Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Rotterdam Centraal Station

New Railway Station for Modern Metropolis.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.
Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Opened earlier this year. Rotterdam Centraal doesn’t look like any other railway station on the outside. (Although on the inside it reminded me of the entrance hall at Warsaw Central.)

Like much of Rotterdam’s modern architecture it’s hard to ignore! Photographically I found it fascinating. On another trip, I’ll bring a tripod for some extended night exposures.

Beneath the shed beyond the station building, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (loosely translated as ‘Dutch Railways’) trains connect most major destinations in the Netherlands, as well as through trains to Belgium and France, including Thalys high-speed services. Some 100,000 passengers use the station daily.

Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.
Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.
Train to the 'Hook of Holland'.
Train to the ‘Hook of Holland’.
Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.
Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.
In the fading dull light with a North Sea sky; Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.
In the fading dull light with a North Sea sky; Rotterdam Centraal as photographed in August 2014. Lumix LX7.

Check out: http://en.rotterdam.info/visitors/places-to-go/practical/5076/rotterdam-centraal/

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Tomorrow: a peak below ground.

 

Special Post: Irish Rail 215 in Fresh Paint

Clouds then Sun.

Sometimes when your mind is pre-occupied with the problems of the world, the best medicine is go trackside and focus on something trivial (like hoping for sun light on a freshly painted locomotive).

Yesterday (September 9, 2014), I was poised for photography at an over-bridge near Lucan South in the Dublin suburbs. Colm O’Callaghan, Noel Enright, John Cleary and I were anxiously waiting for Irish Rail’s Up-IWT liner led by class 201 diesel number 215 (which had made its first trip in fresh paint the day before and was on its return run).

Although it was a dry bright day, a group of fair weather clouds were loitering in the sky between us and the sun . At one point all four of us were staring skyward hoping the cloud would move.

Irish Rail's Mark4 from Cork on September 9, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f3.5 ISO 200.
Irish Rail’s Mark4 from Cork on September 9, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f3.5 ISO 200.
Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.
Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.

The Cork-Dublin passenger passed in cloudy light; but the Inter City Railcar behind it was blessed with sun. But then clouds returned. I fussed with my light meter.

As the freight approached, the clouds parted and the sun-light seemed to roll across the landscape.

I fired off a burst of digital images using my Canon EOS 7D, followed by a couple of Fujichrome Provia 100F colour slides with my EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens.

 Fresh out of the paint shop: Irish Rail 215 leads the Ballina to Dublin IWT liner. This is the first 201 class diesel on the road to wear the new Irish Rail logo (on the side of the engine). Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.

Fresh out of the paint shop: Irish Rail 215 leads the Ballina to Dublin IWT liner. This is the first 201 class diesel on the road to wear the new Irish Rail logo (on the side of the engine). Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. 1/1000th of second at f5.6 ISO 200.

If there was one problem with the last burst of sunlight it was that I may have overexposed my slides by 1/3 of stop. But I won’t know until I have the film processed in a few weeks time.

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City of the Future: Rotterdam

August 2014.

Terminus of Rotterdam's number 7 tram near the very Dutch sounding Tulip Inn. Lumix LX7 photo
Terminus of Rotterdam‘s number 7 tram near the very Dutch sounding Tulip Inn. Lumix LX7 photo

I visited Rotterdam for an afternoon and evening. This is considered The Netherland’s architechtural capital and certainly features a wide variety of unusual modern buildings.

Rotterdam had been left in ruins after the Second World War, and over the last seven decades has been rebuilt in a style unlike any place else I’ve even seen. For me, its next closest cousin is Toyko, and that’s a bit of a stretch.

Lego-land on steroids! Lumix LX7 photo.
Lego-land on steroids!
Lumix LX7 photo.
The famed Cube House, which allows you to wander into an Escher-like setting. Lumix LX7 photo
The famed Cube House, which allows you to wander into an Escher-like setting. Lumix LX7 photo
RET train passing below the Cube House. Lumix LX7 photo
RET train passing below the Cube House. Lumix LX7 photo
A burst of sun illuminates at tram paused at a waterfront station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
A burst of sun illuminates at tram paused at a waterfront station. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Trams with skyscrapers, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo
Trams with skyscrapers, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo
What better way to see a city? Rotterdams trams are clean and feature large windows. Lumix LX7 photo
What better way to see a city? Rotterdams trams are clean and feature large windows. Lumix LX7 photo

The city has an excellent modern tram system, a stunning underground metro, and world-class railway connections.

The city revolves around the port, is one of the busiest in Europe, and a central focus of much of the water-front architecture.

I found it an intriguing place to make photographs. My regret was that my visit was so short. My three cameras were kept busy through my wanderings.

Lumix LX7 photo
Lumix LX7 photo
Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam.
Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam.
Containers outbound at Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.
Containers outbound at Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.
Tram pan in central Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.
Tram pan in central Rotterdam. Lumix LX7 photo.
RET number 8 tram.
RET number 8 tram.
Number 7 tram terminus.
Number 7 tram terminus.

Tomorrow! Rotterdam Centraal—one of Europe’s newest stations.

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A Big Topic!

But What’s the Subject?

Transportation; Railroads; Railways; Railway Photography, that’s what I photograph. Right?

But what’s the actual subject? What should I focus on? More to the point; what is interesting? And, is today’s interesting subject going to be interesting tomorrow?

Looking back is one way to look forward.

Yet, there lies a paradox: When I look back over my older photos, I regret not having better skills to have consistently made more interesting and more varied images. And also, for not being more aware of what was interesting.

Conrail at signals 81.81 near Palmer, Massachusetts c1983.  What was my subject? (If you know me, you'll know the answer—hint it's not the westward freight train!). Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
Conrail at signals 81.81 near Palmer, Massachusetts c1983. What was my subject? (If you know me, you’ll know the answer—hint it’s not the westward freight train!). Exposed with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

The lesson is then is about skill: learn to vary technique, adopt new approaches and continually refine the process of making photos while searching for interesting subjects. (The searching is the fun part!)

A truly successful image is one that transcends the subject and captures the attention of the audience.

So, is railway photography really about the subject?

Should all railway photos be serious? Seriously?  Waukesha, Wisconsin, back in the day.
Should all railway photos be serious? Seriously?
Waukesha, Wisconsin, back in the day.
Are railroads all about locomotives?
Are railroads all about locomotives? Here’s a real stack train that looks like a model.
I was standing next to Jim Shaughnessy for this one! Surely that makes it a better photo, right? October 2004, Cuttingsville, Vermont.
I was standing next to Jim Shaughnessy for this one! Surely that makes it a better photo, right? October 2004, Cuttingsville, Vermont.
Sometimes, it helps to get up close and check for details.
Sometimes it helps to get up close and check for details.
Can you get too close? Ektachrome 100VS with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor 24mm lens.
Can you get too close? Ektachrome 100VS with a Nikon F3T and Nikkor 24mm lens.
Do old Alcos make better subjects? Slateford Junction at the Delaware Water Gap, September 17, 2007.
Do old Alcos make better subjects? Slateford Junction at the Delaware Water Gap, September 17, 2007.
Lonely tracks at Eagle, Wisconsin c1996. I waited, but the train didn't show up.
Lonely tracks at Eagle, Wisconsin c1996. I waited, but the train didn’t show up.
Fill the frame, don't waste space, more train, that's what its all about, always! Right??
Fill the frame, don’t waste space, more train, that’s what its all about, always! Right??

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Santa Fe on Alhambra Viaduct

Martinez, California—September 1990.

When I was exploring Santa Fe’s Bay Area operations in the early 1990s, the railroad tended to operate a fleet of westward trains to its Richmond, California yards in the afternoon and early evening.

One afternoon, Brian Jennison and I had set up at the Alhambra Viaduct near Martinez. This was a relatively scenic portion of the line, but beginning to get hemmed in by suburban growth.

We knew that the 899 was on its way. This was a short high-priority piggy back train. The real prize of the day was the premier 199, which often had new ‘Super Fleet’ locomotives wearing the reintroduced Warbonnet paint scheme. But we wanted to make the most of the short train as we had time to make different photos of both trains.

To make the most of Santa Fe’s ‘shorty’ 899, I climbed atop the tunnel west of the bridge, and set up this view using my Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens. The light was classic California blue skies with soft autumnal haze that favored Kodachrome 25. My exposure was f5.6 1/250th of second.
To make the most of Santa Fe’s ‘shorty’ 899, I climbed atop the tunnel west of the bridge, and set up this view using my Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens. The light was classic California blue skies with soft autumnal haze that favored Kodachrome 25. My exposure was f5.6 1/250th of second.

This view minimized the suburban sprawl on both sides of the bridge, along with high tension lines in the valley, while putting the steel viaduct in a good perspective. Was it really 24 years ago?

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CSX at Utica, New York

July 21, 2004.

I spent this hot hazy afternoon east of the passenger station at Utica, New York watching and photographing trains on the old New York Central Water Level Route.

Utica was unusual because it retained a variety of its New York Central-era structures on a route largely denuded of traditional railroad buildings.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with f2.8 180mm lens.
Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with f2.8 180mm lens.

I made a point of include old Tower 30, which had still had Conrail sticker on its door. Without the tower in the picture, CSX AC6000CW 611 could be just about anywhere.

This is just one frame in a sequence. I think a previous image, with 611 slightly further back in the frame might be a more effective photo.

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