Here’s another lesson in minimalism. In November 1992, while traveling from Hoboken to Pittsburgh with my father and Clark Johnson Jr., I exposed this Kodachrome slide from the rear platform of private car Caritas that was crossing the former Pennsylvania Railroad stone arched Rockville Bridge.
In October 1990, Boeing-Vertol light rail vehicles pass on Carl Street, just west of the Sunset Tunnel.
My intent was to show the streetcars against a backdrop of San Francisco gingerbread Victorian houses. Selecting the optimal exposure was tricky owing to the low-angle of the sun. I wanted to maintain the bright highlights without risk of under exposing the background.
Although it is tempting in these situations to expose for the highlights, in this case I didn’t want the unnatural ‘nightmare’ effect caused by surreal dark background.
Unlike today, back then I’d rely largely on my handheld Sekonic meter to gauge exposure. Although the F3T had a built in meter, I never found this to be sufficiently accurate to maintain consistent exposures with slide film.
This scene has completely changed since I made this photograph on Kodachrome in January 11, 1993. Tom Carver and I had taken a trip to Montreal to catch six-motor MLW Locomotives on the move.
Between photographing these diesels, we spent time along Canadian National’s electrified suburban lines.
In the mid-1990s, the route was re-electrified, new equipment was procured and train operation was conveyed from CN to a regional public authority called Société de Transport la Communauté Urbaine de Montreal.
The trackage arrangement at Val Royal was simplified and the station renamed Bois Franc.
What I recall most about the morning of this photograph was the bitter cold and the difficulties of manipulating my Nikon F3T with numb hands.
Finding an interesting locomotive is always an opportunity for photography. Finding a rare locomotive in crisp October sunshine is a great opportunity!
In October 2008, Pat Yough, Tim Doherty and I found Western New York & Pennsylvania Alco C-430 number 430 at the Olean Yard in Allegany, New York.
I think this locomotive has had more owners than I’ve had automobiles. It began as one of ten C-430s on New York Central, giving that railroad more of this rare model than all the other buyers of the type put together.
The C-430 is an attractive machine and I used the sunshine to good advantage. Here are a few of the studies I made of 430 on that bright morning.
On the afternoon of July 1, 2011, I heard a heavy westward freight ascending Washington Hill near the old Middlefield, Station.
It’s been a long time since there was a station here, but the site remains a dramatic place to photograph the old Boston & Albany line. I got into position for some photography. Nice afternoon sun and inky shadows; what’s the best way to work this?
To accentuate the effect of the grade, I used a telephoto perspective, while setting my focus on the front of the locomotive. I waited for the right moment when it was in full sun.
I made a sequence of images, but for me this one best captures the drama of the scene.
Sunday Morning, March 22, 2015: I waited patiently at the Con Colbert Road near the top of the Gullet—the cutting west of Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
In the distance I could see the smoke from the locomotive; it was blocked outside of Heuston Station waiting for a path.
Up and down regular passenger trains gave me an opportunity to check my focus and exposures.
Past experience photographing steam locomotives in contrasty light has taught me that auto focus systems can easily get confused by wafting steam and smoke. The last thing I need is for the camera to be ‘hunting for focus’ during the moment of peak drama.
I switched my Fuji X-T1 to manual focus and pre-selected a focus point. The beauty of a digital camera is the ability to inspect results on site.
If I planned this correctly, dappled light and direct backlighting would help illuminate the smoke.
Finally, the bark of the locomotive and a volcanic display of exhaust. The camera was set in ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous high) and as 461 worked its way up the Gullet I exposed several strategically timed bursts of images.
December 23, 2002 was a cold, wet, dark and mucky; in other words, typical sugar beet weather.
We were visiting the cabin at Wellingtonbridge, watching the machine load beet into ancient-looking four-wheel corrugated wagons. A steady ‘thump, thump, thump’ as the roots plopped into the wagons.
It wasn’t great for photography. But the driver of the laden beet (soon to depart Wellingtonbridge for Mallow, Co. Cork) said to me, ‘Get your photos now, this is all going away . . .’
Sadly, his prophecy came true. Old 129, a class 121 diesel built by General Motors at La Grange, Illinois in 1961, was cut up for scrap only a few months after I exposed this black & white photograph.
Irish Rail’s sugar beet traffic carried on for a few more years (three more than I thought it would). The last laden beet train departed Wellingtonbridge in January 2006. Afterwards, it was a downward spiral. Today, the wagons and loading machine are gone; the cabin is closed and the line rusty.
Yet, in the intervening months and years, I returned dozens of times, and made photos at all times of day and night. By the time the last beet train turned a wheel, I’d made hundreds of images of operation.
Or, if you prefer: locomotives fore and aft on a ballast train in the cutting.
The three-track cutting extending from Islandbridge Junction up the grade toward Inchicore in Dublin is known as “the Gullet”.
Permanent way works (track maintenance) on Irish Rail’s Cork line on Saturday March 21, 2015, required operation of HOBS (high output ballast system) trains with locomotives at both ends.
While topped and tailed operations are quite common in some countries, these have been very unusual in Ireland in modern times.
I made several views of this train with an aim to emphasize the locomotives at both ends.
These images were exposed using my Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera. Among the features of this camera is an adjustable fold down rear-view display that allows me hold the camera at arms length over a wall. A built in level feature is especially useful in these circumstances.
This old upper quadrant semaphore was located in Monson, Massachusetts about a mile from the Palmer diamond. It served as a fixed distant to the absolute signal protecting the crossing and was always in the diagonal position indicating ‘approach’.
I made this image on July 20, 1986 of a northward Central Vermont freight (probably job 562).
Purists may note that Canadian National referred to its cabooses as ‘Vans’. More relevant was that by this date, cabooses were becoming unusual in New England. Conrail began caboose-less operation on through freights a few years earlier.
Even rarer in New England were semaphores. Yet this one survived until very recently, when Central Vermont successor New England Central finally replaced it with a color-light. See earlier post: Monson Semaphore Challenge.
A minor point regarding this composition; I’d released the shutter a moment too soon, and so the left-hand back of the caboose visually intersects with the semaphore ladder. This annoys me. Sometimes I like a bit of visual tension in an image, but in this case it doesn’t work.
Not that I can go back and try it again, as much as I’d like to!
Or I should say clouded. This morning a solar eclipse occurred. So I understand. Heavy cloud prevailed at the beginning of the eclipse in Dublin. I walked along the Liffey hoping to glimpse this cosmic event.
I admit it did get rather dim. I made a variety of cloudy day images.
About 10am, thinking I’d missed the event, I gave up and went for breakfast. I’m told that about that time the clouds parted and the sun (with moon shadow) made a fleeting appearance in the sky over Dublin. Ironically I watched the remainder of the event on Sky News in the cafe where I enjoyed a full Irish breakfast.
Wrong location, bad luck, and poor timing.
(Apparently they had a great view on the Faroe Islands.)
In the mid-1980s, Canadian National Railway’s Montreal Locomotive Works M-420s were commonly operated on its Central Vermont Railway subsidiary.
It might seem odd in retrospect, but I wasn’t keen on these peculiar locomotives when they were common. Although they were derived from an Alco design, and I was big fan of Alco, I thought they were ugly and not ‘real’ Alcos. I much preferred Central Vermont’s own Alco RS-11s.
My ill-founded prejudices never stopped me from making photographs of the M-420s. And even back in 1986, I was pleased to catch this one leading Central Vermont’s freight 562 across Route 32 in Monson, Massachusetts (immediately north of the Massachusetts-Connecticut State Line).
This is the top of State Line Hill and it was all downgrade from here. I’m standing on a pile of ballast for elevation.
Here we have a variation on a theme. Previously I published photos on Tracking the Light of Dublin’s LUAS specially painted Sky tram, and on a different day a panned image of a LUAS tram crossing Kings Bridge (Sean Heuston Bridge) near Heuston Station.
The other night on my way over to the Irish Railway Record Society premises (where I’m doing a bit of research in the library), I noted the one-of-a-kind Sky painted tram working outbound.
I dug my Fujifilm X-T1 out of my back pack and made a series of panned images in ‘flutter mode’ of the tram crossing the bridge at dusk.
Often, I build on past efforts, and this a good example of putting the pieces together. Visually, of course.
We heard the thunderous roar of EMD 645-E3 diesels laboring upgrade in ‘Run-8’ (maximum throttle.) Thick fog at Bealville in the California Tehachapis amplified the sound.
I was traveling with my friend and fellow photographer Brian Jennison, a veteran of Tehachapi railroad photography.
As the sound faded in and out, I looked for an angle; walking back and forth, I finally settled on this view on the outside of the curve at the often-photographed Bealville horseshoe.
On Southern Pacific all train movements were deemed either ‘eastward’ or ‘westward’ in their relation to the direction traveled from milepost 0 in San Francisco, regardless of the compass. In the Tehachapis, a train may be traveling in all directions at the same time owing to the exceptional sinuosity of the trackage.
This uphill freight was moving railroad timetable east.
In the lead was a Rio Grande SD40T-2. It had a transitional lighting arrangement, that included its as-built headlight and oscillating lights, plus recently added ditch-lights and a ‘gumball’ rotating yellow light atop the cab. Again the fog has accentuated the locomotive’s lights.
I was working with my Nikon F3T with Nikkor f1.8 105mm telephoto mounted on my Bogen 3021 tripod and loaded with Fuji 100 slide film (what I used to call ‘Fujiahundred’). I metered the scene with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell.
The sound show was far more impressive than any image I could have made of the train’s approach and passing. I wish I could stand there again in the fog on that April 4, 1993 morning!
I’ve been keeping my Lumix busy making night photographs of Dublin on the run up to St. Patrick’s Day. In previous posts I’ve featured Irish Rail’s Heuston and Connolly Station bathed in green light. Today, I’m exhibiting some of the city’s other structures.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Here’s just a few from my Fuji X-T1. Notice the different colour profile.
Yesterday, I displayed an image of Dublin’s Heuston Station bathed in green light; today, I feature Connolly Station. These Dublin railway terminals are among the oldest big city stations in continuous use in the world.
Connolly Station features classic Italianate architecture typical of many large stations world-wide.
The greening of Connolly for St. Patrick’s Day is a more subtle treatment than on some of Dublin’s structures.
Here we are with another catchy title. Yet, it’s fairly descriptive, and neatly covers for the fact that I’m separated from my notes from the day. What?
Back in July 2002, some of my Irish friends and I were photographing along former Great Western lines in the west of England. On this day, we scoped out an elevated location—often pictured in magazines—at Dawlish Warren.
When were arrived at there, I was shocked to find about 40 other photographers with a similar idea in mind.
My friends and I made a few photos, but it takes some of the fun out of the challenge when you’re in such a large group (and not really part of the group). I think most of the folks were after Class 47 diesels that were then still working some Virgin Cross Country trains.
So, we abandoned the popular place, and migrated east toward Exeter where we found this remote location along the River Exe. (And here I suffer from my notes being in Massachusetts, and me in Ireland; what was the name of this spot? It was near a church, along the River . . .Ah! sounds like the line from a song, oh well).
I was pleased to catch a bright red and yellow Virgin HST racing along. While not uncommon at the time, the HST is among my favorite trains in the UK. I think I was in the minority among the folks at Dawlish Warren; they didn’t seem to have any interest in the HST’s at all!
Sometimes you have to walk the steps one at a time to get the best view.
Over the last few weeks, Irish Rail’s Relay train has made visits to the Dublin area en route from its base at Port Laoise to the Navan Branch (where it was involved in track maintenance) and back again.
The Relay train is one of those elusive trains operated by permanent way department, which makes it a special prize to catch on the move.
Keeping close tabs on the railway aids in finding these trains. But equally important is patience track side and sensing when and where to look.
Irish Rail 084 brought the train up road on February 27, 2015. Like the bullet fired skyward, what goes up must come down. But when?
On Tuesday, March 3, 2015, I took the LUAS down to Spencer Dock and walked to the road bridge that overlooks Irish Rail’s yard at Dublin’s North Wall. There I noted a gray 071 (loco 084) with the Relay train. When the guard came down and started the locomotive, then a few minutes later hung the tail lamps at the back of the train, I knew that it would soon be on the move.
But how quickly would it depart? That’s the million-dollar question (subject to the local exchange rate). Calls were made, transportation arranged, and weathermen consulted . . .
More than two hours later, I caught it on the quad-track section of Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork mainline at Stacumny Bridge (near mp 8 ¾). As it turned out, the Relay train followed the down IWT liner.
These digital photos are the teasers: I used my EOS-3 loaded with Provia 100F (the real McCoy, not simulated) for some slides of the action.
During the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with my new Fujifilm X-T1digital camera by making photos on the streets of Dublin. I’ve presented a sampling of my results on Tracking the Light’s Dublin Page (CLICK HERE).
The camera can yield fantastic results, but successfully manipulating its various modes, colour profiles, features, switches, levers and other controls takes patience to master.
Compare the Fuji’s results with the myriad of images on my Dublin page exposed over the last two years.
I made this non-conventional view of the Waterbury Branch shuttle on November 16, 1992.
Using my F3T with Nikor 200mm lens mounted on a tripod, I aimed away to catch the train trailing in order to feature the New Haven painted FL9 locomotive working in push-mode at the back of the consist.
I worked with the ‘around the corner’ lighting that emphasized the textures of the sides of the locomotive and cars, the frost covered ground, while making for a gossamer-like background of trees and electrical wires.
In this composition, I’ve carefully included the electrical pole at top right. It would have been easy enough to crop this out, but I’ve left it in because it serves as an important visual element.
The insulators and wires atop the pole catch the light and draw the eye away from the main subject, while putting context to the network of wires behind the train and so adding a degree of depth to the whole photograph.
Too often, subtle compositions like this one have been cropped by philistines. Simplifying the image doesn’t necessarily make for a better photograph. If I wanted a tighter simpler view, I would have exposed it that way.
I exposed these photos with my Fuji X-T1 a little while ago (7 March 2015). Compare these photos made in soft afternoon sun with my image of the same freight train at the same location last Saturday (28 February 2015)
Locomotive 071 is the class leader; one of Irish Rail’s 18 General Motors-built model JT22CW dual-cab six-motor diesel-electrics.
This was a great opportunity to put my new Fuji X-T1 through its paces.
I exposed a great number of images on the day, including this panoramic view of the train on the station platform at Drogheda.
This long and narrow image is a camera produced composite: I exposed several similar images, by sweeping the camera across the scene laterally as the camera flutters away. The resulting image is sewn together in camera.
I’ll post more photos of my adventures with 461 tomorrow!
A visit to Prague in May 2000 fulfilled my desire to make gritty urban images. Using my Rolleiflex Model T and Nikon F3T, I exposed dozens of photographs of eclectic Bohemian architecture and electric railed vehicles.
This image of Tatra T3 working westbound on Prague’s number 9 route is typical of my photography from that trip.
Prague is one of those great cities that seems to beckon a photo at every turn. Or certainly that was my impression.
I’m presenting two versions of the image: the first is tightly cropped view made possible by the camera’s excellent optics and careful processing of the film (also for some adjustments for contrast in digital post-processing); the second is a pure, un-cropped image. Take your pick!
This is one of my favorite Burlington Northern images. Tom Danneman, TSH and I were photographing Powder River coal operations in May 1995.
We caught this empty train working west of Edgemont with nearly new SD70MACs. Burlington Northern had only a few months left before consummation of merger with Santa Fe.
Shortly before the train arrived into view some thin clouds softened the sun. While this effect tends to spoil a photo, especially those made on Kodachrome, in this rare case, I think it actually made for a better image.
I feel that the slightly subdued contrast works well with the foreground grasses, the framed tree, and the dark paint on the locomotives.
I exposed this on Kodachrome 25 using my Nikon F3T with 35mm perspective control lens mounted on my Bogen 3021 tripod.
I made this photograph the other night using my Lumix LX-7 set for ‘Monochrome’.
The complexity of the scene features several visual layers.
Here are two versions of the photo. The top image is the camera generated Jpeg, unmodified except for scaling. The bottom image is the result of some modifications in post processing.
Using the ‘levels’ slider, I’ve lightened the mid-range shadows to reveal greater amounts of detail inside the pub and improve the overall contrast. Then I made some localized contrast adjustments with the dodging tool.
With the saturation slider I de-saturated the image, removing all color. Although, I’d exposed it in ‘Monochrome’, the camera-file gave the file a bluish hue that I didn’t feel was necessary or desirable.
I like the second version of the image better. However my changes have had the secondary effect of de-emphasizing the LUAS tram that was the original primary subject.
Comparison of the two versions shows a little bit of work can improve a digital image.
Here’s another gem from my Conrail files. I have tens of thousands of Conrail photos, many of them exposed in black & white.
This image caught my eye. November 1984 was a busy month photographically, and I exposed almost all my photographs that month with an old Leica 3A. (My original camera had suffered a failure, so I was using one of my dad’s.)
This was exposed mid-month, probably on a Saturday. I was traveling with some friends. We’d seen Conrail PWSE (Providence & Worcester to Selkirk, New York) working the old Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, and were heading west to find a location.
The train got the jump on us, and there was a panic as we saw the train racing west behind us: “There it is!” I made this grab shot looking down the road at North Wilbraham toward one of the few grade crossings on the B&A route west of Worcester, Massachusetts.
For me this captures the scene. North Wilbraham isn’t the most salubrious environment, but so what? Not every place is a park and it shows the way things were in the mid-1980s. I can hear ‘The Cars’ (Boston band) playing on the radio.
Need a close up of Conrail’s B23-7s? I have lots of those too.
Now wouldn’t this have been a cool angle 40 years earlier with one of Boston & Albany’s class A1 Berkshires hauling freight under a plume of its own exhaust?
General Electric delivered Conrail’s ten C32-8s in 1984. These were a group of unusual pre-production DASH-8 locomotives, and earned the nickname ‘camels’ owing to their humpback appearance.
I’ve always liked these distinctive locomotives and I had ample opportunities to photograph them on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route in the 1980s and early 1990s.
In March 1988, I was skipping class at Rochester Institute of Technology and photographing along the former Erie Railroad in New York’s Canisteo Valley.
In the afternoon, light rain had changed to snow. I was set up by the semaphores at milepost 308 west of Rathbone, New York and caught Conrail’s westward doublestack train TV301 roaring through the valley with nearly two miles of train in tow.
In the lead was C32-8 6617, an old favorite from my travels on B&A. I find it hard to believe that this locomotive was less than four years old at the time.
The old Union & Switch Signal Style S semaphores were decommissioned in January 1994.