Massachusetts Model Mania: The BIG SHOW, West Springfield—Wide Angle Views.

You can’t take it all in! Four big buildings full of models, photos, artifacts, old timetables, books, and of course lots of friends!

The show is on today too!

I made hundreds of images. This selection was exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

This super wide angle view provides an unusual perspective. It allows for great depth of field, but also some distortion.

More to come!

Big Show_DSCF0411

Slice of Light Photography.
Slice of Light Photography.

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Big Show_DSCF0427

Big Show_DSCF0428

Milk cars and Milk trains.
Milk cars and Milk trains.

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Otto Vondrak.
Otto Vondrak.

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Lots and lots of models.
Lots and lots of models.
Lotsa HO. That's 'Aich O'.
Lotsa HO. That’s ‘Aich O’.
Hey look, a BUS. (Call security!). Hey, we have standards you know.
Hey look, a BUS. (Call security!). Hey, we have standards you know.

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Rich Reed found a rare copy of Robert W. Jones' Boston & Albany book. (I wrote the epilog).
Rich Reed found a rare copy of Robert W. Jones’ Boston & Albany book. (I wrote the epilog).

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Chester & Becket. A railroad I can really approve of. Very Well Done!
Chester & Becket. A railroad I can really approve of. Very Well Done!
Chester & Becket.
Chester & Becket.
Chester & Becket.
Chester & Becket.
Ron's Books had a bunch of my latest efforts. Get your's before they sell out.
Ron’s Books had a bunch of my latest efforts. Get your’s before they sell out.
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At the end of the day . . .

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At the end of the day . . .
At the end of the day . . .

Rare Mileage! The Pan Am Railways Genie Grants Wishes!

A short segment of the Pan Am Railway’s Boston & Maine Greenville Branch extends northward from Ayer, Massachusetts.

While photographing around Ayer the other day, Bob Arnold, Paul Goewey and I had been discussing the branch, where it crosses Ayer’s West Main Street on plate girder bridge.

“I always wanted a photograph there.”

As luck would have it, a little later in the day our wish was granted.

Pan Am Railway's local FI-1 (based in Fitchburg) crosses Main Street in Ayer. I've been under this bridge dozens of time, but I'd never seen a train on it before. FujiFIlm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Pan Am Railway’s local FI-1 (based in Fitchburg) crosses West Main Street in Ayer. I’ve been under this bridge dozens of times, but I’d never seen a train on it before. FujiFIlm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

Although like wish granted by a Genie in the bottle, this one came with caveats. The train went up the branch in very dull light, with the ugliest leased engine available and long hood first, with one car.

Beggars can’t be choosers, to quote the cliché. So we worked with what we had.

Ah yes, the old Boston & Maine Greenville Branch. A relic of another era. A vestige of former times. How neat it would have been to see a 4-4-0 with combine coach marching along this rural branch line?
Ah yes, the old Boston & Maine Greenville Branch. A relic of another era. A vestige of former times. How neat it would have been to see a 4-4-0 with combine coach marching along this rural branch line?
No 4-4-0 today. Not even one of Pan Am Railway's nice blue GP40s. St. Mary's cemetery is older than the railway. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
No 4-4-0 today. Not even one of Pan Am Railway’s nice blue GP40s. St. Mary’s cemetery is older than the railway. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Approaching the Route 2A crossing. A Pan Am Railway highway truck is at left. Speed on the branch is a gingerly 5 mph.
Approaching the Route 2A crossing. A Pan Am Railways highway truck is at left. Speed on the branch is a gingerly 5 mph.
To deliver this car into a siding, the locomotive ran around, and then reversed. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
To deliver this car into a siding, the locomotive ran around, and then reversed. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
The switch stand dates to the era of the 4-4-0! FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
The switch stand dates to the era of the 4-4-0! FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
FI-1 makes its drop. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
FI-1 makes its drop. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.

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January 30, 2016 Big Railroad Hobby Show: Preview photo.

On Saturday January 30, 2016, I exposed hundreds of photos while trying to capture the atmosphere and personalities of Amherst Railway Society’s Big Railroad Hobby Show at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

This is just a preview photo. Stay tuned for more.

Reality check: small worlds in a big venue. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo with Zeiss 12mm Touit.
Reality check: small worlds in a big venue. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

More to come!

The Lovely Trees; Norfolk Southern/Pan Am Southern Intermodal Train at Shirley.

If I captioned this post, ‘23K passes Shirley’, would you have looked any way?

The other day when Paul Goewey, Bob Arnold and I were photographing trains at Shirley, Massachusetts, I exposed these views of the daily westward intermodal train symbol 23K that originates a few miles to the east at Ayer.

The Lovely Trees: These two massive trunks have fascinated me for years, and make for an excellent means to frame up a photo. Here, in the first view the intermodal train is almost incidental to the scene.

 Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

Which of these views of Norfolk Southern/Pan Am Southern’s 23K do you prefer?

A closer view made moments after the first. In this image I've emphasized the train.
A closer view made moments after the first. In this image I’ve emphasized the train.
This is an 'enhanced' version of the above. Working from the RAW file, I've made a variety of subtle changes to contrast, exposure, saturation and clarity in Lightroom as a means of making a more pleasing image.
This is an ‘enhanced’ version of the above. Working from the RAW file, I’ve made a variety of subtle changes to contrast, exposure, saturation and clarity in Lightroom as a means of making a more pleasing image.

Tracking the Light posts daily!

 

 

Boston & Albany West End-Conrail in the Berkshires.

Sunday, September 22, 1985.

This photo was product of one of dozens of trips I made to the old Boston & Albany west end in the mid-1980s.

The west end is the railroad west of Springfield over the Berkshires of Massachusetts toward Albany, New York.

Exposed on 120 black & white film using a Rollei Model T. Exposure calculated using a GE hand held light meter. Film processed in D76 1:1, and scanned with an Epson V750.
Exposed on 120 black & white film using a Rollei Model T. Exposure calculated using a GE hand held light meter. Film processed in D76 1:1, and scanned with an Epson V750.

On this morning I waswest of Chester, Massachusetts perched on the top of an rock cutting  that dated to the time of the line’s construction circa 1839-1840.

This Conrail eastward train was slowly making its way east. It was serenely quite in these hills and I’d hear the freight making its descent of Washington Hill miles before it finally appeared.

Imagine this setting one hundred and forty years earlier when it was the old Western Rail Road (precursor to the Boston & Albany). A time when one of  Winan’s peculiar vertical boiler 0-8-0s would have led a train of primitive four wheel freight cars over this same line.

Fewer trees then. And no cameras!

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This is an adjusted version of the same image. I've slight altered contrast and exposure to make it appear better on a computer screen.
This is an adjusted version of the same image. I’ve slight altered contrast and exposure to make it appear better on some computer screens. On my screen this looks closer the way I would have printed the negative back in 1985 by using a cold head (diffusion) enlarger.

Tracking the Light EXTRA: Big Railroad Hobby Show at the BIG E in West Springfield this weekend Jan 30-31, 2016.

The annual Big Railroad Hobby Show takes place this weekend.

I’ll be there on Saturday making models look like full size trains, and visiting with friends.

These views are from the 2011 show. Hard to believe that was FIVE years ago.

CB&Q SD40s pan P1000808
January 2011; Lumix LX3
Lumix LX3
Lumix LX3
Lumix LX3.
Lumix LX3.

I find the show to be a like a big railway Brigadoon. It exists for a little more than 48 hours and then vanishes into the mist for another year.

See Amherst Railway Society’s site for details: http://www.railroadhobbyshow.com

Hope to see you there!

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Amtrak Montrealer Hours Late—An Example of a Captioned Photograph.

 

Not my finest print, but it was the best I capable of at the time. Today, what I find interesting is the effort I made at captioning the old print, which has preserved the spirit of the day and the relative significance of the image. Information distinguishes the train pictured from a generic move to a specific train on a specific day and highlights the relative importance of the image.
Not my finest print, but it was the best I capable of at the time. Today, what I find interesting is the effort I made at captioning the  print, which has preserved the spirit of the day and the relative significance of the image. Information distinguishes the train pictured from that of a generic move to a specific train on a specific day and highlights the relative importance of the image.

Here’s an old print. I exposed this years ago. It shows an Amtrak train in the snow someplace. If I had to guess, I say it was made somewhere in New England in the mid-1980s/early 1990s based on the equipment.

Except I don’t need to guess. I know that it was exposed on the morning of January 16, 1984 and shows Amtrak’s late-running Washington D.C. to Montreal Montrealer passing South Deerfield, Massachusetts.

 I chose this photograph because it has a decent caption on the back. My language skills weren’t fantastic, but all I was trying to do was convey the vital information relating to the photograph. I typed this up on label using an IBM Selectric typewriter (which imprinted letters with a rapidly rotating ball) and pasted that to the back of the print.

I chose to display this photograph because it has a decent caption on the back. My language skills weren’t fantastic, but all I was trying to do was convey the vital information that related to the photograph. I typed my caption up on label using an IBM Selectric typewriter (which imprinted letters with a rapidly rotating ball) and pasted it to the back of the print.

In the caption I was trying to do was convey the vital information.  At the time, I’d hope to send this to a magazine. Catching the Montrealer in daylight was a real coup! (Or so I thought at the time.).

I find this photograph interesting for other reasons too. As regular viewers of Tracking the Light may be aware, I’ve made several recent views of Amtrak’s Vermonter at this same highway crossing (North Hillside Road) and so this makes for an interesting comparison view.

The primary reason I’ve posted this today is to provide an example of how a simple caption can solve many mysteries. Instead of a generic image of an Amtrak train kicking up snow, we instead know many of the crucial details; what, when where and why.

These details make the photo more relevant, and potentially more valuable as a record.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

General Electric Tier 4 works east on the old Boston & Maine.

These modern locomotives have been on the move in New England for a few months now, but they managed to elude me. Or my camera anyway. (I saw one in Worcester some weeks ago.).

Pan-Am Railways symbol SEPO typically operates with run-though locomotives. The eastward freight is pictured at Ayer, Massachusetts. Fuji X-T1 digital camera.
Pan-Am Railways symbol SEPO typically operates with run-though locomotives. The eastward freight is pictured at Ayer, Massachusetts. Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera.
CSX logo on a new ET44AH diesel-electric.
CSX logo on a new ET44AH diesel-electric.

The Tier 4 are the most modern high-horsepower freight locomotives offered by General Electric. They are designed to meet EPA’s Tier IV emissions standards.

While similar in appearance to other late model GE freight locomotives, they have a distinctive large capacity radiator and vents at the back. This provides increased heat exchange area in the radiator cab is required to meet the stricter Tier 4 exhaust emission requirement using by using Exhaust Gas Recirculation

On the morning of Tuesday January 26, 2016, Pan Am's SEPO is seen at the Willows, east of Ayer, where the Stony Brook Branch diverges from the Fitchburg Route. The Stony Brook handles Pan Am's though freights to Maine and New Hampshire destinations.
On the morning of Tuesday January 26, 2016, Pan Am’s SEPO is seen at the Willows, east of Ayer, where the Stony Brook Branch diverges from the Fitchburg Route. The Stony Brook handles Pan Am’s though freights to Maine and New Hampshire destinations. This set of three locomotives demonstrates an evolution in modern radiator profiles. The lead locomotive has the most modern Tier 4 design, while the second locomotive is one of GE’s Evolution Series that was in production from 2004-2014, third out is a 1990s era design: the AC4400CW .

On Tuesday, January 26, Bob Arnold, Paul Goewey and I found CSX 3308 working symbol freight SEPO (CSX Selkirk Yard to Portland, Maine) at Ayer, Massachusetts.

I always like to catch new power on the move and we caught this freight at several locations.

GE's modern Tier 4 locomotives can be instantly recognized by their enormous radiator profile.
GE’s modern Tier 4 locomotives can be instantly recognized by their enormous radiator profile. When photographing these modern locomotives, a trailing view such as this one offers a better view of the technologically distinctive features.
This telephoto trailing view emphasizes the radiators. FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
This telephoto trailing view emphasizes the radiators. FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

What about a classic three-quarter ‘roster view’ you ask? Well, I exposed that on color slide film, of course!

Tracking the Light posts daily!

Captions Past and Present: Solving the Great Mysteries Before they Happen!

I work with photographs almost every day. Often, I’m faced with drafting captions for historic images and too often I find historic prints without adequate information.

Back in the day some conscientious photographer made the effort to preserve a scene. When they went out the reason for their photograph was often brutally obvious (to them).

Maybe a new locomotive was working the daily express, or the local passenger train was running late. Perhaps an old machine was nearly ready for the scrap heap, or something special was on the move.

Or maybe it was just a nice day to be out, and the photographer wanted to document the railroad action.

Here we have a nice photo of a nearly new 4-4-0. With a little bit of footwork I was able to discover that it was an Illinois Central engine. The location, date, and specific significance of the image at the time of exposure are a mystery (to me anyway). There is no information on the print. Even the photographer has been forgotten. The print is from my collection.
Here we have a nice photo of a nearly new 4-4-0. With a little bit of footwork I was able to discover that it was an Illinois Central engine. The location, date, and specific significance of the image at the time of exposure are a mystery (to me anyway). There is no information on the print. Even the photographer has been forgotten. The print is from my collection. A simple caption such as: JL Jones and crew pose with new 934 at Podunk, Mississippi, February30, 1879 would have been helpful (hold on sherlock, I made up that caption to serve as  potential example. So, it is pure fiction, not speculation— thus the date).

Holding an un-captioned photo may present many mysteries that could have been easily answered at the time of exposure. But the photographer passed on and the significance of the moment has been forgotten; the railroad was merged out of existence decades ago and the location has changed beyond recognition.

And so here I am trying to solve a mystery. Often, I can figure things out. But not always.

There maybe clues, but will they help? If you could find the location today, you might see that the double track line in the old print was reduced to single iron and the old station was bulldozed years ago, the mills in the distance are now the site of a shopping plaza, and trees have grown up everywhere.

My late-friend Robert A. Buck was a stickler for caption photographs. Time, date, location, train number, engine number and class, engineer’s name, and so one.
My late-friend Robert A. Buck was a stickler for captioning photographs. Time, date, location, train number, engine number and class, engineer’s name, and so on.

A captioned photograph is vastly more useful, more valuable, and more relevant than an uncaptioned print. Never assume that the viewer, or even the photographer himself/herself will remember the details. The passage of time tends to blur those things that once seemed obvious.

Here we have a wee bit of information. CV is for Cumberland Valley (not Central Vermont). The locomotive is a PRR Class H6b, engine number 190. A quick search of a PRR roster will reveal details about the engine. Also, we know it was exposed on February 2, Ground Hog Day, but the exact year is unknown. The men in the photo are obviously the crew, and knowledge of their uniforms will give you an ideas as to their positions and roles; Engineer, Conductor, Fireman, Brakeman flagman, etc. But who are they? Where are we? Why? Who was the photographer? What was the significance of this image at the time? Mysteries, so far as I'm concerned.
Here we have a wee bit of information. CV is for Cumberland Valley (not Central Vermont). The locomotive is a PRR Class H6b, engine number 101. A quick search of a PRR roster will reveal details about the engine. Also, we know it was exposed on February 8 or August 2, but the exact year is unknown. The men in the photo are obviously the crew, and knowledge of their uniforms and tools will give you an ideas as to their positions and roles; Engineer, Conductor, Fireman, Brakeman flagman, etc. But who are they? Where are we? Why? Who was the photographer? What was the significance of this image at the time? Mysteries, so far as I’m concerned.

A solution for future photos: take the time to write information on the images photos you make. If you caught something special, explain in detail. Never assume.

Be sure to include specifics regarding locations. Avoid potentially cryptic abbreviations.

Don’t make things up! Try to be as accurate as possible without wildly speculating as to important details such as date and location.

Don’t wait until you have 100,000 photographs that span 25 years to begin your task.

We know that this is a Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington railcar and trailer. It looks relatively new. All other information is a mystery (there's nothing on my print, not even the photographer's name.) The photo is from my collection. Again I can speculate, but that's not the point. A little bit of information in the form of a caption would have gone a long way.
We know that this is a Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington railcar and trailer. It looks relatively new and the numbers are displayed, so a search of rosters will reveal builder information and possible disposition. All other information is a mystery (there’s nothing on my print, not even the photographer’s name.) The photo is from my collection. Again I can speculate as to the year, location, etc.,, but that’s not my point. I’m not trying to solve this mystery, but rather offer an example of how a little bit of information in the form of a caption on the print  would have gone a long way. Yet, what makes this photo fascinating to me is that its a rare example of a four-wheeled passenger vehicle built in the 20th century for an American railroad!

Beware: some time ago, an archivist told me that un-labeled photo collections are considered to be of low value to the historian. (His words were a bit stronger and involved trash receptacles).

A few final thoughts; when labeling old prints consider the type marker you use. Colored felt-tip pens are a very poor choice. For RC prints, consider a thin black permanent marker that won’t bleed, or a black ball-point pen with good action and ink that doesn’t smear. For paper prints a light pencil is a good choice, but don’t press down so hard that you damage the image area. Paste on labels are not good, eventually the glue will dry up (and fall off) and also the glue may bleed through. Digital images need captions too, but that’s a topic for another day.

More examples and more mysteries soon!

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NECR Tunnel Motor at State Line.

The other day down in the valley I heard the roar of a train ascending the old New London Northern grade to State Line.

EMD diesels working hard.

“Hmm. That’s odd. Daylight move on the New England Central?”

In recent months, New England Central’s freight south of Palmer, Massachusetts has been largely nocturnal.

I thought I’d best investigate, I hopped in my car and headed south to intercept.

Driving toward Stafford Springs, Connecticut I heard a telemetry hit on my scanner. (That’s the FRED—the end of train device the sends a signal reporting air-brake pressure from the tail end of the train to the engineer’s cab.) I knew the train was close.

Then, chatter on the radio: engineer to conductor. They were working the ground. The train was switching.

I altered my path and went to the south switch at State Line siding at Crow Hill Road, Stafford.

There I found the train: An NECR local freight from Palmer putting cars in the siding.

View from Crow Hill Road, Stafford, Connecticut. Lumix LX7 photo. I manually underexposed by 2/3s of a stop to compensate for the snow.
View from Crow Hill Road, Stafford, Connecticut. Lumix LX7 photo. I manually underexposed by 2/3s of a stop to compensate for the snow.

Sixteen loads and five empties.

At one end was a GP38 that’s nearly as old as I am. At the other end was NECR’s Tunnel Motor, engine 3317. A former Southern Pacific engine.

After dropping its cars on the siding, the crew of NECR's local freight pulled across and prepared to head back north to Palmer. This allowed me to take a good look at the Tunnel Motor.
After dropping its cars on the siding, the crew of NECR’s local freight pulled across and prepared to head back north to Palmer. This allowed me to take a good look at the Tunnel Motor—so-called because of its specially designed air-flow arrangement originally configured for high-altitude operation in tunnels and snow sheds on Southern Pacific’s rugged line over Donner Pass in the California Sierra.

That’s neat. I’d never seen NECR’s Tunnel Motor south of Palmer before.

Sorry, did I mention that New England Central’s reporting marks are NECR?

NECR's conductor sets the derail on the siding. Lumix LX7 photo.
NECR’s conductor sets the derail on the siding. Lumix LX7 photo.
I drove to the north-end of the siding which begins just north of the Connecticut-Massachusetts line. Look to the right of the engines and you'll see the crudely cut granite marker for the border.
I drove to the north-end of the siding which begins just north of the Connecticut-Massachusetts line. Look to the right of the engines and you’ll see the crudely cut granite marker for the border.
Not so many years ago, six-motors were banned from operation south of Palmer. These days its not so unusual. However, daylight moves don't occur on a regular basis. Lumix LX7 photo.
Not so many years ago, six-motors were banned from operation south of Palmer. These days it’s not so unusual. However, daylight moves don’t occur on a regular basis. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Art Deco Delight; Cincinnati Union Terminal

In August 2011, I exposed this vertical (portrait oriented) interior view of the famous Cincinnati Union Terminal. The station is an architectural masterpiece designed by architects Fellheimer & Wagner.

I was visiting for the annual Summerail event (due to be held this year in Marion Ohio).

For this angle I used my Lumix LX3, which is a took well suited for making interior views with mixed lighting.
For this angle I used my Lumix LX3, which is a tool well suited for making interior views with mixed lighting.

Cincinnati Union Terminal’s art deco styling lends well to semi-abstract images. I especially like the enormous flag, which helps anchor the photo while providing both perspective and context.

Cincinnati was inspired by one of my favorite Scandinavian railway terminals—also featured on Tracking the Light. Do you know which one?

If you would like to read more about classic railway stations, including details on Cincinnati Union Terminal, consider ordering my book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press and available through Amazon and local book dealers.

For a review of the book see Mass Transit Network.

http://masstransit.network/mass-transit-literature/railway-depots-stations-terminals

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Conrail in 1984 or Fixing the Dark Side—Thin Negatives Improved!

Back in March 1984, I wandered down to Palmer with my dad’s Rolleiflex Model T loaded with Tri-X.

It was a miserable day; typical early of early Spring wet, clammy and dark.

Yet, Conrail was running trains. A westward midday freight (remember those?) was blocked at the diamond for a Central Vermont train.

Using the Rollei’s square format, I composed some interesting images. Conrail’s Boston and Albany was still a directional double-track railroad back then. This was before the modern signals and single tracking that began in 1986.

I took the negatives home and processed the negatives in the sink, as I often did in those days. I was using Microdol-X for developer. I was cheap, and my developer was rather depleted by the time I souped this roll.

The result; unacceptably thin negatives that wouldn’t print well, even when subjected to a number 4 polycontrast filter.

Poor show! These negatives were thin and very hard to print. At the time it wasn't worth my time to mess about with them. Thankfully I saved them for more than 30 years. Despite under processing, most of the essential information necessary for an acceptible image was retained in the original negatives. This is the unmodified file.
Poor show! These negatives were thin and very hard to print. At the time it wasn’t worth my time to mess about with them. Thankfully I saved them for more than 30 years. Despite under processing, most of the essential information necessary for an acceptible image was retained in the original negatives. This is the unmodified file.

It was a just a dark day in Palmer. Conrail in 1984 was common for me, so I sleeved the negatives, filed them away in an envelope and that was that.

Until a little while ago, when through the improved tools available to me through Lightroom, I was able to finally get the results I desired from these old photos.

A few easy adjustments in Lightroom and I was able to extract most of the detail I saw back on that March 1984 day. Now I have some suitable dramatic images from a favorite period on the railroad.
A few easy adjustments in Lightroom and I was able to extract most of the detail I saw back on that March 1984 day. Now I have some suitable dramatic images from a favorite period on the railroad.

After nearly 32 years, they are looking pretty good now!

Conrail_Palmer_March1984_Brian Solomon_581495-2Conrail_Palmer_March1984_Brian Solomon_581496

Tracking the Light Fixes Old Negatives!

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SEPTA on Summer Evening: Silverliner on the old PRR Main Line.

Tracking the Light EXTRA post:

As a contrast to this morning’s frosty portrait view of a tightly cropped SEPTA Silverliner reflecting the snow on its inbound journey over former Pennsylvania Railroad rails, I thought I offer this summer evening’s view.

Berwin, Pennsylvania on the evening of June 30, 2012.
Berwin, Pennsylvania on the evening of June 30, 2012.

Like the earlier photo along the old Main Line (so-called because from the old ‘Main Line of Public Works) this depicts a Silverliner heading toward Philadelphia 30th Street.

However, this was a glorious summer’s evening  with warm low sun in the western sky and fresh green leaves on the trees.

The camera and lens combination were also similar. This morning’s tightly cropped image was exposed with my Canon EOS7D with a 200mm telephoto, while this view used the same camera body but with a 100mm telephoto.

Anyway, if the weather today has you longing for the warmer months, here’s something for which you may look forward!

Tracking the Light posts daily; sometimes twice!

Two Years Ago: Portrait of SEPTA in the Snow at Overbrook, Pennsylvania.

Please note, if you are viewing this post on Google Plus, Tumbler, Facebook or other sites,  you’ll need to view Tracking the Light at:  http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/ for the correct (unmodified, compressed or cropped) perspective on this image.

It was exactly two years ago; on this day, January 23, 2014, I made this tightly composed portrait-view (vertically oriented) photograph of a SEPTA Silverliner IV at Overbrook, Pennsylvania.

Over the years I’ve made many photographs along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, and more than my fair share of views at Overbrook.

SEPTA’s Silverliners are common enough, so I tried something a little different. Using my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm telephoto, I composed a tight vertical image of the SEPTA train as it glided through the station.

This is the full-frame portrait oriented view as I exposed it on January 25, 2014.
This is the full-frame portrait oriented view as I exposed it on January 23, 2014.

Tracking the Light Posts New Images EVERY Day! 

MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont PCCs in the Digital Era.

 

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s Tracking the Light post featuring vintage Ektachrome slides of Boston’s MBTA Mattapan-Ashmont PCCs from the late 1970s, I thought I’d present some of the images of this classic transit operation that I’ve made in the digital era.

I’ve featured this colorful trolley line about a once a year in Tracking the Light, but since the topic is timely as operation of the historic cars now appears to be under threat, I thought a Mattapan-Ashmont PCC review might be of interest.

Looking toward Ashmont from Cedar Grove. The Mattapab-Ashmont trolley line serves as an extension of MBTA's Red Line. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
Looking toward Ashmont from Cedar Grove. The Mattapab-Ashmont trolley line serves as an extension of MBTA’s Red Line. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
A classically painted PCC approaches Cedar Grove. Lumix LX3 photo, contrast adjusted in post processing.
A classically painted PCC approaches Cedar Grove. Lumix LX3 photo, contrast adjusted in post processing.
Milton was the station I featured in Wednesday's post showing the old trackage arrangement. This showed some PFE refrigerator cars delivered by Conrail on freight trackage that is now just a memory. Canon EOS7D with 40mm Pancake lens.
Milton was the station I featured in Wednesday’s post showing the old trackage arrangement. The 1979 view showed some PFE refrigerator cars delivered by Conrail on freight trackage that is now just a memory. Canon EOS7D with 40mm Pancake lens.
A Mattapan bound car approaches Central Avenue. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
A Mattapan bound car approaches Central Avenue. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens.
On an overcast May day, an MBTA PCC crosses Central Avenue. I like the contrast between the six decades old streetcar with modern automobiles. How much longer will scenes like this be possible on MBTA? Lumix LX7 photo.
On an overcast May day, an MBTA PCC crosses Central Avenue. I like the contrast between the six decades old streetcar with modern automobiles. How much longer will scenes like this be possible on MBTA? Lumix LX7 photo.
Careful inspection will reveal vestiges of the old New Haven Railroad freight trackage that ran parallel to the trolley line. Lumix LX7 photo.
Careful inspection will reveal vestiges of the old New Haven Railroad freight trackage that ran parallel to the trolley line. Lumix LX7 photo.
Mattapan is on the Red Line, served via vintage PCCs—at least for now.
Mattapan is on the Red Line, served via vintage PCCs—at least for now. Lumix LX7 photo.
It's an era steeped in history, so it will be shame to see the old cars go. This is Boston's equivalent of San Francisco's Cable Cars—antique streetcars maintained for a modern application. LX7 photo.
It’s an era steeped in history, so it will be shame to see the old cars go. This is Boston’s equivalent of San Francisco’s Cable Cars—antique streetcars maintained for a modern application. LX7 photo.

Also see:

Boston’s Time Machine. Step back 30, 40, 50 years!

MBTA-Boston: Traction Orange PCCs.

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Tracking the Light Looks Back: Five Years Ago, Amtrak’s Vermonter at Palmer.

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I was searching through my Panasonic Lumix LX3 files from five years ago and I found this frosty low-sun photograph of Amtrak’s Vermonter departing CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts for Springfield.

Rich winter sun offers a wonderful quality of light. While cold days maybe pose an endurance challenge for the photographer, the results can be outstanding.

Vermonter Palmer P1000684-2
Amtrak’s southward Vermonter heads west on CSX’s former Boston & Albany on January 25, 2011. (The train was working its  southward schedule, although this portion of the railroad line is oriented East-West, which presents difficulties in captioning without long-winded explanations and a bit of historical background.) Exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX3.

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Photographic incongruities: Saturn of Okayama—General Motors ad on a Streetcar?

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A Saturn advertisement graces a streetcar in Okayama, Japan in April 1997.
A Saturn advertisement graces a streetcar in Okayama, Japan in April 1997.

Here we have General Motors ad on a Streetcar. You have Toyotas in America, so why not a GM car in Japan?

Just to make things interesting, I made this photo on Kodachrome!

Photographic Incongruities three in one!

 

 

 

PCCs on MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley—Looking Back.

Recently, the TRAINS Newswire published a story on MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley line warning of the possible demise of the historic PCC cars and possibly of the trolley line itself. (The ‘bus’ word was uttered!)

So, the word is out, if Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley is something you want to see, DON’T Wait.

I recalled an early visit to this line with my father on a May Sunday in 1979. This was back when former Dallas double-ended PCCs dominated operations on the line, and the cars were largely painted red to reflect their operation as an extension of the Red Line.

Today, I find it fascinating to look back on these photos. I couldn’t have anticipated back then that more than 36 years later, old PCCs would still be working the line, albeit with different cars.

This old Type 3 car caught my attention. I'd seen these on the Green Line years earlier and always want to inspect one up close.
This old Type 3 car caught my attention. I’d seen these on the Green Line years earlier and always want to inspect one up close.
Since my 1979 visit MBTA eliminated the classic trolley shelter at Mattapan and sent many of the double-ended cars to the scrapper.
Since my 1979 visit MBTA eliminated the classic trolley shelter at Mattapan and sent many of the double-ended cars to the scrapper.

However, from strictly a photographic point of view, what is now most interesting to me is that I knew virtually nothing of the ‘rules of photography’ , other than a rudimentary understanding of how to work my father’s Weston Master III light meter and translate the settings it offered to my Leica 3A.

No one had ever told me about three-quarter angles, or where the sun was ‘supposed to be’. Front-lighting, back-lighting, and side-lighting were foreign words. I was blind as to the relative importance of foreground and background, and I didn’t known that ‘good’ photos were only made with Kodachrome, and I knew nothing about the compositional ratios of 2/3s, or any of the other stuff that later influenced my photography.

Here were trolley cars and lots of them. What's that Green car doing back there I wondered?
Here were trolley cars and lots of them. What’s that Green car doing back there I wondered?

Honestly, as record of the scene, my raw unfettered, uninformed approach has a great appeal to me today. Had I known those things, I may have exposed less interesting images.

What you see here are the inspired views of an enthusiastic 12-year old exposed using a Leica with a 50mm Summitar lens on Ektachrome film.

Another view of the snow plow. Too much foreground? Lighting all 'wrong', just pitch this one in the bin.
Another view of the snow plow. Too much foreground? Lighting all ‘wrong’, just pitch this one in the bin.
If the cars were double-ended, why do they spin them around on a loop. I couldn't make heads or tails of this.
If the cars are double-ended, why do they spin them around on a loop. I couldn’t make heads or tails of this.
I might not have known what I was doing, but I was visionary. I was fascinated by the 'heavy rail' tracks on both sides of the trolley line. Here is evidence that Conrail was still serving the former New Haven branch as far as Milton. There's virtually no evidence of the freight operation today, and it takes a bit of imagination to figure out where the tracks were. Notice that I didn't allow a PCC to interfere with the scene: this was about the PFE refers!
I might not have known what I was doing, but I was visionary. I was fascinated by the ‘heavy rail’ tracks on both sides of the trolley line. Here is evidence that Conrail was still serving the former New Haven branch as far as Milton. There’s virtually no evidence of the freight operation today, and it takes a bit of imagination to figure out where the tracks were. Notice that I didn’t allow a PCC to interfere with the scene: this was about the PFE refers!

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Metro-North, South Norwalk, Connecticut—September 7, 1989.

Looking back at seven slides.

Sometimes a review of ‘out-takes’ will reveal a few gems. This is a lesson in how the passage of time can make the commonplace more interesting.

On the morning of September 7, 1989, I spent several hours around South Norwalk, Connecticut, making photos with my Leica M2 on Kodachrome 25 slide film. My primary subject was the old New Haven Railroad and the passage of Metro-North and Amtrak trains.

Since that time, the Metropolitan series cars that once dominated Metro-North’s suburban service have been all but replaced. But back then many of these cars still had a relatively new sheen to them.

More striking have been changes to the South Norwalk station. The scene is very different. Among the changes has been construction of a large multistory parking garage, which now occupies the space to the north of the station.

Grand Central bound Metro-North train approaches South Norwalk on September 7, 1989.
Grand Central bound Metro-North train approaches South Norwalk on September 7, 1989.
South Norwalk station as it appeared on the morning of September 7, 1989.
South Norwalk station as it appeared on the morning of September 7, 1989. Today, the scene is complete changed.
Notice the sheen of the stainless steel on this Metropolitan-serie electric car.
Notice the sheen of the stainless steel on this Metropolitan-series electric car.
A view from the street looking north toward the old New Haven electrified line.
A view from the street looking north toward the old New Haven electrified line.
Looking toward New Haven Connecticut.
Looking toward New Haven Connecticut.

Yet, I also made a few photos of the town and passing road vehicles, which help give a flavor for South Norwalk in the late 1980s now more than a quarter century gone.

The street had its fair share of interest too.
The street had its fair share of interest too.
Wheels said the bus.
Wheels said the bus.

The best of the photos from this morning are held in a different file, and these are merely what I deemed at the time as ‘extras.’

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Sun and Clouds and a Turbo Train Near Rochester, New York.

Last week, I wrote about violating one of the cardinal rules of good railroad photography, that is aiming directly into the sun. In question were some views along the Ware River Railroad, er . . . sorry, rather the Mass-Central, as it is now known.

It may come as a shock to some readers of Tracking the Light, but this was not my first time aiming the camera toward the sun when photographing trains!

What I present here is an unusual image. Not because it is a trailing view of an Amtrak Turbotrain racing through North Chili, New York (rhymes with Dubai rather than Silly Hippie) on its way to Grand Central. (Yes, the Turbos went there back in the day). But, because I’ve opted to make a mid-morning silhouette in an unlikely way.

A thin layer of cloud had softened the morning sun. I was working with a Linhof Karden Color B 4×5 view camera fitted with a 90mm Schneider Super Angulon lens and Tri-X black and white sheet film (manufactured nearby in Rochester, New York).

Photographing moving trains with a view camera is no easy task, and on this day I had the camera firmly set up on a heavy tripod.

However, one advantage to the view camera is the ability to lift the front plane of the camera. This allowed me to keep the camera level while obtaining more sky area without causing unnecessary distortion to the train.

I’d set up the camera well in advance of the Turbotrain’s passing. Back in 1987, when I made this image there were no cell phones nor Julie to provide me with schedule updates.

Behind me was the Union Road grade crossing (long since replaced with an overpass). I had only one shot and I wanted to place the rear nose of the Turbotrain such that it didn’t intersect the trees to the right or the silhouette effect would be lost.

Another advantage of the 4×5 media is the ability to capture much greater amounts of information than possible with smaller film formats. As a result, I was able to capture superb tonality across a wide exposure range.

Unmodified scan of the original 4x5 negative. No adjustments to contrast or exposure.
Unmodified scan of the original 4×5 negative. No adjustments to contrast or exposure.

Admittedly this black & white negative had always vexed me in the darkroom. However, I scanned it the other day, and using Lightroom found that the contrast manipulation I was unable to achieve chemically, was easily accomplished with digital adjustment.

Adjusted photograph, using both localized and global contrast and exposure controls.
Adjusted photograph, using both localized and global contrast and exposure controls.

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Tracking the Light EXTRA: West Warren—Conrail C30-7A from a different angle.

I just scanned this old negative a few minutes ago. (If you’re not viewing this on Tracking the Light, you’ll need to click the link to get the full effect of the image.)

Back in late 1996, friend Doug Moore (and Tracking the Light grammar and fact checker) had lent me a Baby Speed Graphic (sorry I don’t recall the specific model.).

This camera used a roll film back and featured both a leaf shutter and a focal plane shutter, which made it useful for exposing railroad photographs.

Kodak 120 Tri-X exposed using a Speed Graphic and processed in D-76 1:1 with water. December 5, 1996, West Warren, Massachusetts.
Kodak 120 Tri-X exposed using a Speed Graphic and processed in D-76 1:1 with water. December 5, 1996, West Warren, Massachusetts.

Among the images I made was this view of a westward Conrail freight from the bridge at West Warren. Tracking the Light viewers will likely recognize the location as I’ve often posted pictures from here.

Using Lightroom I was able to make some simple contrast and exposure adjustments that greatly improved the overall appearance of the photo.

Here's a slightly lighter variation of the above image. Just a minor adjustment that may look brighter on the computer screen. Owing to the large size of the negative and careful processing, there's lots of subtle tonality in the original.
Here’s a slightly lighter variation of the above image. Just a minor adjustment that may look brighter on the computer screen. Owing to the large size of the negative and careful processing, there’s lots of subtle tonality in the original.

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Locomotive Geometry: Up Close with a Guilford Rail System SD26 .

I made this detailed telephoto view of Guilford Rail System’s former Santa Fe SD26 621 at East Deerfield yard.

GRS_SD26_detail_view_East_Deerfield_Brian Solomon 581155The SD26 was a peculiar looking locomotive that featured a classic arched roof cab, slanted nose, with a humpbacked hood section and air reservoirs located on top.

Light and shade: By sculpting with low afternoon light, I was able to emphasize the SD26’s shapes while minimizing other elements of the scene. Notice the effects of reflections in the windows and off the cab nose.

Over the years, I made many photographs of these locomotives on the road. For me this unusual angle captures the distinctive shape of the SD26, two of which soldiered on in road-service into the mid-2000s.

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A 30-year Old Gem; Amtrak Pan, New Cars on the Move.

One of the advantages of making a panned photograph is the ability to instantly transform a dull scene into a dynamic photograph.

I made this photograph of an eastward Amtrak train under wire on the old New Haven Railroad near New Haven, Connecticut at 9:38am on December 27, 1986.

Amtrak's Material Handling Cars (MHCs) were some of the newest equipment on the move in 1986.
Amtrak’s Material Handling Cars (MHCs) were some of the newest equipment on the move in 1986.

At the back of the train was a pair of relatively new Material Handling Cars, which where then allowed in high-speed service.

Rather than simply expose a flat light photo of the cars on the back of the train, I selected a slow shutter speed and kept the camera in constant motion with the train to make this panned view.

Aiding my ability to make this pan photograph was the Leica M3 camera that had a very soft shutter release. My exposure was 1/25th of a second at f5.6 on Kodachrome 25 slide film.

I’d be willing to wager that there are very few panned photos of new Amtrak MHC cars under wire!

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On this Day, January 15, 1953, Pennsylvania Railroad’s Federal Express Crashed at Washington Union Station.

In the lead was GG1 electric number 4876.

After the spectacular January 15, 1953 Washington Union Station wreck, Pennsylvania Railroad rebuilt GG1 4876, which required substantial reconstruction resulting in an nearly new machine.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I made a project of photographing old 4876, at which time it was working for New Jersey Department of Transportation on New York & Long Branch suburban services.

I exposed this detailed view with my Leica 3A at Rahway Junction in the locomotive’s last year of service.
I exposed this detailed view with my Leica 3A at Rahway Junction in the locomotive’s last year of service.

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Tracking the Light EXTRA: Conrail 27 Years Ago this Very Day!

A few minutes ago I scanned this Kodachrome slide. When I went to caption the file, I thought,
“Jan 14th 1989. Wow, that’s exactly 27 years ago.”

So, there you go.

Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 on January 14, 1989.
Kodachrome 25 exposed with a Leica M2 on January 14, 1989.

I’d been photographing Conrail symbol freight BUOI-4X (extra section of Buffalo to Oak Island Yard, New Jersey). This freight worked the old Erie Railroad route and picked up re-built New York City Subway cars from the Morrison-Knudsen plant in Hornell, New York.

I made this view at the old Erie Railroad East Hornell Yards that was mostly used for storage of old freight cars. (And yes, I do have some nice photographs of the old freight cars).

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New Haven at New Haven, Connecticut; Gauging the Passage of Time.

Stop for a moment and gauge the passage of time and your relative perception of it.

I made this photograph about 1980. I’d been fascinated by the New Haven Railroad, and what I saw here I viewed then as a relic of times long gone.

The old railroads such as the New Haven were those that my dad had photographed back in the days of sunny Kodachrome.

At the time, I made this view of old New Haven cars at New Haven, Connecticut, I was 13. Conrail was then only 4 years old (formed on April 1, 1976), yet for me even its predecessor, Penn-Central was already a foggy memory.

Looking back now, to me it doesn’t seem so long ago that Conrail vanished (Its operations ended in 1999). And yet, for point of comparison Conrail been gone almost four years longer (17 years) than I’d been alive at the time I made the photo.

What is interesting? What seems old?

These old New Haven ‘washboard’ multiple units were only about 26 years on the property (built new c1954). I thought they were ancient. Yet, now in 2016 how are old the few surviving Metropolitan sets? Well into their 40s!
These old New Haven ‘washboard’ multiple units were only about 26 years on the property (built new c1954). I thought they were ancient. Yet, now in 2016 how old are the few surviving Metropolitan sets? Well into their 40s!

In a high-school math class, I once remarked to my teacher, Mr. Ed Lucas, “Time and your perception of time are in inverse proportions to each other. The more time you experience, the faster it seems to go by.”

He replied, “That’s awfully profound for someone your age!”

Before Christmas, I related this story over dinner. However, I was stunned to learn a little more than a week later that Ed Lucas passed away on New Years eve.

It doesn’t seem so long since I sat in his class, and yet in another way it also seems like the dawn of time (or my perception of time)!

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

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Conrail Camel at East Brookfield; Fixing a Dark Slide.

(If you are not viewing Tracking the Light, please click on the post to see the variations from Dark to Light.)

Kodachrome was a great film but it had its failings. It’s spectral sensitivity tended to render blue too dark in relation to the other colors.

An unfortunate result of this sensitivity was that at times of high sun, when there is a greater amount of ambient blue light, Kodachrome was both less sensitive and produced an unacceptably constrasty result that over emphasize the already unflattering light of midday.

For this reason, I often put the camera away during midday, or switched to black & white.

This slide is an exception. On June 29, 1989, I photographed an eastward Conrail freight with C32-8(a model known colloquially as a ‘Camel’)  passing the old Boston & Albany station at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

The unaltered scan from the original Kodachrome 25 color slides. Owing to the time of the day, the slide is contrasty and as a result of the sensitivity curve of the film, it appears underexposed.
The unaltered scan from the original Kodachrome 25 color slides. Owing to the time of the day, the slide is contrasty and as a result of the sensitivity curve of the film, it appears underexposed.

I have many better photographs of these unusual locomotives and superior views of the old station, both of which are now gone. Yet, I’m glad I made this slide.

For years, it remained in its yellow box as returned to me by Kodak. Although sharp, it wasn’t up to par with my slides from the time and so I’d deemed it unworthy of projection.

Today this is a pretty interesting image and through the comparative ease of digital processing, I can compensate for some of the failings of the film.

Using Lightroom, I’ve been able to adjust the contrast, exposure and color balance to make for a more acceptable image.

I’ve presented three variations: the above image is the unmodified scan (scaled for internet presentation); the other two have various levels of adjustment aimed at producing a more pleasing image.

In this variation, I made some quick adjustments to color temperature, overall exposure, while lightening the shadow.
In this variation, I made some quick adjustments to color temperature, overall exposure, while lightening the shadows.
This version required more intensive work in post processing. I've locally adjusted shadows and highlights, while further tweaked overall exposure and made localized changes to color balance.
This version required more intensive work in post processing. I’ve locally adjusted shadows and highlights, while further tweaked overall exposure and made localized changes to color balance.

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SEPTA Chrome Glint—Sunset in Philadelphia.

Staying with the theme of low-sun glint and color slide film. The other day I scanned this photo I exposed back in October 2006.

My brother Sean and I had been exploring SEPTA’s Route 15. At the end of the day (literally) I made this view looking west on Girard of an eastbound PCC.

SEPTA PCC on the Route 15 line, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS-3 with 200mm lens.
SEPTA PCC on the Route 15 line, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS-3 with 200mm lens.

Tracking the Light works with Film and Digital, and Color and Black & White. 

Classic Chrome: Amtrak train 88 catches the Glint at Green’s Farms, November 8, 2015.

I love a great sunset glint opportunity. Last autumn, I revisited this spot at Green’s Farms, Connecticut with Pat Yough and George W. Kowanski.

While I exposed a number of views digitally, for this image I used my Canon EOS 3 with 100mm lens. As the train glided toward me I exposed a sequence of color slides on Fujichrome Provia 100F.

I scanned the slides using a Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner and adjusted the TIF files in Lightroom for final presentation here.

It is imposable to anticipate how this image will looks on your individual computer screen/device, but I can say it sure looked stunning on the big screen projected by a Leica lens!

Amtrak train 88 catches the glint at Green’s Farms at 4:15pm on November 8, 2015. Provia 100F.
Amtrak train 88 catches the glint at Green’s Farms at 4:15pm on November 8, 2015. Provia 100F.

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Ten Alternative Views: Mass Central—Going South, South Barre to Palmer

Sometimes small operational anomalies on a railroad will combine to benefit the photographer by opening up different angles or opportunities.

Last Wednesday, delays on Mass-Central’s northward run (owing in part to congestion at Palmer Yard that resulted in a later than usual departure) combined with operation of engine 1750 with a southward facing cab opened some different winter angles on the old Ware River Branch.

I was traveling with Bob Arnold and Paul Goewey and we made the most of the variations in winter lighting along the route.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, over the last three decades, I’ve made many photos along this line. So, I’m always keen to find new viewpoints of this operation.

Low clear sun in January makes for rich colors and wonderful contrast, but also posed problems caused by long shadows.

It is true that carefully placed shadows can augment a scene, but random hard shadows too often do little more than add distractions and disrupt a composition.

Below are a few of the more successful angles I exposed on this southward trip.

Three-quarter lighting at South Barre, allowed for nice illumination of the railroad's logo on the side of GP38-2 1750, while showing the old Mill that is now home to the Wildwood Reload. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Three-quarter lighting at South Barre, allowed for nice illumination of the railroad’s logo on the side of GP38-2 1750, while showing the old Mill that is now home to the Wildwood Reload. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
Beautiful afternoon light near Barre Plains makes for great contrast that brings out the texture in the foreground grasses. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Beautiful afternoon light near Barre Plains makes for great contrast that brings out the texture in the foreground grasses. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
I could make this view of the old Mills at Hardwick any day of the week, and I've been meaning to drive up one of these days to make the most of the light. So as I was walking into position to make my set on the far side of the Ware River at Gilbertville (featured below, I exposed this view with my 12mm Zeiss Touit. The old Boston & Maine line that ran parallel to the B&A Ware River Branch had run behind these mills. The tracks were lifted in the 1930s, although the Hardwick station survives. Mass-Central's present line is behind me.
I could make this view of the old Mills at Hardwick any day of the week, and I’ve been meaning to drive up one of these days to make the most of the light. So as I was walking into position to make my set on the far side of the Ware River at Gilbertville (featured below, I exposed this view with my 12mm Zeiss Touit. The old Boston & Maine line that ran parallel to the B&A Ware River Branch had run behind these mills. The tracks were lifted in the 1930s, although the Hardwick station survives. Mass-Central’s present line is behind me.
The sun had swung around at Gilbertville, so we tried this angle to feature the buildings alongside the tracks. I've cropped this 12mm view to eliminate the horse shadows in the foreground.
The sun had swung around at Gilbertville, so we tried this angle to feature the buildings alongside the tracks. I’ve cropped this 12mm view to eliminate the harsh shadows in the foreground.
Must all railroad photos be serious? Mass-Central's crew are friendly, so we gave them a passing wave. I was multitasking, by waving and photographing at the same time. Photo exposed with my Zeiss 12mm Touit.
Must all railroad photos be serious? Mass-Central’s crew are friendly, so we gave them a passing wave. I was multitasking, by waving and photographing at the same time. Photo exposed with my Zeiss 12mm Touit.
A telephoto view south of the Church Street crossing Ware off State Route 32. Exposed with my 18-135mm lens set at 135mm.
A telephoto view south of the Church Street crossing Ware off State Route 32. Exposed with my 18-135mm lens set at 135mm.
Same location as above but with a wide-angle setting on my zoom lens to take in the Ware River Valley. At one time B&M's line was located on the opposite side of this narrow valley.
Same location as above but with a wide-angle setting on my zoom lens to take in the Ware River Valley. At one time B&M’s line was located on the opposite side of this narrow valley.
Afternoon lighting at Ware made for some nice texture on the old coal sheds along the Boston & Albany. In summer these tend to be obscured by foliage.
Afternoon lighting at Ware made for some nice texture on the old coal sheds along the Boston & Albany. In summer these tend to be obscured by foliage.
South Street in Ware was lit nicely. This is the same location (albeit from a different angle) featured on Tracking the Light on Thursday January 7, 2016, but in those images viewed from St. Mary's Cemetery.
South Street in Ware was lit nicely. This is the same location (albeit from a different angle) featured on Tracking the Light on Thursday January 7, 2016. In  those earlier  images I was standing in St. Mary’s Cemetery. See: Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context. (link below).

Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context.

Sometimes the shadows conspire against making the desired view of the train. By the time Mass-Central arrived at Thorndike, the shadows had covered the tracks. Oh well, a challenge for another day.
Sometimes the shadows conspire against making the desired view of the train. By the time Mass-Central arrived at Thorndike, the shadows had covered the tracks. Oh well, a challenge for another day.

 

Not happy with these? I’ll try again on another day when the freight runs a bit earlier, or in a softer day, when there are no harsh shadows.

Tracking the Light explores new angles; New Posts Daily!

Capturing the Spirit of Ware River Valley; Nine More Mass-Central Contextual Views.

While on the roll with Mass-Central, I thought I’d present some more of my latest views. Made over the last week or so, these portray the railroad and its environs in the Ware River Valley.

In my photography and writing, I believe that providing context is an important component of telling a story.

Not all these photos depict trains, but together they are intended to paint a picture of modern railroading in this historic New England valley.

Since Mass-Central’s history is closely tied to the geography and industries that once-populated the Ware River Valley, to relay this story, it is important to capture more than just pretty pictures of the locomotive engine.

The old textile mills, villages, mill-ponds, and local highways all play an important part of the greater story.

Forest Lake.
Forest Lake.
Gilbertville.
Gilbertville.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a slightly more focused approach and highlight Mass-Central’s southbound run to Palmer. This will feature a variety of classically inspired views in low winter sun.

South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
South Barre, Massachusetts.
Gilbertville.
Gilbertville.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.
Along Route 181 in Palmer, Mass.

Tracking the Light  posts daily!

Railroad Photography: Breaking the Rules: Aiming into the Sun!

 

Someone once said, ‘never photograph by aiming directly into the midday sun’. And, this advice has been melded into the cardinal rules of good railway photography.

The other day, while photographing along Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, I opted to violate this basic premise of good photography.

Three considerations;

  1.  Over the years (35 of them) I’ve exposed a great many images of the Mass-Central on its former B&A branch. (A fair few of these images, I feel are indeed quite good, and perhaps border the category of ‘above average’.) So, if I end up making a bad photo (or two), who cares?
  2. My 12mm Zeiss Touit lens is an unusual piece of equipment. Owing to the nature of its design and exceptional high quality glass, I can make photos that frankly wouldn’t work so well with more conventional equipment.
  3. By selecting a very small aperture (f22), I can create a sunburst effect in a clear polarized sky while continuing to retain shadow detail.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera's histogram, I've optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I've attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
By selecting a small aperture and carefully exposusing manually by close attention to the camera’s histogram, I’ve optimized the digital sensors data capture. Essentially, I’ve attempted to retain some detail in the shadow areas while controlling the highlights. The use of a very small aperture (f22) creates the sunburst effect. This would be far less effective with this lens set (for example) at f5.6.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I've taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Another tip: to help reduce the exposure of highlights (bright areas) I’ve taken advantage of a high wispy cloud that muted the direct effects of the sun. Exposed with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens on a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. This is a camera produced Jpg, unaltered except for scaling necessary for internet presentation.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I've also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas.
An extreme lighting situation. Another effect of using a very wide-angle lens set with a very small aperture is tremendous depth of field (the relative focus between near and far objects in the photo). A jet contrail help diffused the light. I’ve also made a very nominal global contrast adjustment to lighten the shadow areas. In this instance, I have not applied any external filters.

So, are these photos good? Will I be fined by the aesthetics police? That’s up to you to decide!

But, honestly, what else would you have me do with a northward train coming directly out of the midday sun? I could have made no photos, but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting post, now would it?

Tracking the Light Posts Something New Every Day!

Thursday Extra Post: Follow up view!

In relation to this morning’s post; Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context, I’ve received several comments (and email) suggesting that a view in between the two I originally presented might be a superior alternative.

I don’t concur, but I am willing to offer this photo as a potential third alternative.

The third option.
The third option.

I had had my FujiFilm X-T1 set  to  ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous fast) and so exposed a great many images  in rapid successionat this location.

Sometimes Tracking the Light posts more often than once per day!

Mass-Central on Ware Hill; Boston & Albany’s Ware River Branch in a Modern Context.

Winter is an excellent time to photograph Mass-Central former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

The lack of foliage and a dearth of heavy underbrush opens up angles for photography obscured during the warmer months.

My challenge is to find new views on this railroad that I’ve often documented over the last 35 years.

On Monday, January 4, 2016, I made these views of the southward Mass-Central freight descending Ware Hill on its return run to Palmer.

Here I present two of the sequence of images. Compositionally, I feel the first image works better as it allows the eye to wander from the locomotive at right to the other subjects. The second image places too much emphasis on the left side.

Mass-Central 1750 leads the railroad’s southward freight near South Street in Ware, Massachusetts on January 4, 2016. Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.)
Mass-Central 1750 leads the railroad’s southward freight near South Street in Ware, Massachusetts on January 4, 2016. Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.)
Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.) Both images exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
Color temperature and contrast adjusted in post-processing, notably with the addition of a ‘graduated filter’ setting over the sky area to improve detail. (Note, this is not a true external graduated filter, as will be detailed in later posts.) Both images exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.

Which do you prefer?

 

Tracking the Light Explores Photographic Technique Daily!

First Railway Photo(s) for 2016; SEPTA PCC on Parkside Avenue.

Philadelphia Fortuity:

Before January 2, 2016, I’d never seen a SEPTA PCC making the loop from 40th onto Parkside Avenue, then on to the normal number 15 route along Girard Avenue.

My motto is always have a camera at the ready. So while waiting at the traffic light, I made these views with my Panasonic Lumix LX7.

SEPTA_PCC_Parkside_and_Girard_P1370148

SEPTA_PCC_Parkside_and_Girard_P1370147

Tracking the Light Makes the Most of Lucky Shots!

New Posts Daily!

 

Irish Rail by the rules at Hazelhatch, September 2015.

Sometimes I try to play by the rules.

It was rare glorious sunny day back in September 2015. Irish Rail had a full complement of trains on the move. Catching clean 071 class diesel 077 with the second IWT Liner was a bonus.

I exposed these photos along the Dublin-Cork line at Hazelhatch (about ten miles southwest of Dublin). Special thanks to John Cleary, who advised me on the day’s program, provided road-based transport and suggested some angles.