Tracking the Light Leap Day Special: Secret Photo Tip (the one you want to read, but don’t want to hear about).

Over the years I’ve traveled with dozens of railway photographers with whom I’ve  learned elements of railway photography.

Among the most important lessons I’ve learned, one has has very little to do with specific railways, locomotives, signals, or old stations. It doesn’t specifically relate to different types of equipment and isn’t really about cameras, types of film, or the definitive virtues of one media versus another.

Normally, I avoid philosophical preaching and I remain reluctant to instruct people how to conduct their affairs.

However, I think this tip may help some photographers—this is if they choose to accept it and react to it.

So, what is it?’

When you’re out making photographs avoid your invisible barriers— those things in your head that discourage you from being in position to make great photographs.

In other words try to avoid letting your arbitrary personal opinions, feelings or established prejudices from materially interfering with your focus on photography.

By ‘invisible barriers’ I mean things you can control and not personal obligations, physical limitations or other real impediments. The invisible barriers are what some people call ‘foibles’.

Some examples:

‘I don’t like to get up early.’

‘I like to eat a full breakfast before making photos.’

‘I don’t like cloudy days.’

‘I don’t like engines that are running long hood forward.’

‘I don’t like traveling more than 45 minutes from home.’

‘I don’t like driving in rush hour traffic.’

‘I don’t like locations that are too close to rivers.’

‘I hate the cold/heat/wind/dry air/rain/snow/dust storms/tornados.’

‘I only like passenger trains/freight trains/short lines/mainlines/Alco diesels.’

‘I don’t like tree branches.’

‘I only like trains climbing grades with a defined row of hills in the distance.’

‘I like bright sunny days.’

Any or all of these things may be true for you. However,  when any of these things get between you and a photographic opportunity, your photography may suffer.

Not the dreaded single diesel long hood forward!
Not the dreaded single diesel long-hood forward!
In 1994, I spent three rainy days in the Oregon Cascades. It wasn't comfortable, but I was offered a host of incredible photographic opportunities. For me the results were worth the trials.
In 1994, I spent three rainy days in the Oregon Cascades. It wasn’t comfortable, but I was offered a host of incredible photographic opportunities. For me the results were worth the trials.

If you want to push your boundaries consider reconciling those arbitrary foibles that may be preventing you from being in place to get  the best possible images.

Being in-place is key. If you are not there, you can’t a make photo. All the excuses in the world are no substitute for being there: so, Be There.

Push your limits. Get over the small things that are your invisible barriers. Work out what may be keeping  you from your optimum photographic potential.

Not a good tip? Here’s a question:

When documenting a scene what’s the benefit of allowing invisible barriers to shape your photograph or prevent it? Answer that for yourself, not for me. I’m just giving tips.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Amtrak 137 Catches the Glint at West Haven.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog discussing Railway Photography.

Another set from the old school: On January 29, 2016 at West Haven, Connecticut, I exposed a series of Fujichrome color slides of Amtrak train 137 (Boston to Washington) using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.

Amtrak train number 137 on the old New Haven Railroad electrified mainline at West Haven, Connecticut.
Amtrak train number 137 on the old New Haven Railroad electrified mainline at West Haven, Connecticut.
Notice the red marker lamps at the back.
Notice the red marker lamps at the back. The trick in exposing a slide in these circumstances is to calculate exposure from the brighter areas of the sky rather than the darker areas of the ground. It is crucial to anticipate the effects of the glinting reflection, as these only last for a few moments yet are integral to the quality of the image.

I’ve found that Fujichrome works very well capturing the wide dynamic range and subtle colors of a stainless-steel train reflecting the sunset.

I scanned these slides using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner. The files will be ultimately be archived in three locations on portable high-capacity external hard drives, while the slide will be stored with my other film photographs in a cool dark place.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

Classic Chrome: Alcos and F-units in the Snow.

Typically when I post photos under the ‘Classic Chrome’ heading, I use this to infer photos made from decades past.

Sometimes what was good then is good now.

I made these slides earlier this month (February 2016) using my Canon EOS-3 and Fujichrome Provia 100F. The slides arrived back from the lab and I promptly scanned them using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000.

The common qualities of all four images, in addition to the way they were made, is that they feature classic American diesel locomotives in the snow near Eaglebridge, New York.

This Battenkill Railroad RS-3 is among the last of its breed working in regular revenue service. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 100mm lens.
This Battenkill Railroad RS-3 is among the last of its breed working in regular revenue service. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 100mm lens.
Near Old State Road in Eaglebridge, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm lens.
Near Old State Road in Eaglebridge, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 100mm lens.
Pam Am Railways PAR-1 leads the company OCS train near Eaglebridge, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm lens.
Pam Am Railways PAR-1 leads the company OCS train near Eaglebridge, New York. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm lens.
Among muy favorite photos from my day-long pursuit of the elusive Pan Am Railways office car train is this view at Eaglebridge that shows the classic old Boston & Maine station, the nose of a westward freight and tracks on two levels. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm lens.
Among muy favorite photos from my day-long pursuit of the elusive Pan Am Railways office car train is this view at Eaglebridge that shows the classic old Boston & Maine station, the nose of a westward freight and tracks on two levels. Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm lens.

In my earlier posts (see: Unexpected Surprise: Stumbling on to one of New York’s Rarest Railway Operations and Pan Am Railways Office Car Special (OCS)—February 15, 2015.) I described the details of my adventures along with the digital photos I’d composed. Here are the film images.

Which do you like the most?

Tracking the Light Post Everyday!

Pan Am Railways on the Boston & Albany—February 2016.

In the last few months I’ve been lucky to catch a variety of the more obscure operations on the Pan Am Railways system.

Last week, Mike Gardner and I spent the afternoon around North Adams, Massachusetts.

EDRJ arrived with two locomotives to drop for local freight AD-1.

Pan Am AD-1 is seen on the Boston & Maine mainline at North Adams. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 20mm lens.
Pan Am AD-1 is seen on the Boston & Maine mainline at North Adams. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 20mm lens.
Boston & Albany on the left, Boston & Maine on the right. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 70-000mm lens.
Boston & Albany on the left, Boston & Maine on the right. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 70-200mm lens.

Although, we had high hopes of following EDRJ west toward the Hudson River Valley (uttering the now-famous battle cry, ‘To the River!’), Pan Am had other ideas.

History will forgive them.

So instead we followed AD1 down the old Boston & Albany North Adams branch to Zylonite.

Zylonite on the old Boston & Albany, now Pan Am's Adams branch. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Zylonite on the old Boston & Albany, now Pan Am’s Adams branch. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Who would have thought a high-hood GP40 would be working the old North Adams Branch! This was once the territory of Alco road switchers. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Who would have thought a high-hood GP40 would be working the old North Adams Branch! This was once the territory of Alco road switchers. Exposed with a Lumix LX7
Pan Am local freight AD-1 on the Adams Branch at Zylonite.
Pan Am local freight AD-1 on the Adams Branch at Zylonite. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Looking north toward North Adams.
Looking north toward North Adams.
Former Canadian National Railways GP40-2L wears a nice shade of blue. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Former Canadian National Railways GP40-2L wears a nice shade of blue. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.

I was familiar with the run, since my father and I traveled over it back in October on the Berkshire Scenic RDC (see: Berkshire Scenic’s Hoosac Valley—A Dozen Photos!)

After a taste of this surviving segment of B&A’s extension to North Adams, we followed the abandoned vestige of the line that runs southward to Pittsfield, then made the most of the late afternoon on the former B&A mainline!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Irish Railways 2006; Brian’s Talk in Two Weeks! Details Below.

In just two weeks time; on 10 March 2016, I Will Present to the Dublin branch of the Irish Railway Record Society a feature length illustrated talk on Irish railways as they were ten years ago; the year 2006.

Irish Rail General Motors Bo-Bo diesels at Claremorris, County Mayo. Exposed on Fujichrome Film.
Irish Rail General Motors Bo-Bo diesels at Claremorris, County Mayo. Exposed on Fujichrome Film.
Irish Rail 168 works the weedspraying train at Ardrahan on the Athenry-Ennis line.
Irish Rail 168 works the weedspraying train at Ardrahan on the Athenry-Ennis line.
Irish Rail 168 leads the Weedspraying Train at Enniscorthy on the Dublin Southeastern route.
Irish Rail 168 leads the Weedspraying Train at Enniscorthy on the Dublin Southeastern route.

This will feature some of my best photography from 2006 and will include a variety of images from around Ireland

My talk will begin at 7:30 pm at the IRRS Dublin premises near Heuston Station.

2700-series diesel railcars work the Kerry Road near Rathmore in May 2006.
2700-series diesel railcars work the Kerry Road near Rathmore in May 2006.

Irish_Rail_Mark2s_at_Manulla_Jct_on_Mayo_Line_1May2006_Brian Solomon_581888Tracking the Light posts every day!

Sound Studio in the Shadow of the Boston & Albany: Worcester, Massachusetts.

Dennis LeBeau was giving me a tour of post-industrial Worcester.

We called into ‘The Space Studios’ located in old brick factory buildings immediately north of CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline near Webster Street. The building complex once hosted an array of sidings, including a small coal trestle.

 

Once a factory; today artist and music studios.
Once a factory; today artist and music studios.
Decades ago this site was a hotbed of industrial activity. If you look carefully you can see the supports for an old coal trestle. Lumix LX7 photo.
Decades ago this site was a hotbed of industrial activity. If you look carefully you can see the supports for an old coal trestle. Lumix LX7 photo.

Inside the studio Dennis’s son Tommy LeBeau was recording The Green Sisters who were energetically performing traditional Bluegrass with a variety of stringed instruments.

Using my Lumix LX-7 to its best advantage, I made a few evocative images of the session.

Tommy LeBeau a The Space Studio in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Tommy LeBeau at The Space Studio in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Blue Grass live.
Blue Grass live.

Green_Sisters_P1380106

Green_Sisters_P1380111

Big old fiddlehead. Old school craftsmanship.
Big old fiddlehead. Old school craftsmanship.
After the take; Listening to the playback.
After the take; Listening to the playback. A long long time ago I studied music and studio recording, but early on I changed course and photography adopted me.

So what’s this have to do with railroads? Not much really, but its all related. Sometimes when you look for one thing, you find something else.

Later in the afternoon Dennis and I reviewed a vintage collection of B&A photos depicting the Worcester area. In the last 115 years a great deal has changed.

There was no Lumix LX7 in 1901.

I wonder what Worcester will be like in 2131?

Tracking the Light Finds New Angles Every Day!

 

A Visit with Jim Shaughnessy and West Warren Then and Now.

My Visit with Jim Shaughnessy—February 2016.

The other day Jim Shaughnessy invited me over to look at some photographs.

Over the years Jim has contributed many excellent images for my books. I’ve lost track to many different books of mine that feature his work, but at least 20 titles.

Presently, I’m gathering material for a detailed look at the Boston & Albany and Jim has hundreds of images of the B&A route in the New York Central and Penn Central eras.

Personally I find these photographs fascinating. Decades before I found the B&A and made photographs, Jim had been there to explore many of the same locations.

Jim holds up a photograph that he made of the westbound New England States at West Warren in 1970. The PC E-unit is long gone but the waterfall and old mill buildings survive.
Jim holds up a photograph that he made of the westbound New England States at West Warren in 1970. The PC E-unit is long gone but the waterfall and old mill buildings survive.

Compare the above view with a photo I made on December 28, 2015 of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at the same location.

Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited passes West Warren on December 28, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited passes West Warren on December 28, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

In the 45-year interval between images, the railroad was reduced from directional double track to a single main track and the old road bridge over was replaced with a modern span that is slightly higher.

In recent years, CSX has undercut the line and cut back much of the brush along the right of way.

Jim’s Penn Central photo is just one of the many I’ve borrowed for consideration in the B&A book.

While I was visiting Jim, my friend Dennis LeBeau phoned from East Brookfield and set up the next day’s adventure which has ties to the B&A project among other things. Stay tuned for more!

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Electric Freight at Kalsa, Slovakia.

On this May 2006 morning, Denis Mc Cabe and I focused on a westward freight led by a class 131 double-electric.

This was working on the busy double-track standard gauge (4 feet 8.5 inches) mainline to Kosice. However, our primary interest was catching movements on the adjacent Russian-gauge iron-ore line (seen to the left of the double-track line).

At that time ore-trains passed about every two hours.

Exposed on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 with 45mm Zeiss Planar. Scanned with a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and adjusted in Lightroom.
Exposed on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 with 45mm Zeiss Planar. Scanned with a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and adjusted in Lightroom.

This was my second visit to eastern Slovakian hot-spot at Kalsa, and it was the third visit for Denis who located this place a few years earlier.

Our success in eastern Slovakia led us to travel to western Ukraine the following year, which proved to be an exceptionally rewarding photographic endeavor.

Lately, I’ve made a project of scanning my Slovakian slides.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

I’m not a Team Player.

Too often I find that a brand or a ‘team theme’ is applied by photographers to railway photography. Their intent may be good spirited, but the results can be limiting.

Specifically in regards to equipment: Cameras and lenses are tools. (As are digital sensors and film emulsions). While each camera system has advantages and disadvantages, obsessive loyalty to one brand or another may stand between a photographer and their ability to make better photographs.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of different cameras. Most have had their strengths, but also limitations.

30 years ago, I worked largely with Leicas. The lenses were very sharp, and when I loaded them with Kodachrome 25 or Kodak Panatomic X, I often produced very acceptable results.

20 years ago, Nikons were my primary tools. I was fussy about my selection of lenses, and I experimented with a variety of films.

10 years ago, I carried a Contax G2 range finder loaded with Fujichrome with me everywhere, yet exposed many images with Canon EOS3s.

New England Central southbound 611 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge. For this image I used one of my old Canon EOS3s fitted with a 100mm Canon lens and loaded with Ilford HP5. I processed the film according to my custom tailored recipe. (See yesterday's post for details). Why Canon? Why black & white film? Because it these combinations worked for me.
New England Central southbound 611 crosses the Millers Falls high bridge. For this image I used one of my old Canon EOS3s fitted with a 100mm Canon lens and loaded with Ilford HP5. I processed the film according to my custom tailored recipe. (See yesterday’s post for details). Why Canon? Why black & white film? Because it these combinations worked for me.
Moments after I exposed the black & white photo above, I made a burst of digital images with my FujiFilm X-T1. In this situation I have the best of film and digital photography, while working with two different camera systems. Standing next to me Mike Gardner exposed photos using his digital Leica M.
Moments after I exposed the black & white photo above, I made a burst of digital images with my FujiFilm X-T1. In this situation I have the best of film and digital photography, while working with two different camera systems. Standing next to me Mike Gardner exposed photos using his digital Leica M.

Today, I work with a Lumix LX7 and Fuji X-T1 digital cameras, as well as my old Canons and Nikons loaded with film. Occasionally, I borrow my dad’s Leica M rangefinders. Depending on the circumstances I’ll use digital or film, sometimes working with both at the same time.

Over the years I’ve made photos with Rollei 120 camera, and Hasselblads, Sinars and Linhofs, Pentax SLRs, along with a host of other equipment.

Why do I choose one camera over another?

Not because of loyalty to one brand or another. Not because one uses film and other is digital. But, because I’ve learned the strengths and weaknesses of individual camera systems and specific camera models. No two camera systems work the same way, and thus in similar situations no two cameras perform the same.

I’m not a team player. I won’t use a Canon because it’s a Canon, or grab my Lumix LX7 simply because it is a digital camera. I work with these tools because of the results they can produce in different circumstances.

Optical quality is always important, as is ease of use and relative affordability. But these days camera weight is often a deciding condition when I choose which tools to carry. My camera bag of the 1990s weighed about 4 times what my bag does today.

My Lumix LX7 is a great tool for making grab shots. Here Mike Gardner and I were pacing a New England Central freight. I unrolled the window, set the aperture to its smallest hole to force the camera to use a slow shutter speed (I had the Lumix in 'A' mode which allows me to select the aperture while the camera picks the shutter speed based on its internal meter). At the time I had three cameras to chose from, and I instantly opted for the Lumix.
My Lumix LX7 is a great tool for making grab shots. Here Mike Gardner and I were pacing a New England Central freight. I rolled the window down, set the aperture to its smallest hole to force the camera to use a slow shutter speed (I had the Lumix in ‘A’ mode which allows me to select the aperture while the camera picks the shutter speed based on its internal meter). At the time I had three cameras to chose from, and I instantly opted for the Lumix.

I’m always on the lookout to see what a new piece of equipment can do. And, I’m always interested in finding ways to make old equipment work for me.

In the end, my camera selection is about the result and not the camera.

Tracking the Light Takes a New Look Every Day!

Drama Along the Deerfield River; Gone Retro—February 18, 2016.

At this exact location thirty years ago, I made a dramatic black & white view of a westward Guilford freight on the Boston & Maine.

Thursday, February 18, 2016, I stood in my own footprints, and recreated the drama.

Photographer Mike Gardner and I were on one of our railroad photo quests.

Pan Am Railway’s freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) was working upgrade along the Deerfield River toward the Hoosac Tunnel.

While I made some digital images, I also exposed several photos on Ilford HP5 using my Canon EOS3 fitted with a 20mm superwide angle lens.

Some writers have come to call this ‘analog photography’. Let’s use the word film: I made the photo on black & white film.

When I returned home, I brought the film into the darkroom and I processed it using chemicals (as you do).

I’ve detailed my secret recipe for black & white in the Tracking the Light post titled: Black & White revisited; Old Tech for a New Era part 2—Secrets Revealed! (http://wp.me/p2BVuC-4o) please click the link to see the post.

For this roll of film I made some minor adjustments to the basic formula.

The goal of my special process is to allow for a black & white negative that when scanned provides optimum tonality and contrast without the need for post processing adjustments.

This is significant for two reasons: 1) I’ve maximized the film’s tonality, thus allowing to capture the most amount of information. 2) I’ve minimized the amount of time I need to spend adjusting individual images.

Exposed on February 18, 2016 with Ilford HP5 black & white film. Processed in Kodak HC-110 1:32 for 5 minutes at 68 degrees F, three bath fixer, and then selenium 1:9 for five minutes; rinse and dry. Scanned digitally using a Epson V600. No post processing contrast or exposure adjustments. Original exposure was f16 1/500th of a second with 20mm lens.
Exposed on February 18, 2016 with Ilford HP5 black & white film. Processed in Kodak HC-110 1:32 for 5 minutes at 68 degrees F, three bath fixer, and then selenium 1:9 for five minutes; rinse and dry. Scanned digitally using a Epson V600. No post processing contrast or exposure adjustments. Original exposure was f16 1/500th of a second with 20mm lens.

With this photo, I scanned the original negative, and then scaled it in Lightroom while applying my water mark. I did not make adjustments to exposure, contrast, or similar. This is in essence and unmodified scan.

Here I’ve intentionally selected a very contrasty scene. This demonstrates the success of the process and makes for a dramatic photograph of modern railroading.

By using HP5, which is rated by Ilford at 400 ISO, I’ve intentionally selected a comparatively grainy film. This adds texture and grittiness to the image. I  wonder how it will appear on your screen? On mine it is exceptionally sharp with broad tonal range.

What do you think?

Tracking the Light Posts EVERY DAY!

 

Night Freight on Stateline Hill; an exercise in existing-light night photography.

I made these photos the other evening at Bridge Street in Monson, Massachusetts.

New England Central 608 from Willimantic, Connecticut was paused waiting for traffic ahead to clear up.

Despite the cold, I took the opportunity to make a few time exposures with my Lumix LX-7. My exposures were aided by a blanket of crusty snow that reflected some of the ambient light.

NECR 608 at Bridge Street in Monson, Massachusetts.
NECR 608 at Bridge Street in Monson, Massachusetts.

To keep the camera from shaking, I rested it on the handrails of the bridge and used the self timer to actuate the shutter. I exposed in ‘M’ mode (manual) using the camera’s histogram to gauge the length of my shutter opening.

Owing to the dimly lit scene, I still needed to boost the shadows in post processing to allow for a more visually appealing image. Opportunities such as this make for good exercises in existing-light night photography.

This is a slightly telephoto view of the same scene. The tricky part was keeping the camera steady for 25-30 seconds without the use of a tripod. Why not set up a tripod? Time. I had only a few moments to compose and expose this view. Fumbling with a tripod in the cold and dark would have delayed my efforts.
This is a slightly telephoto view of the same scene. The tricky part was keeping the camera steady for 25-30 seconds without the use of a tripod. Why not set up a tripod? Time. I had only a few moments to compose and expose this view. Fumbling with a tripod in the cold and dark would have delayed my efforts.

Tracking the Light is Daily!

Pan Am Railway’s EMD F-Units in the Snow; a Second Look.

My Lumix LX7 is a superb tool.

Sometimes I use it as my primary camera.

Often I keep it handy for grab shots.

Near Soap Stone, Massachusetts I made this trailing view across the Deerfield River. Sure the trees block part of the train, but I like the overall atmosphere of the scene. Lumix LX7 photo.
Near Soap Stone, Massachusetts I made this trailing view across the Deerfield River. Sure the trees block part of the train, but I like the overall atmosphere of the scene. Lumix LX7 photo.

On Monday February 15, 2016, I used the LX7 along with my FujiFilm X-T1 to photograph Pan Am Railways executive F-unit with the company office car train. (See: Tracking the Light Special: Pan Am Railways Office Car Special (OCS)—February 15, 2015.)

Where most of my photos were made with the Fuji, I augmented my efforts with Lumix.

Why? Because each camera  produces different results.

On this occasion, I used the Lumix LX7 for some tight angles on the special train.

A report of a broken rail had Pan Am Railway's office car train moving at a walking pace. Bad news for operations, but a boon for the photographer. At the last moment I made this grab shot with my Lumix. It's among my favorite shots from the day's efforts.
A report of a broken rail had Pan Am Railway’s office car train moving at a walking pace. Bad news for operations, but a boon for the photographer. At the last moment I made this grab shot with my Lumix. It’s among my favorite shots from the day’s efforts. White flags are a nice touch. Better get out your train-order era rule book: white flags mean ‘running extra’.
Years ago, my dad brought me to Boston & Maine's roundhouse in Somerville. There I recalled staring in awe at a B&M F7A in McGinnis blue paint. Who could have imagined that more than 45 years later, F-units would be working the Boston & Maine Fitchburg mainline. I think that's pretty cool. Lumix LX7 view near Zoar, Massachusetts.
Years ago, my dad brought me to Boston & Maine’s roundhouse in Somerville. There I gazed in awe at a B&M F7A in McGinnis blue paint. Who could have imagined that more than 45 years later, F-units would be working the Boston & Maine Fitchburg mainline. I think that’s pretty cool. Lumix LX7 view near Zoar, Massachusetts.
Here's a trailing view. PAR-1 seems to get most of the glory, so I though to make a photo of PAR-2 as it rolled by me.
Here’s a trailing view. PAR-1 seems to get most of the glory, so I thought to make a photo of PAR-2 as it rolled by me.
Neat tail car! Six-wheel trucks must make for a nice ride.
Neat tail car! Six-wheel trucks must make for a nice ride.

I processed the Lumix RAW files in Lightroom to bring out shadow detail, and where necessary to adjust overall exposure, and alter color saturation and contrast to make for the most pleasing images.

Which of these do you like the best?

Tracking the Light takes a new Angle Every Day!

 

One Year on Irish Railways; Looking back ten years by Brian Solomon

On 10 March 2016, I will present an illustrated talk on Irish railways as they were ten years ago—the year 2006—to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin.

This will feature some of my best photography from 2006 and include images on the Waterford-Limerick line, Galway Line and Mayo routes, plus Railway Preservation Society Ireland steam trips and many other subjects.

Timber train with 124 and 181 near Clara on 15 April 2006.
Empty timber train with 124 and 181 near Clara on 15 April 2006.
Freshly painted Irish Rail 215 at Attymon, Co. Galway.
Freshly painted Irish Rail 215 at Attymon, Co. Galway, 15 April 2006.

There’ll be plenty of photos of General Motors diesels at work hauling freight and passenger trains.

Th talk will begin at 7:30 pm at the IRRS Dublin premises near Heuston Station.

Semaphore at Claremorris, Co. Mayo in May 2006.
Semaphore at Claremorris, Co. Mayo in May 2006.
Irish Rail 075 with Ballina Branch train at Manulla Junction on May Day 2006.
Irish Rail 075 with Ballina Branch train at Manulla Junction on May Day 2006.
Westport Timber at Claremorris, Co. Mayo.
Westport Timber at Claremorris, Co. Mayo.

Tracking the Light posts every day!

Tracking the Light Special: Pan Am Railways Office Car Special (OCS)—February 15, 2015.

It seems like every time I board a plane for far away shores the Pan Am office car special sneaks out.

Not this year!

Yesterday, February 15, 2016, I had the rare opportunity to catch Pam Am Railways vintage FP9s on the roll. The trip was working east from Mechanicville, New York on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg line.

Pan Am Railways' office car special works east at Eagle Bridge on February 15, 2016. We'll have to wait for the broadside view. That's on Fujichrome!
Pan Am Railways’ office car special works east at Eagle Bridge on February 15, 2016. We’ll have to wait for the broadside view; it’s on Fujichrome! (film). Incidentally, I’ve applied the Lee graduated neutral density filter technique to this image. There’s just a touch of filtration at the top of the frame. (See last week’s Battenkill post for details. And just to tie the posts together, the tracks in the foreground are Battenkill’s.

Working with three cameras, I made dozens of images. The latent gem is the F’s broadside passing the old Eagle Bridge, New York station.

Until last week, I hadn’t visited Eagle Bridge in years. Now I’ve been there twice in less than a week. Funny how that works.

Pan Am's OCS at North Pownal, Vermont. The temperature was a balmy 22 degrees F. Warm!
Pan Am’s OCS at North Pownal, Vermont. The temperature was a balmy 22 degrees F. Warm!
A reported broken rail near Soapstone had the train moving at walking pace.
A reported broken rail near Soapstone had the train moving at walking pace.
Electro-Motive F-units are great to pan. 1/60th of second gives the sense of motion while retaining a sense of place.
Electro-Motive F-units are great to pan. 1/60th of second gives the sense of motion while retaining a sense of place.

All the photos here were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. Contrast and saturation were nominally adjusted in Lightroom.

Tracking the Displays New Material Every Day!

Providence & Worcester on the Boston, Barre & Gardner—February 11, 2016.

The old Boston, Barre & Gardner Railroad was a 19th century line that ran from Worcester, Massachusetts to Peterboro, New Hampshire.

Today, the bottom portion of the line serves Providence & Worcester’s through connection with Pan Am Railways at Gardner.

Last fall I explored this line between Holden and Gardner looking for locations.

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, Mike Gardner and I arrived at Gardner in time to find Pan Am’s ED-8 making a drop for the P&W. Earlier, another train, probably symbol 28N had dropped autoracks, so the yard was nearly full of cars.

Based on past experience, I quickly surmised that the P&W hadn’t arrived from Worcester yet. So after a quick lunch, we started working our way south against the train.

Looking toward Worcester at Old Colony Road in Princeton, Massachusetts. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Looking toward Worcester at Old Colony Road in Princeton, Massachusetts. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

North of Princeton, Massachusetts there are several grade crossing with nicely curving track. The snow covered ground made for Christmas card scene.

Mike and I didn’t have to wait long before P&W’s symbol freight WOGR (Worcester to Gardner) came charging northward. We were impressed by the length of the train. One unit was at the head-end with a second locomotive at the back of the train.

P&W's northward WOGR blasts for the rural crossing. This was an impressive freight carrying mixed freight and auto racks for interchange with Pan Am.
P&W’s northward WOGR blasts for the rural crossing. This was an impressive freight carrying mixed freight and auto racks for interchange with Pan Am.

P&W_WOGR_w_4005_at_Old_Colony_Road_north_of_Princeton_MA_DSCF1182

Old Colony Road. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Old Colony Road. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Trailing view of the General Electric B39-8 at the back of the train. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
P&W works at Gardner to put together its southward freight. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
P&W works at Gardner to put together its southward freight. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

Southbound the train was even more impressive, but it required about 3 hours of switching to put it all together.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Battenkill Railroad RS-3; Winter Sky and a Bold Technique.

In yesterday’s post (Unexpected Surprise: Stumbling on to one of the Rarest Railway Operations) I wrote of how we found the Battenkill local freight at Eaglebridge, New York.

It was sunny at Eaglebridge, but ominous clouds were rolling in from the west.

On one level the clouds benefitted our photography, since we’d be fighting the sun on a northward chase.

I opted for something different. The sky was a textured tapestry of clouds and light. The technique I’m about to describe isn’t really bold, nature and architectural photographers use it all the time.

I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit (previously described) and a moveable Lee graduated neutral density filter (with a 2/3s of a stop range).

This arrangement allows me to better balance the exposure differential between the bright sky at the top of the frame and the inky dark shadows toward the bottom of the image. The Lee system allows me to rotate the filter and adjust it up and down.

You can make similar adjustments in post processing using a digital applied graduated filter, however by using the filter on-camera I’m allowing the camera sensor to capture greater amounts of data, thus expanding the dynamic range of the image.

Specifically, I can adjust the filter to expose for the sky to the point where highlight and shadow detail are adequately captured which allows me to lighten the shadow areas at the bottom of the photo.

In some situations, the image will not require any post processing. However I found it was still necessary to make some post processing adjustments to make the image appear better to the eye. I fine-tuned my exposure and contrast using Lightroom.

All four images in the sequence below were made using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Lens. (However, the introduction photo at the top of the post was made with a 18-135 lens, unfiltered.)

Here's my scene unfiltered. I'm at a grade crossing south of Cambridge, New York. The clatter of Battenkill's RS-3 with 244 diesel can be heard in the distance. I've exposed for the foreground, which has the undesirable effect of losing most of the texture in the sky.
Here’s my scene unfiltered. I’m at a grade crossing south of Cambridge, New York. The clatter of Battenkill’s RS-3 with 244 diesel can be heard in the distance. I’ve exposed for the foreground, which has the undesirable effect of losing most of the texture in the sky.
With this image, I've attached the Lee graduated neutral density filter. This darkens the sky and features a tapered graduation which should appear virtually seamless. The result is that I can better hold detail in the sky and in the foreground.
With this image, I’ve attached the Lee graduated neutral density filter. This darkens the sky and features a tapered graduation which should appear virtually seamless. The result is that I can better hold detail in the sky and in the foreground.
Now the Battenkill has arrived. I've intentionally made my exposure a bit on the darkside, knowing I can locally lighten shadow areas in post processing. Again, by using the filter, I've been able to allow the sensor to capture a greater dynamic range. (a larger span of dark to light).
Now the Battenkill has arrived. This is the un-modified RAW file (except for scaling necessary for internet presentation).  I’ve intentionally made my exposure a bit on the darkside, knowing I can locally lighten shadow areas in post processing. Again, by using the filter, I’ve been able to allow the sensor to capture a greater dynamic range. (a larger span of dark to light). When I exposed this image I gauged exposure using the in-camera histogram to maximize the amount of data captured by the sensor and to minimize loss of detail in shadows and highlights.
Using Lightroom, I made some nominal post-processing adjustments to contrast and exposure, specifically focusing on the shadows and midtown areas of the locomotive. My intent was to better balance the image as it appears to the eye.
Using Lightroom, I made some nominal post-processing adjustments to contrast and exposure, specifically focusing on the shadows and midtone areas of the locomotive. My intent was to better balance the image as it appears to the eye. Obviously, depending on personal taste, it is possible to make a variety of adjustments to the final image. Here I tried to faithfully recreate a dramatic scene. Personally, the wavy rows of harvested corn make for some of the most interesting texture. Yet the primary subject remains the Alco RS-3 diesel.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Unexpected Surprise: Stumbling on to one of New York’s Rarest Railway Operations

Follow up to Brian’s Blue Diesel Distraction.

It was one of those days where I was following my instincts.

As profiled yesterday, we’d started out after the New England Central; diverted to Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield yard, then focused on the westward freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction).

More than 30 years ago, I’d travel to East Deerfield in search of antique locomotives in regular service. My friends and I would delight in finding old EMD switchers, plus GP7s, GP9s, and the rare GP18s at work.

Better were run through freights with Delaware & Hudson Alco diesels. If we found an interesting consist on a westward freight, we’d follow it up toward the Hoosac Tunnel and beyond into Vermont. A good chase would bring us clear to the Hudson River Valley at Mechanicville.

The catch phrase ‘to the River!’ has come mean a day-long chase to the Hudson.

Pan Am Railway's EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction freight) disappears into the bowels of Hoosac Mountain. It was the last we saw of this train.
Pan Am Railway’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction freight) disappears into the bowels of Hoosac Mountain..

So when Paul Goewey and I started west after the EDRJ on Tuesday February 9, 2016, it was my hope to re-live and re-create one of those great 1980s chases. And, after all this train essentially had a 1970s era lash-up of engines and was well suited to the spirit of the exercise.

After photographing EDRJ at the East Portal of Hoosac Tunnel, we followed the narrow switchback road up the mountain to Route 2, and then drove west from North Adams. We’d heard on the radio that EDRJ was to work at Hoosick Junction and meet the eastward intermodal train symbol 22K.

‘We’ll drive directly to Eaglebridge (New York) and intercept the 22K there.’

Good plan.

When we crested a hill near Eaglebridge, I pointed out the little used tracks of the Battenkill Railroad. Paul said, ‘looks like something has been over the line recently’

And then I saw a wisp of blue smoke (not Merle Travis).

“It’s an Alco!”

Blue smoke at Eaglebridge on February 9, 2016. Fuji film X-T1 photo.
Blue smoke at Eaglebridge on February 9, 2016. Fuji film X-T1 photo.

Indeed it was. We’d stumbled on to the Battenkill local working with a pure former Delaware & Hudson RS-3.

I’d photographed the Battenkill on various occasions over the years, but always with elaborate planning and careful arrangements. Since neither of us had been to Eaglebridge in many years (at least four for me), to arrive in time to catch this elusive operation was a true find.

This antique Alco RS-3 is still lettered for Battenkill precursor Greenwich & Johnsonville. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
This antique Alco RS-3 is still lettered for Battenkill precursor Greenwich & Johnsonville. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Alco RS-3 in the sun at Eaglebridge. How many RS-3s are serviceable in the United States? And of those how many work revenue freights? This once common locomotive is now among the most elusive.
Alco RS-3 in the sun at Eaglebridge. How many RS-3s are serviceable in the United States? And of those how many work revenue freights? This once common locomotive is now among the most elusive.

The caveat: if we’d stayed with EDRJ we’d missed the Battenkill.

Soon we were ambling up the Hoosic Valley making photographs of one of New York State’s more obscure railways.

Crossing the Hoosic River at Eaglebridge. By the way 'Hoosic', 'Hoosick' and 'Hoosac' are all correct derivatives of the same name.
Crossing the Hoosic River at Eaglebridge. By the way ‘Hoosic’, ‘Hoosick’ and ‘Hoosac’ are all correct derivatives of the same name. (And yes, I made a color slide here too!).

MORE TOMORROW!

 

 

Tracking the Light February 10, 2016 Mystery Photo: Location Revealed!

Tracking the Light Posts EVERY day!

I was surprised to learn that I managed to stump most of the viewers with my February 2016 Mystery Photo! I thought for sure that someone would instantly recognize this exceptionally obscure section of line.

Tracks in the Snow_DSCF0849

Another versions of Wednesday's Tracking the Light mystery photo. CAN YOU GUESS Where this is? Remember be specific!
Melrose.

I had many very good guesses from many informed readers.

(Those of you viewing on Facebook/Tumbler/Google Plus etc, you will probably need to click on Tracking the Light to see the full post with answers!)

The most popular guesses were focused on the Mass-Central.

(By the way, thanks for the tips on locations!)

I’m sorry, but these answers and many of the other were incorrect.

I opted for a snow covered scene that obscured many clues. I thought this would be an added challenge.

The tracks are in Connecticut. They are not on the former Central Vermont.

Norbert Shacklette correctly guessed the predecessor railroad and the correct current operator but could not guess the specific location.

The only truly correct detailed guess was supplied by an exempt viewer. (I felt it was unfair to allow people whom I pointed out this location in the past to participate).

In the future I will try to supply juicier clues.

I made this photograph on February 6, 2016 at the Connecticut Route 140 crossing of the old New Haven Armory Branch in Melrose.

Historically this line was part of the New York & New England system, which was among the lines absorbed by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.

Today the line is under the administration/operation of a short line titled Central New England Railroad. However, confusingly this segment was not operated by the historic New Haven component company known as the Central New England.

During the late Penn-Central and Conrail periods, this section of trackage was not shown on many maps and was largely overgrown. It has been cleared in recent years. To date, I’ve never seen a train here, although I’ve crossed the tracks dozens of times.

The maps below show the specific location and the angle of the photograph. It is my hope that the arrows clearly indicate to you where I made the image.

Thanks for participating!

The RED arrow points at Melrose, Connecticut. The photo was made in the morning looking in a southeasterly direction on the old New Haven Armory Branch immediately south of the Route 140 crossing near St. Mary's Cemetery.
The RED arrow points at Melrose, Connecticut. The photo was made in the morning looking in a southeasterly direction on the old New Haven Armory Branch immediately south of the Route 140 crossing near St. Mary’s Cemetery.
A detail view of the 1946 New Haven Railroad system map with a red arrow pointing to Melrose.
A detailed view of the 1946 New Haven Railroad system map with a orange arrow pointing in the direction I made the photo. The tip of the arrow is approximately where the photo was made. The end of the arrow is irrelevant.
Period USGS Topographical map showing Route 140 in Melrose. I've circle the location of the photo with an arrow to show the direction I was pointing.
Period USGS Topographical map showing Route 140 in Melrose. I’ve circle the location of the photo with an arrow to show the direction I was pointing. (only the point and the angle of the arrow are relevant, the unpointed-end is not important.)

Tracking the Light Posts EVERY day!

 

 

 

Brian’s Blue Diesel Distraction: Pan Am Railways SD45.

Sometimes it helps not to plan too hard. With the sun at our backs we headed out on the open road aiming to find our subject, but situations change, information is imperfect, and unexpected opportunities present themselves.

Tuesday February 9, 2016 wasn’t a day I’d expected to be  making photos. But when at the last minute the task set for the day was postponed and the weather forecast improved, suddenly I had an opportunity to spend the day with cameras in hand.

A snowplow clearing the drive woke me up. I rang my old friend Paul Goewey to see if he was keen on a day’s photography and soon we were on the road.

My thoughts were to head toward Brattleboro, Vermont to intercept New England Central’s job 611, the southward freight to Palmer, Massachusetts.

However, all we knew was that at 8 am it hadn’t departed Brattleboro yard.

Driving north I made a spontaneous decision to divert and instead drove to Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield Yard. After arriving we heard of an EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) that was being prepared for its westward journey.

Pan Am's EDRJ lurked at East Deerfield. The prospect of a day long westward chase across the Boston & Maine's Fitchburg Line reminded me of olden times. But would the train depart promptly? Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.
Pan Am’s EDRJ lurked at East Deerfield. The prospect of a day long westward chase across the Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg Line reminded me of olden times. But would the train depart promptly? Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.

So much for our quest of the New England Central.

While we waited for EDRJ to be organized, Pan Am’s POED (Portland to East Deerfield) arrived with a consist of seven EMD diesels.

Pan Am's POED with a monster consist; seven locomotives all old EMDs. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.
Pan Am’s POED with a monster consist; seven locomotives all old EMDs. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.

Finally, EDRJ was ready to go.
The sun was out, there was a blue SD45 in the lead (well its was a locomotive that had once been a proper SD45) and we had plenty of daylight. I anticipated following the train all the way to the Mohawk Valley.

Finally, about 11:22 am, Pan Am Railway's EDRJ was on the move with a handsome SD45 in the lead (yes yes, I know, this locomotive no longer has its 20-cylinder diesel. But it sure looks nice!). Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.
Finally, about 11:22 am, Pan Am Railway’s EDRJ was on the move with a handsome SD45 in the lead (yes yes, I know, this locomotive no longer has its 20-cylinder diesel. But it sure looks nice!). Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.
Pan_Am_EDRJ_East_Deerfield_DSCF0897
The one caveat was that today’s EDRJ had only two cars. Not the monster freight that I’d expect of Pan AM. Yet, a small consist meant that the train was likely to make good time. Plus it had a pickup at Hoosick Junction and as they say; ‘it is what it is.’
EDRJ catches the sun crossing a field freshly covered with snow near Buckland, Massachusetts. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
EDRJ catches the sun crossing a field freshly covered with snow near Buckland, Massachusetts. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
The road to Zoar was in better shape than I expected. Here EDRJ works west.
The road to Zoar was in better shape than I expected. Here EDRJ works west.
A few minutes earlier EDRJ had met an eastward train at Soapstone. We opted to continue following EDRJ. I expected to reach the Mohawk Valley by dusk. Such was not the case though, as soon we had another distraction!
A few minutes earlier EDRJ had met an eastward train at Soapstone. We opted to continue following EDRJ. I expected to reach the Mohawk Valley by dusk. Such was not the case though, as soon we had another distraction!

So further and further west we went. Later we found a fortuitous surprise.

Stay tuned tomorrow for our lucky Tuesday prize—handed to us like a birthday cake. Silver stars for going out; gold stars for persistence!

 

Tracking the Light is Daily!

Mystery photo update!

Any final guesses on yesterday’s mystery photo?

See: Tracking the Light’s Mystery Photo! Do you know this place??

Thus far I’ve had a variety of spirited attempted guesses, but so far no one has come close to the correct answer! (Except Pop.)

Certainly the Mass-Central is a good guess, but which, if any, of the crossings on the Mass-Central have I failed to expose a photo of a train in the last 35 years?

Here’s a final clue: the line pictured was once part of a long-forgotten railroad empire.

Also another version of the photo:

Another versions of Wednesday's Tracking the Light mystery photo. CAN YOU GUESS Where this is? Remember be specific!
Another versions of Wednesday’s Tracking the Light mystery photo. CAN YOU GUESS Where this is? Remember be specific!

I’ll reveal the location Friday evening or Saturday morning! Plenty of the time for more guesses.

 

CSX Monday Traffic: Snow, Cold and Being There—a Dozen New Photos.

 

Back to the old,  ‘f5.6 and be there’. (While paying close attention to the signals and scanner).

Lately CSX’s freight operations on the old Boston & Albany have been largely nocturnal.

Mondays on the other hand can prove busy in the morning.

February 8, 2016: I wasn’t out for the day, but rather running some errands. As always, I had my Lumix at the ready. Snow was forecast and it was beginning to flurry.

On my way through East Brookfield, I took the time to check the signals at CP64.

These were lit: “Limited Clear” westbound. I knew a train must be close.

Soon I could hear the clatter of cars descending Charlton Hill. Then affirmation on the radio, ‘Q427 clear signal main to main CP60’.

CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.
CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.

I made my photographs. But a few minutes later I heard that Q427 had stopped west of milepost 72 owing to difficulties with the locomotives.

That’s Warren, 72 miles west of South Station, Boston.

I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.
I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.

 

Q427 had to meet two eastward trains at CP83 (Palmer).

I continued to follow west, while making photographs along the way. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.
Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.
My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.
My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.
The old Palmer freight house location.
The old Palmer freight house location.
It's been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.
It’s been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.

 

I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.
I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.

I made a few photos of the first meet, then opted to head back up the Quaboag Valley rather than stay put.

CSX_Q427_meet_w_eb_CSX_stacks_Palmer_Ma_tight_P1370806

Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.
Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.

The snow was now getting heavy and it wasn’t getting any warmer.

At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).
At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).

This was a heavy train. And despite the snow, it was easy enough to follow up the grade to Warren.

The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.
The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.

It was just 18 degrees at the Warren station.

That’s good enough for my morning errands!

All photos nominally adjusted for contrast and saturation in post processing.

CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.
CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.
This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?
This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?

Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog on Railway Photography!

Tracking the Light’s Mystery Photo! Do you know this place??

Every so often I like to see if you can figure out the secrets of my locations.

I made this photo the other day.

Do you know where it was exposed?

Be specific; very specific. (Not Southern Pacific).

And, Richard Solomon and Pat Yough you’re both exempt from guessing! (Unless you don’t know).

One last clue: Never have I photographed a train at this location.

Tracks in the Snow_DSCF0849

Tracking the Light’s February 2016 Mystery Photo is Today’s Daily Post.

 

Sunset on the Sunset Route-Classic Kodachrome

The other day I was scouring the files for a photo Amtrak’s Sunset Limited as an illustration for an article I was writing.

Instead, I found this slide; one of hundreds of images I made along SP’s Sunset Route in southern California during the early-mid 1990s.

A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.
A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.

I’d been following this eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Pass and I exposed this view near Cabazon on the east slope. The setting sun was enhanced by the effects of Los Angeles-area smog that acted as a red filter (an effect of heavy particulates).

I was working with my Nikon F3T and Kodachrome 25 slide film. Always a favorite combination for image making on Southern Pacific Lines.

Tracking the Light presents new material every day!

 

 

22 years Ago Today: 400mm View of A Boeing on the Streets of San Francisco.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

February 8, 1994, I used my Nikormat FTN with a Tokina 400mm lens mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod to make this view on Fujichrome 100 slide film of a Boeing-Vertol Light Rail Vehicle pausing for passengers on the N-Judah line.

It was the end of the day and the colors of a sunset sky are reflected in the windshield of the LRV. For me it is the contrast and subtle hues of the evening light that make this photo stand out.

San Francisco’s Muni light rail offers endless opportunities for dramatic photos on the streets of this famous California city.

If I recall correctly, my shutter speed was 1/60th of a second. The slide is slightly dark (about ½ stop) so I lightened it a bit in post processing.
If I recall correctly, my shutter speed was 1/60th of a second. The slide is slightly dark (about ½ stop) so I lightened it a bit in post processing.

 

 

MBTA—Milton, Massachusetts, Now and Then.

A few weeks ago I posted some vintage Ektachrome slides of MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont trolley line that I made with my old Leica 3A when I was 12 years old.

Among these was this view at the Milton station that showed Conrail’s former New Haven Railroad tracks in addition to MBTA’s trolley line.

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!
My 1979 Ektachrome view:  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!

The trolley line had been adapted to use part of the railroad right of way, and yet it was still necessary to serve freight customers, so tracks from both operations had co-existed for decades.

Milton from approximately the same angle as the 1979 view above. More than just the tracks have changed. I exposed this with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera at the end of January 2016.
Milton from approximately the same angle as the 1979 view above. More than just the tracks have changed. I exposed this with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera at the end of January 2016.

Today, the freight railroad at Milton is but a memory. (And, if news reports prove correct, the trolley may soon vanish too!). Take nothing for granted.

This is a slight tighter view of Milton as it now looks. No PFE refers here, nor tracks for them to rest upon. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
This is a slightly tighter view of Milton as it now looks. No PFE refers here, nor tracks for them to rest upon. This focal length more closely mimics the 50mm Leica Sumitar lens that  I used in 1979.

I made these Now and Then views from approximately the same place looking in the same direction, but nearly 37 years apart.

An of course, I waited for a PCC. On Sunday's trolleys operate about every 8 minutes in both directions. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
An of course, I waited for a PCC. On Sunday’s trolleys operate about every 8 minutes in both directions. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Take 2: RAW-Reality-Fantasy; MBTA PCCs at Mattapan

In yesterday’s post [MBTA PCCs with a Cotton Candy Sky] I described my philosophy and technique with regards to working with a RAW file to maintain a high-level of detail with a textured sky.
With today’s post, I’ve selected a similar image as another example of how I’ve implemented adjustments using the program Lightroom.
The final image is intended as an ‘over the top’ example of how to create a fantasy image from a RAW file. I’m neither endorsing nor condemning photo fantasies, (they appear often enough on the internet), but simply describing one method of producing this result, as well as my interpretation of the scene as I saw it.
Example 1; this is the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing. Notice that the sky is blown out, especially at the left while the streetcar and tracks are too dark. I exposed this image to favor the sky, knowing in advance that I could retrieve shadow detail to present a better exposure balance in the final image.
Example 1; this is the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing. Notice that the sky is not as blown out as with yesterday’s example. I exposed this image to favor the sky, making it about one half stop darker than the image presented yesterday. I expected to  retrieve shadow detail to present a better exposure balance in the final image. Had I exposed for the streetcars, the sky would have been very over exposed, possibly beyond the ability to make correction.
Example 2. As with yesterday's second example, I've digitally introduced a graduated neutral density filter to the sky. This helps darken the sky relative to the lower half of the image while better balancing detail and color in the clouds. I've not yet altered the shadow areas so the streetcars still appear too dark and dull.
Example 2. As with yesterday’s second example, I’ve digitally introduced a graduated neutral density filter to the sky. This helps darken the sky relative to the lower half of the image while better balancing detail and color in the clouds. I’ve not yet altered the shadow areas so the streetcars still appear too dark and dull.
Example 3. Here I've lightened the above file by adjusting the 'shadows' slider and made nominal global adjustment to the mid-tone areas using the 'clarity' slide which gives the image a bit of snap. My goal was to make the streetcars appear more or less as they did to my eye when I made the photo.
Example 3. Here I’ve lightened the above file by adjusting the ‘shadows’ slider and made nominal global adjustment to the mid-tone areas using the ‘clarity’ slider which gives the image a bit of snap. My goal was to make the streetcars appear more or less as they did  when I made the photo. Normally this would be my ‘final’ interpretation. However for the sake of the exercise and to gauge public opinion, I’ve continued with my manipulation of the RAW file (see below).
Here's my fantasy. I've over-enhanced the RAW file by pushing the 'clarity', 'saturation' and 'vibrance' sliders to the right. The manipulation is easily accomplished and the result jumps out and grabs you. However, let me be clear: this is a fantasy, the scene never looked this way in real life.
Here’s my fantasy. I’ve over-enhanced the RAW file by pushing the ‘clarity’, ‘saturation’ and ‘vibrance’ sliders to the right. The manipulation is easily accomplished and the result jumps out and grabs you. However, let me be clear: this is a fantasy, the scene never looked this way in real life.

However, if this image helps save the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley from extinction, then I’m all for fantasy!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Streamliners Reviewed in Classic Trains!

Robert S. McGonigal has reviewed my book Streamliners—Locomotives and Trains in the Age of Speed and Style in the current issue (Spring 2016) of Classic Trains.

I’m flattered to read that he considers me, ‘the most prolific book author of our era.’

Brian Solomon_581821

Don’t wait! Pick up the magazine (always filled with great articles and fascinating photographs), and don’t forget to order your copy of Streamliners today.

The book is available from Voyageur Press and on sale at Amazon as well as local outlets!

http://www.amazon.com/Streamliners-Locomotives-Trains-Speed-Style/dp/0760347476

Tracking the Light posts every day!

 

MBTA PCCs with a Cotton Candy Sky

Mattapan in January.

The sky can make all the difference in a photograph. However, often the way a modern camera presents exposure tends to push sky detail toward over exposure (that means its too light).

The result is a washed out sky that loses all the color and detail that made the scene interesting.

Thankfully, with careful exposure and post processing manipulation of a RAW file, it is easy enough to balance sky detail with the primary subject.

I made these photos the other day at Mattapan during a visit with Tim and Will Doherty and Pat Yough. All were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens

I processed the photos using Lightroom (an Adobe program that allows for easy adjustment of the the RAW files).

My first move was to digitally introduce a graduated neutral density filter across the sky to locally adjust contrast and exposure with an emphasis on retaining highlight detail. Next I lightened shadows and adjusted mid-tone detail with the clarity sliders.

My intent was to recreate the scene. It would be easy enough to create a total fantasy using these tools. That balance is purely subjective.

Example 1

Example 1; the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing.
Example 1; this is the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing. Notice that the sky is blown out, especially at the left while the streetcar and tracks are too dark. I exposed this image to favor the sky, knowing in advance that I could retrieve shadow detail to present a better exposure balance in the final image.
Here I've introduced a digital graduated neutral density filter that is only applied to the sky area. This makes the clouds darker while display greater detail in highlight and midtown areas. I haven't altered the overall balance by adjusting contrast or exposure.
An intermediate step for example 1: Here I’ve introduced a digital graduated neutral density filter that is only applied to the sky area. This makes the clouds darker while display greater detail in highlight and mid-tone areas. I haven’t altered the overall balance by adjusting contrast or exposure. As a result the streetcar and ground area are still too dark (because I’ve done nothing to address these areas).
Example 1 final image: Now, I've made global adjustments by lightening the shadow areas and making nominal changes to the mid-tone contrast using the 'clarity' slider. This gives the streetcar and ground a bit of 'snap'.
Example 1 final image: Now, I’ve made global adjustments by lightening the shadow areas and making nominal changes to the mid-tone contrast using the ‘clarity’ slider. This gives the streetcar and ground a bit of ‘snap’.

Tomorrow I’ll present a more dramatic example complete with ‘fantasy’ treatment. Stay tuned!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Ghost of the route of the Ghost Train; When ‘Airline’ meant Railroad!

 

The old Boston New York Airline Railroad was a 54-mile line that connected Willimantic and New Haven, Connecticut.

This was built decades before the first aeroplane made its first flight. In theory it offered a direct route between its namesake points, but in practice it wasn’t really all that straight and itself never reached Boston or New York.

It did however, serve as part of a through route for New York & New England’s premier Boston-New York Express, which in its heyday in the 1880s-1890s was famous for its use of passenger cars that were painted gloss-white.

It was known as the ‘White Train’ or to residents along the line that saw it pass in the night as the ‘Ghost Train.’

Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm X-T1.

Today the old Airline is a hiking trail. I made this photo west of Willimantic.

Maybe there’s a true ghost train that passes on windless winter nights?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Westward Shore Line East at West Haven—Nice Light but too Much to Caption!

I used to say that with Conrail operations you needed a score-card to figure out what was going on, and by the time you figured out there was too much information to put on a slide mount.

It hasn’t become any easier: Here were have the former New York, New Haven & Hartford electrified four-track main line. New Haven was absorbed by Penn-Central in 1969 (although Penn-Central itself was created from the merger of Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central in 1968). PC collapsed financially and resulted in Congress creating the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail).

However, during this time ownership of the Northeast Corridor (comprised in part by the New Haven mainline) was separated from Conrail, with most of the Boston to Washington route conveyed to Amtrak. Except portions of the electrified line west of New Haven that were instead conveyed to the states of Connecticut and New York.

[Clarification: In the aftermath of Penn-Central bankruptcy, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority assumed financial responsibility for the New York portion of suburban services, with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (C-Dot) supporting Connecticut operations on former New Haven Lines—details from my book Railroad Family Trees published by Voyageur Press.]

Yet, initially Conrail continued to provided freight and suburban operations. When Conrail exited the commuter business at the end of 1982, Metro-North assumed suburban operations.

So what’s this? Oh, well this is a former Amtrak P40 (technically a General Electric GENESIS— Series 1, model DASH 8-40BP) working for Shore Line East, which is another Connecticut sponsored passenger operator. Today SLE operates diesel-powered suburban trains between New London and New Haven. A few of these services continue west under wire to Stamford.

However, not all trains carry passengers. (Trains are moved empty to be in position for loading).

Also, as a tribute to the old New Haven Railroad, some SLE equipment is lettered New Haven using the traditional font and livery.

The result is we have an empty diesel-powered passenger train underwire on the former New Haven, partially lettered for the former New Haven.

So for a caption we could try:

Ex-Amtrak P40 (DASH8-40BP) 834 leads westbound Shore Line East train 1169 (deadhead) under wire at West Haven on Metro-North’s former New Haven Railroad mainline at 3:53 pm on January 29, 2016.

Thanks to Pat Yough for the train numbers!

Ex-Amtrak P40 (DASH8-40BP) 834 leads westbound Shore Line East train 1169 (deadhead) under wire at West Haven on Metro-North’s former New Haven Railroad mainline at 3:53 pm on January 29, 2016.
Ex-Amtrak P40 (DASH8-40BP) 834 leads westbound Shore Line East train 1169 (deadhead) under wire at West Haven on Metro-North’s former New Haven Railroad mainline at 3:53 pm on January 29, 2016.
Westbound Shore Line East train 1169 (deadhead) under wire at West Haven on Metro-North’s former New Haven Railroad mainline at 3:53 pm on January 29, 2016.
Westbound Shore Line East train 1169 (deadhead) under wire at West Haven on Metro-North’s former New Haven Railroad mainline at 3:53 pm on January 29, 2016.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Tracking the Light in an Alpine Tunnel.

Not much to do with railways in this view.

Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I were on a week-long exploration of central Austria in January 2012. I made this view through the windscreen of our hired car as we drove through a long  Alpine tunnel.

Lumix LX3 view from inside an Alpine tunnel.
Lumix LX3 view from inside an Alpine tunnel. For effect I exposed the photo at 1/2 second, which makes for a painterly like blur of the walls, road surface, and roof, while blurring the lights. The camera’s built-in image stabilization helps minimize lateral movement.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Unexpected Bonus: Amtrak Test Train with New Cities Sprinter.

I arrived at Branford, Connecticut the other morning in time for a flurry of westward trains.

In the mix was brand new Amtrak ACS-64 Cities Sprinter 660 on test train with a pair of old Amfleet cars.

Amtrak 660 rolls west at Branford, Connecticut. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1; file enhanced with Lightroom.
Amtrak 660 rolls west at Branford, Connecticut. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1; file enhanced with Lightroom.
Amtrak 660 rolls west at Branford, Connecticut. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1; file enhanced with Lightroom.
Amtrak 660 rolls west at Branford, Connecticut. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1; file enhanced with Lightroom.

It’s always cool to get an unexpected bonus when trackside. It’s like finding a prize in the cereal box!

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Grand Opening: MBTA’s New Station, South Acton, Massachusetts.

It had been a few years since I last visited the old Boston & Maine station on the Fitchburg Line at South Acton, Massachusetts.

Pat Yough and I stopped in on Sunday, just a day or so after MBTA’s Grand Opening.

South_Acton_Grand_Opening_DSCF0521

The new facility features long high-level platforms, a massive footbridge, and modern signaling.

A young woman waiting for a train to Leominster told me that she was very excited about the new station but found the signage confusing. “It’s traumatic when the train comes in on the other platform and you miss it!”

MBTA_2404_at_South_Acton_Grand_Opening_DSCF0525

Pat and I waited for an outbound MBTA train destined for Fitchburg. High clouds made for diffused lighting that was ideal to show the new station at South Acton.

MBTA_2404_at_South_Acton_Grand_Opening_DSCF0527

Last time I’d visited South Acton, there was a ‘blue- bird’ GP9 with a caboose working a local freight. Didn’t see that on Sunday!

Photos exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

South_Acton_Grand_Opening_DSCF0520

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Dozens of NEW Photos—Big Train Show at West Springfield!

Below is a selection of images exposed with my Lumix LX7 at Amherst Railway Society’s annual Big Train Show at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

It was a great show with lots of trains, models, people. Frankly, it was sensory overload.

Tracking the Light posts New Photos Every Day!

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Big_TRAIN_show_P1370664Big_TRAIN_show_P1370661Big_TRAIN_show_P1370649Big_TRAIN_show_P1370646Big_TRAIN_show_P1370635Big_TRAIN_show_P1370634Big_TRAIN_show_P1370626Big_TRAIN_show_P1370622Big_TRAIN_show_P1370611Big_TRAIN_show_P1370603Big_TRAIN_show_P1370592Big_TRAIN_show_P1370582Big_TRAIN_show_Otto-P1370565Big_TRAIN_show_otto_P1370569Big_TRAIN_show_P1370581
Big_TRAIN_show_P1370595Big_Train_Show_Mike_w_kids_P1370544Big_Train_Show_John_and_Dave_P1370550Big_Train_Show_George_Corey_and_Bill_Keay_and_Pop_P1370525Big_Train_Show_Erie_Box_car_P1370554Big_TRAIN_Show_CSX_P1370510Big_TRAIN_show_clowns_P1370620Big_Train_Show_Budd_Car_P1370556Big_TRAIN_Show_BNSF_pan_P1370511Big_TRAIN_Show_BNSF_pan_P1370513Big_TRAIN_Show_Bill_S_P1370505Big_TRAIN_show_B&A_car_P1370575New Material Every Day!