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!