Hoboken.

Yesterday, a tragic railway accident thrust Hoboken Terminal into the news.

Since then, I’ve had many requests from Tracking the Light viewers regarding NJ Transit’s Hoboken Terminal—a station that I’ve featured on several occasions.

Here’s a link to my post from 21 December 2015.

New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal, December 2015

Tracking the Light posts Every Day.

Convergence at Killarney—28 September 2016.

For the first time, Irish Rail’s Killarney simultaneously hosted passenger trains from three different operators.

In addition to its own scheduled service from Tralee to Mallow, Belmond’s Grand Hibernian, and Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express were in the station.

I was one of several photographers on site to capture the moment.

Belmont's Grand Hibernian arrives at Killarney, passing the old signal cabin.
Belmont’s Grand Hibernian arrives at Killarney, passing the old signal cabin.
Rail Tours Ireland's Emerald Isle Express and Belmond's Grand Hibernian occupy adjacent tracks at Killarney on 28 September 2016.
Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express and Belmond’s Grand Hibernian occupy adjacent tracks at Killarney on 28 September 2016.
Killarney, County Kerry on 28 September 2016.
Killarney, County Kerry on 28 September 2016.
Three trains; three operators.
Three trains; three operators.

I exposed these images using my FujiFilm X-T1. To compensate for changeable lighting, I processed the camera RAW files in Lightroom, making a variety of small adjustments to exposure, contrast, and saturation to produce more effective photographs.

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Under the Shed at Kent Station, Cork on 28 September 2016.

I arrived at Kent Station, Cork on the 0800 train from Dublin.

Irish Rail ICR at Kent Station, Cork on the morning of 28 September 2016. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Irish Rail ICR at Kent Station, Cork on the morning of 28 September 2016. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.

My timing was tight; I was aiming to catch Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express under the curved roof.

After arriving in Cork, I had less than five minutes to get into position.

Although visually fascinating, Kent’s Victorian-era shed is a tricky place to make photos. The characteristic curvature makes selecting the best angle tough, while the lighting under the roof is limiting.

Using my Lumix LX7 at ISO 200, I was restricted to 1/15th of second at f2.2.

Sometimes limitations force me to make more interesting photos.

The characteristic roar of an EMD 645 diesel reverberates under the ancient roof.
The characteristic roar of an EMD 645 diesel reverberates under the ancient roof.
As the Emerald Isle Express approached with engine 083 in the lead I opted to slightly pan the train. This provides a sense of motion while setting the shed off in a sea of blur.
As the Emerald Isle Express approached with engine 083 in the lead I opted to slightly pan the train. This provides a sense of motion while setting the shed off in a sea of blur.

I featured Kent Station in my recent book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press.

Tracking the Light Explores Photography Daily.

 

 

Saving a Difficult Slide.

Nearly nine years ago, I made this view of an Irish Rail spoil train passing my familiar location at Islandbridge Junction.

The sun was low in the sky, which can make for nice light, but rapidly moving clouds rolling across the sky made for difficult lighting conditions. The exposure would vary by as much as two stops from one moment to the next.

Further complicating matters I gauged the exposure incorrectly and this resulted in a fairly dark slide. Sometimes, rich Novmeber sunshine isn’t as bright as it looks.

Lastly, the processing was substandard. Overall this batch of slides suffered from inadequate detail in the shadow areas and a strong red-magenta colour-cast, giving this image an unnatural appearance.

The other day I decided to see what I could do to improve this image. You might ask, “Why? Don’t you have plenty of railway photos from the this place?”

I do. Hundreds. But Irish Rail spoil trains are some of the most elusive moves on the network. Also, the equipment is this scene has all been withdrawn. The class 141 diesels no longer work on Irish Rail—although several have been preserved—and the old four-wheel spoil wagons were replaced with modern bogie wagons several years ago.

The scene itself has changed as the old Clancy Barracks to the left of the train has been developed and the area looks quite different today.

Using Lightroom, I implemented a variety of digital changes to a Hi-Res scan, which ultimately produced a far more realistic image. Below are a sequence of images that show what I’ve done.

This scan presents the slide more or less as it appears. Not only is it too dark because of underexposure, but it suffers from imperfect processing that resulted in poor shadow detail and a reddish-magenta colour cast. This is a pity, because it features a difficult train to capture and very interesting lighting conditions. I exposed the photo in November 2007 and it sat in its box for nearly nine years.
This scan presents the slide more or less as it appears. Not only is it too dark because of underexposure, but it suffers from imperfect processing that resulted in poor shadow detail and a reddish-magenta colour cast. This is a pity, because it features a difficult train to capture and very interesting lighting conditions. I exposed the photo in November 2007 and it sat in its box for nearly nine years.
I scanned the slide with my Epson V500 scanner, the using Lightroom, I was able to implement a variety of changes. I balanced the colour to appear more natural and eliminate the pink tint. Also, I manipulated the contrast control sliders (contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and clarity) to lighten the image while reducing the overall contrast and improving the appearance of the shadow areas. This screen shot shows part of what I did.
I scanned the slide with my Epson V500 scanner, the using Lightroom, I was able to implement a variety of changes. I balanced the colour to appear more natural and eliminate the pink tint. Also, I manipulated the contrast control sliders (contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and clarity) to lighten the image while reducing the overall contrast and improving the appearance of the shadow areas. This screen shot shows part of what I did.
This image benefits from my first round of colour and contrast corrections.
This image benefits from my first round of colour and contrast corrections, yet the shadows are still muddy and the overall scene is too dark.
This is my final image. I've selective lightened some of the muddy areas, while lowering the overall contrast and tweaking the highlights to make for a more pleasing and natural looking image. The files presented here are all scaled Jpgs made from large hi-resolution Tif files.
This is my semi-final image. I’ve selective lightened some of the muddy areas, while lowering the overall contrast and tweaking the highlights to make for a more pleasing and natural looking image. The files presented here are all scaled Jpgs made from large hi-resolution TIF files.
For my final adjustments, I further lightened the whole image, while manually darkening the shadow areas and further softening the contrast. This might not be perfect, but its a huge improvement over the original Fujichrome colour slide.
For my final adjustments, I further lightened the whole image, while manually darkening the shadow areas and further softening the contrast. This might not be perfect, but its a huge improvement over the original Fujichrome colour slide.

Emerald Isle Express near Killiney—26 September 2016.

The Emerald Isle Express is an annual tour train operated Rail Tours Ireland in cooperation with Irish Rail and the Railway Preservation Society Ireland.

I had advanced notice of this year’s schedule and planned to catch it running along the Irish Sea south of Dublin on its way down the old Dublin & South Eastern route toward Rosslare Europort.

I rode the DART electric suburban train to Dalkey then hoofed it out toward Sorrento Point, where my planned location turned out to be fouled by undergrowth and related shadows.

‘Uh oh.’ Time to move to plan B.

More walking brought me to this footbridge between Dalkey and Killiney.

Although supremely picturesque, the maze of direct current overhead wires and related masts make finding a suitable angle difficult.

I wanted to include more of the Irish Sea to the right of the train, but putting the train too far to the left didn’t really work as an effective composition. Ultimately I settled on a more conservative angle. Soft sun helps reduce the distraction of the wires.

Emerald Isle Express at milepost 9. To hold detail in the sky and water, I used a Lee 0.6 graduated neutral density filter. This tool has proved repeatedly valuable in Ireland where sky contrast often presents an exposure problem by exceeding the dynamic range of the camera’s digital sensor.
Emerald Isle Express at milepost 9. To hold detail in the sky and water, I used a Lee 0.6 graduated neutral density filter. This tool has proved repeatedly valuable in Ireland where sky contrast often presents an exposure problem by exceeding the dynamic range of the camera’s digital sensor.
This tight view reveals some of the clutter that makes this location challenging as an effective location.
This tight view reveals some of the clutter that makes this location challenging as an effective location.

A minor disappointment; I’d hoped that Irish Rail engine number 071 (in bright orange heritage paint) would lead the train. Instead, I settled for that old stalwart; Irish Rail engine 078.

The trailing view is scenically spectacular but as a result the train is small.
The trailing view is scenically spectacular but as a result the train is small.
Looking across Killiney Bay you'll notice the thin silver streak of the Emerald Isle Express catching the glint of the noontime sun.
Looking across Killiney Bay you’ll notice the thin silver streak of the Emerald Isle Express catching the glint of the noontime sun.

Tracking the Light posts every day!

 

Railway Portraits—don’t ignore the human side of railways.

Too often railway photographs focus on the equipment—locomotives, railway cars, signals—and exclude the people who work on the railway.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of that sometimes. However, I’ve always made photos of railway workers, and try to include people in my photos whenever it’s practical.

That’s not always easy, especially on many modern railways that have streamlined their workforces.

These days I’ll work my personal connections and photograph railway friends when it’s appropriate.

Cork-based Irish Rail train driver Ken Fox poses for a portrait with his InterCity Railcar at Dublin's Heuston Station. Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3 with Nikkor f1.8 50mm lens. Processed in Kodak HC110 (dilution D) and scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Cork-based Irish Rail train driver Ken Fox poses for a portrait with his InterCity Railcar at Dublin’s Heuston Station. Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3 with Nikkor f1.8 50mm lens. Processed in Kodak HC110 (dilution D) and scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

I like this portrait because it puts the train driver in a positive light while his train takes a supporting roll, serving as a relevant backdrop rather than primary subject.

Tracking the Light is Daily.

 

Irish Railways Looking Back Ten Years—Presentation in Cork on Monday 3 October 2016.

I’ll be presenting a variation of my slide program Irish Railways Looking Back Ten Years to the Cork Branch of the Irish Railway Record Society at 8pm on Monday October 3, 2016.

The program will be held at the Metropole Hotel in Cork City.

I gave a version of this program titled ONE YEAR ON IRISH RAILWAYS; LOOKING BACK TEN YEARS on 10 March 2016 to the Dublin Branch of the Irish Railway Record Society.

While the core of the program will be similar, I’ve added a variety of new material to keep it interesting and fresh.

Irish Rail 213 at Kent Station, Cork. Exposed on Fujichrome, scanned with an Epson V500.
Irish Rail 213 at Kent Station, Cork. Exposed on Fujichrome, scanned with an Epson V500.
Railway Preservation Society Ireland engine 186 arrives at Farranfore, County Kerry on 6 May 2006.
Railway Preservation Society Ireland engine 186 arrives at Farranfore, County Kerry on 6 May 2006. Notice the effect of depth created by lining up the lighting posts on the right.
Waterford-Ballina Norfolk Liner crosses the River Barrow at Monasterevin.
Waterford-Ballina Norfolk Liner crosses the River Barrow at Monasterevin.

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Transcending a Century

Here’s another contemporary black & white view on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

In the window of Ulster Bank is a view from 1916 showing the ruins of Dublin’s General Post Office, destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising. Old trams grind along near the old terminus at Nelson’s Pillar.

A child looks at us across the void of time.

Modern pedestrians are a focused on their phones or the ATM at the side of the bank.

Today, tracks are being re-built on O’Connell Street, and after a long absence tram service is expected to resume in 2017.

Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens. Do you think this photo would as effective in colour.
Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens. Do you think this photo would as effective in colour.

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On this day 22 Years Ago—Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range at Fairlane, Minnesota.

Guitarist Jimmy Page, best known for his work with Led Zeppelin and the Yard Birds, produces a daily web page (http://www.jimmypage.com) that chronicles his work over more than five decades.

On This Day picks an event (or two) and gives Jimmy’s viewers a bit of background, often describing the roles of his fellow musicians. On occasion he drops in a railway photo or a clip from an old movie. Jimmy often carried a Nikon SLR on his tours.

Today, I’ll borrow Jimmy’s format: on this day 22 years ago (23 September 1994) I was traveling with Tom and Mike Danneman in the Minnesota Iron Range.

At the time I was working with Tom at Pentrex Publishing in Waukesha, Wisconsin where we produced Pacific RailNews and Passenger Train Journal. Mike worked across town at Kalmbach’s Trains Magazine.

I learned a lot from our Midwestern excursions in the mid-1990s. Both of these brothers remain among the most talented railway photographers and artists in North America. Tom now works at Kalmbach, while Mike is a freelance artist based in Colorado.

Among our destinations on 23 September 1994 was Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range’s Fairlane facility, where in a thick fog we photographed this pair of SDM diesels with an iron ore train.

I exposed this classic Kodachrome 25 view at Fairlane, Minnesota using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. My aperture was nearly wide open and as a result the headlights burned out a bit. I've always liked the way the loading equipment looms ominously in the fog. The leaning signal is a bit of distraction though.
I exposed this classic Kodachrome 25 view at Fairlane, Minnesota using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm lens. My aperture was nearly wide open and as a result the headlights burned out a bit. I’ve always liked the way the loading equipment looms ominously in the fog. The leaning signal is a bit of distraction though.

Later in the day we visited Hibbing, Minnesota, which is probably best known as the boyhood home of Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan).

Tracking the Light Looks Back!

Mystery resolved!

On 14 September 2016, I posted some black & white photos of an excursion train at Waverton near Chester in the UK. See: Three Mysteries.

My luck was catching this train, but I knew very little about it.

Several readers wrote to me with suggestions and the consensus was that I’d photographed Belmond’s Northern Belle excursion train, which often runs in central England.

Belmond's Northern Belle at Laverton in March 2007. Readers have helped me solve the mystery behind this train.
Belmond’s Northern Belle at Laverton in March 2007. Readers have helped me solve the mystery behind this train.

That theme fits nicely with the more recent photos I’ve been running of Belmond’s Grand Hibernian on Irish Rail. However, it is truly coincidental, as the film had sat latent on my desk for more nine years!

I’d all but forgotten about the special move when I finally processed the film this month.

So there you go!

(Special thanks to everyone who wrote to me with details on the Northern Belle!).

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Belmond’s Grand Hibernian at Cabra.

 

Sunday morning was overcast. Not the best weather for photographing Belmond’s dark blue Grand Hibernian. (Luxury cruise train).

However, since when the sun is out, the cutting at Cabra in Dublin is badly shadowed the best time to try this location is on an overcast morning.

Exploring this option, I found the most dramatic angle was the trailing view. Using a telephoto perspective, I was able to draw in the Dublin Mountains in the distance.

Waterford bound, the Grand Hibernian passes Cabra in Dublin.
Waterford bound, the Grand Hibernian passes Cabra in Dublin.

belmond_grand_hibernian_at_cabra_dscf4458

belmond_grand_hibernian_at_cabra_trailing_view2_dscf4472
Looking south, I saw that the rain was coming my way.

These images were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

I processed all three images using Lightroom.

I made nominal global adjustments to contrast and saturation and sharpened for the computer screen. Also, I used a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better retain detail in the sky.

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Rolling Meet at Mosney.

There’s a certain thrill to having two trains approach simultaneously.

Saturday, Denis McCabe, David Hegarty and myself had selected a bridge near Mosney (mp25) on the old Great Northern Railway Dublin-Belfast line as a good place to catch Belmond’s Grand Hibernian cruise train.

The Belmond train departed Dublin Connolly behind an Irish Rail local passenger train and its progress was slowed when it encountered restrictive signals.

Another Irish Rail local was scheduled in the Dublin direction.

As it happened the two trains passed below us.

Belmont's Grand Hibernian rolls northward at milepost 25. The lighting was tricky. Diffused backlit sun made for a complicated exposure calculation. I used a Lee .6 graduated neutral density filter to hold detail in the sky. In post processing I lightened shadow detail slightly while controlling highlights to reduce glare on the top of the locomotive.
Belmont’s Grand Hibernian rolls northward at milepost 25. The lighting was tricky. Diffused backlit sun made for a complicated exposure calculation. I used a Lee .6 graduated neutral density filter to hold detail in the sky. In post processing I lightened shadow detail slightly while controlling highlights to reduce glare on the top of the locomotive.
I turned quickly to make this grab shot of the Grand Hibernian meeting an Irish Rail 29000-series diesel railcar on the opposite main track. In retrospect, I think I'd could have made a more dramatic image if I'd used a telephoto lens setting.
I turned quickly to make this grab shot of the Grand Hibernian meeting an Irish Rail 29000-series diesel railcar on the opposite main track. In retrospect, I think I’d could have made a more dramatic image if I’d used a telephoto lens setting.
I moved over a few feet to get a better angle of the approaching railcar. The gray roofs on Belmond's Mark3 carriages isn't especially photogenic.
I moved over a few feet to get a better angle of the approaching railcar. The gray roofs on Belmond’s Mark3 carriages isn’t especially photogenic.

I exposed this sequence using my FujiFilm X-T1.

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A Value of Film-A Digital Photographic Lesson.

Back in the day, when I set out to make photographs, I had a finite number of images that I could make on any given adventure based on the amount of film in the camera bag.

It might be one roll, or ten, but the number of exposures was a distinct number. Not only that, but certainly in my younger days, there was a definite cost to each and every photo exposed.

When I was in college I could afford just 74-76 frames of Kodachrome per week and still eat. (Sometimes I cheated and starved). On the morning of January 14, 1989, I put this New York, Susquehanna & Western SD45 on film carefully placing the the old upper quadrant semaphore in the frame. I had my two rolls of Kodachrome, and probably some black & white, but a lot of ground to cover.
When I was in college I could afford just 74-76 frames of Kodachrome per week and still eat. (Sometimes I cheated and just starved). On the morning of January 14, 1989, I put this New York, Susquehanna & Western SD45 on film—carefully placing the the old upper quadrant semaphore in the frame. I had my two rolls of Kodachrome, and probably some black & white, but a lot of ground to cover that day. I knew that the old Union Switch & Signal Style S signals were on borrowed time, and I might not have another chance to make this  photograph.

This was a limitation, but like many handicaps it encouraged discipline. Every time I released the shutter I wanted to make the photo count. At times I’d experiment with exposure, lighting, and angles, but I avoided gratuitously wasting film.

Running out of film before the end of a trip could be a disaster.

Yet, I found that my photography was at its best at the very beginning of a trip (when I still had plenty of exposures left) and toward the end (when I was making the absolute most of each photo, and really concentrating the mechanics of making photos having benefitted from days of being in the field).

In the 1950s, my dad would set off on a two week trip with just 6-10 rolls of Kodachrome. He’d carefully budget each day’s photography. Just imagine visiting Chicago in 1958 with its vast array of classic railroads but only allowing yourself to make 15 photos during the whole day.

By comparison today, digital photography doesn’t impose such limitations. You can buy storage cards that will hold hundreds (if not thousands of images). Even if you run out, you can go back and erase select images to free up space.

True, digital-photography allows great freedom to experiment, there’s no cost associated with each and every frame, nor the level of concern that you might run out. In retrospect, it was that strict limitation of film that often helped me craft better photos.

Think about it.

Tracking the Light Posts each and Every Day.

 

 

 

 

Dublin Airport: Colourful Contemporary Jets with a September sky—Lots of Photos!

A sunny September Saturday afternoon in Dublin; what better time to make a visit to the airport. Not to travel to distant cities, but simply to watch and photograph the parade of commercial aircraft.

Lots of different airlines make for a colourful parade of planes.

I used this as an opportunity to test my FujiFilm X-T1’s various auto-focus settings.

The ‘C’ (continuous) setting seemed to produce the sharpest results, but introduced a slight delay from time I pressed the shutter-button until the actual moment of exposure. I found the delay difficult, but so long as I could anticipate the delay I was able to work around it.

Another challenge was trying to keep the camera level while panning the rapidly moving planes.

aer_lingus_a330_dscf4433lufthansa_at_dublin_dscf4403ryan_air_under_and_over_dscf4425smartwings_at_dublin_dscf4347transavia_at_dublin_dscf4312fed_ex_plane_at_dublin_airport_dscf4279aer_lingus_heritage_livery_dscf4276turkish_airlines_landing_at_dublin_dscf4272aer_lingus_rugby_plane_dscf4261luxair_at_dublin_airport_dscf4189air_transat_dublin_airport_dscf4163air_france_cargo_777_dscf4148american_airlines_dscf4131fly_be_dublin_airport_dscf4126city_jet_dublin_airport_dscf4071dublin_airport_bus_dscf4068british_airways_dublin_airport_dscf4060alba_star_dublin_airport_dscf4047

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Santa Fe FP45 at Tehachapi Loop; Then and Now Comparison.

My visits to California’s Tehachapis in July and August (2016) made me curious to dig deep into my archives and revisit the photographs I made there in the early 1990s.

I traveled with J. D. Schmid on my first visits to Southern Pacific’s Tehachapi crossing. (Then Santa Fe operated in the Tehachapis via trackage rights on SP, as does BNSF on Union Pacific today).

I made this Santa Fe FP45 photo on a rainy morning February 1991. We were on our way back from a detailed study of the SP’s Beaumont Hill and environs.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens. Santa Fe FP45 91 is the lead.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens. Santa Fe FP45 91 is the lead.

While hard to beat the great sound of EMD 20 cylinder diesels working the Tehachapi grades, it was difficult working with Kodachrome 25 to capture the experience. The film was slow and its spectral response didn’t favor dull days.

Certainly the weather was better on my more recent visits. I traveled with David Hegarty, and we had ample opportunity to make photographs in the bright California sun.

A southward BNSF intermodal train ascends the loop at Walong, California. In SP days the railroad was viewed on an east-west axis (west being San Francisco). Today, present owner Union Pacific deems the directions of operation north-south (regardless of compass.
A southward BNSF intermodal train ascends the loop at Walong, California. In SP days the railroad was viewed on an east-west axis (west being San Francisco). Today, present owner Union Pacific deems the directions of operation on a  north-south axis  (regardless of compass.)

Tracking the Light posts every day.

 

MBTA at Dusk, South Station, Boston 1978.

On an evening in 1978 my father and I visited South Station, Boston.

It was very different then; much quieter, low level platforms, no electrification, mechanical semaphores controlled movements on the approach to platforms.

I’d fitted my dad’s 21mm Super Angulon to my Leica 3A. I exposed several Kodachrome slides by resting the camera on something solid and making a 1 second exposure (or so).

I didn’t understand the concept of reciprocity failure, and so even though I’d taken the light reading of the hand-held Weston Master V literally, most of the slides were underexposed (too dark).

This one was the best of the lot, and in my early years was among my favorite railway photos.

In the interval since I made this image, I’ve perfected my night photography technique.

mbta_1004_south_station_1978_kr_21mm_briansolomon589779
MBTA F40PH 1004 was nearly new at the time of this 1978 photograph. I’ve lightened the shadows a little bit for improved presentation here. This slide projects well despite its age, and my formative understanding of the peculiarities of exposing Kodachrome in low light.

Tracking the Light

Irish Rail 085 with Ballast Train at Sunset—lessons in exposure and contrast adjustment.

 

I saw the wonderfully textured evening sky with hints of pink and orange. But what to do with this and how to best expose for it.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed for the sky, controlling exposure using the +/- dial for overall ease of operation.

My intention was to retain detail in the sky, rather than risk blowing out the highlights, and then make adjustments to lighten the shadow area in post processing to compensate for an overall dark image.

Here I’ve displayed both the uncorrected file (converted from a camera RAW to a small Jpeg necessary for internet presentation) and my manipulated image.

A Jpg converted directly from the Lumix camera RAW file. Other than necessary scaling and watermark, I did not alter the image. Under exposure was necessary to hold detail in the sky.
Irish Rail 085 with a ballast train rests in the old Guinness sidings at Heuston Station, Dublin. This Jpg was converted directly from the Lumix camera RAW file. Other than necessary scaling and watermark, I did not alter the image. Under exposure was necessary to hold detail in the sky.
My modified file; using the Lumix camera RAW, I adjust the photo in Lightroom. Specifically, I applied a digital graduated filter to the lower half of the image and used to this to locally lighten the image while manipulating contrast and color saturation. Once completed, I then made further global adjustments to contrast and exposure, focusing on lightening shadows. Despite these changes, my intent was to maintain the scene as closely as possible to how I viewed it.
My modified file; using the Lumix camera RAW, I adjusted the photo in Lightroom. Specifically, I applied a digital graduated filter to the lower half of the image and used to this to locally lighten the image while manipulating contrast and color saturation. Once completed, I then made further global adjustments to contrast and exposure, focusing on lightening shadows. Despite these changes, my intent was to maintain the scene as closely as possible to how I viewed it.

A minor point: I’ve not ‘fixed’ these photos. Rather I applied a known technique to hold both sky detail and shadow areas, beyond what the in-camera Jpg is capable of delivering without adjustment. From the moment I released the shutter, I planned to make these adjustments.

Tracking the Light is a Daily Feature.

Heuston Station and a Heron—September 2016.

The other evening, I was passing Dublin’s Heuston Station, where I noticed a heron standing on the banks of the River Liffey during relatively low-tide.

Using my Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens, I made this exposure on Ilford HP5 to show the bird and the classic 1840s-built railway terminal.

On a September 2016 evening, a lone heron stands in the River Liffey near Dublin’s Heuston Station. Exposed on Ilford HP5 black & white film (rated at 400 ISO) and processed in Kodak HC110 (dilution B) for 4 minutes at 68 degrees (with a presoak water bath containing a hint of developer to help actuate initial development and improve shadow detail).
On a September 2016 evening, a lone heron stands in the River Liffey near Dublin’s Heuston Station. Exposed on Ilford HP5 black & white film (rated at 400 ISO) and processed in Kodak HC110 (dilution B) for 4 minutes at 68 degrees (with a presoak water bath containing a hint of developer to help actuate initial development and improve shadow detail).

I made some nominal localized post-processing adjustments in Lightroom to help draw the eye to the bird. It’s reflection in the water helps make it more obvious.

I wonder if this effort will be obvious as the photo transcends the irregularities of the internet.

Internet imposed cropping and compression are never the friends of subtle photography. Perhaps that’s one reason that brash, bold super-saturated images prevail on the web today?

Tracking the Light posts something different every day!

 

Three Mysteries!

The First mystery: finding out what was on that long-unprocessed roll of Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film that sat in my back-log for the last few years.

The other day, I finally souped the film using Kodak HC110. My process time included a water-bath (with a hint of developer) then four minutes at 68 degrees F using dilution B (1:32 with water) at full strength.

Once processed, I recognized these images that I’d exposed way back in March 2007.

The Second mystery: toward the end of the roll, I found a sequence of photos along a double-track line in England. But where?

waverton_march2007brian_solomon_331136

I recalled that David Hegarty and I were driving from suburban London to the ferry at Holyhead. Sadly, my notes from the day are in North America, and I’m in Ireland. So I’d have to work strictly from memory.

I remembered that we diverted from the M6 and used two-lane roads.

I pulled out my atlas and traced the railway line from Crewe to Chester in England, trying to figure out where we’d been. This isn’t an area I frequent often. I figured the old station would help me.

This station was my clue to the location.
This station was my clue to the location.

My next step was to go to Google Earth. Using the satellite view, I closely examined a variety of overhead bridges. Finally, I figured out where we’d been. The station’s distinctive chimneys gave me a positive ID. The location is from Saighton Lane in Waverton immediately southeast of Chester.

The third mystery: what train is this?

Here comes a special train.
Here comes a special train led by an English Welsh Scottish class 67 (EMD) diesel. Exposed using my Canon EOS 3 with 100mm lens.

Now I’m at loss. This was some kind of special passenger train led by an EWS class 67 diesel. We were very lucky to arrive in time to watch it pass, but I never knew what it was, who operated it, or where it was going. It was just dumb luck that we saw it at all.

Trailing view of the special at Waterton, UK in March 2007.
Trailing view of the special at Waterton, UK in March 2007.

Can you help out? Any clues as to what this was?

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Irish Rail Gem from the Garbage—078 with Cravens at Balbriggan Aug 1998.

Have you willingly deleted a railroad photo because of an exposure error? Or perhaps pitched an underexposed color slide? Maybe traded away a photo that you dismissed as substandard. Or maybe even dumped an entire roll into the trash because of a camera flaw?

I have.

Step back to August 1998. That wasn’t yesterday. Denis McCabe and I were photographing on the Northern Line at Balbriggan. Our aim was to catch cement trains on the move.

It was a mostly sunny afternoon with the occasional puffy cloud in the sky.

An inbound suburban train approached the platforms with Irish Rail 078 in faded orange paint leading a pair of Cravens and the requisite generator van.

Just as the train reached the optimal location for my photograph, the sun was suddenly blocked by a cloud. [Most of us familiar with making railway photographs has experienced this phenomena, and it has many names, most of them are unsuitable for reiteration here.]

Despite this setback, I released the shutter anyway, and exposed this lone 35mm black & white negative.

brian_solomon_663700
This is the scaled scan of the otherwise unmodified black & white negative (made positive).

After I processed the film a few days later, I made prints from the best images on the roll, then sleeved all of the negatives: good, bad, and otherwise.

I never considered printing this one. At the time, seeing an 071-class diesel leading Cravens was not unusual. It happened daily. Nor was having a cloud ruin a photo in Ireland especially unusual.

I scanned the entire roll in November 2015, not for this photo, but for the better shots either side of it. It was only on close examination on the computer that it occurred to me that now, in 2016, this image is both interesting and historic.

Its lighting/exposure defect is easy enough to compensate for using Lightroom. So I present it to you now. In retrospect it offers a better lesson and a more interesting story than the perfectly lit images of cement trains exposed on the same roll.

Irish Rail class 071 General Motors diesel number 078 leads a pair of Cravens plus gen-van at Balbriggan in August 1998. Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Nikon F2 (on a long-term loan from Brian Jennison) and Nikkor 24mm lens with yellow filter. Film processed in ID11, and image adjusted for exposure and contrast in Lightroom.
Irish Rail class 071 General Motors diesel number 078 leads a pair of Cravens plus gen-van at Balbriggan in August 1998. Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Nikon F2 (on a long-term loan from Brian Jennison) and Nikkor 24mm lens with yellow filter. Film processed in ID11, and image adjusted for exposure and contrast in Lightroom.
A further refinement using Lightroom.
A further refinement using Lightroom.
One more variation with greater contrast.
One more variation with greater contrast.

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Long Island Rail Road Interlude—July 2016.

In July, I spent a few minutes on the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Woodside in Queens, New York.

LIRR’s busy multiple-track third-rail route from Penn-Station to Jamaica, New York is one of the few places in North America where you can experience train-frequency on par with busy European mainlines.

In the course of only a few minutes I saw a half dozen trains.

These are a sample of the photos I exposed with my Lumix LX7.

My compact Panasonic Lumix LX7 is ideal for urban railway photography. This camera compact, lightweight and unobtrusive, while it uses a Leica optical system that yields excellent images. I have mine set up to expose both RAW and JPG files simultaneously.
My compact Panasonic Lumix LX7 is ideal for urban railway photography. This camera compact, lightweight and unobtrusive, while it uses a Leica optical system that yields excellent images. I have mine set up to expose both RAW and JPG files simultaneously.
Trailing view of an outbound train.
Trailing view of an outbound train.
One of LIRR's older Metropolitan-series trains is heading toward Penn-Station.
One of LIRR’s older Metropolitan-series trains is heading toward Penn-Station.
It was nice to catch the older cars on the move.
It was nice to catch the older cars on the move.
I made this view from the concourse of the Flushing Line station (operated by the NYCTA). Woodside offers a convenient connection between LIRR and NYCTA trains.
I made this view from the concourse of the Flushing Line station (operated by the NYCTA). Woodside offers a convenient connection between LIRR and NYCTA trains.

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Cover of the Southern Steam—2017 Calendar.

My photo of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s engine number  4 appears on the cover of this year’s Southern Steam Calendar.

RPSI’s former Northern Counties Commission engine number 4 works toward Pearse Station Dublin on 18 Dec 2010. The cool dry conditions combined with a rare blanket of Irish snow made for a classic view of RPSI’s Santa Train. I exposed this view digitally using my Canon EOS-7D.
RPSI’s former Northern Counties Commission engine number 4 works toward Pearse Station Dublin on 18 Dec 2010. The cool dry conditions combined with a rare blanket of Irish snow made for a classic view of RPSI’s Santa Train. I exposed this view digitally using my Canon EOS-7D.

The calendar features the work of a dozen of Ireland’s most talented railway photographers. It is arranged to display one large photo per month.

My view here has been specially cropped for display on Tracking the Light. The calendar displays a larger version of this image.

Southern Steam has been produced by my friends Kevin Meany and Ken Fox for the charity Pieta House—Centre of Prevention of Suicide Or Self-Harm.

Southern Steam—2017 is available in Ireland with proceeds going to the charity. If you are interested is obtaining a copy of the calendar please contact Ken Fox at:

<railwaymad@hotmail.com>

Or Kevin Meany at:

kevinmeanydisplays@gmail.com

To learn more about Pieta House see the charity’s website: www.pieta.ie

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Real Photo of Photo Collage of Trams on the side of a Bus—Dublin, September 2016.

 

I’m serious.

An historic photo of trams on O’Connell Street has been displayed on the side of a tour bus that’s on for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

Also, a more modern image of a tram is part of the collage of images.

My view is an abstraction. I exposed this using a Nikon F3 with 50mm Nikkor lens on Ilford FP4 (35mm black & white film).

I processed it in Kodak HC110 using ‘dilution B’ (1:32 stock to water), stop, fix, wash dry (with various intermediate steps). Then scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner for presentation here.

Dublin Bus on O’Connell Street in Dublin in September 2016. The tour bus is decorated with a collage of historic and modern images of Dublin trams.
Dublin Bus on O’Connell Street in Dublin in September 2016. The tour bus is decorated with a collage of historic and modern images of Dublin trams.

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LUAS Cross City update—A Dozen New Views from Dublin’s North Side.

Track and platform construction continues in Dublin on Ireland’s latest rail-transit route.

When completed LUAS Cross City will extend the Green Line north through the Dublin City Centre via Parnell Square to Broadstone and beyond to a new terminus at Broombridge.

The other day Mark Healy and I made an inspection of the work in progress.

Safety fences combined with the visual chaos of this urban setting makes for challenging photography. I’m hoping to add these images to my file of now and then images once the project is completed and functional.

Looking toward Broadstone from the North Circular Road. Lumix LX7 photo.
Looking toward Broadstone from the North Circular Road. Lumix LX7 photo.
Tracks at Broadstone. The old railway terminal is featured at the right. Lumix LX7 photo.
Tracks at Broadstone. The old railway terminal is featured at the right. Lumix LX7 photo.
Construction fences and other modern ugliness make visually effective photography difficult. Lumix LX7 photo.
Construction fences and other modern ugliness make visually effective photography difficult. Lumix LX7 photo.
Dominick Street Lower. Lumix LX7 photo.
Dominick Street Upper. Lumix LX7 photo.
Dominick Street Lower. Lumix LX7 photo.
Dominick Street Lower. Lumix LX7 photo.
New tracks in Dublin's north inner city. Lumix LX7 photo.
New tracks in Dublin’s north inner city. Lumix LX7 photo.
O'Connell Street looking toward the Parnell monument. Lumix LX7 photo.
O’Connell Street looking toward the Parnell monument. Lumix LX7 photo.
General Post Office, O'Connell Street, Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.
General Post Office, O’Connell Street, Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.
New square crossing at Abbey Street and O'Connell Street. Red Line tram waiting at the lights. FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
New square crossing at Abbey Street and O’Connell Street. Red Line tram waiting at the lights. FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
A mix of new and old trackage on Abbey Street. One leg of the Cross City route will cross the Red Line at Abbey Street. FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
A mix of new and old trackage on Abbey Street. One leg of the Cross City route will cross the Red Line at Abbey Street. FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
Some interesting trackage on Abbey Street. FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
Some interesting trackage on the Red Line at  Abbey Street. FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
Red Line LUAS trams pass near the Loop Line Bridge on Abbey Street. The new crossing on Marlborough Street is behind me.
Red Line LUAS trams pass near the Loop Line Bridge on Abbey Street. The new crossing on Marlborough Street is behind me.
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California Sunrise—August 2016.

The sinuous alignment of the old Southern Pacific in the Tehachapis is ideally suited to lining up sunrise photographs.

A blanket of airborne particulates filtered the rising sun, softening the light and giving it a luminous golden tint.

In the 1990s, I made many glint photos on Kodachrome. This one I exposed digitally and adjusted contrast in post processing to make for a more pleasing image.

Where K25 slide film would have retained the ring of the sun, now I have to settle for a golden blob of light.

BNSF_nb_Sunrise_Caliente_DSCF2768-2
BNSF symbol freight Z-LPKNBY7-05L (priority intermodal train from Logistics Park Kansas City to North Bay, California) catches the glint at Caliente, California. ISO 200 at f20 1/500th of a second.

A key to making an image such as this one is manually setting the aperture to control the amount of light reaching the sensor. I metered manually and ignored the camera’s recommended exposure, which wouldn’t have given me the desired effect.

Since I was preparing a classic silhouette, I wasn’t interested in retaining detail in the shadows, but instead aimed to hold tonality in the sky.

Where my ‘normal’ daylight exposure with ISO 200 is about f8 1/500th of second, for this photo, I closed down the aperture to f20, which made for two and half stops less exposure.

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Irish Rail 080 works Grand Hibernian at Islandbridge Junction—5 September 2016.

 

Click on Tracking the Light to view the uncropped photos.

I watched as a band of high cloud inched across the morning sky.

Irish Rail class 071 diesel number 080 brought Belmond’s Grand Hibernian Mark 3 consist through the wash at Heuston Station. Interesting light with an unusual train.

To hold detail in the textured sky, I used a Lee 0.6 graduated neutral density filter with the darker portion of the filter positioned at the top of the frame.

FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens and Lee 0.6 graduated neutral density filter. Minor post-processing contrast and saturation adjustment was made using Lightroom.
FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens and Lee 0.6 graduated neutral density filter. Minor post-processing contrast and saturation adjustment was made using Lightroom.
FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens and Lee 0.6 graduated neutral density filter. Minor post-processing contrast and saturation adjustment was made using Lightroom.
FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens and Lee 0.6 graduated neutral density filter. Minor post-processing contrast and saturation adjustment was made using Lightroom.

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Irish Rail IWT Liner; A lesson in RAW and JPG.

Thursday morning on my way to breakfast, I made this photo of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner (Dublin to Ballina) passing Islandbridge Junction.

I timed my visit well and so only waited a few minutes for the freight to pass.

I’ve often photographed the IWT at this location, so this was really just an exercise.

Soft morning clouds made for some pleasant lighting, but also a post-processing quandary.

My FujiFilm XT1 allows me to simultaneously expose a Camera RAW file and a camera interpreted JPG. Among the features of the Fuji cameras is the ability to select a film-like colour profile for the Jpg.

In this instance I’ve opted for the Velvia profile, which closely emulates the colour and contrast of this popular slide film.

Another colour adjustment is the white balance control. In this situation I selected ‘auto white balance’, which means the camera interprets the color temperature.

When I processed the photos, I wanted to see if I could improve upon the camera JPG by making subtle changes to the Camera RAW file (which has ten times more information imbedded in it than the Jpg, but serves in the same role as a ‘negative’ and is intended for adjustment rather than uninterpreted presentation).

Below are three images; the a JPG from the unmodified Camera RAW, Camera created JPG, and my interpretation of the Camera RAW file.

This is an uninterpreted JPG made directly from the camera RAW file. (The RAW file is way too large for presentation on Tracking the Light.) I have not made any modifications to color profile, color balance, sharpness or exposure. This file is not really intended for presentation.
This is an uninterpreted JPG made directly from the camera RAW file. (The RAW file is way too large for presentation on Tracking the Light.) I have not made any modifications to color profile, color balance, sharpness or exposure. This file is not really intended for presentation.
My in-camera JPG using the FujiFilm digitally applied Velvia colour profile with 'auto white balance' setting. I made no modifications to this file, except to scale it for presentation and add my watermark on the left.
My in-camera JPG using the FujiFilm digitally applied Velvia colour profile with ‘auto white balance’ setting. I made no modifications to this file, except to scale it for presentation and add my watermark on the left.
This is my modified JPG. Starting with the Camera RAW, I imported this into Lightroom and implemented the following adjustments: I masked the sky using a digitally applied graduated filter custom adjust to increase highlight saturation, decrease highlight exposure, and make for cooler colour balance. On a global level, I made minor adjustments to contrast but lightening the shadow areas, reducing highlight exposure and altering the contrast curve. I also made select exposure adjustments to the pilot area on the locomotive. To match the Camera JPG's perceived sharpness, I applied some nominal image sharpening. (This uses edge effects to make the photo appear sharper on the computer screen.)
This is my modified JPG. Starting with the Camera RAW, I imported this into Lightroom and implemented the following adjustments: I masked the sky using a digitally applied graduated filter and custom adjusted to increase highlight saturation, decrease highlight exposure, and make for cooler colour balance. On a global level, I made minor adjustments to white balance (warmed it up) and to contrast by lightening the shadow areas, reducing highlight exposure and altering the contrast curve. I also made select exposure adjustments to the pilot area on the locomotive. To match the Camera JPG’s perceived sharpness, I applied some nominal image sharpening. (This uses edge effects to make the photo appear sharper on the computer screen.) Got all that?

Incidentally, by using Lightroom, I can make adjustments to the RAW files without permanently changing the original data. This is very important since it would be a mistake to modify the original file. That would be like adding colour dyes or bleach to your original slide to ‘improve’ the result.

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Tracking the Light Extra: Grand Hibernian on the Roll at Lucan South—Sunday 4 September 2016.

 

What was once common is now extraordinary.

Fifteen years ago, if you told me that I’d be out on a Sunday morning specifically to photograph a 201 class diesel with Mark 3 carriages on Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork line, I wouldn’t have believed you!

This morning Colm O’Callaghan and I did just that.

The dark blue color is difficult to photograph satisfactorily though.

Irish Rail 201-class diesel 216 is specially painted for Belmond's Grand Hibernian. The glossy dark blue represents a photographic quandary. I made this photo with my FujiFilm XT1; ISO 640, f5.6 1/500th of a second using a 18-135mm lens.
Irish Rail 201-class diesel (built by General Motors in Canada) number  216 is specially painted for Belmond’s Grand Hibernian cruise train. The train’s glossy dark blue represents a photographic quandary. I made this photo with my FujiFilm XT1; ISO 640, f5.6 1/500th of a second using a 18-135mm lens.

Belmond_Grand_Hibernian_Lucan_South_tele_trailing_DSCF3797

Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog on Railway Photography.

One Month Ago: In the Shadow of the Santa Fe—San Bernardino, California—Six Images.

August 4, 2016 was a blistering hot day in San Bernardino. I arrived by Metrolink from Santa Ana, and departed a little while later by Metrolink for LA Union.

San Bernardino was a big deal on the old Santa Fe Railway; freight yards, locomotive shops, and a classic station.

An old smoke stack still reads Santa Fe.

Santa_Fe_Stack_DSCF2067

During my short visit there was a steady procession of BNSF freights.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. In post processing, (using Lightroom) I adjusted contrast and lightened shadows to compensate for the harsh effects of midday sun.

BNSF_San_Bernadino_DSCF2096BNSF_San_Bernadino_DSCF2098

Santa_Fe_stack_San_Bernadino_DSCF2099

The old Santa Fe station hosts a museum and offices.
The old Santa Fe station hosts a museum and offices. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

San_Bernardino_Station_DSCF2062

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Norfolk Southern Helpers at Cassandra-July 2010.

Helpers on a unit coal train at Cassandra July1_2010_IMG_1761
On July 1, 2010, helpers work at the back of a loaded coal train. By including some leaves and branches of near by trees I’ve added depth to the photograph.

Norfolk Southern helpers are in ‘run-8’ working at the back of a loaded coal train at Cassandra, Pennsylvania on the famed ‘West Slope’—the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line grade over the Alleghenies.

Morning glint illuminates the tops of the locomotives and accentuates the exhaust smoke for added drama. The train was working upgrade at a crawl.

Exposed digitally using my Canon 7D.

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Tracking the Light on-going Photo Challenge: Ireland’s Oldest Railway

The Dublin and Kingstown Railway dates to 1834, which makes it among the earliest steam railways built outside of England.

Today the route composes a part of Irish Rail’s electrified Dublin Area Rapid Transit system. Outer suburban and Intercity trains (to Rosslare), plus occasional Railway Preservation Society Ireland steam trains also use the line.

Much of the old D&K is scenically situated along the Irish Sea, yet the electrification masts and wires, combined with sea walls, fences, graffiti and suburban growth can make it difficult to obtain a satisfactory vista with the line.

In late August, I rode the DART from Tara Street Station to Blackrock, where I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1.

My train accelerates away from the platform at Blackrock. The modern footbridge makes for a dominant visual element, but also offers a photo platform.
My train accelerates away from the platform at Blackrock. The modern footbridge makes for a dominant visual element, but also offers a photo platform.
A Dublin bound German-built DART train approaches Blackrock. I aimed to feature the terrace houses above the line while minimizing the visually obnoxious elements of catenary and graffiti covered seawalls.
A Dublin bound German-built DART train approaches Blackrock. I aimed to feature the terrace houses above the line while minimizing the visually obnoxious elements of catenary and graffiti covered seawalls.
This view from the modern footbridge shows the old Blackrock Station. Here soft lighting is a real benefit.
This view from the modern footbridge shows the old Blackrock Station. Here soft lighting is a real benefit.
I applaud Irish Rail for installing attractive maps near the station. More of this please.
I applaud Irish Rail for installing attractive maps near the station. More of this please.

 

Looking toward Blackrock station and Dublin.
Looking toward Blackrock station and Dublin.
A 29000-series diesel multiple-unit approaches Blackrock. I made this view from the public footbridge south of the station. Here the terrace houses make for added interest and a nice compositional element. The Irish Sea is on my left, but there's a host of ugliness between the railway and the water.
A 29000-series diesel multiple-unit approaches Blackrock. I made this view from the public footbridge south of the station. Here the terrace houses make for added interest and a nice compositional element. The Irish Sea is on my left, but there’s a host of ugliness between the railway and the water.

Here, soft afternoon lighting helped minimize obtrusive elements, but there’s little in the photographs that convey the historic significance of the line.

The challenge continues . . .

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Worcester, Gone Retro.

It was dull mid-August day at Worcester, Massachusetts. I had my Leica 3A loaded with Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) and made a few exposures.

This hasn’t been my usual film choice. More typically, when working in black & white, I’d use Ilford HP5 or Fuji Acros 100.

I’ve found that difficult light can be a better measure of materials than clear bright morning. And flat summer light is about as difficult as it gets.

For this trial, I processed the film using a Jobo with Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer.

This was a crap shoot, as I’d only used this film/developer combination once before.

Exposed using a Leica 3A fitted with a Nikkor 35mm lens.
Exposed using a Leica 3A fitted with a Nikkor 35mm lens.

I opted for a 1:9 dilution, but scaled back my process time from the recommended amount to just 3 minutes 45 seconds. As is often the situation, I intentionally over-expose my black & white film and then under-process to obtain a greater range of tonality.

Once processed my negatives looked pretty good, but these still required a bit of contrast control using Lightroom. While my end results look ok, I’ll need to refine my chemical process for Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) if I expect this film to perform as well as Fuji Acros 100.

Also, I was hoping that the Pan F would approach the results I used to get with Kodak Panatomic X (ISO 32) back in the 1980s, but so far I’ve not achieved that goal.

Exposed using a Leica 3A fitted with a Nikkor 35mm lens.
Exposed using a Leica 3A fitted with a Nikkor 35mm lens.

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