CSX Rolling West after Sunrise.

Over the last 39 years I’ve exposed countless hundreds of photos of trains rolling through Palmer, Massachusetts. But that’s not stopped me from continuing the exercise.

Friday, December 23, 2016, I was at CP83 near the Steaming Tender restaurant, when the signals lit up: high green on the mainline for a westward move. That was my cue to get ready.

The previous day I’d gone fishing through the camera cabinet and found an old Nikkormat FT. Perfect! I loaded this up with some HP5 and set out making photos old school. It had been 20 years since I last worked with Nikkormat. I fitted it with a vintage Nikkor 24mm lens.

With this antique in hand I set up a shot by the old Palmer Union Station (Steaming Tender) using the building to partly shade the rising sun. I’d misplaced my handheld lightmeter, so I used my Lumix LX7 to help gauge the exposure.

This was a tricky, I wanted the sun light to be set apart from the skylight and normally this requires a bit of underexposure. But I didn’t want the front of the locomotives to become completely opaque. Ideally, I’d want there to be some detail in the shadows.

As the headlight of a westward freight appeared to east I was still dithering over my exposure. Ultimately I settled on f11 1/500th of a second.

CSX symbol freight Q427 rolls through Palmer on the morning of December 23, 2016. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikkormat FT and 24mm lens. Notice how I’m just letting the sun peak past the station building. A small aperture (f11) aids with the starburst lighting.
I’ve always like the glint effect, and so I made this view of the second locomotive as it rolled by at 30mph. I realize that photographing the second locomotive at speed is a non-standard approach, but it makes for a nice image, does it not?

The trick to bring up the shadow detail was more a result of my processing technique. I needed to retain enough detail in the negative to work with, but once that was established on site, the rest of the work was with the chemistry.

I’ve described this a few times in recent months, but I’ll mention it again:

Before the main process, I prepare a ‘pre-soak’. In this case, I used a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with continuously reversing agitation.

My ‘presoak’ bath consisted of about 200ml of water at 74 degrees F (pardon my mixing of measurement standards) with a drop of Kodak HC110 (about 2-3 ml of developer solution), plus some Kodak Photoflo.

I let film presoak for about 3-4 minutes. Long enough to let the emulsion swell and for the minimal quantity of developer to become completely exhausted. This has the effect giving the shadow areas proportional more development than the highlights, while getting the processing reaction going.

For my main developer, I used Kodak D76 mixed 1-1 with water at 69F for 9 minutes. (This is less than the recommended time of about 11 minutes).

Afterwards I scanned the film using an Epson V750 at 4800 dpi. The photos presented here are scaled in Lightroom from my hi-res files.

A cropped detailed view of the front of the leading locomotive. This view is intended to show that there is reasonable detail in the shadow areas. If I want to I can enhance the shadow contrast in post processing.

No good? Don’t like it? No problem, I can go back and try it all over again!

Tracking the Light Discusses Photography Every Day!

3 thoughts on “CSX Rolling West after Sunrise.”

  1. Brian, thanks for this walk down memory lane — my first “real” camera was a Nikkormat FTN (when I stepped up from an Argus C) and your detailed description aptly reminded me of how we used to sweat the details of proper exposure in those “I’ve only got once chance” situations . Also good to see that, despite our era of auto-advance cameras, your thumb hasn’t forgotten how to quickly crank the film advance lever!

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