Retro Pan—Viola Street, Philadelphia.

My brother Sean is restoring a Victorian row house on Viola Street in Philadelphia.

It is only a few blocks from SEPTA’s route 15 Streetcar on Girard Avenue, and within ear shot of old Reading Company and Pennsylvania Railroad routes.

I’ve been documenting his house for more than 15 years. Last week I exposed these views of Foma Retropan 320 in his kitchen using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.

This soft emulsion with its broad tonality works well with the subject matter.

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Long Lens, Small Trains; Another Take on last weekend’s Railroad Hobby Show

I used my Lumix LX7 for my earlier post of photos at the Amherst Railway Society’s BIG Railroad Hobby Show (held last weekend at the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts).

Ah, my old Lumix. Yes indeed. But, I was also carrying a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a ‘fast’ (wide aperture) 90mm lens.

Using a 90mm lens at f2  allowed me to make telephoto views with very shallow depth of field.

I think selective focus is a neat technique for capturing model railways. It’s a great tool for making portraits too.

Below is a selection of views exposed at last weekend’s show made with my fast 90mm.

Any favorites?

Lego my caboose!

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Tracking the Light Extra: Amherst Railway Society’s Railroad Hobby Show at West Springfield—27 January 2017.

Yesterday I spent the day visiting friends and trying to take in the enormity of the annual Railroad Hobby Show at West Springfield, Massachusetts.

This is a selection of views from my Lumix LX7. More photos tomorrow!

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SEPTA No.10 Trolley Emerges from the Subway.

Working with my Panasonic Lumix LX-7, the other night I made these handheld views of SEPTA’s number 10 Trolley at the subway entrance off 36th Street in West Philadelphia.

To keep the trolley sharp, I panned the final image is this sequence. Thus, I moved the camera to keep pace with the streetcar.

Exposed with the Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode; f1.9 at 1/13th of a second. ISO 200.

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Boston & Maine GP18 at White River Junction, January 25, 1986.

I exposed this view of Boston & Maine GP18 1753 using my Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar on Kodachrome 64.

The  light was diffused by a thin layer of high cloud, which made for a relatively low-contrast scene.

This batch of K64 had a magenta bias resulting in a pinkish hue to the snow and sky.

This is a scaled JPG from my hi-res scan of the original Kodachrome slide. I did not make changes to alter the appearance of the scan. Compare this image with the variation below.

Using Lightroom, I made several adjustments to scan. By altering the contrast, color temperature and color balance, I produced a JPG file that I feel has a more natural looking image—at least as it appears on my computer screen.

This screen shot of the Lightroom work-window shows the positions of the various sliders that I used to adjust image contrast, exposure, color temperature and color balance.
Here’s the improved image, which reflects the adjusts implemented in Lightroom.

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Brian’s Exhibit Reception Tonight at the Valley Photo Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Tonight, Friday January 27, 2017, the Valley Photo Center in Springfield is hosting a reception for my Silver & Steel exhibit between 5:30 and 8:00pm. I plan to present a live slide show (with real 35mm color slides!).

The gallery is in the Tower Square mall at 1500 Main St. in Springfield.

In addition to large framed prints and canvas renditions, I also have a selection silver gelatin black and white prints, as well as giclee prints available for purchase. In addition, I plan to have examples of my books for sale.

Among my photos on exhibit is a large print of this image showing an Irish Rail passenger train near Athenry, County Galway. I exposed this on Fujichrome Sensia II with a Nikon N90S and a 24mm Nikkor lens.

For more information:

Palmer Journal Article from January 12, 2017.

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Tracking the Light Extra! March 2017 Trains Magazine

I just received my author’s advanced copy of the March 2017 Trains Magazine that features my latest column: ‘Striving for speed in the real world’.

This issue should hit the stands in the coming weeks! I look forward to your feedback and comments.

See page 18 of the March 2017 issue of Trains Magazine for my full article.

Dusk at the Hoosac Tunnel

It was a damp and foggy evening at East Portal. Mike Gardner and I arrived as the final glow of daylight was beginning to fade. The rich blue glow of dusk lasts but a few minutes.

A Pan Am train was working its way west. I had visions of capturing the old searchlight signals lit after the train passed. But this was not to be.

I made this sequence of images with my FujiFilm X-T1 mounted on a tripod. The Hoosac Tunnel is behind me.

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High-Hoods on the Move.

A short visit to Norfolk Southern’s Abrams Yard near Norristown, Pennsylvania a few weeks back made for an opportunity to see a pair of high-hood GP38-2s on the move.

Once a common and standard type, the high-hood road switcher has been on the wane for decades and they are now rare on class-1 railroads.

I made these pan shots using my FujiFilm X-T1.

By employing a relatively slow shutter speed and moving my camera in unison with the locomotives, I can convey the sense of speed and motion while setting the subject apart from the background.

Exposed at 1/60th of a second handheld.
Exposed at 1/60th of a second handheld.
Exposed at 1/60th of a second handheld.

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Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

The former Reading Company station at Pottstown, Pennsylvania features some impressive code line poles in front of the building.

In these views of Norfolk Southern symbol freight 38G, I like the way the horizontal lines on the NS logo on the front of the locomotive mimics the lateral braces on the poles.

To minimize foreground distractions, I exposed the photos near ground level by using the adjustable rear display on my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Brian’s Silver & Steel Exhibit at Valley Photographer’s Gallery, Springfield MA–Reception Friday January 27th.

 My photographic exhibition at Valley Photo Center in Springfield, Massachusetts is on-going through January 28th. The gallery is in the Tower Square mall at 1500 Main St. in Springfield.

This Friday (January 27, 2017) I’ll be at the gallery for a reception between 5:30 and 8:00pm. I plan to present a live slide show (with real 35mm color slides!). This event is scheduled to coincide with the Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield (just across the Connecticut River).

My exhibit features photographs spanning two decades from the late 1980s to 2008, and depicts trains in a variety of settings including the American West, Pennsylvania, New England and Europe.

In addition to large framed prints and canvas renditions, I also have a selection silver gelatin black and white prints, as well as giclee prints available for purchase. In addition, I plan to have examples of my books for sale.

I exposed this view of a westward Conrail double stack train crossing the former Erie Railroad Starrucca Viaduct in May 1989 using a Leica M2 with 35mm Sumicron lens. This is one of several dozen images on display at the Valley Photo Center in Springfield.
Autumnal image at East Deerfield, Massachusetts. This is one of several dozen images on display at the Valley Photo Center in Springfield.
Not all photographs are made on bright sunny days. I exposed this view in Scranton, Pennsylvania on a wet October evening in 2005. I was working with the Delaware Lackawanna Railroad on my ‘Working on the Railroad’ book—published by MBI/Voyageur Press. This is one of several dozen images on display at the Valley Photo Center in Springfield.

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Palmer Journal Article from January 12, 2017.


Erie Heritage—Port Jervis, New York.

As a fan of the Erie, I’m drawn to Port Jervis out of curiosity.

Historically this was an important place on the old Erie Railroad. The Erie passed into history years ago, and now Port Jervis is little more than a minor commuter train terminal.

Today, it’s Erie heritage is honored at several locations in the town.

The old turntable west of the Metro-North station was restored in the 1990s. Former Erie E8A locomotive 833 is displayed in Erie paint on the table, with a former Delaware & Hudson RS-3 in a near-Erie livery (lettered for owner New York & Greenwood Lakes) rests nearby.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7. Not the nicest morning, but the wet dreary condition seem to suit the old Erie.
Photo exposed using a Lumix LX7 as a RAW file. I made several adjustments to exposure, contrast and color temperature to improve the overall appearance of the photo.
Not an Erie locomotive, although the Erie had plenty of similar Alco road switcher and these would have been common at Port Jervis in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Several blocks away is the restored Erie Depot and a nearby business styled as the Erie Hotel [] that boasts historic links with to Erie passenger travel.

I visited Port Jervis the other day and made these digital photos with my Lumix LX7.

I also a exposed a few color slides and some black & white film (pending processing).

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Unexpected Results: My Third Experiment with Retropan.

It was a misty January day. I thought, what better time to expose another roll of Foma Retropan 320 black & white film!

I was working with four cameras that day, so these images were just a small portion of my day’s results, but for me by far the most interesting. I was feeling nostalgic and the atmosphere of the moment seemed to lend itself to classic black & white.

The day after I exposed my film, I processed it. Where previously, I’d hand processed Retropan in Paterson tanks, for this roll I used the Jobo (a semi-automatic processing machine).

The Jobo eases processing by keeping all chemistry at a consistent temperature, taking care of agitation by continuously rotating the processing-drum, while simplifying pouring the chemicals in and out of the drum. Also, it makes more efficient use of the chemistry.

With the hand-processed rolls, I had used Retro Special Developer straight (undiluted stock solution) with a 3 minutes 30 second development time. Prior to introducing the primary developer, I pre-soaked in a water bath with a drop of HC110.

For the Jobo-processed roll, I diluted Retro Special Developer 1:1 with water and increased the time to 4 minutes. I also had a pre-bath with a drop of HC110, but like the main developer, this was agitated continuously.

My results were not as I expected.

Misty tracks on the old Rutland near Arlington, Vermont. Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.8 105mm lens.

My earlier experiments with Retropan demonstrated a fine grain film with broad tonality. But this roll had much coarser grain, and yet even smoother tones. At first, I was shocked by the more intensive grain, but in retrospect I’ve decided it adds a quality to the photos that I may not have obtained through other media.

Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.
Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.
Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.
Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.

For my next experiments, I’ll return to hand-processing and I may skip the presoak bath with HC110.

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Irish Rail’s Friday Glint.

Sometimes I take a haphazard approach to photography; I explore and see what I find, then run with what is handed to me. This works well some of the time.

However, I often take a more calculated approach, paying careful advanced attention to weather, lighting and train schedules/operating patterns. Obviously, this works best on railways that make an effort to operate to the schedule.

Back in autumn 2006, fellow photographer David Hegarty and I made several focused trips to Co. Mayo to photograph the Westport Line and Ballina Branch.

On Friday’s the once per week Dublin Heuston to Ballina direct passenger train was scheduled to cross the evening Westport-Dublin daily passenger at Ballyhaunis (one station east of Claremorris.) This meant that the cabin had to be staffed to work signals, points, Electric Train Staff instruments, etc.

I think we made three Friday evening visits before getting it right.

Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS 3 with 200mm lens. To minimize flare, I used my handheld notebook to shade the front element of the lens. If there was  one practical lesson from this exercise, that’s it!

On September 15, 2006, I exposed this trailing glint view of the down Friday Ballina train with a class 071 diesel and Mark 2 carriages meeting a class 201 locomotive leading Mark 3s on the up train to Dublin.

Soon all was to change. The signals were replaced with mini-CTC, the Mark 2s were retired, soon followed by the Mark 3s, and as a result the 071s relegated to freight/per way work.

Yet at the time the most difficult part of this photograph was the lighting! Finding a clear afternoon in Mayo isn’t an easy task.

Special thanks to Noel Enright for arranging for the sun to come out at the right moment.

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Battenkill Railroad Vignettes.

New York State’s Battenkill Railroad is a throwback to another time. It is best known for its ancient Alco RS-3 diesels, a once common model, now virtually extinct.

However, the railway’s rustic charm comes from its old stations, rolling jointed rail, and old-school agricultural landscapes.

Last week, Mike Gardner and I explored the line, working north from the interchange at Eagle Bridge.

In the foreground are Battenkill’s tracks at Eagle Bridge, New York, while Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine tracks and signals are at the next crossing.
Shushan, New York.
Beaded grade crossing signs, once standard, are now relics.
Lonely tracks that only see one or two trains a week.
This old Alco is still lettered fro Battenkill’s predecessor, Greenwich & Johnsonville.
I’ve panned this Alco RS-3 to convey a sense of motion.

I made these views with my Nikon F3 on Ilford HP5 black & white film. Railroads like this are rare in 2017. I wonder how much longer it will survive in its present condition?

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Why Black & White Photography?

Some readers might wonder why I persist with traditional black & white photography, when modern digital imaging is easier and doesn’t involve all that messing about with chemistry.

Detailed view of an old plow. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikon F3 fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens. Lens set at f1.8 for minimum depth of field.
My old Nikons were paid for many years ago. The cost of a roll of HP5 is about $6, and the processing costs are pennies per frame. True, my labor costs are much greater per image, but I feel the results justify the effort. (An yes, I also made a digital photograph of this scene).

The reasons are simple:

I like tradition. I’ve always made black & white photos and processed my own film. While there have been gaps in my black & white work (usually owing to a lack of adequate facilities), I like the continuity by occasionally working with a consistent medium.

My black & white efforts can achieve desired results that may not be equivalent to images made digitally.

Because traditional black & white photography is more difficult, I feel it hones my image making skills.

I process my negatives in an archival fashion and I scan them digitally. This leaves me with greater chances that the images will survive for generations than images strictly stored on ephemeral digital media.

Some years ago, someone asked me if I had adjusted to the switch to digital photography. I said, “I still haven’t adjusted to the switch to color!”

However, just because I continue with the time-honored tradition of black & white photography, doesn’t prevent me from also working digitally.

As regular viewers know, I routinely expose, present (and occasionally publish) modern digital images. In fact I find that two types of photography complement each other nicely.

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Lord Byron at Grand Narrows, Nova Scotia.

‘Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright.’

Profound words for a man who never gazed upon, let alone exposed a photograph.

Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia locomotive 2032 Lord Byron leads freight 306 in July 1997. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon N90S with 80-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.

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Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film.

This is a follow up to my Tracking the Light post of January 11, 2017, which displayed the results of my first roll of Foma Retropan.

For my second roll, I focused on a variety of railway subjects, aiming to see how this film would perform. This one was exposed using a Nikon F3 with various Nikkor lenses, exposure calculated manually with the aid of a handheld light meter.

I made these images in parallel with digital images exposed with my other cameras.

As with the first roll, I exposed the Retropan at ISO 320 and processed it more or less as recommended by Foma.

A view of Girard and Broad in Philadelphia, exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.
A retro streetcar as seen exposed on Retropan 320. Philadelphia’s Route 15 PCC glides along Girard Avenue. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens. 1/60th of a second.
Another view of a SEPTA PCC car on Girard Avenue, Philadelphia. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.
A pan with Retropan!
A SEPTA Silverliner IV approaches Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.
Hard glint at New Brunswick, New Jersey. A Washington DC-bound Acela train zips along at speed. Notice how the film reacts to the tremendous contrast between highlights and shadows. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 135mm f2.8 telephoto lens.
Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 135mm f2.8 telephoto lens.

Again, for this roll I used the Retro Special Developer with shortened the processing time (I opted for 3 minutes 30 seconds plus a pre-soaked in a water bath with a drop of HC110.

Overall, I was pleased with the tonality and tight grain structure. The film has a softer look than other fast black & white films, such as Ilford’s HP5, and a broad tonal range that holds highlight and shadow detail very well.

I scanned the negatives with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. These images are essentially unmodified scans, except for necessary scale reduction for internet presentation plus addition of my watermark. I did not alter contrast, exposure, tonality, or perform sharpening.

This test went so well, for my next experiment, I decided to significantly alter my processing of the film. Stay tuned for my bold experiment with Retropan Roll 3! (Sometimes changes produce unexpected consequences).

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On this Day; Locomotive 4876 and the Anniversary of the Washington Terminal Crash

January 15th is the anniversary of the 1953 Washington Union Terminal crash, when Pennsylvania Railroad’s Federal Express led by GG1 4876 lost its airbrakes and  careened into the lobby of the station.

This spectacular train wreck, on the eve of Eisenhower’s inauguration, made headlines in every major newspaper across the country.

Thirty four years ago, GG1 4876—then operated by NJ Transit remained in daily service and routinely worked New York & Long Branch trains between Penn Station and South Amboy, New Jersey .

My father and I intercepted this infamous electric on various occasions in its final years of service.

Here are few 4876 views from my lost negative file; They were exposed in June 1983 with my battle-worn Leica IIIA from my High School days. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using  Kodak Microdol-X.

GG1 electric 4876 in June 1983.
GG1 electric 4876 in June 1983.

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NJ Transit with Soft Glint—a Lesson in Light

Air pollution, fluffy clouds and very low sun can create some wonderful soft lighting.

Evening glint is a fleeting ephemeral condition.

The Northeast Corridor in central New Jersey is an ideal place to make use of soft glint.

Long tangent sections of track, a favorable north-east to southwest alignment and ample quantities of air-pollution plus very frequent service, allow for excellent opportunities as the light shifts and fades.

I made these photographs at Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick.

Exposed using anFujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens. Camera set at ISO 1000, 1/180 of a second at f7.1. Here I’ve set the white balance to ‘auto’, however typically I recommend that for glint photography a white balance setting for ‘daylight’ will yield redder more impressive photos.
ISO 1250, f5.6 1/250th using the Fujifilm ‘Velvia’ color profile, with white balance set to ‘auto’.

Getting the exposure right is crucial for successful glint photos.

I usually use manual settings. I’ve found that when exposing for glint light it is important pay careful attention to the highlight  and shadow areas.

I avoid clipping the highlights (as result of over exposure), but also make sure that I don’t stop down (reducing the amount of light reaching the sensor ) too much, which will make the shadows completely opaque.

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New Brunswick in the Razor Shaft of Glint.

Over the shoulder light is easy to work with but doesn’t always make for the most dramatic images. When possible, I like to find dramatic lighting and to see what I can make of it.

So here we have an unusual, captivating and difficult lighting situation.

Looking down the New Brunswick, New Jersey station, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I found this brief shaft of light made by the setting winter sun.

Luckily during the few minutes where sun penetrated New Jersey’s concrete canyons we had a flurry of trains to catch the glint.

NJ Transit train 7004 has an electric at the back of the consist. I like the way a bit of reflected light catches the front of the engine.
The old Pennsylvania Railroad station at New Brunswick, New Jersey seems out of place with the modern buildings that now surround it. This view focuses on the classic architecture.
NJ Transit 3856 is bound for New York City.
Boxy double deck coaches make for an interesting composition. The stainless-steel sides catch the glint nicely.
Amtrak train 186 races eastward through New Brunswick as NJ Transist 3937 departs the outbound platform.

I made these images with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail. I made nominal adjustments to shadow and highlight contrast to improve the overall appearance of the images.

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Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Revisited: Jersey Avenue—Then and Now.

It was a warm April afternoon in 1978 when my father and I arrived at Jersey Avenue to make photos.

For me this was a thrill. The long tangent in both directions seemed to reach to the horizon, and the trains passed at tremendous speed.

It was also one of my earliest experiences working with a long telephoto lens.

Pop had fitted his 200mm Leitz Telyt with Visoflex to my Leica 3A.

The Visoflex provided me with an equivalent to an SLR (single lens reflex) arrangement for a rangefinder camera by using a mirror with prism to see through the lens.

A New York-bound Metroliner races along the old Pennsylvania Railroad at Jersey Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey. I hadn’t figured out how to focus quickly yet.
My trailing view of the Metroliner was more successful.

Where I was well used to the peculiarities of Leica’s pre-war rangefinder arrangement, using the Visoflex offered a new set of challenges, especially in regards to focusing.

Jersey Avenue April 1978: there I am age 11. Photo by Richard J. Solomon
This southward Amtrak long distance train was led by one of Amtrak’s E60 electrics. I was disappointed as I’d hoped for a GG1.
Check out all the great old streamlined cars. At the time I was so concerned about making this image, I didn’t really appreciate the details of the train.

Fast forward to December 2016. Pat Yough and I were exploring locations on Amtrak’s North East Corridor. I suggested Jersey Avenue because I was curious to see if that was where Pop and I had made those photos so many years ago. (Back in 1978, my photo notes were a bit thin).

Indeed it was. So we made a few photos from approximately the same spot before investigating other locations. Compare my December 2016 views with my much earlier attempts.

Amtrak 93 races through Jersey Avenue in December 2016.
Trailing view of Amtrak 93 at Jersey Avenue.


Retropan 320—My First Experiment.

Czech film manufacturer Foma introduced a new black & white film in 2015 called Retropan Soft (ISO 320).

This is advertised as a panchromatic, special negative film with ‘fine grain, good resolution and contour sharpness’. Among its features are a ‘wide range of half tones and a wide exposure latitude.

I tried my first roll in early December 2016. I have to admit that I was curious, but skeptical. Could this new b&w film change the way I approach film photography? Might it offer something decidedly different than Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5?

Working with an old Nikon F3 and 50mm lens  I wandered around Philadelphia with my brother and exposed a variety of gritty urban images that I thought might benefit from the look advertised by ‘Retropan’.

Foma recommended using their specially formulated Retro Special Developer, so I ordered some from Freestyle Photographic Supplies .

I exposed my film at ISO 320, and processed it more or less as recommended using Retro Special Developer, with two small changes:

I shortened the processing time (as I generally find that manufacturer recommended times are too long and lead to excessively dense negatives); plus I pre-soaked the film in a water bath with a drop of HC110 (as described in previous posts).

The negatives scanned  well, and I was impressed with the tonality of the photographs. I’ve included a selection below.

Please note, that although I scaled the files and inserted a watermark, I have not cropped them or manipulated contrast, exposure or sharpness. These photos are essentially un-interpreted.

Philadelphia exposed on Foma Retropan Soft and processed in Foma Retro Special Developer.
Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia.
42nd Street, Philadelphia.
Philadelphia City Hall. Philadelphia exposed on Foma Retropan Soft and processed in Foma Retro Special Developer.
Evening view from the same street corner as the daylight photo.
Low angle view of an alley.
Buying SEPTA transit tokens.

Stay tuned for my next Retropan test!

Brian Solomon presents something new on Tracking the Light every day.



Eagle Bridge, New York—120-size Views in January 2017.

The little town of Eagle Bridge is a eerily fascinating place.

Here the old Boston & Maine station survives as a relic, complete with the mast for the old train order signal.

At Eagle Bridge the Battenkill Railroad’s former Delaware & Hudson line connects with Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine route via a steeply graded junction. The old station sits between the tracks.

I made these views the other day using my Rollei Model T (with Zeiss Tessar lens) loaded with Fomapan Classic (ISO 100).

I processed the film with a Jobo processing machine and Kodak D76 (mixed 1 to 1 with water) as my primary developer. For added shadow detail, presoaked the film in water-bath mixed with a drop of Kodak HC110.

This was the first time I tried Fomapan 100 in the 120 size format (the Rollei makes 2 1/4 inch square images). These negatives demonstrate great detail, but they needed some nominal adjustment in post processing using Lightroom to manipulate contrast/exposure.

All things being equal I like my chemical process to yield negatives that don’t require post–processing adjustments. However, that level of refinement usually requires a bit of experimentation when using an unfamiliar emulsion type.

Pan Am Southern/Norfolk Southern empty auto rack train 287 was parked at Eagle Bridge. In the lead is Norfolk Souther’s Virginian Heritage locomotive.

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A Taste of Mexico on New Years Eve.

New Years Eve 2016, I was traveling with Pat Yough. We got news of a GE-built ES44AC Ferromex locomotive leading Norfolk Southern 39G (Camden, NJ to Allentown, PA) and so we went to investigate.

I made these photographs at HATCH in Pennsauken, New Jersey using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Not only were we rewarded with a Mexican locomotive in the lead, but also a rare opportunity to catch a caboose on a road freight. Not bad for the last day of 2016!

For me New Years Eve has another Mexican connection; on this day in 1979 I flew from Mexico City to New York’s Kennedy Airport on an Eastern Airlines L1011.

Things were more relaxed in those days, and I was afforded a nice forward view for part of my journey.

Ferromex 4679 leads Norfolk Southern symbol freight 39G at ‘Hatch’ in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Those are  the tracks for NJ Transit’s River Line light rail on the left. I adjusted the file in post processing to lower the contrast and improve the color.
It’s relatively rare to find a Mexican locomotive leading in New Jersey. First time I saw something like this anyway. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.
The caboose was a nice touch. NS 39G took this  only  as far as Abrahms Yard (near Norristown, PA).
Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1.
In NORAC rules a red-over-yellow aspect means Medium Approach Medium, I don’t have a rule book for NJ Transit’s Light Rail. Any clues?

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On the Roll with Norfolk Southern’s Virginian Heritage Locomotive.

Here’s another case of dumb luck. The other day, when Mike Gardner and I headed for Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine at East Deerfield, we had vague notions that we’d follow one of their trains.

As with many of our photographic adventures, our plan was little more than a loose agreement that we’d explore and make photos. Mike does the driving, I help with the navigation and interpreting the scanner.

I’d brought a wide selection of cameras, including two Nikon film cameras and my old Rollei Model T for black & white work.

Early in our day we bumped into some fellow photographers who tipped us off on the westward approach of empty autorack train 287 led by Norfolk Southern 1069 painted to honor the old Virginian.

The Virginian is long before my time. It was melded into Norfolk & Western 7 years before I was born. However, I was familiar with the line through my father’s color slides.

As the day unfolded we learned that we had a pair of westward trains to work with. As noted in yesterday’s post, Pan Am’s EDRJ was working with recently acquired former CSX DASH8-40Cs. Initially, it was 287 with the Virginian painted locomotive that caught our attention.

January 5, 2017 East Deerfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens. Pan Am’s EDRJ (with former CSX DASH8-40Cs) waits for auto rack 287 with NS 1069  to clear the yard before making its double.
Exposed on Fomapan 200 with a Rollei Model T. Film processed in D76.
Pacing view near Charlemont, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
To the River!
Pan Am Southern 287 passes the classic location at Zoar, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
Eagle Bridge, New York. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

Horace Greeley’s advice played out well that day! (But we aren’t as young as we were once).

Who’s Horace Greeley? 

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Pan Am Railways’ ‘New’ DASH8-40Cs.

Back in 1989, the DASH8-40C was the latest offering from General Electric. In April that year, I photographed some glistening Conrail units at Buffalo’s Bison Yard. Some months later I was delighted to catch a freshly painted CSX DASH8-40C working on the old Baltimore & Ohio at Deshler, Ohio.

Fast forward to 2017; reports of Pan Am’s recent acquisition of 20 former CSX DASH8-40Cs has interested New England railroad observers. I’ll admit, I find it strange that these locomotives causing such a stir.

On Thursday January 5, 2017, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I visited Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard (located near Greenfield, Massachusetts).

Upon our arrival, we saw road freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) getting ready for its westward journey. In the lead was a pair of the ‘New’ DASH8-40Cs.

I learned that this was the first run of these locomotives since arriving on Pan Am a few days earlier. Not to waste an opportunity we geared up for some photography.

And, yes, among the trains we photographed that day was EDRJ (always a favorite train to catch on the scenic westend of the old Boston & Maine). We followed it all the way to Eagle Bridge, New York, ‘new’ GEs in the lead.

Below are a few of the photos I made using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. While we made the most of these old ‘new’ locomotives, in truth we probably would have photographed Pan Am’s EDRJ regardless of its motive power.

Still, I’ll be keen to see these old goats painted in Pan Am blue and white.

DASH8-40Cs glint in the morning sun at East Deerfield Yard.
EDRJ works upgrade along the Deerfield River at Zoar, Massachusetts.
EDRJ ambles along near Pownal, Vermont.
Sun and clouds color the sky near North Pownal, Vermont.

Approaching Petersburg Junction near the New York-Vermont state line.

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Fast 90—First Photos.

What better way to get a fresh view than to play with a new lens?

I’ve been working with my FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera for nearly two years and it has proven to be an excellent tool.

The other day I visited Allen’s Camera in Levittown, Pennsylvania where I bought a Fujinon f2.0 90mm lens. I call this my ‘fast 90’ because of its relatively large aperture size for its length.

In the early 1990s, I routinely worked with a Nikon f1.8 105mm lens, and made thousands of Kodachrome slides with it.

Among the advantages of a ‘fast lens’ is the ability to work with shorter shutter speeds.

Where my 18-135mm zoom lens has a maximum aperture of f5.6, the ‘Fast 90’ is a full three stops faster. The difference is f5.6 at 1/125 versus f2.0 at 1/1000 working at ISO 200 on an overcast morning

Exposed at 1/1000 of a second.
Another advantage of a fast telephoto lens is the ability to use selective focus.
I’ve found selective focus exceptionally useful as a means for subtly guiding the eye through a complex composition.

I made this selection of images on the morning I bought the lens. Stayed tuned for more results later!

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Central Vermont RS-11s on this Day in 1983.

Someone in the administration office at Monson High School may have noted my absence.

But the freshly fallen snow and Alco RS-11s working the road freight to New London distracted me. Really now, I think that making this sequence of photographs was more important than sitting around in some old classroom.

On January 5, 1983, CV RS-11s  work a southward freight at Chestnut Street in Monson, Massachusetts. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar.
Look! A school bus. Ha!

Now, 34 years later I still don’t think I was wrong. Do you?

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Brian Solomon’s Silver & Steel Photo Exhibit January 2017

During January 2017, I’ll have an exhibit of railway photography at the Valley Photo Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. The show will run from January 3 to January 28th in the Tower Square mall (formerly Bay State West) in downtown Springfield. The address is: 1500 Main St, Springfield, MA 01103, USA

The exhibit will feature photographs spanning two decades from the late 1980s to 2008, and depict trains in a variety of settings.

Conrail double-stack container train crosses the Starrucca Viaduct on the former Erie Railroad at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania in Spring 1989. Exposed with a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens on Kodachrome 25.
Among the large photographs display is this view of a southward Central Vermont freight crossing the Connecticut River. I exposed it using my Nikon F3T with 28mm lens on Kodachrome 25. A version of this image appeared in Trains Magazine 19 years ago.

Among my underlying themes are scale and environment. Consider the contrast between the view of a light rail tram crossing the Danube in Budapest and the very large print of a freight car wheel in West Virginia.

Highlights include a Conrail stack train crossing Pennsylvania’s Starrucca Viaduct, and Union Pacific freight rolling through California’s Feather River Canyon at the North Fork Bridge.

This is a rare opportunity to buy my framed photography. All prints displayed are available for purchase.

A reception will be held on the evening of Friday, January 27, 2017 between 5:30 and 8:00pm. I’ll be there to give a live slide show (with real 35mm color slides!) Refreshments will be served.

This reception is scheduled to coincide with the Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, just across the Connecticut River.

I hope to see you there on the 27th!

For more information:

Philadelphia’s 2017 Mummers Parade.

On January 1, 2017, I exposed these photos along Philadelphia’s Broad Street of the annual Mummers parade.

Using my LX7, I set the camera in ‘A’-mode (aperture priority), which allows me to set the aperture while the camera adjusts the shutter speed.

I’ve found that to capture the spirit of a parade, using a slow shutter speed and panning puts the players in motion.

Panning also sets off the parade participants from the urban background and helps reduce the visual complexity of the environment to make for more dramatic images.

Below are a selection taken from some 500 digital images exposed on New Years Day.

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Lumix Sunset; SEPTA on Girard Avenue—December 28, 2016.

The other day my brother and I drove along Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue on the way back from an errand.

This gave me the opportunity to make a few photographs along the way.

I had two cameras to play with. A Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic, and my Lumix LX7.

Inspired by my monochrome successes earlier this month, photographer Mike Gardner had encouraged me to make more Philly streetcar photos using black & white film, and so that’s what I did.

But, as you read this the images on film are still latent. As I worked the F3, I also popped off a few digital photos with the LX7. While anticipating the black & white, we can enjoy the digital images.

Not only does the LX7 produce instant results, but it’s a flexible tool with a very sharp lens.

Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.
Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.
Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.
Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.

Film versus digital? How about having your cake and eating it too?


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