Evening Sun, Southward Freight and a Signal Lesson.

Two weeks ago, my friend Tim and I made photos of Pan Am Railway’s EDPL crossing the Connecticut River at Holyoke, Massachusetts.

A short history: Back in 1982, Conrail spun off some New England routes, including a group of former New Haven Railroad lines in Connecticut. Providence & Worcester and Boston & Maine were among the lines that picked up former Conrail routes.

A vestige of this acquisition, is Pan Am Railway’s (which operates the old Boston & Maine) East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville, Connecticut freight.

Since this Pan Am freight works over Amtrak’s cab signal equipped Springfield-Hartford-New Haven line, the leading locomotive must be fitted with cab signal equipment on that portion of the run.

Since Pan Am only has a few locomotives so fitted (including MEC 352 seen trailing in this view), so today’s train was led by (leased or borrowed?) Providence & Worcester GP38-2 2009 that has the necessary cab signaling (installed for use on P&W’s North East Corridor freight assignments.)

This has been a common occurrence in recent years. Significantly, P&W has been acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming family, and it will be interesting to see how much longer locomotives will operate in the older P&W livery.

Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.

For the record: this photo was made on former Boston & Maine trackage, which is not cab-signal equipped. (Cab signal territory will begin about a dozen miles to the south of this location, once on Amtrak trackage)

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CSX at Palmer-Low angle gives the appearance of a model railroad photo.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1, I tilted and extended the rear display screen so that I could hold the camera close to the ground. By doing this I photographed from an unusual perspective with a telephoto lens.

Since the angle is very low, the foreground is blurred, and the verticals are kept perpendicular to the horizon, the effect makes the photo appear like those often made of model railroads.

One of the circumstances that made this image possible, was a complete lack of automobiles in front of the old Palmer (Massachusetts) Union Station—now the popular Steaming Tender Restaurant.

CSX GP40-2s, working local freight B740, reverse through the points at CP83 during a switching move in May 2017.

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400mm view at Stateline Summit.

Using my Canon 7D with a 100-400mm zoom lens, I exposed this view of New England Central 608 approaching Stateline Summit on the Connecticut-Massachusetts boundary.

I selected this perspective to illustrate the undulating grade profile of the former Central Vermont Railway approaching Stateline Summit. The train is crossing the ‘false summit’ while the top of the grade is the rise in tracks near the switch stand.

I’m standing north of the state line looking south; the train is in Connecticut.

Looking south toward the northward New England Central 608 at Stateline.

While this camera-lens combination doesn’t represent my sharpest equipment, it is useful for photos like this one.

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New England Central—Southward with 608 on May 17, 2017.

Earlier in the month I’ve highlighted various photographic adventures with New England Central 608 (freight that works from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back). Today’s post focuses on the southward journey.

Over the years, I’ve photographed many trains climbing the former Central Vermont Railway grade over State Line Hill, and beyond into Connecticut, so this chase is old hat for me.

Yet, I’m always looking for a new angle, or to place today’s train in a classic setting that I may have captured years ago.

These views are all from the morning of May 17, 2017 and exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Do you have any favorites?

New England Central 608 at Bunyan Road in Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 from Academy Hill/Main Street Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 at Stateline looking toward Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central tracks at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
Tight telephoto view of NECR 608 at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
South of Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
New England Central 608 viewed from the Track 9 Diner in Willington, Connecticut.

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Processing Old Film; Union Pacific in the Blue Mountains.

So what do you do when you find an old roll of black & white film? A roll that has sat, exposed but unprocessed, for years, for decades.

You could throw it away. But that would be a dumb thing to do. There is another option.

Back in July 1991, my old pal TSH (a regular Tracking the Light reader) and I made an epic two and half week trip across the American West.

On that trip I exposed dozens of rolls of Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Nikon F3T. But I also brought my Leica M2, and exposed a few rolls of black & white film.

While I processed some of the black & white shortly after the trip, for reasons I can’t justify, two rolls of Ilford FP4 remained unprocessed.

These have followed me through the years. I had them so long that I’d forgotten when I’d exposed them. They were mixed in a bag with other unexposed film.

July 23, 1991, a Union Pacific unit train ascends the Blue Mountain grade toward Kamela, Oregon, passing a location known Bodie. I processed this film in May 2017 using my customized process. The results would have been better if I hadn’t waited more than a quarter century, but they aren’t bad considering. One of the defects of the long process time is an increase in grain size.
Union Pacific SD60M at Bodie, Oregon Jul 23, 1991. Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
At the back of the unit train were a pair of SD40-2s working as helpers.
Some great sound from these locomotives.

Several years ago, I worked out a special process for getting good results from old black & white film. I’ve processed rolls up to 40 years after exposure and found presentable images on them.

Although the latent image remains in the film’s silver halide crystals for decades, simply processing the film in the ordinary fashion won’t yield desirable results.

I’ve found it necessary to work with multiple stage development, which requires unusually long process times. Key to making this work is a carefully measured antifogging solution. I will detail this process in future posts.

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Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017.

On May 6, 2017, I made a few rainy afternoon photos of Boston’s Green Line streetcars along Beacon Street.

These were exposed old school; a Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5, exposure calculated using a hand-held Minolta Mark IV light meter.

In these views, I’ve divided up my frame to account for the white sky and the effect of contrast and tonality. Do you think these photos would work in color?

Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017. Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).
Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).

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Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine at Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Last week, on my way to Greenfield, Massachusetts, I learned there were a pair of westward freights heading over the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.

Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) was nearly ready to depart East Deerfield yard, while empty autorack train symbol 287 (coming from Ayer, Massachusetts) was to run around it and proceed west first.

I opted for a different angle, deciding to make photos from the passenger platform built to serve Amtrak’s Vermonter in 2014.

I made these views with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Thin morning cloud/haze helped soften the effects of backlighting at this location.

Pan Am symbol freight 287 works west at Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Wide angle view; Pan Am symbol freight 287 works west at Greenfield, Massachusetts.
About 20 minutes after 287, Pan Am’s EDRJ came into view. In the lead are two of the former CSX GE-built Dash8-40Cs. I made this view to show more of the environment, including the chain-link fence by the passenger platform.
Wide view of EDRJ.
Nice shade of blue on Pan Am painted EMD diesels. Wouldn’t the GE Dash8-40Cs look nice in this paint?

Subtle control in post processing can really make a difference.

These images were adapted from the camera RAW files. I adjusted shadow contrast among other small changes to further balance for backlighting.

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MBTA Gone Retro—Looking Back at Park Street.

Yesterday’s post featured contemporary views of MBTA’s Park Street Station in Boston. See: http://wp.me/p2BVuC-4Pk

Today’s post goes back in time.

I made this view of an Arborway-bound PCC car about 1980. I’d exposed the photo using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar, probably on Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.

I  scanned this from a print I made back in the day. During that period (1978-1982) I often traveled with my father to Boston and I made a lot of photos of MBTA transit operations. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep precise notes on this print.

Here’s one of the photos displayed yesterday for comparison.

Green Line streetcars use the upper level at Park Street.

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Lumix Underground; MBTA Park Street—Boston, Massachusetts.

Earlier in the month, I changed from the Red Line to the Green Line at Park Street, reminding me of visits to Boston decades earlier.

I don’t ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway often anymore so it’s something of a novelty when I visit.

These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 with the white balance set to ‘auto’ (key to help balancing the variety of artificial light in the station).

Lumix set at 80 ISO.
Green Line streetcars use the upper level at Park Street.

There are not many subways where you are allowed to cross the tracks at grade.
Waiting for a southbound Red Line train.

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New England Central—Making the Most of a Sunny Morning.

Lately, New England Central’s (NECR) Willimantic-Palmer freight 608 has been running on favorable schedule for photography.

If you’ve been following Tracking the Light lately, you might have gleaned the mistaken impression that New England Central’s northward freight can only be photographed hard out of the sun at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

In fact  on its present schedule there are many nicely lit photographs of the northward run between Willington, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts, this time of year.

And, when the crew turns quickly at Palmer, there can be a host of very nicely lit locations in the southward direction.

It helps to know where and when to go. I’ve been at this a while. Back in Central Vermont Railway days (precursor to New England Central) and before I could drive, I’d chase this line on my bicycle. By the time I was 15 I knew all the best angles.

These views are from one productive morning a few weeks ago. More to come!

Leica view on black & white film—Ilford HP5 rated at 320 ISO, processed in Ilford Perceptol developer and toned with selenium. NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut. FujiFIlm X-T1 digital photo using in-camera. Velvia color profile.
Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NER 608 about to cross Rt319 north of Stafford Springs.
A few minutes later at Stateline (on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border). Note the passing siding. I’m standing on Route 32 looking southward.
Leica view at Stateline.
Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts, near the site of the old Central Vermont Railway Monson Station (gone more than 60 years).
Leica view on HP5 at Washington Street.

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Framing Irish Rail.

Not a 1940s paperback title.

But an exercise in making better photos on overcast days.

Last month, two days in a row I hoofed it up to Blackhorse Avenue following the good advice of fellow photographer Colm O’Callaghan in order to make photos of Irish Rail’s class 071 diesel- hauled trains.

Blackhorse bridges Irish Rail’s branch the connects Islandbridge Junction with Dublin’s North Wall via the Phoenix Park tunnel. The north-facing portal is just out of sight around the corner in the cutting.

This is a nice place to make photos of Dublin-bound trains bright overcast days. Elevation allows me to minimize the sky, while an old stone-faced overbridge makes an effective frame that adds depth and historical interest to the photos.

Both were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a fixed focal length (‘prime’) 90mm telephoto lens. One makes use of the landscape (horizontal) orientation, the other is a portrait (vertically) oriented photograph.

Irish Rail number 075 leads an empty spoil train toward Dublin’s North Wall on 27 April 2017. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Irish Rail 081 with the Up-IWT liner from Ballina, County Mayo. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Which photo do you feel is more interesting?

And yes, I also made black & white photos of these trains.

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South Station, Boston, Massachusetts—in B&W and Color.

I rarely travel with just one camera.

These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.

On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.

So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

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Pan Am Panned—Office Car Special at Speed.

There’s nothing like a carefully executed panned photograph to convey a train at speed.

I’ve covered the panning technique a number of times on Tracking the Light; essentially this accomplished by using a comparatively slow shutter speed (in this situation I chose 1/60th of a second) and moving the camera with the subject as it passes through a scene.

The real trick is maintain smooth full-body motion and continue to pan after the shutter is released. Novice pan photographers often violate this rule and stop panning the moment they release the shutter, which tends to result in badly blurred photos.

Yesterday (May 18, 2017) I was traveling with Tim, a friend and fellow photographer, who suggested this location at North Hatfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Maine Connecticut River line.

Rather than make a conventional image, I opted for a series of panned views, of which this is but one in a sequence.

Exposed at 1/60th of a second using a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with f2.0 90mm lens.

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Making use of a dull Morning—Another Take of 608.

So, if I called this Stafford Springs, Connecticut Part 3, would you be interested.

In truth, this is less about Stafford and its morning freight train and more about lighting and technique.

In two previous posts [see: New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again, and Going Against the Grain  I’ve detailed my efforts at photographing New England Central 608 working through Stafford Springs in harsh morning sunlight. This post depicts the same train on a dull morning, but also in black & white (Sorry Dave Clinton, but it has to be done).

I’m using the same camera-lens combination; a Leica IIIa with a screw-mount f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens. This time loaded with Ilford HP5. My process is about the same as in my earlier post New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

This time, I processed it using Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for eight minutes, rewashed and scanned.

 One small change; in this instance, I gave the film a little more toning than previously, which should make for slightly more silvery highlights. This is a subtle change, and probably barely perceptible on internet presentation.

New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs at 7:20am on May 10, 2017 ; exposed using a Leica IIIa with f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens at f4.5/f5.6 1/200th second on HP5.
A slightly closer view of New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs. I’ve made this on at a slightly lower angle.

Compositionally, I’ve made an effort to include the village and not just focus on the locomotives.

I’m by no means done with this project, and I’ll continue to post with more photos and insights over the coming weeks. (Including some color views to please Dave and others morally opposed to black & white).

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Bright Morning in Zürich!

It was a clear blue dome and working with my Lumix LX7, I made these photos of trams working the streets of Zürich, Switzerland.

Zürich continues to paint its trams in its classic sky-blue and creamy white livery. This photographs well when the sun is out, but can be challenging on dull days.

The Lumix LX7 when used with the add-on external viewfinder is an excellent tool for urban street photography. I like the LX7 because it allows me to make both Jpg and RAW digital files simultaneously. The RAWs were especially useful here as I could more easily adjust contrast in post processing.

Lumix LX7 photo. RAW file adjusted to improve contrast and shadow detail, then scaled as a Jpg in Lightroom for internet presentation.
Camera Jpg scaled for internet.

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New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

Call this ‘Part 2’—More hard light.

A few days ago, I displayed black & white photos I made at Stafford Springs, Connecticut in hard morning sunlight. See: Going Against the Grain.

Where the earlier images used an unusual film type (Foma Retropan), today’s image was made on Ilford HP-5, but with some special processing.

On May 9, 2017, New England Central freight 608 works timetable northward through Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed on Ilford HP-5 using a Leica IIIa fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. Film was processed in Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for six minutes, then rewashed and scanned. The sky area received some localized exposure adjustment in post-processing, while there was some overall contrast adjustment to improve the appearance of the image.

In both posts, black & white photos feature New England Central 608 (a freight that runs between Willimantic, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts) passing downtown Stafford Springs shortly after sunrise.

Today’s image was exposed from Main Street in Stafford on the opposite side of the tracks from the earlier photos, which provides a different perspective on the train and village.

Part of this exercise is aimed at demonstrating black & white photographic technique, however I’m also hoping to show how different angles at the same location can result in significantly different photos.

Also, that it’s possible to make interesting photos in difficult lighting situations, if you apply a creative approach to your photography.

I’m done here yet! To be continued on another day.

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Striving for Tonality.

Last month I made this photo of a tram near its terminus in Basel, Switzerland.

To achieve deeper tones, I’ve adjusted my photographic process, shortening the development time, then boosting highlights by toning the negatives after development.

Working with my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens, I exposed a roll of Ilford HP5, rating it at 320 ISO. I processed the film in Agfa (formula) Rodinal Special (mixed 1-30 with water) for 3 minutes 25 seconds at 68 degrees F.

By design, this resulted in acceptable negatives, slightly on thin (light) side. Then, after fixing (two stage) and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in selenium (using a 1-9 mix) for nine minutes with regular agitation.

Selenium toner is poisonous, so I wear latex gloves and perform the toning outside to avoid breathing the fumes, and pre-rinse the film prior to bringing it back inside.

Toning the negatives in this way boosts the highlights, giving the images a slightly silvery glow, while improving archival stability.

For this photo, I made some additional changes in post processing.

After scanning, I imported the file to Lightroom, and digitally lowered the contrast and highlight density of the sky-area in the top 1/3 of the frame.

My intent was to produce an image with a darker moody tonality and glistening highlights. I wonder if this will translate to the internet well?


Agfa Rodinal Special and selenium toners can be purchased from Freestyle in California, (see: http://www.freestylephoto.biz).


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Oops at Arth-Goldau—Lets Crop!

I’m not a fan of cropping.

In general, I object to cropping, especially when executed by someone other than the photographer.

I accept that in the realm of publishing it is a necessary evil, and that with the internet, Facebook and other imaging venues embrace cropping without consequence of how it affects photographs.

Yet, occasionally I find necessary to crop one of my photos.

Last I month I made an image of an Italian ETR 610 Pendolino from the south-end of the station platform at Arth-Goldau, Switzerland. While focused on the impressive looking train, I inadvertently included a portion of a mast on the platform that appears as an out of focus blob at the left of the image.

While I often like to work with selective focus, in my opinion this accident in no way enhanced the photo. Furthermore once playing with the cropping feature in Lightroom, I found that cropping other elements of the line side infrastructure materially improved my photo.

Below are some examples. What do you think?

This is the uncropped Jpg file. Notice the fuzzy gray area on the left. This is the side of a mast on the platform. In no way does this make for a more interesting photo.
Lightroom and other post-processing software make cropping alarmingly easy. I’ve cut away the the objectionable fuzzy gray area from the image.
Once I had the cropping tool in hand, I decided to try my hand at eliminating more infrastructural clutter. In this view I’ve cut the catenary support that ran across the top of the image area and tightened the composition of the Pendolino. Is this a more effective image?


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Unexpected Extras at Grindlewald-Grund.

Extra trains are always a bonus; but an unexpected extra using antique equipment is a real treat!

Three weeks ago on our exploration of Swiss railways, Denis McCabe and I were photographing the steeply graded rack railway on the Wengernalbahn near Grindlewald-Grund where the scheduled passenger trains operate on half hour intervals.

In between the regular scheduled trains, we caught a wire train-extra and this passenger extra with heritage equipment.

All in the metaphoric shadow of the Eiger and the Jungfrau, two of the most famous Swiss mountain in the Swiss Bernese Alps.

When two trains really are better than one: A wire train ascends toward Kleine Scheidegg from Grindelwald-Grund, while in the distance a passenger train climbs in the opposite direction toward Grindelwald.
Special bonus, a Wengernalbahn heritage train works the rack on its way up the mountain. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

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Faces of the BLS at Spiez, Switzerland.

Swiss railways tend to be known by three letter abbreviations of their names.

The initials ‘BLS’ represent the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon Bahn, a standard-gauge mainline trunk-line with several branches in central western Switzerland.

It was a pleasant evening three weeks ago, when Denis McCabe and I photographed a procession of BLS freight and passenger trains at Spiez. What I found remarkable was the great variety of equipment operated by this colourful Swiss line.

I exposed these photos over the course of an hour using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Color Photos of the 2017 New York Central System Historical Society Convention.

On the weekend of May 5-7 2017, I attended and spoke at the New York Central System Historical Society Convention held in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

The theme of the convention was the Boston & Albany and it was dedicated to my friend, the late-Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts. Key to the convention events was a chartered MBTA train that operated from Worcester to Boston.

I gave the banquet talk focusing it around Bob Buck’s B&A experiences and photography as well as my own B&A work.

Special thanks to Society and convention organizers, especially Joe Burgess, Bill Keay, and Rich & Nancy Stoving.

I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

Joe Burgess at registration.
Victor Hand presenting his New York Central photographs.
Banquet hall.
Lumix panoramic view of the banquet hall.
Worcester Union Station.
Stovings at Worcester.
MBTA special at Worcester.

Rich Stoving.
Watching the passing scenery along the old Boston & Worcester route.
Bill Keay on a ‘busman’s holiday’.
Green flags at South Station.
MBTA HSP46 number 2004.
MBTA double-deck Kawasaki car.

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Nocturnal Basel Tram Pan

Using my Panasonic Lumix LX7, I exposed this pan photograph of a city tram on the streets of Basel, Switzerland in April 2017.

I’d set the camera at ISO 250, and with the ‘A’ (aperture priority) mode set the aperture to its widest opening (f1.7), which allowed for a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second.

By panning (moving) with the tram, the relatively long shutter speed places the background in a sea of blur while keeping the tram car comparatively sharp.

Basel, Switzerland has a complicated narrow gauge tram system. Lumix LX7 photograph, April 2017.

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Going Against the Grain.

Sometimes, I push the limits.

The other morning in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, I exposed this view of New England Central’s northward freight that runs daily from Willimantic, Ct., to Palmer, Massachusetts.

The train was coming hard out of a clear morning sun. Using a Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor 35mm screw-mount lens, I exposed this view on Foma Retropan 320.

Retropan is a comparatively coarse grain emulsion that offers a distinctly different range of tones than expected with Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X, or other black & white films in the same sensitivity range.

It also produces a characteristic halo-effect in bright highlight areas.

I processed the film more or less as recommended using Foma’s specially formulated Retro Special Developer, and then scanned it with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. I made minor adjustments to contrast in Lightroom.

As I anticipated, my results from this experiment are more pictorial than literal.

A photo of the setting at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
New England Central’s freight with EMD diesels working long-hood first at Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Retropan’s halo effect combined with the large amounts of flare from the sun hitting the front element of the lens contributes to this interpretive image.

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Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel.

I was standing on the shore of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva near the historic Chillon Castle on an afternoon in late April 2017. Above me a clear blue dome provided wonderful polarized light, while SBB sent along a steady parade of scheduled trains, with something passing by every five to ten minutes.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I’d expose a burst of images whenever a train reached near the optimum gap in the foliage, then pick out the best of the lot later.

It really was like, ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ to quote a cliché.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with a 18-135mm lens, I made this view of an SBB locomotive hauled passenger train gliding along the shore of Lake Geneva.
This view was made with a my 12mm Zeiss Tuoit that provide a wide-angle view that encompassed more scenery.

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Montreux-Oberland-Bernois Railway near Gruben, Switzerland.

Sinuous single track winding through lush Alpine meadows with snow capped peaks in the distance under a blazing blue sky.

Hard to go wrong here photographically. Pity about the choice of visually challenging of colors on the trains, but nothing is ever completely perfect, is it?

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

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 using the external adjustable rear display panel to compose the image while holding the camera close to the ground.

MOB station at Gruben.

This is but a small sample of the digital photos on a visit to Switzerland with Denis McCabe two weeks ago.

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Steam at Bray Head on Easter Monday.

Sometimes the railway photo isn’t about the train.

I made this pair of photos at Bray Head, County Wicklow, Ireland on Easter Monday 2017.

Railway Preservation Society engine No 4 was working trips from Dublin to Graystones, so I made the trek out along the head to capture these timeless views.

Although I made a few digital images, I prefer these black & white photos.

These were exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Leica IIIA and processed in Perceptol (1:1 for 14 minutes at 69 degrees F). No toning. Although, I think a dip in selenium would improve the contrast a bit.

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Photographing the MOB—Part 1.

I’m not talking about surreptitiously documenting nefarious underworld dealings of Sicilian criminals, but rather the trains and operations of Switzerland’s Montreux-Oberland-Bernois railway line.

This narrow gauge line famously operates via the Golden Pass route offering hourly long distance trains as well as local services to communities along its lines.

In April, it was among the routes that Denis McCabe and I explored.

We were fortunate to have clear blue skies, which when combined with stunning Alpine scenery makes for great photographic possibilities.

I’d researched a variety of potential locations, and opted to photograph around Gstaad and Gruben, where open Alpine meadows, tall bridges, and distant mountain peaks made for great settings.

Traveling to Gstaad, we hoped off a train that had 14-minute pause in its schedule, and on the recommendation of photographer Barry Carse, immediately set out to find the high viaduct beyond the station.

We found it easily enough, and went charging up a steep slope to position ourselves above the bridge, only to find there was a well-established trail already there! This made getting back to the station much easier.

Here’s a small sample of my digital efforts at Gstaad. My primary focus was exposing color slide film with my Nikon; and those images are en route to the lab now.

MOB’s Belle Époque eases across the multiple span bridge near Gstaad. (Ye Auld Tyme painted carriages at the back).
Working toward Gstaad and Montreux is MOB’s Golden Pass Panoramic. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
MOB’s Golden Pass Panoramic carries glass lined observation cars to allow passengers better views of the Alps.
MOB’s Gstaad station offers only a prosaic view compared with those from the Alpine meadows a five minute walk away.

Tracking the Light aims to publishing new material each and every day.

Boston & Albany Program May 6th.

Boston & Albany freight house at Palmer, Massachusetts, photographed using a Rolleiflex Model T on Verichrome Pan black & white film in October 1985. Copyright Brian Solomon.

This Saturday, May 6, 2017, I will present a variation of my Boston & Albany program to the New York Central System Historical Society convention, to be held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

I am listed as the guest speaker and my illustrated talk will begin at about 7pm. This will feature material from the Robert A. Buck collection, and images from the lens of William Bullard (early 20th century photographer), as well as a selection of my own work on the B&A, which spans more than 40 years.

For information on the convention and registration forms see the New York Central System HS website:  www.NYCSHS.org 



Boston & Albany’s Worcester signal tower shortly before demolition. Copyright Brian Solomon.

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Inside and Out: Photographing a Nice New Little Train.

Among the most attractive modern trains I experienced traveling in Switzerland at the end of April were Transports Publics du Chablais’s (TPC) modern narrow gauge trains on its AOMC route that connects Aigle and Champéry.

TPC’s new Stadler railcars were clean, comfortable and nicely styled. These compact articulated narrow gauge vehicles are designed to work both adhesion and rack sections of TPC’s line.

Inside they are spacious, bright, and offer magnificent views of the Alpine scenery through large windows.

The ability for passengers to look out forward and trailing windows is an excellent feature.

I especially liked the styling treatment, which embraces TPC’s bright green livery and works with the curves of Stadler’s standardized modern railcar pattern. This is a pleasant contrast to many modern Swiss trains that wear dull, garish, or otherwise visually challenged liveries.

A TPC new Stadler railcar pauses between runs at Champéry, Switzerland. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit.

Denis McCabe and I traveled the length of TPC’s AOMC route. The most impressive section is the climb from Monthey to Champéry, where long sections of the line climb sharply into the mountains.

I exposed these photos of TPC’s new trains using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Between Aigle and Monthey TPC’s AOMC route has an interurban railway quality with some roadside running. This view was made near Monthey at the junction with the line to Champéry.
A train from Aigle in the afternoon.
Detailed view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Detailed view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Interior view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Interior view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

Into the Sun at Lake Geneva—a nuts and bolts photographic exercise.

Here’s one solution to a difficult lighting problem: A few days ago when I was photographing along the shore of Lake Geneve at St. Saphorin, Switzerland I had a nice clean over-the-shoulder sun lit view for eastward trains, but was looking directly into the blazing morning sun for westward trains.

The scenery was too good to let the photographic opportunity pass.

So what did I do? I changed lenses. Specifically, I opted to use my Zeiss 12mm Touit on FujiFilm X-T1, and then stop all the way down.

What do I mean by ‘stop down’? This is a traditional photographic term that means to close the aperture by a full-stop increment. Say from f4 to f5.6. (Each one-stop change doubles or halves the amount of light reaching the film/sensor. Opening up a stop doubles the light, closing down halves it.) To ‘stop all the way down’ is to close the lens to its smallest aperture. In the case of my Zeiss lens, this is f22.

With the 12mm Tuoit, at f22 the tiny hole with the very wide-angle focal length combine to allow for a sun-burst effect. To take advantage of this sun-effect with a moving train, I had to increase the ISO to 1250, (because f22 lets in much less light to the sensor than I normally would during daylight.)

The secondary difficulty with this image is the narrow exposure latitude of the digital media. By exposing for the sun, I’ve had to seriously underexpose for the front of the locomotive.

This is the unaltered camera-produced JPG, which doesn’t make full advantage of the information captured in the RAW file. Under normal lighting conditions the camera JPG is usual adequate for presentation, but in this circumstance it results in a loss of detail in the shadow areas, specifically at the front of the locomotive.

To compensate for this, I manipulated the RAW camera file in post-processing (after exposure) using Lightroom, which allowed me to brighten the shadow areas and control the highlights.

Unaltered camera-RAW file except for scaling.
Here’s my interpretation of the RAW file, which has been scaled for internet. I’ve lightened shadow areas, removed a few spots caused by shadows of dirt on the front element, and controlled highlights. The flare is an effect of pointing directly at the sun. While the extreme wide-angle  using a flat-field lens design  results in some linear distortion at the edges, most noticeable on the locomotive.

I’ve included a screenshot of the Lightroom work panel that reveals how I’ve adjusted the slider controls on this specific file.

Lightroom work panel showing the positions of slider controls.

Significantly, Lightroom makes a working overlay file and DOES NOT alter the original RAW image. Working on the RAW directly would damage the original file. I advise against working directly with the original. Always make a copy.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Bright Green Narrow Gauge Trains of the Alps

Among the railways I photographed in Switzerland last month were the Transports Publics du Chablais narrow gauge lines radiating from Aigle.

These colourful lines twist their way high into the mountains which offer countless scenic backdrops.

Denis McCabe and I arrived at Les Planches by TPC train and scoped several promising photo angles.

This view shows a train from Le Sépey crossing the Les Planches bridge that is shared with the local road.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Tracking the Light posts everyday!