A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with Rich and John Gruber to photograph Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg to Madison freight.
This plies a former Chicago & North Western route that in its heyday a century ago was a double-track mainline running from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Elroy.
Today, it is a ambling branch line with lots of 10 mph running: No directional double track, no signals, no fast passenger trains, and the line is truncated at Reedsburg.
On this day a matched set of back to back SD40-2s was an added attraction. We decided on Hatchery Road in Baraboo as our first photo location. I opted to feature the skewed rural grade crossing.
To balance the exposure, I manipulated the camera RAW files in Lightroom using digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold sky detail, while lightening shadow areas and making slight adjustments to overall contrast and color balance.
All to often I find myself in Palmer, Massachusetts.
It’s probably not what you think though.
Yes, I make railway photos there.
By often I arrive at CP83 only because I’m passing through. I might be on the way to the bank, or to get a haircut, or maybe do a bit of shopping.
In the daylight instance pictured I was about to cross the South Main Street Bridge with a financial transaction in mind, when I spotted a railway enthusiast poised with camera in hand.
I had my Lumix LX7 with me, so made a quick diversion. It was nearly 11am, and about the time that CSX’s Q022 often rolls east. Stepping out of the car, I immediately sensed that my guess was correct. I could hear the freight approaching the home signal for the Palmer diamond at CP83. Need I describe what happened next?
Some hours later, I’d met Rich and Joyce Reed for dinner in Palmer, and as per a long standing Friday night tradition we reconvened after the meal at CP83. How different this place looks at night!
After a little while the signals cleared and CSX’s Q007 came into view. I made these time exposures of the westward Q007 passing the signals at CP83.
Timing is crucial in making successful images of moving trains.
Even a few tenths of second can make the difference between a stunning photograph and a throwaway.
After years of photographing trains on the move, I’ve developed techniques for releasing the shutter at precisely the right moment.
When I examine different types of cameras for their suitability as picture making machines, one thing I always look for is shutter delay. Many inexpensive cameras fail in this regard. When you press the button if the camera hesitates it will routinely make railway action photography more difficult.
Many inexpensive cameras suffer from inadequate computer processors that can contribute to a delay. Another difficulty are the autofocus systems that impose a delay between the time you press the shutter and when the shutter opens.
Some cameras, such as my Lumix LX7 and Fuji X-T1 allow for various adjustments to autofocus and exposure settings than can help minimize the effects of ‘shutter lag’. But you have to play with the settings to get just the right combination.
Having the camera ‘on’ and queued up (poised and ready) helps.
If you find that too often your photos look like these, you may wish to consider acquiring a picture-making device that has better reaction time. What use is a camera that forces you to miss photos? Why suffer the repeated frustrations and disappointments associated with ‘shutter lag?’
-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.
A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.
I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.
My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.
I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.
I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.
Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.
Two weeks ago on my visit to Philadelphia, I was on my way to the University of Pennsylvania for a brief tour before heading to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station to board the Vermonter for Connecticut, on the way there in an ‘Uber’ (taxi) I notice the trolleys on the street.
Apparently SEPTA had its Center City trolley subway closed (for maintenance?) and so the trolleys that normally went below ground were working rarely utilized street trackage on 38th street instead.
How long this diversion as to be employed was beyond my knowledge at the time, but since I knew that I won’t be back in Philadelphia for many months, I only had this brief window to photograph this unusual operation.
I had just a few minutes to make images as I need to accomplish my tour and reach the station in little over an hour.
These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
Earlier this month, in the high-summer light, while traveling from Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station on its former Reading Company Budd Cars (Budd Company Rail Diesel Cars otherwise known as RDCs), I wondered about photo locations along Reading & Northern’s lines.
Back in the day (lets call it the early 1960s) my father, Richard Jay Solomon, photographed Reading Rambles along these same Reading Company routes (and also occasional put the company’s regularly scheduled passenger trains on film).
For years, I’d looked at these slides without fully grasping where they were taken.
One trip over the old Reading answered many questions. Around each bend, I recognized locations, thinking ‘Ah Ha! So that’s where Pop made THAT photo’ and so on. (I’m still waiting for Pop to finish labeling his slides; he’s got about as far as 1960 thus far. HINT: Don’t wait 57 years to label your photos).
In the Lehigh Gorge, Pat Yough and I chatted with our friend Scott Snell—an accomplished member of the railway photo fraternity. Scott offered us the opportunity to ride with him as he chased the Budd cars back toward Reading.
Having traveled up by rail, we jumped at the opportunity to make photos of our train in late afternoon summer sun. So we traveled with Scott by road from Jim Thorpe to Reading, by way of Tamaqua, Port Clinton and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
Here are some of my results thanks to Scott and Pat’s knowledge of the line.
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to make some views from a diesel locomotive cab.
I’m no stranger to cab-rides, but this recent trip allows me to illustrate a few ways of illustrating this great vantage point.
I’ve made no effort to hide where these photos were made from; so by including the locomotive nose or framing the tracks in the locomotive’s front windows I’ve made my vantage point obvious. I was on the engine as it rolled along.
All three views were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
Shiny stainless steel trains in high summer light. Another photography challenge.
Earlier this month during my explorations of eastern Pennsylvania with Pat Yough, we traveled on the Reading & Northern from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe, aboard a restored pair of RDCs.
The train arrived at Jim Thorpe in the highlight, in other words when the sun is nearly overhead.
Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I made a variety of images, then imported the RAW files into Lightroom for post processing.
As previously described in Tracking the Light, among the tools available with post processing software are various exposure and contrast controls that make it possible to adjust the RAW file to produce a more pleasing final image.
By lowering highlights, and raising the shadows, while adjusting color temperature, I can maximize the information captured by the camera sensor to produce a more pleasing image that more closely resembles what I saw at the time of exposure.
This is my variation of the old ‘Take a Ride on the Reading’, since SEPTA is part Reading. (That’s the old Reading Company.)
SEPTA’s also part Pennsy—the late great Pennsylvania Railroad.
Buy Independence Pass on the train, and ride transit all day to your heart’s content.
Most of these photos (but not all, see captions) were made using my Lumix LX-7 compact digital camera over the course of a few days wandering around Philadelphia last week.
I’ve found that this low-key image-making device is great for urban environments. It’s small & light, easy to use, flexible & versatile, features a very sharp Leica lens, makes a nice RAW file and a color profiled JPG at the same time, and, best of all: it’s reasonably inconspicuous and non-threatening.
Just checking to see if you are reading this correctly.
Last weekend, July 8 and9, 2017, Patrick Yough and I made trips to Reading, Pennsylvania to photograph and travel on Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company Budd RDCs.
I grew up with the old ‘Budd cars’ and it was neat to see these machines on the roll again.
Budd introduced it’s self-propelled ‘Rail Diesel Car’ in 1949, and sold them to many railroads across North America. These cars were most common in the Northeast, and the Reading Company was among the lines that made good use of them in passenger service.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is Traveling.
A week ago, July 7, 2017, Pat Yough and I were photographing at West Trenton, New Jersey. I made this view with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm Pancake lens.
This is compact, lightweight lens designed for the Fuji X-series mirror-less digital cameras. With the sensor on my X-T1 the 27mm lens has the equivalent field of view offered by a 41mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.
In other words it offers a slightly wide-angle perspective that is comparable to the natural field of view of the human eye.
I caught CSX symbol freight Q-301 rolling toward Philadelphia on the old Reading Company. My exposure was f4 1/1000th of a second at ISO200.
The other evening I arrived at Trenton, New Jersey on board Amtrak train 55 the Vermonter.
The blue glow of dusk prevailed. That moment between daylight and evening when the hue of the light adds a extra atmosphere to photographs.
That is of course, unless your camera has its ‘auto white balance’ set, which will neutralize the color and make for blander, duller images.
To avoid this problem, I set my white balance to ‘daylight’, which forces the camera to interpret the bluer light more or less as I see it.
These images were exposed using my Panasonic Lumix LX7 in ‘Vivid’ mode at ISO 200.
Other than scaling the in-camera Jpgs for internet presentation, I’ve not made changes to the appearance of these photos in Post Processing; color balance, color temperature, contrast, exposure and sharpness were not altered during post processing.
Last week, Mike Gardner and I positioned ourselves at Keets Road south of Greenfield, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line.
Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDPL (East Deerfield Yard to Plainville, Connecticut) had departed East Deerfield and was idling on the Deerfield Loop track waiting to head south.
Finally, the train received the signal to proceed and began its southward trek. In the lead was GP40 352, one of several Pan Am diesels equipped with cab-signal equipment for operation over Amtrak south of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Once on the Connecticut River mainline the engineer opened the throttle to accelerate and his locomotives erupted with an dramatic display of noise and effluence.
Here are two of the views I exposed; a color view made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 fixed telephoto lens, and a black & white view exposed with a Leica on Kodak Tri-X.
Check out pages 16-17 of the August 2017 Trains Magazine. I take a look at Italian Railways. Notice that the Italian State Railways ridership is nearly 20 times that of Amtrak! And they are aiming to grow their business and market share through massive investment.
This is the third in my series of farewell posts on the famed East Deerfield ‘Railfan’s Bridge.’
The McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) has been a popular place to photograph trains since the steam era. Work has begun to replace this old span with a new bridge to be located about 40 feet further west.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve exposed a disproportionate number of photos here. Yet, it has remained a good place for railroad photography for several logical reasons:
It’s at a hub; because of the bridge’s location at the west-end of Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield yard, there tends to be a lot of action and opportunities to witness trains here. While waiting along the line can become tiresome, if not tedious, but there’s often something about to happen at East Deerfield.
The location above crossovers at the throat to the yard, this combined with yard leads and engine house tracks, plus the junction with the Deerfield Loop (that connects with the Connecticut River Line) west of the bridge make for some fascinating track work.
Elevation is always a plus.
There’s ample parking nearby.
The light in early morning and late evening here can be excellent. I’ve made some wonderful fog photos here, as well countless morning and evening glint shots. How about blazing foggy glint? Yep done that here too. And about ten days ago I got a rainbow.
The afternoon of June 29, 2017 was dull and overcast. Mike Gardner and I had arrived in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight 28N (carrying autoracks and JB Hunt containers). We’d also heard that its counterpart 287 (empty autoracks from Ayer, Massachusetts) was on its way west.
As it happened the two trains met just east of the bridge.
I exposed a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 21mm Super Angulon lens, while simultaneously working in digitally color with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.
Too many photos here? Undoubtedly. But I bet they age well. Especially when the old vantage point has finally been demolished.
Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s daily blog focused on the nuts and bolts of Railway Photography.
Today’s post explores the former Boston & Maine yard at Shelburne Falls (technically Buckland, but I’ll let the pundits argue that privately), now home to the modest Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. See: http://sftm.org
Last week Mike Gardner visited the site to make photographs of Pan Am Railway’s eastward autorack train symbol 28N. While waiting, I exposed a few views of the disused yard tracks parallel to the old Boston & Maine, now Pan Am, mainline.
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Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light posts new railway photography every day.
Working with the Leica IIIa fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon and loaded with Kodak Tri-X, I exposed this vertical grab shot of Pan Am Southern’s eastward loaded autorack train 28N at Wisdom Way in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
I often work with two or more cameras, typically one is a film body and the other digital.
On this June 2017 afternoon, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I arrived a few minutes earlier, and my primary image from the Wisdom Way bridge was a color view with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 90mm lens.
The 21mm Super Angulon is a very unusual lens, but one I’ve been working with since the 1970s. Looking back over my early work, I often achieved more satisfying results with this lens than my other tools.
For this view I wanted a dynamic angle that was more than simple documentation so I chose to skew the horizon. I also slightly panned the moving locomotive, which has the affect of softening the background while keeping the numbers on the locomotive cab sharp.
Norfolk Southern 6991 is fitted with the ‘Crescent cab,’ a design unique to Norfolk Southern, thus making it comparatively unusual in New England.