On the evening of February 9, 1994, I exposed the final frame on 36 exposure roll of a Southern Pacific eastward freight ascending Donner Pass at Yuba Pass, California near where I-80 crosses the railroad.
I used an old Nikkormat FTN for this view and exposed the film with the aid of a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell light meter.
This photo demonstrates two things. Firstly the enormous dynamic range of Fujichrome slide film. Secondly, my ability to get the most out of each roll.
At the time I had very little money and yet spent what little I had on film and fuel for my car. I would routinely save the final frame of a roll for something special.
About this time I submitted a page of 20 35mm color slides to the well-known editor of a major railroad magazine, all frame number 37 and 38. I did this to check his attention to detail to see what he’d say.
Years later when I met him face to face, I’d mentioned this effort to him, and he admitted that he’d never even noticed.
You do know that I like to hide things in plain sight? Right? It always astounds me when no one seems to notice. (Rest easy, there’s nothing to see here except a California sunset.)
Back in the summer of 1981, I was changing trains at New Haven, Connecticut and made this photograph of a new Budd-SPV2000 assigned to the New Haven-Springfield shuttle.
Until I scanned this photo, I didn’t realize I’d made a photo of Amtrak’s short-lived LRC tilting train. Look in the distance to the right of the SPV-2000 and you’ll see the Canadian-built tilting train.
My Lumix LX7 has an ‘high-dynamic range’ feature. Otherwise known by its initials ‘HDR’, high-dynamic range is a technique for digital imaging that allows greater detail in highlights and shadows by combining several images of the same subject that were exposed at different values.
The LX7 includes the HDR setting as one of the options in ‘scene mode’ (SCN on the selection dial). This rapidly exposes a sequence of images and combines them in-camera to produce a single HDR JPG. Obviously you need to hold still when you make the photo.
Also it helps to photograph a static scene or the result my get a bit weird.
In this instance, I photographed some flowers on the platform of NI Railway’s station at Whitehead, Co. Antrim (Northern Ireland).
There are other ways of accomplishing a similar result.
So I decided to compare the HDR with some manipulated versions of a camera RAW file that I exposed of the same scene. With the RAW images, I’d adjusted the file with Lightroom post processing software, selectively altering contrast, gamma, and colour saturation and colour temperature to make for a more pleasing photograph.
Specifically I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter, while making global changes to highlights and saturation.
The output of the RAW is also as a JPG, which I scaled for presentation here.
I made two versions of the RAW interpretation.
In both sets of images I’ve intentionally focused on the flowers and not the NIR train.
Last Sunday, I spent several hours photographing NI Railways and Enterprise trains at Moira, a station on the old Great Northern Railway’s Belfast-Dublin route.
The attractions of this location include a preserved signal cabin and a footbridge at the Dublin-end. Another benefit is the level crossing with a local road at the Dublin end. The barriers protecting the road drop 3-4 minutes before trains pass, which provides ample warning to prepare for photography.
This is especially helpful if you are sitting in a car nearby trying to edit texts and photos for a book on deadline.
I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
This is among the hundreds photos I chose for final consideration for my book on European Railway Travel. It is not an outtake. Instead this is among my selections for the section on railways of Great Britain.
In the text I discuss the great London terminals, and I use this photo to illustrate Kings Cross. I like it because it features a vintage HST in nice light with a dynamic view of the classic train shed beyond.
The HST (High Speed Train) was introduced by the then nationalised British Railways (BR) in the mid-1970s as the Intercity 125.
As a 125 mph train capable of operating on many existing lines with minimal changes to infrastructure and signaling this represented a significant improvement over older trains that allowed BR to speed schedules and more effectively compete with other modes.
More than 40 years later, many of the old HSTs are still on the move.
Exposed on 3 May 2016 using my Lumix LX7. This image was adapted from the camera RAW image for maximum dynamic range.
As it happens I was at Irish Rail’s Portlaoise Station on my way up to Dublin and I needed a few potential illustrations of the 1840s buildings for my book on European railway travel. I thought, ‘what better time than now to make some up to the minute photos?’
Working with my Lumix LX7 I made these views that I feel capture the atmosphere of the station.
I’ve been reviewing hundreds upon hundreds of photos for my book on European Railway Travel.
Here’s a view I like but it didn’t make the cut because I’m using a similar angle that works better. It was one of several views that I made on film, although was also working with my digital cameras that day.
This pictures the famous ‘Hanging Viaduct’ in the Mosel Valley near Bullay.
Two years ago I visited this unusual railway construction with my friends Gerry Conmy, Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe.
Another example of some photos that didn’t make the final cut for my book on European Railway Travel.
You might think that catching a train with medieval castles in the background is pretty neat.
But I have many photos at this curve at Oberwesel on the busy Rhein left bank route. I’ve selected several potential candidates from this excellent German location and these two just didn’t seem book worthy.
As mentioned last week, I’m in the final lap of assembling a book on European Railway travel.
This image is among my ‘outtakes’ from the section on Germany.
I have hundreds of photos along the Rhein. I like this one because it shows the twin tunnels on the right bank opposite Oberwesel, but the wires in the sky annoy me, as does the clutter in the river at right and shrub on the left.
Working in low light, exposed these photos on Fomapan 100 Classic using my battle worn Nikon F3 with an old non-AI f1.4 50mm lens.
My exposure times ranged from 1/30th to 1/8th of a second, and all photos were made handheld. I processed the film in Ilford Perceptol stock solution for 5 minutes 45 seconds at 71 degrees F.
By using the lens wide open, I was working with shallow depth of field and a comparatively soft overall view. While the slow shutter speed allowed for motion blur. These are not conditions conductive to making razor sharp images. So I had no intentions of doing so.
Sometimes making softer, more interpretive images better conveys the spirit of the scene than clinically sharp images with over the shoulder light.
Think about it? How many different type of light will you work with?
I know a fair few sunny-day photographers. No sun, no photo.
I know others who only come out at night.
I have my favorite types of light and preferred angles, but I’ll photograph in a variety of situations.
There’s your old standby; ‘over the shoulder three-quarter sun’.
But there’s lots of types of sun and angles; clear cloudless mid-morning sun is nice; how about side-lit midday sun? Or hazy backlit sun?
Then there’s; low sun, glint, and the full back-lit sunset silhouette.
Of course with glint, you can subdivide it any number of ways; hard glint (silver glint), soft glint, golden glint, etc.
Likewise with overcast lighting. Not all cloudy days cast the same light.
Perhaps the most difficult is when the darkest cloud is above you and the rails glisten silver and the sky is white (but bright) off in the distance.
Then there’s rain; light rain, hard rain, driving rain, and ‘#@*#@@!!!! what am I doing out in this?!’ rain. Then there’s; sun and rain, and rainbow with dark sky.
Also; light falling snow, falling powdery snow, heavy falling snow, and one of my favorites; heavy falling snow with cross-lit sun’.
Then the next day: light snow on ground, heavy snow on ground, VERY heavy snow on ground. Then after it warms up; dead dirty snow.
Evening dusk with a hint of blue; evening dusk with stars twinkling. Evening dusk with comet (I’ve got it!), and even better, morning twilight with comet (got that too).
Then you have your mists and fogs; light fog, heavy fog, and mist clinging to top of hill in distance with full morning sun in foreground (another old favorite).
Night with stars; night with half moon, night with full moon; sodium vapor light, mercury vapor light; florescent light; incandescent light; and mixed electric light.
I like some of the specialized lighting effects such as ‘cathedral light’ where daylight is allowed to pierce shadows indirectly from the side, with no direct daylight in the scene. (Best accomplished in a snow shed, under a highway bridge, or in a train shed.)
There’s; train lost in shadow of its own exhaust backlit by rising sun.
And; everything in scene covered in hoar frost, backlit by rising run.
Not to mention; train in silhouette against fog bank in front of hill backlit by rising sun.
There’s more, but I bet I’ve lost some readers already.
Tracking the Light Discusses Photography Everyday.
I realize that today’s title might not catch everyone’s eye.
How about: ‘Clean GM Diesel on a Freight’?
Or, ‘Irish Rail at Rush Hour’ ?
Anyway, this post is about light.
I was waiting on the Up IWT liner (International Warehousing & Transport Ballina, County Mayo to Dublin Northwall container train)with recently painted Irish Rail 071 class diesel number 082.
Just ahead of this Dublin-bound freight was the Up-Galway passenger train with a common set of ICRs (InterCity Railcars).
I was photographing into the sun. My intent was to work the glint effect. (That’s when the sun reflects off the side of the train).
Usually, I find this is most effective when you shade the front element of the lens to minimize flare. Notice the two variations with the ICR.
By the time the freight reached me clouds had partly shaded the sun leaving only a hint of back-lighting.
All the photos were made using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera RAW Files were all adjusted for colour balance, colour saturation and contrast using the same ratio of change. (In other words, although I’ve manipulated the final result, all the photos have received the same degree of alteration).
In that photo the train is relatively small in a big scene.
Three days later, David Hegarty and I were again out along the old Great Northern line, this time at Drogheda, to photograph the Tara Mines on the move.
In contrast to the distant view in the earlier posting, the photographs displayed here focus tightly on the locomotive and train using more classic three-quarter angle.
In the top photograph, I used my FujiFilm XT1 with a 90mm fixed telephoto for a tight compressed view (what some photographers might term a ‘telewedgie’).
While in bottom photograph I used my Lumix LX7 with zoom lens set with a wide-angle perspective that approximates the angle of view offered by a 35mm focal length lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.
I prefer the telephoto view for overall appeal; this handles the soft lighting conditions more satisfactorily, focuses more closely on the locomotive and train, minimizes bland elements of the scene such as the ballast and white sky, and offers a high impact image of the train in motion. Also it helps emphasize the trackage arrangement with crossovers between the up and down lines.
Tracking the Light Discusses Railway Photography Daily.
Irish Rail’s quad-track line southwest of Dublin is a popular place for photos.
Last week, Colm O’Callaghan and I made a trip down to Hazlehatch to make photos of trains on the move in the afternoon.
Belmond’s Grand Hibernian was passing down road when Colm said to me, ‘Quick, it’s the inspection car’. I had only a few seconds. I turned around and with little time to compose I fired off a few frames.
Both the train and the inspection car were in motion.
Only see one photo? That’s because you are not viewing this post on Tracking the Light (Hint: click the link).
Irish Rail maintains its 29000-series diesel railcars (built by CAF) at its Drogheda Depot.
Back in Janaury 2003 I photographed the very first of these trains being lifted out of the boat at Dublin port. (Thanks to the late Norman McAdams who had encouraged me to be dockside to make photos for the Irish Railway Record Society Journal).
I was reminded of that event while crossing the now disused trackage (half paved over) by the old Point Depot along the north Liffey Quays near where I made my photos.
These images were exposed last week at Drogheda using my digital cameras.
There’s a lightly used road bridge over Irish Rail’s old Great Northern line south of the former station at Mosney that offers a clean view in both directions.
The Irish Sea is in the distance to the east.
A week ago David Hegarty and I spent a few hours here making photos of passing trains.
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a fixed focal length 27mm pancake lens, which offers an angle of view rough equivalent to a 41mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera. In other words it is a slightly wide-angle perspective.