Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.
The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.
The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.
I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?
It’s the elusive 202, found lurking in my archives!
Here’s the backstory: In the dozen or so years between 1998 and when Irish Rail withdrew and stored a portion of its relatively modern EMD-built 201-class locomotives (numbers 201-205, 210-214), I spent a lot of time wandering the system making photos.
I have many hundreds of photos of the 201s in action, hauling passenger and freight trains all over the Irish Rail network.
Some locomotives were common; I must have a hundred photos of class leader 201 on the roll. And every time I turned around, I seem to find 215 leading a train. Actually, I still do! Old 215 is among the 201-class still on the move, albeit in the modern green and silver paint instead of classic orange, yellow and black.
Of the 35 201s, I found that engine 202 was by far the most elusive. A few years ago when scouring my vast collection of more than 15,000 colour slides picturing Irish Rail, I located just three images of 202.
One was from the window of a Mark 3 carriage at Roscommon, one was an image at Limerick Junction of Bo-Bo 176 towing 202 with flat wheels up-road, and the best of the lot was a rainy day image of 202 with a Tralee-Mallow-Cork service near Rathmore, County Cork.
How 202 so thoroughly eluded me during this period baffles me.
Anyway, the other day I was scanning some previously unprinted 120-size black & white negatives, when I found this view of 202 working down-road at Kildare with Irish Rail’s Mark 2 Airbrake carriages. (Which were withdrawn from active service shortly after this photo was exposed).
There are some other rare images on this roll, but this for me is the rarest!
I’ll need to locate the colour slides from that day and see what I find.
The other morning at Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard I met up with Tim, a fellow photographer.
He asked, ‘Are you going to take that?’—meaning the sunrise over the yard.
‘Yeah, since we’re here. Why not?’
I’ve only made countless photos of this yard in the morning, but that’s never stopped me before.
For this image, I exposed Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50) using a Leica IIIA with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. With handheld meter to gauge the lighting, I exposed this frame at f3.5 1/60th of a second.
My aim was to capture detail in the sky and allow the tracks and yard to appear as a silhouette.
I processed my film as follows: Kodak D76 mixed 1 to 1 for 6 min 30 seconds at 68F, followed by stop bath, 1st fix, 2nd fix, 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse, then 9 min selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 (one part toner to nine parts water), 3rd rinse, permawash, 4th rinse.
After scanning the negative with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner, I made a few nominal adjustments to contrast using Lightroom, while removing unwanted dust-specs.
Picking the best exposure is an important part of photography.
Today with modern metering, computer guided exposure aids (program modes) and automatic lenses, most photographers don’t spend a lot of time worrying about exposure details.
It might surprise some Tracking the Light readers that in most instances I set my exposures manually, and I only use camera metering in an advisory capacity (In other words I look at the camera meter but don’t necessarily accept its advice).
While I often use my Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode, I routinely over-ride the camera’s exposure advice using manual controls. With my FujiFilm XT1 and Canon digital cameras (and film cameras), I almost always set my exposure manually.
Last week, working with my FujiFilm XT1 I made these views of New England Central freight 611 working south of Brattleboro, Vermont. The stunning scenic setting of the Connecticut River backwater combined with dramatic morning cross-lighting and a dark background makes for an excellent illustration of a difficult lighting situation.
Here, many camera automatic modes might grossly overexpose the scene in a misguided attempt to compensate for the dark background.
I’ve metered manually and gauged exposure using the camera’s histogram (set up to show the distribution of pixels in regards to exposure.) I’ve offered two variations here, exposed 1 full stop apart.
A ‘stop’ is a standard increment of exposure. The amount of light reaching the sensor or film doubles/halves with each change of one stop. So going from an aperture setting of f4 to f5.6 (one stop) cuts the light by half. Likewise, a shutter speed change from 1/250 to 1/500 will also cut the amount of light by half.
The darker image was exposed at f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400; while the lighter image was exposed at f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400. (In other words the only the aperture setting was changed.)
Both exposures are acceptable, but you may have a preference for one versus the other. The photos here have not been altered for density, color balance or color temperature in post processing; both are scaled versions of the camera produced JPGs.
Last week I made this digital portrait of New England Central 3476 using my FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens.
Soft cross lighting combined with a wide aperture made for pleasing photographic conditions to picture this engine against a backdrop of Vermont colorful autumn trees and distant New Hampshire hills.
The locomotive was working New England Central’s Brattleboro (Vermont) to Palmer (Massachusetts) turn freight, job 611, and was among many images I exposed that day.
This old EMD-built locomotive has a long history, having worked for Southern Pacific and Union Pacific before coming east to New England. I wonder if I crossed paths with it up on Donner Pass, in the Tehachapis, or on former Rio Grande lines in Colorado and Utah?
In March 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide of Genesee & Wyoming GP38 number 51 leading an empty salt train arriving at P&L Junction (P&L infers Pittsburgh & Lehigh) near Caledonia, New York.
At that time Genesee & Wyoming was a New York state short line that had just recently expanded with the creation of the Rochester & Southern to operate the former Baltimore & Ohio (nee Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg) 4th Subdivision between Rochester and East Salamanca, New York via Ashford Junction. (R&S had trackage rights on CSX from Ashford Jct. to East Salamanca).
This train was arriving from interchange with the Delaware & Hudson at Silver Springs. (D&H had trackage rights over the former Erie Railroad line to Buffalo.) It would reverse direction at P&L Junction and head southward on G&W’s own line (seen in the immediate foreground) to Retsof, where G&W served a massive salt mine.
Back then G&W 51 had no special significance, but it does for me today.
Earlier this month I made a visit to Cork to present a program on railway photography to the Irish Railway Record Society.
Honer Travers and I spent an afternoon in Glounthaune where I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens.
My film processing was very traditional: Kodak D76 (mixed 1 to 1) for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F. I agitate very gently to minimize the effect of grain.
Routine operations, such as Irish Rail’s Cork suburban trains, offer great opportunity for creative railway photography. In both of these images, I’ve worked with foreground, middle-ground and background by using shallow depth of field to create a sense of depth.
A side-benefit for me of transatlantic jet lag is that I’m wide awake for sunrise.
The other day, I drove to Stafford Springs, Connecticut as the sun was rising.
Typically New England Central 608 passes the village between 7 and 730 am. On this day it appeared about 724 am.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Tuoit lens, I made a series of images of the freight passing.
I carefully exposed my RAW files to retain some sky detail, intending to adjust exposure, contrast and color in post processing.
It would be fallacious to suggest that the RAW file represents reality. It doesn’t.
It is important to understand that the camera RAW file is an equivalent of a ‘negative’ in film photography. The RAW file simply represents the raw data as captured by the camera sensor. This data requires interpretation to produce an image that resembled what the human brain perceives.
I made a series of small adjustments to highlights, shadows, color temperature, and color balance, while working with masks in the sky to control detail and color.
My only regret is that my graduated neutral density filters were still packed away in my luggage, as these would have been useful in this situation by allowing for improved sky detail by effectively selective expanding the dynamic capture of the sensor.
I’ve included both the RAW file (scaled for internet) and my interpreted post-processed JPG. To give hints as to what I’ve done, I’ve also included screen shots of the Lightroom work windows.
Using my old battle-worn Nikon F3T (yeah, that one) fitted with a 1960s-era Nikkor f.14 50mm lens, I exposed a sequence of images in the evening light at Irish Rail’s Heuston Station in Dublin.
I was especially pleased with this view of one of Irish Rail’s Mark 4 sets beneath the train shed. Low light made for contrasty silhouette with lots of texture and exceptional dynamic range.
This was exposed on Kodak Tri-X (black & white negative film) using a fairly wide aperture.
During early October 2017, I processed the film using two-stage development, initially soaking the film in an extremely dilute mix of Kodak HC110 designed to begin development while allowing great shadow detail and greater overall tonality. For my primary development, I used Ilford ID11, diluted 1-1 with water for 8 minutes at 68 degree F. This was followed by a 30 second stop bath and two fixer baths, 1st rinse, hypo-clear batch, 2nd rinse, then 8 minutes in a weak bath of selenium toner (1 to 9 with water), 10 minute final rinse and drying.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner, with some very nominal final adjustment using Lightroom.
Although my digital cameras feature black & white modes, and I can easily de-saturate a digital file to make a monochrome image, I don’t feel that digital imaging would yield a completely comparable image to this one made the old fashioned way.
Saturday 14 October was a great day out; Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated its Munster Double Railtour from Connolly Station in Dublin to Cork and Tralee.
The attraction of this trip was the highly unusual multiple-unit operation of two class 071 diesels together. Both of Irish Rail’s 071s in heritage paint were selected for the trip, which was an added bonus for photographers.
Honer Travers and I joined the trip at Connolly Station and during the course of the day I made dozens of digital images. Below is just a small section.
Tomorrow I’ll focus on the passengers and people participating in operations.
Back in April (2017), on the advice of Stephen Hirsch I visited the tram junction at Porta Maggiore in Rome, and those photos appeared in an earlier Tracking the Light post.
On my recent trip to Rome with Honer Travers in September we revisited this interesting location where several tram routes cross against the backdrop of a 3rd century Roman Wall and the Porta Maggiore city gate.
For added interest, the approach to Rome Termini runs on the east side of the wall and there’s a constant parade of Trenitalia passenger trains.
I like to use the Roman Wall as a frame.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7 digital camera, but also exposed a few colour sldies.
The tram junction sits in the middle of a roundabout (traffic circle) with some of the most irrational driving I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the road chaos, we were able to nip across the street for a gelato (ice cream).
Today, 14 October 2017, is the date of the long anticipated Munster Double tour (operated by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Rail), so I thought I’d run these images from 2006 when I photographed Irish Rail 080 working a Dublin-Tralee passenger train passing Limerick Junction.
On Friday, 13 January 2006, David Hegarty and I had been photographing Irish Rail’s sugar beet trains. Toward the end of the daylight we found ourselves at Limerick Junction in time to catch the Friday only ‘down Kerry’ that was still regularly worked with steam-heated Cravens carriages.
At the time, the new Mark4 trains were still being tested and hadn’t yet entered regular traffic.
A couple of weeks back, I made these views of Belmond’s Grand Hibernian luxury cruise train at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
What’s a Kodachrome sky? The old Kodak Kodachrome had the ability to capture a sunny day with vivid contrast; so when you had over-the-shoulder light with fluffy clouds dotting a blue sky we called it a ‘Kodachrome Sky’.
It think it’s safe to say that no one has ever photographed the Grand Hibernian on Kodachrome slide film! And if they have, they will never see their results in vivid colour. (Kodachrome is no longer commercially processed).
A couple of weeks ago I made these views of some colorful Trenitalia trains at Roma Termini.
Bright Mediterranean light is pleasant to work with. In this situation I’ve taken the classic approach with the sun over my left shoulder. It was nice to have some interesting, yet static subjects to work with.
I made several digital views with my Lumix LX7, but also exposed some 35mm color slides on Fujichrome Provia.
These are the digital images. We’ll need to wait to see how the slides turned out.
It was a bright morning last week when I exposed this view of a Trenitalia double-deck suburban train approaching its station stop at Rome Trastevere en route to Roma Termini (Rome’s main station).
I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens for this photo.
Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve been making regular use of this camera/lens combination.
I have four lens for my FujiFilm XT1; 12/27/90mm fixed focal length (prime) lenses, plus an 18-135mm zoom lens. Lately the 27 and 90mm primes have been the most useful.
Why not use the zoom lens more? Here’s three reasons:
1) The 18-135mm zoom not as fast as the primes. My 90mm f2 is 2.5/3 stops faster that the 18-135mm.
2) The 18-135mm zoom isn’t as sharp.
3) I find that the discipline of working with a fixed focal length lenses lends to stronger images. This is an abstract notion, but often seems to be true.
Over the years I’ve gone back and forth between a preference for zooms over primes. It’s the toss up of convenience over image quality. There’s no one ‘right’ solution. But when I look back at my images that I prize the most, many of them have been exposed using prime glass.
Rail-connected airports have become common on the European continent.
The ability to walk directly from your terminal to a waiting train that takes you directly to your destination is a very civilized way to travel.
In recent months I’ve learned the intricacies of navigating Trenitalia’s automated ticket machines.
While these have an English language option, to buy a ticket typically requires more than a dozen steps, including ‘continuing’ through various warnings that advise you about pickpockets, unauthorized persons supplying information, and reminders to validate your tickets (you’ve been warned!).
So last week (September 2017) when Honer Travers and I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, we were well armed with the knowledge to obtain the correct tickets. We rapidly paged through the automated machine and without difficulties had tickets in hand in just minutes.
We boarded our double-deck local train and were on our way to Roma Travestere.
Buying local transit tickets the next morning wasn’t as painless, as the automated machines we found did not seem to work as intended.
The other day on the way to Dublin Airport with Honer Travers, I spied a LUAS trial making its way northward on O’Connell Street on recently completed CrossCity trackage.
This made for an unplanned photographic opportunity. I posed near the Larkin Statue that I featured on the cover of my illustrated E-book on Dublin titled Dublin Unconquered (designed for viewing on Apple iPad and similar Apple devices).
After making a silhouette that mimics my book cover, I turned to make a few going away views of the tram passing Dublin’s iconic General Post Office.
The GPO is a symbol of Irish independence owing to its roles in the 1916 Easter Rising.
Later Honer and I boarded the 747 Bus, which gave me another opportunity to catch LUAS trial trams working CrossCity trackage.
This new LUAS line forms a link between the Green Line and Red Line routes that were formerly completely isolated from one another.
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If you have access to an Apple iPad, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac and are interested in my E-book Dublin Unconquered you can download the book from Apple iTunes for roughly the price of a sandwich. The book features many carefully crafted photographs along with detailed text and a lovely map.