I’ve made five traditional 11×14 black & white prints of my recent photograph of the former New Haven Railroad electrification and drawbridge at Westport, Connecticut.
This represents the first time I’ve printed one of my ‘stand processed’ black & white negatives. The prints are signed in pencil and numbered 1/5 to 5/5. One print has already been sold.
I’m selling the remaining four prints for $100 each plus shipping. First come first serve. If you are interested contact please me via email at: email@example.com
I exposed the photograph using a vintage Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm lens on 120 black & white film. I processed using the ‘stand processing’ technique to obtain maximum tonal range with deep shadows and delicate highlights.
I made these silver prints in the traditional way on Ilford double weight 11×14 photographic paper, fixed and washed to archival standards. These have been pressed and are suitable for matting and framing.
See my post called: Stand Process for more detail on how I processed the negatives.
I chose the Westport drawbridge because it is graphically engaging and historically significant. This bridge and electrification are examples of early 20thcentury infrastructure in daily use on one of America’s busiest passenger lines.
When I was at the Rochester Institute of Technology, once or twice a year Kodak would gift photo students with a selection of new products to try.
On this occasion, I had been given a sample of two rolls of the latest Ektachrome.
A professor gave us a vague assignment to make color photographs, so I wandered up to Lincoln Park, a junction on Conrail’s Water Level Route west of downtown Rochester, New York, and exposed these photos.
There I found local freight WBRO-15 working with GP8 7528. The crew was friendly and quite used to me photographing of their train.
Back in 1987 my serious railroad photos were exposed using 120 black & white film or on Kodachrome 25. These Ektachromes were an anomaly. After the assignment was turned in, I relegated the remaining images to my ‘seconds box’ and forgot about them—for 31 years!
I found them back accident the other day, and so scanned them post haste.
I thought my Rochester friends would get a kick out of seeing them. How much has changed since March 11, 1987?
Years past, I made many colourful photos of Irish Rail 213 River Moy on bright Spring days.
One of my first encounters was in May 1998 at Carlow. I’d arrived by bus (Shhh!!) and made photos of the down train (Dublin to Waterford) at Carlow station using my Nikon F3T loaded with Fujichrome Sensia 100.
Seven years later, in the Spring of 2005, I was keen to catch 213 on the move, since this was the first Irish Rail class 201 to wear the revised orange livery with bright yellow front end.
I saw this as a big improvement over the original 201 livery.
And because it fits the theme, I’ve also included a view from April 2006, of 213 descending Ballybrophy-bank racing toward Dublin.
213 hasn’t turned a wheel in many a Spring now. It waits its turn in the sun in a deadline at Inchicore.
Using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens, I exposed this view of Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDBF (East Deerfield to Bellows Falls) working the Connecticut River line at Bernardston, Massachusetts.
I like the technological and geometrical contrasts of boxy General Electric diesels on the 19thcentury stone arch viaduct.
It was just after 8am on May 27, 1988, when I exposed this portrait (vertical) view of Conrail BAL013 stopped at CP123 east of Chester, Massachusetts.
The sun was perfect and I used this opportunity to make several photos of the train as it held for westward Conrail intermodal freight TV9, which passed CP123 at 8:13am
This is a Kodachrome 25 slide (using the professional PKM emulsion) exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.
I calculated my exposure using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter, and set the camera at f6.3 (half way between the marks for f5.6 and f8) at 1/125thof a second. This was equivalent to my standard exposure for ‘full sun’.
I learned when I moved west that ‘full sun’ is brighter in the Western states than in New England. A bright day in the Nevada desert is a full stop difference than in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
A couple of weeks ago five cartons of slides were discovered in a closet.
These contained photos I exposed in the 1970s and early 1980s that I’d later rejected as ‘unsuitable for presentation.’
Sometimes the ‘rejects’ prove more interesting than the ‘keepers’.
When I was a teenager, I had a different vision than I did in later years. Although I grew up in a rural area, I was fascinated by urban settings.
My visual inspiration came from slide shows with family friend (and now regular Tracking the Light reader) Emile Tobenfeld, who specialized in innovative and creative urban abstract images. Other inspiration included Donald Duke’s book Night Train (published in 1961), and various main-stream media, including the film 2001.
By intent, I made color slides that were dark and minimalistic. These are raw images made by a kid with a Leica who could see, but who had very little technical prowess. They were intended for projection in dark room.
Later when I learned more about photography, I was discouraged from this sort of raw minimalism. Instead I was urged to photograph to capture greater detail, where sharpness was prized among other qualities. My photography adopted qualities that were ‘better suited for publication and commercial application’.
Although my vision continued to embrace some of the same compositional threads that I’d worked with in my earlier years, by the mid-1980s I rejected these early efforts because they were raw and unrefined. Today, I find them fascinating.
My author’s advanced copy of the July 2018 Trains has been eagerly awaited.
In addition to my monthly column, I authored and illustrated two large feature articles.
The first is a detailed nuts and bolts discussion on Positive Train Control signaling, the second a travel guide to one of my favorite places: Germany’s Rhein.
I’m extremely pleased with how both stories turned out. Special thanks to my hosts at SEPTA for allowing me to better understand the intricacies of their modern signaling. And thanks to everyone at Trains Magazine for bringing these stories to print!
I made this panned view of Irish Rail class 201 number 212 working up-road at Cherryville Junction on 11 January 2003.
Panning is an effective technique for conveying motion. For this view I used a short telephoto lens and a comparatively slow shutter speed, probably about 1/60thof a second, while moving the camera in tandem with the locomotive.
Key to making an effective pan is maintaining constant speed and smooth motion.
Novice panners may make the mistake of stopping panning as they release the shutter. This results in a jarring complete blur that produces something less than the intended effect.
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Bad timing, poor exposures, lousy composition and blurred images can all result in missed opportunities.
Was it human error or an equipment malfunction? You got to the tracks in time but your camera didn’t perform as expected. Is there something wrong with your camera, or was it simply set the wrong way.
There’s the moment of frustration when you press the shutter release and nothing happens, or the auto focus goes haywire, or you realize the camera is in a ‘mode’ and not the right one for making railway pictures—All well and good if you have time to resolve the problem, but if a train is passing at speed, you might end up with regrets rather than results.
Even if you are an experienced railroad photographer, you should take the time to learn the peculiarities of your equipment and double check the exposure and focus settings BEFORE you expect a train to enter the scene.
Earlier, were you using the self-timer? Be sure to turn it off again before you expect to use the camera for making action photos.
Why was the camera set to manual? AND why was it a f22 at 1/8000 of a second?
If you don’t know why, that’s going to be a problem. So step back and go over the basics. Or rely on ‘automatic’ modes until you have the time to cover that properly
Locomotive headlights can confuse camera autofocus systems. The result may be that at the very moment you need to rely on autofocus, it fails you.
One potential solution, if the autofocus starts hunting wildly quickly point the camera away from the headlights and allow it to find a focus point, then point it back at your subject.
Another solution: before the train arrives in the scene, auto focus on a preset point, then switch the autofocus off so that it won’t attempt to refocus at the last minute.
Autofocus problems tend to be more acute on dull days and in low light.
In 1982, Boston & Maine bought several routes in Massachusetts and Connecticut from Conrail. Among these were lines clustered around Plainville, Connecticut, accessed via trackage rights over Amtrak’s Springfield-New Haven Line.
Today, Amtrak’s route requires advanced signaling on leading locomotives and only a handful of Pan Am’s engines are so equipped. As a result, Pan Am sometimes operates a borrowed Providence & Worcester engine on its East Deerfield to Plainville freight.
As of last week, Pan Am’s EDPL was still operating on a daylight schedule, however with increased Springfield-New Haven passenger services to commence in June, this operation may become nocturnal.
I made these views from the old McClelland Farm Road bridge, a vantage point that will soon be gone when the new bridge opens.
Construction crews are working on the approaches to the new McClelland Farm Road bridge over the tracks at the west end of Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard.
This work has been on-going for about a year.As detailed in previous posts, the old bridge has been a popular place for photographers for many years and countless images have been exposed from this vantage point.
The new bridge is being built immediately to the west of the old bridge, and once it is complete and fully open to traffic, the old bridge will be removed.
Now for some bad news: in conjunction with bridge construction, the above ground electrical line has been relocated and is now carried across the tracks on a new pole-line located to the east of the bridges.
This obstruction poses a new challenge for photographers making photos of the yard and depending on the height of the new bridge mayruin the classic view.
I exposed these views of former CSX DASH8-40Cs leased to Pan Am that had just arrived on road freight POED from Portland, Maine.
Photos made with a FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.
I’ve been making photos at the Junction at East Northfield since the 1980s.
The other day, on the third visit in two weeks to this iconic New England location (where New England Central’s line connects with Pan Am Railway’s Conn River route), I had a reckoning.
It occurred to me that railroad timetable ‘East Northfield’ is actually north and west of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts.
How is this possible?
Some Highway maps show railroad ‘East Northfield’ in West Northfield.
This timetable location has been called ‘East Northfield’ since the steam era, and the present NECR sign reflects this historic geographic incongruity.
No doubt at some point in the future, the geography will be retro-actively re-written to accommodate this oversight on the part of historic railroad timetable writers. What will they make of my captions!
For nearly 35 years, locomotives have worn Guilford gray and orange paint. The scheme is has been out of vogue since introduction of the new Pan Am liveries about ten years ago, yet a few of the locomotive are still working in the old paint.
I made these views of GP40 316 working local freight ED4 hauling state-owned ballast cars southward at Hillside Road in South Deerfield.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens. I opted for the ‘darkside’ angle in order to better feature the hills in the distance (that make this a distinctive location) as well as the tie-piles that indicate the improvement to the track is on-going.
This is a technical follow up on my post showing examples of stand processed film.
Several readers were interested in seeing comparisons between stand processed negatives versus normally processed negatives.
I made these photos in the back yard to demonstrate the differences between processed negatives. This is intended to show differences in the amount of information presented and changes in tonality.
Although there are slight differences in the composition of the scene, these variations are irrelevant for this presentation.
All exposures were made on 120-size Kodak Tri-X roll film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens, set at f22 1/60thof second.
Photos are grouped with both the positive scan of the original negative (to show how the black & white negatives appear without reversal) and the digitally reversed ‘positive’, that appears as would a print of the negative. Photos have NOT been altered except for scaling. There have been no adjustments to gamma, density, etc.
Details of the differences in processing are indicated in the captions.
This is a work in progress.
Low Contrast Process, using normal dilution and agitation.
Stand process without toning.
Stand Process with Selenium toning to boost highlight density.
Yes, I’m trying to pick a title that will get you to read this post.
I could call it ‘Fast Train on the Bridge’ or ‘Amtrak on the New Haven’, or ‘What? NO! Not Westport, Again!’ Or perhaps the accurate, if opaque, ‘Trailing View over the Saugatuck.’
In late April, I made this trailing view of a Boston-bound Acela Expresstilting train crossing the former New Haven Railroad draw bridge at Westport, Connecticut.
By working from the outbound Metro-North platform in the evening, I cross lit the train for dramatic effect and to better show the infrastructure.
Cross-lighting, is when the main light source (the sun in this case) primarily illuminates only the facing surface of the subject, while the surfaces are bathed in shadow. This presents a more dramatic contrast than three-quarter lighting, which offered relative even illumination across the subject.
Cross-lighting is often most effective for railroad photography when the sun is relatively low in the sky. In this instance the compression effect that results from the long telephoto lens works well with the cross lit train.
Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. To make this photo work, I had to carefully mind the shadows from catenary polls so they didn’t appear to interect the sloping face of the Acela Expresstrain set.
On May 15, 2018 at 6pm: I’ll be giving a slide show (with real SLIDES) and lecture in Monson, Massachusetts at the Monson Free Library. This is in conjunction with a book signing for my recently released Railway Guide to Europe, published by Kalmbach Books.
I’ll have copies of the book available for purchase!
The Monson Free Library is located a 2 High Street in Monson, Massachusetts.
Years ago, when I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I recall whispers of a non-conventional approach to processing black & white film.
Key to conventional black & white processing is regular agitation of the tank. This keeps the developer from stagnating, minimizes streaking and mottling of the image area, while greatly speeding the development of the film.
Until recently, I’ve always agitated my film, but made a point to minimize this activity, since excessive agitation results in a host of other defects and undesirable characteristics.
Stand processing, as it’s now known, was what I heard in whispers during college.
Basically, you mix a very weak developer solution (approximately one third the concentration of ‘normal’ developer), agitate for about 15 seconds when introducing the solution to the tanks, then leave it to stand for about an hour with NO AGITATION. Then agitate briefly before draining the tanks and continuing process as normal: stop, fix, rinse, etc.
By doing this, you use the developer to exhaustion, which is more economical and yields a different result than by working with short times and more concentrated solutions.
This doesn’t work well with 35mm film because bromide salt deposits tend to cluster around the sprockets resulting in streaking.
I made a series of tests using 120-size film, which has no sprockets.
An advantage of stand processing is a very different tonal curve that features extremely rich blacks with great detail in shadows, and broad tonality in the mid-tones. When the mix is just right, the highlight regions should reach an optimal density that allows for excellent detail without loss of data.
Key to making the stand process work is controlling chemical fog. Without controlling chemical fog, the shadow areas will gain too much density and there will be an undesirable loss of image data leading to a poor quality negative.
There are other elements of the process that aid in making for more effective negatives, and like any black & white process, these require trial and error refinement to yield the best results.
Last Sunday was dreary and damp. I inspected the old Central Vermont Railway Palmer Subdivision main track at the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, where I was delighted to find these vestiges from the steam era.
The tie plate below the rail date from the 1940s and still bear evidence of the CV, a company gone since 1995, when New England Central assumed operation of the line.
I wonder how many times CV’s classic 2-8-0 steam locomotives pounded over these plates in years gone by? Not to mention carrying the passage of CV’s later era locomotives such as the GP9s and Alco RS-11s that I grew up around.
How much longer will these vestiges survive? A welded rail train arrived a couple of days later, so it’s anyone’s guess.
Years ago, the view from the road bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts was more open than it is today.
The trees have grown up making it more challenging to expose photos of trains at the junction between former Boston & Maine and former Central Vermont lines here.
At one time, a century or more ago, B&M’s Conn River route crossed the CV here. B&M’s line continued across the Connecticut River and rejoined the CV at Brattleboro.
Later, the two routes were melded in a paired track arrangement. However, by the time I started photographing here in the 1980s, the B&M route north of East Northfield was no longer functioning as a through line.
On the morning of April 27, 2018, I made this view of New England Central freight 608 led by a former Southern Pacific SD40T-2 ‘tunnel motor’ diesel.
The light was spot on for a series of three quarter views featuring a vintage GRS searchlight signal that protects the junction.