I took a break from classes at Hampshire College and ventured to Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) with some friends for a day of photography.
Among the many trains we saw that day was B&M’s EDSP (East Deerfield to Springfield) through freight that operated with a GP18/GP9/GP7 locomotive combination.
At the time this was a refreshing throwback, as more modern and often mixed lash-ups of B&M, Maine Central and Delaware & Hudson locomotives tended to predominate on the east-west Fitchburg route via the Hoosac Tunnel.
I was especially keen to picture GP7 1566, which was among the last to retain its vertical white nose stripe and harked back to an earlier era.
Photos were exposed on Kodak black & white film using my Leica 3A.
The former Maine Central Mountain Division crests a rise just east of Bartlett near Rogers Crossing (where the railroad crosses Route 302 west of the Attitash Ski area).
Friday, I set up here with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens to capture a Conway Scenic work extra west led by GP35 216.
The extreme visual compression afforded by this lens exaggerates the grade profile of the line to show the effect of this rise.
This sequence of images is intended to show the train climbing the grade.
I selected my focus point manually and initiated the camera’s autofocus independently of the shutter release in order to control the focus to my satisfaction. This separate focus-control is among the features of the Canon EOS 7D.
The other day was bright, but overcast, leading a color temperature quandary. Should I set the white balance to ‘auto’ or something else.
Working with my 10-year old Canon EOS 7D with 20 year old 100-400mm zoom, I made a series of photos of Conway Scenic’s 930am train at Conway, New Hampshire as it prepared for its return run to North Conway.
Significantly, I altered the white balance setting between these two images. For the first: the zoom was set at 170mm, and the white balance was at ‘auto white balance’; in the second image the zoom was set to 180mm, and the white balance was manually adjusted to ‘overcast’ which warms the scene.
Both images are scaled for internet presentation from in-camera JPG without adjustments to color temperature, color balance, exposure, contrast or saturation.
Someone may ask which white balance setting is ‘true’, and unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. Each of us sees color slightly differently and our brains provide an automatic white balance. There is no one right answer, only an approximate compromise.
On the advice of Ed Beaudette My pal TSH and I started the day at White River Junction, Vermont, where we spent several hours photographing the parade of trains.
By midday, Boston & Maine’s CPED was headed south toward East Deerfield, Massachusetts and we followed it to make photos.
The sights and sounds of four Boston & Maine GP9s working in multiple will always stick with me.
At the time we weren’t well versed with the lay of the land, and did our best to follow the Connecticut River line with little more than a basic map.
At Claremont, New Hampshire we stumbled upon the famous high bridge, just moments before the southward CPED rolled across.
Working with my father’s Rollei Model T loaded with 120-size Kodak Verichrome Pan roll film, I exposed a single frame of the freight in silhouette crossing the bridge.
I processed this in Kodak D76. My processing skills were only slightly better than my ability to find locations on the fly. In retrospect, I should have used a different developer, or at least used a more dilute solution, because my resulting negative was over developed and lacking in broad tonality.
In later years, I refined my photographic skill, however I can’t go back to catch four B&M GP9s on the bridge, so I have to work with the existing negative.
For presentation here: after scanning the original negative, I imported the hi-res scan into Lightroom, where I implemented a variety of contrast and exposure adjustments to make for a more visually pleasing image and then outputted a scaled lo-res scan for internet presentation here.
Seaboard System was a short-lived grouping of Seaboard Coast Line and affiliated properties that superseded the ‘Family Lines’ name prior to the amalgamation of these railroads into CSX Transportation.
In December 1984, I exposed this view of Seaboard System GE diesels switching south of downtown Orlando, Florida on the former Atlantic Coast Line main line.
In April 1991, this was a common scene in West Oakland, California, before Union Pacific bought Southern Pacific, the railroad accessed the region via the former Western Pacific. WP route reached the Oakland yards via street trackage on 3rd Street (which ran parallel to SP’s street trackage on Embarcedero via Jack London Square, two blocks to the south).
It was the era before ditch lights were common equipment on UP locomotives. This freight is westbound.
When I revisited Oakland in 2008, I found little trace of the 3rd street trackage, with all moves now concentrated on the former SP line through Jack London Sq.
In 2004, I paid a visit to the Severn Valley Railway while photographing for a calendar on British Steam Railways.
Of the preserved railways in the UK, the Severn Valley is among my favorites and one of the most photogenic.
Finding this slide in my collection reminded me that I’m long overdue for another visit.
I made this photo of Erlestoke Manor leading a southward train toward Kidderminster using a Nikon loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide film.
To make the most of this vintage slide, I made a multiple-pass scan with a Nikon Super Cooolscan500 slide scanner powered by VueScan software then imported the hi-res scan into Lightroom where I adjusted contrast, color balance, color temperature, saturation and the exposure of the sky.
Yesterday morning, August 20, 2020, offered near-perfect late summer light.
I traveled on the 0930 train from North Conway to Conway and made photographs of the locomotive, a former Norfolk & Western GP35 that is painted to resemble a classic Maine Central locomotive and lettered for Conway Scenic Railroad.
Although, I rarely post classic ‘three-quarter’ locomotive roster photos on Tracking the Light, I thought I’d do so here, along with other angles. All were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
Following up on yesterday’s Tracking the Light Post . . . Kris Sabbatino and I had found the tracks of the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes two-foot gauge tourist railroad recreation and decided to investigate!
Using the powers of the internet we learned there was more to see than the small station at Sanders; so we drove toward the village of Phililps, Maine and down the appropriate side street. A sign advising hikers and railfans provided the needed clues.
Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes must be one of these Brigadoon Railways that comes to life at infrequent intervals but spends most of the time secluded deep in a forest.
We met no one. We saw nothing on the move. We took only pictures. And left without a trace.
In October 1999, I made this view of a meet between the Great Train Escapes tour train and a St Lawrence & Atlantic freight. Both trains were led by MLW-built M-420 diesels.
Since that photo 21 years ago, much has changed at Danville Junction,
The trees have grown; the track arrangement was simplified, the St Lawrence & Atlantic was amalgamated into the Genesee & Wyoming network, the MLW diesels have vanished from the scene, and the tour train doesn’t operate any more.
In June, Kris Sabbatino and I paid a brief visit to Danville Junction, my first since 1999. It was a surreal experience for me. So little of it seem familiar.
When I was young, my brother and I would take the train from Springfield or Hartford to visit my grandparents in the Bronx. Starting in 1977, I’d always carry my vintage Leica 3A fitted with 50mm Summitar lens and loaded with Kodak black & white film.
We typically traveled on an Amtrak Budd RDC or SPV-2000 self-propelled railcar to New Haven, where we would change for a through train to either Rye, New York or Grand Central. My parents would buy us tickets and I’d usually take care of the travel logistics.
I don’t recall the specifics of this trip. These images were on an isolated strip of negatives stored in a glassine negative envelop with only ‘1980, Amtrak/C-Dot New Haven Line’ to identify it.
I doubt that I was photographing through the glass—If you know what I mean.
I would have processed the film in the sink at home in Massachusetts using Kodak Microdol-X developer.
Here’s a classic from my Kodachrome file: Southern Pacific SD40T-2 8378 West ascending Beaumont Hill on the Sunset Route at Cabazon, California on January 30, 1994.
I had Kodachrome 25 loaded in my Nikon F3T, which was fitted with an f5.6 Tokina 400mm lens.
My focus point was not on the front of the locomotive, but rather on the searchlight signal to the right of the train. Since the signal was the emphasis of the photo, you may wonder why I didn’t move a little closer to make it appear larger. The reason is simple: I wanted to include the ‘Cabazon’ sign on the signal relay cabinet, which identifies the location and was key to the interlocking.
Just in case you are curious, the second locomotive in the train consist is a Conrail SD40-2.
I’ve been experimenting with Kodak Ektachrome E100 slide film.
Kodak reintroduced Ektachrome in 2018/2019, several years after production this once popular film had been suspended.
I exposed one roll in Portugal in March 2019 and I was pleased with my results.
In the last couple of months, I bought more of this film and loaded it into my Canon EOS-3.
This photograph was exposed in July 2020 as a storm cleared over the North Conway station at sunset. It was my last frame in the camera, so there was no opportunity for bracketing.
Richard’s Lab in California processed the film, and a few minutes ago I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 digital scanner powered by VueScan software. Since the slide is relatively dark, I opted for a multipass scan to extract the maximum data possible.
I processed the scan in Lightroom and lightened one version while softening the contrast.
In June, Kris Sabbatino and I inspected the former Grand Trunk line at Mechanic Falls, Maine.
For some viewers the details of the process may seem like minutia, for me it is integral to my Black & white photography. Being in control of the process gives me the ability to make better photographs—Distinctive images that stick in the mind and resonate.
For this photograph, I exposed Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3. I processed the film using customized split development, starting first with Kodak HC110 diluted 1-300 with water for 6 minutes, followed by Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water warmed to 70F for 7 minutes, followed by stop bath, dual fixing baths, first rinse, Permawash, and a 10-12 minute final wash, then final rinse in distilled water.
I first used Ilford HP5 in 1982, on the advice of my photo instructor Mark Bistline. Over the last 38 years I’ve slowly refined my process to get nearly the ideal tonality for the images I expose with it. Why ‘nearly’?, because I’m always tweaking my recipe.
On August 12, 2019—one year ago—I’d organized a special publicity run over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch to make photos and video of Conway Scenic’s then ‘Notch Train’—the train soon to be rebranded as the ‘Mountaineer’.
This departed Crawford eastbound just after sunrise.
I had preselected scenic locations along the former Maine Central Mountain Division where we stopped the train for static photos and organized roll-bys for video.
I was working with three still cameras that day, while Adam Bartley worked with the company video camera.
Our operating crew was Mike Lacey and Joe Costello.
These photos were made with my Lumix LX7. Several images from this run have since appeared in Conway Scenic advertising and in magazine articles.
In October 2003, I made this view of Cal-Train F40PH 914 leading train 74 at 7th and King Street in San Francisco.
You can easily tell this is train 74, because Cal Train put numerical train ID’s on the locomotives displayed near the cab windows. It was among the peculiarities of this intensely operated former Southern Pacific suburban operation.
This image nicely illustrates the difference between a train number which delineates a service and a locomotive number that identifies a piece of equipment. Just in case you were confused.
I’d exposed a single roll of Provia 100F with a Nikon F3 on January 18, 2020, during the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington’s “Grand Reunion” event that I attended with Wayne Duffett.
I’ll admit; I wasn’t rushed to get my film processed.
To reduce the cost of shipping, normally I batch process film, by sending in five or more rolls at time to my lab of choice. These days I’ve been using Richard’s Lab in California, which has been giving me good results with their E6 processing.
This particular roll was stranded in Massachusetts, partially because of the Covid-19 outbreak & travel restrictions etc, and partially because I’ve been focused on North Conway, New Hampshire, where the Conway Scenic Railroad has occupied much of my working time.
Finally, I got the film back yesterday! I scanned a few of the images for display here using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan software. I scanned these at 4000 dpi and made multi-pass scans to extract the maximum amount of date from each image and thus make the most of the film’s high dynamic range.
We were visiting the California Tehachapis four years ago. After more than two decades absence, it was my second trip there in as many weeks.
At sunset, I positioned myself at the famous Bealville grade crossing, where I photographed a passing Union Pacific intermodal train (historically on Southern Pacific this would have been an eastward train, but my notes from the day indicate that it was a ‘southbound’.)
Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I made a series of photos. Two variations of one of the head on views are presented here. One is the in-camera Jpg, the other is an adjusted image the I made in Lightroom from the Fuji RAW file.
The last image is a trailing view showing the signal and grade crossing gates.
My monthly column in September 2020 Trains Magazine features a photo that I made near this same crossing.
Boston & Maine was making its image transition to Guilford. While Guildford’s B&M acquisition had occurred a few years earlier, many B&M locomotives still retained their B&M blue paint. This period of transition on the railroad coincided with transitions in the way I made photos.
Here a pair of GP7s was leading the southward EDSP at Keets Road in Deerfield, a short distance south of Deerfield Junction. Notice the small stenciled Guilford ‘G’ on the short-hood of the locomotive.
I’d recently discovered the superior qualities of Kodachrome 25. While very slow, this yielded great color, exceptionally fine grain, and about 2 ½ stops of exposure latitude.
For this slide, I had my Leica IIIA mounted to a Visoflex fitted with my father’s 200mm Leitz Telyt. This seemingly Rube-Goldberg inspired arrangement was klutzy compared with a conventional single lens reflex, it allowed me to use telephoto lenses and gave me an ability to selectively pinpoint my focus. The nature of the Visoflex screen did not encourage focusing on a central point.
As previously described on Tracking the Light, I often use focus to direct the viewers eye in relation to my compositions, while allowing portions of the image to be less than pin sharp, which can produce a pleasing effect too often lost with modern hyper-sharp digital photography. The combination of a long lens with slow film produced endless opportunity for focus experimentation.