In July 1995, Sean Graham-White organized for him us to research a story about the Belt Railway of Chicago’s expansive Clearing Yard. We spent two days with the aid of an assistant train master photographing and taking detailed notes.
At the time I was an Associate Editor of Pacific RailNews, and the story appeared in the magazine later that year.
Among the dozens of color slides I exposed was this view showing a collection of antique Electro-Motive diesels.
It was a hot, humid summer’s afternoon, and the light was something less than ideal for Kodachrome.
I’ve scanned and digitally processed this slide to make the most of the image.
This included considerable color correction and contrast adjustment.
Below is the scaled, but unadjusted scan; the Adobe Lightroom work window showing the degree of some adjustments to the original scan, and my final adjusted output.
In June 1994, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using a Nikkormat FTN fitted with a Nikon AF28mm lens (focused manually) of Amtrak number 5, the westward California Zephyr as it worked upgrade along the Truckee River on Southern Pacific’s famous Donner Pass crossing.
The other day, I scanned this slide and then imported the unmodified scan into Adobe Lightroom to make corrections.
Kodachrome 25 was an amazing film with very fine grain and a tremendous exposure latitude. Among the difficulties with the Kodachrome emulsions was its cyan/red color bias. When the film was fresh it tended toward a cyan (blue-green) bias, and as it aged it shifted red.
The roll I used was relatively fresh and required significant color adjustment to produce a near neutral bias.
I’ve included scaled versions of: the unmodified scan, the color and contrast adjusted scan, and the Lightroom work window.
Yesterday, November 25, 2020, we brought a light engine to Conway, NH to help decorate Conway Scenic Railroad for the holiday season.
At Conway, as we were finishing our decorating, I set up to capture the scene with my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm lens, I heard the characteristic honk!-honk!-honk! of migrating geese . . .
I quickly repositioned and readjusted my zoom to incorporated the V-formation of the birds.
After I arrived back in North Conway, I downloaded the files to my MacBook Pro and adjusted this one to post it on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Facebook page and for transmission to the Conway Daily Sun for an up-coming article.
Among the hundreds of 35mm slides returned to me from the processing lab the other day was this Kodak Ektachrome E100 slide of Conway Scenic Railroad 573 and 4266 leading the 2020 Railfan’s Day photo freight that I helped organize.
September 5, 2020 was a perfect clear day with rich blue sky and warm late-summer sun.
In addition to a great number of digital photographs, I also exposed color slides for slide shows and to keep for posterity.
With slides I get the best of both worlds; analog archival material and a scannable transparency that is easily digitized for internet presentation.
I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner, set to 4000 dpi and a ‘White Balance’ color profile.
Below I’ve attached the VueScan control window that shows my various manual settings; the RAW uninterpreted scan of the slide, and the adjusted scan after I altered shadow and highlight contrast and other parameters in Adobe Lightroom.
In September, I brought Kris Sabbatino to Pemaquid Point, Maine. This is a place steeped in my memories; many years ago on visits to my grandparent’s Maine summer house, we’d visit this rocky promenade where a thin sliver of land scratches the North Atlantic.
Fascinated by the waves in my youth, I’d drift perilously close to the water.
A wise friend once said that we may grow old but we can remain immature forever.
Drawn by the ocean, aiming to expose a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 that I brought here for the purpose, I was mesmerized by the tide. Kris called to me— as my mother had decades earlier—that I was too close; too far out.
A rogue wave loomed behind, reared up and splashed over me. My wee Lumix succumbed immediately. My Nikon F3 quietly blinked off and was silent. Two cameras down and soaked to the skin, I was lucky . . .
October 31st, 2020; Halloween:I heeded the advice of Tom Carver, who admiring the robust qualities of Nikon’s film cameras suggested that I let the F3 dry out for a few weeks, and then try it again. So, I put a fresh battery and it flickered to life.
Kris and I went down to Conway, NH., where Conway Scenic’s final day of ‘Pumpkin Patch’ was underway. Here I made a photo of Engineer Wayne Duffett—dressed as a Imperial Storm Trooper from the Star Wars films—as he sat in the cab of GP9 1751.
Both photos were exposed on Fuji Velvia 50, which at more than $18 a roll, is among the most expensive film I’ve ever bought. The F3 returned to life on Halloween. My slides were returned to me from AgX Imaging lab in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan yesterday.
Last week, Conway Scenic Railroad temporarily evicted former Boston & Maine F7A 4268 from stall 4 at the North Conway, NH roundhouse where the locomotive has been undergoing an operational restoration by the 470 Club (that also owns sister F7A 4266 which is operational at CSRR).
Saturday morning (November 21, 2020) brilliant late-autumn presented excellent light to photograph this relic of mid-20th century dieselization. B&M 4268 was originally an EMD demonstrator and features the builder’s less-common ‘passenger pilot’, which makes it distinctive among B&M’s F-unit.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1 with recently acquired 16-55mm Fujinon lens. After exposure, I converted the camera-RAW files to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer software, which does a more effective job of transforming these files for conversion by Adobe Lightroom, than either Lightroom itself or other image processing software.
After conversion, I imported the DNG files into Lightroom and made some minor adjustments to color temperature, contrast, and highlight/shadow detail plus saturation.
Below are examples of the in-camera FujiFilm JPG (using Velvia color profile, and a comparison DNG file converted from RAW using the Iridient software.
All photos were then scaled and exported using Lightroom.
Saturday, November 14, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its final Mountaineer of the 2020 operating season. As scheduled, this ran from North Conway to Crawford, Notch, New Hampshire and return.
Historically CSRR ceased operations over Crawford Notch earlier in the season.
I used this rare late-season move over the former Maine Central Mountain Division to make some unusual photos. Bare leaf-less trees allow for views that are unobtainable during the summer and early autumn.
During the course of the operating season, I’d made several head-end trips and Hyrail inspections of the line to look for angles. Some of the finest locations I found are a long way from public highways.
For this photo of eastward train 162, I climbed to an elevated point, and used my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Here are two photographs exposed on the former New Haven Railroad portion of the Northeast Corridor more than 23 years apart, both portraying diesels running ‘light’ (without a train).
The top view was made about two weeks ago (November 2020) at Mansfield, Massachusetts, exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm lens, and shows a pair of GE P42 Genesis diesels racing eastbound. Kris Sabbatino and I had set up anticipating the passage of the Acela Express, and catching these diesels running light was a pleasant surprise.
The bottom view was made at the grade crossing immediately west of the New London, Connecticut station (pictured to the left of the train). I exposed this on Fujichrome Provia using a Nikon F3T on a trip with Mike Gardner in July 1997. This was prior to Amtrak’s electrification of the New Haven to Boston section of the corridor.
Working with slide film had its perils. Normally, I used 36 exposure roles.
However, I’d carefully load my manual cameras and try to squeeze as many photos out of each rolls as possible.
This was risky, because often the last frame would get ruined in processing. So, I typically save that final frame for something less important, but still interesting.
On April 23, 1997, my father and I waited on a Shinkansen platform at Nishi Akashi west of Osaka. I made a few photos of this passing Series 300 Series highspeed train as it blasted by at approximately 186mph.
Working with my old Nikon F3T, I exposed this final frame on a roll of Fuji Provia 100 as the train passed me at speed. In processing, Fuji cut the last little bit of the slide (to the left of the train).
For years this slide sat in a box, unworthy of slide shows. I scanned it yesterday. Below are two versions. One is full frame, the other is cropped.
On November 9, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a special Mountaineer for the benefit of its employees and their guests. This used a foreshortened consist and departed earlier than normal, It proceeded west under clear sunny skies where it made a stop at Bartlett, NH to pause for passengers and to collect catered meals.
Upon arrival at Crawford Station, GP35 216 ran around, while we had the opportunity to make photos. After this short stop, the special then proceeded eastbound and made a second stop at the site of the Mount Willard Section House-onetime home to the famous Evans Family.
Here I made a number of unusual photos while the train was tied down on the Willey Brook Bridge.
All photos were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
Last week was warm with sunny skies. Unseasonably warm.
One evening while exploring Cape Cod, Kris Sabbatino and I paid a visit to the Cape Cod Central at Hyannis where I made these views of a former New Haven Railroad FL9 (painted to resemble its as-delivered appearance) and an old RDC built for Boston & Maine.
In an earlier Tracking the Light post, I speculated if Conway Scenic Railroad’s former New Haven Railroad RDC 23 Millie ever visited the NHRR line that once extended to Provincetown.
So far my investigations have determined that while NHRR 23 almost certainly visited the New Haven stations at Hyannis and Woods Hole, which were regular destinations for NHRR’s RDC runs, it is far less likely that it strayed as far as Provincetown, because NHRR RDCs rarely went that far.
In a similar line of inquiry: did the former B&M car pictured here ever work Boston & Maine’s North Conway Branch? Many of B&M’s cars had visited North Conway over the years, and some even worked over Crawford Notch!
At one time an extension of the New Haven Railroad’s Old Colony Division reached all the way around Cape Cod to the historic fishing village at Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Last weekend my girlfriend and fellow photographer, Kris Sabbatino brought me to Pamet Beach in Truro, where the railroad had once crossed the Pamet River on a trestle (near the site of the former Truro Station).
We made photos of the vestiges of the right-of-way and did our best to trace the line.
At Conway Scenic Railroad, our Budd RDC ‘Millie’ is a former New Haven car. This was built in 1952, several years before the line to Provincetown was abandoned. Standing on the beach in the fading light of sunset, I wondered if Millie ever crossed the trestle at Pamet?
Using my FujiFilm XT1, I made this photo on First Street when visiting Los Angeles in August 2016.
I was pleased to catch then-new cars working the Metro Rail Gold Line light rail line.
Below are two variations. The top is the in-camera JPG, using the ‘Velvia’ color profile. The second view I converted from Fuji RAW to DNG format with Iridient X-Transformer (a specialized 3rd party software aimed at producing superior results with Fuji RAW files) before importing into Lightroom for final adjustment.
As a follow up to yesterday’s Tracking the Light post, here’s a photograph at the same location exposed a few minutes later of a northward MBTA commuter train from Providence, Rhode Island, passing Mansfield, Massachusetts.
I exposed this photo with my FujiFilm XT1 moments after the train made its Mansfield Station stop. The HSP46 diesel-electric locomotive is at the back of the push-pull consist.
Back in July (2020), I posted a photo of Guilford Rail System 252 under the title ‘Unexpected Surprise’. See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/07/23/unexpected-surprise/
The significance of the locomotive is that Maine Central 252 (pictured) is now owned by Conway Scenic, where I now work as the Manager of Marketing.
Today’s TTL photograph portrays the same train, Guilford’s EDLA (East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts) a little later on the same May 1997 evening.
After photographing it near Farleys, Mike Gardner and I had continued east on Route 2.
Here on the Wendell-Erving town line, I had aimed to recreate a photo that I’d made with photographer Brandon Delaney a dozen years earlier, when I caught an eastward train from the same spot. In that earlier photo a derelict barn was standing to the left of the road.
In this view all the remained of the barn was the foundation.
I offer two variation of the same photo. The top is a straight scan without post processing adjustment to contrast, color etc. The second features my processing to improve the appearance of the image.
Often I consider my Kodachrome slides among my finest photographs.
By not always.
In the mid-1990s, Kodachrome went through an unsettled phase and the film didn’t perform as well as it had in the late 1980s early 1990s. The reasons for these changes may be a discussion for another day.
On April 11, 1997, I joined photographers Mike Gardner and George Pitarys on a productive chase of New England Central’s southward freight, number 608.
At Willimantic, Connecticut, I made this photo along the river by some old thread mills (some since demolished).
April light can be challenging. Harsh contrast combined with a yellowish tint from air pollution makes for a raw ‘brassy’ quality that Kodachrome didn’t reproduce well.
I scanned this slide a little while ago and then imported the TIFF file into Adobe Lightroom, which I used to soften the contrast, lighten the shadows and correct the harsh color rendition. See adjusted version below
It isn’t perfect, but then again the lighting on the day wasn’t ideal.
How a year goes by! November 4th last year sticks in my mind as one of the best nights for rainy night photography in a very long time.
I’d caught up with fellow poor-weather nocturnal photographers, Jay Monaghan, Paul Maguire and Kevin O’Brien at Drumcondra in Dublin to catch the elusive Irish Rail ‘HOBS’ (ballast train) hauled by General Locomotives diesel 075.
It was cold and sluicing rain.
After catching the ballast passing Drumcondra station, we nipped across town by rail to Sandymount, where we waited in the rain for another shot.
Working with my Fujifilm XT1 I made these memorable images.
Now, armed with Iridient X-Transformer, I went back to last year’s success and re-interpreted some of my favorite images from that damp Irish evening, which now seems so distant.
Tracking the Light Publishes Daily!
[Note: my intent was to publish this on November 4, 2020, but when composing the post I accidentally posted it immediately. My efforts to reschedule the post had the net effect of disrupting the link. So I’ve reposted it this morning (Tuesday November 3).]