On a whirlwind trip to Belgium, France and Germany in Spring 1999, I made this long telephoto image of the high-speed Thalys departing Brussels Midi for Paris.
I was working with my original Nikon N90S that I’d bought secondhand from Mike Gardner two years earlier fitted with a Tokina 400mm fixed telephoto that I bought from Doug Moore in the early 1990s.
Most unusual was I was working with a short-lived slide film emulsion sold as Fujichrome MS 100/1000 that offered variable ISO through push/pull processing.
I’d rated this film at ISO 200, which gave me an extra stop over the Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO 100) that I normally used. Fuji offered processing for this film that came with a special mailer on which you would tick a box to select the desired ISO for processing.
The lighting was also unusual: it had been raining, but shafts of diffused sun light were peaking through heavy fast moving clouds.
The effect of the 400mm lens compressed the complex array of track on approach to the busy Brussels terminal.
Monday, March 22, 2021 was a clear bright day in North Conway, NH.
Not a steel wheel was turning, but Conway Scenic Railroad had a variety of equipment positioned around the yard, so in the afternoon I ventured out of my office in the North Tower of the railroad station to make a few photos.
All of these images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom lens. These were scaled from the camera JPG files profiled using the in-camera Velvia color palate.
Two weeks ago on our northward journey, Kris Sabbatino and I paused at Wells River to photograph the Vermont Rail System freight that we had been shadowing.
Over the years I’ve photographed the former Boston & Maine routes around Well River on various occasions several times, but until this most recent trip, I never managed to catch a train in motion on this infamous span.
Infamous because, back in 1984, this bridge had been damaged and effectively shut the line to traffic until it was repaired.
Exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.
Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog on Railway Photography.
On the evening of November 27, 2003, I used my old Contax G2 rangefinder to expose this Fujichrome Sensia color slide of Irish Rail’s Nenagh Branch train departing Roscrea, County Tipperary.
This was toward the end of regular locomotive hauled trains on the branch. A few weeks later Irish Rail’s 2700-series diesel railcars would assume most of the runs on this branch, although locomotives with sets Cravens carriages would still occasionally make an appearance on the line into 2004.
In August 1982, Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, Massachusetts brought Doug Moore, John Conn and me on a memorable Boston & Albany West End tour.
We started at Westfield and worked our way across the railroad, making it all the way to Amtrak’s Albany-Rensselaer station.
It was my first experience photographing Washington Hill—B&A’s big grade over the Berkshires.
We caught several Conrail freights, including one that we chased from Pittsfield east up toward Dalton.
Earlier in the trip, Bob drove us in his green Ford van along the right of way of the third track to Middlefield Station. When we reached milepost 129, we inspected one of the remaining 1830s-era stone arch bridges.
Here I made this view looking eastbound to show the GRS search light signal. Among the quirks of New York Central-era signaling was displaying a staggered ‘green over green’ for ‘clear’ on intermediate automatic block signals in graded territory. ABS Signals on the B&A Westend grades were continuously lit, while those on the East End tended to be approached lit.
You can see Bob at the wheel of his van.
I wasn’t good a picking my exposures and this frame of Kodachrome 64 was a full stop underexposed (too dark). For years this image was in my ‘3rds file’ (junk), but with modern scanning technology and Adobe Lightroom, I was able to make the image presentable again.
On the evening of June 7, 2015, I exposed these two color slides of a northward Amtrak train on CSX’s former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac pausing for a station stop at Ashland, Virginia.
This was on a trip with Pat Yough to photograph Norfolk & Western J-class steam locomotive 611. On this day, we’d made a side trip to Ashland to catch up with photographer/author Doug Riddell.
I was working with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens. At the time film choice was very limited, and so I had the camera loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F. Ten years earlier, I would have had a much greater choice of emulsions to pick from.
We maintained an old tradition: watching the passage of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at Palmer, Massachusetts.
Kris Sabbatino and I met some old friends at CP83 in Palmer where we enjoyed takeout from the Steaming Tender (located inside the historic Union Station).
I looked up at the signals and said, ‘449 ought to be hitting the circuit at CP79 any second now.’ And on cue the light cleared to ‘green over red’.
I made these photos of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited hitting the Palmer diamond using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens. I set the camera manually with a 1/1600th of a second shutter speed to better freeze the motion of the train.
Amtrak 449 is the Boston section of the train, which joins the New York section at Amtrak’s Albany-Rensselaer.
Last week, we heard New England Central 608 sounding for State Line from Moulton Hill in Monson, Massachusetts.
That was the call to send Kris Sabbatino and me into action.
We drove post haste through Monson, as the northward freight was approaching the ‘Monson Tunnel’ (Route 32 underpass at Academy Hill), and selected a spot well ahead of the train where the morning sun provided excellent illumination.
I made these two views using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.
After exposure, I imported the NEF (RAW) files into Adobe Lightroom where I re-profiled the color and contrast.
Last Monday, March 8, 2021, Kris Sabbatino and I, followed New England Central’s southward 611 freight.
I drove us to my old standby location at East Northfield, where the NECR line toward Palmer, Massachusetts and New London, Connecticut diverges from the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River line (now operated by Pan Am Southern).
As the train approached I exposed a series of photos using my Nikon Z6.
I’ve displayed two variations of the same image.
The top image is a camera generated JPG with color set to Nikon’s Vivid profile.
The bottom image I created from the NEF RAW file in Adobe Lightroom by manipulating color, contrast, and saturation to emulate my FujiFilm XT1’s in-camera ‘Velvia’ mode.
My Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera is an amazing tool for capturing images.
It has a tremendous ability to capture detail across a broad dynamic range.
Its RAW (NEF) files allow for a high degree of exposure latitude and post processing adjustment.
It’s unadjusted files are the closest to ‘true’ color of any camera that I have owned.
And yet, it is almost too much detail. But without the supersaturated punch that I’ve come to accept from my other digital cameras, notably my Fuji X-series.
On Monday, Kris Sabbatino and I photographed New England Central’s 611 arriving at Brattleboro, Vermont under a clear polarized blue dome. A near perfect morning, and yet contrasty with crusty snow on the ground and deep dark shadows cast along the sides of the locomotives.
I exposed for the snow to retain highlight detail with an expectation of making post processing adjustments to the NEF files with Adobe Lightroom.
My goal was to eye-up (estimate) the adjustment of my RAW files in order to emulate the richly saturated color profile automatically provided by my Fujifilm XT1 JPGs. This was an unscientific approximation without benefit from a detail study of the Nikon’s histogram in comparison with the Fuji’s.
I’ll plan on making a more critical project by working with these types of comparisons at a later date.
As we raced east on Rt2 in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s ED-8, I kept my eye open for the turn that lead down to the railroad location on the old Boston & Maine known as ‘Farleys’.
I thought back to that February morning, 35 years ago, when working with my father’s Leica, I exposed the final frame on a roll of Kodachrome 64 of an eastward Boston & Maine loaded Bow coal train meeting the westward POPY (Portland to Potomac Yard) at Farleys.
While ED8 wasn’t quite as thrilling as that rolling meet, it was pretty neat to soak in the sight and sounds of this 106-car freight grinding up the grade toward Erving.
I exposed this photo using my Nikon Z6 with an aim to adjust the RAW (NEF) file to maximize the data presented so as to compensate for the excessively contrasty scene.
After photographing Pan Am Southern’s eastward ED8 passing searchlight signals at Lake Pleasant (See Monday’s Post), the chase was on!
Kris Sabbatino and I rolled eastward after the 106 car freight as it ascended the grade up the valley of the Millers River.
At Millers Falls, Massachusetts, we paused at the overhead bridge near the center of town that spans both former Boston & Maine and Central Vermont lines (now operated by Pan Am Southern and New England Central respectively) for a dramatic photo looking into the the afternoon sun.
Working with my Nikon Z6, I made a sequence of coming and going photos as the train roared by.
Later, I adjusted exposure, contrast and color using Adobe Lightroom to make for more pleasing images.
We continued after the train making more photos along the way!
Yesterday, Saturday March 6, 2021, Kris Sabbatino and I visited White River Junction, Vermont.
Hard crusty snow covered the ground under a bright polarized sky. Visually appealing conditions, but contrast and difficult to capture.
Key to making successful snow photos is exposing for the snow correctly.
If the snow is overexposed (too light), detail is lost and it becomes an amorphous white blob. If it is underexposed, then the snow will be rendered gray and other elements of the scene appear too dark.
Most automatic camera metering does not recognize snow and has a inherent bias to render it as gray instead of white, which if left unattended at the time of exposure will result in an underexposed file.
For this photo, I exposed manually. I gauged my exposure from experience, and allow the meter to read 2/3s of a stop over exposure. This still renders texture in the snow, but allows for easy corrections for the rest of scene in post production.
Below I display two versions of the camera RAW file exposed with my Nikon Z6 (NEF format). The top is the scaled but unmodified file. The bottom has been adjusted to make the most of the data recorded and lighten shadow areas while correcting color balance.
This Kodachrome slide has languished in the darkness for 32 years.
I’d followed a westward empty Conrail coal train through New York’s Canisteo Valley on the evening of April 7, 1989.
It had been an overcast day with laden clouds. Yet traffic had been heavy on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad lines in western New York.
At the time Conrail was routing coal empties west from Hornell via the old Erie main line that went through Alfred and Andover, then operated as the Meadville Line.
West of Hornell this route ascended a steep grade that brought heavy trains to a crawl.
In the fading light of that April evening, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide along Canacadea Creek. If I recall correctly, my shutter speed was about 1/30th of a second.
Why such a slow film?
That is what I had in my Leica M, and so I made do.
Here are two versions of the scanned image. The first is scaled but unmodified. The second is a heavily modified image to make the most of the extremes of Kodachrome’s capturing ability while adding drama to the scene.
In December 1982, my father and I visited the former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Hoboken Terminal on the Hudson River waterfront opposite Manhattan.
I thought this ancient decaying relic of the Golden Age of American railways was just about the most fascinating place on the planet.
Rotten, yet grand, elusive, yet filled with intrigue. I exposed a series of Kodachrome slides using my 1930s era Leica 3A with Sumitar lens.
There’s no doubt; I was born in the wrong era. At age 16, my interests lay in the world decades before my birth.
Lackawanna Terminal has been tidied up since that day. Today, one of the old DL&W electric multiple unit cars serves as Conway Scenic Railroad’sdining car Chocorua, while another former DL&W car is coach 3202 Hurricane Mountain. Oddly enough, I write this in the shadow of Hurricane Mountain in North Conway, New Hampshire.
I scanned the slide portrayed here just a little while ago. I offer two versions. One is a scaled RAW scan without interpretation, the other is an ‘improved’ version of the same scan. I lightened this, adjusted the contrast and color temperature.
It was a wintery weekend a few weeks ago, when Kris Sabbatino and I briefly revisited the forlorn former Grand Trunk station along Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic at Groveton, New Hampshire.
I made these digital studies using my Nikon Z6 digital camera, and processed the files for color and contrast in Adobe Lightroom.
On December 13, 2014, Pat Yough and I visited Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company main line near Auburn, Pennsylvania where the former Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch crossed on a through truss bridge.
Working with my Canon EOS-7D fitted with a 100mm lens, I exposed a sequence of Reading & Northern’s 4-6-2 Pacific number 425 that was leading a Christmas excursion toward Schuylkill Haven.
This is among the scenes that inspired me to recreate the Reading Company in HO scale.