Twenty years ago on a visit to Germany, I spent a couple of days photographing around the historic city of Dresden.
This black & white photo at the Dresden Neustadt station features a former DR (East German Railways) Russian-built diesel-electric, DB class 234, a type colloquially known as a ‘Ludmilla’.
Working with myvintage German-made Rolleiflex Model T, I made this photo on 120-size Fuji Neopan 400 roll film. I processed the film in Agfa Rodinal Special (not to be confused with Agfa Rodinal) mixed 1-32 with water for 3 min 45 seconds. I scanned the negative using an Epson flatbed scanner.
I’ve been reviewing 40 years worth of Amtrak photos for an article I’m writing for a German magazine.
In the mix of old chromes was this 2003 view of the eastward Lake Shore Limited east of milepost 129 between Chester and Middlefield, Massachusetts on CSX’s old Boston & Albany mainline.
Relatively few of Amtrak’s P42 Genesis diesels were painted in the short-lived Northeast Direct livery, making this a relatively unusual photo.
Working with a Nikon fitted with an f2.8 180mm telephoto, I was trying to make the most of a heavily backlit situation in early October. In situations like this I’d typically use my notebook to shield the front element of my lens to minimize the effects of flare. Backlighting autumn foliage helps accentuate the colored leaves.
On this day Amtrak was the booby prize; I was really after the Ringling Brothers Circus Train that was coming east from Selkirk Yard. And that photo is stored in a different file.
Yesterday (26 July 2021), the White Mountains were obscured by hazy smoke that had settled upon the Mount Washington Valley as a result of raging forest fires in the West.
The sun was out, but an eerie gauzy brownish-fog was lingering in the low-lying areas filtering the light.
Working with my Nikon Z6, I made these photos in the smoky light of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley Train coming up the Hill from Conway. This was a stark contrast to the similar images I made last week of the Valley train arriving at North Conway.
During a whirlwind trip to Italy in April 2017, I spent a day around Florence (Firenze) photographing and taking notes for my book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.
On this trip I was traveling very light and only brought two cameras: my wee Lumix mark 2 (a Panasonic LX7) for digital, and Nikon F3 with 35mm and 135mm lenses to expose film.
At Firenze Statuto I made this sequence with the LX7 of a passing FS ETR1000 high speed passenger train on its way out of town. Once on the Direttissma this train will accelerate up to 186mph, but here the train is traveling at a more conservative speed.
The original Italian Direttisma was the world’s first purpose-built high speed railway, predating the Japanese Shinkansen by a half century.
There was a low ceiling at Crawford Notch, NH the other evening. The tops of the mountains were in the clouds, yet the tracks and station were clear from mist.
Kris & I arrived after sunset when there was just a hint of daylight remaining. Regular readers of Tracking the Light may recognize that I like to make photos at twilight, and often work my cameras when there is very little light remaining in the sky.
Below are three interpretations of the same Nikon NEF RAW file that reflect minor adjustments to contrast, color temperature and color saturation.
The old Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division is a favorite stretch of railroad.
I first visited this location on the heavily traveled east-west trunk route back in 1988 with my old pal TSH.
In November 2001, Mike Gardner and I were on a week-long photograph blitz of Pennsylvania and paused a Mifflin for a few hours to make photos of the action.
I exposed this Fujichrome color slide using my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with a 28mm Zeiss Biogon lens. The Zeiss lens was extremely sharp from corner to corner while offering exceptional color rendition.
On Sunday evening (July 18, 2021), on our way back to New Hampshire from Massachusetts , Kris and I visited the old station at White River Junction, Vermont where we photographed three vintage General Motors diesels.
GM’s Electro-Motive Division was America’s premier locomotive builder from the late 1940s until the early 1980s.
The 1970s-era machines that we found at White RIver Junction are exmples of EMD’s locomotive zenith, when GM-EMD was synonymous with locomotive excellence.
Although it was a dull July evening, I made photos using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. Working with Adobe Lightroom, I made nominal adjustments to improve shadow detail, overall contrast, and color saturation.
Saturday night, July 17, 2021, I revisited Palmer, Massachusetts with Kris Sabbatino and Pat Yough, where we made night photos of the CSX signals at CP83.
For me photographing at Palmer at night is an old tradition that began in the 1980s.
Where I used to make time exposures with a Leica IIIA loaded with Kodak Tri-X, on this visit I worked with my modern Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera mounted on my father’s Gitzo carbon fiber tripod.
My own tripod had remained in New Hampshire, so needed a loan of my dad’s legs.
I made minor adjustements to color temperature and contrast using Adobe Lightroom.
The other day I traveled on the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer in order to take notes on running times to help revise the schedule, and to make photos for publicity, marketing and the company files.
This is a selection of the images I exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom lens.
Working with the camera’s RAW files, prior to post processing, I converted the files to DNG format using Iridient software and then for final presentation adjusted the DNG files using adobe Lightroom .
I made thousands of photos of Irish Rail operations on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO). Typically, I had the film processed at Photocare on Abbey Street in Dublin.
In this photo, exposed on a summer Saturday, Irish Rail class 071 number 083 roars up-road at Enfield with a laden timber train. The signalman hands the staff to the driver. The staff authorized the train movement over the section (in this case Enfield to Maynooth).
This image was made was in the final years of traditional electric train staff and semaphore operation on Irish Rail’s Sligo Line.
I’ve been gradually archiving my Irish Rail slides by scanning them at very high resolution, typically between 3200 and 4800 dots per inch, saving the file in TIF format.
Yesterday morning was glorious and sunny in North Conway, NH.
Members of the 470 Club (a group that has preserved and owns several pieces of historic railroad equipment based at the Conway Scenic Railroad) were repairing former Boston & Maine F7A 4266 at the North Conway roundhouse..
A few weeks ago, Kris and I visited the former Boston & Maine station at Laconia, NH.
I’d seen a postcard view of this Romanesque classic and wondered if it still stood, so on an unrelated errand to Laconia we took the time to look for the old building, which, as it turned out, wasn’t hard to find.
A bonus was the ‘Burrito Me’ restaurant at one end! later in the day, I went in and ordered burritos for the two of us, which we consumed under the awning of the old building.
Gray Locomotives in High Sun—Variations on a theme.
High sun—when the sun is at or near the highest point in the sky—can be a difficult time to make railroad photos. The harsh contrast presented by midday light makes for unflattering and abrasive visual conditions. But does that mean we should refrain from photography? I know many photographers who might say ‘Yes.’
Last month on the way to Moosehead Lake, Kris Sabbatino and I paused at Pan Am Railway’s sprawling Waterville Yard where we made a few photos of a freight sitting near the east end of the yard.
Guilford painted GP40s are a rare item these days, and worthy of documentation. Soon all of Pan Am Railways may be swept into CSX, giving a growing urgency to photographs of this New England railroad system.
I made several images of the GP40s idling in the yard using my FujiFilm XT1. In Post processing, I adjusted the camera RAW files making slight changes to contrast, exposure and color temperature. Below are four similar variations of the same scene.
Since the heat of July is upon us, I thought it would be a refreshing alternative to present a few frosty photos from years ago.
In February 2008, I was visiting with John Gruber in Wisconsin. We drove out to Baraboo in pursuit of the Wisconsin & Southern (reporting marks WSOR). John had been photographing this line since the 1950 when it was Milwaukee Road.
In these twilight views, a WSOR SD40-2 was working the Baraboo industrial park. It was very cold. I made these images on Fujichrome using a Canon EOS-3 with 20mm lens. I scanned the slides an Epson V600 flatbed scanner and adjusted the TIF files using Adobe Lightroom to correct for color temperature.
On October 8, 1992, I made this Kodachrome 25 slide of the old Boston & Maine station building at Woodsville, NH.
Although a relatively subtle quality, notice that the verticals are parallel with the sides of the photo. This was made possible by working with a Nikkor 35mm PC (Perspective Control) lens. This had an adjustible front element used to keep vertical lines from visually falling away from the film plane (when the camera was kept level).
I miss my old PC lens, which I sold in 1997.
The line in front of the Woodsville Station was lifted in the mid-1990s.
Last night Conway Scenic Railroad operated its annual Firecracker Expresses to carry spectators from Conway to North Conway for a patriotic fireworks display.
Although it had been raining all afternoon, the sky cleared off at sunset, and the fireworks went ahead as scheduled, beginning just after 930pm.
As part of of my role as Conway Scenic’s Manager of Marketing & Events, I helped organize our special trains and their promotion. Several hundred people rode the trains which operated as advertised.
My Fiancé Kris Sabbatino and I traveled on the Firecracker Express to North Conway and made photos of the railroad’s iconic station and the explosive displays.
It was an excellent event.
Working with my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless digital camera mounted on my antique Bogen tripod, I made a variety of time-exposures.
Years ago I’d photographed fireworks using color slide film. I realized that I hadn’t done this in a long time and this was my first serious effort to capture a fireworks display digitally. I was a bit rusty at getting my timing right, but after missing a few of the loud bangs in the sky, I managed to refine my technique.
Working with the camera at ISO 200, my exposure times ranged from 4 seconds to 30 seconds, while I varied my f-stop between 4.0 and f11.
In general, I found I obtained my most satisfactory results at about 10 seconds at approximately f8.
After exposure, I imported the camera’s RAW NEF files into Adobe Lightroom for contrast and color adjustment. Through this technique I was able to improve the sky detail and balance the appearance of the images to reflect the scene more closely as I saw it. The benefit of the Nikon Z6 is its sensor’s exceptional dynamic range.
In March 1991, I exposed this view of a Southern Pacific coal train ascending Donner Pass.
Working with my Nikon F3T and Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens, I focused on the loaded hoppers of the coal train as diesel exhaust poured forth from tunnel 8 on Donner Pass.
SP’s SNTA-C (Skyline Mine to Trona-coal) had been routed over Donner Pass via Track 1. This was the historic 1860s alignment that involved a difficult sinuous climb around the north face of Mount Judah.
Backlighting aided capturing this contrasty scene, that I preserved on Kodachrome 25 color slide film.
In 1993, SP lifted Track 1 over Donner Pass (between Shed 47 and Norden), opting to route all traffic on its newer alignment on Track 2 via Tunnel 41.
I’ll be featuring SP and Donner Pass in my September 2021 Trains Magazine column that looks back at Southern Pacific 25 years after its merger with Union Pacific.
In 1990, I’d bought a second-hand F4 Nikkor ‘prime’ 200mm telephoto. For several years I made great use of this lens to photograph trains across the West.
Through the 1990s, my photography was telephoto heavy.
These days, I’ve shifted my focal length wide.
Most of my digital photos are made with focal lengths between 16-70mm (super wide to short telephoto).
But, when I tend toward the longer telephoto range, I still reach for my film cameras.
Partially because I have several excellent long telephotos for my Canons, but also because when I think ‘long’, I think film.
So when Kris Sabbatino and I visited the Junction at ‘East Northfield,’ Massachusetts on March 8th (2021), I made this long view on Ektachrome using my old Canon EOS-3 with f2.8 200mm lens. This winning camera-lens combo has served me well for nearly 15 years.
Perhaps, it helps that I’m photographing a classic train with 1960s-1970s vintage EMD diesels bracketed by searchlight signals.
St Lawrence & Atlantic 393 passing the Gorham Station made for a subject akin to the UFO landing in the 1970’s film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ but accented with an awesome sounding EMD 645-diesel roar.
These photos were exposed last Friday night using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
Here’s another of my photos at dusk from our pursuit of St. Lawrence & Atlantic’s westward freight 393 last week. Kris and I were positioned along the south shore of the Reflection Pond near Gorham, NH.
My tripod was occupied holding my Canon EOS-3 during a 30 second time exposure. This film photo remains latent at this writing.
While the Canon was exposing film, I made a few hand held photos with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit with the ISO set at 5,000.
These are two of the 1/2 second exposures that night.
I adjusted the Fuji RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.