All posts by brian solomon

Author of more than 50 books on railways, photography, and Ireland. Brian divides his time between the United States and Ireland, and frequently travels across Europe and North America.

Photographing SEPTA’s Rarest Electric at Jefferson Station, Philadelphia

SEPTA has a small fleet of electric locomotives; seven are AEM-7s (kin to Amtrak’s now retired fleet), one is a similar model ALP44 built by ABB Traction in 1996.

This one SEPTA ALP44 carries the road number 2308. It is among the regional rail operator’s most elusive locomotives. NJT Transit also operated ALP44s, but these have been out of service for a number of years.

Last week (November 2017) I was in the right place at the right time and caught 2308 arriving at Temple University (station) with a train destined for Thorndale. I boarded and traveled to Jefferson Station (formerly called Market East), where I made these images using my Lumix LX7.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Soon SEPTA will be receiving a fleet of new Siemens-built electrics, so I would assume that old 2308 is on borrowed time.

Recognizing rare equipment is part of making interesting railway images.

Is SEPTA’s 2308 the modern-day equivalent of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s DD2 electric (a rarely photographed, one-of-a-kind machine that looked similar to PRR’s common GG1)?

 

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Photography with an Independence Pass: A dozen new photos.

Last week, I bought my SEPTA Independence Day Pass at 1234 Market Street.

For a mere $13 this allows for unlimited travel on the SEPTA network (with a few minor restrictions). See SEPTA: www.septa.org/fares/pass/independence.html

I made good use of the pass, traveling over several heavy rail routes to make photos.

One of the greatest features of this pass is the ability to get on and off trains without concern for cost, or trying to explain to the conductor where I’m are traveling to. This allows me to change my plan on the spot if I see an interesting location.

SEPTA offers regular interval service on most of its suburban lines, with extra trains in the evening rush hour.

Lumix LX7 Photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo at Berwyn, Pa.
FujiFilm XT1 photo at Berwyn, Pa.
Lumix LX7 photo on the Main Line at Merion, PA.
Lumix LX7 photo at Glenside, PA.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo at Glenside.
Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
SEPTA Silverliner IVs approach Temple. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Interior of a Bombardier coach. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA Silverliner IV interior. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA at 30th Street Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

These digital photos were made using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.

 

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Dusk at Cynwyd; SEPTA’s most obscure branch?

Dusk is a mystical time to photograph; highlights are subdued, shadows are deep, while the prevailing light is soft and cool. Window light is equivalent to the outdoors, and railroad signal light seems more intense.

The short SEPTA line to Cynwyd in the northwestern Philadelphia suburbs is a vestige of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Valley line that once reached northward into anthracite country.

Today Cynwyd is the end of the line.

Until last week, it was one of the last segments of SEPTA’s Regional Rail network left for me to travel.

I arrived at dusk, and in that ‘blue hour’ and I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.

All things being equal I would have used a tripod, but I didn’t have one so with the XT1, I boosted the ISO to unusually high levels to compensate for the dim conditions.

FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm lens. ISO 1600.
FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm lens. ISO 1600.
Lumix LX7 ISO 200.
FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens. ISO 1600.
FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens. ISO 3200.

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Diesels Under Wire on the Main Line.

Not just any old ‘mainline,’ but the famous Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Main Line— so called because it was built as the ‘Main Line of Public Works’ in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

I made this view of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian taking the curve at Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Where most of the trains on this line draw power from the high-voltage AC catenary, Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian changes from an electric to a diesel locomotive at 30th Street to avoid the need to change at Harrisburg.

This is Amtrak’s only service on the former PRR west of Harrisburg. The lone long distance train on what was once a premier passenger route, and unusual on the electrified portion of the line.

I exposed this sequence at Berwyn using my FujiFilm XT1 and 18-135mm zoom lens.

To make the most of the curve and autumn color, I positioned myself on the outside of the curve at Berwyn. The chug of Amtrak’s P42 diesel alerted me to the approach of this westward train.

 

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Tracking the Light Extra: Live from Trenton, New Jersey.

I’m posting from Amtrak’s WiFi on-board the Vermonter enroute to Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

It’s cold, wet, dim outside.

Here’s a few views from my Lumix LX7 at Trenton, New Jersey, exposed just a little while ago.

View from McDonalds at Trenton Transportation Center. November 13, 2017.
Amtrak train 172 arrives at Trenton.
Looking toward New York City.
Pan photo of an arriving NJ Transit train.

Keystone train with old Metroliner Cab car.

Amtrak train 56, the Vermonter arrives at Trenton.

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CSX Freight Rolls on the Reading; Two cameras, Four photos.

I made these views of a CSX freight operating on the former Reading Company in Philadelphia. My vantage point was from the sidewalk on the road bridge near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge over the Schuylkill.

The day was bright, but partially overcast, which benefitted my photography since bright sun would have resulted in a difficult and unflattering high-contrast situation.

This northward freight was moving slowly, allowing me to work with two digital cameras and expose a series of images as it went by.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.
A wider view from the same vantage point exposed with my Lumix LX7.
The lighting post provides a hint as to the location ‘City of Phila.’ Lumix LX7 photo.
Trailing telephoto view with the FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom. This offers some interesting roof detail of the General Electric diesels hauling the train.

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Seeking Streetcars on a Rainy November Night; 10 New Photos.

To the uninitiated a cold windy rainy night might not seem like a good time to make urban photographs.

In my eye this is a fantastic opportunity to make unconventional images.

My brother and I planned to ride SEPTA’s No. 15 streetcar along Girard Avenue to have burgers and beer at Johnny Brenda’s located on Girard near the crossing of the Market-Frankford rapid transit line.

I worked with my Lumix LX7 hand-held to expose this selection of images.

Some of the street views were exposed using the Lumix’s ‘night mode’ that exposes a burst of images in rapid succession and combines them in-camera as a composite.

As you can see it was really lashing down and the most difficult part of this exercise was keeping the lens dry.

A Lumix LX7 night-mode image composite exposed at Girard and 41st Street.
A Lumix LX7 night-mode image composite exposed at Girard and 41st Street.
On a route 15 PCC car.
The back of the PCC car near the end of the run.
PCC’s pass on Girard near the Market-Frankford line elevated. Exposed handheld in ‘A’ mode.
A Lumix LX7 night-mode image composite exposed at Girard Avenue and Frankford Street.
A PCC takes the corner from Girard onto Frankford.
This was made with a relatively long exposure for a handheld photo.
Johnny Brenda’s bar was a welcome refuge from the rain.
Beneath the old elevated railway crossing  Girard. Sorry no PCC’s, I wasn’t in the mood to get any more wet that necessary to get home!

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Pennsylvania Angel at 30th Street Station.

Click on Tracking the Light to see the un-cropped photographs.

I exposed these photos the other day of Pennsylvania Railroad’s super human size angel at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.

This pays tribute to its employees killed during World War II.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

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SEPTA in the Subway; a brief tutorial on underground photography.

I made these views of SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Subway in Philadelphia using my Lumix LX7.

The ISO was set to 200; white balance to ‘Auto’, I adjusted the exposure using the aperture priority (‘A’ setting) and selected F stop manually.

I’ve included screen shots with detailed exposure/camera information.


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Another SEPTA PCC Pan.

It’s dusk and too dark for a conventional photograph without boosting the ISO to high levels.

So, I opt for a panned image, where I use a comparatively slow shutter speed and move the camera to follow the motion of the subject.

I’ve found that it helps to pick a point on the vehicle and stay with it.

It also helps to begin panning well before the shutter is released and continue to pan without changing your overall motion after the picture has been made.

This last part is crucial. Many pans are ruined when the photographer stops panning (or slows) at the very moment the shutter is released, which unfortunately can be a natural inclination that must be overcome with practice.

I exposed this pan-image of a SEPTA Route 15 PCC car on Girard Avenue on November 5, 2017.
Screen shot showing Lumix LX7 EXIF data including shutter speed, ISO and f-stop.

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Amtrak Crosses the Schuylkill River—November 2017.

 

 

On a warm Saturday afternoon I exposed a series of photos of Amtrak’s bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia using my Lumix LX7.

To boost contrast and color saturation, I imported the Lumix RAW files into Lightroom and made adjustments manually.

In 1914, the Pennsylvania Railroad built this massive arch over the Schuylkill River to replace it original 1867 double-track bridge constructed of stone arches and a metal truss span.

Although the bridge resembles the stone arches it replaced, this isn’t actually a stone arch bridge, but rather reinforced concrete arches faced with sandstone.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

 

SEPTA local crosses the Schuylkill. Lumix LX7 photo.

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Rome on Film.

Using my Nikon N90S with a Nikkor AF 35mm lens, I exposed these Provia 100F slides at Rome’s Porta Maggiore in September 2017.

I often expose color slides in addition to digital images.

I scanned the slides using a Nikon scanner with VueScan software. My initial scans are made at very high resolution (4000 dots per inch or higher) and then using Lightroom I scaled these for internet presentation.

Are these photos better than the digital images? I don’t know. My film photos have different characteristics than the digital images. Also, I like to give slide shows and I find it’s much easier and more satisfying to project original color slides than put together digital presentations.

Slide film works well in certain contrasty situations such as this one.
An antique narrow gauge tram makes a station stop near a centuries old Roman wall at Porta Maggiore.

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Erie Shadows—Piermont, New York.

Piermont, New York was the Erie Railroad’s original eastern terminus. This Hudson River port was so-designated because the railroad was intended to operate within the State of New York. The railroad developed a large pier here for transshipping goods and people via the Hudson to New York City.

The other day my brother Sean and I explored Piermont and it’s Pier. Although there’s very little evidence left of the Erie itself, I was curious to see this once important place. This is part of my on-going research and photography of the old Erie Railroad.

These images were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1. However, I also exposed a few 35mm color slides that will be useful in future slide presentations.

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Glint on the Water Level Route.

Early November is a great time to photograph along the Hudson.

I made these views from the one-time Erie Railroad terminus at Piermont, New York.

Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited catches the glint of the evening sun near Dobbs Ferry, New York. Meanwhile, a Metro-North electric multiple unit is rolling toward Grand Central.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 28-135mm Fujinon lens fully extended. (Equivalent to a 200mm view on a traditional 35mm film camera)

Meet on the old New York Central Hudson Division.
Looking across the wide expanse of the Hudson River toward Dobbs Ferry.

Would a longer lens have produced more effective photos?

(I wish I’d brought my Canon 100-400mm. Maybe next time!).

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Curious Comments on my Photography.

I avoid shrouding my work in mystery and I’ve happily discussed my technique, tools and materials with anyone who asks. This can lead to some interesting conversations, but also some peculiar observations.

Over the years, various people have offered  curious comments on my photography (not including the written comments that appear in response to Tracking the Light). Below are some of the most memorable:

1) Commenter, “I like your slides, what sort of film do you use to make the photos?”

Me, “Kodachrome 25”.

Commenter, “Kodachrome 25! Isn’t that too slow?!”

 

2) Commenter, “That’s a beautiful scene but I didn’t think it would make a good photograph.”

 

3) Commenter, “Here’s a tip for you son, your photos are too head on, I couldn’t read the words on the side of the trains.”

 

4) Commenter, “I like your photo of the sunset, if I want to make a photo like that, which filter should I use?”

Me, “I don’t know, I didn’t use a filter.”

Commenter, “Yes, but if I was to used a filter, which one should I use?”

 

5) Commenter (via a 3rd party), “I don’t like Brian Solomon’s photography, it shows too many trees!”

 

6) Commenter, “You shouldn’t be making photos at night, it’s a waste of film!”

 

7) Commenter, “You still use film?!!”

 

8) Commenter, “So how are you adjusting from the transition to digital?”

Me, “I still haven’t adjusted from the transition to color.”

 

9) Commenter in regards to my Lumix LX3, “I can’t believe that YOU use THAT!”

 

10) Commenter in regards to a photo of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited in the Berkshires, “That’s a beautiful photograph, pity about the train.”

I made this image of a Southern Pacific eastward intermodal freight from the Book Cliffs in Utah near Floy back in 1996 when I was Editor of Pacific RailNews. At the time I worked with Nikons and exposed this view on Fujichrome. You can see a row of trees way in the distance along the Green River.

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Slug-Set on the Connecticut River Bridge

Call this one Telephoto and Wideangle contrasts.

In October I called up to one of my favorite places and made these two views of the GATX slug-set that Pan Am Railways uses to work the East Deefield hump.

During the course of its duties the East Deerfield hump engine routinely pulls cuts of freight cars out onto the Connecticut River Bridge, which makes for ample opportunity to expose photographs.

Sometimes one view doesn’t give you the full picture.

I like the old bridge in this bucolic setting, and this also a great place to picture equipment. I’ve photographed dozens of trains here over years.

One view was exposed with my 12mm Zeiss Touit (wide angle) lens; the other with my Fujinon 90mm telephoto. The wideangle view takes in the scene; the telephoto photo focuses more tightly on the locomotive. By presenting both you get a more complete picture.


In this 12mm wide angle view, notice how the effect of soft sunlight on the bridge helps direct your eye to the locomotive.
On my FujiFilm XT1, the 90mm lens approximates the angle of view offered by a 135mm lens on a traditional full-frame 35mm film camera.

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November 2017 TRAINS Magazine Features my Column on Photography

The November 2017 issue of Trains Magazine, pages 16 and 17, features my column with suggestions for improving your photography.

I offer some simple and obvious suggestions, but more importantly I challenge some common assumptions and provide some valuable counter-intuitive advice.

The nice thing about advice is that if you don’t like it, you can ignore it.

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Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering the photograph used to illustrate the article was exposed with my FujiFilm XT1 with the Zeiss 12mm lens often mentioned in this blog.

Sunburst on the Boston & Maine.

Alternatively, I could call this Tracking the Light post, ‘28N at Millers Falls.’

Whichever you like.

So what do you do in a situation where a train is coming directly out of the midday sun?

You could

1) give up.

2) go for a sandwich.

3) take up plane spotting.

4) all of the above.

Or you can try something different.

The other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts I exposed these views looking timetable west on the old Boston & Maine. Train 28N is an eastward autorack destined for Ayer, Massachusetts.

Using a super wide-angle 12mm Zeiss Touit, I set the aperture to the smallest setting (f22), which produces a sunburst effect. To make the most of this effect, I positioned an autumn branch between the camera and the sun.

12mm Zeiss Touit, ISO 800, f22 at 1/125th of a second.

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Pan Am Southern at Buckland—Pick the best of three Photographs.

Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.

The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.

The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.

Telephoto view made digitally with a FujiFilm XT.
Wide-angle view exposed on black & white film.
No locomotive in this black & white photo. Is it always important to feature the locomotives?

I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?

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Irish Rail 202! Hooray!

What? you say.

It’s the elusive 202, found lurking in my archives!

Here’s the backstory: In the dozen or so years between 1998 and when Irish Rail withdrew and stored a portion of its relatively modern EMD-built 201-class locomotives (numbers 201-205, 210-214), I spent a lot of time wandering the system making photos.

I have many hundreds of photos of the 201s in action, hauling passenger and freight trains all over the Irish Rail network.

Some locomotives were common; I must have a hundred photos of class leader 201 on the roll. And every time I turned around, I seem to find 215 leading a train. Actually, I still do! Old 215 is among the 201-class still on the move, albeit in the modern green and silver paint instead of classic orange, yellow and black.

Of the 35 201s, I found that engine 202 was by far the most elusive. A few years ago when scouring my vast collection of more than 15,000 colour slides picturing Irish Rail, I located just three images of 202.

One was from the window of a Mark 3 carriage at Roscommon, one was an image at Limerick Junction of Bo-Bo 176 towing 202 with flat wheels up-road, and the best of the lot was a rainy day image of 202 with a Tralee-Mallow-Cork service near Rathmore, County Cork.

How 202 so thoroughly eluded me during this period baffles me.

Anyway, the other day I was scanning some previously unprinted 120-size black & white negatives, when I found this view of 202 working down-road at Kildare with Irish Rail’s Mark 2 Airbrake carriages. (Which were withdrawn from active service shortly after this photo was exposed).

Irish Rail 201-class locomotive 202 leads Mark 2 Airbrake fitted carriages and a ‘Dutch-van’ downroad at Kildare on 16 August 2002. Exposed on 120 Tri-K using a Rollie Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens. Engine 202 was distinguished from the others in its class because of the different style of type-face on the road number on the front of the locomotive. Do you have photos of 202 on the move? It still exists, stored at Inchicore with other surplus 201 class locomotives.

There are some other rare images on this roll, but this for me is the rarest!

I’ll need to locate the colour slides from that day and see what I find.

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Bright Sun on CSX at Palmer.

The other morning I noticed the points at CP83 in Palmer on CSX’s former Boston & Albany line were set for the controlled siding.

Since CSX’s local freight B740 from West Springfield, Massachusetts often arrives at Palmer in mid-Morning, I thought it was likely I could make some photos.

Bright autumn sun in this classic location made for excellent conditions.

I didn’t have to wait long at the South Main Street overpass, when I heard the short freight dropping down grade toward the Palmer diamond.

I made this sequence using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm Fujinon lens.

CSX local freight B740 takes the controlled siding at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. This will allow B740 to access the leads to Palmer yard and make its interchange.
The classic view of B740 arriving in Palmer. Trains on the controlled siding make for a more pleasing angle to photograph because they are further from south side of the cutting. October morning sun is pleasing light.
Is this view too close?
Trailing view looking toward the Palmer yard.

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East Deerfield October Sunrise—Ilford Pan F.

The other morning at Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard I met up with Tim, a fellow photographer.

He asked, ‘Are you going to take that?’—meaning the sunrise over the yard.

‘Yeah, since we’re here. Why not?’

I’ve only made countless photos of this yard in the morning, but that’s never stopped me before.

For this image, I exposed Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50) using a Leica IIIA with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. With handheld meter to gauge the lighting, I exposed this frame at f3.5 1/60th of a second.

My aim was to capture detail in the sky and allow the tracks and yard to appear as a silhouette.

East Deerfield Yard looking east at sunrise. October 2017.

I processed my film as follows: Kodak D76 mixed 1 to 1 for 6 min 30 seconds at 68F, followed by stop bath, 1st fix, 2nd fix, 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse, then 9 min selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 (one part toner to nine parts water), 3rd rinse, permawash, 4th rinse.

After scanning the negative with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner, I made a few nominal adjustments to contrast using Lightroom, while removing unwanted dust-specs.

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New England Central 611—Two Exposures.

Picking the best exposure is an important part of photography.

Today with modern metering, computer guided exposure aids (program modes) and automatic lenses, most photographers don’t spend a lot of time worrying about exposure details.

It might surprise some Tracking the Light readers that in most instances I set my exposures manually, and I only use camera metering in an advisory capacity (In other words I look at the camera meter but don’t necessarily accept its advice).

While I often use my Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode, I routinely over-ride the camera’s exposure advice using manual controls. With my FujiFilm XT1 and Canon digital cameras (and film cameras), I almost always set my exposure manually.

Last week, working with my FujiFilm XT1 I made these views of New England Central freight 611 working south of Brattleboro, Vermont. The stunning scenic setting of the Connecticut River backwater combined with dramatic morning cross-lighting and a dark background makes for an excellent illustration of a difficult lighting situation.

Here, many camera automatic modes might grossly overexpose the scene in a misguided attempt to compensate for the dark background.

I’ve metered manually and gauged exposure using the camera’s histogram (set up to show the distribution of pixels in regards to exposure.) I’ve offered two variations here, exposed 1 full stop apart.

A ‘stop’ is a standard increment of exposure. The amount of light reaching the sensor or film doubles/halves with each change of one stop. So going from an aperture setting of f4 to f5.6 (one stop) cuts the light by half. Likewise, a shutter speed change from 1/250 to 1/500 will also cut the amount of light by half.

The darker image was exposed at f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400; while the lighter image was exposed at f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400. (In other words the only the aperture setting was changed.)

FujiFilm XT-1 with 90mm lens set at: f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400
FujiFilm XT-1 with 90mm lens set at: f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400

Both exposures are acceptable, but you may have a preference for one versus the other. The photos here have not been altered for density, color balance or color temperature  in post processing; both are scaled versions of the camera produced JPGs.

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Portrait of New England Central 3476.

Last week I made this digital portrait of New England Central 3476 using my FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens.

Soft cross lighting combined with a wide aperture made for pleasing photographic conditions to picture this engine against a backdrop of  Vermont colorful autumn trees and distant New Hampshire hills.

The locomotive was working New England Central’s Brattleboro (Vermont) to Palmer (Massachusetts) turn freight, job 611, and was among many images I exposed that day.

This old EMD-built locomotive has a long history, having worked for Southern Pacific and Union Pacific before coming east to New England. I wonder if I crossed paths with it up on Donner Pass, in the Tehachapis, or on former Rio Grande lines in Colorado and Utah?

Brattleboro, Vermont.

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From my Kodachrome Archives: Genesee & Wyoming 51 at P&L Junction.

In March 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide of Genesee & Wyoming GP38 number 51 leading an empty salt train arriving at P&L Junction (P&L infers Pittsburgh & Lehigh) near Caledonia, New York.

At that time Genesee & Wyoming was a New York state short line that had just recently expanded with the creation of the Rochester & Southern to operate the former Baltimore & Ohio (nee Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg) 4th Subdivision between Rochester and East Salamanca, New York via Ashford Junction. (R&S had trackage rights on CSX from Ashford Jct. to East Salamanca).

This train was arriving from interchange with the Delaware & Hudson at Silver Springs. (D&H had trackage rights over the former Erie Railroad line to Buffalo.) It would reverse direction at P&L Junction and head southward on G&W’s own line (seen in the immediate foreground) to Retsof, where G&W served a massive salt mine.

Back then G&W 51 had no special significance, but it does for me today.

Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) exposed using a Canon A1 with 50mm lens and processed by Kodak in Rochester, New York.

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Irish Rail at Glounthaune—Two Views.

Earlier this month I made a visit to Cork to present a program on railway photography to the Irish Railway Record Society.

Honer Travers and I spent an afternoon in Glounthaune where I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens.

My film processing was very traditional: Kodak D76 (mixed 1 to 1) for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F. I agitate very gently to minimize the effect of grain.

Routine operations, such as Irish Rail’s Cork suburban trains, offer great opportunity for creative railway photography. In both of these images, I’ve worked with foreground, middle-ground and background by using shallow depth of field to create a sense of depth.

An Irish Rail 2600-series railcar works toward Glounthaune from Kent Station, Cork.
A Cork-bound railcar accelerates away from its station stop at Glounthaune.

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Sunrise on the New England Central—Working with RAW.

A side-benefit for me of transatlantic jet lag is that I’m wide awake for sunrise.

The other day, I drove to Stafford Springs, Connecticut as the sun was rising.

Typically New England Central 608 passes the village between 7 and 730 am. On this day it appeared about 724 am.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Tuoit lens, I made a series of images of the freight passing.

I carefully exposed my RAW files to retain some sky detail, intending to adjust exposure, contrast and color in post processing.

It would be fallacious to suggest that the RAW file represents reality. It doesn’t.

It is important to understand that the camera RAW file is an equivalent of a ‘negative’ in film photography. The RAW file simply represents the raw data as captured by the camera sensor. This data requires interpretation to produce an image that resembled what the human brain perceives.

I made a series of small adjustments to highlights, shadows, color temperature, and color balance, while working with masks in the sky to control detail and color.

My only regret is that my graduated neutral density filters were still packed away in my luggage, as these would have been useful in this situation by allowing for improved sky detail by effectively selective expanding the dynamic capture of the sensor.

I’ve included both the RAW file (scaled for internet) and my interpreted post-processed JPG. To give hints as to what I’ve done, I’ve also included screen shots of the Lightroom work windows.

This the uninterpreted image. It is a JPG because this necessary for internet presentation. My RAW file was about 33MB which is far too large for presentation here. Significant to my interpretation is that there is greater detail stored in the RAW file than immediately evident in its presentation on the computer screen. Specifically, there is more color and detail in the sky than displayed here.
This is a screen shot of the Lightroom work window of my RAW file. The red blotch in the sky indicates a loss of data in that area owing to over exposure.
This is my finished image following post processing in Lightroom.
Screen shot showing the alterations on the sliders in the Lightroom work window. Notice the relative placement of data in the histogram (graph at upper right).

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Rainbow with Dublin’s LUAS-3 Photos.

On 2 October 2017, I was walking the LUAS Red Line in Dublin. The sun was out but a dark cloud was fast approaching from the north.

I could I see the rain coming.

While watching the sky, I met fellow photographer Ciarán Cooney. He too was watching the lighting conditions unfold, but was heading for the tram.

He said to me, “I have bad luck with rainbows. I suppose I’ll see this on Tracking the Light!”

A minute later he boarded the LUAS tram that appears in these images.

Lumix LX7 photo, Dublin, Ireland.
A LUAS Red Line tram on Benburb Street in Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.
Less tram, more rainbow.

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Irish Rail Heuston Monochrome—September 2017.

Using my old battle-worn Nikon F3T (yeah, that one) fitted with a 1960s-era Nikkor f.14 50mm lens, I exposed a sequence of images in the evening light at Irish Rail’s Heuston Station in Dublin.

I was especially pleased with this view of one of Irish Rail’s Mark 4 sets beneath the train shed. Low light made for contrasty silhouette with lots of texture and exceptional dynamic range.

This was exposed on Kodak Tri-X (black & white negative film) using a fairly wide aperture.

During early October 2017, I processed the film using two-stage development, initially soaking the film in an extremely dilute mix of Kodak HC110 designed to begin development while allowing great shadow detail and greater overall tonality. For my primary development, I used Ilford ID11, diluted 1-1 with water for 8 minutes at 68 degree F. This was followed by a 30 second stop bath and two fixer baths, 1st rinse, hypo-clear batch, 2nd rinse, then 8 minutes in a weak bath of selenium toner (1 to 9 with water), 10 minute final rinse and drying.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner, with some very nominal final adjustment using Lightroom.

Although my digital cameras feature black & white modes, and I can easily de-saturate a digital file to make a monochrome image, I don’t feel that digital imaging would yield a completely comparable image to this one  made the old fashioned way.

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Monochrome Viaduct

Back in August (2017), I exposed this view of the old Great Northern Railways (Ireland) viaduct at Dromore, County Down using a Leica 3A with a screw mount 35mm Nikkor lens.

My film choice was Kodak Tri-X. Working with this in Dublin, I processed it in Ilford ID11 mixed 1:1 with water.

The negatives were scanned with an Epson Perfection V500 flatbed scanner, then adjusted for contrast using Lightroom and exported as a scaled JPG file.

Honer Travers brought me to the old bridge in her Volkswagen Polo.

It has been many years since the rails were lifted on this old bridge.

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Incidental Photographs from the Munster Double.

Rail tours offer the opportunity to make incidental photos of the railway.

I made these digital photos of Irish Rail while traveling on last weekend’s Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Munster Double.

Sunrise with the DART as v viewed from RPSI’s Munster Double Railtour departing Connolly Station on the morning of 14 October 2017. Lumix LX7 photo.
Irish Rail Mark4 departs Kent Station in Cork on October 17, 2017. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Kent Station, Cork. Lumix LX7 photo.
Irish Rail ICR departs Tralee on 14 October 2017. FujiFilm XT1 with 28-135mm lens.

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RPSI’s Munster Double—Retro-Orange 071s on Parade.

Saturday 14 October was a great day out; Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated its Munster Double Railtour from Connolly Station in Dublin to Cork and Tralee.

The attraction of this trip was the highly unusual multiple-unit operation of two class 071 diesels together. Both of Irish Rail’s 071s in heritage paint were selected for the trip, which was an added bonus for photographers.

Honer Travers and I joined the trip at Connolly Station and during the course of the day I made dozens of digital images. Below is just a small section.

Connolly Station, Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.
Connolly Station, Dublin. Lumix LX7 photo.
Island bridge Junction, Dublin, looking toward the famous ‘box’ along the St. John’s Road where many of my sunny day photos are made. Lumix LX7 photo.
Kent Station, Cork. FujiFIlm XT1 with 28-135mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Mallow, County Cork. Lumix LX7 photo.
Mallow, County Cork. Lumix LX7 photo.
Mallow, County Cork. Lumix LX7 photo.
Irish Rail 073 detailed view at Killarney.
Killarney. County Kerry. Lumix LX7 photo.
Tralee. FujiFilm XT1 with 28-135mm lens.
Tralee. FujiFilm XT1 with 28-135mm lens.
Tralee. FujiFilm XT1 with 28-135mm lens.
Tralee. Lumix LX7 photo.
Tralee. FujiFilm XT1 with 28-135mm lens.
Paused at a red signal in Killarney, Lumix LX7 photo.
Connolly Station in the evening. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tomorrow I’ll focus on the passengers and people participating in operations.

 

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Revisiting the Rail Confluence at Rome’s Porta Maggiore.

Back in April (2017), on the advice of Stephen Hirsch I visited the tram junction at Porta Maggiore in Rome, and those photos appeared in an earlier Tracking the Light post.

On my recent trip to Rome with Honer Travers in September we revisited this interesting location where several tram routes cross against the backdrop of a 3rd century Roman Wall and the Porta Maggiore city gate.

For added interest, the approach to Rome Termini runs on the east side of the wall and there’s a constant parade of Trenitalia passenger trains.

I like to use the Roman Wall as a frame.

Lumix LX7 photo. Note the FS train on the far side of the arches.
An out of service tram glides along the wall.
That’s the Porta Maggiore (old city gate) behind the tram.
A few  of the older trams still feature this unusual style of pantograph.
A vestige of a narrow gauge interurban line runs through the wall at Porta Maggiore.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX7 digital camera, but also exposed a few colour sldies.

The tram junction sits in the middle of a roundabout (traffic circle) with some of the most irrational driving I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the road chaos, we were able to nip across the street for a gelato (ice cream).

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Irish Rail 080 Works the Scheduled Dublin-Tralee Passenger at Limerick Junction.

Today, 14 October 2017, is the date of the long anticipated Munster Double tour (operated by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Rail), so I thought I’d run these images from 2006 when I photographed Irish Rail 080 working a Dublin-Tralee passenger train passing Limerick Junction.

On Friday, 13 January 2006, David Hegarty and I had been photographing Irish Rail’s sugar beet trains. Toward the end of the daylight we found ourselves at Limerick Junction in time to catch the Friday only ‘down Kerry’ that was still regularly worked with steam-heated Cravens carriages.

At the time, the new Mark4 trains were still being tested and hadn’t yet entered regular traffic.

Exposed on Fujichrome slide film using a Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor lens.
Exposed on Fujichrome slide film using a Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor lens.

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