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.
At Conway Scenic Railroad, we call the stretch of line on the Conway Branch running up to our yard at North Conway, ‘the Hill’. This uses a prolonged man-made fill to lift the railroad to its necessary elevation to serve the town. It is the steepest grade on the railroad.
Yesterday, July 30, 2020, I opted to work with my Canon EOS 7D with 100-400 lens to catch former Maine Central 252 on its northward run with the second Conway Valley train. This engine will soon be reassigned.
I hadn’t used this camera in almost a year. When I went to download the files to my laptop, I realized—to my disgust—that I’d left all the cables and card readers specific to the 7D, elsewhere!
The Canon 7D uses the larger ‘CF Card’ (compact flash card) rather than the now standard smaller size ‘SD Card’. I went to Staples hoping to buy another card reader. But when I asked if the carried a ‘CF Card reader’ all I got was a blank stare and ‘A what?’ After five minutes of explaining and describing the device I concluded I was wasting my time and theirs.
While I’ve ordered a card reader from B&H Photo in New York, that won’t arrive until next week. In the meantime Kris Sabbatino came to my rescue. Among her collection of card readers and accessories, she found an old USB2 ‘All-in-1 Card Reader’ and this did the trick!
On this day four years ago, I re-visited the former Southern Pacific crossing the Tehachapi mountains.
At Walong, popularly described as the ‘Tehachapi Loop’—where in the 1870s SP’s chief engineer William Hood applied this spiral arrangement to gain elevation while maintaining a steady gradient—I photographed this BNSF eastward intermodal train. (train direction is by timetable, not the compass.)
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm Fujinon zoom, I made this photograph with the lens set to 21.6mm in order to take in most of the helical track arrangement. Exposure was f8 at 1/500 of a second at 200 ISO.
The other evening, Kris Sabbatino and I stopped at the old Maine Central station at Crawford, New Hampshire shortly after moonrise to make night photos of the station.
I mounted my Lumix LX7 on a heavy Bogan tripod and set the ISO to 200. Working in manual mode, I set the camera to between 40 and 80 seconds and tripped the shutter manually (without using the self timer).
Working with the RAW files in Lightroom, I made slight adjustments to highlights and shadows.
Catching the stars in the night sky has always been a favorite effect of mine. I first tried this back in 1977 in my back yard in Monson, Massachusetts.
On July 3, 2020, Conway Scenic sent engine 216 out on the Redstone Branch to collect a Boston & Maine boxcar I’d been using for advertising.
I documented the move with digital photos, as previously presented, and also on film.
For these images, I worked with a Nikon F3 with f2.5 Nikkor 105mm lens and Fomapan Classic 100 black & white film. I first sampled Fomapan on a trip to the Czech Republic in 2016.
Operating 216 was Adam, a Conway Scenic engineer trainee.
I processed the film using customized split-development that begins with a very dilute solution of HC110 with PhotoFlo as a presoak followed by primary development with Ilford ID11. After processing, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner then imported the scans into Lightroom for final adjustment and scaling for presentation.
On September 10, 1996, I was driving east from Denver to Council Bluffs. Near Kearney, Nebraska, I was following the Union Pacific main line on a secondary road, where I made this panned photo of a westward UP freight train led by SD40-2 1996 specially painted for the 1996 Olympic games.
Working with my Nikon F2 fitted with a 200mm lens and loaded with Kodachrome 200, I panned the unusually painted locomotive to capture the sense of motion.
I’ve always found this photograph unfortunate because: 1) the doors were open on the side of the engine thus spoiling my view of the special paint livery. 2) the distant hill makes for a visually disruptive intersection near the front of the engine just over the top of the short hood.
In retrospect, I’m happy to have the photo, I just wish my execution had been better.
On the afternoon of July 24, 2015, my Finnish friends, Markku, Petri, Pietu and I waited at this rural grade crossing east of Kontiomaki, Finland for a diesel powered long distance local freight.
It was warm and quiet. For me it had an edge of the world quality.
Finally after a while we could hear the diesel approaching.
This was a VR Class Dr16 leading symbol freight T4077 from Joensuu in south eastern Finland.
I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. I had been playing with the camera’s presets, and made an image of the grade crossing using a monochrome setting. Although I was exposing some Fuji Provia 100F, I didn’t use any black & white film at this location.
The other day I was scanning some vintage Guilford photos from my 1980s and 1990s file.
This photo came up in the rotation.
Photographer Mike Gardner and I had spent a productive May 1997 day photographing Guilford trains on former Boston & Maine lines.
Toward the end of the day, we caught EDLA (East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts) working eastbound upgrade near Farley, Massachusetts (east of Millers Falls).
I was working with my N90S fitted with an 80-200 Nikon zoom.
I remember the day well! But when I scanned the slide, I had an unexpected surprise.
Initially, when I saw the lead locomotive, I thought it was Guilford’s 352, a GP40 that has often worked out of East Deerfield Yard. It was only on second inspection that I notice what this engine’s true identity . . .
It was 252! Former Maine Central 252. In other words, Conway Scenic’s locomotive which I see everyday and have hundreds of photos working in New Hampshire.
Wow, that’s kind of cool, to suddenly find a vintage photo I made of this now familiar GP38, back when it was a common freight hauler and not a darling of the tourist trade.
Back on April 3, 2020, I exposed a handful of photographs on Kodak Tri-X (ISO 400) at the old Grand Trunk Railway station in Gorham, New Hampshire.
This was on a photo adventure in the White Mountains with Kris Sabbatino.
Last month I processed the film using specially tailored split development by first soaking the film in a very dilute HC110 solution, then using a more active solution of ID11. After stop, and dual fixing baths, I washed the film, rinsed in permawash, and washed for a full ten minutes before toning the still wet negatives in a selenium solution for 7 minutes. After rewashing, and drying, I cut the negatives and stored them in archival polypropylene sleeves.
Yesterday, I scanned them using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson software.
During the last week, Maine Central GP38 252 has been working Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley trains that run daily from North Conway railroad east to Conway and North Conway railroad west to Bartlett.
While 252 is more than capable of working these trains, it is typically been assigned to the run to Crawford Notch.
I took the opportunity to make photos of 252 working the 1910-1920s-era heavy steel cars that comprise our Valley train set.
These photos were made using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.