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.

Erie Heritage—Port Jervis, New York.

As a fan of the Erie, I’m drawn to Port Jervis out of curiosity.

Historically this was an important place on the old Erie Railroad. The Erie passed into history years ago, and now Port Jervis is little more than a minor commuter train terminal.

Today, it’s Erie heritage is honored at several locations in the town.

The old turntable west of the Metro-North station was restored in the 1990s. Former Erie E8A locomotive 833 is displayed in Erie paint on the table, with a former Delaware & Hudson RS-3 in a near-Erie livery (lettered for owner New York & Greenwood Lakes) rests nearby.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7. Not the nicest morning, but the wet dreary condition seem to suit the old Erie.
Photo exposed using a Lumix LX7 as a RAW file. I made several adjustments to exposure, contrast and color temperature to improve the overall appearance of the photo.
Not an Erie locomotive, although the Erie had plenty of similar Alco road switcher and these would have been common at Port Jervis in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Several blocks away is the restored Erie Depot and a nearby business styled as the Erie Hotel [http://theeriehotel.com/hotel] that boasts historic links with to Erie passenger travel.

I visited Port Jervis the other day and made these digital photos with my Lumix LX7.

I also a exposed a few color slides and some black & white film (pending processing).

Tracking the Light posts daily.

Unexpected Results: My Third Experiment with Retropan.

It was a misty January day. I thought, what better time to expose another roll of Foma Retropan 320 black & white film!

I was working with four cameras that day, so these images were just a small portion of my day’s results, but for me by far the most interesting. I was feeling nostalgic and the atmosphere of the moment seemed to lend itself to classic black & white.

The day after I exposed my film, I processed it. Where previously, I’d hand processed Retropan in Paterson tanks, for this roll I used the Jobo (a semi-automatic processing machine).

The Jobo eases processing by keeping all chemistry at a consistent temperature, taking care of agitation by continuously rotating the processing-drum, while simplifying pouring the chemicals in and out of the drum. Also, it makes more efficient use of the chemistry.

With the hand-processed rolls, I had used Retro Special Developer straight (undiluted stock solution) with a 3 minutes 30 second development time. Prior to introducing the primary developer, I pre-soaked in a water bath with a drop of HC110.

For the Jobo-processed roll, I diluted Retro Special Developer 1:1 with water and increased the time to 4 minutes. I also had a pre-bath with a drop of HC110, but like the main developer, this was agitated continuously.

My results were not as I expected.

Misty tracks on the old Rutland near Arlington, Vermont. Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.8 105mm lens.

My earlier experiments with Retropan demonstrated a fine grain film with broad tonality. But this roll had much coarser grain, and yet even smoother tones. At first, I was shocked by the more intensive grain, but in retrospect I’ve decided it adds a quality to the photos that I may not have obtained through other media.

Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.
Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.
Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.
Exposed on Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.

For my next experiments, I’ll return to hand-processing and I may skip the presoak bath with HC110.

Tracking the Light examines photography daily

 

 

 

Irish Rail’s Friday Glint.

Sometimes I take a haphazard approach to photography; I explore and see what I find, then run with what is handed to me. This works well some of the time.

However, I often take a more calculated approach, paying careful advanced attention to weather, lighting and train schedules/operating patterns. Obviously, this works best on railways that make an effort to operate to the schedule.

Back in autumn 2006, fellow photographer David Hegarty and I made several focused trips to Co. Mayo to photograph the Westport Line and Ballina Branch.

On Friday’s the once per week Dublin Heuston to Ballina direct passenger train was scheduled to cross the evening Westport-Dublin daily passenger at Ballyhaunis (one station east of Claremorris.) This meant that the cabin had to be staffed to work signals, points, Electric Train Staff instruments, etc.

I think we made three Friday evening visits before getting it right.

Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 using a Canon EOS 3 with 200mm lens. To minimize flare, I used my handheld notebook to shade the front element of the lens. If there was  one practical lesson from this exercise, that’s it!

On September 15, 2006, I exposed this trailing glint view of the down Friday Ballina train with a class 071 diesel and Mark 2 carriages meeting a class 201 locomotive leading Mark 3s on the up train to Dublin.

Soon all was to change. The signals were replaced with mini-CTC, the Mark 2s were retired, soon followed by the Mark 3s, and as a result the 071s relegated to freight/per way work.

Yet at the time the most difficult part of this photograph was the lighting! Finding a clear afternoon in Mayo isn’t an easy task.

Special thanks to Noel Enright for arranging for the sun to come out at the right moment.

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Battenkill Railroad Vignettes.

New York State’s Battenkill Railroad is a throwback to another time. It is best known for its ancient Alco RS-3 diesels, a once common model, now virtually extinct.

However, the railway’s rustic charm comes from its old stations, rolling jointed rail, and old-school agricultural landscapes.

Last week, Mike Gardner and I explored the line, working north from the interchange at Eagle Bridge.

In the foreground are Battenkill’s tracks at Eagle Bridge, New York, while Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine tracks and signals are at the next crossing.
Shushan, New York.
Beaded grade crossing signs, once standard, are now relics.
Lonely tracks that only see one or two trains a week.
This old Alco is still lettered fro Battenkill’s predecessor, Greenwich & Johnsonville.
I’ve panned this Alco RS-3 to convey a sense of motion.

I made these views with my Nikon F3 on Ilford HP5 black & white film. Railroads like this are rare in 2017. I wonder how much longer it will survive in its present condition?

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Why Black & White Photography?

Some readers might wonder why I persist with traditional black & white photography, when modern digital imaging is easier and doesn’t involve all that messing about with chemistry.

Detailed view of an old plow. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikon F3 fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens. Lens set at f1.8 for minimum depth of field.
My old Nikons were paid for many years ago. The cost of a roll of HP5 is about $6, and the processing costs are pennies per frame. True, my labor costs are much greater per image, but I feel the results justify the effort. (An yes, I also made a digital photograph of this scene).

The reasons are simple:

I like tradition. I’ve always made black & white photos and processed my own film. While there have been gaps in my black & white work (usually owing to a lack of adequate facilities), I like the continuity by occasionally working with a consistent medium.

My black & white efforts can achieve desired results that may not be equivalent to images made digitally.

Because traditional black & white photography is more difficult, I feel it hones my image making skills.

I process my negatives in an archival fashion and I scan them digitally. This leaves me with greater chances that the images will survive for generations than images strictly stored on ephemeral digital media.

Some years ago, someone asked me if I had adjusted to the switch to digital photography. I said, “I still haven’t adjusted to the switch to color!”

However, just because I continue with the time-honored tradition of black & white photography, doesn’t prevent me from also working digitally.

As regular viewers know, I routinely expose, present (and occasionally publish) modern digital images. In fact I find that two types of photography complement each other nicely.

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Lord Byron at Grand Narrows, Nova Scotia.

‘Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright.’

Profound words for a man who never gazed upon, let alone exposed a photograph.

Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia locomotive 2032 Lord Byron leads freight 306 in July 1997. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon N90S with 80-200mm Nikkor zoom lens.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film.

This is a follow up to my Tracking the Light post of January 11, 2017, which displayed the results of my first roll of Foma Retropan.

For my second roll, I focused on a variety of railway subjects, aiming to see how this film would perform. This one was exposed using a Nikon F3 with various Nikkor lenses, exposure calculated manually with the aid of a handheld light meter.

I made these images in parallel with digital images exposed with my other cameras.

As with the first roll, I exposed the Retropan at ISO 320 and processed it more or less as recommended by Foma.

A view of Girard and Broad in Philadelphia, exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.
A retro streetcar as seen exposed on Retropan 320. Philadelphia’s Route 15 PCC glides along Girard Avenue. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens. 1/60th of a second.
Another view of a SEPTA PCC car on Girard Avenue, Philadelphia. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.
A pan with Retropan!
A SEPTA Silverliner IV approaches Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.
Hard glint at New Brunswick, New Jersey. A Washington DC-bound Acela train zips along at speed. Notice how the film reacts to the tremendous contrast between highlights and shadows. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 135mm f2.8 telephoto lens.
Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 135mm f2.8 telephoto lens.

Again, for this roll I used the Retro Special Developer with shortened the processing time (I opted for 3 minutes 30 seconds plus a pre-soaked in a water bath with a drop of HC110.

Overall, I was pleased with the tonality and tight grain structure. The film has a softer look than other fast black & white films, such as Ilford’s HP5, and a broad tonal range that holds highlight and shadow detail very well.

I scanned the negatives with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. These images are essentially unmodified scans, except for necessary scale reduction for internet presentation plus addition of my watermark. I did not alter contrast, exposure, tonality, or perform sharpening.

This test went so well, for my next experiment, I decided to significantly alter my processing of the film. Stay tuned for my bold experiment with Retropan Roll 3! (Sometimes changes produce unexpected consequences).

Tracking the Light explores photography daily.

 

On this Day; Locomotive 4876 and the Anniversary of the Washington Terminal Crash

January 15th is the anniversary of the 1953 Washington Union Terminal crash, when Pennsylvania Railroad’s Federal Express led by GG1 4876 lost its airbrakes and  careened into the lobby of the station.

This spectacular train wreck, on the eve of Eisenhower’s inauguration, made headlines in every major newspaper across the country.

Thirty four years ago, GG1 4876—then operated by NJ Transit remained in daily service and routinely worked New York & Long Branch trains between Penn Station and South Amboy, New Jersey .

My father and I intercepted this infamous electric on various occasions in its final years of service.

Here are few 4876 views from my lost negative file; They were exposed in June 1983 with my battle-worn Leica IIIA from my High School days. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using  Kodak Microdol-X.

GG1 electric 4876 in June 1983.
GG1 electric 4876 in June 1983.

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NJ Transit with Soft Glint—a Lesson in Light

Air pollution, fluffy clouds and very low sun can create some wonderful soft lighting.

Evening glint is a fleeting ephemeral condition.

The Northeast Corridor in central New Jersey is an ideal place to make use of soft glint.

Long tangent sections of track, a favorable north-east to southwest alignment and ample quantities of air-pollution plus very frequent service, allow for excellent opportunities as the light shifts and fades.

I made these photographs at Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick.

Exposed using anFujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens. Camera set at ISO 1000, 1/180 of a second at f7.1. Here I’ve set the white balance to ‘auto’, however typically I recommend that for glint photography a white balance setting for ‘daylight’ will yield redder more impressive photos.
ISO 1250, f5.6 1/250th using the Fujifilm ‘Velvia’ color profile, with white balance set to ‘auto’.

Getting the exposure right is crucial for successful glint photos.

I usually use manual settings. I’ve found that when exposing for glint light it is important pay careful attention to the highlight  and shadow areas.

I avoid clipping the highlights (as result of over exposure), but also make sure that I don’t stop down (reducing the amount of light reaching the sensor ) too much, which will make the shadows completely opaque.

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New Brunswick in the Razor Shaft of Glint.

Over the shoulder light is easy to work with but doesn’t always make for the most dramatic images. When possible, I like to find dramatic lighting and to see what I can make of it.

So here we have an unusual, captivating and difficult lighting situation.

Looking down the New Brunswick, New Jersey station, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I found this brief shaft of light made by the setting winter sun.

Luckily during the few minutes where sun penetrated New Jersey’s concrete canyons we had a flurry of trains to catch the glint.

NJ Transit train 7004 has an electric at the back of the consist. I like the way a bit of reflected light catches the front of the engine.
The old Pennsylvania Railroad station at New Brunswick, New Jersey seems out of place with the modern buildings that now surround it. This view focuses on the classic architecture.
NJ Transit 3856 is bound for New York City.
Boxy double deck coaches make for an interesting composition. The stainless-steel sides catch the glint nicely.
Amtrak train 186 races eastward through New Brunswick as NJ Transist 3937 departs the outbound platform.

I made these images with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail. I made nominal adjustments to shadow and highlight contrast to improve the overall appearance of the images.

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Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Revisited: Jersey Avenue—Then and Now.

It was a warm April afternoon in 1978 when my father and I arrived at Jersey Avenue to make photos.

For me this was a thrill. The long tangent in both directions seemed to reach to the horizon, and the trains passed at tremendous speed.

It was also one of my earliest experiences working with a long telephoto lens.

Pop had fitted his 200mm Leitz Telyt with Visoflex to my Leica 3A.

The Visoflex provided me with an equivalent to an SLR (single lens reflex) arrangement for a rangefinder camera by using a mirror with prism to see through the lens.

A New York-bound Metroliner races along the old Pennsylvania Railroad at Jersey Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey. I hadn’t figured out how to focus quickly yet.
My trailing view of the Metroliner was more successful.

Where I was well used to the peculiarities of Leica’s pre-war rangefinder arrangement, using the Visoflex offered a new set of challenges, especially in regards to focusing.

Jersey Avenue April 1978: there I am age 11. Photo by Richard J. Solomon
This southward Amtrak long distance train was led by one of Amtrak’s E60 electrics. I was disappointed as I’d hoped for a GG1.
Check out all the great old streamlined cars. At the time I was so concerned about making this image, I didn’t really appreciate the details of the train.

Fast forward to December 2016. Pat Yough and I were exploring locations on Amtrak’s North East Corridor. I suggested Jersey Avenue because I was curious to see if that was where Pop and I had made those photos so many years ago. (Back in 1978, my photo notes were a bit thin).

Indeed it was. So we made a few photos from approximately the same spot before investigating other locations. Compare my December 2016 views with my much earlier attempts.

Amtrak 93 races through Jersey Avenue in December 2016.
Trailing view of Amtrak 93 at Jersey Avenue.

 

Retropan 320—My First Experiment.

Czech film manufacturer Foma introduced a new black & white film in 2015 called Retropan Soft (ISO 320).

This is advertised as a panchromatic, special negative film with ‘fine grain, good resolution and contour sharpness’. Among its features are a ‘wide range of half tones and a wide exposure latitude.

I tried my first roll in early December 2016. I have to admit that I was curious, but skeptical. Could this new b&w film change the way I approach film photography? Might it offer something decidedly different than Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5?

Working with an old Nikon F3 and 50mm lens  I wandered around Philadelphia with my brother and exposed a variety of gritty urban images that I thought might benefit from the look advertised by ‘Retropan’.

Foma recommended using their specially formulated Retro Special Developer, so I ordered some from Freestyle Photographic Supplies .

I exposed my film at ISO 320, and processed it more or less as recommended using Retro Special Developer, with two small changes:

I shortened the processing time (as I generally find that manufacturer recommended times are too long and lead to excessively dense negatives); plus I pre-soaked the film in a water bath with a drop of HC110 (as described in previous posts).

The negatives scanned  well, and I was impressed with the tonality of the photographs. I’ve included a selection below.

Please note, that although I scaled the files and inserted a watermark, I have not cropped them or manipulated contrast, exposure or sharpness. These photos are essentially un-interpreted.

Philadelphia exposed on Foma Retropan Soft and processed in Foma Retro Special Developer.
Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia.
42nd Street, Philadelphia.
Philadelphia City Hall. Philadelphia exposed on Foma Retropan Soft and processed in Foma Retro Special Developer.
Evening view from the same street corner as the daylight photo.
Low angle view of an alley.
Buying SEPTA transit tokens.

Stay tuned for my next Retropan test!

Brian Solomon presents something new on Tracking the Light every day.

 

 

Eagle Bridge, New York—120-size Views in January 2017.

The little town of Eagle Bridge is a eerily fascinating place.

Here the old Boston & Maine station survives as a relic, complete with the mast for the old train order signal.

At Eagle Bridge the Battenkill Railroad’s former Delaware & Hudson line connects with Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine route via a steeply graded junction. The old station sits between the tracks.

I made these views the other day using my Rollei Model T (with Zeiss Tessar lens) loaded with Fomapan Classic (ISO 100).

I processed the film with a Jobo processing machine and Kodak D76 (mixed 1 to 1 with water) as my primary developer. For added shadow detail, presoaked the film in water-bath mixed with a drop of Kodak HC110.

This was the first time I tried Fomapan 100 in the 120 size format (the Rollei makes 2 1/4 inch square images). These negatives demonstrate great detail, but they needed some nominal adjustment in post processing using Lightroom to manipulate contrast/exposure.

All things being equal I like my chemical process to yield negatives that don’t require post–processing adjustments. However, that level of refinement usually requires a bit of experimentation when using an unfamiliar emulsion type.

Pan Am Southern/Norfolk Southern empty auto rack train 287 was parked at Eagle Bridge. In the lead is Norfolk Souther’s Virginian Heritage locomotive.

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A Taste of Mexico on New Years Eve.

New Years Eve 2016, I was traveling with Pat Yough. We got news of a GE-built ES44AC Ferromex locomotive leading Norfolk Southern 39G (Camden, NJ to Allentown, PA) and so we went to investigate.

I made these photographs at HATCH in Pennsauken, New Jersey using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Not only were we rewarded with a Mexican locomotive in the lead, but also a rare opportunity to catch a caboose on a road freight. Not bad for the last day of 2016!

For me New Years Eve has another Mexican connection; on this day in 1979 I flew from Mexico City to New York’s Kennedy Airport on an Eastern Airlines L1011.

Things were more relaxed in those days, and I was afforded a nice forward view for part of my journey.

Ferromex 4679 leads Norfolk Southern symbol freight 39G at ‘Hatch’ in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Those are  the tracks for NJ Transit’s River Line light rail on the left. I adjusted the file in post processing to lower the contrast and improve the color.
It’s relatively rare to find a Mexican locomotive leading in New Jersey. First time I saw something like this anyway. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.
The caboose was a nice touch. NS 39G took this  only  as far as Abrahms Yard (near Norristown, PA).
Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1.
In NORAC rules a red-over-yellow aspect means Medium Approach Medium, I don’t have a rule book for NJ Transit’s Light Rail. Any clues?

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On the Roll with Norfolk Southern’s Virginian Heritage Locomotive.

Here’s another case of dumb luck. The other day, when Mike Gardner and I headed for Pan Am Southern’s Boston & Maine at East Deerfield, we had vague notions that we’d follow one of their trains.

As with many of our photographic adventures, our plan was little more than a loose agreement that we’d explore and make photos. Mike does the driving, I help with the navigation and interpreting the scanner.

I’d brought a wide selection of cameras, including two Nikon film cameras and my old Rollei Model T for black & white work.

Early in our day we bumped into some fellow photographers who tipped us off on the westward approach of empty autorack train 287 led by Norfolk Southern 1069 painted to honor the old Virginian.

The Virginian is long before my time. It was melded into Norfolk & Western 7 years before I was born. However, I was familiar with the line through my father’s color slides.

As the day unfolded we learned that we had a pair of westward trains to work with. As noted in yesterday’s post, Pan Am’s EDRJ was working with recently acquired former CSX DASH8-40Cs. Initially, it was 287 with the Virginian painted locomotive that caught our attention.

January 5, 2017 East Deerfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens. Pan Am’s EDRJ (with former CSX DASH8-40Cs) waits for auto rack 287 with NS 1069  to clear the yard before making its double.
Exposed on Fomapan 200 with a Rollei Model T. Film processed in D76.
Pacing view near Charlemont, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
To the River!
Pan Am Southern 287 passes the classic location at Zoar, Massachusetts. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.
Eagle Bridge, New York. Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

Horace Greeley’s advice played out well that day! (But we aren’t as young as we were once).

Who’s Horace Greeley? 

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Pan Am Railways’ ‘New’ DASH8-40Cs.

Back in 1989, the DASH8-40C was the latest offering from General Electric. In April that year, I photographed some glistening Conrail units at Buffalo’s Bison Yard. Some months later I was delighted to catch a freshly painted CSX DASH8-40C working on the old Baltimore & Ohio at Deshler, Ohio.

Fast forward to 2017; reports of Pan Am’s recent acquisition of 20 former CSX DASH8-40Cs has interested New England railroad observers. I’ll admit, I find it strange that these locomotives causing such a stir.

On Thursday January 5, 2017, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I visited Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard (located near Greenfield, Massachusetts).

Upon our arrival, we saw road freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) getting ready for its westward journey. In the lead was a pair of the ‘New’ DASH8-40Cs.

I learned that this was the first run of these locomotives since arriving on Pan Am a few days earlier. Not to waste an opportunity we geared up for some photography.

And, yes, among the trains we photographed that day was EDRJ (always a favorite train to catch on the scenic westend of the old Boston & Maine). We followed it all the way to Eagle Bridge, New York, ‘new’ GEs in the lead.

Below are a few of the photos I made using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. While we made the most of these old ‘new’ locomotives, in truth we probably would have photographed Pan Am’s EDRJ regardless of its motive power.

Still, I’ll be keen to see these old goats painted in Pan Am blue and white.

DASH8-40Cs glint in the morning sun at East Deerfield Yard.
EDRJ works upgrade along the Deerfield River at Zoar, Massachusetts.
EDRJ ambles along near Pownal, Vermont.
Sun and clouds color the sky near North Pownal, Vermont.

Approaching Petersburg Junction near the New York-Vermont state line.

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Fast 90—First Photos.

What better way to get a fresh view than to play with a new lens?

I’ve been working with my FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera for nearly two years and it has proven to be an excellent tool.

The other day I visited Allen’s Camera in Levittown, Pennsylvania where I bought a Fujinon f2.0 90mm lens. I call this my ‘fast 90’ because of its relatively large aperture size for its length.

In the early 1990s, I routinely worked with a Nikon f1.8 105mm lens, and made thousands of Kodachrome slides with it.

Among the advantages of a ‘fast lens’ is the ability to work with shorter shutter speeds.

Where my 18-135mm zoom lens has a maximum aperture of f5.6, the ‘Fast 90’ is a full three stops faster. The difference is f5.6 at 1/125 versus f2.0 at 1/1000 working at ISO 200 on an overcast morning

Exposed at 1/1000 of a second.
Another advantage of a fast telephoto lens is the ability to use selective focus.
I’ve found selective focus exceptionally useful as a means for subtly guiding the eye through a complex composition.

I made this selection of images on the morning I bought the lens. Stayed tuned for more results later!

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Central Vermont RS-11s on this Day in 1983.

Someone in the administration office at Monson High School may have noted my absence.

But the freshly fallen snow and Alco RS-11s working the road freight to New London distracted me. Really now, I think that making this sequence of photographs was more important than sitting around in some old classroom.

On January 5, 1983, CV RS-11s  work a southward freight at Chestnut Street in Monson, Massachusetts. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar.
Look! A school bus. Ha!

Now, 34 years later I still don’t think I was wrong. Do you?

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Brian Solomon’s Silver & Steel Photo Exhibit January 2017

During January 2017, I’ll have an exhibit of railway photography at the Valley Photo Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. The show will run from January 3 to January 28th in the Tower Square mall (formerly Bay State West) in downtown Springfield. The address is: 1500 Main St, Springfield, MA 01103, USA

The exhibit will feature photographs spanning two decades from the late 1980s to 2008, and depict trains in a variety of settings.

Conrail double-stack container train crosses the Starrucca Viaduct on the former Erie Railroad at Lanesboro, Pennsylvania in Spring 1989. Exposed with a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron lens on Kodachrome 25.
Among the large photographs display is this view of a southward Central Vermont freight crossing the Connecticut River. I exposed it using my Nikon F3T with 28mm lens on Kodachrome 25. A version of this image appeared in Trains Magazine 19 years ago.

Among my underlying themes are scale and environment. Consider the contrast between the view of a light rail tram crossing the Danube in Budapest and the very large print of a freight car wheel in West Virginia.

Highlights include a Conrail stack train crossing Pennsylvania’s Starrucca Viaduct, and Union Pacific freight rolling through California’s Feather River Canyon at the North Fork Bridge.

This is a rare opportunity to buy my framed photography. All prints displayed are available for purchase.

A reception will be held on the evening of Friday, January 27, 2017 between 5:30 and 8:00pm. I’ll be there to give a live slide show (with real 35mm color slides!) Refreshments will be served.

This reception is scheduled to coincide with the Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, just across the Connecticut River.

I hope to see you there on the 27th!

For more information: valleyphotocenterma@gmail.com

Philadelphia’s 2017 Mummers Parade.

On January 1, 2017, I exposed these photos along Philadelphia’s Broad Street of the annual Mummers parade.

Using my LX7, I set the camera in ‘A’-mode (aperture priority), which allows me to set the aperture while the camera adjusts the shutter speed.

I’ve found that to capture the spirit of a parade, using a slow shutter speed and panning puts the players in motion.

Panning also sets off the parade participants from the urban background and helps reduce the visual complexity of the environment to make for more dramatic images.

Below are a selection taken from some 500 digital images exposed on New Years Day.

Tracking the Light is Daily.

Lumix Sunset; SEPTA on Girard Avenue—December 28, 2016.

The other day my brother and I drove along Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue on the way back from an errand.

This gave me the opportunity to make a few photographs along the way.

I had two cameras to play with. A Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic, and my Lumix LX7.

Inspired by my monochrome successes earlier this month, photographer Mike Gardner had encouraged me to make more Philly streetcar photos using black & white film, and so that’s what I did.

But, as you read this the images on film are still latent. As I worked the F3, I also popped off a few digital photos with the LX7. While anticipating the black & white, we can enjoy the digital images.

Not only does the LX7 produce instant results, but it’s a flexible tool with a very sharp lens.

Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.
Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.
Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.
Digital RAW file adjusted using Lightroom to improve exposure, contrast and color.

Film versus digital? How about having your cake and eating it too?

 

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Looking Across the Hudson.

 

My FujiFilm XT-1 has an adjustable rear screen that allows me to hold the camera very low. The heads up display includes a line-level and exposure information that greatly aid in making action photos from a low angle.

I made these images of a southward Amtrak train near Manitou, New York from Mine Dock Park on the far side of the Hudson River (near Fort Montgomery).


Keeping the camera low to the water offers a more dramatic perspective.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

 

Garrison, New York—When a Station isn’t.

By classic definition a Railroad station is the designated place where the railroad conducts its business. It may, or may not involve a structure.

Too often the station-building is confused for the station itself.

This may seem pedantic, but it leads to both linguistic problems and logistical complications.

Take the old New York Central station building at Garrison, New York. It’s now been repurposed as the Philipstown Depot Theatre. It still looks like a railroad station, but it isn’t one any more.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera on December 27, 2016. File adjusted for contrast and exposure to improve sky detail and overall mood..

The ‘Tickets’ sign is misleading. I don’t think you’ll be able to purchase a round trip to Grand Central Terminal here!

Today’s Metro-North Garrison station is nearby; this is a modern facility with an ugly overhead footbridge and high-level platforms. The old building is fenced off from the tracks with no access to the line.

A Poughkeepsie-bound Metro-North train accelerates away from its station stop at Garrison, New York. The current ‘station’ is located south of the historic station building.

Check out my book: Railway Depots, Stations and Terminals published by Voyageur Press.

Read a review of the book by clicking here: https://westernsreboot.com/2015/10/09/train-stations-celebrated-in-new-book/

I made these views using my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Amtrak on the Hudson—Looking like a Model Railway.

I made this view the other day at Garrison, New York on the old New York Central Hudson Division.

The combination of my elevated angle, soft lighting, unusual track arrangement with a short tunnel, plus a clean Amtrak Genesis dual-mode locomotive make this scene look like a well-executed model railway.

Amtrak 710 leads Empire Service train 236 from Albany-Rensselaer at Garrison, New York on the morning of December 27, 2016. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

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Boston & Maine, Brattleboro, on this day 31 Years Ago.

My Leica was loaded with Kodachrome 64 on December 28, 1985. I was traveling with Brandon Delaney. First we photographed Boston & Maine local freight ED-4, seen here just north of the Brattleboro yard.

31 years ago today; December 28, 1985.

Later in the day we caught road freight CPED coming down from it’s interchange with Canadian Pacific. This was a big freight led by 5 or 6 GPs and we followed it all the way to East Deerfield yard.

K64 was an excellent film, but tended to have a magenta bias, as evident in this wintery view. Also, I found that the sky tended to reproduce a bit lighter than other films. By mid-1986, I’d largely switched to K25 for my color work.

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Southern Pacific Reflections, Redding, California.

In May 1992, I was on my way back to San Francisco from a visit to Southern Pacific’s Siskiyou Line. I stopped at SP’s Redding Station and made this afternoon image of a locomotive reflecting in the window.

Someday, someone might want to know what the Pacific Bell shelter was for, and wonder about the curious device positioned within!

Notice that I carefully included the station name in the view.

I exposed this on Kodachrome 25, which was a good film for daylight scenes but tended to do a poor job of rendering shadows. Yet, because the shadow areas under the station canopy are a bit dark this effect helps emphasize daylight on the locomotive reflected in the glass.

Pay close attention to the effect of color balance on this scene. Subtle changes in color can alter the way we see an image and affect the emphasis. In this view my careful use of lighting and focus keeps the eye trained on the main subject, while allowing other elements to remain prominent. What is more interesting? SP’s GP38-2 or the push-button telephone?

How would I make this photo digitally? First of all, I’d preset the white balance to ‘daylight’ rather than use the automatic setting. This would give the shadow areas a slight bluish tint, while maintaining more natural colors in the reflection.

Secondly, I’d set the exposure manually, and pay careful attention to the density of window reflection, while allowing the rest of the scene to go a bit dark (about ½ half stop).

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CSX Rolling West after Sunrise.

Over the last 39 years I’ve exposed countless hundreds of photos of trains rolling through Palmer, Massachusetts. But that’s not stopped me from continuing the exercise.

Friday, December 23, 2016, I was at CP83 near the Steaming Tender restaurant, when the signals lit up: high green on the mainline for a westward move. That was my cue to get ready.

The previous day I’d gone fishing through the camera cabinet and found an old Nikkormat FT. Perfect! I loaded this up with some HP5 and set out making photos old school. It had been 20 years since I last worked with Nikkormat. I fitted it with a vintage Nikkor 24mm lens.

With this antique in hand I set up a shot by the old Palmer Union Station (Steaming Tender) using the building to partly shade the rising sun. I’d misplaced my handheld lightmeter, so I used my Lumix LX7 to help gauge the exposure.

This was a tricky, I wanted the sun light to be set apart from the skylight and normally this requires a bit of underexposure. But I didn’t want the front of the locomotives to become completely opaque. Ideally, I’d want there to be some detail in the shadows.

As the headlight of a westward freight appeared to east I was still dithering over my exposure. Ultimately I settled on f11 1/500th of a second.

CSX symbol freight Q427 rolls through Palmer on the morning of December 23, 2016. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikkormat FT and 24mm lens. Notice how I’m just letting the sun peak past the station building. A small aperture (f11) aids with the starburst lighting.
I’ve always like the glint effect, and so I made this view of the second locomotive as it rolled by at 30mph. I realize that photographing the second locomotive at speed is a non-standard approach, but it makes for a nice image, does it not?

The trick to bring up the shadow detail was more a result of my processing technique. I needed to retain enough detail in the negative to work with, but once that was established on site, the rest of the work was with the chemistry.

I’ve described this a few times in recent months, but I’ll mention it again:

Before the main process, I prepare a ‘pre-soak’. In this case, I used a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with continuously reversing agitation.

My ‘presoak’ bath consisted of about 200ml of water at 74 degrees F (pardon my mixing of measurement standards) with a drop of Kodak HC110 (about 2-3 ml of developer solution), plus some Kodak Photoflo.

I let film presoak for about 3-4 minutes. Long enough to let the emulsion swell and for the minimal quantity of developer to become completely exhausted. This has the effect giving the shadow areas proportional more development than the highlights, while getting the processing reaction going.

For my main developer, I used Kodak D76 mixed 1-1 with water at 69F for 9 minutes. (This is less than the recommended time of about 11 minutes).

Afterwards I scanned the film using an Epson V750 at 4800 dpi. The photos presented here are scaled in Lightroom from my hi-res files.

A cropped detailed view of the front of the leading locomotive. This view is intended to show that there is reasonable detail in the shadow areas. If I want to I can enhance the shadow contrast in post processing.

No good? Don’t like it? No problem, I can go back and try it all over again!

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EXTRA: My Author’s Advance Copy of February 2017 Trains Magazine Just Arrived.

A little while ago, I was thrilled to receive my advance copy of the February 2017 Trains Magazine that features my first monthly column (see pages 18 and 19). This is illustrated by a photograph my father exposed with his Leica M on Ektachrome in Livingston, Montana.

Today has been a busy day; earlier Jerry Puffer of KSEM radio in Montana sent me a link to his review of my book A Field Guide to Trains; Locomotives and Rolling Stock published this year by Voyageur Press. Check it out at:

http://ksenam.com/take-r-mayors-advice/

The book is available through Amazon see: https://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Trains-Locomotives-Voyageur/dp/0760349975

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Providence & Worcester SD70M-2s lead an Empty Ethanol—Monson, Massachusetts.

Yesterday (December 23, 2016) dawned clear and bright. Everything fell into place nicely, and without too much effort on my part, I made some nice photos of a New England Central (NECR) empty ethanol extra rolling through Monson.

Lately it seems that the elusive loaded ethanol trains tend to reach Stateline Hill in darkness. Over the last few weeks I’ve heard a number of these heavy trains laboring up the grade.

So, I was happy to catch this move. Not only was it the longest train I’ve photographed on the NECR in Monson, but it was my first time catching Providence & Worcester’s relatively new SD70M-2s.

Providence & Worcester EMD-built SD70M-2 4302 leads an empty ethanol extra at Washington Street in Monson. It was here in June 2011 that a tornado swept through the town destroying dozens of buildings and thousands of trees—an event that made international news. I made this  image using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens. Later, I made minor adjustments in post processing to lighten the shadows.

Now that P&W and New England Central are both part of the Genesee & Wyoming family, perhaps these big locomotives will make more frequent appearances on the NECR line over Stateline Hill.

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Amtrak’s Berlin Station Destroyed by Fire.

The old New Haven Railroad station at Berlin, Connecticut was a local favorite. Until recently, it was among the last small staffed Amtrak stations with an historic structure in southern New England.

My friend, and Tracking the Light reader, Bill Sample was a regular Amtrak Station Agent at Berlin. For me Berlin was like stepping back to that earlier era, when the small town station was the portal for travel. Bill would often help me plan trips and buy the most effective ticket for my travel plans.

The station itself was a gem. The interior retained characteristics of an early twentieth century station, complete with chalkboard arrival and departure information and rotating ceiling fan.

In recent months, the old Berlin station had been closed as part of double-tracking between Hartford and New Haven and related station renovations and construction of high-level platforms. The old building was to be integrated into a modern facility designed for more frequent service.

Wednesday (December 21, 2016), Otto Vondrak sent me the sad news that the old station had been gutted by fire. Media sources reported that the building was a ‘total loss.’

These Lumix LX3 digital photos show the building as I remember it in recent years.

Lumix LX3 photo.
Lumix LX3 photo.
Berlin was once an important junction with diamond crossings.

The photographic lesson is: never take anything for granted no matter how familiar it is. Someday it may be gone without warning.

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Would you believe it was only $17.20?

A couple of weeks ago, I bought an old Zeiss Ikomat folding camera for just $17.20 at a local antique market. The camera was in full working order, although I needed to sort out a couple of light leaks.

What makes this camera special is its f4.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. This is an exceptional piece of glass. Also important was the camera uses 120 film, rather than some variety of roll film that’s no longer commercially available.

I exposed this view at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on Sunday using Ilford Delta 100. I processed the film using a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with Kodak HC110.

My process includes a two-bath developer beginning with a very dilute water bath and a drop of HC110 at 74F, followed by HC110 mixed 1-32 for 4 minutes 45 seconds at 69F.

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Croatian Railways
A Hrvatske Zeljeznice class 2044 diesel (General Motors export model GT22HW-2) works west of Zagreb. Exposed with an Nikon F3Ts with 105mm lens on Fujichrome slide film.
Amtrak at Palmer, Massachusetts.
At 7:13pm on May 28, 1986, Amtak 449, Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited clatters across the Palmer diamond on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline. At Albany-Rensselaer this will join with the New York section for the journey over the Water Level Route to Chicago. Exposed on 120 B&W film with a Rolleiflex Model T twin-lens reflex fitted with 75mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. This camera was not fitted with a prismatic view finder. Thus the finder image was a mirror of reality which made composition of moving trains challenging. Nor did this camera have a meter, so exposure was calculated using a hand-held meter and the photographer’s experience. In truth, bright sun shining off the stainless-steel passenger cars resulted in an overexposed image..
A timetable-southward BNSF freight gets a green signal at Bealville, California. FujiFilm X-T1 photo. Image was not altered in post processing except to scale for internet presentation.
071 at Gort.
PCC at dusk on Frankford Street near The Handle Bar. LX7 Photo.
Mass-Central switches at the Route 181 crossing north of Palmer. The morning mist clung to the valley but it soon burned away. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Exposed on 35mm black & white film using a Leica 3a with 50mm Summitar; exposure calculated with the aid of a Weston Master III photo cell. Film processed in D76.
Exposed on 35mm Kodak black & white film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 50mm Elmar. Notice CocaCola’s hi-rise office in the distance. It was this landmark I was trying to feature. I didn’t have a 90mm lens, which is really what I needed to make this image work.
Exposed on 35mm Kodak Plus-X using a Leica M2 with an f2.0 35mm Summicron lens. Exposure calculated manually using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe photo cell. Image scanned with a Epson Perfection V600 scanner; contrast altered in post processing using Lightroom.
Amtrak 939 leads train 163 on the former New Haven Railroad at Green’s Farms, Connecticut. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-35mm zoom lens.
Rhein valley
A DB Class 101 electric leads southward IC train through vineyards near Boppard, Germany in September 2013. Exposed with a Lumix LX3. The Lumix is fitted with a Leica lens that allows for great depth of field.
VR overnight train IC 266 approaches Oulu, Finland on the evening of Jul 25, 2015.
VR Sr2 at Oulu, Finland after 11 pm on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. File adjusted for exposure, contrast, and saturation.
A Saturn advertisement graces a streetcar in Okayama, Japan in April 1997.
A large snake (of the non-rattling variety) suns itself on Montana Rail Link in Lombard Canyon, Montana. Nikon F3T with 105mm lens; Kodachrom 25 exposed at f4.5 1/250th second

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Lake Shore Limited Lost in the Dance.

Amtrak 448 approaches Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Leica IIIA and 50mm Summitar lens.

Here’s another view from my ‘lost negative file’. It captures Amtrak 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited approaching the Quaboag River bridge between Palmer and Monson, Massachusetts.

I exposed it in mid-December 1983. It was on the same roll as a group of photos from a Monson High School dance that I’d made for the yearbook and members of the band.

Since the envelope read ‘Monson High Dance,’ it was too easily ignored in later years. Also, and more to the point, it was mixed in with another hundred or so rolls that had been misplaced during one of my periods of extended travel in the late 1980s. For years all I could find was a lonely proof print of this scene.

I’m improving my filing system now, but it’s taken a few years!

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

Conrail Classic Chrome—SD80MACs at the Twin Ledges.

This photo appeared in Pacific RailNews/RailNews not long after I exposed it on Kodachrome 25 in October 1996. [Click on Tracking the Light for the full vertical image.]

The Twin Ledges is a classic photo location a mile or so west of the old Boston & Albany Middlefield Station in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

Conrail’s SD80MACs were an unusual modern locomotive because they were powered by a 20-cylinder variation of EMD’s 710 diesel,  rated at 5,000 hp. They arrived only a few years before Conrail was bought and divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Although their operation on the old B&A was short-lived, they were oft photographed (by me anyway).

Classic Kodachrome: a vertical telephoto view of Conrail SD80MACs leading symbol freight ML482 at the Twin Ledges in October 1996.

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