Here’s another contemporary black & white view on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.
In the window of Ulster Bank is a view from 1916 showing the ruins of Dublin’s General Post Office, destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising. Old trams grind along near the old terminus at Nelson’s Pillar.
A child looks at us across the void of time.
Modern pedestrians are a focused on their phones or the ATM at the side of the bank.
Today, tracks are being re-built on O’Connell Street, and after a long absence tram service is expected to resume in 2017.
Guitarist Jimmy Page, best known for his work with Led Zeppelin and the Yard Birds, produces a daily web page (http://www.jimmypage.com) that chronicles his work over more than five decades.
On This Day picks an event (or two) and gives Jimmy’s viewers a bit of background, often describing the roles of his fellow musicians. On occasion he drops in a railway photo or a clip from an old movie. Jimmy often carried a Nikon SLR on his tours.
Today, I’ll borrow Jimmy’s format: on this day 22 years ago (23 September 1994) I was traveling with Tom and Mike Danneman in the Minnesota Iron Range.
At the time I was working with Tom at Pentrex Publishing in Waukesha, Wisconsin where we produced Pacific RailNews and Passenger Train Journal. Mike worked across town at Kalmbach’s Trains Magazine.
I learned a lot from our Midwestern excursions in the mid-1990s. Both of these brothers remain among the most talented railway photographers and artists in North America. Tom now works at Kalmbach, while Mike is a freelance artist based in Colorado.
Among our destinations on 23 September 1994 was Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range’s Fairlane facility, where in a thick fog we photographed this pair of SDM diesels with an iron ore train.
Later in the day we visited Hibbing, Minnesota, which is probably best known as the boyhood home of Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan).
On 14 September 2016, I posted some black & white photos of an excursion train at Waverton near Chester in the UK. See: Three Mysteries.
My luck was catching this train, but I knew very little about it.
Several readers wrote to me with suggestions and the consensus was that I’d photographed Belmond’s Northern Belle excursion train, which often runs in central England.
That theme fits nicely with the more recent photos I’ve been running of Belmond’s Grand Hibernian on Irish Rail. However, it is truly coincidental, as the film had sat latent on my desk for more nine years!
I’d all but forgotten about the special move when I finally processed the film this month.
So there you go!
(Special thanks to everyone who wrote to me with details on the Northern Belle!).
Sunday morning was overcast. Not the best weather for photographing Belmond’s dark blue Grand Hibernian. (Luxury cruise train).
However, since when the sun is out, the cutting at Cabra in Dublin is badly shadowed the best time to try this location is on an overcast morning.
Exploring this option, I found the most dramatic angle was the trailing view. Using a telephoto perspective, I was able to draw in the Dublin Mountains in the distance.
These images were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
I processed all three images using Lightroom.
I made nominal global adjustments to contrast and saturation and sharpened for the computer screen. Also, I used a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better retain detail in the sky.
There’s a certain thrill to having two trains approach simultaneously.
Saturday, Denis McCabe, David Hegarty and myself had selected a bridge near Mosney (mp25) on the old Great Northern Railway Dublin-Belfast line as a good place to catch Belmond’s Grand Hibernian cruise train.
The Belmond train departed Dublin Connolly behind an Irish Rail local passenger train and its progress was slowed when it encountered restrictive signals.
Another Irish Rail local was scheduled in the Dublin direction.
Back in the day, when I set out to make photographs, I had a finite number of images that I could make on any given adventure based on the amount of film in the camera bag.
It might be one roll, or ten, but the number of exposures was a distinct number. Not only that, but certainly in my younger days, there was a definite cost to each and every photo exposed.
This was a limitation, but like many handicaps it encouraged discipline. Every time I released the shutter I wanted to make the photo count. At times I’d experiment with exposure, lighting, and angles, but I avoided gratuitously wasting film.
Running out of film before the end of a trip could be a disaster.
Yet, I found that my photography was at its best at the very beginning of a trip (when I still had plenty of exposures left) and toward the end (when I was making the absolute most of each photo, and really concentrating the mechanics of making photos having benefitted from days of being in the field).
In the 1950s, my dad would set off on a two week trip with just 6-10 rolls of Kodachrome. He’d carefully budget each day’s photography. Just imagine visiting Chicago in 1958 with its vast array of classic railroads but only allowing yourself to make 15 photos during the whole day.
By comparison today, digital photography doesn’t impose such limitations. You can buy storage cards that will hold hundreds (if not thousands of images). Even if you run out, you can go back and erase select images to free up space.
True, digital-photography allows great freedom to experiment, there’s no cost associated with each and every frame, nor the level of concern that you might run out. In retrospect, it was that strict limitation of film that often helped me craft better photos.
A sunny September Saturday afternoon in Dublin; what better time to make a visit to the airport. Not to travel to distant cities, but simply to watch and photograph the parade of commercial aircraft.
Lots of different airlines make for a colourful parade of planes.
I used this as an opportunity to test my FujiFilm X-T1’s various auto-focus settings.
The ‘C’ (continuous) setting seemed to produce the sharpest results, but introduced a slight delay from time I pressed the shutter-button until the actual moment of exposure. I found the delay difficult, but so long as I could anticipate the delay I was able to work around it.
Another challenge was trying to keep the camera level while panning the rapidly moving planes.
My visits to California’s Tehachapis in July and August (2016) made me curious to dig deep into my archives and revisit the photographs I made there in the early 1990s.
I traveled with J. D. Schmid on my first visits to Southern Pacific’s Tehachapi crossing. (Then Santa Fe operated in the Tehachapis via trackage rights on SP, as does BNSF on Union Pacific today).
I made this Santa Fe FP45 photo on a rainy morning February 1991. We were on our way back from a detailed study of the SP’s Beaumont Hill and environs.
While hard to beat the great sound of EMD 20 cylinder diesels working the Tehachapi grades, it was difficult working with Kodachrome 25 to capture the experience. The film was slow and its spectral response didn’t favor dull days.
Certainly the weather was better on my more recent visits. I traveled with David Hegarty, and we had ample opportunity to make photographs in the bright California sun.
I saw the wonderfully textured evening sky with hints of pink and orange. But what to do with this and how to best expose for it.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed for the sky, controlling exposure using the +/- dial for overall ease of operation.
My intention was to retain detail in the sky, rather than risk blowing out the highlights, and then make adjustments to lighten the shadow area in post processing to compensate for an overall dark image.
Here I’ve displayed both the uncorrected file (converted from a camera RAW to a small Jpeg necessary for internet presentation) and my manipulated image.
A minor point: I’ve not ‘fixed’ these photos. Rather I applied a known technique to hold both sky detail and shadow areas, beyond what the in-camera Jpg is capable of delivering without adjustment. From the moment I released the shutter, I planned to make these adjustments.
The First mystery: finding out what was on that long-unprocessed roll of Fuji Neopan 400 black & white film that sat in my back-log for the last few years.
The other day, I finally souped the film using Kodak HC110. My process time included a water-bath (with a hint of developer) then four minutes at 68 degrees F using dilution B (1:32 with water) at full strength.
Once processed, I recognized these images that I’d exposed way back in March 2007.
The Second mystery: toward the end of the roll, I found a sequence of photos along a double-track line in England. But where?
I recalled that David Hegarty and I were driving from suburban London to the ferry at Holyhead. Sadly, my notes from the day are in North America, and I’m in Ireland. So I’d have to work strictly from memory.
I remembered that we diverted from the M6 and used two-lane roads.
I pulled out my atlas and traced the railway line from Crewe to Chester in England, trying to figure out where we’d been. This isn’t an area I frequent often. I figured the old station would help me.
My next step was to go to Google Earth. Using the satellite view, I closely examined a variety of overhead bridges. Finally, I figured out where we’d been. The station’s distinctive chimneys gave me a positive ID. The location is from Saighton Lane in Waverton immediately southeast of Chester.
The third mystery: what train is this?
Now I’m at loss. This was some kind of special passenger train led by an EWS class 67 diesel. We were very lucky to arrive in time to watch it pass, but I never knew what it was, who operated it, or where it was going. It was just dumb luck that we saw it at all.
Have you willingly deleted a railroad photo because of an exposure error? Or perhaps pitched an underexposed color slide? Maybe traded away a photo that you dismissed as substandard. Or maybe even dumped an entire roll into the trash because of a camera flaw?
Step back to August 1998. That wasn’t yesterday. Denis McCabe and I were photographing on the Northern Line at Balbriggan. Our aim was to catch cement trains on the move.
It was a mostly sunny afternoon with the occasional puffy cloud in the sky.
An inbound suburban train approached the platforms with Irish Rail 078 in faded orange paint leading a pair of Cravens and the requisite generator van.
Just as the train reached the optimal location for my photograph, the sun was suddenly blocked by a cloud. [Most of us familiar with making railway photographs has experienced this phenomena, and it has many names, most of them are unsuitable for reiteration here.]
Despite this setback, I released the shutter anyway, and exposed this lone 35mm black & white negative.
After I processed the film a few days later, I made prints from the best images on the roll, then sleeved all of the negatives: good, bad, and otherwise.
I never considered printing this one. At the time, seeing an 071-class diesel leading Cravens was not unusual. It happened daily. Nor was having a cloud ruin a photo in Ireland especially unusual.
I scanned the entire roll in November 2015, not for this photo, but for the better shots either side of it. It was only on close examination on the computer that it occurred to me that now, in 2016, this image is both interesting and historic.
Its lighting/exposure defect is easy enough to compensate for using Lightroom. So I present it to you now. In retrospect it offers a better lesson and a more interesting story than the perfectly lit images of cement trains exposed on the same roll.
In July, I spent a few minutes on the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Woodside in Queens, New York.
LIRR’s busy multiple-track third-rail route from Penn-Station to Jamaica, New York is one of the few places in North America where you can experience train-frequency on par with busy European mainlines.
In the course of only a few minutes I saw a half dozen trains.
These are a sample of the photos I exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Track and platform construction continues in Dublin on Ireland’s latest rail-transit route.
When completed LUAS Cross City will extend the Green Line north through the Dublin City Centre via Parnell Square to Broadstone and beyond to a new terminus at Broombridge.
The other day Mark Healy and I made an inspection of the work in progress.
Safety fences combined with the visual chaos of this urban setting makes for challenging photography. I’m hoping to add these images to my file of now and then images once the project is completed and functional.
The sinuous alignment of the old Southern Pacific in the Tehachapis is ideally suited to lining up sunrise photographs.
A blanket of airborne particulates filtered the rising sun, softening the light and giving it a luminous golden tint.
In the 1990s, I made many glint photos on Kodachrome. This one I exposed digitally and adjusted contrast in post processing to make for a more pleasing image.
Where K25 slide film would have retained the ring of the sun, now I have to settle for a golden blob of light.
A key to making an image such as this one is manually setting the aperture to control the amount of light reaching the sensor. I metered manually and ignored the camera’s recommended exposure, which wouldn’t have given me the desired effect.
Since I was preparing a classic silhouette, I wasn’t interested in retaining detail in the shadows, but instead aimed to hold tonality in the sky.
Where my ‘normal’ daylight exposure with ISO 200 is about f8 1/500th of second, for this photo, I closed down the aperture to f20, which made for two and half stops less exposure.
Thursday morning on my way to breakfast, I made this photo of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner (Dublin to Ballina) passing Islandbridge Junction.
I timed my visit well and so only waited a few minutes for the freight to pass.
I’ve often photographed the IWT at this location, so this was really just an exercise.
Soft morning clouds made for some pleasant lighting, but also a post-processing quandary.
My FujiFilm XT1 allows me to simultaneously expose a Camera RAW file and a camera interpreted JPG. Among the features of the Fuji cameras is the ability to select a film-like colour profile for the Jpg.
In this instance I’ve opted for the Velvia profile, which closely emulates the colour and contrast of this popular slide film.
Another colour adjustment is the white balance control. In this situation I selected ‘auto white balance’, which means the camera interprets the color temperature.
When I processed the photos, I wanted to see if I could improve upon the camera JPG by making subtle changes to the Camera RAW file (which has ten times more information imbedded in it than the Jpg, but serves in the same role as a ‘negative’ and is intended for adjustment rather than uninterpreted presentation).
Below are three images; the a JPG from the unmodified Camera RAW, Camera created JPG, and my interpretation of the Camera RAW file.
Incidentally, by using Lightroom, I can make adjustments to the RAW files without permanently changing the original data. This is very important since it would be a mistake to modify the original file. That would be like adding colour dyes or bleach to your original slide to ‘improve’ the result.
Fifteen years ago, if you told me that I’d be out on a Sunday morning specifically to photograph a 201 class diesel with Mark 3 carriages on Irish Rail’s Dublin-Cork line, I wouldn’t have believed you!
This morning Colm O’Callaghan and I did just that.
The dark blue color is difficult to photograph satisfactorily though.
Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog on Railway Photography.
Norfolk Southern helpers are in ‘run-8’ working at the back of a loaded coal train at Cassandra, Pennsylvania on the famed ‘West Slope’—the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line grade over the Alleghenies.
Morning glint illuminates the tops of the locomotives and accentuates the exhaust smoke for added drama. The train was working upgrade at a crawl.
The Dublin and Kingstown Railway dates to 1834, which makes it among the earliest steam railways built outside of England.
Today the route composes a part of Irish Rail’s electrified Dublin Area Rapid Transit system. Outer suburban and Intercity trains (to Rosslare), plus occasional Railway Preservation Society Ireland steam trains also use the line.
Much of the old D&K is scenically situated along the Irish Sea, yet the electrification masts and wires, combined with sea walls, fences, graffiti and suburban growth can make it difficult to obtain a satisfactory vista with the line.
In late August, I rode the DART from Tara Street Station to Blackrock, where I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1.
Here, soft afternoon lighting helped minimize obtrusive elements, but there’s little in the photographs that convey the historic significance of the line.
The challenge continues . . .
Tracking the Light offers a daily views on railway photography.
It was dull mid-August day at Worcester, Massachusetts. I had my Leica 3A loaded with Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) and made a few exposures.
This hasn’t been my usual film choice. More typically, when working in black & white, I’d use Ilford HP5 or Fuji Acros 100.
I’ve found that difficult light can be a better measure of materials than clear bright morning. And flat summer light is about as difficult as it gets.
For this trial, I processed the film using a Jobo with Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer.
This was a crap shoot, as I’d only used this film/developer combination once before.
I opted for a 1:9 dilution, but scaled back my process time from the recommended amount to just 3 minutes 45 seconds. As is often the situation, I intentionally over-expose my black & white film and then under-process to obtain a greater range of tonality.
Once processed my negatives looked pretty good, but these still required a bit of contrast control using Lightroom. While my end results look ok, I’ll need to refine my chemical process for Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) if I expect this film to perform as well as Fuji Acros 100.
Also, I was hoping that the Pan F would approach the results I used to get with Kodak Panatomic X (ISO 32) back in the 1980s, but so far I’ve not achieved that goal.
It was a sunny Saturday morning and the old Boston & Albany mainline was quieter than a rural Polish branch line.
Finally about 10:30 am Mike Gardner and I heard distant stirrings of an eastward freight.
We made our way to Warren, Massachusetts.
The long days of summer have resulted in the B&A route becoming unfortunately brushed in. Much of the line is largely obscured by bushes, trees and undergrowth, which make railway photography difficult.
The old Boston & Albany station at Warren remains one of my favorite surviving structures on the line; it harks back to a time when the railroad was the principle corridor for commerce in the region. Recently it has been restored.
Here we made our photographs.
A few strategic shafts of sunlight illuminate the line. I set my FujiFilm XT1’s shutter release dial to ‘CH’ (continuous high—the setting I casually refer to as ‘turbo flutter’) and waited as the train approached.
When it neared the shafts of sunlight, I held the shutter down and exposed a rapid burst of digital images, knowing that at least of one of them would place the front of the locomotive in full sun.
This satisfied my desired composition to juxtapose CSX’s modern General Electric diesel with the 1890s-era railway station building.
To demonstrate the effect of ‘turbo flutter’ as a compositional exposure tool, I’ve displayed the below sequence of images. In practice my camera exposed about three times as many photos. (Frame numbers are sequential)
Since the real cost of making a burst of exposures is very small, in this situation, I’ll happily make as many images as I need to in order to produce the photo I want. Later, if I choose, I can throw away the unsatisfactory images to save space on my hard drives.
My last view. (Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and Google Plus viewers may need to click on Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light to see the big picture).
This former Boston & Albany freight yard was the site of some my earliest photographic efforts.
Several years ago, in a deal with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, CSX agreed to close its Boston yard to open the property for redevelopment. As a result, its intermodal yard at Worcester was expanded to accommodate the lost capacity.
The result is that Boston now has virtually no through rail-freight service. The trickle of remaining CSX rail-freight traffic is handled by a local from Framingham, Massachusetts. Container (and piggyback) traffic is accommodated by road.
Many years ago, Boston was a major freight hub, and Beacon Park was a very busy place—those days have long since passed.
For the last few years, the tracks at Beacon Park have sat disused and rusted.
Presently, track gangs are salvaging what remains of the old yard.
Someone, somewhere will declare ‘progress’.
Ironically, I exposed this view from a bus on the Mass-Turnpike Extension, the highway that more than 50 years ago assumed operation on considerable chunks of former Boston & Albany right of way.
The familiar sound of 645 thunder down in the valley spurred me into action.
A southward New England Central freight was climbing Stateline Hill in Monson, Massachusetts. This is an old routine (and yes, I’ve written about this before.)
When I hear a train coming through Monson, I have a few minutes to get organized. In this instance, a brilliant clear blue dome with nice morning light was the deciding consideration.
En route, I heard the southward train get its ‘paper’ (radio–issued track authority) to proceed toward Willimantic, Connecticut. In this instance, I was alerted to the location of the train; south of milepost 55 (near the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line).
I headed for my preferred spot in downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut south of milepost 49.
One advantage of Stafford Springs is that the railroad makes an east-west twist through the village on its otherwise north-south run. This favors the morning light for a southward train.
The other advantage is Stafford’s quaint and distinctive New England setting.
In the longer months, there’s nice morning sun on the north side of the tracks at Palmer, Massachusetts and this seems to offer a potentially good vantage point.
There are several interesting structures here: including the former Union Station (now the Steaming Tender restaurant) and the old Flynt building (painted grey and lavender with fluorescent pink trim).
Yet I’ve found that placing a train in this setting rarely yields a satisfactory composition.
Here’s the on-going compromise; using a wide-angle perspective if I place the train far away, it tends to get lost in the scene. And, yet when it’s too close it obscures the old station building. The Flynt building either dominates on the right, or ends up cropped altogether. A telephoto view here presents its own share of complications.
The other day, I turned on to South Main Street in time to see the CSX local freight (symbol B740) west of the New England Central diamond (crossing). This gave me just enough time to park the car, walk briskly across the street, set my exposure and use my FujiFilm XT1 to make this sequence of photos.
Not bad for grab shots, but they still suffer from my visual quandary as described.
Puzzling through these sorts of vexations is part of my process for making better photos. Sometimes there’s no simple answer, but then again, occasionally I find a solution.
In the meantime I present my photos as work in progress.
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog.