About briansolomon1

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.

Conrail Crossing the Connecticut at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

I considered leaving out the second ‘Connecticut,’ but for the sake of clarity I’ll risk sounding redundant. The real topic is the nearly tragic tale of the photograph itself.

I’d pulled this Kodachrome slide from my old box of ‘3rds’— my category meaning ‘just above garbage’. In otherwords, if I got tight for space, I’d pitch it.

For years I wondered what had happened to this slide!

For years I wondered what had happened to this slide!

In August 1987, I’d made several trips to photograph Conrail’s New Haven to Selkirk (symbol NHSE) on the former New Haven Railroad New Haven—Springfield line.

The challenge of this project was that the train departed Cedar Hill Yard (near New Haven) very early in the morning. If I recall correctly, it went on duty there about 3am. My strategy was either to drive past the yard in Hartford to see if it was there, and then pick a location for a photograph, or simply set up and wait.

On this day, August 18, 1987, I was waiting on spec. I’d figured, at least I’d catch a few of the southward Amtrak trains, and if Conrail’s NHSE didn’t show up, I’d head off elsewhere.

After selecting my spot by water level, and after Amtrak’s Bankers went south, I was rewarded by a pair of SD40-2s leading a very long NHSE. The light was nearly perfect and I exposed several frames of Kodachrome 25.

When the slides came back I was sorely disappointed. These had two flaws: the color had shifted red (often a problem with Kodachrome that was too close to its expiry date); but worse, the images were off level (tilted). The second problem was especially galling because I’d featured the river so prominently.

Into the ‘3rds’ bin! At that time I could go back to Windsor on any given day and repeat my effort. Except that I didn’t.

Years went by. I remembered the morning of the photograph and I recalled exposing the slides. In searching, I’d found slides of NHSE from other days. But this image was missing, as were quite a few other images from the same period.

Finally, I found it again, and quite by accident. In looking for photos for a book project (Conrail, probably), I opened the big box of ‘3rds’ to see what was inside . . . and, isn’t it amazing to see how slides improve with age?!

Now with desktop scanning and post-processing technologies, the job of adjusting color balance and cropping to improve level are remarkably easy.

And there’s a lesson in photography (well two, really).

 Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Cumberland, Maryland May 1985.

In the course of a ten-day Amtrak trip, I spent twenty-four hours at Cumberland, Maryland, where I made a variety of photos of Chessie System’s Baltimore & Ohio.

I found many railroaders on the B&O to be cordial and helpful. A man in this trackside office near the west-end of the sprawling Cumberland Yard invited me to make a photograph from his window.

Cumberland, Maryland as seen from a yard-side office in May 1985. I remember making the photograph, but I can't recall what function the office served. I was there only once. I also recall that it was very warm for May and I was happy to get out of the sun. Exposed with a Rollei Model T on Kodak B&W film, scanned with an Epson V600 scanner.

Cumberland, Maryland as seen from a yard-side office in May 1985. I remember making the photograph, but I can’t recall what function the office served. I was there only once. I also recall that it was very warm and humid for May and I was happy to get out of the sun. There appears to be a thermometer in the window which reads about 85 F.  Exposed with a Rollei Model T on Kodak B&W film, scanned with an Epson V600 scanner.

I exposed the image on Kodak black & white film using my dad’s Rolleiflex Model T that I’d borrowed for the duration of the trip. I also made a few color slides that day. I’ve always liked the framing of the B&O locomotive.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Irish Rail’s Ballinsloe Cabin on its Final Day

On May 23, 2003, I exposed this photo of a signalman setting the points at Ballinsloe Cabin just a few hours before the historic structure was relieved its operational functions as part of the commission of a Mini-CTC system on Irish Rail’s Galway Line.

Exposed on black & white film using my Rolleiflex Model T.

Exposed on black & white film using my Rolleiflex Model T.

It was the end of an era at Ballinasloe, but one that was a long time in coming. On my first visit to the cabin five year earlier I was warned of its impending closure. Delays in installing the Mini-CTC ultimately prolonged the cabin’s closure. By the time I made this image, the signalman I’d visited in 1998 had retired!

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Long Lens Auto-focus Check

One of the great challenges of working with long telephoto lenses is getting the focus where you want it.

The inherent nature of a telephoto lens produces a comparatively shallow depth of field (relative field of focus). The longer the lens, the less depth of field.

So where precision focus is important with a wide angle lens, it is critical with a long lens, unless, of course, your intent is to make soft images.

Placing focus is important to me, as I’ve learned various visual tricks for directing the eye within an image by clever use of sharpness. Sometimes when photographing trains, the optimal focus point is not at the front of the locomotive; however, in this case, that was precisely my objective.

One of the reasons I’ve embraced auto-focus cameras, was that about ten years ago I concluded that I couldn’t trust my eyesight to make precision focus, especially when I had to do it quickly.

Test photo looking toward Platform 10 at Heuston Station, view from Conynham Road.

Test photo looking toward Platform 10 at Heuston Station, view from Conynham Road.

Using my new Fuji X-T1, I made this image on Friday February 20, 2015 of an Irish Rail continuous welded rail train crossing the River Liffey at Islandbridge in Dublin.

Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 135mm; ISO 800, f5.6 1/500th second, ‘Velvia’ color profile.

Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 135mm; ISO 800, f5.6 1/500th second, ‘Velvia’ color profile.

I arrived at my location a bit winded and had only a few moments to make a test photo and set the focus point (the Fuji allows for easy adjustment of the desired focus point) before the train came into view.

The equipment performed perfectly! The front of the 071 class locomotive is razor sharp. Hurray!

Very tightly cropped portion of the above photo to check for sharpness. Considering  that I made the image hand-held of a moving train, I'd say the autofocus worked admirably.

Very tightly cropped portion of the above photo to check for sharpness. Considering that I made the image hand-held of a moving train, I’d say the autofocus worked admirably.

 

Exposed with a Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 135mm; ISO 800, f5.6 1/500th second, ‘Velvia’ color profile.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Dublin Panorama and the World’s Longest Tram

Among the features of the Fuji X-T1 is a setting to make broad panoramic images. This is done by sweeping the camera across a scene as it exposes a burst of images in rapid succession. The camera’s internal software then assembles the images as a horizontal image.

Dusk at Sean Heuston Bridge looking toward Heuston Station. I've made a broad sweep using the panorama feature. This sews together a bunch of images exposed in rapid order.

Dusk at Sean Heuston Bridge looking toward Heuston Station. I’ve made a broad sweep using the panorama feature. This sews together a bunch of images exposed in rapid order.

Using this feature as intended will produce a convincing panoramic photograph. However if subjects move they may appear more than once or become altered beyond recognition.

I experimented by panning a LUAS tram in panoramic mode. The result looks like the world’s longest tram.

I set the panoramic mode as I panned a LUAS tram arriving at Heuston Station. The effect was this image that appears to be 'the world's longest tram.'

I set the panoramic mode as I panned a LUAS tram arriving at Heuston Station. The effect was this image that appears to be ‘the world’s longest tram.’

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Mass-Central at the Crossing, Autumn 1984.

It was an exciting time. Mass-Central had just recently acquired a former Santa Fe CF7, which to me seemed like a really exotic locomotive, and was running excursions over the old Boston & Albany line from Ware to Palmer, and Ware to South Barre.

My friend Bob Buck of Warren got involved with publicity while I made a point of both riding some of the trains and photographing them from the ground.

 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 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.

This image was probably exposed on a Saturday afternoon in late September or early October. I’m not sure of the exact date because the individual negative strip has been separated from its original sleeve and my notes from the time are a bit minimal (and filed about 4,000 miles away). However judging by the foliage on the trees, it wasn’t too late in the season.

I’d followed the train down from Ware. It made a spirited run and approached each crossing with the bell ringing and horn blaring. Here a man has jumped off the engine to flag the difficult Route 181 crossing in Palmer, Massachusetts, where the tracks cut across the road at a difficult angle.

I’ve always liked this location because the line angles toward the road down a gently curving ramp with a row of trees beyond that makes the whole scene seem like a big diorama.

Back then, my photography was entirely inspired by the spirit of the moment and I didn’t put a lot of forethought into details such as location, lighting and composition. My mode was to ‘get ahead of the train then jump out and grab a photo or two.’

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Sky Tram Roams Dublin’s LUAS Red Line.

I like catchy titles, although I’ve recognized that today you get better response by advertising content as clearly and succinctly as possible.

Allusive titles no longer grab audiences as they did in earlier times. If Joyce wrote his famed novel Ulysses today, his publishers might changed the title to A Day’s Walk Around Dublin.

Speaking of walking around Dublin. Monday February 16, 2015 was a bright sunny day—really the first properly sunny day since I arrived back. Although more writing obligations landed in my ‘in-box’ that morning, I decided to take the time for a walk up through Kilmainham to the LUAS Red Line at Suir Road.

The specially painted 'Sky' tram crosses the LUAS bridge over the Grand Canal at Suir Road. Exposed with a Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

The specially painted ‘Sky’ tram crosses the LUAS bridge over the Grand Canal at Suir Road. Exposed with a Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

Here the tracks climb out of the old canal-bed that extends from the old Harbour near the Guinness Brewery and cross the surviving leg of the Grand Canal on a modern bridge and then run along its south bank for a mile or so on the way towards Tallagh.

Approaching the platforms at Suir Road. Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

Approaching the platforms at Suir Road. Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

I’d been wanting to make a bright sunlit photo of the specially adorned ‘Sky’ tram that has been roaming the Red Line since before I got back. Advertising liveries rarely last more than a couple of months on the LUAS system and this was as good as an excuse as any to play with my Fuji X-T1.

I didn’t have to wait long before the tram in question came gliding along the canal

What cryptic allusion might Bloom have uttered upon seeing a Sky tram crossing the canal?

In this photo, I like the visual play on 'Sky'. Really now would this have worked on a dull day? Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

In this photo, I like the visual play on ‘Sky’. Really now would this have worked on a dull day? Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

Telephoto close up at Suir Road. Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

Telephoto close up at Suir Road. Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

Trams in Dublin don't dally long; motors humming, this one accelerates away towards its next station stop. Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

Trams in Dublin don’t dally long; motors humming, this one accelerates away towards its next station stop. Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera; ISO 400.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Fuji X-T1 and Irish Rail’s IWT Liner.

It helps to be near the tracks. In Dublin, my oft-photographed location at Islandbridge Junction is only a five minute walk away.

It wasn’t the brightest day, last week when I made the opportunity to make a few photographs of Irish Rail’s Dublin (North Wall) to Ballina IWT Liner. This is a freight train that I’ve photographed very often owing to its operational regularity and proximity. It was the perfect subject to try out my new Fuji X-T1.

Irish Rail ICRs were plentiful. Time for a test photo. Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens at 18mm; ISO 1250 f4.9 at 1/500th of a second in 'Velvia' mode.

Irish Rail ICRs were plentiful. Time for a test photo. Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens at 18mm; ISO 1250 f4.9 at 1/500th of a second in ‘Velvia’ mode.

I wandered up to my location as Irish Rail was shuffling some 22K series ROTEM-built Intercity Railcars (ICRs). While these are a dime a dozen (or is that ten euro cents for ten?) and the light was flat, I put the camera to use. What better time to practice?

I felt that the 'Velvia' setting was too saturated for the overcast scene, so I switched to 'Provice and opened up by about a third of stop for a slightly lighter image. The IWT liner was routed through Platform 10 around the ICRs.

I felt that the ‘Velvia’ setting was too saturated for the overcast scene, so I switched to ‘Provia’ and opened up by about a third of stop for a slightly lighter image. The IWT liner was routed through Platform 10 around the ICRs.

The flexibility offered by the 18-135mm lens and other controls allowed me to quickly adjust my perspective as the IWT Liner got closer. It wasn't moving very fast.

The flexibility offered by the 18-135mm lens and other controls allowed me to quickly adjust my perspective as the IWT Liner got closer. It wasn’t moving very fast. I’ve made many photos here, but this was my first catch of a gray 071 work the IWT. If I’d been using actual Provia 100F slide film my exposure would have been about f2.8 at 1/125th. Tough lighting for midday.

The liner made its appearance and I exposed a burst of images in ‘Provia’ mode. (The Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera has traditional Fuji film profiles programmed into it.)

As luck would have it, the liner wasn’t moving very quickly and it looked as if it wouldn’t stay ahead of the 11 am passenger train to Cork, so my friend and fellow photographer Colm O’Callaghan traveled to Hazelhatch at the end of the quad-track.

We made it in enough time to watch the 11am passenger overtake the IWT Liner and made some photos of the train.

Irish Rail's IWT liner ambles toward Hazelhatch. An ICR is working uproad toward Dublin on the quad track mainline. Fuji X-T1. By using the tilting rear screen, I was able to hold the camera over my head and compose this scene in 'live view'.

Irish Rail’s IWT liner ambles toward Hazelhatch. An ICR is working uproad toward Dublin on the quad track mainline. Fuji X-T1. By using the tilting rear screen, I was able to hold the camera over my head and compose this scene in ‘live view’.

My Fuji X-T1 has a tilting rear display, a first for me. This allowed me to hold the camera high over the railing on the footbridge at Hazelhatch and frame up a series of images.

But is the image sharp? I was entirely relying on the camera's autofocus. This is a cropped view of the above image. Other than cropping/scaling it is unmodified.

But is the image sharp? I was entirely relying on the camera’s autofocus. This is a cropped view of the above image.

Here is an even tighter crop of the same file. While I exposed RAW and Jpg files simultaneously, this crop is taken from the Jpg. I'll explore the RAW files later.

Here is an even tighter crop of the same file. While I exposed RAW and Jpg files simultaneously, this crop is taken from the Jpg. I’ll explore the RAW files later.

After the train passed, I could hear the class 071 diesel-electric roaring away in ‘run-8’ (maximum throttle) for at least five minutes. I grew up to the sound of turbocharged EMD diesels, so its always a treat to hear an old 645E3 working.

When I got home, I pored over the files fresh from the X-T1. These were some of the first action shots with my new camera. Not too bad considering the dull light. More to come!

Best of the lot; using the RAW file, I lightened this image slight and made nominal localized contrast adjustments in post processing.

Best of the lot; using the RAW file, I lightened this image slightly and made nominal localized contrast adjustments in post processing.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Fuji X-T1: First Photos with a New Tool.

Back in December and January, I borrowed Pat Yough’s Fuji X-T1 and exposed a few photos.

Quite a few in truth, and often more than I was expecting because I’d set the motor drive to its highest setting (I call this ‘turbo-flutter’) and every time my shutter finger drifted anywhere near the shutter release I’d record bursts of images.

Despite this haphazard approach, I managed to make a few reasonable images, some of which I’ve presented here on Tracking the Light, and rapidly convinced myself that I really needed a Fuji X-T1.

Actually, I’d previously experimented with Pat’s Fuji X-E2 and was quite convinced I wanted one of those as well.

So after weeks on contemplation and pondering, I finally ordered the camera. Now comes the hard part; learning to use it efficiently.

Based on past experience, I figure it will take me about six months to really get in-tune with this new equipment.

On February 6, 2015, I visited the old New Haven Railroad station at Windsor, Connecticut where I made a selection of images with my new Fuji X-T1.

On February 6, 2015, I visited the old New Haven Railroad station at Windsor, Connecticut where I made a selection of images with my new Fuji X-T1.

Former New Haven Railroad station at Windsor, Connecticut , exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

Former New Haven Railroad station at Windsor, Connecticut , exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

Former New Haven Railroad freight station at Windsor, Connecticut , exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

Former New Haven Railroad freight station at Windsor, Connecticut , exposed with Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. This was in ‘Provia’ mode, and to me, it compares quite favorably with the Fuji slide film it intends to emulate.

Amtrak signals at Windsor, Connecticut as photographed from the grade crossing at the station. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Amtrak signals at Windsor, Connecticut as photographed from the grade crossing at the station. Fuji X-T1 photo.

Amtrak train 55, the southward Vermonter approaches Windsor. I'd intended to make a sequence of the train passing, but I'd inadvertently put the X-T1 into some mode that allowed me just one frame. By the time I'd figured out what I'd done wrong, the train was approaching Hartford!

Amtrak train 55, the southward Vermonter approaches Windsor. I’d intended to make a sequence of the train passing, but I’d inadvertently put the X-T1 into some mode that allowed me just one frame. By the time I’d figured out what I’d done wrong, the train was approaching Hartford!

When I’m out making photos, I want my manipulation of a camera to be second nature. If I’m fumbling for the correct settings, or wasting time consulting camera manuals, I can’t really make the best possible images.

Also, every type of equipment has its strengths and weaknesses. Finding those and exploiting this camera to best advantages will take time.

In the meantime, I’ve turned the motor drive setting down a few notches and experimented with the camera’s capabilities. I’m still trying to figure out the focusing options . . .

Daylight photos are all very nice, but I'm fond of making photos at night. Unfortunately, this time of year this seems to result in me fuddling with camera controls using numb fingers. CSX signals at Palmer, Massachusetts on the evening of February 6, 2015. 30 second time exposure using a Bogen tripod.

Daylight photos are all very nice, but I’m fond of making photos at night. Unfortunately, this time of year this seems to result in me fuddling with camera controls using numb fingers. CSX signals at Palmer, Massachusetts on the evening of February 6, 2015. 30 second time exposure using the Fuji X-T1 on Bogen tripod.

30 second time exposure of the old Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive displayed in front of the Steaming Tender at Palmer, Massachusetts. Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

30 second time exposure of the old Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive displayed in front of the Steaming Tender at Palmer, Massachusetts. Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

On February 9, 2015, I made this view of an Irish Rail class 201 crossing the River Liffey. The 18-135mm lens was fully extended to its most extreme telephoto position. Heavy overcast require me to boost the ISO setting to 1000.

On February 9, 2015, I made this view of an Irish Rail class 201 crossing the River Liffey. The 18-135mm lens was fully extended to its most extreme telephoto position. Heavy overcast require me to boost the ISO setting to 1000.

On February 10, 2015, i brought the X-T1 down to Dublin's Heuston Station. I upped the ISO to 6400 and made a variety of hand-held views at dusk. Not bad for high-ISO.

On February 10, 2015, i brought the X-T1 down to Dublin’s Heuston Station. I upped the ISO to 6400 and made a variety of hand-held views at dusk. Not bad for high-ISO.

I exposed this panned view of a LUAS tram crossing the old Kings Bridge across the River Liffey near Heuston Station. Great dynamic range for such high ISO. (6400).

I exposed this panned view of a LUAS tram crossing the old Kings Bridge across the River Liffey near Heuston Station. Great dynamic range for such high ISO. (6400).

Another ISO 6400 experiment at Kings Bridge in Dublin.

Another ISO 6400 experiment at Kings Bridge in Dublin.Now the tram is blurred, but the bridge is sharp.

More to come, soon!

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Chicago Transit Authority Trolley and Substation.

Recently I read a definition of photographic composition that said something to the effect of; ‘making order out of chaos.’ In railway photography, wires pose special compositional problems, and can lend for chaotic images if not handled carefully.

In this photo I exposed at the Illinois Railway Museum, a virtual sea of wires lace the sky and visually surround the streetcar.

As visual elements, wires typically appear as dark lines and unless they are carefully placed, they can disrupt a photograph by dividing up the frame and causing unwanted distractions. Yet, in many situations the wires are important part of the railway infrastructure.

Chicago Transit Authority streetcar at IRM, exposed with a Lumix LX3 in June 2010.

Chicago Transit Authority streetcar at IRM, exposed with a Lumix LX3 in June 2010.

In this case, I’ve carefully photographed the streetcar passing the electrical substation that is part of the network that supplies the car with juice, and so many of the wires pictured directly relate to the streetcar. No wires, no go.

Yet, I’m not entirely satisfied with the image. I think that if I’d played around with my angle and juxtaposition of the car, I may have been able to produce a more striking image.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Telephoto View at Cassandra.

It was a pleasant warm day at Cassandra, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2010.

Blah, blah, blah . . . new Canon with long telephoto lens, light helpers drifting downgrade, stack train climbing, old PRR-era position light signals, window of light beyond cutting . . . blah, blah, blah . . .

Exposed with a Canon ESO 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens on June 30, 2010.

Exposed with a Canon ESO 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens on June 30, 2010.

Did I mention it was a warm summer day? Ah!

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Searchlight Sunset—Chana, Illinois.

It was the evening of June 15, 2004, and I was out along the old Burlington C&I line at Chana, west of Rochelle, Illinois. The sunset was this amazing tapestry of color, like a Turner oil painting. I had a few minutes to make the most it.

I had several Nikons loaded with different types of Fujichrome and my old Rolleiflex. I made this view with a Nikon F3 and my Nikkor 180mm telephoto.

I had several Nikons loaded with different types of Fujichrome and my old Rolleiflex. I made this view with a Nikon F3 and my Nikkor 180mm telephoto.

The old General Railway Signal searchlight signal with its classic finial and the code lines beyond made for good silhouette subjects. I blasted through about a half a roll of film before the color faded. I’ve found you have to make the most of these cosmic moments when they happen.

Often there’ll be a great sunset, but I won’t be in a position to use the light for anything constructive, and so I’ll just have to gaze at it with regrets. Seeing a missed opportunity in a sunset; that’s one of the downsides of being a photographer.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

On the Roll with a Fuji X-T1

In an ideal world, my new camera would arrive on a fine summer morning and I’d have nothing more important to do than to spend days and weeks to play with it unhindered. No joy.

I had to dig a trench through a snow drift more than two feet deep so that UPS could deliver my camera, and this was the second or third revised scheduled delivery, as repeated weather events had conspired to postpone my camera’s arrival.

Here it is; my Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. Now to embrace the learning curve!

Here it is; my Fuji X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. Now to embrace the learning curve!

I’ve been working on no less than three (four really) book projects, all competing for my time and attention. And, in the middle of all this I had to prepare for a trans-Atlantic crossing, which was advanced with little warning owing to more snow.

Jetlag hates me, or loves me, I don’t know which, but crossing five time zones leaves me bewildered, disoriented, and tired. Great time to make photos with a new camera . . .

My Fuji X-T1 as viewed with my Lumix LX-7.

My Fuji X-T1 as viewed with my Lumix LX-7.

I pressed the shutter release; nothing happened. I turned the camera on and everything was dark. What’s this switch for? Why won’t the camera focus? Why does it have a double exposure mode? How to do I change the focus mode? Eight layers of menus! You must be joking?

This might take a while . . .

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Prague Dawn.

In January 2009, Tim Doherty, Denis McCabe and I made photos at a suburban branch station called Praha-Ruzyne, situated west of Prague’s historic center and near the Vaclav Havel (international) Airport. A wire operated semaphore caught my interest.

This scene presents a lesson in composition. It was a visually interesting but stark environment to make photographs.

The Czech capital is a fascinating city with some of Europe’s finest architecture. Unfortunately, none of this is present at Praha-Ruzyne, which is characterized by urban development stemming from the country’s austere period of Soviet-influence.

I opted to work in silhouette and exposed this color slide for the highlight areas of the sky while allowing shadow areas to go black and be virtually free from distracting detail.

  Photograph made using a Canon EOS 3 with 100mm lens and Fujichrome slide film.


Photograph made using a Canon EOS 3 with 100mm lens and Fujichrome slide film.

My challenge was placing the semaphore mast and blade in a position that makes it most prominent. I’ve balanced the composition by putting this signal diagonally opposite from the diesel railcar at lower right. The red lights on the back of the railcar immediately attract the eye, while the semaphore draws it back again.

In the middle is a lone figure crossing the line which both adds a prominent human element that offers a sense of scale, while imposing a poetic element of; ‘man versus his environment’.

The trackage arrangement makes for a complex pattern that reflects the light of the morning sky . On the hill above the train is a large building that hints at the greater urbanity of the scene. Without it, the image might be mistaken for a photo of a rural village.

Two specially difficulties were the array of vertical lighting masts which distract from the semaphore, and the railing along the line that visually interferes with the trackage, but adds a layer of depth.

The trees in the distance beyond the tracks are slightly diffused by morning haze and contribute to sense of depth—an especially important element in this silhouetted view, which would otherwise be flattened by the minimalism imposed by my choice of exposure.

How might this image compare with one at the same location exposed on a bright summer afternoon?

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Carrick-on-Suir, March 22, 2008.

Among my favorite stations on the far flung Irish Rail network was Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. The combination of a rural atmosphere with an interesting track layout and unusual curvature, high signal cabin (tower) with mechanical semaphores plus its reputation for friendly staff, made it an ideal place to spend an afternoon.

I’ve probably made fifty or more trips to Carrick over the years. While, I often timed my visits to coincide with the arrival of freight trains, on this day I photographed the scheduled crossing (meeting) of 2700-series railcars working between Waterford and Limerick Junction.

 Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Canon EOS 3 with 50mm lens.


Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Canon EOS 3 with 50mm lens.

This is a scene never to be repeated. The 2700s have been withdrawn and the passing loop (passing siding) at Carrick was lifted (torn up).

Sometimes it is the most common everyday scenes that ultimately make for the rarest and most interesting photographs. Is there some everyday railway activity in your life that has gone undocumented?

Brian Solomon will be presenting a illustrated talk to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin on Thursday February 12th at 7:30pm.This is titled  Ireland in Colour, Bo-Bo’s, Rail Freight and Signal Cabins.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Resignalling at Boyle; Ten Years ago.

Between 2003 and 2008, Irish Rail converted most of its peripheral lines from traditional control using mechanical semaphore signals and electric train staff to a Mini-CTC (centralised traffic control) system with colour-light signaling.

In May 2005, the signals at Boyle on the Sligo Line reflected this pending transition. The new hardware was in place, but the old semaphores were still doing their job. By the end of the year the signal towers on the Sligo Line had been closed and the day of the semaphore was done.

Station sign at Boyle on Irish Rail's Sligo Line.

Station sign at Boyle on Irish Rail’s Sligo Line.

Boyle resignalling looking east May 2005 Brian Solomon photo 0024052

Looking up road (toward Dublin) at Boyle in May 2005.

Brian Solomon will be presenting a illustrated talk to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin on Thursday February 12th at 7:30pm.This is titled  Ireland in Colour, Bo-Bo’s, Rail Freight and Signal Cabins.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Amtrak’s Vermonter at South Deerfield.

The re-opening of Boston & Maine’s Connecticut River line as the ‘Knowledge Corridor’ passenger route in December has made for a variety of new places to photograph Amtrak’s Vermonter that hadn’t had regular passenger trains in more than 25 years.

Amtrak train 55 approaches Hillside Road crossing at South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 40mm pancake lens; f7.1 1/1000 of a second.

Amtrak train 55 approaches North Hillside Road crossing at South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 40mm pancake lens; f7.1 1/1000 of a second.

In conjunction with the rebuilding of the line was brush removal, especially around grade crossings, which have further expanded photographic potential of the Connecticut River route. In addition to Amtrak, Pan Am Southern’s freights also use the line.

Up to just a few months ago, the view of the line at North Hillside Road in South Deerfield was hemmed in by brush and trees, but now it’s cleared and open.

Pat Yough, Paul Goewey and I were out for the Vermonter on January 23, 2015, and I exposed this image of it racing southward toward its station stop at Northampton.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

State Line Tunnel by the Light of the Moon.

It was an even zero degrees Fahrenheit (that’s about -18 Celsius) when I arrived at the top of State Line Tunnel. A heavy blanket of snow covered the ground and I could hear a heavy CSX eastward train climbing.

The twin-bore State Line Tunnel is the only true tunnel on the old Boston & Albany. The older of the two bores was abandoned in late 1988 when Conrail single-tracked the line.

Driving east on the New York State Thruway, I’d noted the eastward freight crossing ‘Bottleneck Bridge’ east of the interchange with Taconic State Parkway. I knew then, that if I didn’t dally, I could get to the top of State Line in time to roll the train by.

I recalled a chase many years ago with Bob Buck in the twilight hour. When we arrived at this favorite location, I insisted on making black & white photos with my old Leica and ignored Bob’s advice to, ‘Save your film for a sunny day.’

Back to the present. Despite the cold, I set up my Bogen tripod and attached my Lumix LX7. The train whistled for the grade crossing west of the tunnel. Not much time. I made a test shot at 8 seconds. Too dark. Switching to manual mode, I set the camera for 20 seconds. I made an exposure just as the headlights were illuminating the curve.

Lumix LX7 test photo; exposed at f2.2 for 8 seconds. This was too dark for my liking, so I tripled the amount of time the shutter was open.

Lumix LX7 test photo; exposed at f2.2 for 8 seconds. This was too dark for my liking, so I increased the amount of time the shutter was open to 20 seconds.

The lights of the eastward freight have begun to illuminate the curve. Lumix LX7 at f2.2 for 20 seconds.

The lights of the eastward freight have begun to illuminate the curve. Lumix LX7 at f2.2 for 20 seconds.

The view of the train in the photo with the Lumix was blasted by the headlights and isn’t very effective.

However, I had my brand new Fuji X-T1, but I hadn’t the time to figure out how to set it for long time exposures, I did make a few hand-held views at ISO 1250.

My first railway photos with my new Fuji X-T1 mirror-less camera were made of the approaching train at State Line Tunnel. I exposed for the snow and made the photos hand held.

My first railway photos with my new Fuji X-T1 mirror-less camera were made of the approaching train at State Line Tunnel. I exposed for the snow and made the photos hand held. Too dark for my liking, but it catches the drama of the moment.

Then I exposed a view with the Lumix of the freight cars rolling below me.

CSX's east ward freight passes below me. The quality of light offered by the full moon mimics the characteristics of sunlight, albeit at a substantially lower luminosity.

CSX’s east ward freight passes below me. The quality of light offered by the full moon mimics the characteristics of sunlight, albeit at a substantially lower luminosity.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

SEPTA’s Philadelphia Streetcars in Eight Photos.

Historically, Philadelphia had one of the most extensive urban streetcar networks in the United States.

My recent book Streetcars of America co-authored with John Gruber and published by Shire, features a selection of historic images of Philadelphia’s cars.

My father began photographing in Philadelphia in the mid-1950s, and my family has kept up the tradition.

A SEPTA Kowasaki car works Lancaster Avenue with the Philadelphia Center City skyline in the distance. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A SEPTA Kowasaki car works Lancaster Avenue with the Philadelphia Center City skyline in the distance. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

An historic PCC in route 15 service turns the corner from 63rd Street to Girard Avenue. Canon EOS 7D.

An historic PCC in route 15 service turns the corner from 63rd Street to Girard Avenue. Canon EOS 7D.

SEPTA's number 15 on Girard Avenue.

SEPTA’s number 15 on Girard Avenue.

A few minutes later this training car came grinding along.

A few minutes later this training car came grinding along.

A view looking east on Girard Avenue. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A view looking east on Girard Avenue. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

On January 16, 2015 I re-explored several Philadelphia streetcar routes to make photographs. I was surprise to see one of the 1980s-era Kawaski cars working as a ‘Training Car’ on Girard Avenue—normally the domain of restored PCCs for the number 15 cross-town line.

Later my brother Sean and I went over to Media to catch the route 101 car. The Media line is one of the vestiges of the old Philadelphia Suburban Lines.

Media, Pennsylvania is proud of its streetcar!

Media, Pennsylvania is proud of its streetcar!

SEPTA's Route 101 Trolley en route to 69th Street.

SEPTA’s Route 101 Trolley en route from 69th Street.

SEPTA 101 on the streets of Media, PA. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm lens.

SEPTA 101 on the streets of Media, PA. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm lens.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Soviet Electric at Koupio, Finland.

I visited a variety of cities on my travels in Finland in early September 2001. One dull afternoon I was in Koupio changing trains.

An express passenger train was due in from Helsinki, so I made my way to the west-end of the station platform where I exposed this view of a 1970s-era Soviet-built Sr1 electric.

Using my Rollei model T, I opted for a low-angle to add a sense of drama to the arriving train. My primary interest was this relic of Soviet railway technology, so I allowed it to get as close as possible before releasing the shutter.

Exposed with a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. Exposure calculated manually.

Exposed with a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. Exposure calculated manually.

American with German camera photographs Soviet-built electric in Finland! Yea!

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Foggy Morning, East Deerfield, Massachusetts, June 24, 1989.

Then, as now, east Deerfield was a favorite place to make photos and begin a trip to somewhere else.

To make the most of the long days of summer, I had an early start. At 6:19 am, I made this photo of eastward DHED led by a pair of former Norfolk Southern SD45 and an old Santa Fe SD26. For me the fog made the scene more interesting; it adds depth while providing a painterly chiaroscuro effect.

There’s something tragic, yet intriguing about the state of the line. The ghostly effect of the old double track signal bridge-sans signal heads and the weedy tracks tells of empire in decay. The railroad that forges forward in its own shadow.

You can imagine the low roar of the 20-645E3 diesels amplified and modulated by the morning mist. Perhaps I should have been making audio recordings . . .

 Using my dad’s Leica M3, I exposed this view on Kodak Plus-X. My exposure was between f4.5 and f5.6 at 1/60th of second.


Using my dad’s Leica M3, I exposed this view on Kodak Plus-X. My exposure was between f4.5 and f5.6 at 1/60th of second.

Since DHED had arrived at its eastward terminal, I opted to head west. My next photograph was at Schenectady, New York on the Delaware & Hudson some hours later. Fast forward more than 25 years

Pan_Am_352_East_Deerfield_w_100mm_IMG_9139

Compare the 1989 black & white view (top) with this one exposed in December 2014 from the same location, (previously displayed on Tracking the Light).

 

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

General Motors at Jesenice, Slovenia, August 2003.

On self-style tour of the Balkans that began and ended in Vienna, Denis McCabe and I spent a productive afternoon near the Slovenian border station at Jesenice. To the north beyond the formidable wall of the Alps lies Austria.

The mainline south to Ljubljana is electrified at 3,000 volts direct current. The Austrian electrification is high voltage alternating current. A small holding yard at the station was used to change engines and hold freights.

We caught a procession of trains, including a special summer-season passenger train heading to the Bulgarian coast.

The highlight of the visit was this freight the worked with a General Motors diesel off the secondary line that runs southwesterly toward the Italian frontier.

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Contax G2 with 45mm lens.

Exposed on Fujichrome with a Contax G2 with 45mm lens.

There’s a stiff grade on this line climbing up to Jesenice and we could hear the freight coming long before it came into sight.

Sunny skies were fading as a storm brewed in the mountains beyond. We boarded a local passenger train for Ljubljana and on arrival witnessed an especially violent electrical storm from the station platforms. I’ll post some of those dramatic photos sometime.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Breakneck Ridge Revisited.

In the 1940s, New York Central photographer Ed Nowak often posed trains near Breakneck Ridge (north of Cold Spring, New York. In the 1960s, my dad made photographs of lightning stripe E-units here.  I first visited with my dad and brother in the early 1980s. Back in 1989, I used USGS topographical maps to suss angles from the ridge.

On January 20, 2015, I parked near the north portal of the famous tunnels and followed the designated trail up the side of the ridge. It had been a fair few years since I was here last.

The clouds began to part in the west and for about 45 minutes there was low filtered sun on the rail. I exposed a few color slides and digital images of passing Metro-North and Amtrak trains.

A Metro-North northward train approaches the tunnels at Breakneck Ridge. Canon EOS with 40mm pancake lens.

A Metro-North northward train approaches the tunnels at Breakneck Ridge. Canon EOS with 40mm pancake lens.

Amtrak northward Empire Corridor train seen from Breakneck Ridge.

Amtrak northward Empire Corridor train seen from Breakneck Ridge.

One of the Hudson's most iconic landmarks; Bannerman Castle—as viewed from Breakneck Ridge. The trees are taller than I remember.

One of the Hudson’s most iconic landmarks; Bannerman Castle—as viewed from Breakneck Ridge. The trees are taller than I remember.

I kept thinking about all the Hudsons, Niagaras, and Mohawks, the General Motors E unit and Alco PA diesels, and even the classic former New Haven FL9s that passed this famous location in former times.

In an era when so many places have changed beyond recognition, it’s nice to be able to visit a spot that looks more or less the way I expect. Even if the locomotives have changed, and the operators are different; the scenery remains some of the finest in the East, and the line is still busy!

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Brian Solomon’s Illustrated Lecture to the Irish Railway Record Society in Dublin to be presented on February 12, 2015.

The talk is titled: Ireland in Colour, Bo-Bo’s, Rail Freight and Signal Cabins.

This view of old 177 leading the weedspraying train over the disused Midland Great Western route at Moate is one of many colourful images to be presented.

This view of old 177 leading the weedspraying train over the disused Midland Great Western route at Moate is one of many colourful images to be presented.

The program will be given at the IRRS premises at Heuston Station in Dublin (opposite the entrance to the car park) and will begin at 7:30pm.

This will feature a variety of original colour slides projected in the traditional manner (that is, using a good ol’ fashioned slide projector!)

Irish rail 'bo-bo' 146 scuttles across the River Barrow at Monasterevin.

Irish rail ‘bo-bo’ 146 scuttles across the River Barrow at Monasterevin.

Rail freight along the River Suir at Waterford. Scan from a Fujichrome slide.

Rail freight along the River Suir at Waterford. Scan from a Fujichrome slide.

 Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Tomorrow: Breakneck Ridge Revisited.

CSX at Coldspring, New York.

Local freight on the old New York Central Hudson Division. In yesterday’s post, I wrote of my brief, but fortuituously timed and very productive visit to Fort Montgomery on CSX’s River Line (See: Hudson River Freight at Ft. Montgomery).

Having done well on the West Shore, I thought I give the east side of the river a chance.

Back in the late 1980s, I made regular trips to old Hudson Division.

At that time the former New Haven FL9 dual mode diesels were still standard on many trains, while Conrail operations on the old West Shore seem sparse compared with today.

I crossed the Hudson on the famed Bear Mountain Bridge, a suspension bridge that offers a commanding view of the lower Hudson Valley. I turned north on 9D and as I drove along, I noted a northward Amtrak train stopped on the mainline at Manitou.

This was not the normal state of affairs. When I got to Cold Spring, I saw a southward CSX local freight also stopped on the mainline, and well spotted for a scenic image.

Here was an opportunity, but I’ve learned from experience that time can be precious in these types of situations. Take the Bird in Hand.

CSX local pause north of Cold Spring, New York. He was a photo opportunity, but it would last long. Canon EOS 7D 100mm lens.

CSX local pause north of Cold Spring, New York. He was a photo opportunity, but it wouldn’t last long. Canon EOS 7D 100mm lens.

Only about 30 seconds after I got out of the car, I could here Amtrak train 283 approaching. Canon EOS 7D 100mm lens.

Only about 30 seconds after I got out of the car, I could hear Amtrak train 283 approaching. Canon EOS 7D 100mm lens.

Without wasting anymore time, I pulled off the road, got out of the car with Canon EOS 7D in hand and exposed a few frames. As I was reaching for my EOS 3 (loaded with Provia) I could hear the northward Amtrak train approaching, so rather than fuss with the film camera, I resumed work with the 7D and made a photo of the two trains nose to nose.

Then I exposed a couple of slides. But only moments after Amtrak had passed the CSX freight began to move. I had enough time to swap to a wide angle and expose a panoramic view.

This was an extra photo. It shows the whole setting and the CSX local accelerating away. In just a minutes time I'd taken several unusual images. If I'd mucked about and delayed acting for any reason, I would have missed all the action. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

This was an extra photo. It shows the whole setting and the CSX local accelerating away. In just a minutes time I’d taken several unusual images.  Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

If I had dallied, even for a minute (as in 60 seconds), I wouldn’t have been able to get these images. When the moment is right: act.

 Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Hudson River Freight at Ft. Montgomery.

It helps to have good timing.On the afternoon of January 20, 2015, I arrived at the Mine Dock Road grade crossing on CSX’s former New York Central West Shore Route (now called ‘CSX’s River Line’)  This was at just the right time.

I found a location, and as I took my camera out the bag, I could hear a train approaching. This turned out to be a southward crude oil extra led by BNSF Railway 7500 in the lead. I had just enough time to change lenses, make a test exposure, before it got close enough to properly photograph.

When this train passed, the home signal located beyond the rock cut cleared to ‘approach’ (yellow-over-red-over-red), telling me there was a northward train lined, but that this would need to stop at the next signal. This was a pretty good sign that there might be a meet.

Over the next hour, I photographed three more freight trains on the old West Shore, two northbound CSX freights, followed by a southward ethanol extra led by a pair of Canadian Pacific General Electric diesels.

In addition, I made use of my telephoto lenses to photograph passenger trains working the old New York Central Hudson Division on the east bank of the river.

Just lucky! I hadn't been out the car five minutes when this train came into view. Exposed using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. FIle adjusted in post processing to compensate for contrast and exposure.

Just lucky! I hadn’t been out the car five minutes when this train came into view. Exposed using my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. FIle adjusted in post processing to compensate for contrast and exposure.

While waiting for more freights on the West Shore, I made this view of a Metro-North commuter train on the old Hudson Division which hugs the east shore of the river.

While waiting for more freights on the West Shore, I made this view of a Metro-North commuter train on the old Hudson Division which hugs the east shore of the river.

CSX's CTC style signaling alerted me to this northward freight. I had ample time to select a location and get into position before I heard it roaring northward passed Iona Island. The famous Bear Mountain Bridge makes for a nice prop. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

CSX’s CTC style signaling alerted me to this northward freight. I had ample time to select a location and get into position before I heard it roaring northward past Iona Island. The famous Bear Mountain Bridge makes for a nice prop. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Not far behind the first northward freight was this train, seen about to exit the Fort Montgomery Tunnel. I'm standing in the same place as I had been for the last photo but opted for a longer lens. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Not far behind the first northward freight was this train, seen about to exit the Fort Montgomery Tunnel. I’m standing in the same place as I had been for the last photo but opted for a longer lens. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

CSX 7537 leads a northward mixed freight. The older cab style on this DASH-40C makes for a nice variation on the more modern 'Safety Cab' style that has come to dominate North American freight railroading.  Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

CSX 7537 leads a northward mixed freight. The older cab style on this DASH-40C makes for a nice variation on the more modern ‘Safety Cab’ style that has come to dominate North American freight railroading. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Not long after CSX 7537's train went north, I could hear this southward train accelerate. I was surprised, but delighted to catch a pair of CP Rail locomotives leading a loaded ethanol train. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

Not long after CSX 7537’s train went north, I could hear this southward train accelerate. I was surprised, but delighted to catch a pair of CP Rail locomotives leading a loaded ethanol train. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

All red. The signal now indicates that nothing else was lined in the northward direction. After photographing four freights in an hour on the West Shore, I opted to make a move and cross the Bear Mountain Bridge and try the other side of the river for a while.

All red. The signal now indicates that nothing else was lined in the northward direction. After photographing four freights in an hour on the West Shore, I opted to make a move and cross the Bear Mountain Bridge and try the other side of the river for a while.

While I was just lucky, it helps to be able to interpret the signals and have a keen ear for trains. My scanner might have helped me too, if I’d plugged in the correct frequencies. Or it might have distracted me. As it was I did well by sitting tight and waiting out the parade.

Tomorrow: more luck on the Hudson . . .

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Lots of Locomotives at East Brookfield Four Years Ago Today.

On this day in 2011 (January 31), I exposed this view of a CSX light-power move rolling westward through East Brookfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Albany mainline.

I used my trusty Lumix LX3, a camera with which I exposed many thousands of railway photos before it finally gave up the ghost.

ISO 200, f5.6 1/800th of a second.

ISO 200, f5.6 1/800th of a second. Notice that I’ve included the shadow of the lead locomotive at the far left of the frame. If cropped, this image would have less impact. 

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

January Sunset at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania

Back in 1991, my brother Sean and I explored the former Pennsylvania Railroad electrified mainline between Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia. I recalled from that visit that the long tangent at Marcus Hook offered some interesting views and the potential for evening glint.

Earlier this month (January 2015) we returned to this location. SEPTA maintains a ground level station that provides easy access.

I like the location for several reasons: it is open, which allows late sun to reach rail level; there’s a long tangent and signals, that provide advance warning for trains; Amtrak’s trains can travel at top speeds; and it is relatively easy to get around obstructions such as poles and wires than might interfere with photography.

Amtrak AEM-7 919 leads a late-running train 93 at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Amtrak AEM-7 919 leads a late-running train 93 at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Trailing view of Amtrak AEM-7 train 93 at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Trailing view of Amtrak AEM-7 train 93 at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A minute after train 93 passed, this eastward Acela Express was caught burning up the rail, you can still see 95 in the distance. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

A minute after train 93 passed, this eastward Acela Express was caught burning up the rail; you can still see train 93 in the distance. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Soft, rosy evening glint is an effect caused in part by pollution in the air resulting from large amounts of automotive emissions in the Northeast and filtration  from thin low clouds.

Soft, rosy evening glint is an effect caused in part by pollution in the air resulting from large amounts of automotive emissions and dust in the Northeast plus filtration from thin low clouds.

We arrived in time for a flurry of activity just as the sun was setting. These images were exposed using my Canon EOS 7D, but I also made a few images on Fuji Provia 100F using my old Canon EOS 3.

A new ACS-64 electric leads train 85 toward the setting sun at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. Except for scaling, there was no post-processing adjustment to this image. However, to retain the golden glint effect, I used the 'daylight' white balance setting on my camera instead of the 'auto white balance'.

A new ACS-64 electric leads train 85 toward the setting sun at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. Except for scaling, there was no post-processing adjustment to this image. However, to retain the golden glint effect, I used the ‘daylight’ white balance setting on my camera instead of the ‘auto white balance’.

A SEPTA Silverliner V accelerates away from the station at Marcus Hook on its way toward Wilmington, Delaware.

A SEPTA Silverliner V accelerates away from the station at Marcus Hook on its way toward Wilmington, Delaware. Except for scaling (necessary for internet presentation), there was no post-processing manipulation to this image.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Furness and a Diesel; Wilmington, Delaware.

Finding a surprise in a sea of wires.

On January 16, 2015, my brother and I risked the perils of Interstate-95 and drove to Wilmington, Delaware so that I could make a few photos of the former Pennsylvania Railroad station.

I’d been working on a book on railway station architecture, and I wanted to make a few views of this iconic building credited to Frank Furness. Somewhere I’d seen a photo from the parking garage across the street that made me curious.

Completed in 1908, the former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Wilmington, Delaware was designed by Furness, Evans and Company, and is one of many railroad stations in the region attributed to the brilliance of architect Frank Furness. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 20mm lens.

Completed in 1908, the former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Wilmington, Delaware was designed by Furness, Evans and Company, and is one of many railroad stations in the region attributed to the brilliance of architect Frank Furness. Exposed with a Canon EOS7D with 20mm lens.

Close up of the Wilmington Station clock tower. This is a bit of Victorian elegance in a setting characterized by modern infrastructure consisting of steel and reinforced concrete. Canon EOS 7D.

Close up of the Wilmington Station clock tower. This is a bit of Victorian elegance in a setting characterized by modern infrastructure consisting of steel and reinforced concrete. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens; ISO 200 f5.0 1/500th of a second. Cross lighting helps show the detail in the clock tower brickwork.

Thanks to Sean’s navigation, we easily found the station and the parking garage. I drove to the top level and made my photos. As is often the situation on exploratory trips, I decided this might make a better image at another time of day. At some point, perhaps I’ll return on an August evening and try again.

While on the top of the garage, I photographed a northbound train. This was led by a General Electric P42 diesel-electric, which is not the Amtrak motive power I’d expect to see here in electrified territory!

Amtrak P42 number 60 leads an unknown train northward (eastward) on the North East Corridor. Using my 200mm lens, I focused on the gap in the wires and poles to frame up the locomotive. I rarely make photos along the NEC in Delaware, but I wasn't expecting a diesel powered Amtrak train. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Amtrak P42 number 60 leads an unknown train northward (eastward) on the North East Corridor. Using my 200mm lens, I focused on the gap in the wires and poles to frame up the locomotive. I rarely make photos along the NEC in Delaware, but I wasn’t expecting a diesel powered Amtrak train. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

It was a brief visit to Delaware. Getting back to I-95 proved more difficult than finding the station, but in the end we were on our way. The light was getting good and I had visions of a sunset glint location . . .

 

 Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Tomorrow: glint on the North East Corridor

 

 

 

Northern Pacific 328 at Dawn.

It’s hard to beat steam in the glint light! Dick Gruber and I spent the weekend of August 17, 1996, photographing Northern Pacific 4-6-0 328 working Wisconsin Central trackage in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.

While we made many fine images on that trip, for me the money-shot was this one I exposed of the locomotive steaming up at Dresser, Wisconsin as the sun rose.

Exposed on Fuji Provia 100F with a Nikon F3T.

Exposed on Fuji Provia 100F with a Nikon F3T.

There’s an old adage among photographers: ‘f5.6 and be there!’

I’ve said before, and it’s true. The best way to get great photos is to be there when it happens. And that’s the real secret.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.

Seven photos of a reincarnated railway.

NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has been on my photo list for more than a decade. It’s one of those things that is close enough to be just out of reach.

When an operation is under threat, time is made—found—to photograph it. You know, before its gone. But when something isn’t going anywhere, its often easy to ignore.

Such was my failings in photographing the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. Thanks to a detailed tour with Jack May on January 15, 2015, I’ve finally explored of this interesting operation.

Canon EOS 7D photo.

Canon EOS 7D photo.

This simplified map of the system is posted in all of the cars. Canon EOS 7D photo.

This simplified map of the system is posted in all of the cars. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Hoboken terminal, which the light rail serves via  stub-end spur.

Hoboken terminal, which the light rail serves via stub-end spur.

This compact modern passenger railway operates on a selection of former heavy-rail railroad rights of way, including through the old New York, West Shore & Buffalo tunnel at Weekhawken.

The day was ideal; sunny and bright with clear skies. We first rode north from Hoboken to Tonnelle Avenue, then worked our way back south through Jersey City to Bayonne visiting a variety of stations along the way.

All along the line are modern buildings. I was pleased to find that ridership was very good, even during midday. This follows the idiom of: 'Build and they will come.'

All along the line are modern buildings. I was pleased to find that ridership was very good, even during midday. This follows the maxim of: ‘Build and they will come.’

A view looking back toward Weekhawken. As a kid I was fascinated by the Palisades.

A view looking back toward Weekhawken. As a kid I was fascinated by the Palisades.

Much of the route passed through places that I recalled from adventures with my father in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Jersey waterfront was different place back then.

What had been rotting wharves, badly maintained freight trackage, and post-industrial squalor is now all up-scale housing, modern office towers, and otherwise new construction. It was familiar, yet different—like some weird vision of the future.

The 8th Street Station is located at the south end of the system in Bayonne. Canon EOS 7D photo.

The 8th Street Station is located at the south end of the system in Bayonne. Canon EOS 7D photo.

A portion of the line running toward 8th Street runs along the right of way of the old Central Railroad of New Jersey  four track mainline—once the route of the Queen of the Valley, Reading's Crusader, and Baltimore & Ohio's Royal Blue and Capitol Limited. I may have missed all of that, but my father has a few choice photos from those days. Canon EOS 7D photo.

A portion of the line running toward 8th Street usesgthe right of way of the old Central Railroad of New Jersey four track mainline—once the route of the Queen of the Valley, Reading’s Crusader, and Baltimore & Ohio’s Royal Blue and Capitol Limited. I may have missed all of that, but my father has a few choice photos from those days. Canon EOS 7D photo.

In addition to these digital photos made with my Canon EOS 7D, I also exposed many color slides on Provia 100F with my EOS 3 for review at later date.

The Katyn massacre memorial is located near Exchange Place across from lower Manhattan. Many years ago, Pennsylvania Railroad operated an extensive terminal near this very location with a cavernous balloon style shed patterned after London St. Pancras.

The Katyn massacre memorial is located near Exchange Place across from lower Manhattan and a short walk from the light rail line. Many years ago, Pennsylvania Railroad operated an extensive terminal near this location that featured a cavernous balloon style shed patterned after London St. Pancras. My father brought us to the site of the old terminal in the early 1980s-even then there wasn’t much to remind us of the glory days.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Hoboken Terminal in Five Photos.

My new book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals will feature New Jersey’s Hoboken Terminal. This will be published by Voyageur Press in a few months time. Below is an excerpt of my text along with a few photos I exposed with Jack May on January 15, 2015.

William H. Truesdale assumed control of the anthracite hauling Delaware, Lackawanna & Western in 1899. During the early twentieth century he transformed DL&W into a modern railroad with state of the art infrastructure. His skillful management and massive capital improvements were designed to lower the railroad’s costs and make it more competitive. During this Lackawanna renaissance Kenneth M. Murchison was hired to design the railroad’s finest passenger facilities. Murchison, was a respected New York architect who earned several important commissions for railroad stations in the early twentieth century. Murchison had studied in Paris and made prominent use of the Beaux-Arts style in his railway architecture. Among his significant early projects was Delaware, Lackawanna & Western’s new Hoboken Terminal on the west shore of the Hudson River across from New York City.

Hoboken_Terminal_IMG_0113

Hoboken_Terminal_IMG_0129

Hoboken_Terminal_IMG_0117

Bush style sheds were first developed for Hoboken and survive to the present day.

Bush style sheds were first developed for Hoboken and survive to the present day.

Main waiting room at Hoboken.

Main waiting room at Hoboken.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Tracking the Light Extra Post: February Railfan & Railroad feature Brian Solomon’s B&A article.

If you haven’t seen it, check it out! My eight-page exclusive Boston & Albany photo feature graces the pages of February 2015 Railfan & Railroad magazine.

B&A Solomon_col_899818

Special thanks to Otto Vondrak for facilitating this article which features some of personal favorite photographs!

See: http://railfan.com/

and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/railfanmag?fref=nf

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Newark Broad Street

Five photos of an Architectural Gem on the old Lackawanna.

On January 15, 2015, Jack May and I visited this grand old railroad station on our exploration of NJ Transit lines in the area.

The station building was designed by DL&W’s Frank J. Niles and completed in 1903.

Newark Broad Street Station on January 15, 2015. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Newark Broad Street Station on January 15, 2015. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Newark Broad Street Station on January 15, 2015. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

The Italianate style clock tower is a classic element of Newark’s Broad Street Station on January 15, 2015. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Although the days when long distance trains paused here on their way to and from Buffalo have long since past, the triple track former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mainline was alive with suburban traffic.

On going maintenance on track 1 improved our photographs of inbound trains, but confused passengers as to which platform to stand on.

An informative plaque at Broad Street makes for its own caption.

An informative plaque at Broad Street makes for its own caption.

An NJT ALP46 shoves at the back of an inbound train: next stop, Hoboken. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

An NJT ALP46 shoves at the back of an inbound train: next stop, Hoboken. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

An outbound NJ Transit commuter train approaches Broad Street. On the left you can see the Empire State Building. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

An outbound NJ Transit commuter train approaches Broad Street. On the left you can see the Empire State Building. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

I’ve just completed text for a book on railroad stations to be published by Voyageur Press. This among the many stations that I may choose to illustrate.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Tracking the Light: Extra Post—Big Train Show photos.

Today, January 24, 2015 was the first day of the annual Amherst Railway Society Big Railroad Hobby Show, or as Mike Gardner likes to call it, ‘The Big Shoe.’

Snow in the morning resulted in a quieter that usual day. I arrived about noon and had ample opportunity to breeze through all four buildings and meet with friends.

Below is a sampling of images. Were you at The Big Shoe? Maybe you are in one of the photos!

Amherst_Show_B&M_GP40_317_P1130639

The Big Railroad Hobby Show fills four buildings at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Big Railroad Hobby Show fills four buildings at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Lots of locomotives to look at.

Lots of locomotives to look at.

Amherst_Show_Lionel_P1130600

Amherst_Show_Oxford_Junction_Press_P1130583

Amherst_Show_PRR_Great_Northern_E7_P1130574

Amherst_Show_narrow_gauge_P1130611

Amherst_Show_VRS_P1130645Amherst_Show_The_General_P1130573

Amherst_Show_GE_Hybrid_P1130571Amherst_Show_Kevin_Ed_Doug_P1130622Amherst_Show_Dan_P1130588Amherst_Show_Dave_C_P1130593Amherst_Show_PRR_SD45_P1130568

Slice of Light Photography.

Slice of Light Photography.

Otto Vondrak.

Otto Vondrak.

Springfield Union Station.

Springfield Union Station.

Amherst_Show_B&M_GP40_317_P1130642

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Newark City Subway.

Among the least photographed urban railways in the New York City metro area is the old Newark City Subway.

On January 15, 2015, I met Jack May at Newark Penn Station and we began our tour of area railways.

A 1930s era mural depicts the old canal. Jack May explained to me that part of the City Subway was built in the old canal bed. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

A 1930s era mural depicts the old canal. Jack May explained to me that part of the City Subway was built in the old canal bed. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D.

The last time I rode the Newark City Subway it still featured PCC cars. Since then it has been extended and is now part of NJ Transit’s Newark Light Rail.

Images of the subway from my Kodachrome days really weren’t so good. However, with my Canon EOS 7D I was able to make remarkably pleasing photos.

The cars are lettered for the Newark Light Rail.

The cars are lettered for the Newark Light Rail.

An inbound light rail car arrives at the Newark Penn Station terminus. Twin turn back loops are in operation here. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

An inbound light rail car arrives at the Newark Penn Station terminus. Twin turn back loops are in operation here. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Newark City Subway at Penn Station. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

Newark City Subway at Penn Station. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

An inbound car departs from Broad Street. The old DL&W station on the right has been restored. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

An inbound car departs from Broad Street. The old DL&W station on the right has been restored. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens.

The platforms on the DL&W station offered this view of the new light rail. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

The platforms on the DL&W station offered this view of the new light rail. An outbound light rail car crosses Lackawanna Avenue. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

We rode from Newark Penn Station (not to be confused for New York Penn Station) on the new Broad Street Extension to the finely restored old Lackawanna Station. Here we began the next leg of our tour.

Stay tuned tomorrow!

 Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please share Tracking the Light!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/