All posts by brian solomon

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

Amtrak 768 at Fullerton—Two Perspectives.

On my theme of ‘getting the angle right’; or rather how slight adjustments in elevation can alter perspective, compare these two recent views of Amtrak 768 Pacific Surfliner at Fullerton, California.

Both were made with my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera and a telephoto zoom lens.

The top view was made from my standing height and aims to include the footbridge.

With the bottom view, I’ve taken a more extreme telephoto focal length while placed the camera very near to platform level. Composition was aided through use of the fold-out rear display. This allows me to hold the camera near to the ground while being able to look down to see the image. (A handy feature of the XT1).

The low angle telephoto is a good means for making a more dramatic view.

A photograph made from my normal standing height. Here I've aimed to include the footbridge.
A photograph made from my normal standing height. Here I’ve aimed to include the footbridge.
For this more dramatic perspective I've held the camera very close to the platform level for a sort of cat's eye view. The combination of a long telephoto lens and this abnormally low angle makes for a dramatic photo. Back in the 1990s, I made many of these views on film using my Nikon F3T by removing the prism and looking straight down into the viewfinder.
For this more dramatic perspective I’ve held the camera very close to the platform-level for a sort of cat’s eye view. The combination of a long telephoto lens and this abnormally low angle makes for a dramatic photo. Back in the 1990s, I made many of these views on film using my Nikon F3T by removing the prism and looking straight down into the viewfinder.

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For more about Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner see: amtrak.com/pacific-surfliner-train

Pan Am catches the Glint at East Deerfield Yard on July 30, 2013.

Pan Am 603 catches the glint at East Deerfield, Massachusetts on this day (July 30) three years ago (2013). Canon 7D image adjusted in Lightroom to reduce contrast.
Pan Am 603 catches the glint at East Deerfield, Massachusetts on this day (July 30) three years ago (2013). Canon 7D image adjusted in Lightroom to reduce contrast.

Notice that by working with low sun and cropping the sky, I’ve  made an early evening image seem almost like a night time view.

Hint: it really helps to view this post on Tracking the Light to avoid cropping and get the details.

Tracking the Light is on auto pilot while Brian is traveling.

New posts every day!

LAUS not to be confused with LUAS—Los Angeles Union Revisited

Dublin’s LUAS (not an acronym) is the name for the city’s modern light rail system.

By contrast, the Los Angeles Union Station is now known by its initials LAUS.

Historically, it was called the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, and called LAUPT.

I featured this great terminal in my recent book: Railway Depots, Stations and Terminals, published in 2015 by Voyageur Press.

The other day I revisited the station and made my first digital photographs of the buildings and trains there. (A station is more than just a building or buildings).

Here’s an excerpt of my text:

Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT) was completed in May 1939. It is a rare example of an Art Deco era railway station and one of the few stations that opened during the streamlined era. It’s modern interpretation of the Spanish Mission style design is largely attributed to the LA-based architectural team of John and Donald Parkinson.

LA_Union_Station_P1500195LA_Union_Station_P1500228LA_Union_Station_P1500236LA_Union_Station_P1500089LA_Union_Station_P1500106LA_Union_Station_P1500090Metro_Link_Union_Station_P1500137LA_Union_Station_P1500107BNSF_Panoramic_P1500186BNSF_LA_Union_Station_P1500170Tracking the Light is Daily.

Photographer’s challenge: New York City Subway’s 34th Street-Hudson Yards.

Not long ago the old IRT Flushing line was extended west and a new terminal station called 34th Street-Hudson Yards was opened. This is located near the Javits Center and just a few blocks west of Penn-Station.

My digital guru Eric Rosenthal recommended this to me as a photo subject. The station is unusually deep and features very long escalators.

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I exposed these images with my Lumix LX7. The underground views were made at ISO200. One of the advantages of the LX7 is that it has a very fast lens. In other words the lens has the ability to let in lots of light.

The advantage of this feature is that I can use a relatively slow ISO setting in the subway and still get excellent results hand held.

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Blinded by the Brightness: BNSF GE AC4400CWs work passenger trains—Los Angeles July 2016.

Here’s recent view with the Lumix. All that blue sky confused my exposure!

Lots of BNSF AC4400s at Los Angeles Union Station working the LA-end of Metrolink trains.

Photo by Brian Solomon July 2016. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Photo by Brian Solomon July 2016. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light is on autopilot while Brian is traveling.

New York City’s Number 7 Flushing Line in the Afternoon—12 Photos.

The old IRT Flushing line is the first train-ride that I recall.

My dad brought me on this run before I was taking photos.

I made these images last week using my Lumix LX7.

New York City’s Number 7 Flushing Line’s curving undulating elevated structure offers a multitude of angles.

In the evening rush-hour, Flushing trains run at very short intervals, with outbound expresses using the middle track.

Court Square, Queens.
Court Square, Queens.

For my money, the number 7 remains one of the coolest transit lines in the City. (And not just because of the photography! The AC actually works on some of the cars.)

Outbound express on the middle track at 46th Street and Bliss.
Outbound express on the middle track at 46th and Bliss Streets.
Tail-end of the outbound express at 46th Street.
Tail-end of the outbound express at 46th Street.
A view of the Flushing Line from the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Woodside in Queens.
A view of the Flushing Line from the Long Island Rail Road platforms at Woodside in Queens.
Woodside.
Woodside.
Older cars at 52nd Street.
Older cars at 52nd Street.
View from the back of the train at 52nd street.
View from the back of the train at 52nd street.
46th and Bliss Streets.
46th and Bliss Streets.

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Court Square.
Court Square.
Court Square.
Court Square.

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New York City Subway Collage—July 2016.

Making my way from point to point underground in New York City, I always keep my Lumix at the ready.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I made black & white photos of the subway with my old Leica, so I’ve been at this  a while.

The mix of old tiles, modern signs and the continual rush of humanity makes for lots of photographic possibilities.

For ease of exposure I set the Lumix to ‘A’ mode for aperture; wind the lens open to about f1.4/f2; set the white balance to ‘auto’, and release the shutter from below eye level (as required).

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42nd Street.
42nd Street.
28th Street.
28th Street.

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Cal-Train near old Bayshore.

May Day 1991; I made this view of a short Cal-Train set at Brisbane,California near the site of Southern Pacific’s old Bay ShoreYard.

Exposed with a Leica M2 on Tri-X. Processed in Agfa Rodinal which made for a grainier negative but very rich contrast in the shadows.
Exposed with a Leica M2 on Tri-X. Processed in Agfa Rodinal which made for a grainier negative but very rich contrast in the shadows.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Tracking the Light Catch of the Day; CSX GE ‘Tier 4’ eastbound at Palmer —July 25, 2016.

CSX daylight operations through Palmer, Massachusetts can be a bit sparse these days.

This morning, I was on my way back from some errands and I noted that the local freight (B740) was holding on the controlled siding at CP83 and a New England Central local was stopped south of the Palmer diamond. So I pulled over and parked.

The points at CP83 were made for the main line and the westward signals were all showing red. Armed with this information I concluded that an eastward freight must be close at hand.

I walked up to the South Main Street bridge and gave it a few minutes. Before long an eastward intermodal train came into view with a relatively new General Electric ‘Tier 4’ six-motor in the lead.

My guess is that this train is CSX symbol freight Q022 that runs to Worcester, Massachusetts (but if anyone has better information, I’m open to amending my guess).

Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I used the ‘A’ mode and dialed in -1/3 to compensate for the bright sunlight and the dark side of the train. This image was extracted from the in-camera Jpeg and compressed for internet viewing, but I also made a RAW file of the same image. Both are to be archived on multiple hard drives.
Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I used the ‘A’ mode and dialed in -1/3 to compensate for the bright sunlight and the dark side of the train. This image was extracted from the in-camera Jpeg and compressed for internet viewing, but I also made a RAW file of the same image. Both are to be archived on multiple hard drives. I opted for this angle to replicate an image of a Conrail freight that I exposed here in 1984. At some point I’ll post then and now views for comparison.

Tracking the Light sometimes posts more than once per day!

Staten Island Rapid Transit.

Here’s today’s logical continuation from Sunday’s Tracking the Light.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

On arrival at St. George, Staten Island, I had exactly 40 minutes to explore and photograph the old Staten Island Rapid Transit (Staten Island Railway).

Compared with more than 40 years photographing Amtrak, or 18 years photographing Irish Rail, that isn’t a lot of time.

Here’s what I came up with in that short span.

Here's the face of the Staten Island Railway.
Here’s the face of the Staten Island Railway.
St. George terminus.
St. George terminus.

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Staten Island Railway with the Narrows Bridge. Contrast adjusted in Lightroom.
Staten Island Railway with the Narrows Bridge. Contrast adjusted in Lightroom.
Lots of rules and warnings on the line. Gosh!
Lots of rules and warnings on the line. (see: ‘Code of Conduct’ to the left of the station sigh). No this, no that. Gosh!
The railway has an unusual off-center logo. I wonder if that signifies something?
The railway has an unusual off-center logo. I wonder if that signifies something?

All photos were exposed with my Lumix LX7.

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Staten Island Ferry—July 2016

Sunny morning. New York City. Haven’t been to Staten Island in a very long time.

Ferry’s free!

So away I went.

Photos exposed using my Lumix LX7.

Staten Island Ferry terminal in the Battery.
Staten Island Ferry terminal in the Battery.
US Coast Guard escort across New York Harbor.
US Coast Guard escort across New York Harbor.
Manhattan Skyline.
Manhattan Skyline.
Panoramic composite view of Manhattan skyline. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Panoramic composite view of Manhattan skyline. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
View of the Narrows Bridge.
View of the Narrows Bridge.
Passengers make photos and take in the see-air.
Passengers make photos and take in the sea-air.
One of the ferries docked on the Staten Island side.
One of the ferries docked on the Staten Island side (St. George).
Ferry schedule.
Ferry schedule.
Heading back toward Manhattan passing the outward scheduled ferry.
Heading back toward Manhattan passing the outward scheduled ferry.
Staten Island Ferry with famous lady holding torch in background.
Staten Island Ferry with famous lady holding torch in background.
Back in Manhattan again.
Back in Manhattan again.

(PS. Stay tuned for more New York photos.)

Tracking the Light posts Daily.

Chicago: CTA—July 2016.

Last week I had a few minutes between trains, during which time I exposed these views of the Chicago Transit Authority’s famous ‘L’ at the Chicago Loop.

Although it is common misconception that the ‘loop’ is so named for the circular arrangement of CTA’s elevated railway downtown, the name pre-dates the ‘L’ and actually stems from Chicago’s cable car days. (Chicago, rather than San Francisco, once held title to the world’s most extensive cable operated streetcar network.)

Photos exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Telephoto view in the evening looking toward Lake Michigan.
Telephoto view in the evening looking toward Lake Michigan.
I like this image because you can clearly see the train's operator in silhouette in the front window. Of course, you need to view the image at sufficient size to perceive this essential detail.
I like this image because you can clearly see the train’s operator in silhouette in the front window. Of course, you’ll need to view the image at a sufficiently large size to perceive this essential detail.

Tracking the Light posts Daily!

The Big Chase: Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg—Second Try.

A week ago, I traveled with John Gruber and Scott Lothes for a day’s photography on the Wisconsin & Southern,

A couple of days previously, John and I had made some photographs exploring the line to Reedsburg (see previous posts). So armed with that experience plus good information on operations, we set out with Scott for another run.

Among the three of us we have a bit of photographic experience and a lot of railway knowledge, so we were in good position to make the most of the day. I always like learning from fellow photographers as everyone has their own way of seeing.

I have to admit that the old Chicago & North Western line between Madison and Reedsburg isn’t my strongest field of interest. When I lived in Wisconsin this line (then still operated by C&NW) was largely nocturnal. However in more recent times, John and I have made daylight photos.

Until a few months ago the route still featured some vintage wig-wag grade crossing signals, and these had been the focus of my earlier efforts on the line. Since these are gone, we were able to take a more diverse approach.

The Reedsburg line is now but a branch on the sprawling Wisconsin & Southern freight gathering network, but historically the line was a key Chicago & North Western mainline between Chicago, Madison and the Twin Cities. For me this legacy makes the line more interesting.

We picked up the train at Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison Yard, and over the next few hours intercepted it more than a dozen times.

Knutson Drive in Madison, Wisconsin.
Knutson Drive in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunny weather plus a single clean SD40-2 running short-hood first put us in a good position to make satisfactory images. On the previous run John and I needed to make do with the engine running long-hood first, which is a more challenging subject to photograph.

Here are a few digital photos from our second chase. Any favorites?

A view of scrap cars from an over-pass west of Lodi, Wisconsin. After all, a freight train is about the freight, right?
A view of scrap cars from an over-pass west of Lodi, Wisconsin. After all, a freight train is about the freight, right?
Pastoral Wisconsin scene near Okee.
Pastoral Wisconsin scene near Okee.
Crossing the Wisconsin River at Merrimac. John brought the car across on the ferry, while Scott and I waited on the south side of the river for the train.
Crossing the Wisconsin River at Merrimac. John brought the car across on the ferry, while Scott and I waited on the south side of the river for the train.
Devils Lake, Wisconsin. There's a variety of angles on this place, most of them better in the afternoon or evening. We were there at lunch-time and had to make the best of it. I've adjusted the contrast in Lightroom.
Devils Lake, Wisconsin. There’s a variety of angles on this place, most of them better in the afternoon or evening. We were there at lunch-time and had to make the best of it. I’ve adjusted the contrast using Lightroom. I’ve tried to maintain the sense of lighting while balancing it to produce a more pleasing overall image. It is of course possible to overdo contrast control, which may result in an unnatural appearing image.
Baraboo station. Compare this photograph with my black & white views posted a few days ago.
Baraboo station. Compare this photograph with my black & white views posted a few days ago.
Our freight works at Rock Springs where it dropped grain cars for loading.
Our freight works at Rock Springs where it dropped grain cars for loading.
Scott picked this spot. On the previous trip I'd tried a long telephoto view of the same bridge. I like this wide angle broadside better.
Scott picked this spot. On the previous trip I’d tried a long telephoto view of the same bridge. I like this wide angle broadside better.
We were a bit tardy arriving at the crossing. This is a quick grade crossing grab shot. Not much time to set up. As with a few of the other images, I've adjusted the contrast using Lightroom.
We were a bit tardy arriving at the crossing. This is a quick grade crossing grab shot. Not much time to set up. As with a few of the other images, I’ve adjusted the contrast using Lightroom.

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A Visit to the Illinois Railway Museum: “Hello old Friend, What are YOU doing here?”

The Illinois Railway Museum has one of the best collections of North American railway equipment. Hundreds of pieces of equipment spanning more than a century are on display.

It’s great to be able to inspect a traditional 4-4-0, and a Forney Tank engine. I’m fond of classics such as the Santa Fe 2900-class 4-8-4, Burlington’s 4-6-4 Hudson and its streamlined Budd-built Nebraska Zephyr, and of course the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 in Brunswick green.

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 4-6-4 at IRM.
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 4-6-4 at IRM.
Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric 4929. A masterpiece of engineering and design.
Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric 4929. A masterpiece of engineering and design.
I recall the GG1s under wire. Great sounding air horn on these.
I recall the GG1s under wire. Great sounding air horn on these.
Budd stainless steel. And articulated too!
Budd stainless steel. And articulated too!
My book on streamlined trains came out last year and it was nice to reflect on these amazing machines in the museum. (Puns are extra).
My book on streamlined trains came out last year and so  it was nice to reflect on these amazing machines in the museum. (Puns are extra).
Some of the old girls still work; this Frisco 2-10-0 is serviceable. Just add coal, water and talent!
Some of the old girls still work; this Frisco 2-10-0 is serviceable. Just add coal, water and talent!
Parts anyone?
Parts anyone?
Sister to the popular Milwaukee Road 261 is engine 265. Sure would be neat to get both engines under steam together!
Sister to the popular Milwaukee Road 261 is engine 265. Sure would be neat to get both engines under steam together!
Lots of electrics under the barns. PCC's have been a regular feature on Tracking the Light.
Lots of electrics under the barns. PCC’s have been a regular feature on Tracking the Light.

The old diesels are neat, and there’s great array of old streetcars.

But then, what’s this? A Wisconsin Central SD45? Wow, nice to see that one of those was saved, but it just doesn’t seem that long ago and I was out catching these on the mainline.

And wait, what about this Metra Bi-Level electric? Weird to see THAT in a museum.

Two Chicago & North Western DASH9s!

Now I just feel old.

Views exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit.

A former Santa Fe Alco RSD-15. These must have looked great hauling freight back in the day.
A former Santa Fe Alco RSD-15. These must have looked great hauling freight back in the day.
Eight motors, four in each truck, that's what the DDA40X was all about.
Eight motors, four in each truck, that’s what the DDA40X was all about.
An Wisconsin Central SD45. Twenty years ago when I lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin I could hear these roar through town from my apartment. I spent lots of time putting these beast on film.
An Wisconsin Central SD45. Twenty years ago when I lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin I could hear these roar through town from my apartment. I spent lots of time putting these beast on film.
It's like Galesburg Railroad Days! The BN executive Fs! Always cool.
It’s like Galesburg Railroad Days! The BN executive Fs! Always cool.
Whoa! What's this? A Metra electric? Hmm.
Whoa! What’s this? A Metra electric? Hmm.
Two Chicago & North Western DASH9s. Really. It just doesn't seem that long ago that I sat in the cab of one these when they still had that 'new car smell'. And now they too are on display in a museum. Will anyone save a P40?
Two Chicago & North Western DASH9s. Really?! It just doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat in the cab of one these when they still had that ‘new car smell’. And now they too are on display in a museum. Will anyone save a P40?

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John Gruber’s Photo Exhibition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

 

Last week I traveled with John Gruber to the Illinois Railway Museum at Union. John needed to deliver some material in relation to his North Shore photo exhibit, and he wanted me to expose a few images of him with his photographs.

Between 1960 and 1963, John made a project of documenting the last years of operation of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee interurban electric line.

North Shore was an intensive electric line that connected the Chicago Loop (trains served downtown using the rapid transit ‘L’—[elevated line]) with Milwaukee, Wisconsin via Chicago’s northern suburbs. The line was well known for its articulated streamlined speedsters called Electroliners and its electrically cooked hamburgers known as Electroburgers. Operations concluded in January 1963.

John’s work is iconic. He exposed thousands of North Shore photographs and his photography goes well beyond ordinary images of the trains. He focused on people as well as machines, and preserved a feel for this unusual railway in motion.

Johns work was prominently featured in the pages of Trains magazine and in books such as those by the late William D. Middleton.

His current exhibit can be seen in the waiting room of the East Union station at IRM. It will be on display through the end of 2016.

Of course, while we were at IRM, we took the opportunity to travel the line, and visit some of the historic equipment (which includes several of North Shore’s cars).

In addition to a variety of digital photos, I exposed these black & white images with my Leica.

John Gruber at IRM. Exposed on Ilford Pan F using a Leica 3A with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.
John Gruber at IRM. Exposed on Ilford Pan F using a Leica 3A with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.
Exposed on Ilford FP4 black & white film using a Leica 3A with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.
Exposed on Ilford FP4 black & white film using a Leica 3A with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.
Exposed on Ilford FP4 black & white film using a Leica 3A with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. (image cropped).
Exposed on Ilford FP4 black & white film using a Leica 3A with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. (image cropped).

For more information on the Illinois Railway Museum see: http://www.irm.org

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Long Hood at the Old Station; Baraboo, Wisconsin in Black & White—July 2016.

 

I exposed these three photos last week on Wisconsin & Southern at Baraboo, Wisconsin using my old Leica 3A loaded with Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50).

In its heyday, Baraboo was a division point on Chicago & North Western’s Chicago-Madison-Twin Cities main line.

Its glory days are now more than a century past; decline began in the early twentieth century, when this route was augmented by C&NW’s low-grade Adams Line (via Milwaukee), which became a preferred route for through freight and fast passenger expresses.

It was severed as a through line in the 1980s.

As mentioned in an earlier post, on this July 2016 day John Gruber and I were following Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison to Reedsburg freight.

Some photographers might object to the railroad’s choice of motive power: an SD40-2 operating long-hood first. I recall the wisdom of my late-friend Bob Buck who reminded me once many years ago, ‘The railroad isn’t operated for your benefit.’

(In other-words; if a long-hood forward SD40-2 is on offer, that’s what there is and so make the best of it.)

Compare these images:

In this view the harsh overhead light characteristic of 'high sun' was briefly soften by a passing fair weather cloud. Some photographers might cringe at the thought of a cloud, but here if offered opportunity for a variation on the scene. I adjusted the contrast of the image in post processing.
Photo 1. In this view the harsh overhead light characteristic of ‘high sun’ was briefly soften by a passing fair weather cloud. Some photographers might cringe at the thought of a cloud, but here if offered opportunity for a variation on the scene. I adjusted the contrast of the image in post processing.
Bright sun again; so with this photograph I used my rangefinder to focus on the trackside weeds instead of Wisconsin & Southern 4008.
Photo 2. Bright sun again; so with this photograph I used my rangefinder to focus on the trackside weeds instead of Wisconsin & Southern 4008.
John Gruber looks on while Wisconsin & Southern 4008 switches at Baraboo. Exposed on Ilford Pan F using a Leica 3A rangefinder camera fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.
Photo 3. John Gruber looks on while Wisconsin & Southern 4008 switches at Baraboo. Exposed on Ilford Pan F using a Leica 3A rangefinder camera fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.

In one, I’ve adjusted the contrast to compensate for a cloud that momentarily softened the noonday sunlight. In the second, I’ve worked with depth of field and focused on trackside weeds instead of the locomotive. In the last, I’ve included fellow photographer John Gruber to add in a human element.

Which do you like the best?

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Photo Controls; Depth of Field; using your Aperture.

When I learned to use my old mechanical Leica there were three primary controls on the camera; a ring to adjust the focus (gauged with the aid of range finder using a ghost image overlaid on the main image); dials to adjust the shutter speed; and a ring on the lens to change the size of the aperture (lens hole) as indicated by a logarithmic scale with ‘f-stops/f-numbers’.

Other than merely pointing the camera, I needed to understand how these controls worked to make successful photos.

Today most imaging making devices take care of details such as exposure and focus, allowing image makers to snap away without concern for the mechanics.

In many instances this freedom facilitates the ability to make photos quickly and with relative ease. Yet, this loss of control steals from the photographer crucial tools.

I still like to set my aperture manually. This has less to do with obtaining the correct exposure (since in camera metering can quickly suggest  or set appropriate shutter-speed/aperture combinations) and more to do with adjusting the depth of field to manipulate my composition.

A detailed discussion of how the f-stop (f-number) is determined on a lens and what the numbers mean can fill a textbook.

What is important here is knowing a few basics, such as; a smaller f-number represents a larger aperture size and, but more importantly, how you can use this.

As the size of aperture is increased more light is let into the camera, however with a big hole comes a decrease in depth of field (relative focus); conversely, the smaller the hole size (larger f-number), the less light and the greater the depth of field (relative sharpness between near and far objects).

By using a larger aperture (small f-number, say f1.4) the relative focus will be narrow, with those points not in focus appearing relatively soft compared with the subject in focus.

This relationship becomes exaggerated with longer focal length lenses. Where a super wide angle lens offers great depth of field even with a large aperture opening (small f-number), a long telephoto lens will offer relatively shallow depth of field even when using a small aperture (large f-number, say f16).

While the f-number may used as a constant gauging mark, what is most useful is controlling the degree of relative focus to achieve a desired effect.

Personally, I like the effect of a long lens with relatively shallow depth of field because this allows me to draw the eye of the viewer.

Full frame and uncropped; I exposed this view at Kent Station, Cork in January 2005 using a NikonF3 with 180mm lens.
Full frame and uncropped; I exposed this view at Kent Station, Cork in January 2005 using a NikonF3 with 180mm lens at f2.8— its widest aperture.

As with many successful stories, it often helps to lead your audience on an unexpected path before giving them what they want. I’ll often tease a viewer by leaving some crucial element of an image just beyond the range of sharpness, while placing the focus on something else, like say a railroad signal. Or vice versa.

I can't tell you what to look at, but I can try to draw your key. Notice where I've placed the focus, but also those things I've allowed to be less than fully sharp. The larger this photo is viewed, the more relevant the topic of relative focus. An imaged viewed at 3x5 inches won't necessarily convey the same impression when viewed much larger.
I can’t tell you what to look at, but I can try to draw your eye. Notice where I’ve placed the focus, but also those things I’ve allowed to be less than fully sharp. The larger this photo is viewed, the more relevant the topic of relative focus. An image viewed at 3×5 inches won’t necessarily convey the same impression when viewed much larger.

Irish_Rail_Cork_Jan2005_BrianSolomon©589631

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Wisconsin & Southern; as the Motorist sees it.

During the last week (July 2016), John Gruber and I were rewarded by our efforts at photographing Wisconsin & Southern freights on the move. John’s been documenting this route for decades.

On this day we’d picked up the Reedsburg Job near Merrimac and followed it west.

First of two images.
First of two images.

At this location near Baraboo, I asked John to stop the car near the top of a hill, rather than drive closer to the tracks.

So, is this how motorists perceive the Wisconsin & Southern?

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens fully extended to its most telephoto setting (135mm). The camera’s built-in level is very helpful in situations such as this where set up time is at premium.
Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens fully extended to its most telephoto setting (135mm). The camera’s built-in level is very helpful in situations such as this where set up time is at premium.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Live from Amtrak 448; Snapshots of the Boston & Albany Westend.

I’ve spent years prowling the old Boston & Albany on foot and by road.

Here’s some view made today (July 16, 2016) and over the last hour or so from the windows of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited train 448.

Exposed with my Lumix LX7 uploaded via Amtrak WiFi.

Old B&A station at Chatham, New York.
Old B&A station at Chatham, New York.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
North Adams Junction, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
North Adams Junction, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Washington Cut, Washington, Massachusetts.
Washington Cut, Washington, Massachusetts.
Looking east on Route 20 at Huntington, Massachusetts.
Looking east on Route 20 at Huntington, Massachusetts.

News Flash! Amtrak 448 departed Albany on Time Today! (July 16, 2016).

I can’t say its a first; but it is the first time in awhile that I’ve been on Amtrak 448 (Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited) when it departed Albany-Rensselaer station precisely on schedule—3:05pm.

Things have certainly improved. Hooray for Amtrak!

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I was among the first passengers to board Amtrak 448. Instead of running as a through train Chicago to Boston, the Boston section starts in Albany.

New York (left) and Boston (right) sections of the Lake Shore Limited. I made the cross platform transfer at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Lumix LX-7 photo.
New York (left) and Boston (right) sections of the Lake Shore Limited. I made the cross platform transfer at Albany-Rensselaer, New York. Lumix LX-7 photo.

Brian  is on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited

Sunrise from Amtrak 48 this Morning (16 July 2016)—uploaded from 448.

I made these views using my Lumix LX7 this morning east of Cleveland, Ohio on the old New York Central Water Level Route from Amtrak 48, the Lake Shore Limited.

I up-loaded them to my laptop, processed in Lightroom (to add my name and scale the file) and transmitted them to Tracking the Light a few minutes ago while riding on the train over the Boston & Albany.

Sunrise east of Cleveland, Ohio this morning (16 July 2016). Lumix LX7 ISO set at 400.
Sunrise east of Cleveland, Ohio this morning (16 July 2016). Lumix LX7 ISO set at 400.
Lumix LX7 view.
Lumix LX7 view.

Tracking the Light is Posting from the Train!

Sunset on the Chicago & North Western

I made these views with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera of the former Chicago & North Western Chicago-Madison-Twin Cities mainline at Evansville, Wisconsin.

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Looking west toward Madison, Wisconsin. Agricultural dust and other pollutants contribute to a rosy sunset. I've exposed manually for the sky. With Kodachrome film I could have retained better detail in the sky.
Looking west toward Madison, Wisconsin. Agricultural dust and other pollutants contribute to a rosy sunset. I’ve exposed manually for the sky. With Kodachrome film I could have retained better detail in the sky. f22 1/250th second.

John Gruber was giving me a tour of the line. He explained that in its heyday this route had been a double track mainline with a top speed of 75 mph.

Today it is a truncated vestige of that earlier era. The tracks are now operated by Union Pacific to serve local freight customers. No fast Pacifics with varnish in tow any more.

To ensure new material daily, Tracking the Light is coasting on autopilot while Brian is traveling.

 

 

Kenosha, Wisconsin PCCs—July 2016.

Earlier this week John Gruber and I visited Kenosha, Wisconsin to ride and photograph the vintage PCC streetcars that serve the town.

The cars are beautifully maintained; the line is short but interesting. Cars operated about every 15 minutes during the day. The fare is just $1.00—a true bargain.

On the downside, it is a bit difficult to figure out how and where to board the cars. A little bit of targeted advertising would go a long way.

During our short visit the weather was fantastic.

For more information on Kenosha’s cars see: http://www.kenoshastreetcarsociety.org

To order the book on American streetcars that John and I authored see:  American Streetcars.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

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Tracking the Light posts daily!

 

 

Lunch at Lake Forest.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light posts something different daily!

The other day, John Gruber met me at the Metra station in Lake Forest, Illinois and we had lunch with Art Miller and David Mattoon.

John Gruber (left), Art Miller (center) and David Mattoon (right). Lumix LX7 photo.
John Gruber (left), Art Miller (center) and David Mattoon (right). Lumix LX7 photo.

Art recalled that I was among the very first speakers at the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s conference held at Lake Forest College every year.

That was back in 2003!

Interior panoramic composite of a Metra gallery-style commuter railway car. Exposed on my way to Lake Forest using my Lumix LX7.
Interior panoramic composite of a Metra gallery-style commuter railway car. Exposed on my way to Lake Forest using my Lumix LX7.

North Western Station-Past’s Future Now; July 2016

On my 1984 visit to Chicago I’d made photos and traveled to/from the old North Western Station.

Wow, have things changed.

Yes, I’ve made some visits between then and now, but it’s been a long time.

The old station was torn down not long after my first visit and replaced with an epic glass box. Today, this is known as the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

The Oglivie Transportation Center as seen in July 2016. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
The Oglivie Transportation Center as seen in July 2016. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.

In the mid-1990s, about the time that Chicago & North Western was folded into Union Pacific, the station’s Bush train sheds were demolished and replaced with more modern platform coverings. I made a few photos during that transition.

Still, it seems a bit strange for me to see the former North Western Station in this modern format. My impressions from 32 years ago remain only in my memory and few photos that I made with my Leicas.

Inside the Oglivie Transportation Center. Tracks and trains at left. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Inside the Oglivie Transportation Center. Tracks and trains at left. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Lake Forest, that's where I'm going. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Lake Forest, that’s where I’m going. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Hot as an oven. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Hot as an oven. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Metra. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Metra. Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Panoramic composite exposed with my Lumix LX7. The old F40PH diesels run headend power off the prime mover. Deafening under the sheds.
Panoramic composite exposed with my Lumix LX7. The old F40PH diesels run headend power off the prime mover. Deafening under the sheds.
Exposed with my Lumix LX7.
Exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light post new photos every day!

Amtrak 51, the Cardinal; views from the train.

I boarded Amtrak’s Cardinal, train 51, at Trenton.

A little more than 28 hours later, having traveled through 10 states plus the District of Columbia, I arrived in Chicago, where I had 45 minutes to walk to my next train.

I enjoyed the seemingly endless panorama, but was happy to get some fresh air upon arrival.

Here are some views from my journey exposed with my Lumix LX7.

Amtrak 51 arrives on Platform 4 at Trenton, New Jersey. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak 51 arrives on Platform 4 at Trenton, New Jersey. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amfleet 2 to Chicago!
Amfleet 2 to Chicago!
Philadelphia Zoo at Zoo Junction.
Philadelphia Zoo at Zoo Junction.
30th Street Philadelphia.
30th Street Philadelphia.
Wilmington, Delaware.
Wilmington, Delaware.
I though I saw a ghost! Here's one of Amtrak's AEM-7s working out its final miles on Maryland MARC at Baltimore.
I thought I saw a ghost!
Here’s one of Amtrak’s AEM-7s working out its final miles on Maryland MARC at Baltimore.
I've had bad luck catching Amtrak's ACS-64 painted in a special livery for America's Veterans. Here it is at Ivy City in Washington D.C.
I’ve had bad luck catching Amtrak’s ACS-64 642 painted in a special livery for America’s Veterans. Here it is at Ivy City in Washington D.C. One of these days I’ll get it on the move!
K-tower Washington Union Station.
K-tower Washington Union Station.
I got a bit of air at Washington D.C. while 51 exchanged its electric for a diesel.
I got a bit of air at Washington D.C. while 51 exchanged its electric for a diesel.
Amtrak's logo represent tracks on a rolling landscape.
Amtrak’s logo represent tracks on a rolling landscape.
Here's my car on the platform at Washington Union Station.
Here’s my car on the platform at Washington Union Station.
Manasass, Virginia.13 months ago I was here to see Norfolk & Western J-Class steam locomotive 611.
Manasass, Virginia.13 months ago I was here to see Norfolk & Western J-Class steam locomotive 611.
Rural, Virginia.
Rural Virginia.
A view at Gorduonsville, Virginia.
A view at Gorduonsville, Virginia.
This preserved Chesapeake & Ohio GP7 was on display at Clifton Forge, Virginia.
This preserved Chesapeake & Ohio GP7 was on display at Clifton Forge, Virginia.
CSX GE diesel at Clifton Forge. I saw quite a few freights on the move on the old C&O route. More than I expected include several unit coal trains.
CSX GE diesel at Clifton Forge. I saw quite a few freights on the move on the old C&O route. More than I expected include several unit coal trains.

Cardinal-view-C&O_CSX_Virginia_P1480951

In West Virginia I saw considerable evidence of recent floods.
In West Virginia I saw considerable evidence of recent floods.
Hinton, West Virginia-one of several small towns still served by the train.
Hinton, West Virginia-one of several small towns still served by the train.
Hinton, West Virginia. We were here for at least ten minutes.
Hinton, West Virginia. We were here for at least ten minutes.
Old C&O signal tower west of Hinton.
Old C&O signal tower west of Hinton.
Rolling along the New River Gorge. I used a relatively slow shutter speed to capture the effect of motion.
Rolling along the New River Gorge. I used a relatively slow shutter speed to capture the effect of motion.
Work trains to help repair flood damage. Train 51 was blocked at several locations as repairs were still underway.
Work trains to help repair flood damage. Train 51 was blocked at several locations as repairs were still underway.
Fixer upper, West Virginia.
Fixer upper, West Virginia.
Upon leaving Alexandria all the way to Chicago my train was fully occupied. I was surprised at the large numbers traveling to and from intermediate stations. I'd guess 50 or so got on in Cincinnati when we stopped at about 2:30 Am. Why not run a day train?
Upon leaving Alexandria all the way to Chicago my train was fully occupied. I was surprised at the large numbers traveling to and from intermediate stations. I’d guess 50 or so got on in Cincinnati when we stopped at about 2:30 Am. Why not run a day train?
Sunset in the New River Gorge.
Sunset in the New River Gorge.
Black tea at sunrise crossing the Indiana corn fields.
Black tea at sunrise crossing the Indiana corn fields.
Monon, Indiana.
Monon, Indiana.
Chicago.
Chicago.
Crossing 21st Street Bridge, Chicago.
Crossing 21st Street Bridge, Chicago.
Cardinal's Chicago passengers at Union Station.
Cardinal’s Chicago passengers at Union Station.

Tracking the Light posts Every day.

 

Clear Morning at Trenton, New Jersey.

The other morning I boarded Amtrak’s Cardinal for Chicago at Trenton, New Jersey.

While waiting for my train to arrive I made a few photos with my Lumix (and some others on film).

Here’s the Lumix views. Stay tuned for some views from the train; 28 hours via West Virginia.

SEPTA AEM-7 laying over for the weekend. Lumix LX7 photo.
SEPTA AEM-7 laying over for the weekend. Lumix LX7 photo.
Clear morning sun made for a variety of photo options. I'll be curious to see my black & white film views of this engine.
Clear morning sun made for a variety of photo options. I’ll be curious to see my black & white film views of this engine.
Just in case you didn't known where I was . . .
Just in case you didn’t know where I was . . .
Trenton is served by Amtrak, SEPTA and NJ Transit. Busy place even on a Sunday morning.
Trenton is served by Amtrak, SEPTA and NJ Transit. Busy place even on a Sunday morning.
Amtrak's Cardinal connects Trenton with Chicago three days a week. More Cardinal photos coming soon!
Amtrak’s Cardinal connects Trenton with Chicago three days a week. More Cardinal photos coming soon!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Tracking the Light Extra; Views from the Vermonter, July 2016.

Below are some view I made from Amtrak 57 on my trip from Windsor Locks, Connecticut to Trenton, New Jersey (and then beyond)

More views from my journey as the WiFi permits!

Changing engines at New Haven. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Changing engines at New Haven. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Near Bridgeport. Lumix LX7 photo.
Near Bridgeport. Lumix LX7 photo.
New York Penn-Station.  Lumix LX7 photo.
New York Penn-Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
My bag at Trenton.  Lumix LX7 photo.
My bag at Trenton. Lumix LX7 photo.

Amtrak_607_w_train_57_at_Trenton_P1480804Tracking the Light is on the (rail) road this week.

Great Combination—Bad Advice; Conrail May 1984.

In my early days photographing every so often I’d hit upon a great film-camera-lens combination.

You know, just the right set up to make memorable images.

On May 6, 1984, my dad lent me his Leica M3 with 50, 90 and 135mm lenses. For reasons I’ve long forgotten, I loaded this with Plus-X (ISO 125) rather than Ilford HP5 or Tri-X (my typical films choices back then).

More significantly, I decided to use an orange filter to alter the tonality of the film.

I went trackside along the Conrail’s former Boston & Albany and exposed a series of evocative images of trains rolling through the Quaboag Valley.

Conrail's SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) roars east through the Quaboag Valley east of Palmer on May 6, 1984. The magic combination: filtered Spring light; Plus-X film exposed using a Leica M3 with 90mm Elmar fitted with an orange filter. Processed in Microdol-X.
Conrail’s SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester) roars east through the Quaboag Valley east of Palmer on May 6, 1984. The magic combination: filtered Spring light; Plus-X film exposed using a Leica M3 with 90mm Elmar fitted with an orange filter. Processed in Microdol-X.

These photos were much more effective than what I typically achieved with my Leica 3A and 50mm Summitar. I’d made a leap forward.

At the time, I was delighted with the results and on a Friday night brought a stack of 3x5in. prints down to Tucker’s Hobbies (owned an operated by my friend Bob Buck).

Friday evenings were our normal time to convene. And, one of Bob Buck’s patrons, a friend and a well-meaning (published) enthusiast photographer (who is long since deceased and so shall remain anonymous) offered me some free photo criticism..

“Oh don’t use an orange filter, it makes the Conrail paint too dark, and stop using that telephoto lens, it distorts your perspective. Otherwise these are great shots.”

I heeded this bad advice and returned to my older set up. Nearly two years passed before I made another serious foray into the realm of the telephoto for railroad photos.

Also, I largely returned to using unfiltered Tri-X/HP5. (Partially because I’d dropped my 50mm and it would no longer accept filters.)

I didn’t know any better and my magic combination was unraveled before I had time to fully explore it.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

My Kingdom for a Telephoto Lens!

Every so often someone will ask if have any regrets. I’m never sure what they’re getting at, but yes, Yes I do.

My regrets? Not learning photography skills more quickly.

In this view I had the right idea, I just didn’t have the right lens on the camera. Exposed on K64 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
In this view I had the right idea, I just didn’t have the right lens on the camera. Exposed on K64 using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

I made this photograph in late 1978 (slide mount reads ‘Feb 79’, but if I recall correctly, it was right around Christmas. Prompt processing wasn’t on my agenda back then).

I traveled with my father and brother to the old New Haven electrified lines. We picked this spot and set up. We were all delighted to catch this GG1 with an eastward Amtrak train. I can still feel the excitement when we spotted the old motor in the distance.

At that time I had access to all of my dad’s lenses. We probably had a 90 or 135mm with us at the time. Yet, I opted to use my 50mm.

Why? I just didn’t know any better.

Today, I look as this image and see three elements that I could have put together more effectively; the aged former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric (pantograph first), old New Haven short-arm left-handed semaphores (most American semaphores aim to the right), and winter glint light.

Now, I’d use a telephoto to feature the signals and the electric in tighter more visually pleasing composition. This what I saw at the time, I just included too much dead space in my image and the locomotive and signals are too distant.

At least I was using good glass and Kodachrome film. There’s that anyway.

Here's a much enlarged version of the image that suggests that I had the vision for a stunning photo but not the skills or mindset to use the correct equipment.
Here’s a much enlarged version of the image that suggests that I had the vision for a stunning photo but neither the skills or mindset to use the correct equipment to pull it off effectively.

Tracking the Light explores photography every day.

 

 

 

Tracking the Light Extra—Connecticut Trolley Museum.

This afternoon on the way to catch Amtrak 57, the southward Vermonter, my dad and I stopped in for a visit to the Connecticut Trolley Museum at East Windsor for old time sake.

Three cars were on the line today. We went for a spin on a vintage 1902 Brill-built open car.

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Connecticut_Trolley_Museum_P1480750

Connecticut_Trolley_Museum_P1480755

Connecticut_Trolley_Museum_P1480756

These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7, downloaded to my laptop on board Amtrak 57, manipulated in Lightroom, and then uploaded to Tracking the Light courtesy of Amtrak’s WiFi. From my camera to the world: a demonstration of the miracles of modern technology.

(A contrast with my black & white processes).

 

Tracking the Light posts at least once per day!

 

 

Green Line Elevated; The Way It was.

Among my themes in Tracking the Light has been; Anticipating Change and Acting on it.

It is easy to sit back in your easy chair and pontificate about the potential for change. Or go from day to day without ever thinking about the effects of change.

Yet, looking back at old photos, what so often catches our interest is how things have changed.

When I was a kid, I’d look back at my father’s photos, exposed 10-20 years earlier and marvel at the changes that had transpired. Amtrak had ended the age of privately operated passenger trains. Conrail and other mergers had swept away many of the classic railroads that appeared in those old images.

Having only lived a few years, it was my mistaken belief that all change was in the past.

Fast forward to 1999. My friend Mike Gardner dropped me in Boston. I was on my way to London and had several hours before my flight. Tim Doherty suggest I make some photos of the Green Line elevated near North Station, which was then due to be replaced.

At the time I thought, “Hmm, but I have plenty of photos of the old El.” True, but these images were already more than a decade out of date. Green Line had introduced a new livery, and most of my views featured PCCs and 1970s-era Boeing-Vertol LRVs.

I made the effort and exposed several color slides of Green Line cars squealing along the old elevated line. I’m glad I did; as predicted the El was removed and these views can never be repeated.

Sometime after I made this slide of Green Line cars on the El, MBTA discontinued operation of the old elevated line in front of North Station. Today the scene is completely changed. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon.
Sometime after I made this slide of Green Line cars on the El, MBTA discontinued operation of the old elevated line in front of North Station. Today the scene is completely changed. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon.

Look around you, anticipate change and make photographs. What you see today may soon be different. Sometimes change is easy to predict; other times it occurs with little warning.

Tracking the Light posts Everyday.