I made these views of a CSX freight operating on the former Reading Company in Philadelphia. My vantage point was from the sidewalk on the road bridge near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge over the Schuylkill.
The day was bright, but partially overcast, which benefitted my photography since bright sun would have resulted in a difficult and unflattering high-contrast situation.
This northward freight was moving slowly, allowing me to work with two digital cameras and expose a series of images as it went by.
To the uninitiated a cold windy rainy night might not seem like a good time to make urban photographs.
In my eye this is a fantastic opportunity to make unconventional images.
My brother and I planned to ride SEPTA’s No. 15 streetcar along Girard Avenue to have burgers and beer at Johnny Brenda’s located on Girard near the crossing of the Market-Frankford rapid transit line.
I worked with my Lumix LX7 hand-held to expose this selection of images.
Some of the street views were exposed using the Lumix’s ‘night mode’ that exposes a burst of images in rapid succession and combines them in-camera as a composite.
As you can see it was really lashing down and the most difficult part of this exercise was keeping the lens dry.
It’s dusk and too dark for a conventional photograph without boosting the ISO to high levels.
So, I opt for a panned image, where I use a comparatively slow shutter speed and move the camera to follow the motion of the subject.
I’ve found that it helps to pick a point on the vehicle and stay with it.
It also helps to begin panning well before the shutter is released and continue to pan without changing your overall motion after the picture has been made.
This last part is crucial. Many pans are ruined when the photographer stops panning (or slows) at the very moment the shutter is released, which unfortunately can be a natural inclination that must be overcome with practice.
Using my Nikon N90S with a Nikkor AF 35mm lens, I exposed these Provia 100F slides at Rome’s Porta Maggiore in September 2017.
I often expose color slides in addition to digital images.
I scanned the slides using a Nikon scanner with VueScan software. My initial scans are made at very high resolution (4000 dots per inch or higher) and then using Lightroom I scaled these for internet presentation.
Are these photos better than the digital images? I don’t know. My film photos have different characteristics than the digital images. Also, I like to give slide shows and I find it’s much easier and more satisfying to project original color slides than put together digital presentations.
Piermont, New York was the Erie Railroad’s original eastern terminus. This Hudson River port was so-designated because the railroad was intended to operate within the State of New York. The railroad developed a large pier here for transshipping goods and people via the Hudson to New York City.
The other day my brother Sean and I explored Piermont and it’s Pier. Although there’s very little evidence left of the Erie itself, I was curious to see this once important place. This is part of my on-going research and photography of the old Erie Railroad.
These images were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm XT1. However, I also exposed a few 35mm color slides that will be useful in future slide presentations.
I avoid shrouding my work in mystery and I’ve happily discussed my technique, tools and materials with anyone who asks. This can lead to some interesting conversations, but also some peculiar observations.
Over the years, various people have offered curious comments on my photography (not including the written comments that appear in response to Tracking the Light). Below are some of the most memorable:
1) Commenter, “I like your slides, what sort of film do you use to make the photos?”
Me, “Kodachrome 25”.
Commenter, “Kodachrome 25! Isn’t that too slow?!”
2) Commenter, “That’s a beautiful scene but I didn’t think it would make a good photograph.”
3) Commenter, “Here’s a tip for you son, your photos are too head on, I couldn’t read the words on the side of the trains.”
4) Commenter, “I like your photo of the sunset, if I want to make a photo like that, which filter should I use?”
Me, “I don’t know, I didn’t use a filter.”
Commenter, “Yes, but if I was to used a filter, which one should I use?”
5) Commenter (via a 3rd party), “I don’t like Brian Solomon’s photography, it shows too many trees!”
6) Commenter, “You shouldn’t be making photos at night, it’s a waste of film!”
7) Commenter, “You still use film?!!”
8) Commenter, “So how are you adjusting from the transition to digital?”
Me, “I still haven’t adjusted from the transition to color.”
9) Commenter in regards to my Lumix LX3, “I can’t believe that YOU use THAT!”
10) Commenter in regards to a photo of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited in the Berkshires, “That’s a beautiful photograph, pity about the train.”
In October I called up to one of my favorite places and made these two views of the GATX slug-set that Pan Am Railways uses to work the East Deefield hump.
During the course of its duties the East Deerfield hump engine routinely pulls cuts of freight cars out onto the Connecticut River Bridge, which makes for ample opportunity to expose photographs.
Sometimes one view doesn’t give you the full picture.
I like the old bridge in this bucolic setting, and this also a great place to picture equipment. I’ve photographed dozens of trains here over years.
One view was exposed with my 12mm Zeiss Touit (wide angle) lens; the other with my Fujinon 90mm telephoto. The wideangle view takes in the scene; the telephoto photo focuses more tightly on the locomotive. By presenting both you get a more complete picture.
Alternatively, I could call this Tracking the Light post, ‘28N at Millers Falls.’
Whichever you like.
So what do you do in a situation where a train is coming directly out of the midday sun?
1) give up.
2) go for a sandwich.
3) take up plane spotting.
4) all of the above.
Or you can try something different.
The other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts I exposed these views looking timetable west on the old Boston & Maine. Train 28N is an eastward autorack destined for Ayer, Massachusetts.
Using a super wide-angle 12mm Zeiss Touit, I set the aperture to the smallest setting (f22), which produces a sunburst effect. To make the most of this effect, I positioned an autumn branch between the camera and the sun.
Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.
The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.
The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.
I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?
It’s the elusive 202, found lurking in my archives!
Here’s the backstory: In the dozen or so years between 1998 and when Irish Rail withdrew and stored a portion of its relatively modern EMD-built 201-class locomotives (numbers 201-205, 210-214), I spent a lot of time wandering the system making photos.
I have many hundreds of photos of the 201s in action, hauling passenger and freight trains all over the Irish Rail network.
Some locomotives were common; I must have a hundred photos of class leader 201 on the roll. And every time I turned around, I seem to find 215 leading a train. Actually, I still do! Old 215 is among the 201-class still on the move, albeit in the modern green and silver paint instead of classic orange, yellow and black.
Of the 35 201s, I found that engine 202 was by far the most elusive. A few years ago when scouring my vast collection of more than 15,000 colour slides picturing Irish Rail, I located just three images of 202.
One was from the window of a Mark 3 carriage at Roscommon, one was an image at Limerick Junction of Bo-Bo 176 towing 202 with flat wheels up-road, and the best of the lot was a rainy day image of 202 with a Tralee-Mallow-Cork service near Rathmore, County Cork.
How 202 so thoroughly eluded me during this period baffles me.
Anyway, the other day I was scanning some previously unprinted 120-size black & white negatives, when I found this view of 202 working down-road at Kildare with Irish Rail’s Mark 2 Airbrake carriages. (Which were withdrawn from active service shortly after this photo was exposed).
There are some other rare images on this roll, but this for me is the rarest!
I’ll need to locate the colour slides from that day and see what I find.
The other morning at Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard I met up with Tim, a fellow photographer.
He asked, ‘Are you going to take that?’—meaning the sunrise over the yard.
‘Yeah, since we’re here. Why not?’
I’ve only made countless photos of this yard in the morning, but that’s never stopped me before.
For this image, I exposed Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50) using a Leica IIIA with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. With handheld meter to gauge the lighting, I exposed this frame at f3.5 1/60th of a second.
My aim was to capture detail in the sky and allow the tracks and yard to appear as a silhouette.
I processed my film as follows: Kodak D76 mixed 1 to 1 for 6 min 30 seconds at 68F, followed by stop bath, 1st fix, 2nd fix, 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse, then 9 min selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 (one part toner to nine parts water), 3rd rinse, permawash, 4th rinse.
After scanning the negative with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner, I made a few nominal adjustments to contrast using Lightroom, while removing unwanted dust-specs.
Picking the best exposure is an important part of photography.
Today with modern metering, computer guided exposure aids (program modes) and automatic lenses, most photographers don’t spend a lot of time worrying about exposure details.
It might surprise some Tracking the Light readers that in most instances I set my exposures manually, and I only use camera metering in an advisory capacity (In other words I look at the camera meter but don’t necessarily accept its advice).
While I often use my Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode, I routinely over-ride the camera’s exposure advice using manual controls. With my FujiFilm XT1 and Canon digital cameras (and film cameras), I almost always set my exposure manually.
Last week, working with my FujiFilm XT1 I made these views of New England Central freight 611 working south of Brattleboro, Vermont. The stunning scenic setting of the Connecticut River backwater combined with dramatic morning cross-lighting and a dark background makes for an excellent illustration of a difficult lighting situation.
Here, many camera automatic modes might grossly overexpose the scene in a misguided attempt to compensate for the dark background.
I’ve metered manually and gauged exposure using the camera’s histogram (set up to show the distribution of pixels in regards to exposure.) I’ve offered two variations here, exposed 1 full stop apart.
A ‘stop’ is a standard increment of exposure. The amount of light reaching the sensor or film doubles/halves with each change of one stop. So going from an aperture setting of f4 to f5.6 (one stop) cuts the light by half. Likewise, a shutter speed change from 1/250 to 1/500 will also cut the amount of light by half.
The darker image was exposed at f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400; while the lighter image was exposed at f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400. (In other words the only the aperture setting was changed.)
Both exposures are acceptable, but you may have a preference for one versus the other. The photos here have not been altered for density, color balance or color temperature in post processing; both are scaled versions of the camera produced JPGs.
Last week I made this digital portrait of New England Central 3476 using my FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens.
Soft cross lighting combined with a wide aperture made for pleasing photographic conditions to picture this engine against a backdrop of Vermont colorful autumn trees and distant New Hampshire hills.
The locomotive was working New England Central’s Brattleboro (Vermont) to Palmer (Massachusetts) turn freight, job 611, and was among many images I exposed that day.
This old EMD-built locomotive has a long history, having worked for Southern Pacific and Union Pacific before coming east to New England. I wonder if I crossed paths with it up on Donner Pass, in the Tehachapis, or on former Rio Grande lines in Colorado and Utah?
In March 1987, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide of Genesee & Wyoming GP38 number 51 leading an empty salt train arriving at P&L Junction (P&L infers Pittsburgh & Lehigh) near Caledonia, New York.
At that time Genesee & Wyoming was a New York state short line that had just recently expanded with the creation of the Rochester & Southern to operate the former Baltimore & Ohio (nee Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg) 4th Subdivision between Rochester and East Salamanca, New York via Ashford Junction. (R&S had trackage rights on CSX from Ashford Jct. to East Salamanca).
This train was arriving from interchange with the Delaware & Hudson at Silver Springs. (D&H had trackage rights over the former Erie Railroad line to Buffalo.) It would reverse direction at P&L Junction and head southward on G&W’s own line (seen in the immediate foreground) to Retsof, where G&W served a massive salt mine.
Back then G&W 51 had no special significance, but it does for me today.
Earlier this month I made a visit to Cork to present a program on railway photography to the Irish Railway Record Society.
Honer Travers and I spent an afternoon in Glounthaune where I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens.
My film processing was very traditional: Kodak D76 (mixed 1 to 1) for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F. I agitate very gently to minimize the effect of grain.
Routine operations, such as Irish Rail’s Cork suburban trains, offer great opportunity for creative railway photography. In both of these images, I’ve worked with foreground, middle-ground and background by using shallow depth of field to create a sense of depth.
A side-benefit for me of transatlantic jet lag is that I’m wide awake for sunrise.
The other day, I drove to Stafford Springs, Connecticut as the sun was rising.
Typically New England Central 608 passes the village between 7 and 730 am. On this day it appeared about 724 am.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Tuoit lens, I made a series of images of the freight passing.
I carefully exposed my RAW files to retain some sky detail, intending to adjust exposure, contrast and color in post processing.
It would be fallacious to suggest that the RAW file represents reality. It doesn’t.
It is important to understand that the camera RAW file is an equivalent of a ‘negative’ in film photography. The RAW file simply represents the raw data as captured by the camera sensor. This data requires interpretation to produce an image that resembled what the human brain perceives.
I made a series of small adjustments to highlights, shadows, color temperature, and color balance, while working with masks in the sky to control detail and color.
My only regret is that my graduated neutral density filters were still packed away in my luggage, as these would have been useful in this situation by allowing for improved sky detail by effectively selective expanding the dynamic capture of the sensor.
I’ve included both the RAW file (scaled for internet) and my interpreted post-processed JPG. To give hints as to what I’ve done, I’ve also included screen shots of the Lightroom work windows.
Using my old battle-worn Nikon F3T (yeah, that one) fitted with a 1960s-era Nikkor f.14 50mm lens, I exposed a sequence of images in the evening light at Irish Rail’s Heuston Station in Dublin.
I was especially pleased with this view of one of Irish Rail’s Mark 4 sets beneath the train shed. Low light made for contrasty silhouette with lots of texture and exceptional dynamic range.
This was exposed on Kodak Tri-X (black & white negative film) using a fairly wide aperture.
During early October 2017, I processed the film using two-stage development, initially soaking the film in an extremely dilute mix of Kodak HC110 designed to begin development while allowing great shadow detail and greater overall tonality. For my primary development, I used Ilford ID11, diluted 1-1 with water for 8 minutes at 68 degree F. This was followed by a 30 second stop bath and two fixer baths, 1st rinse, hypo-clear batch, 2nd rinse, then 8 minutes in a weak bath of selenium toner (1 to 9 with water), 10 minute final rinse and drying.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner, with some very nominal final adjustment using Lightroom.
Although my digital cameras feature black & white modes, and I can easily de-saturate a digital file to make a monochrome image, I don’t feel that digital imaging would yield a completely comparable image to this one made the old fashioned way.
Saturday 14 October was a great day out; Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated its Munster Double Railtour from Connolly Station in Dublin to Cork and Tralee.
The attraction of this trip was the highly unusual multiple-unit operation of two class 071 diesels together. Both of Irish Rail’s 071s in heritage paint were selected for the trip, which was an added bonus for photographers.
Honer Travers and I joined the trip at Connolly Station and during the course of the day I made dozens of digital images. Below is just a small section.
Tomorrow I’ll focus on the passengers and people participating in operations.
Back in April (2017), on the advice of Stephen Hirsch I visited the tram junction at Porta Maggiore in Rome, and those photos appeared in an earlier Tracking the Light post.
On my recent trip to Rome with Honer Travers in September we revisited this interesting location where several tram routes cross against the backdrop of a 3rd century Roman Wall and the Porta Maggiore city gate.
For added interest, the approach to Rome Termini runs on the east side of the wall and there’s a constant parade of Trenitalia passenger trains.
I like to use the Roman Wall as a frame.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7 digital camera, but also exposed a few colour sldies.
The tram junction sits in the middle of a roundabout (traffic circle) with some of the most irrational driving I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the road chaos, we were able to nip across the street for a gelato (ice cream).
Today, 14 October 2017, is the date of the long anticipated Munster Double tour (operated by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Rail), so I thought I’d run these images from 2006 when I photographed Irish Rail 080 working a Dublin-Tralee passenger train passing Limerick Junction.
On Friday, 13 January 2006, David Hegarty and I had been photographing Irish Rail’s sugar beet trains. Toward the end of the daylight we found ourselves at Limerick Junction in time to catch the Friday only ‘down Kerry’ that was still regularly worked with steam-heated Cravens carriages.
At the time, the new Mark4 trains were still being tested and hadn’t yet entered regular traffic.
A couple of weeks back, I made these views of Belmond’s Grand Hibernian luxury cruise train at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
What’s a Kodachrome sky? The old Kodak Kodachrome had the ability to capture a sunny day with vivid contrast; so when you had over-the-shoulder light with fluffy clouds dotting a blue sky we called it a ‘Kodachrome Sky’.
It think it’s safe to say that no one has ever photographed the Grand Hibernian on Kodachrome slide film! And if they have, they will never see their results in vivid colour. (Kodachrome is no longer commercially processed).
A couple of weeks ago I made these views of some colorful Trenitalia trains at Roma Termini.
Bright Mediterranean light is pleasant to work with. In this situation I’ve taken the classic approach with the sun over my left shoulder. It was nice to have some interesting, yet static subjects to work with.
I made several digital views with my Lumix LX7, but also exposed some 35mm color slides on Fujichrome Provia.
These are the digital images. We’ll need to wait to see how the slides turned out.