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.

Framing Irish Rail.

Not a 1940s paperback title.

But an exercise in making better photos on overcast days.

Last month, two days in a row I hoofed it up to Blackhorse Avenue following the good advice of fellow photographer Colm O’Callaghan in order to make photos of Irish Rail’s class 071 diesel- hauled trains.

Blackhorse bridges Irish Rail’s branch the connects Islandbridge Junction with Dublin’s North Wall via the Phoenix Park tunnel. The north-facing portal is just out of sight around the corner in the cutting.

This is a nice place to make photos of Dublin-bound trains bright overcast days. Elevation allows me to minimize the sky, while an old stone-faced overbridge makes an effective frame that adds depth and historical interest to the photos.

Both were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a fixed focal length (‘prime’) 90mm telephoto lens. One makes use of the landscape (horizontal) orientation, the other is a portrait (vertically) oriented photograph.

Irish Rail number 075 leads an empty spoil train toward Dublin’s North Wall on 27 April 2017. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Irish Rail 081 with the Up-IWT liner from Ballina, County Mayo. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Which photo do you feel is more interesting?

And yes, I also made black & white photos of these trains.

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South Station, Boston, Massachusetts—in B&W and Color.

I rarely travel with just one camera.

These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.

On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.

So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

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Pan Am Panned—Office Car Special at Speed.

There’s nothing like a carefully executed panned photograph to convey a train at speed.

I’ve covered the panning technique a number of times on Tracking the Light; essentially this accomplished by using a comparatively slow shutter speed (in this situation I chose 1/60th of a second) and moving the camera with the subject as it passes through a scene.

The real trick is maintain smooth full-body motion and continue to pan after the shutter is released. Novice pan photographers often violate this rule and stop panning the moment they release the shutter, which tends to result in badly blurred photos.

Yesterday (May 18, 2017) I was traveling with Tim, a friend and fellow photographer, who suggested this location at North Hatfield, Massachusetts on the former Boston & Maine Connecticut River line.

Rather than make a conventional image, I opted for a series of panned views, of which this is but one in a sequence.

Exposed at 1/60th of a second using a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with f2.0 90mm lens.

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Making use of a dull Morning—Another Take of 608.

So, if I called this Stafford Springs, Connecticut Part 3, would you be interested.

In truth, this is less about Stafford and its morning freight train and more about lighting and technique.

In two previous posts [see: New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again, and Going Against the Grain  I’ve detailed my efforts at photographing New England Central 608 working through Stafford Springs in harsh morning sunlight. This post depicts the same train on a dull morning, but also in black & white (Sorry Dave Clinton, but it has to be done).

I’m using the same camera-lens combination; a Leica IIIa with a screw-mount f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens. This time loaded with Ilford HP5. My process is about the same as in my earlier post New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

This time, I processed it using Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for eight minutes, rewashed and scanned.

 One small change; in this instance, I gave the film a little more toning than previously, which should make for slightly more silvery highlights. This is a subtle change, and probably barely perceptible on internet presentation.

New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs at 7:20am on May 10, 2017 ; exposed using a Leica IIIa with f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens at f4.5/f5.6 1/200th second on HP5.
A slightly closer view of New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs. I’ve made this on at a slightly lower angle.

Compositionally, I’ve made an effort to include the village and not just focus on the locomotives.

I’m by no means done with this project, and I’ll continue to post with more photos and insights over the coming weeks. (Including some color views to please Dave and others morally opposed to black & white).

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Bright Morning in Zürich!

It was a clear blue dome and working with my Lumix LX7, I made these photos of trams working the streets of Zürich, Switzerland.

Zürich continues to paint its trams in its classic sky-blue and creamy white livery. This photographs well when the sun is out, but can be challenging on dull days.

The Lumix LX7 when used with the add-on external viewfinder is an excellent tool for urban street photography. I like the LX7 because it allows me to make both Jpg and RAW digital files simultaneously. The RAWs were especially useful here as I could more easily adjust contrast in post processing.

Lumix LX7 photo. RAW file adjusted to improve contrast and shadow detail, then scaled as a Jpg in Lightroom for internet presentation.
Camera Jpg scaled for internet.

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New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

Call this ‘Part 2’—More hard light.

A few days ago, I displayed black & white photos I made at Stafford Springs, Connecticut in hard morning sunlight. See: Going Against the Grain.

Where the earlier images used an unusual film type (Foma Retropan), today’s image was made on Ilford HP-5, but with some special processing.

On May 9, 2017, New England Central freight 608 works timetable northward through Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed on Ilford HP-5 using a Leica IIIa fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. Film was processed in Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for six minutes, then rewashed and scanned. The sky area received some localized exposure adjustment in post-processing, while there was some overall contrast adjustment to improve the appearance of the image.

In both posts, black & white photos feature New England Central 608 (a freight that runs between Willimantic, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts) passing downtown Stafford Springs shortly after sunrise.

Today’s image was exposed from Main Street in Stafford on the opposite side of the tracks from the earlier photos, which provides a different perspective on the train and village.

Part of this exercise is aimed at demonstrating black & white photographic technique, however I’m also hoping to show how different angles at the same location can result in significantly different photos.

Also, that it’s possible to make interesting photos in difficult lighting situations, if you apply a creative approach to your photography.

I’m done here yet! To be continued on another day.

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Striving for Tonality.

Last month I made this photo of a tram near its terminus in Basel, Switzerland.

To achieve deeper tones, I’ve adjusted my photographic process, shortening the development time, then boosting highlights by toning the negatives after development.

Working with my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens, I exposed a roll of Ilford HP5, rating it at 320 ISO. I processed the film in Agfa (formula) Rodinal Special (mixed 1-30 with water) for 3 minutes 25 seconds at 68 degrees F.

By design, this resulted in acceptable negatives, slightly on thin (light) side. Then, after fixing (two stage) and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in selenium (using a 1-9 mix) for nine minutes with regular agitation.

Selenium toner is poisonous, so I wear latex gloves and perform the toning outside to avoid breathing the fumes, and pre-rinse the film prior to bringing it back inside.

Toning the negatives in this way boosts the highlights, giving the images a slightly silvery glow, while improving archival stability.

For this photo, I made some additional changes in post processing.

After scanning, I imported the file to Lightroom, and digitally lowered the contrast and highlight density of the sky-area in the top 1/3 of the frame.

My intent was to produce an image with a darker moody tonality and glistening highlights. I wonder if this will translate to the internet well?

 

Agfa Rodinal Special and selenium toners can be purchased from Freestyle in California, (see: http://www.freestylephoto.biz).

 

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Oops at Arth-Goldau—Lets Crop!

I’m not a fan of cropping.

In general, I object to cropping, especially when executed by someone other than the photographer.

I accept that in the realm of publishing it is a necessary evil, and that with the internet, Facebook and other imaging venues embrace cropping without consequence of how it affects photographs.

Yet, occasionally I find necessary to crop one of my photos.

Last I month I made an image of an Italian ETR 610 Pendolino from the south-end of the station platform at Arth-Goldau, Switzerland. While focused on the impressive looking train, I inadvertently included a portion of a mast on the platform that appears as an out of focus blob at the left of the image.

While I often like to work with selective focus, in my opinion this accident in no way enhanced the photo. Furthermore once playing with the cropping feature in Lightroom, I found that cropping other elements of the line side infrastructure materially improved my photo.

Below are some examples. What do you think?

This is the uncropped Jpg file. Notice the fuzzy gray area on the left. This is the side of a mast on the platform. In no way does this make for a more interesting photo.
Lightroom and other post-processing software make cropping alarmingly easy. I’ve cut away the the objectionable fuzzy gray area from the image.
Once I had the cropping tool in hand, I decided to try my hand at eliminating more infrastructural clutter. In this view I’ve cut the catenary support that ran across the top of the image area and tightened the composition of the Pendolino. Is this a more effective image?

 

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Unexpected Extras at Grindlewald-Grund.

Extra trains are always a bonus; but an unexpected extra using antique equipment is a real treat!

Three weeks ago on our exploration of Swiss railways, Denis McCabe and I were photographing the steeply graded rack railway on the Wengernalbahn near Grindlewald-Grund where the scheduled passenger trains operate on half hour intervals.

In between the regular scheduled trains, we caught a wire train-extra and this passenger extra with heritage equipment.

All in the metaphoric shadow of the Eiger and the Jungfrau, two of the most famous Swiss mountain in the Swiss Bernese Alps.

When two trains really are better than one: A wire train ascends toward Kleine Scheidegg from Grindelwald-Grund, while in the distance a passenger train climbs in the opposite direction toward Grindelwald.
Special bonus, a Wengernalbahn heritage train works the rack on its way up the mountain. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

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Faces of the BLS at Spiez, Switzerland.

Swiss railways tend to be known by three letter abbreviations of their names.

The initials ‘BLS’ represent the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon Bahn, a standard-gauge mainline trunk-line with several branches in central western Switzerland.

It was a pleasant evening three weeks ago, when Denis McCabe and I photographed a procession of BLS freight and passenger trains at Spiez. What I found remarkable was the great variety of equipment operated by this colourful Swiss line.

I exposed these photos over the course of an hour using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Color Photos of the 2017 New York Central System Historical Society Convention.

On the weekend of May 5-7 2017, I attended and spoke at the New York Central System Historical Society Convention held in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

The theme of the convention was the Boston & Albany and it was dedicated to my friend, the late-Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts. Key to the convention events was a chartered MBTA train that operated from Worcester to Boston.

I gave the banquet talk focusing it around Bob Buck’s B&A experiences and photography as well as my own B&A work.

Special thanks to Society and convention organizers, especially Joe Burgess, Bill Keay, and Rich & Nancy Stoving.

I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

Joe Burgess at registration.
Victor Hand presenting his New York Central photographs.
Banquet hall.
Lumix panoramic view of the banquet hall.
Worcester Union Station.
Stovings at Worcester.
MBTA special at Worcester.

Rich Stoving.
Watching the passing scenery along the old Boston & Worcester route.
Bill Keay on a ‘busman’s holiday’.
Green flags at South Station.
MBTA HSP46 number 2004.
MBTA double-deck Kawasaki car.

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Nocturnal Basel Tram Pan

Using my Panasonic Lumix LX7, I exposed this pan photograph of a city tram on the streets of Basel, Switzerland in April 2017.

I’d set the camera at ISO 250, and with the ‘A’ (aperture priority) mode set the aperture to its widest opening (f1.7), which allowed for a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second.

By panning (moving) with the tram, the relatively long shutter speed places the background in a sea of blur while keeping the tram car comparatively sharp.

Basel, Switzerland has a complicated narrow gauge tram system. Lumix LX7 photograph, April 2017.

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Going Against the Grain.

Sometimes, I push the limits.

The other morning in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, I exposed this view of New England Central’s northward freight that runs daily from Willimantic, Ct., to Palmer, Massachusetts.

The train was coming hard out of a clear morning sun. Using a Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor 35mm screw-mount lens, I exposed this view on Foma Retropan 320.

Retropan is a comparatively coarse grain emulsion that offers a distinctly different range of tones than expected with Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X, or other black & white films in the same sensitivity range.

It also produces a characteristic halo-effect in bright highlight areas.

I processed the film more or less as recommended using Foma’s specially formulated Retro Special Developer, and then scanned it with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. I made minor adjustments to contrast in Lightroom.

As I anticipated, my results from this experiment are more pictorial than literal.

A photo of the setting at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
New England Central’s freight with EMD diesels working long-hood first at Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Retropan’s halo effect combined with the large amounts of flare from the sun hitting the front element of the lens contributes to this interpretive image.

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Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel.

I was standing on the shore of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva near the historic Chillon Castle on an afternoon in late April 2017. Above me a clear blue dome provided wonderful polarized light, while SBB sent along a steady parade of scheduled trains, with something passing by every five to ten minutes.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I’d expose a burst of images whenever a train reached near the optimum gap in the foliage, then pick out the best of the lot later.

It really was like, ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ to quote a cliché.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with a 18-135mm lens, I made this view of an SBB locomotive hauled passenger train gliding along the shore of Lake Geneva.
This view was made with a my 12mm Zeiss Tuoit that provide a wide-angle view that encompassed more scenery.

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Montreux-Oberland-Bernois Railway near Gruben, Switzerland.

Sinuous single track winding through lush Alpine meadows with snow capped peaks in the distance under a blazing blue sky.

Hard to go wrong here photographically. Pity about the choice of visually challenging of colors on the trains, but nothing is ever completely perfect, is it?

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

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 using the external adjustable rear display panel to compose the image while holding the camera close to the ground.

MOB station at Gruben.

This is but a small sample of the digital photos on a visit to Switzerland with Denis McCabe two weeks ago.

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Steam at Bray Head on Easter Monday.

Sometimes the railway photo isn’t about the train.

I made this pair of photos at Bray Head, County Wicklow, Ireland on Easter Monday 2017.

Railway Preservation Society engine No 4 was working trips from Dublin to Graystones, so I made the trek out along the head to capture these timeless views.

Although I made a few digital images, I prefer these black & white photos.

These were exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Leica IIIA and processed in Perceptol (1:1 for 14 minutes at 69 degrees F). No toning. Although, I think a dip in selenium would improve the contrast a bit.

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Photographing the MOB—Part 1.

I’m not talking about surreptitiously documenting nefarious underworld dealings of Sicilian criminals, but rather the trains and operations of Switzerland’s Montreux-Oberland-Bernois railway line.

This narrow gauge line famously operates via the Golden Pass route offering hourly long distance trains as well as local services to communities along its lines.

In April, it was among the routes that Denis McCabe and I explored.

We were fortunate to have clear blue skies, which when combined with stunning Alpine scenery makes for great photographic possibilities.

I’d researched a variety of potential locations, and opted to photograph around Gstaad and Gruben, where open Alpine meadows, tall bridges, and distant mountain peaks made for great settings.

Traveling to Gstaad, we hoped off a train that had 14-minute pause in its schedule, and on the recommendation of photographer Barry Carse, immediately set out to find the high viaduct beyond the station.

We found it easily enough, and went charging up a steep slope to position ourselves above the bridge, only to find there was a well-established trail already there! This made getting back to the station much easier.

Here’s a small sample of my digital efforts at Gstaad. My primary focus was exposing color slide film with my Nikon; and those images are en route to the lab now.

MOB’s Belle Époque eases across the multiple span bridge near Gstaad. (Ye Auld Tyme painted carriages at the back).
Working toward Gstaad and Montreux is MOB’s Golden Pass Panoramic. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
MOB’s Golden Pass Panoramic carries glass lined observation cars to allow passengers better views of the Alps.
MOB’s Gstaad station offers only a prosaic view compared with those from the Alpine meadows a five minute walk away.

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Boston & Albany Program May 6th.

Boston & Albany freight house at Palmer, Massachusetts, photographed using a Rolleiflex Model T on Verichrome Pan black & white film in October 1985. Copyright Brian Solomon.

This Saturday, May 6, 2017, I will present a variation of my Boston & Albany program to the New York Central System Historical Society convention, to be held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

I am listed as the guest speaker and my illustrated talk will begin at about 7pm. This will feature material from the Robert A. Buck collection, and images from the lens of William Bullard (early 20th century photographer), as well as a selection of my own work on the B&A, which spans more than 40 years.

For information on the convention and registration forms see the New York Central System HS website:  www.NYCSHS.org 

or

www.NYCSHS.net

Boston & Albany’s Worcester signal tower shortly before demolition. Copyright Brian Solomon.

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Inside and Out: Photographing a Nice New Little Train.

Among the most attractive modern trains I experienced traveling in Switzerland at the end of April were Transports Publics du Chablais’s (TPC) modern narrow gauge trains on its AOMC route that connects Aigle and Champéry.

TPC’s new Stadler railcars were clean, comfortable and nicely styled. These compact articulated narrow gauge vehicles are designed to work both adhesion and rack sections of TPC’s line.

Inside they are spacious, bright, and offer magnificent views of the Alpine scenery through large windows.

The ability for passengers to look out forward and trailing windows is an excellent feature.

I especially liked the styling treatment, which embraces TPC’s bright green livery and works with the curves of Stadler’s standardized modern railcar pattern. This is a pleasant contrast to many modern Swiss trains that wear dull, garish, or otherwise visually challenged liveries.

A TPC new Stadler railcar pauses between runs at Champéry, Switzerland. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit.

Denis McCabe and I traveled the length of TPC’s AOMC route. The most impressive section is the climb from Monthey to Champéry, where long sections of the line climb sharply into the mountains.

I exposed these photos of TPC’s new trains using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Between Aigle and Monthey TPC’s AOMC route has an interurban railway quality with some roadside running. This view was made near Monthey at the junction with the line to Champéry.
A train from Aigle in the afternoon.
Detailed view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Detailed view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Interior view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Interior view exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

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Into the Sun at Lake Geneva—a nuts and bolts photographic exercise.

Here’s one solution to a difficult lighting problem: A few days ago when I was photographing along the shore of Lake Geneve at St. Saphorin, Switzerland I had a nice clean over-the-shoulder sun lit view for eastward trains, but was looking directly into the blazing morning sun for westward trains.

The scenery was too good to let the photographic opportunity pass.

So what did I do? I changed lenses. Specifically, I opted to use my Zeiss 12mm Touit on FujiFilm X-T1, and then stop all the way down.

What do I mean by ‘stop down’? This is a traditional photographic term that means to close the aperture by a full-stop increment. Say from f4 to f5.6. (Each one-stop change doubles or halves the amount of light reaching the film/sensor. Opening up a stop doubles the light, closing down halves it.) To ‘stop all the way down’ is to close the lens to its smallest aperture. In the case of my Zeiss lens, this is f22.

With the 12mm Tuoit, at f22 the tiny hole with the very wide-angle focal length combine to allow for a sun-burst effect. To take advantage of this sun-effect with a moving train, I had to increase the ISO to 1250, (because f22 lets in much less light to the sensor than I normally would during daylight.)

The secondary difficulty with this image is the narrow exposure latitude of the digital media. By exposing for the sun, I’ve had to seriously underexpose for the front of the locomotive.

This is the unaltered camera-produced JPG, which doesn’t make full advantage of the information captured in the RAW file. Under normal lighting conditions the camera JPG is usual adequate for presentation, but in this circumstance it results in a loss of detail in the shadow areas, specifically at the front of the locomotive.

To compensate for this, I manipulated the RAW camera file in post-processing (after exposure) using Lightroom, which allowed me to brighten the shadow areas and control the highlights.

Unaltered camera-RAW file except for scaling.
Here’s my interpretation of the RAW file, which has been scaled for internet. I’ve lightened shadow areas, removed a few spots caused by shadows of dirt on the front element, and controlled highlights. The flare is an effect of pointing directly at the sun. While the extreme wide-angle  using a flat-field lens design  results in some linear distortion at the edges, most noticeable on the locomotive.

I’ve included a screenshot of the Lightroom work panel that reveals how I’ve adjusted the slider controls on this specific file.

Lightroom work panel showing the positions of slider controls.

Significantly, Lightroom makes a working overlay file and DOES NOT alter the original RAW image. Working on the RAW directly would damage the original file. I advise against working directly with the original. Always make a copy.

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Bright Green Narrow Gauge Trains of the Alps

Among the railways I photographed in Switzerland last month were the Transports Publics du Chablais narrow gauge lines radiating from Aigle.

These colourful lines twist their way high into the mountains which offer countless scenic backdrops.

Denis McCabe and I arrived at Les Planches by TPC train and scoped several promising photo angles.

This view shows a train from Le Sépey crossing the Les Planches bridge that is shared with the local road.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

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Interlude at the SBB Station in Lausanne.

The trains arrive and depart in waves.

Despite an aggressive schedule of passenger trains, SBB still has capacity to roll freights through.

I made these photos digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1.

The station consists of a classic stone faced building, arched through shed over the platforms, and all the expected amenities.

Look at this impressive list of departures! Not bad for 45 minutes. More trains than many American cities get all week.
SBB Stadler railcars are common on many local trains.
Under the train shed at Lausanne. RAW file adjusted for contrast and exposure.
Freights are largely electrically hauled.

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Rails along the Water—St. Saphorin, Switzerland.

There’s something inherently attractive about a railway along water, be it a river, pond, lake or the sea.

SBB’s line along Lake Geneva is a fine example of waterside running. Not only does the lake exhibit wonderful aqua hues, but is surrounded by vineyards, snow capped Alpine peaks and other beautiful scenery.

The trick is finding locations where you can place a train with the water in a pleasing composition.

Easier said than done.

I’d found this location at St. Saphorin by searching the internet and studying Google maps. Last week, Denis McCabe and I arrived by train and made the short walk from St. Saphorin station to a foot bridge designed to grant access to the lakefront for bathers.

Not only did SBB provide transport, but fielded a nice variety of trains. About every five to ten minutes something came rolling along. Below is a sample.

This view is from the road side. I’ve opted to cross-light the train in order to better feature Lake Geneva. If you look carefully, You’ll see the foot bridge in the distance that was the vantage of the other images in this sequence.
Looking east toward St. Saphorin Station, I made this view of an SBB tilting train coming from Milan via Brig.
Just because the water is there, doesn’t mean it has to appear in the all the photos. I like this trailing view of an SBB locomotive hauled passenger train. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1.
The classic view; an SBB freight rolls east along the lake. I’m looking toward the station at Rivaz, Switzerland.
For the passage of a local train, I opted for this wide-angle water-level view.
A westward freight made for some hard lighting, but the scenery compensates for the dark front on the locomotive.

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Colour in the Streets; Geneva’s Trams.

Geneva, Switzerland has a remarkable tram network that has melded traditional routes with modern construction.

I made this selection of photographs on my recent visit using both my FujiFilm X-T1 and Panasonic Lumix LX-7 digital cameras.

When making tram photographs I often aim to place the cars in their urban environment.

Geneva’s trams feature a variety of special liveries making for a colourful fleet.

Telephoto view using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Blue and white is the standard livery on Geneva’s tram and bus fleet.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
An odd colour for tram; hot pink. Works for Easter I suppose.  FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Tram, bus and trolley bus; FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
Lumix LX-7 photo of tram taking a turning loop.
My Lumix LX7 is a great tool for photographing urban night scenes.

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Geneva Station—one week ago.

Last week I visited Geneva, Switzerland where I made these photographs.

For the station building, I worked with my Lumix LX7. While the SNCF train was photographed using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Geneva, April 2017. Exposed on a cold morning using a Lumix LX7. Here I’ve tired to integrate the station with the street environment around it. Compare this view with the one below that focuses more on the building.
The great length of Geneva’s station makes it difficult to capture in one image. In this view I’ve cropped much of the building and my use of a wide angle lens has led to some dramatic distortion.
Here I’ve oriented my Lumix vertically to capture the interior of the concourse and ticket area. My purchase of Swiss passes at the offices at the right cost me more than my Lumix did three years ago. Yet the passes were well worth the cost, as the Swiss railway network is one of the finest in the world.
The tracks at Geneva are elevated. This platform view of an SNCF train was made using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. Although the locomotive is back lit, its silver and lavender paint photographed well.

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Roman Trams

Well sort of.

Rome is one of the world’s most pictured cities, yet rarely does its tram network feature in photos.

So, on my brief visit to Rome I made many photos of its colourful urban rail-transit system.

Where else can you see multiple tram lines pass through a 3rd century city gate? Thanks to Stephen Hirsch for suggesting this photo location at Porta Maggiore.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7 in early April 2017.

 

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Italian High Speed Train at Firenze; or, how to use your phone to find a location.

Probably the best thing about the smart phone that I was coerced into acquiring is the interactive map.

When in Italy, I found this map useful in finding locations.

A modern Italian high speed train glides through Firenze-Statuto, a suburban station on the north side of the city. Lumix LX7 photo

With a touch of the screen, my position was immediately located. Railway stations are highlighted in blue, and I found it easy enough to calculate both distance and estimated walking time.

Using this technique, I navigated my way through the touristy bits of Firenze (Florence) and found the station at Firenze-Statuto, which was a busy place to watch and photograph trains. I’ll call that a successful use of the new technology.

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Freight on the Italian Mediterranean Coast.

An FS (Italian State Railway) articulated electric locomotive leads a northward freight at Framura on Italy’s Mediterranean coast.

Using my Lumix LX7, I made this photo in the minutes before sunset in early April 2017. To make the most of the camera’s RAW file, I adjusted contrast and exposure in post processing using Lightroom and outputted this as a JPG sized for internet presentation.

Framura, Italy.

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Irish Rail at Cabra; Spoil revisited.

A few weeks back I posted some views from the Old Cabra Road bridge where an Irish Rail ICR arrived on scene and partially blocked my view of the ever elusive spoil train. (See: Are Two Trains Better than One?)

Just to clarify the significance of that event: Irish Rail ICRs (Intercity railcars) are the standard passenger train on most routes in Ireland.

Furthermore, a public App for your smart phone will alert you where these trains are running most of the time. Finding an ICR on the move is easily accomplished.

By contrast, the spoil train is difficult to find, even for veteran observers. It doesn’t run often, rarely has a rigid path, and tends run off path even when given one. It doesn’t appear on an App, which makes it even harder to find.

It’s like a ghost train and I’ve missed it more times than I’ve managed to picture it.

Colm O’Callaghan and I scored views of the spoil train from Old Cabra road a few days ago. This was one of my favorite from the sequence.

Exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 prime lens.

Persistence and patience are the lessons for the day.

Dark Alleys of Genova.

Genova (Genoa, Italy) is an old Mediterranean port city, famous as the home of Christopher Columbus .

(Facebook viewers will need to click on this post to see the full photo as FB has tends to crop vertical images to the horizontal with little consideration for content).

The old city is a maze of dark narrow alleys where the sun rarely shines.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7 in April 2017.

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Italian Challenges.

It was a bright April 2017 morning when I arrived at Genova Piazza Principe. The station is scenically situated in an open area between two tunnels.

The challenge of making visually impressive photos of Italian railways lies in finding ways to handle the infrastructure effectively.

Italian Railways are very heavily built and largely electrified. The result is a plethora of columns, poles, masts, wires and other necessary, yet visually distracting elements that can make finding a clean composition a difficult task.

Throw in some graffiti, litter, and a few dodgy shadows, and a photo can appear overly busy and cluttered, so careful attention to detail is a must.

FS intercity passenger train 659 running from Milan to Ventimiglia departs Genova Piazza Principe in April 2017. Exposed using a Lumix LX7 from a public footpath west of the station.

Tracking the Light is posting automatically this week while Brian is Traveling.

 

Milano Centrale Revisited.

I made my first visit to Milano Centrale (Milan Central Station) in February 2000.

Earlier this month (April 2017), I revisited this amazing example of railway architecture and made these photos using my Lumix LX7.

Milano Centrale is like an O-scale building on an N-scale model railway.

This is one busy station and served by hundreds of trains daily reaching points across Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

Recently, I featured Milano Centrale in my book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press.

Here’s an excerpt of my text:

Milano Stazione Centrale (Milan Central Station) is a monumental railway terminal that faces the Piazza Anrea Doria. . . [the station’s] design was the result of an architectural competition held in Milan in 1913 . . . Although the plan dated from before World War I, its blocky style and super human scale seems to typify the public architecture of the interwar Fascist period. [Milano Stazione Centrale] was one of the last great railway stations built in Europe before World War II.

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A Century-old American Streetcar Design that still works Italian Streets.

The Peter Witt streetcar is an example of an American design adopted by European cities.

I featured the Peter Witt in my book Field Guide to Trains and Locomotives and Rolling Stock published by Voyageur Press in 2016. This is also available from Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt of my text:

The Peter Witt was a widely built steel-body center-door streetcar noted for its early use of the ‘pay as you enter’ system, where passengers paid fair to the motorman and eliminated need for a conductor. Exiting passengers used the center door to minimize delays during stops. The car-type was named for its designer, the Cleveland Street Railway commissioner, who originated the car arrangement about 1915 . . . The Peter Witt was adopted in Italy in the late 1920s.

I exposed these images of a venerable Peter Witt working the streets of Milan earlier this month (April 2017) using my Lumix LX7.

Lumix LX7 telephoto view at dawn in Milan, Italy. April 2017

See yesterday’s post  Milan Peter Witt at Dusk for a view of the Peter Witt’s distinctive door arrangement.

Tracking the Light is posting automatically while Brian is traveling.

Milan Peter Witt at Dusk.

It was a drizzly dusk two weeks ago (April 2017) when I used my Lumix LX7 to expose this image of a Peter Witt streetcar in Milan, Italy.

With the Lumix set at ISO 200; my exposure was  f1.8 at ¼ (using  ‘A’ mode that allows me to select the aperture, while the camera automatically selects the shutter speed).

To steady the camera, I rested it on a railing conveniently located at the tram stop.

I’m fond of making night shots where there’s still a hint of colour in the sky.

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Paris Gare de Lyon

For my money Paris Gare de Lyon is the coolest station in France.

Here’s just a few views from my brief visit earlier this month.

All were exposed using my Lumix LX7. Film enthusiasts fear not! I also made some colour slides of this iconic railway terminal.

Read more about railway stations, buy my book Railway Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press.

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SNCF’s TGV; Brussels to Milan

A couple of weeks ago, I found good deal on-line for a 1st Class SNCF ticket from Brussels Midi to Milan via Paris.

It was an early start from Brussels. I enjoyed some fast running, a quick change at Lille Europe, and an hour and half to navigate my way across Paris.

I made these photos of the train journey with my Lumix LX7.

Brussels Midi just before sunrise.
Gliding along at speed near the Belgian-French frontier.
Lille Europe high-speed station.
I traveled on this TGV Duplex between Lille and Paris Gare du Nord.
Upstairs on the TGV Duplex.
Paris Gare du Nord.
The longest and final leg of my TGV journey was between Gare de Lyon and Milan on this multi voltage TGV set.

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