Below are two versions of an image I made of a Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn narrow-gauge train engaging the Abt rack system on its steep ascent from Göschenen to Andermatt.
These were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera on my visit to the Alps with Stephen Hirsch, Gerry Conmy and Denis McCabe in mid April 2016.
The first is the unadjusted (except for scaling) Jpg produced in camera. Notice that the sky is washed out and lacking in detail.
The second image is a Jpg that I produced from the camera RAW file by making nominal contrast and saturation adjustments in Lightroom.
The aim of the second image was to hold the sky and highlight detail that was lost by the camera Jpg. This demonstrates the ability of the RAW file to retain greater detail than the Jpg.
Instead of using an external graduated neutral density filter, as I had with some previous images displayed on Tracking the Light, I used the equivalent graduated neutral density filter in the Lightroom program.
Why not use the external filter in this situation? Two reasons:
The external filter is cumbersome and takes time to set up.
I wanted to improve the appearance of the sky without darkening the mountains. Using the electronic filter gives me the ability to selectively control highlights and shadows in the graduated area selected by the filter, while the external graduated filter would have covered the top of the image and darkened the mountains as well as the sky.
Both are valuable tools for improving a photograph.
On the weekend of April 23, 1995, Howard Ande and I followed Chicago & North Western’s east-west mainline from Chicago to Council Bluffs, Iowa and back making hundreds of images in anticipation of the Union Pacific take over.
I exposed this color slide of a relatively new C&NW GE-built DASH9-44CW near Missouri Valley, Iowa on the evening of April 23, 1995.
The technique for both photos is essentially the same, however with the photo below of the Swiss ICN passenger train I used a slight telephoto and opted to crop the sky, rather than use a graduated neutral density filter to balance the contrast/retain detail.
Below is another view from the same location near Erstfeld. Same camera, same lens, but I’ve set the zoom to a wide-angle view and I’m not as low to the ground.
The result is that the flowers remain in relative focus to the train and distant scenery. (Also I’m using the graduated neutral density filter to retain highlight detail at the top of the image).
The train is a bit small, but this photograph is more about the whole scene rather than being focused on the train.
Instead of focusing on the engine, I set my focus point on the window. Using my Nikon F3T, I exposed this image with an f1.8 105mm lens wide open for minimum depth of field. This is a personal favorite of mine and over the years I’ve reproduced it in various places.
Tracking the Light is on auto pilot while Brian is Traveling!
On the morning of April 18, 1993, I made this Kodachrome slide of an eastward Amtrak train on the shore of San Pablo Bay at Pinole, California.
Exposed using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC (Perspective Control lens). Note the level horizon.
Compare my use of foreground of the image below with that featured in this morning’s post at Gurtnellen, Switzerland. In both situations I’ve held the camera close to the ground, while standing on a hill side above the train.
To emphasize the wild flowers in the foreground, I’ve held the camera low to the ground and used the tilting back screen to compose the angle. (Aiding this approach is the FujiFilm X-T1’s built in line-level which appears as a ‘heads up’ display on the screen.)
By applying a Lee graduated neutral density filter to the front of the lens, I’ve maintained highlight detail in the sky.
My adjustments the RAW file in post processing lightened shadow density and increased color saturation to help make for a lush scene.
Notice the four layers: foreground, middle ground (the train), near background (the village of Gurtnellen), and the far background (snow crested peaks).
Once the new Gotthard Base tunnel is open to traffic at the end of this year, scenes such as this one of the Italian tilting train on the old route may be rare.
At one time the wig wag signal was the standard grade crossing protection. Now the type is all but extinct.
I learned a few weeks ago that Wisconsin & Southern had finally removed the last of these classic American signals on its former Chicago & North Western line to Reedsburg, which had survived at Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Over the years, I’d photographed wig wags at various locations in Wisconsin.
I made these photographs at Baraboo with John Gruber in February 2008.
Brian is Traveling, so Tracking the light is on Autopilot!
Thursday, 7 April 2016, Irish Rail’s IWT Liner was blocked at Islandbridge Junction. This gave me the opportunity to work some less common angles in addition to my common viewing point (often featured on Tracking the Light).
By holding my FujiFilm X-T1 above my head at arm’s length and tilting the camera’s live-view panel screen downward, I was able to make this view looking over the wall at the St. John’s Road roundabout in Dublin.
Why not try this more often? Simply because I’m not tall enough to see over the wall, so to make this view I’m actually using the camera to view the scene. It’s tiring work to hold a camera above your head while waiting for trains to appear.
I featured Southern Pacific’s massive Suisun Bay Bridge in my 2008 book North American Railroad Bridges. In this detailed book, I traced the development of bridges on American railroads and featured many of the most noteworthy spans.
Southern Pacific’s Suisun Bay Bridge opened for service on October 15, 1930, allowing the railroad to discontinue its intensive car ferry operations. It was the largest double track bridge west of the Mississippi.
I made this photograph with Brian Jennison on a foggy morning more than 16 years before the book’s publication. However this was not the image used to illustrate the bridge in the book. Instead, I opted for a broad-side silhouette exposed on Ektachrome in 1993.
Here’s a bridge photograph tip: to make a large span appear enormous crop the ends of the bridge, thus allowing the mind to expand the bridge to unseen ends.
Tracking the Light will post tomorrow at the usual time.
Yesterday, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) operated a pair of excursions from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Greystones, County Wicklow and return using former Dublin & South Eastern 2-6-0 461.
The trains were well patronized, which demonstrates a continued interest in Irish steam trains.
Dull weather prevailed, while cool temperatures made lots of steam condensation.
Sometimes I find that dull days makes for better steam photos.
Here’s a sample of digital images I made with my FujiFilm X-T1.
Most required contrast and saturation adjustment in post-processing.
Looking back more than three decades; it was a warm August 1984 afternoon when my pal T.S.H. and I sat up on the grassy hill near the popular Bullards Road Bridge to photograph this Conrail eastward freight as it approached Boston & Albany’s summit of the Berkshire grade.
I made this image on 35mm Kodak Tri-X using my Leica 3A with a Canon 50mm lens.
Conrail was divided in Spring 1999, nearly 15 years after this photo was exposed.
In 2003, CSX removed the old Bullards Road bridge (and stone abutments).
I can’t say for certain what happened to the SD40, but a similar former Conrail engine still works for New England Central.
Personally, I’d trade my digital cameras for a fully functioning time machine.
It was April 1989 when I exposed this view of Conrail’s BUOI (Frontier Yard Buffalo to Oak Island, New Jersey) bumping along the number 2 track at Arkport, New York.
At that time this portion of the old Erie Railroad line from Hornell to Buffalo as still directional double track (rule 251) with block signals largely in the from of antique Union Switch & Signal Style S semaphores.
Between Hornell and Hunt, New York, Erie’s old eastward main wasn’t maintained for speeds faster than about 10mph, and when possible Conrail routed traffic against the current of traffic on the westward (number 1 track.) Not on this day though.
I was working with two Leica M rangerfinders that day; I made a similar view on Kodachrome slide film with my M2 that appeared in RailNews for its ‘Farewell to Conrail’ issue back in 1999 (a little more than ten years after I exposed it).
While Conrail was only an extant player in American mainline freight operations for a little more than 23 years, it was my favorite of the big eastern railroads.
Today, April 1, 2016, is the 40th birthday American eastern giant, Conrail. Commencement of operations on the Consolidated Rail Corporation began on this day 40 years ago.
Conrail was created by Congress to assume operations of a variety of financially troubled eastern railroads including Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, Reading Company, Central Railroad of New Jersey and Lehigh Valley.
When I was growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Conrail was the big show. By the time Conrail’s operations were divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern in 1999, I’d exposed tens of thousands of images of its locomotives, trains and people.
I miss Conrail. It’s blue locomotives photographed well; it ran lots of freight over my favorite Boston & Albany; its employees were friendly to me, and it embodied most of favorite historic railroads. Turn back the clock, let it be Conrail-days all over again!
In 2004, Tim Doherty and I co-authored a book on Conrail, published by MBI. If you have this prized tome, it’s now a collectible item! By the way, if you know a publisher interested in a follow-up title, I have access to virtually limitless material and keen knowledge of the railroad. Just sayin’
Happy Birthday Big Blue!
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The other evening some friends and I traveled from the Dublin city centre to Blackrock on the DART-Dublin’s electrified suburban rail-transit service.
The DART branding mimic’s the Bay Area’s third-rail rapid transit brand ‘BART’ (Bay Area Rapid Transit).
While sometimes my rail travel is focused on the making of photos, this trip had another primary purpose; yet with my Lumix LX7 at the ready, I used every opportunity to make photos.
Significantly, Dublin’s Pearse Station, formerly-known as Westland Row, is credited as the world’s oldest city terminus in continuous use. It was opened in 1834 with the Dublin & Kingstown Railway. Of course, the D&K has the distinction as the world’s earliest operating suburban railway.
Lately the sun has been an elusive orb in Irish skies. Too often, I awake to find a slate gray dome above me.
Good Friday (25 March 2016) was different. It was bright sunny morning.
Having the sun and making use of it are two different things.
In the early afternoon, Colm O’Callaghan, Ciarán Cooney and I waited at Lucan South, just east of the Adamstown Station on the quad-track in suburban Dublin.
Our quarry was the up-IWT Liner from Ballina, which was operating with Irish Rail 233, the last 201 class diesel in the old Enterprise-livery. We caught this engine before, but it’s unlikely to survive for long in this old paint.
While the day remained bright, puffy clouds were rapidly blowing across the sky, changing and dampening the light when they blocked the sun
Anxiously, we watched the signals, and the passing InterCity Railcars. The tapestry above was becoming a maddening mixture of fluff and blue.
Would we get the liner in full sun? After all, that’s what we were out for.
With two cameras around my neck, I was prepared for either eventuality; if it was cloudy, I work with the digital camera; but if the sun came out bright, I’d make a slide. To this aim, I’d set my Canon EOS-3 at f4.5 1/1000th of a second—my full-sun setting for Provia 100F.
It was a photo finish. As the liner approached the light changed from dark to light.
I made some telephoto views with the FujiFilm X-T1; but as the IWT liner reached us the clouds began to part and I exposed a single frame of Fujichrome with my Canon. That photo remains latent in the camera. Did I get it right? It will be some weeks before I know the answer; I wont have the film processed until May.