Category Archives: digital photography

Conway Scenic 573 out for Filming.

This week Conway Scenic Railroad has fired up former Maine Central GP7 573 to appear in filming for crew-training videos.

While most of my work involved operating the video camera. I made a few still photos too.

These were exposed yesterday using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Gorham, New Hampshire Revisited.

In the late 1990s, Seattle-based tour operator Great Train Escapes employed me to provide on-board contextual narration to their guests during their autumn rail-based New England excursions.

Part of the journey were trips over the St. Lawrence & Atlantic former Grand Trunk line in Maine and New Hampshire.

On several occasions we boarded the train eastbound at Gorham, where I took the opportunity to expose Fujichrome color slides.

Last week I revisited the old Grand Trunk station and environs at Gorham with fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino, where we met Andrew Dale who reminded me of my earlier visits to the town. This inspired me to dig into the archives to find these vintage photos.

October 1999.
April 2020.
April 2020

October 1999.

April 2020.

The modern images were expose using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit, while the vintage photos were made with a Nikon.

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Central Vermont at Palmer—May 17, 1985.

This was a common scene in the mid-1980s; Central Vermont’s southward road freight with a large collection of GP9s crossing the Palmer diamond.

What I find remarkable looking at this image is how few trees were around the tracks back then as compared with today.

At the bottom is a view of the New England Central at the same location a few weeks ago.

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May TRAINS Features Conway Scenic.

May 2020 Trains Cover.

My epic 8-page article on the Conway Scenic Railroad appears in the May 2020 Trains Magazine.

Months of research and personal experience contributed to my writing and illustrating this feature.

It was my hope to distill the railroad’s history, operations and spirit into these 8 pages.

Ironically, the magazine arrived the week following the railroad entering its unplanned period of dormancy owing to the on-going COVID-19 crisis and New Hampshire’s mandates in reaction to the crisis.

The photo below shows the waiting room on Friday afternoon with the first of several coats of fresh polyurethane in anticipation of the 2020 operating season.

12mm view with XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit.

Although ‘cocooned,’ with its operations postponed, Conway Scenic will continue to make preparations to reopen when the time is right to do so.

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English Electric in the Douro Valley One Year Ago.

It was just a year ago, March 30, 2019, that I exposed this digital image of a Comboios de Portugal (national railway of Portugal) passenger train winding along the picturesque Douro Valley near Aregos .

Denis McCabe and I had spent a week documenting Portuguese railways. Fine weather and excellent scenery combined to make this an enjoyable and successful Iberian adventure.

For this photo, I worked with my compact Lumix LX7. This compact camera produces outstanding results, owing in part to its Leica Vario-Summilux lens. Previously on Tracking the Light I published some of my Douro Valley photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Unfolding Situation at North Conway

Yesterday, David Swirk issued a statement explaining why the Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operations as planned in April. I’ve included an excerpt of the statement below.

In recent weeks, I’ve been continuing to photograph, video record, and prepare advertising materials for the railroad. I’ve included a few photos of the way things appeared at North Conway on March 20, 2020.

We continue to plan for our delayed reopening.

Excerpt of Friday’s statement.

Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operation as planned in April 2020. This is in compliance with the recently issued New Hampshire Stay-at-Home order that is going into effect ll:59 PM Friday, March 27, 2020. This order is in response to the unfolding Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that is aimed to end the spread of the disease by restricting public movement and preventing non-essential businesses from opening. Conway Scenic Railroad will continue to closely watch the unfolding events relating to the containment of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

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Amtsterdam May 26, 1996.

My father and I traveled from Brussels to Amsterdam by train on May 26, 1996. Shortly after arriving at Amsterdam Centraal, I exposed this color slide of a tram paused in front of the station.

On the front of the tramcar is a bit of graffiti which annoyed me at the time. This bit of marker seemed to spoil the scene.

Later in the day, we traveled by tram to the end one of the lines, just to see what was there. It was like Legoland.

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Shadow at 64

During Conway Scenic Railroad’s Snow Train season last month, I took this photo from engine 573 as it approached milepost 64 along the Saco River.

We were plowing snow ahead of the scheduled train. The sun was rising behind the engine and it made for an interesting juxtaposition.

Exposed digitally with my Lumix LX7.

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Swift River Covered Bridge

There’s more than one Swift River. In fact, in Massachusetts, I know of at least two. The river discussed here is the Swift River in New Hampshire that passes through Albany and Conway.

My railroad photography has been light since the end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Snow Trains on February 29, so I thought I put up something a little different.

Last weekend, fellow photographer Kris Sabbatino offered to show me some interesting photo locations in the Conway area and we drove to the Swift River Bridge at Albany.

Panoramic composite exposed in-camera with my FujiFilm XT1.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In addition, I exposed a few frames of black & white film, which at the rate I’m moving on processing might not get processed until the leaves are on the trees.

The style of bridge intrigued me. While I’m familiar with the Howe Truss, this was something different. Later I looked it up on-line, and it was described as a ‘Paddleford type with added arches’.

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Bright Morning in Palmer.

For more than 25 years, New England Central’s gold and navy GP38s have worked the former Central Vermont line. These have been a common site around the railroad’s Palmer, Massachusetts hub.

I thought of that bitterly cold February 1995 morning when I made my first New England Central photos as I exposed these views last week under decidedly more pleasant conditions.

New England Central’s 608 with GP38 3854 at Palmer, Massachusetts in March 2020.
Faded but still working!

I wonder what another 25 years will bring to New England Central at Palmer?

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Amtrak with the Pacific Ocean

On a frosty morning I felt it would be nice to look at a warm evening.

From New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley I’m posting this view of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner at San Clemente Pier on Calilfornia’s Surf Line.

I exposed this view in November 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Stacumni Bridge This Day Five Years Ago!

Tight view of a 201 class EMD diesel.

On March 3, 2015, I made this view of 201-class 8209 in an interim paint scheme leading a down Irish Rail IWT Liner at Stacumni Bridge near Hazel Hatch in suburban Dublin.

I was working with my recently acquired FujiFilm XT1 and getting used to the peculiarities of this excellent image making tool.

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Running Extra

I made these views from the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s 1630 Snow Train during the final days of operation last week.

I’d drafted the Snow Train timetable during early planning for the trains and I was keen for them to operate in a timely manner.

All trains were run as ‘extras’ under Conway Scenic Railroad’s tradition rulebook using timetable and train order rules.

Extra trains must display white flags by day and white lights by night.

The trains proved very popular with Conway Scenic’s guests and ridership exceeded expectations!

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Snow Plow Action

Yesterday forecasts of snow were dashed when rain fell instead.

Last week the story was a different one, and as previously reported on Tracking the Light, Conway Scenic Railroad sent a plow extra west to Attitash.

I made this view using my Lumix LX7, while recording the action using the railroad’s video camera.

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Snow Train Arriving.

Conway Scenic Railroad 1751 leads the evening Snow Train over the Post Office crossing at North Conway last week.

Conway Scenic is operating Snow Trains between the North Conway Station and Attitash through February 29th.

Exposed in February 2020 using a Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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Frosty Dawn

Last week the lights were lit on Gertrude Emma—Conway Scenic Railroad’s 1898-built Pullman open-end observation car—when I made this early morning view at the North Conway station.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7 mounted on a Bogen tripod.

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Snow Train Day and Night

On Tuesday February 18, 2020 it snowed most of the day at North Conway, New Hampshire.

Through out the day the Conway Scenic Railroad was operating its new Snow Trains between its famous North Conway station and Attitash in Bartett.

I made these views of the Snow Train set led by former Maine Central GP7 573 paused between runs at the North Conway B&M station.

Both were exposed using a Lumix LX7.

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Plowing Snow with my Video Studio!

Shortly after arriving on the property at New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad last Spring, I asked owner David Swirk why he had an air-conditioner on his vintage Russel snow plow.

He laughed and said the plow was employed for various tasks. Later in the summer, my video editing studio was temporarily relocated to the plow, where I learned first hand of the importance of the air-conditioner!

Last week in preparation for commencement of February operations, Swirk decided it was time to send the Russel plow out to clear the line and widen the swath of snow made during previous plowing efforts using GP7 573.

So on Thursday, February 13, 2020 the plow was readied and dispatched by Train Order as a Work Extra 573 from North Conway Yard to Attitash pushed in traditional fashion by 573.

I hiked into the Whitaker Woods to document the plow at work, then followed along by road. Here are few of my photos.

Passing under Highway 302 near Bartlett, New Hampshire.

I also made a video, which I posted on Conway Scenic’s Facebook page:

This also appears on the railroad’s Instagram page.

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Snow Trains—The First Day.

Some times plans don’t materialize as expected.

The day dawned with an arctic claw. This made for an azure sky, but was a tad difficult on the fingers.

I thought I’d be showing photos of RDC Millie in the New Hampshire snow.

Instead, I have some photos of former Maine Central GP7 573 pulling a four car consist as Conway Scenic’s Snow Train.

That turned out to be a good thing for the railroad and resulted in some unusual winter photos. The larger train accommodated the swell of passengers that arrived to travel.

For these photos I was working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

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Cupid’s Express under the Stars.

Last night (February 14th) I traveled on the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Cupid Express dinner train that ran over the old Maine Central Mountain Division toward Bartlett.

When the train paused for the engineer to change ends (we had a locomotive positioned at each end of the train to avoid the need to run around), I exposed a few photos.

It was clear, very cold and the stars were bright. You can see my footprints in the foreground snow.

The train was a success and was completely sold out.

Exposed with a Lumix LX7 at f1.4 for 13 seconds, ISO 100. Camera mounted on a Bogen tripod. I made some minor adjustments to exposure and color saturation in post processing.

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Snow Train Trial.

Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday February 11, 2020), I traveled with the Conway Scenic train crew on RDC 23 Millie that was performing a trial-run of our new Snow Train  service that will begin this Saturday.

By arrangement, the crew dropped me at milepost 64 along the Saco River, so that I could make some video and still images of the RDC to be used in Conway Scenic promotions.

These images are low-res Jpgs downloaded from my FujiFilm XT1 to my iPhone via WiFi.

Westbound at Milepost 64 near Glen & Jackson, New Hampshire.
Eastbound at Milepost 65.
Laying over at Attitash.

I made a variety of other digital images that I hope to download soon.

Between February 15th to 29th, Conway Scenic Railroad will be running seven trains a day on an 90 minute interval between North Conway and Attitash. This is something new for the railroad!

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Memory Full!

When I’m working with film I keep a sharp eye on how many photos I expose, and work judiciously as I approach the 36th frame.

But with digital, too often the potentially vast numbers of photos that I can save to a card leads to my complacency. So, despite having had hundreds of exposures at my disposal, at an inopportune moment after releasing the shutter the dreaded ‘Memory Full!’ message appears at the back of the camera along with a snide sounding ‘beeep!’

I had this misfortune a couple of weeks back when in pursuit of the southward Vermont Rail System freight near Wells River, Vermont.

Luckily, I’d just captured the train in motion.

However, since I’d planned out a series of locations, and I needed to proceed post haste to my next spot. I didn’t have the time to root around and locate another SD Card for my FujiFilm XT1 (poor planning on my part), so I went immediately to ‘Plan B’. (the back up plan).

That involved working with my Lumix LX7 and a Nikon F3 (loaded with black & white film) cameras, both of which are excellent tools.

The film remains in the camera, so I’ve opted to present the Lumix Photos here.

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Barnet Road-Barnet, Vermont.

I’ve looked at this location several times over the years. Here, Barnet Road crosses the Connecticut River and the railroad south of the old station-location at Barnet, Vermont.

Either the light didn’t suit photography, or there was no train around.

On January 28th, 2020, I had ample time to set up since the southward Vermont Rail System freight I was following had stopped to switch at Barnet. 

I scoped a couple of different angles from the road bridge, and at the last minute settled on this view.

I exposed this sequence of photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

This view was panned slightly, which allows for a greater sense of motion while retaining sharpness on the leading locomotive.
Trailing view from the same bridge as the photos above.

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White Flags: Extra 573 Clearing Snow Near Mountain Junction.

Friday, February 7, 2020, Conway Scenic dispatched former Maine Central GP7 573 as a work extra to clear the line to Attitash (near Bartlett, NH).

Icy rain and sleet had been falling throughout the day and it was beginning to turn to snow. Temperatures were expected to drop and by morning the snow would be like cement. Clearing the line while the snow was still slushy was imperative or this relatively small task could become an epic one.

Conway Scenic normally shuts its lines from early January until April. This year the railroad is planning a series of special trips during the last two weeks of February beginning with Cupid’s Express Valentines Day trains on February 14th, followed by Snow Trains that will run from North Conway to Attitash on a 90 minute interval beginning at 7:30 am.

The interval was my idea and I’ve planned a timetable for the event.

I traveled with the engine crew on 573 to document the day’s events and make notes. Near Mountain Junction (where the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch connects with the old Maine Central Mountain Division) 573 paused for the crew to clear a crossing. I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Irish Rail 084 at BlackHorse Avenue—Dublin.

As it rains ice outside my window in Conway, New Hampshire, I was thinking back to greener warmer times last summer in Ireland!

It was toward the end of August 2019, when I made this view of Irish Rail 084 working an up-IWT Liner from Ballina, Co. Mayo to Dublin’s North Wall approaching Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with a 90mm lens.

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Vermont Rail System—East Barnet.

On my recent travels between North Conway, New Hampshire and Monson, Massachusetts, I prefer the rural highways of the Connecticut River Valley to the heavily traveled rat race to the south.

Among the benefits of my long way round is that it follows the tracks most of the way.

I don’t always find a train, and honestly across much of the territory I pass there are scant few trains to find.

Last week as I drove north, I scoped a host of locations to photograph along the old Boston & Maine/Canadian Pacific route between White River Junction and St Johnsbury, Vermont.

At the last-named point, I got out of my car by the old railroad station just in time to hear the roar of twin 16-645E3 diesels. Excellent timing! I reversed course and returned promptly to a spot that I’d photographed on previous occasions at East Barnet, Vermont.

Vermont Rail System at East Barnet, Vermont. Expose using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm lens.

This was a good start, but I was just getting warmed up. From there I continue my pursuit to make a variety of satisfying images. More to follow soon!

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Dusk at East Northfield.

It is unlikely you will find ‘East Northfield’ on most maps of Massachusetts, since this is a railroad location that doesn’t reflect local geography.

Not withstanding these directional peculiarities, East Northfield (as so-identified by New England Central’s sign) is a classic railroad location and a favorite place to photograph trains. Located on the Massachusetts-Vermont state line, this is where New England Central meets Pan Am’s Boston & Maine Connecticut River line from Greenfield.

On Friday, January 24, 2020, my friends, fellow photographers, Tim and Pat and I converged at the junction to make photographs of New England Central’s northward 611.

Here the train was held for a few minutes while Amtrak’s northward Vermonter made its Brattleboro station stop. Operational considerations typically find freights holding south of East Northfield until Amtrak is north of ‘West River’ (a railroad location situated north of Amtrak’s Brattleboro station).

The light was fading fast. So working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto, I exposed a series of images to make the most of the tinted low lighting.

The first view was made with an auto-white balance setting. The second two using a daylight preset that results in the camera capturing more of the blue-spectrum of dusk.

Auto white balance; no post processing color correction.
Daylight white balance without post processing corrections.

This exposure was made a few minutes later and reflects the approach of evening after the amount of light had diminished. It was also made using the ‘Daylight’ white balance preset.

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NECR on the Millers Falls High Bridge.

Here’s a view I exposed of New England Central’s northward 611 crossing the 1905-built Millers Falls High Bridge at Millers Falls, Massachusetts on January 24, 2020.

This former Central Vermont Railway bridge has long been a favorite of mine.

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New England Central on the Roll!

After departing Greenfield, where I’d had the fortuity to catch a westward Pan Am empty grain train (Thursday’s posting on Tracking the Light), I drove to Millers Falls, Mass. My friends Tim and Pat were photographing the northward New England Central 611 turn on its run from Palmer back toward Brattleboro, Vermont.

I phoned Pat when I arrived at Millers Falls. “Where are you?”

“We’re in South Amherst, 611 is passing Amherst now.”

That was just the information I needed.

I knew it would be cutting it a bit fine (in other words; with the wind a my back, I’d barely make it) but I was going to try to run against this freight and intercept it at Leverett (north of Amherst on the old Central Vermont).

I’m no novice at following trains on this line. I recall a spirited chase of CV freight from Amherst to Millers Falls back in Spring 1986!

I had a clear shot to Leverett (I didn’t get stuck behind a school bus). I pulled in, grabbed my FujiFilm XT1, jumped out of the car and listened.

I could hear multiple 16-645E3 diesels working in run 7 or 8. They were very close.

I needed to change lenses and had just enough time to switch from a 27mm pancake lens to my fixed focal length ‘prime’ 90mm telephoto.

As I set my exposure, the freight roared around the bend! I exposed a burst of images and then laid chase back north again. At one point, I gazed in my rear-view and saw that my friends were behind me. Classic train chase!

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Luck, Wisdom Way, and an Empty Grain Train!

Last week, I exited I-91 at Greenfield, Massachusetts with a vision of nipping over to Pan Am’s East Deerfield Yard—an old haunt that I hadn’t visited in a while.

As luck would have it, I never made it to the yard. Driving east I spotted former CSX GE DASH8-40Cs working west. It was an empty grain train! A prize indeed.

With no time to spare, and working from memory, I navigated post haste to Wisdom Way—a choice overpass on the former Fitchburg Main Line where I’ve made countless photos over the years.

I arrived in just enough time to set my exposure and capture this elusive freight as it passed in and out of dappled sun.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Not bad for a spontaneous catch. Soon I was on my way in another direction aiming to intercept New England Central 611 on its northward run.

Stay tuned for the results of that adventure!

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Boston & Maine Station at Ely, Vermont with Cotton Candy Sky.

On Friday January 24, 2020, I made a series of photos of the former Boston & Maine station at Ely, Vermont.

These views were made looking south toward White River Junction and show the station in partial silhouette against a wintery cotton-candy sky.

I exposed them in RAW using my Lumix LX7 and processed the files using light room to make the most of the dramatic sky.

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