SEPTA has a small fleet of electric locomotives; seven are AEM-7s (kin to Amtrak’s now retired fleet), one is a similar model ALP44 built by ABB Traction in 1996.
This one SEPTA ALP44 carries the road number 2308. It is among the regional rail operator’s most elusive locomotives. NJT Transit also operated ALP44s, but these have been out of service for a number of years.
Last week (November 2017) I was in the right place at the right time and caught 2308 arriving at Temple University (station) with a train destined for Thorndale. I boarded and traveled to Jefferson Station (formerly called Market East), where I made these images using my Lumix LX7.
Soon SEPTA will be receiving a fleet of new Siemens-built electrics, so I would assume that old 2308 is on borrowed time.
Recognizing rare equipment is part of making interesting railway images.
Is SEPTA’s 2308 the modern-day equivalent of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s DD2 electric (a rarely photographed, one-of-a-kind machine that looked similar to PRR’s common GG1)?
I made good use of the pass, traveling over several heavy rail routes to make photos.
One of the greatest features of this pass is the ability to get on and off trains without concern for cost, or trying to explain to the conductor where I’m are traveling to. This allows me to change my plan on the spot if I see an interesting location.
SEPTA offers regular interval service on most of its suburban lines, with extra trains in the evening rush hour.
These digital photos were made using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.
Dusk is a mystical time to photograph; highlights are subdued, shadows are deep, while the prevailing light is soft and cool. Window light is equivalent to the outdoors, and railroad signal light seems more intense.
The short SEPTA line to Cynwyd in the northwestern Philadelphia suburbs is a vestige of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Valley line that once reached northward into anthracite country.
Today Cynwyd is the end of the line.
Until last week, it was one of the last segments of SEPTA’s Regional Rail network left for me to travel.
I arrived at dusk, and in that ‘blue hour’ and I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.
All things being equal I would have used a tripod, but I didn’t have one so with the XT1, I boosted the ISO to unusually high levels to compensate for the dim conditions.
Not just any old ‘mainline,’ but the famous Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Main Line— so called because it was built as the ‘Main Line of Public Works’ in the mid-Nineteenth Century.
I made this view of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian taking the curve at Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
Where most of the trains on this line draw power from the high-voltage AC catenary, Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian changes from an electric to a diesel locomotive at 30th Street to avoid the need to change at Harrisburg.
This is Amtrak’s only service on the former PRR west of Harrisburg. The lone long distance train on what was once a premier passenger route, and unusual on the electrified portion of the line.
I exposed this sequence at Berwyn using my FujiFilm XT1 and 18-135mm zoom lens.
To make the most of the curve and autumn color, I positioned myself on the outside of the curve at Berwyn. The chug of Amtrak’s P42 diesel alerted me to the approach of this westward train.
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.
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?
My Lumix LX7 has an ‘high-dynamic range’ feature. Otherwise known by its initials ‘HDR’, high-dynamic range is a technique for digital imaging that allows greater detail in highlights and shadows by combining several images of the same subject that were exposed at different values.
The LX7 includes the HDR setting as one of the options in ‘scene mode’ (SCN on the selection dial). This rapidly exposes a sequence of images and combines them in-camera to produce a single HDR JPG. Obviously you need to hold still when you make the photo.
Also it helps to photograph a static scene or the result my get a bit weird.
In this instance, I photographed some flowers on the platform of NI Railway’s station at Whitehead, Co. Antrim (Northern Ireland).
There are other ways of accomplishing a similar result.
So I decided to compare the HDR with some manipulated versions of a camera RAW file that I exposed of the same scene. With the RAW images, I’d adjusted the file with Lightroom post processing software, selectively altering contrast, gamma, and colour saturation and colour temperature to make for a more pleasing photograph.
Specifically I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter, while making global changes to highlights and saturation.
The output of the RAW is also as a JPG, which I scaled for presentation here.
I made two versions of the RAW interpretation.
In both sets of images I’ve intentionally focused on the flowers and not the NIR train.
Last Sunday, I spent several hours photographing NI Railways and Enterprise trains at Moira, a station on the old Great Northern Railway’s Belfast-Dublin route.
The attractions of this location include a preserved signal cabin and a footbridge at the Dublin-end. Another benefit is the level crossing with a local road at the Dublin end. The barriers protecting the road drop 3-4 minutes before trains pass, which provides ample warning to prepare for photography.
This is especially helpful if you are sitting in a car nearby trying to edit texts and photos for a book on deadline.
I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
As mentioned last week, I’m in the final lap of assembling a book on European Railway travel.
This image is among my ‘outtakes’ from the section on Germany.
I have hundreds of photos along the Rhein. I like this one because it shows the twin tunnels on the right bank opposite Oberwesel, but the wires in the sky annoy me, as does the clutter in the river at right and shrub on the left.
I realize that today’s title might not catch everyone’s eye.
How about: ‘Clean GM Diesel on a Freight’?
Or, ‘Irish Rail at Rush Hour’ ?
Anyway, this post is about light.
I was waiting on the Up IWT liner (International Warehousing & Transport Ballina, County Mayo to Dublin Northwall container train)with recently painted Irish Rail 071 class diesel number 082.
Just ahead of this Dublin-bound freight was the Up-Galway passenger train with a common set of ICRs (InterCity Railcars).
I was photographing into the sun. My intent was to work the glint effect. (That’s when the sun reflects off the side of the train).
Usually, I find this is most effective when you shade the front element of the lens to minimize flare. Notice the two variations with the ICR.
By the time the freight reached me clouds had partly shaded the sun leaving only a hint of back-lighting.
All the photos were made using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera RAW Files were all adjusted for colour balance, colour saturation and contrast using the same ratio of change. (In other words, although I’ve manipulated the final result, all the photos have received the same degree of alteration).
In that photo the train is relatively small in a big scene.
Three days later, David Hegarty and I were again out along the old Great Northern line, this time at Drogheda, to photograph the Tara Mines on the move.
In contrast to the distant view in the earlier posting, the photographs displayed here focus tightly on the locomotive and train using more classic three-quarter angle.
In the top photograph, I used my FujiFilm XT1 with a 90mm fixed telephoto for a tight compressed view (what some photographers might term a ‘telewedgie’).
While in bottom photograph I used my Lumix LX7 with zoom lens set with a wide-angle perspective that approximates the angle of view offered by a 35mm focal length lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.
I prefer the telephoto view for overall appeal; this handles the soft lighting conditions more satisfactorily, focuses more closely on the locomotive and train, minimizes bland elements of the scene such as the ballast and white sky, and offers a high impact image of the train in motion. Also it helps emphasize the trackage arrangement with crossovers between the up and down lines.
Tracking the Light Discusses Railway Photography Daily.
Irish Rail’s quad-track line southwest of Dublin is a popular place for photos.
Last week, Colm O’Callaghan and I made a trip down to Hazlehatch to make photos of trains on the move in the afternoon.
Belmond’s Grand Hibernian was passing down road when Colm said to me, ‘Quick, it’s the inspection car’. I had only a few seconds. I turned around and with little time to compose I fired off a few frames.
Both the train and the inspection car were in motion.
There’s a lightly used road bridge over Irish Rail’s old Great Northern line south of the former station at Mosney that offers a clean view in both directions.
The Irish Sea is in the distance to the east.
A week ago David Hegarty and I spent a few hours here making photos of passing trains.
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a fixed focal length 27mm pancake lens, which offers an angle of view rough equivalent to a 41mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera. In other words it is a slightly wide-angle perspective.
On the morning of 25 August 2017, David Hegarty and I were in position at Malahide looking toward the old Great Northern Railway causeway to photograph a laden Tara Mines Zinc Ore Train led by Irish Rail class 071 locomotive number 077.
I liked this location because it allowed me to picture the whole train in a scenic setting. As you can see the Tara Mines train is very short as demonstrated in this broad-side view (if you are viewing on FB you may need to click on Tracking the Light for the full photo).
To make this work I used a medium telephoto and then in post processing cropped the extraneous portions of the sky and water at top and bottom of the image.
I also altered contrast, colour balance and colour saturation.
I’m not fully satisfied though, because the dark locomotive and dull wagons with relatively flat lighting tend to get lost in the overall scene.
Tracking the Light Explores Photographic Technique Daily.
Lisburn is a surviving gem among old Great Northern Railway stations in Northern Ireland.
RPSI’s steam crew apologized for the weather, but there was no need. Steam locomotives make for excellent subjects when photographed at dusk in the rain.
This was my reunion with Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s engine 85, a Great Northern compound 4-4-0.
Honer Travers arranged my visit to Lisburn to witness the arrival of the scheduled Steam & Jazz special from Belfast, and introduced me to members of the crew (some of whom I’d met on previous occasions).
Working with three cameras, I made dozens of atmospheric images in the course of about 15 minutes. These photos were made digitally with my FujiFilm XT1 and Panasonic Lumic LX7. In addition, I exposed a handful of black & white photos using a Nikon loaded with Fomapan Classic.
Belmond is a high-end tour train operator that since 2016 has served Ireland with its Grand Hibernian sleeping car train.
This has been a popular topic for railway photographers as it represented a return of the Mark 3 carriage to Irish rails and makes for a decidedly different passenger train in contrast with Irish Rail’s regularly scheduled services.
Yet, as previously mentioned on Tracking the Light, the train itself is challenging to capture in images owing to its largely unbroken dark navy-blue paint.
In dull light this looks nearly black.
I’ve found that the most effective photographs of the Belmond Grand Hibernian are made in bright sunlight.
These views were exposed at ‘the Gullet’ west of Dublin’s Heuston Station. One was made with my Lumix LX7 with the Vivid colour profile; the other two with my FujiFilm X-T1 using the Velvia colour profile.
Files were scaled in Lightroom for internet presentation, but were not altered in post processing in regards to exposure, colour balance, colour temperature or contrast.
It had been a long time since I’d last traveled NIR’s Belfast to Derry railway line (in the original version of this post, I’d described this as the ‘Derry Road’ but several readers wrote into correct me, as the phrase ‘Derry Road’ refers to the long abandoned GNR route to Derry and not the present NIR line), and while I’ve been over the whole line between Derry and Belfast in stages, I’d never before actually traveled all the way from Belfast to Derry.
So, two weeks ago, Honer Travers and I organized a day out to Derry. We began our rail journey at Lisburn and traveled to Belfast Great Victoria Street where we changed trains.
After a wander in Derry, we returned by rail the way we had come.
A few weeks back on a trip to Belfast, I exposed these views of NI Railway’s CAF-built diesel railcars crossing the River Lagan.
To convey a sense of motion I panned the trains using a relatively slow shutter speed with a medium telephoto lens. By using an even panning motion I was able to keep the train sharp with the background is blurred.