Last week on a visit to Cork, I made these views of Irish Rail’s 2600 railcars working Cork-Cobh and Cork-Midleton services from Glounthaune village looking across the water toward Glounthaune/Cobh Junction station.
I was working with my FujiFilm XT1 and Canon EOS-3 cameras. The Canon was loaded with Provia 100F, and we’ll have to wait for the slides to be processed.
Regular Tracking the Light readers know that I often favor low-light ‘glint’.
This is tricky light to expose satisfactorily. It is a matter of getting the balance between highlights and shadows right, which is a subjective decision on the part of the photographer.
Yesterday, 13 October 2018, I exposed these views of an LED (light emitting diode) signal on Irish Rail at Limerick Junction.
Take a careful look at the yellow aspects in the respective images.
In the top photo, the yellow LEDs appear relatively dim (and much dimmer than they seemed in person). On the bottom photo these are brighter.
Many LEDs do not produce constant light output and flicker many times a second. Although you cannot see this with your naked eye and the light output appears constant, in fact the light is blinking. When you use a fast shutter speed the camera only captures a portion of the light emitted and so the signal lights seem too dim.
The key when photographing LED signals is to use a relatively low shutter speed. In this case 1/60thof second is much better than 1/400th.
Another tip when making effective LED signal photos is to make the most of subdued lighting which can make the signals seem brighter than the light around them.
As I got off the down Waterford train from Dublin at Bagenalstown, County Carlow, I immediately began considering photo options. I didn’t have much time, because the train was only in the station for a couple of minutes.
I took a position at the back of the Irish Rail ICR adjacent to the old station building, and made a series of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fuji zoom lens.
I’ve selected two of the sequence here: One wide angle, one telephoto; same camera, same location, same vantage point, same railcar, but different focal lengths.
Irish Rail operates International Warehousing & Transport (IWT) container liner freights five to six days per week between Dublin Port and Ballina, County Mayo.
On 3 October 2013, Colm O’Callaghan and I photographed Irish Rail 082 working the down IWT Liner at Clondalkin on the quad track section of the Dublin-Cork line. Back then the locomotive wore the now obsolete black, silver and yellow ‘freight’ livery.
On 1 October 2018, two days ago, I caught the very same locomotive working the up IWT liner at Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin. It’s now in battle ship gray paint, as are most of the 071s, except numbers 071 and 073 that are dressed in heritage paint.
I’ve been exploring and photographing Irish railways since 1998. To mark my twenty years photography, I’ve been displaying images of each of Irish Rail’s 201-class General Motors diesels in numerical order.
I’ve been unusually fortunate to catch Irish Rail’s 071 almost everyday for the last couple of weeks.
This locomotive is the class leader and features a heritage livery based on the as-delivered General Motors scheme.
It is very popular with photographers.
On Saturday 22 September 2018, locomotive 071 worked the Belmond Grand Hibernian cruise train from Dublin Heuston to Connolly Station. Until yesterday, it had been assigned to the Dublin-Ballina IWT Liner container train.
To make this view, I used my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit 12mm lens. To help bring in sky detail, I attached a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (a physical filter), then made further adjustment to RAW files in post processing using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter, which allowed me to make adjustments to highlight and shadow detail.
Additional adjustments were made globally (the entire image) to modify contrast and colour saturation to improve the appearance of the photograph.
Gauzy autumn light is perfect for photographing black steam locomotives on the move.
Yesterday, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated steam excursions between Dublin, Drogheda and Dundalk. Plans to work with engine 85 were foiled by difficulties with the turntable at Connolly Station.
Instead RPSI engine No.4 did the work.
Paul Maguire and I drove to a remote overhead bridge near Mosney.
I exposed this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. To make the most of the scene, I imported the RAW file into Lightroom and adjusted it for contrast and saturation, using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to bring in sky detail.
Learn more about the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland:
Museums offer opportunity to study historic equipment and take in the spirit of earlier times. But can be challenging places to make captivating photos. Confined quarters, cluttered arrangements, and other visitors can complicate composition.
Contrasty mixed source lighting is another problem. Thankfully modern digital cameras do an excellent job of balancing florescent, incandescent light with direct and indirect daylight. While the ability to make test shots helps to obtain better exposures.
I exposed these images using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Two Sunday Mornings in a row I walked up to the line with an aim of catching an 071 class locomotive in heritage paint leading Belmond’s Grand Hiberniancruise train on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Two Sundays, two locations, two heritage locomotives (numbers 073 and 071 respectively), and two different Irish Rail scheduled trains that got in my way.
Gosh, bad luck!
In both instances, I came away with different photos than I’d set out to make.
My question: might these photos age well? Perhaps the intrusion of the ROTEM ICRs may make these photographs more interesting in years to come?
I’m not one to get overly excited when a photo opportunity doesn’t work as planned. Sometimes it’s best to just keep making photos when a scene plays out.
PSSSST! (I also made some sneaky 35mm slides that may make the most of both situations).
Earlier this week it was organized for me to travel on the footplate of Great Northern Railway of Ireland 85.
The thrill of experiencing a steam locomotive cab on the main line is a rare privilege.
My job was to make photographs and stay out of the way.
Locomotive 85 is a three cylinder compound 4-4-0, a 1932 product of Beyer Peacock.
The compound arrangement is what intrigued me, but like the low droning throb sounding from the 20 cylinder diesel powering an EMD SD45, this element of the steam equipment is beyond my ability to picture.
Instead, I had to settle for making images of the crew at work and the locomotive in motion.
The footplate offers a rough ride, while swirling coal dust and locomotive exhaust complicate photography and the handling of sensitive equipment. The lighting is at best difficult. Staying out of the way often means that I wasn’t always able to get the angle I really wanted and needed to make due with where I was able to stand.
Special thanks to everyone at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) and at Irish Rail for making my locomotive journeys possible.
For details about the RPSI and scheduled steam and diesel trips see:
In the 1950s and 1960s, My father made a project of photographing the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee, the distinctive interurban electric line connecting it’s namesakes.
Last month, John Gruber and I paid a visit to the Illinois Railway Museum at Union, Illinois. Like my father, John had focused on the North Shore. He made hundreds of excellent photographs that distilled the spirit of the railway.
North Shore was before my time, but I feel that I know the line thanks to my dad’s and John’s photographs, which were featured in books by the late William D. Middleton.
The railway may be gone 55 years, but key pieces of it’s equipment survive.
I made these digital views of preserved North Shore cars at IRM using my FujiFIlm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens. This flat-field super wide-angle lens is well suited to making images in the tight quarters of IRM’s car barns.
John Gruber has an on-going exhibit of his finest North Shore photography in the East Union Station at IRM. This will be subject of another Tracking the Light post.
Sometimes a station name conveys a grander image than what’s really there.
Cherry Orchard in Dublin comes to mind. Put out visions of lush blossoming trees in a bucolic pastoral setting, and replace it with industrial squalor, palisade fencing, graffiti and garbage. Yet, it’s still a good place to catch trains on the move.
Then we have today’s featured location: NI Railway’s modern station at Botanic in Belfast. For me the name invokes images of flowing beautiful gardens, tall majestic trees and rows of manicured flowers, perhaps a fountain.
Er, not exactly.
While more salubrious than Dublin’s Cherry Orchard (and undoubtedly safer too), Botanic isn’t a wonderland.
Yesterday (3 September 2018), sunny skies greeted Great Northern Railway Ireland 85, a 4-4-0 three-cylinder compound locomotive operated by Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, when it paused at Portarlington, County Laois to take water.
This classic Irish express passenger locomotive was working a chartered train from Dublin Connolly to Killarney.
I exposed these images using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
The photos here were scaled without modification from camera JPG files using the Velvia color profile.
I also made a few colour slides on real FujiFilm: Provia 100F.
The Dublin & Kingstown commenced operations in 1834. Today, the line is part of Irish Rail’s national network and also hosts Dublin Area Rapid Transit suburban electric trains.
In August 2018, I exposed this view of the down evening Dublin-Rosslare passenger train approaching Blackrock along the shore of Dublin Bay.
I like the modern candy-apple green livery that now graces some of Irish Rail 29000-series diesel railcars, and I find that it works especially well in a scene such as this one.
To make for a more appealing photograph, I imported the camera RAW into Lightroom and made a few minor adjustments to contrast and color temperature. Among my most important changes was to lighten the shadow areas to more closely represent what we see with our eyes.