Yesterday, November 25, 2020, we brought a light engine to Conway, NH to help decorate Conway Scenic Railroad for the holiday season.
At Conway, as we were finishing our decorating, I set up to capture the scene with my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm lens, I heard the characteristic honk!-honk!-honk! of migrating geese . . .
I quickly repositioned and readjusted my zoom to incorporated the V-formation of the birds.
After I arrived back in North Conway, I downloaded the files to my MacBook Pro and adjusted this one to post it on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Facebook page and for transmission to the Conway Daily Sun for an up-coming article.
Among the hundreds of 35mm slides returned to me from the processing lab the other day was this Kodak Ektachrome E100 slide of Conway Scenic Railroad 573 and 4266 leading the 2020 Railfan’s Day photo freight that I helped organize.
September 5, 2020 was a perfect clear day with rich blue sky and warm late-summer sun.
In addition to a great number of digital photographs, I also exposed color slides for slide shows and to keep for posterity.
With slides I get the best of both worlds; analog archival material and a scannable transparency that is easily digitized for internet presentation.
I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner, set to 4000 dpi and a ‘White Balance’ color profile.
Below I’ve attached the VueScan control window that shows my various manual settings; the RAW uninterpreted scan of the slide, and the adjusted scan after I altered shadow and highlight contrast and other parameters in Adobe Lightroom.
Last week, Conway Scenic Railroad temporarily evicted former Boston & Maine F7A 4268 from stall 4 at the North Conway, NH roundhouse where the locomotive has been undergoing an operational restoration by the 470 Club (that also owns sister F7A 4266 which is operational at CSRR).
Saturday morning (November 21, 2020) brilliant late-autumn presented excellent light to photograph this relic of mid-20th century dieselization. B&M 4268 was originally an EMD demonstrator and features the builder’s less-common ‘passenger pilot’, which makes it distinctive among B&M’s F-unit.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1 with recently acquired 16-55mm Fujinon lens. After exposure, I converted the camera-RAW files to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer software, which does a more effective job of transforming these files for conversion by Adobe Lightroom, than either Lightroom itself or other image processing software.
After conversion, I imported the DNG files into Lightroom and made some minor adjustments to color temperature, contrast, and highlight/shadow detail plus saturation.
Below are examples of the in-camera FujiFilm JPG (using Velvia color profile, and a comparison DNG file converted from RAW using the Iridient software.
All photos were then scaled and exported using Lightroom.
Saturday, November 14, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its final Mountaineer of the 2020 operating season. As scheduled, this ran from North Conway to Crawford, Notch, New Hampshire and return.
Historically CSRR ceased operations over Crawford Notch earlier in the season.
I used this rare late-season move over the former Maine Central Mountain Division to make some unusual photos. Bare leaf-less trees allow for views that are unobtainable during the summer and early autumn.
During the course of the operating season, I’d made several head-end trips and Hyrail inspections of the line to look for angles. Some of the finest locations I found are a long way from public highways.
For this photo of eastward train 162, I climbed to an elevated point, and used my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
On November 9, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a special Mountaineer for the benefit of its employees and their guests. This used a foreshortened consist and departed earlier than normal, It proceeded west under clear sunny skies where it made a stop at Bartlett, NH to pause for passengers and to collect catered meals.
Upon arrival at Crawford Station, GP35 216 ran around, while we had the opportunity to make photos. After this short stop, the special then proceeded eastbound and made a second stop at the site of the Mount Willard Section House-onetime home to the famous Evans Family.
Here I made a number of unusual photos while the train was tied down on the Willey Brook Bridge.
All photos were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
Last week was warm with sunny skies. Unseasonably warm.
One evening while exploring Cape Cod, Kris Sabbatino and I paid a visit to the Cape Cod Central at Hyannis where I made these views of a former New Haven Railroad FL9 (painted to resemble its as-delivered appearance) and an old RDC built for Boston & Maine.
In an earlier Tracking the Light post, I speculated if Conway Scenic Railroad’s former New Haven Railroad RDC 23 Millie ever visited the NHRR line that once extended to Provincetown.
So far my investigations have determined that while NHRR 23 almost certainly visited the New Haven stations at Hyannis and Woods Hole, which were regular destinations for NHRR’s RDC runs, it is far less likely that it strayed as far as Provincetown, because NHRR RDCs rarely went that far.
In a similar line of inquiry: did the former B&M car pictured here ever work Boston & Maine’s North Conway Branch? Many of B&M’s cars had visited North Conway over the years, and some even worked over Crawford Notch!
At one time an extension of the New Haven Railroad’s Old Colony Division reached all the way around Cape Cod to the historic fishing village at Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Last weekend my girlfriend and fellow photographer, Kris Sabbatino brought me to Pamet Beach in Truro, where the railroad had once crossed the Pamet River on a trestle (near the site of the former Truro Station).
We made photos of the vestiges of the right-of-way and did our best to trace the line.
At Conway Scenic Railroad, our Budd RDC ‘Millie’ is a former New Haven car. This was built in 1952, several years before the line to Provincetown was abandoned. Standing on the beach in the fading light of sunset, I wondered if Millie ever crossed the trestle at Pamet?
Using my FujiFilm XT1, I made this photo on First Street when visiting Los Angeles in August 2016.
I was pleased to catch then-new cars working the Metro Rail Gold Line light rail line.
Below are two variations. The top is the in-camera JPG, using the ‘Velvia’ color profile. The second view I converted from Fuji RAW to DNG format with Iridient X-Transformer (a specialized 3rd party software aimed at producing superior results with Fuji RAW files) before importing into Lightroom for final adjustment.
As a follow up to yesterday’s Tracking the Light post, here’s a photograph at the same location exposed a few minutes later of a northward MBTA commuter train from Providence, Rhode Island, passing Mansfield, Massachusetts.
I exposed this photo with my FujiFilm XT1 moments after the train made its Mansfield Station stop. The HSP46 diesel-electric locomotive is at the back of the push-pull consist.
How a year goes by! November 4th last year sticks in my mind as one of the best nights for rainy night photography in a very long time.
I’d caught up with fellow poor-weather nocturnal photographers, Jay Monaghan, Paul Maguire and Kevin O’Brien at Drumcondra in Dublin to catch the elusive Irish Rail ‘HOBS’ (ballast train) hauled by General Locomotives diesel 075.
It was cold and sluicing rain.
After catching the ballast passing Drumcondra station, we nipped across town by rail to Sandymount, where we waited in the rain for another shot.
Working with my Fujifilm XT1 I made these memorable images.
Now, armed with Iridient X-Transformer, I went back to last year’s success and re-interpreted some of my favorite images from that damp Irish evening, which now seems so distant.
Tracking the Light Publishes Daily!
[Note: my intent was to publish this on November 4, 2020, but when composing the post I accidentally posted it immediately. My efforts to reschedule the post had the net effect of disrupting the link. So I’ve reposted it this morning (Tuesday November 3).]
Where better to photograph a train on Halloween than Frankenstein trestle?
This afternoon, Kris Sabbatino and I ventured to this iconic landmark to catch the eastward Conway Scenic Mountaineer.
Mount Washington seen to the right of the train was covered in fresh autumn snow.
The bridge is named for the nearby cliffs, which were named not for the characters of Mary Shelley’s fictional story, but rather for the family of German artists that painted landscapes of the Mount Washington Valley in the 19th Century.
Lost in the woods of northern New Hampshire is this relic of an era—all but lost to time.
The long-abandoned Maplewood Station served resort traffic on Boston & Maine’s Bethlehem Branch, a short railway built as narrow gauge in the late 19th century and later converted to four foot eight and a half inches.
By the 1920s, New England railroading was already in decline, and this branch was one of the earliest class I abandonments. Yet the old station building survived.
On the advice of Wayne Duffett, Kris Sabbatino and I made a foray into the forest to find this hollow spectre of railroading, languishing like a sad old ghost, and soon to crumble back into the earth.
I made these digital photos variously using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit and Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkor zoom.
Old Millie is Conway Scenic’s Budd RDC. This car is a former New Haven Railroad RDC built back in 1952.
Earlier this week Millie had finished its 92-day inspection and needed to go for a test run before she enters service next week on the Valley run.
My parents were visiting from Massachusetts, so a group of us including Kris and Sharon Sabbatino and Conway Scenic’s Train Master and Road Foreman of Engines, Mike Lacey, went for wander with Millie down the Conway Branch.
We stopped on the way down and again on the way back.
If all goes to plan, Mille will be working the 1115 Conway and 1245 Bartlett trains Monday – Thursday up until Thanksgiving.
I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw last month when Kris Sabbatino and I re-visited Belfast, Maine.
In 1980, my father and I paid two visits to Belfast, one of which involved a train ride to Burnham Junction and back on the Belfast & Moosehead Lake freight. On those trips I made photos of B&ML’s yard and roundhouse on black & white film using my Leica IIIA.
In August 1997, I revisited Belfast, and found the B&ML yard intact, but ghostly quiet.
I’d read that the good citizens of Belfast despised the railroad yard and its environment and that they had evicted the railroad that the city had once owned.
I was shocked of how completely this quaint delightful compact railroad yard along the Belfast waterfront had been so totally erased from the scene. It has been replaced with a sandy parking lot.
I was unprepared because I had not brought with me the photos from my earlier visits. I found it very difficult to recall exactly where I had stood. The landmarks I knew existed only in my head.
The tracks, the structures, the trains and the character of the environment that I seen in my earlier visits were now gone.
Sadly, I’ll need to return again with my earlier photos in hand and attempt a more accurate series of ‘then and now’ images.
The views below are looking north. My attempts to recreate the roundhouse scenes looking west are not good enough to reproduce here.
Going back over my Fuji digital files from 2015, I’ve selected this image of a VR Group Stadler railcar working the then-new Helsinki Airport train at Leinelá, Finland.
Below are three interpretations of the same image exposed using my FujiFilm XT1. The first is the In-camera JPG without color correction or alteration except for scaling and watermark.
The second is the Fuji RAW file imported and adjusted strictly using Lightroom.
The third is the Fuji RAW file first converted using Iridient X-Transformer and then imported into Lightroom where I implemented the same color and contrast corrections.
One minor difference with this Iridient interpretation is that I turned off the the feature that automatically corrects for lens distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. So this gives a slightly less invasive digital interpretation and a truer sense of the visual information as recorded by the sensor.
The ability to improve my interpretation of Fuji RAW files using Iridient X-Transformer made me curious to re-examine some of my Fuji photos from years gone by.
I selected a photo that I made on trip to Switzerland with photographer Denis McCabe in April 2017. This image was made at the Champery terminus of a TPC branch that extends into the Alps from Aigle.
Here I’ve presented a comparison between the Lightroom interpreted RAW (scaled and converted to JPG for internet presentation) and the same file converted into a DNG file using Iridient X-Transformer. Since it is difficult to appreciate the improved sharpness when viewed on a small scale, I’ve enlarged a portion of each image that focuses on the LED lamps and rivets on the then new Stadler railcar.
The final image was derived from the Iridient converted DNG and involved nominal adjustments to color balance, color temperature, contrast and saturation that are aimed a making a more pleasing final photograph.
October is my favorite time of year for photography. Relatively low sun with rapidly changing weather, and rusty foliage help make it a continually changing canvas. It is a time of change, when summer fades and winter begins.
I was reviewing my photos exposed just about a year ago on a visit to the Irish narrow gauge Bord na Mona with photographers Mark Healy and Aidan Vickers. This was one of several autumnal explorations of the peat hauling railways in the boglands of Ireland last year.
On this one day I made photos on both the Lanesborough and Shannonbridge networks.
At the time the Bord na Mona was enjoying an Indian Summer. We caught a variety of trains on the move, but the writing was on the wall for these once very active industrial lines.
Below are a few more photos from last Saturday’s 470 Club Special over the Maine Central Mountain Division.
Heavy early season snow made for a cosmic setting at Fabyan, NH where the locomotives ran around the train for the return run to North Conway.
Conway Scenic Railroad’s track patrol wasn’t as impressed with the snow as the passengers on the special. Prior to the train’s arrival at Fabyan, the members of the patrol had to remove numerous fallen trees which had succumbed to the weight of the early season snow.
Sun at Fabyan made for some interesting photo opportunities.
These images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer and adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.
Last Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Conway Scenic operated a work extra to Conway to assist with preparations for the annual Pumpkin Patch event being held for the next three weekends.
The train was organized with relatively little advanced notice, and the only available locomotive was former Boston & Maine F7A 4266, owned by the 470 Club. Our other locomotives were out on passenger assignments or out of service awaiting repairs or maintenance.
Since the cab of the locomotive was facing railroad timetable west, the decision was made to use a caboose as a shoving platform and the train reversed from North Conway down the former B&M branch to Conway.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG files using Iridient X Transformer and then imported into Adobe Lightroom for final adjustment.
Yesterday, October 15, 2020, I made a late season foliage photo of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer descending from Crawfords at milepost 79 near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm prime telephoto, I set the ISO to 1000. I needed relatively high sensitivity because I was working in the shadows of the trees and mountain side and wanted a sufficiently fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the train, while using a smaller aperture to minimize headlight bleed.
Then I imported the Fuji RAW files directly into Adobe Lightroom for processing, while making a comparison set of files by importing them first into Iridient X-Transformer which converts the files to a DNG format and then imported these into Lightroom.
As previously described on Tracking the Light, the Iridient software does a superior job of interpreting the Fuji RAW files.