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.
During the long days of July, I made a point of being up and OUT as early as there was light in the sky.
Those trains that go bump in the night in Winter have a bit of light on them in July.
I made this view before 6 am of the New England Central local crossing the Palmer diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant is located in the old Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station station at left.
Back in the 1990s, Pentrax Publishing’s Paul Hammond and I focused on the East Troy Electric for an article in Locomotive & Railway Preservation magazine. At the time I was the Editor of Pacific RailNews, and he of L&RP.
We worked with the railway to produce some unusual and compelling photographs, including a high-impact view of one of their electric locomotives in motion that was used as the cover of the magazine.
For that effort, California-based railway photographic legend Richard Steinheimer paid me a personal compliment.
Three weeks ago, John Gruber, TRAINS Brian Schmidt and I spent a sunny afternoon re-exploring the East Troy Electric.
It was the first time I’d made digital images of this colorful Wisconsin preserved railway. I’ve included a selection below.
Thanks to East Troy Electric’s Tom Fleming for his hospitality.
Here’s a lighting challenge: A freight train crossing a big bridge against an overcast sky.
Expose for the train and the sky gets washed out (loss of detail). Expose for the sky and the train is too dark.
So what do you do?
I expose for the sky and then adjust the file in post processing.
Why? Because it is easy enough to lighten slightly underexposed areas, but once highlight detail is lost through over exposure it cannot be recovered.
To balance the exposure in post processing, I lightened the shadow areas globally. This took all of about 30 seconds to accomplish in Lightroom. I also made minor adjustments to overall color balance and saturation. Afterwards, I played with the file to make some outlandish versions for point of comparison.
Of the four, the second from the top is the only image I’d normally present. The bottom of the four is intended to be a little absurd.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with Rich and John Gruber to photograph Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg to Madison freight.
This plies a former Chicago & North Western route that in its heyday a century ago was a double-track mainline running from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Elroy.
Today, it is a ambling branch line with lots of 10 mph running: No directional double track, no signals, no fast passenger trains, and the line is truncated at Reedsburg.
On this day a matched set of back to back SD40-2s was an added attraction. We decided on Hatchery Road in Baraboo as our first photo location. I opted to feature the skewed rural grade crossing.
To balance the exposure, I manipulated the camera RAW files in Lightroom using digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold sky detail, while lightening shadow areas and making slight adjustments to overall contrast and color balance.
All to often I find myself in Palmer, Massachusetts.
It’s probably not what you think though.
Yes, I make railway photos there.
By often I arrive at CP83 only because I’m passing through. I might be on the way to the bank, or to get a haircut, or maybe do a bit of shopping.
In the daylight instance pictured I was about to cross the South Main Street Bridge with a financial transaction in mind, when I spotted a railway enthusiast poised with camera in hand.
I had my Lumix LX7 with me, so made a quick diversion. It was nearly 11am, and about the time that CSX’s Q022 often rolls east. Stepping out of the car, I immediately sensed that my guess was correct. I could hear the freight approaching the home signal for the Palmer diamond at CP83. Need I describe what happened next?
Some hours later, I’d met Rich and Joyce Reed for dinner in Palmer, and as per a long standing Friday night tradition we reconvened after the meal at CP83. How different this place looks at night!
After a little while the signals cleared and CSX’s Q007 came into view. I made these time exposures of the westward Q007 passing the signals at CP83.
Two weeks ago on my visit to Philadelphia, I was on my way to the University of Pennsylvania for a brief tour before heading to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station to board the Vermonter for Connecticut, on the way there in an ‘Uber’ (taxi) I notice the trolleys on the street.
Apparently SEPTA had its Center City trolley subway closed (for maintenance?) and so the trolleys that normally went below ground were working rarely utilized street trackage on 38th street instead.
How long this diversion as to be employed was beyond my knowledge at the time, but since I knew that I won’t be back in Philadelphia for many months, I only had this brief window to photograph this unusual operation.
I had just a few minutes to make images as I need to accomplish my tour and reach the station in little over an hour.
These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
Earlier this month, in the high-summer light, while traveling from Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station on its former Reading Company Budd Cars (Budd Company Rail Diesel Cars otherwise known as RDCs), I wondered about photo locations along Reading & Northern’s lines.
Back in the day (lets call it the early 1960s) my father, Richard Jay Solomon, photographed Reading Rambles along these same Reading Company routes (and also occasional put the company’s regularly scheduled passenger trains on film).
For years, I’d looked at these slides without fully grasping where they were taken.
One trip over the old Reading answered many questions. Around each bend, I recognized locations, thinking ‘Ah Ha! So that’s where Pop made THAT photo’ and so on. (I’m still waiting for Pop to finish labeling his slides; he’s got about as far as 1960 thus far. HINT: Don’t wait 57 years to label your photos).
In the Lehigh Gorge, Pat Yough and I chatted with our friend Scott Snell—an accomplished member of the railway photo fraternity. Scott offered us the opportunity to ride with him as he chased the Budd cars back toward Reading.
Having traveled up by rail, we jumped at the opportunity to make photos of our train in late afternoon summer sun. So we traveled with Scott by road from Jim Thorpe to Reading, by way of Tamaqua, Port Clinton and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
Here are some of my results thanks to Scott and Pat’s knowledge of the line.
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to make some views from a diesel locomotive cab.
I’m no stranger to cab-rides, but this recent trip allows me to illustrate a few ways of illustrating this great vantage point.
I’ve made no effort to hide where these photos were made from; so by including the locomotive nose or framing the tracks in the locomotive’s front windows I’ve made my vantage point obvious. I was on the engine as it rolled along.
All three views were made with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
Shiny stainless steel trains in high summer light. Another photography challenge.
Earlier this month during my explorations of eastern Pennsylvania with Pat Yough, we traveled on the Reading & Northern from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe, aboard a restored pair of RDCs.
The train arrived at Jim Thorpe in the highlight, in other words when the sun is nearly overhead.
Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I made a variety of images, then imported the RAW files into Lightroom for post processing.
As previously described in Tracking the Light, among the tools available with post processing software are various exposure and contrast controls that make it possible to adjust the RAW file to produce a more pleasing final image.
By lowering highlights, and raising the shadows, while adjusting color temperature, I can maximize the information captured by the camera sensor to produce a more pleasing image that more closely resembles what I saw at the time of exposure.
This is my variation of the old ‘Take a Ride on the Reading’, since SEPTA is part Reading. (That’s the old Reading Company.)
SEPTA’s also part Pennsy—the late great Pennsylvania Railroad.
Buy Independence Pass on the train, and ride transit all day to your heart’s content.
Most of these photos (but not all, see captions) were made using my Lumix LX-7 compact digital camera over the course of a few days wandering around Philadelphia last week.
I’ve found that this low-key image-making device is great for urban environments. It’s small & light, easy to use, flexible & versatile, features a very sharp Leica lens, makes a nice RAW file and a color profiled JPG at the same time, and, best of all: it’s reasonably inconspicuous and non-threatening.
Just checking to see if you are reading this correctly.
Last weekend, July 8 and9, 2017, Patrick Yough and I made trips to Reading, Pennsylvania to photograph and travel on Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company Budd RDCs.
I grew up with the old ‘Budd cars’ and it was neat to see these machines on the roll again.
Budd introduced it’s self-propelled ‘Rail Diesel Car’ in 1949, and sold them to many railroads across North America. These cars were most common in the Northeast, and the Reading Company was among the lines that made good use of them in passenger service.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is Traveling.