Last night a damp inky gloom greeted us as we alighted from Amtrak’s Vermonter at the former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Wilmington, Delaware.
A SEPTA Silverliner V electric multiple unit set sat on the opposite platforms waiting to depart for Philadelphia.
I made several exposures with my Lumix LX7. Working with the RAW files in Lightroom, I maximize the amount of visual information in the photos by lightening shadows and darkening highlights while adjusting contrast and color saturation.
The train is now approaching its station stop at Meriden, Connecticut.
It was announced that from Hartford the train was completely sold out. Thus demonstrating that old adage no one rides trains anymore because they’re too crowded!
I exposed these photos with my FujFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens.
As we roll along, the files were downloaded to my MacBook using Image Capture software, scaled for internet using Lightroom, and uploaded via Amtrak’s WiFi to WordPress for presentation on Tracking the Light.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily, and sometimes more than once!
In this instance, New England Central’s southward 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer turn) was crawling across the antique Millers Falls Highbridge in its namesake Massachusetts town.
My vantage point was the 2007-built Route 63 highway bridge.
This is more than a century newer than the parallel railway span.
First I exposed a burst of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 90mm lens. Then I made a single black & white photo on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.
By design the black & white view is textured. I realize that black & white doesn’t appeal to everyone, yet I’ve worked in black & white for my entire life, and I often find my traditional film photos more interesting to look at than the digital images.
On the evening of December 4, 2018, I panned CTrail train 4461 led by engine 6695 at the new Berlin, Connecticut station.
Berlin is brightly lit and makes for a good vantage point to watch and photograph passenger trains on the Hartford Line.
To make this pan photo, I set the shutter speed at 1/30thof second, fixed a point in my view finder and moved my camera and body in parallel with the train in a smooth unbroken motion as it arrived at the station.
Panning is a great means to show a train in motion.
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy’s famous Zephyr is one of the most significant trains of the 20thCentury.
In November, I photographed the preserved Zephyr at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, where the historic train set is proudly display in the lobby.
It was great to see the Zephyr in person again. Last time I saw the train back in the 1990s, it was undergoing a thorough cosmetic restoration in Wisconsin.
I’ve written extensively about the Zephyr, describe the train’s context, history and technology.
The Zephyr set important technological precedents. For propulsion, it was the first train powered by the Winton 201 diesel engine, which made it America’s first diesel-powered streamliner—a bit of trivia that might have been less important if the diesel had not ultimately vanquished steam. From a streamlined perspective it was significant as well. The body was the work of Philadelphia-based Edward G. BuddCompany and was constructed from shot-welded stainless-steel using Budd’s proprietary welding technique developed for automobile construction—From my book Streamliners—Locomotives and Trains in the Age of Speed and Style.
These days the only regular trains to use the old Santa Fe Raton Pass crossing are Amtrak 3 and 4, the Southwest Chief. The days of helpers over the three percent are all but a memory.
This day two weeks ago: Arriving on No.4, we had more than ten minutes at Raton to stretch our legs and take in the mountain air.
I used the opportunity to make some twilight images of Silver Splendor, the Budd-built Vista-Dome that I was traveling on.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and Zeiss 12mm Touit lens, I exposed several views in the blue glow of evening. Dusk is a great time to balance the light inside the passenger car with outside illumination.
Between Albuquerque and Raton Pass (on the New Mexico-Colorado state line) I counted three bastions of Union Switch & Signal style-T2 upper quadrant semaphores on our journey over the former Santa Fe in Vista-Dome Silver Splendor.
I watched the blades drop from the vertical as we passed—a scene I’d not witnessed for many years.
In 2018, these signals represent the last large collections of active semaphores on any North American mainline.
The Style T2 was detailed in my book Classic Railroad Signals in a sidebar titled ‘Sante Fe Semaphores Survive in New Mexico’ by John Ryan and the late John Gruber.
As we approached our station stop Lamy, New Mexico, I relocated from Silver Splendor’s dome, where I’d been enjoying the old Santa Fe mainline journey at the head-end of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, tothe car’s dutch doors to make photos of antique equipment stored line-side near the station.
The ability to photograph from opened dutch doors is a rare pleasure on modern trains.
In my youth, I’d spent hours soaking in the atmosphere in the vestibules of trains, making photos with my old Leica 3A.
I exposed these modern photos using my FujiFilm XT1.
It had been more than 20 years since my last visit to New Mexico. This was my first by rail.
I was on my way east with Dave and Rhonda Swirk and Derek Palmieri of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, documenting Budd Vista-Dome Silver Splendor on its journey from Los Angeles to its new home in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
As we glided east at the head-end of Amtrak number 4 theSouthwest Chief,we met or overtook dozens of freights, many of them intermodal trains, on BNSF’s former Santa Fe Transcon.
Wow, BNSF sure runs a lot of freight!
I exposed these photos digitally using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.
Part of the challenge of making photos of trains from the train is trying to compose while in motion of moving subjects. Not only does this make if difficult to level the camera, but it leads to motion blur and other potential defects.
Amtrak’s eastward Southwest Chief, train number 4, made a relatively long stop at Barstow, California, affording me time to explore and photograph historic rolling stock (displayed near the platforms) by the Western America Railroad Museum.
I find it strange to see once-familiar locomotives exhibited as static displays. In the 1990s, I regularly photographed Santa Fe’s FP45, such as number 95 seen at Barstow. Back then these were working machines. Today, 95 a decayed appearing vestige of another era.
Compare the static equipment—displayed like dinosaur bones to a curious public—with Budd Vista dome Silver Splendorin consist on the Southwest Chief.The dome is a functional piece of equipment on its transcontinental journey from Los Angeles to its new home.
Growing up in New England, I had a childhood fascination with Barstow, which I viewed as a treeless desert Mecca of all good things Santa Fe. Although I’ve photographed in Barstow several times over the years, this one short nocturnal visit was especially surreal.
All photos were made handheld with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Key to my success was the high ISO setting (ISO 5000) and auto white balance setting that adjusted and balanced myriad artificial light sources.
Lacking a tripod, I positioned and steadied the camera on the half open ‘dutch door’ of private passenger car Silver Splendor as it was paused across from the Metrolink train storage sidings in Riverside, California.
My exposures were about 1/2 second at f2.8 (ISO 5000).
To make the most of the photos, I imported the camera RAW files into Lightroom and adjusted highlights and shadows to make for more pleasing final images.
On November 17, 2018, I made this view of Metrolink train 662 eastbound on the old Santa Fe at Fullerton, California.
To make the most of the palm trees that line the platforms, I cross-lit the train, exposing from the north-side of footbridge over the line.
Metrolink’s white locomotive hauling a mix of white and stainless-steel cars effectively reflect light on the shadow side of the train, which make for a more even exposure and help balance the photograph by compensating for the otherwise inky darkness of the high-sun shadows.
These views are looking west . I used a telephoto lens that compresses the row of palms.
Some seven hours after I made this image, I was back at Fullerton again. Stay tuned for my nocturnal views from the same station.
Last Friday, November 16, 2018, as the sun dropped near the horizon and a layer of cloud and haze filtered the light, I repositioned myself from San Clemente Pier, northward to the Metrolink Station at San Clemente, California.
I selected my location in order to make photos of a southward, Oceanside-bound suburban train with the sun setting over the Pacific.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, I exposed several sunset silhouettes as the train arrived onto the station platform.
To make the most of the sunset lighting, I exposed manually for the sky, allowing the locomotive and cars and other terrestrial objects to appear dark.
I was hoping to make a photo of one of Amtrak’s new Siemens Charger locomotives working the Pacific Surfliner.
I typically set my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera manually.
Most of the time this works well, as I gauge my exposures using the in-camera histogram. However, I’d become distracted immediately before the train arrived in the scene, and I grossly over exposed my sequence of photos.
Luckily, since I typically expose both RAW and JPG files I was able to work with the overexposed RAW image and correct for some of my exposure error using Lightroom.
Below are examples of the overexposed camera JPG and corrected RAW files, as well as a screen shot of the Lightroom work panel showing the position of exposure, contrast, and saturation control sliders into order to show how I successfully corrected the photo.
This is what some might call ‘Fixing it in Photoshop’, although I used Photoshop’s cousin, ‘Lightroom’, rather than the classic program.
The triple-track mainline at Fullerton, California is a great place to watch and photograph trains.
In addition to a steady procession of transcontinental container traffic, Amtrak and Metrolink passenger trains operate over the line and make stops at the old Santa Fe station.
Centralized Traffic Control with bi-directional signaling on all three lines allows dispatchers flexibility to route trains in either direction over any mainline track. There are crossovers immediately east of the station platforms.
The challenge of photographing from the pedestrian bridge is navigating the wire mesh. While my Lumix LX7 with its small diameter lens did a better job of getting through the fence, I opted for my Fuji camera because I wanted a longer telephoto lens to bring in the stack train which had stopped on the middle line waiting for a signal.
On the afternoon of November 14, 2018, I exposed this view from the east bank of the Connecticut River looking across toward Windsor Locks as Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossed the circa 1906 New Haven Railroad-built bridge.
To help balance the contrast and better retain detail in the sky, I used an external graduated neutral density filter made by Lee Filter.
This is a 0.9ND or three stops grad filter.
In addition, I adjusted the camera RAW file to maximize highlight and shadow detail, control contrast and improve saturation.
After arrival at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), I made my way to the Metrorail light rail station.
You have to take the LAX ‘G’ bus to get there.
Buying the fare took a bit of skill.
Once up on the platforms, which are elevated high above ground level at the Aviation-LAX station, I made a few photos of passing trains using my tired and battle work LUMIX LX7. Then I boarded a Green Line train to change for the Blue.
On the morning of November 14, 2018, I made these views of Pan Am Railway’s EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland, Maine manifest freight) crossing the Connecticut River as it left it’s western terminus on the old Boston & Maine Railroad Fitchburg route.
This side-lit scene benefitted from diffused directional light and a textured sky.
I exposed the photos using my FujiFilm XT1 and processed the RAW files to reveal maximum shadow and highlight detail while emphasizing the rich morning light.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian Solomon is Traveling.
Tracking the Light aims to Post new material Daily.
This morning (November 14, 2018), I traveled with my old friends Paul Goewey and John Peters to make photographs of Pan Am Railway’s office car train.
The OCS began its run at East Deerfield Yard for its run down the Connecticut River Line to Springfield and Hartford Line toward Berlin and then to Plainville, Connecticut.
Normally the bastion of Pan Am’s well-kept FP9s, today the OCS ran with GP40s because of the need to have cab-signal equipped/Positive Train Control compliant locomotives on Amtrak’s Hartford line and related connections.
I made these backlit photos in the morning from the old ‘East Deerfield Railfan’s Bridge’, a span soon to be replaced as the new bridge is nearing completion.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily and sometimes Twice!
These photos were exposed using my resuscitated Lumix LX7. I worked in RAW and adjusted the files in post processing to optimize highlight and shadow placement, present more pleasing contrast, and improve color saturation.