Category Archives: digital photography

Roger Williams in the Snow.

In the 1950s, New Haven Railroad worked with the Budd Company to develop a semi-streamlined self-propelled passenger train adapted from the successful Budd Rail Diesel Car—RDC for service as the Roger Williams.

The ends of the train featured a distinctive nose-section.

I recall these end cars working Amtrak’s Springfield, Mass., to New Haven, Connecticut shuttles in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

A couple of weeks ago on a business trip to Lincoln, New Hampshire, I saw that the Hobo Railroad has this portion of the old ‘Roger Williams’ RDC on display. I took a couple of minute to make a few photos. Someday I’d like to return for a more thorough documentation.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

Fresh snow made for a monochromatic setting with the bold New Haven logo.

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Amtrak Vermonter on THe Move!

Earlier this month I exposed this view of Amtrak train 57 on the move crossing a fill on the Connecticut River Backwater just south of Brattleboro, Vermont.

There was soft directional lighting with a textured sky. To better balance the exposure I worked with an external graduated neutral density filter positioned over the front element of the lens with the darkest portion of the filter ever the sky.

I’m not entirely satisfied with the results, but the filter helped.

Luckily, I also exposed a black & white photo that I hope to process with my next batch of film!

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Rail Transit Photo Marathon

The other day I posted a photo of the Los Angeles Metro Rail Blue Line and noted that I’d photographed many rail transit systems but ‘lost track’ after 50.

A regular Tracking the Light reader wrote in that he was close to 90 light- rail/streetcar systems, which made me wonder how many systems I’ve photographed over the years. So the other day, while the rain fell outside the window in North Conway, I made a list of every city/rail transit system that I’d photographed.

One two occasions, I’ve photographed streetcars at Mainz, Germany. This view was made of a route 52 car in September 2019.

For this exercise I included both light-rail/streetcar and heavy-rail metro rail transit systems. I excluded purely interurban lines where the frequency and service pattern doesn’t fit ‘rail transit’.

All of the systems are electric, rail-based transit, although I included rubber-tire/tyre metros such as Montreal, since rails and electricity are involved.

Fine print: I’ve excluded trolley bus operations (in most cases cities that I’ve photographed trolley buses also have some form of rail transit. However, this qualification excluded Chernivtsi, Ukraine—and yes I have a photo of an electric bus there). I’ve also excluded cities where I may have seen rail-transit but not photographed it. As may be inferred, cities with more than one mode (light rail and heavy rail metro for example) get counted only once. However, in situations where disconnected systems serve adjacent cities get counted individually. So I’ve counted the Newark City Subway and Jersey City-Hoboken light rail as two systems. Non-electric systems are not on my list. German cities with interurban interconnections, such as Bonn and Köln get counted twice. Systems with long extensions into adjacent communities such as Charleroi in Belgium and the Belgium coastal tram get counted once. (I realize that some viewers my take exception to my counting the Belgian coastal tram, and not including some Swiss interurban electric lines.) Systems that I photographed under construction or out of service without vehicles, will not be included (that leaves out Florence, Italy, and San Juan, Puerto Rico from my total).

Trolley bus systems are not included in my final count. SF Muni Potrero garage October 1990.

Chicago’s CTA ‘L’ lines are cool—systems like this make the list! Howard Street Line July 5, 1995.
I’ve photographed in numerous cities across Eastern Europe. In 2003, I made this color slide in Zagreb, Croatia.

I’ve been photograph Boston’s rail transit for more than 47 years! (Eeek!) So I have more coverage of the MBTA than many other systems. Park Street Station on the Green Line back in the day. (December 1980).

So as of January 2020, my list of  photographed subway, metros, light-rail, streetcars, monorail, and rail-based cable car (aka San Francisco) systems total 100.

My challenge now will be locating original images from each and every of these systems. Mexico City was recently covered, so we’ll leave that one out.

Also, I may remember another system, presently off my list, and if so I’ll make note of that later.

Since North Conway doesn’t have electric rail transit, I can only wistfully look back on my photos.

Incidentally, while I have extensive photographic coverage of some cities such as Dublin, Boston and San Francisco, in others I may only have a handful of images. Kansas City, being one recent example, which I photographed from the dutch-door window of Budd dome Silver Splendor (now Rhonda Lee) while traveling East on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief in 2018.

This might take a while! (And no, I won’t be limiting my daily posts to rail transit, but will be including archive photos in the mix of other subjects).

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Pan Am Railways at Greenfield, Massachusetts on January 12, 2014.

It was on this day six years ago (January 12, 2014) that I made this close-up view of Pan Am Railways 616 as it worked west at Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens set at 400ISO at f3.5 1/400th of a second.

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Five Years Ago!

On this day, January 11, 2015 I made this telephoto view of Amtrak AEM-7 944 working the back of New York City bound Keystone train passing Torresdale, Pennsylvania.

At that time, Amtrak’s AEM-7s were on the wane and photographer Pat Yough and I were capturing the relatively brief transition period between the AEM-7s and new Siemens ACS-64 electrics.


Canon EOS-7D fitted with a prime 200mm lens, ISO 200 f5.6 1/1000 sec.

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Los Angeles Blue Line—Rosa Parks Station.

In November 2018, I made this view of the Los AngelesMetro Rail Blue Line at Rosa Parks Station using my old Lumix LX7.

A while ago in a spare quiet moment, I started to count up all the cities where I’d photographed rail-transit over the years.

I lost track at fifty!

(Cities, that is).

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Vintage New England Central!

New England Central from 24 years ago!

On February 5, 1996, I exposed a series of Kodachrome 25 color slides of New England Central 9529 switching at Palmer, Massachusetts.

The railroad later renumbered its engines from the 9500-series to the 3800-series, but in 2020 a few of its now geriatric GP38s still work the line in the 1995-era Conrail-applied New England Central start-up paint.

K25 exposed with a Nikon F3T fitted with an f4 Nikkor 200mm telephoto lens.

25 years in the same blue and yellow scheme. While not a world record, it is still pretty impressive.

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Black and White in Color.

In decades-old railroad tradition, Conway Scenic’s steam locomotive 7470 is largely painted black. While in winter, the environment around the railroad is largely snow covered (at least we hope it is) .

Why steam in the snow?

Drama!

The cold air contributes to spectacular effects from condensation tinted with smoke from the firebox.

Here are a few of my Lumix LX7 color digital photos from Saturday’s (January 4, 2020) Steam in the Snow excursion sponsored by the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts on Conway Scenic’s operation over the former Maine Central Mountain Division.

Dave Swirk at the throttle of 7470.

(And yes, maybe I made a few classic black & white images of this trip on film!)

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Steam in the Snow!

Yesterday, January 4, 2020, Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts Inc., operated its famous Steam in the Snow event at the Conway Scenic Railroad from North Conway to Notchland, New Hampshire.

Locomotive 7470 was the star of the show.

Several photo run bys were organized to allow travelers on the train to make photos and enjoy watching the locomotive in action.

Conway Scenic’s President and General Manager Dave Swirk was at the throttle of the steam locomotive.

As a representative of Conway Scenic, I traveled on the train for part of its journey and documented people enjoying the event.

This view at Notchland, shows Mass Bay RRE’s photo line up during the first of three staged runbys at this location.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens mounted on a Bogen tripod.

More to come!

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Crawford Notch at Dusk—January 1, 2020.

I arrived at the old Maine Central station at Crawfords (New Hampshire) in the ‘blue hour’—that last hint of daylight before night.

It was snowing lightly.

The railroad was quiet. No trains are expected for months to come!

The scene was serene.

To make this photo, I had my FujiFilm XT1 with 28mm pancake lens mounted on a Bogen tripod. I set the meter for 2/3s of stop over exposure in ‘A’ mode at the widest aperture. The camera selected the shutter speed at 25 seconds.

Over the course of several minutes, I made several exposures ranging from 20 to 30 seconds each.

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New England Central 437—White River Junction.

Yesterday, January 1, 2020, I paused at White River Junction, Vermont, a place I first visited to make railroad photographs nearly 35 years ago.

That first visit was a warm sunny summer’s morning. By contrast yesterday’s visit was a wintery, cold and gray afternoon with hints of color in the southern sky.

New England Central local was working with GP40-2 437,  a locomotive still wearing Florida East Coast colors.

Nutt Lane, White River Junction, Vermont. January 1, 2020.

Former Boston & Maine bridge over the Connecticut River. Viewed from White River Junction, Vermont. January 1, 2020.

I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

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Colm O’Callaghan’s Irish Traction Book.

My old friend Colm O’Callaghan has recently published his first book.

This features a selection of his finest color photos of Irish Rail diesels in action.

Below is information on the book and how to obtain it.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Irish-Traction-Iarnród-Colm-OCallaghan/dp/1445688441/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3IBT62VUXEKCA&keywords=irish+traction&qid=1577407995&sprefix=%2Caps%2C195&sr=8-1

https://www.bookdepository.com/Irish-Traction–Iarnrod-Eireann/9781445688442

I exposed this photo of Colm on his 46th birthday standing along side a British Class 46 diesel at a Crewe open house. At the time I was working with Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO).
Colm recently retired after many years working for An Post, the Irish postal service. About ten years ago, I made this view of Colm and his famous green van on the South Circular Road in Dublin.

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CSX at East Brookfield

On cool winter afternoon, three CSX General Electric diesels idle at CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

These locomotive had worked an eastward Q264 and are waiting to return with its westward counterpart, working westward across the Boston Line to New York’s Selkirk Yards and beyond.

I exposed these digital images using a Lumix LX7. Working with the camera-RAW files in Lightroom, I lightened the shadow areas improved the contrast and made a slight enhancement to the overall saturation.

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February 2020 Trains Magazine.

I’ve received my author’s advance copy of the February 2020 Trains Magazine.

This features both my monthly column and my article on railroad locomotive and signal suppliers.

In my column (pages 16-17), I discuss on-going changes in the North American railcar fleet.

These freight car photos represent some of my initial outtakes for my column prior to submission, but show the size differences between modern boxcars and the older standard cars now being phased out.

Box cars at Brattleboro, Vermont. Lumix LX7 photo.
Southern Railway 50 foot boxcars at Washington, Massachusetts. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Two Steam Locomotives!

One photo inspires another. A few days ago my friend Wally Hill posted a view from the back of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Gertrude Emma—1898-built Pullman open observation—featuring steam locomotive 7470 passing former Maine Central 501 on its march toward the North Conway, New Hampshire station from the coal dock.

His photo inspired me to make similar images, and so working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens, I stood in Wally’s footprints and made these photographs.


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Steam Switcher in the Mist—four Photos.

Some of the most atmospheric moments at the Conway Scenic Railroad occur in the gloom of night after all the visitors have departed.

I made these photos last night as 0-6-0 7470 worked the yard following the last trip of the day.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 set at ISO 6400, I exposed these photos handheld. While trying to keep the ‘atmosphere’ off the front element of my lens.

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High Hood GP35 On a Cold Morning

Pure GP35s are rare in 2019. Pure high hood GP35s are rarer still.

Conway Scenic’s high-hood GP35 216, originally a Norfolk & Western locomotive, basks in the cold morning sun at North Conway, New Hampshire on Saturday, December 7, 2019.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7.

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November Sunshine at South Barre; Mass Central GP38s Working the Old Spur.

Here’s another pair of photos from ‘Super Tuesday’—November 26, 2019.

Fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I mopped up a few nice photographs on the north-end of the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

These images were made on the spur that connects the branch with the Wildwood Reload on the far side of Route 32 at South Barre, Massachusetts.

I made both images using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

November sun; when it shines, it’s brilliant!

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November Evening at Newbridge.

Last month I made this photograph of a down Irish Rail Intercity Railcar paused at Newbridge on the Dublin-Cork mainline.

I was changing trains on my way to Sallins.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7, file processed in Lightroom and scaled for internet presentation. To make the most of the nocturnal setting, I set my camera to overexpose by 1/3 of stop (+ 1/3 on my exposure compensation dial). This compensates for the specular highlights which tend to skew the camera meter toward underexposure.

In this situation under exposure would result in the image appearing too dark.

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Providence & Worcester from across a Pond.

Notice the article ‘a’ rather than ‘the’. For today’s Tracking the Light, I am posting a view literally made from across a pond, rather than taking a metaphorical view from ‘across the pond’ (used as an ironic understated allusion for the North Atlantic Ocean).

You know, just in case there was any confusion!

This photograph was exposed last Tuesday afternoon, on Providence & Worcester’s former Boston & Maine Worcester to Gardner, Mass., route, and features the daily northward freight heading for interchange with Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern at Gardner.

Interestingly, I was traveling with Mike Gardner (no relation to the town), and this represented the fourth railroad I’d photographed on that Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Pretty neat! And with a cool pond too!

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Mass-Central Reflections—Gilbertville, Massachusetts November 26, 2019.

November 26, 2019 was one of those very productive days.

Following my earlier successes last Thursday with New England Central at Stafford Springs, and CSX at Palmer and West Warren, Mike Gardner and I went to breakfast at Girly’s Grille in Palmer, timing our departure so that would could intercept Mass-Central freight on its way up the Ware River Line to South Barre.

We caught up with the train at Gilbertville, one of my favorite locations along the old Boston & Albany branch.

I’d spotted this puddle in the parking lot near the station, which made for an excellent reflective surface to picture the passing train.

Key to making this image is the adjustable rear-screen display on my FujiFilm XT1, which among other features has a leveling bar.

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On the Roll with CSX’s Q264—Five Photos.

CSX Q264 is a unit autorack train that terminates at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, November 26, 2019, I was waiting at CP83 in Palmer for fellow photographer Mike Gardner to arrive. To the west, I could hear the distant roar of a heavy eastward train.

Long ago I learned to use my ear. Listening, and knowing what you are hearing can make the difference between finding a train and missing one.

Mike pulled in and I signaled to him there was in eastbound on the diamond (crossing at Palmer between New England Central and CSX’s Boston Line).

I was delighted because low rich November sun illuminated CP83 and there weren’t any automobiles in the parking lot in front of the Steaming Tender restaurant (that occupies that the old Palmer Union Station).

As Q264 rolled through, I said to Mike, “quick, jump in! The train is limited to 30mph at the diamond, we’ll get him down the line.”

And we were off in hot pursuit!

Up to West Warren, a recent and long-time favorite location of mine for railroad photography. We pulled over where the Boston Line is adjacent to Route 67, and I exposed another sequence of photos.

That was two trains, on two lines in less than two hours, but it was only going to get better! Tuesday was a very good day!

More to come!

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New ENgland Central November Sunrise at Stafford Springs

Yesterday morning (November 26, 2019) was misty with a hint of orange in the sky.

New England November mornings can make for cosmic settings for railroad photos.

I made my way to downtown Stafford Springs to catch New England Central’s 608 winding its way through town.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I exposed this 90mm view of the northward freight as it crossed Route 32 in the center of town at 717am. (A little earlier than I expected).

Three GP38s in the classic New England Central blue and yellow (or navy and gold, if you prefer) paint scheme were in the lead.

It was the start of an auspicious and productive day of railroad photography!

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New England Central at State Line Crossing—Two Recent Photos.

In recent days, New England Central’s Willimantic, Conn., to Palmer., Mass., turn running as job 608, has been back on its daylight schedule, which sees it reaching Stafford Springs, Connecticut at about 730am.

Thursday (November 21, 2019), I made a morning project of intercepting the train and photographing it on its northward run.

At the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, the railroad crests the top of a divide known as ‘State Line Hill’ and begins its descent toward Palmer. Just north of the top of the hill the tracks cross Route 32, which is where I set up to make my photo.

This view was made using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm prime telephoto.

I aimed to make a split scene, where the highway and railroad cross at the center and direct the eye to opposite sides of the frame.

The subject is the train, which has just caught the sun at the intersection of the state boundary.

The second view in shows the locomotive better, but is a less evocative image.

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January 2020 Trains Magazine—Views from Across the Pond

Trains Magazine cover photo by Jim Wrinn.

My author’s advance copy of the January 2020 Trains Magazine arrived the other day.

This features my latest column titled ‘Observations from Across the Pond’

This begin with one journey and ends up some place altogether.

My column appears on page 15 of the January 2020 issue.
Among the dozens of trains I photographed on my September 2019 visit to Germany was this DB freight led by a new Siemens Vectron electric exiting the Loreley Tunnel along the east bank (right bank) of the Rhein.

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Surprise at Ballinasloe—Three Photos.

I really wasn’t expecting what I saw! (Click on Tracking the Light to see the whole story and photos).

It was the second time in as many months that I arrived by train at Ballinasloe, County Galway.

In September, the reason for my arrival was to photograph the Steam Dreams excursion operating with Railway Preservation Society of Ireland engine number 4.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2019/09/14/steam-on-the-midland-at-ballinasloe/

Last week, Ballinasloe was to be the jumping off point for the latest of my Bord na Mona adventures (to be covered in Tracking the Light in the future).

Irish Rail’s Galway line wouldn’t be an operation characterized by variety. Except for the very occasional excursion, the vast majority of movements consist of the common 22000-series Intercity Railcars (ICRs).

So, when I positioned myself at the Dublin end of the down platform, my intent was to document the ICR that I’d arrive upon with Ballinasloe’s handsome Midland Great Western Railway station.

Why was the up-home signal green? We’d just crossed the up-Galway at Athlone.

As the 0735 Dublin to Galway train pulled away, I was startled and surprised to see a pair of 2800-series railcars ready to depart up-road. What was this?

After I made my photos, it occurred to me that this was the weekly equipment transfer for the Ballina Branch. Ah, yes. And perhaps, I should have known.

I’m happy that I had camera in hand to picture this relatively unusual movement. Sometimes, even when you think you know what to expect, something sneaks up and surprises you!

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—THREE PHOTOS—LUAS Vodafone Tram at Dundrum

The impressive cable-stayed suspension bridge at Dundrum is one of my favorite places to picture Dublin’s LUAS Green Line.

A week ago, I timed my arrival at Dundrum to coincide with the passage of the Vodafone advertising tram that wears a colourful temporary livery.

There was perhaps 10 minutes left of sun in the Irish winter sky.

Photos exposed using my Lumix LX7

At left is the old Dundrum railway station—LUAS Green Line operates over portions of the old Harcourt railway line.

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Bord na Mona Sunset

Literally and figuratively.

Friday, it was officially announced that Ireland’s Electrical Supply Board (ESB)  intends to close the Lough Ree and Shannonbridge power stations at the end of 2020.

This doesn’t bode well for the Bord na Mona narrow gauge systems that exist largely to supply these stations with fuel.

A couple of weeks ago on a visit to the Lanesborough system I made this sunset view of an empty train returning to the bog for reloading.

Lumix LX7 photo.

I’ve made dozens of trips over the years to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge railways. While in recent years, it’s been understood that these railways were on borrowed time, I still find sad that they will soon be without their primary traffic.

These are fascinating and wonderful railways with lots of charm and photographic potential.

In 2020, I hope to continue photographing the systems around Lanesborough and Shannonbridge, as well as some of the other Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways.

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Irish Rail 225 on the 0800 to Cork.

This morning, Irish Rail 201-class diesel-electric number 225, recently overhauled after years of inactivity, worked the down 0800 Dublin Heuston to Cork passenger train.

From what I hear, this is the first time this nearly quarter-century old locomotive has worked a passenger train since returning to service.

I made these photos a few minutes ago at Islandbridge Junction while out for my morning walk.

Exposed using a FujiFIlm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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Suburban Trains Pass at Sallins.

Most passengers were heading toward Dublin in the morning. I was heading into the country. That was my train at left.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Most were undoubtedly heading off to work.

I was heading off to make photos.

But wait, was that work? Not in a conventional sense, but I worked diligently at making the best photos I could. Sallins was just the jumping off point—more soon!

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Frame 37: Foreboding Boppard Sunrise

Cloud and mist hung over the Rhein Valley near the bend in the river at Boppard.

Sunrise made for a dramatic sky; this produced a mixing of light and dark, day with night, and color light with black& white film.

Several years someone asked me how I was making the transition from film to digital, I said, ‘I still haven’t recovered from the transition to colour!’

And here’s your proof. This was the final frame on a 36 exposure roll.

Exposed using a Nikon F3 with f1.8 50mm loaded with Kodak Tri-X.

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Classic Dublin with Low October Sun—Claude Road.

Monday, 28 October 2019 was a bright day in the Irish capital.

Although the main focus of the day was catching Irish Rail’s IWT Liners and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Haunted Expresses, the weather was conducive to making captivating photos of the more pedestrian trains.

Photographer Jay Monaghan and I had spent the day traveling around Dublin, grabbing angles of the passing trains.

In the afternoon we made our way to the Claude Road footbridge west of Drumcondra Station and set up for the outbound RPSI train.

While waiting, I made this view of an outbound ICR (intercity railcar) working the afternoon Dublin to Sligo service. In the distance is the Croke Park stadium. Further, are the iconic ‘Chimneys’ or ‘Stacks’ for the Poolbeg Generation Station.

135mm view with a FujiFilm XT1.
Wideangle photo exposed with a Lumix LX7.

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Model Railway Exhibition at Blackrock.

Last Sunday, 27 October 2019, I traveled to Blackrock College in suburban Dublin to attend the South Dublin Model Railway Club ‘Model Railways and Hobbies Exhibition’.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I made a few dozen photos of the trains, displays, presenters and attendees. Below is a selection.

Often when photographing model railways I work with comparatively slow shutter speeds. In some circumstances this allows for greater depth of field, in others it helps convey a sense of motion.

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