It was two years ago today (22 April, 2018), that I made my second visit to Valenciennes, France.
Although it was dull, I worked with my Lumix to make these views of SNCF’s TGV high-speed sets at the Valenciennes former Nord railway station.
Not every day is bright and sunny; not every city is blessed with world-class wonders; and not every high-speed train is moving fast.
Valenciennes has a nice old station and a showcase small-city modern tram system.
Later in the day, I caught up with my Finnish friend Mauno Pajunen, and toured Belgian railway sites in the region.
Over the next few days , I made a high-speed railway journey to Bordeaux and and then through the Channel Tunnel to London—all part of my exploration that contributed to the content of my latest book; Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.
As part of my 20 years in Ireland/201 numerical retrospective, this is my opportunity to present a few views of Irish Rail 206.
When I first arrived in Ireland in 1998, 201-class locomotives numbers 206 to 209 (as they were then identified) were painted for the cross-border Belfast-Dublin Enterprisepassenger service.
It is my understanding that these four numbers were chosen for the Enterprise201s to pay historical tribute to steam locomotives of the same numbers that had worked the service in an earlier era.
In my time these were painted specifically for the re-equipped Enterprise using De Dietrich carriages (derived from the original French TGV single-level carriages)
Of the four, 206 River Liffey has been my favorite, but until relatively recently it is also one of the more elusive 201s in passenger service (in regards to my photography).
Around 2002, it suffered a fire and was out of traffic for about three years. When it returned, it spent months working freights.
Only recently, have I again found it regularly working as intended. It now wears the latest Enterprise livery, which is laterally asymmetrical and features a giant purple swoop across the side of the locomotive.
Dublin’s Loop Line is a difficult bridge to picture trains upon owing to a high degree of foreground and background clutter, complex lattice girder construction, and brightly coloured graffiti.
Tank locomotive number 4 is an awkward mass and largely painted black that makes for a hard subject to picture satisfactorily, even on a good bright day.
It wasn’t a bright day; the lighting conditions were flat (low contrast) and bland.
Further complicating matters, there wasn’t more than a few seconds warning before the train entered the scene, so I needed to be poised.
Friends on board assisted my timing by keeping me up to date as to the location of the train.
I made my views from the Rosie Hackett Bridge (opened in 2014) looking down river toward Dublin Port.
Rather than work with a zoom, I opted for my fixed focal length 90mm telephoto on my FujiFilm X-T1. This gave me a wider aperture, allowed for shallow depth of field to help distinguish the train from its background, and is a very sharp lens corner to corner.
As the train clattered across the bridge I made several exposures, trying to minimize the distractions of bridge infrastructure and background clutter.
Although these are nice attempts, I’m not 100 percent satisfied, but without better light and an elevated view, I’m not sure how I could have made substantially better photos.
Two weeks ago, I was traveling south on the LUAS Green Line from Marlborough Street to Harcourt Street, when I spotted the one-of-a-kind LUAS Avonmore advertising tram taking the bend around Dublin’s St. Stephens Green.
My Lumix is always at the ready, so I made a few grab shots from the windows of the tram, which was bound for Broombridge.
I’d worked out in my head roughly how long it would take for it to make a return trip, and did some shopping to kill time.
An hour later I returned to the curve and made a few more photos of the same tram going the other way.
Last week, Irish Rail operated a late IWT liner that departed Dublin in the evening, instead on its normal mid-morning path.
A group of my friends went to Cherry Orchard in the west Dublin suburbs to capture this relatively unusual move. While waiting for the freight, I made views of the evening passenger parade.
The sky was clear of clouds and sun was aligned with the Cork line making some interesting possibilities of glint and silhouette photographs.
In the 1990s, I exposed hundreds of images in this type of dramatic lighting conditions. The characteristics of Kodachrome 25 slide film made it well suited to glint photographs and I had my K25 exposures refined to a high art.
Glint photographs are more difficult to capture digitally, and I find that I have to control contrast and use digital masks/digital applied graduated neutral density filters in post processing to obtain the results that I expect.
Key to this exercise is underexposing a raw file sufficiently to retain detail in the sky and glinty areas of the image, than lighten shadows while making localized highlight adjustments in post processing.
On the way to Belfast from Dublin a couple of weeks ago, the rain lashed down. Instead of changing trains at Portadown, I opted to remain dry a little long and remained on the Enterprise all the way to Belfast Central.
It was still cloudy in Belfast, but the rain had stopped.
I traveled to Great Victoria Street, then changed for an all stops NI Railways train and alighted at Adelaide just as the clouds receded and bright evening light prevailed.
I exposed these views with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Fujinon 18-135mm zoom lens.
So I wasn’t a fool in the end; or was I?
If I’d changed at Portadown, I would have arrived at Adelaide sooner and I may have photographed a train with a rainbow.
It is aimed at people looking to travel around Europe by train.
I hoped for a cover image that showed a modern passenger train in a classic setting. Also, while the book covers a wide geographical span, I thought it would be best for the cover to focus on central Europe.
Kalmbach books narrowed my selection about 8 photos; while the choice was ultimately theirs, the image of a DB Regional Express passing a medieval tower at Oberwesel made my final cut.
This photo was exposed in nice soft sunlight; it offers a pleasant scenic summer setting with a simple, yet striking composition showing a river, a castle and a decidedly modern European passenger train. The train’s paint scheme makes it easy to distinguished it from the surrounding landscape and it appears relatively high in the image area (if it appeared too low, it might not work well to sell the book). Also, there’s ample space for the book title and other writing.
I made the cover image while on a visit to the Rhein valley with Gerry Conmy, Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe. We spent the afternoon of 8 September 2015 photographing a parade of trains on the Rhein’s ‘left bank’ line.
The cover image was selected from a burst of 4 photos. I’ve included a variety of the other photos I made during the same afternoon.
All of these images were exposed over the course of less than an hour using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe should be available at the end of May.