Category Archives: digital photography

Grand Hibernian—17 September 2016

Five years ago, I was poised at the army bridge near Mosney over the old Great Northern line to photograph the, then new, Belmond Grand Hibernian on its run from Dublin to Belfast.

This luxury tour train made weekly tours of the Irish network in season.

Irish Rail class 201 number 216 was painted to match Belmond’s train set, and was routinely assigned to the train.

Belmond’s choice of a dark navy blue made for challenging photos in conditions other than bright sun. In photos, this shade of blue often appeared almost black, and when lightened using post processing software tended to shift green.

In this view, I selectively lightened the front of the locomotive, and applied minimal lightening to the shadow areas of the entire scene. I’ve attempted to retain the true color of the train as best I can.

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LUAS at Museum

Seven Years ago: on the evening of September 14, 2014, an inbound LUAS Red Line tram makes a stop at Museum on its way to the Dublin City center.

I made this photo by placing my Lumix LX7 on the footpath to steady the camera for a comparatively long-exposure, while proping up the lens with the lens cap to obtain the desired level.

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Sunburst near Shannonbridge—13 September 2014.

On this day seven years ago, Denis McCabe and I were photographing Bord na Mona’s Blackwater Network near Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly, Ireland.

At sunset we caught this laden peat train heading toward the Shannonbridge generating station located on the eastbank of the River Shannon.

This is a RAW file from my old Lumix LX7 processed in Adobe Lightroom to better balance the colorful sunset sky with the shadow areas on the ground.

Between 1998 and 2019 I made dozens of trips to photograph Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge systems.

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Travels with a Ballast Train-Part 1

On Friday, I was attached to the Conway Scenic Railroad ballast extra, which I documented, but also used as transportation to make video of the Conway Valley train.

Working with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera, I made this sequence of photos of the ballast train in the rich September morning light.

It was a beautiful day to make photos. More to follow!

Kearsarge station on the Redstone Branch in North Conway, NH.
Kearsarge station on the Redstone Branch in North Conway, NH.

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Bright Morning at the Station.

Friday morning I walked to North Conway station where I work.

It was a brilliant sunny day with a cool breeze and a textured sky.

The week after Labor Day is traditionally quiet. A lull in the masses. The summer crowds have gone, the leaf peepers have yet to arrive.

The leaves around the station are already showing hints of autumn color.

Everyday prospective train riders call and ask if the day of their trip will be during peak foliage—As if Conway Scenic Railroad’s ticket agents are visionaries or fortune tellers.

Conway Scenic Railroad’s North Conway, New Hampshire station.

I made these photos from North Conway, New Hampshire’s Schouler Park using my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless digital camera and processed the NEF RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.

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Misty Mountaineer

Yesterday (September 9, 2021) I traveled on the headend of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer to Crawford Notch in order to calculate train timings for this month’s timetable change.

Among my jobs at the railroad, in addition to Marketing, is that of timetable planner.

When we reached the old Maine Central station at Crawford, I climbed down from the locomotive to make a few photos from the ground, then boarded again for the run-around.

All photos were made using my Nikon Z6 and processed using Adobe Lightroom.

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Ballast Train

The unusual moves; the uncommon train; the special unscheduled and unexpected operation. These are what fascinate me about railroads.

On most days, Conway Scenic operates its selection of normally scheduled excursion. By contrast it’s work trains are comparatively rare.

Yesterday, September 3, 2021, Conway Scenic’s former Maine Central GP7 No. 573 ran light to from North Conway to Conway to collect a pair of ballast cars that were expected to be loaded.

After lunch the engine returned with the ballast cars to North Conway where it ran around and proceeded back to Conway.

I was on-hand to make these photos using my Nikon Z6.

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Sunset with a Truck in a Meadow.

So what would you title this evening image sequence?

Last night Kris and I paused at an overlook off Route 16 in North Conway, where I made these drop-under sunset views looking across the Saco River toward the Moat Mountains.

Both photos were exposed as NEF RAW files using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera and processed using Adobe Lightroom.

Saco RIver sunset on September 1, 2021.

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Meet with the Governor at Bartlett

Yesterday (Sunday August 29, 2021), Conway Scenic Railroad hosted New Hampshire’s Governor Chris Sununu on his Super 603 Thank You Tour.

I was closely invovlved with the logistical planning for the Governor’s special train. We needed to continue to operate our regularly scheduled Valley trains, so I planned a meet at Bartlett.

This was excuted in traditional fashion. Speed through Bartlett is limited to ten mph. Conway Scenic’s Valley Train returning from Sawyers cleared for the special by reversing into the siding near the Bartlett freight house. There was no delay to the Governor’s train, and the absolute minimum delay necessary to the Valley.

Working in my capacity as Manager, Marketing & Events, I made these photos of the meet from the special using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

View of the Valley Train from the Governor’s special.
Valley engineer Wally Hills tips his hat to the special.
Conductor Adams on the Valley waves from the rear platform of open-end observation lounge Gertrude Emma, as the Governor’s special rolls through Bartlett on the main track.

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Five Years Ago on the New England Central

August 23, 2016, I made this bright morning view of a short southward New England Central freight at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

The attraction was the single GP38 wearing the classing blue and gold paint in rich morning sun.

Over the years, I’d photographed trains in Stafford Springs (Stafford on the railroad) from many angles. On this morning, I was pleased to get this view without any automobiles in the way of the train, and feature the row of brick buildings behind the tracks.

Fujifilm XT1. Focal length 19.5mm. ISO 200. f6.4. 1/500th second. Velvia color profile with in-camera JPG. File scaled for internet.

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Rangeley Lake, Maine

The railroads that once served Maine’s Rangely Lake region are long off the map.

At the end of July, Kris & I went for a day-long leisurely drive north from North Conway, New Hampshire to Rangeley where we made some evening photographs of the beautiful lakes there.

Although we inspected evidence of the narrow gauge and standard gauge lines that served this resort so long ago, there was little of interest to photograph on this visit. So instead I’m presenting my lake photos exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirror-less digital camera.

All the photos were adjusted using Adobe Lightroom. I’ve gradually been formulating color-contrast profiles to make the most of the camera’s NEF RAW files.

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August 6, 2012—East Windsor, Connecticut

On this day nine years ago, I paid a brief visit to the Connecticut Trolley Museum at East Windsor, Connecticut where I made a selection of digital photos using my Canon EOS7D.

I made my first visits to this museum in the 1970s when it was then known as the Warehouse Point Trolley Museum.

The trees were taller in my 2012 visit than way back in the 1970s.

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Five Years ago at Santa Ana

On August 4, 2016, I spent a little while at the Metrolink station in Santa Ana, California on the old Santa Fe photographing passenger trains coming and going.

As modern adapted stations go, Santa Ana is cool.

This view was made from the footbridge over the tracks. I was putting my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera through its paces.

Working with Lightroom, I made adjustements to color temperature, contrast and color saturation to improve this Fuji RAW file. I wanted to make the most of the California color palate.

Metrolink F59PHi 877 works at the back of train 687.

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Gertrude Emma back in the Sun.

On July 26, 2021, Conway Scenic placed its popular open-end parlor-observation lounge Gertrude Emma back in traffic.

During its time in the company roundhouse the car was refurbished inside and out.

The car was built by the Pullman Palace Car company in 1898 for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s flagship train, Pennsylvania Limited that connected Jersey City (across the Hudson from New York City) with Chicago via Pittsburgh.

The colors it wears are aimed to recreate its period livery.

I made these photos for Conway Scenic Railroad’s Facebook and Instagram pages using my Panasonic Lumix LX7.

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Sodium Vapor Light-Six Years Ago

On the evening of August 2, 2015, I made these photos of Dublin’s LUAS trams gliding along Benburb Street near Heuston Station, just a short walk from my old apartment at Islandbridge.

These are unaltered JPGs scaled from larger JPGs made by my old Lumix LX7 digital camera. I set the white balance to ‘auto’ and let the camera make the color temperture adjustment internally.

One of the nice things about digital photos is that every file has a date stamp, so when I want to find a photo from exactly six years ago, the process of locating it is relatively straightforward.

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Lens, Light, Location!

There are many ways to picture a train passing the same place. The challenge is to find new and different ways to make photos at familar spots.

I work at the North Conway Station, NH which is just a short walk from my apartment, and I photograph there almost daily.

Several times in the last couple of weeks I have featured photos of the returning Conway train approaching the North Conway Station.

I’ve reviewed some of my earlier posts, while including my photos from Wednesday afternoon. These were made using my old Canon EOS7D with an older model Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.

I’d brought this 100-400mm to work so that my office partner, Trainmaster Mike Lacey, could make some telephoto digital photos with the lens.

However, before I handed the lens over to him, I figured I may as well use it capture the Valley coming up the Hill to North with GP9 1751 in the lead.

Canon 100-400mm lens extended to 340mm.
Canon 100-400mm lens extended to 250mm.

For comparison, here are two of the earlier photos previously posted to Tracking the Light.

This is the view from Tuesday’s Tracking the Light post that show the same train, at the same location, but from ground level with a very smoggy sky. Made with my Nikon Z6 mirror less with a 24-70mm lens.
Last week’s photo. This is the afternoon Valley train passing the semaphore on a bright day. Also from ground level, but at a broader angle.

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore in 2003

I’ve been reviewing 40 years worth of Amtrak photos for an article I’m writing for a German magazine.

In the mix of old chromes was this 2003 view of the eastward Lake Shore Limited east of milepost 129 between Chester and Middlefield, Massachusetts on CSX’s old Boston & Albany mainline.

Relatively few of Amtrak’s P42 Genesis diesels were painted in the short-lived Northeast Direct livery, making this a relatively unusual photo.

Working with a Nikon fitted with an f2.8 180mm telephoto, I was trying to make the most of a heavily backlit situation in early October. In situations like this I’d typically use my notebook to shield the front element of my lens to minimize the effects of flare. Backlighting autumn foliage helps accentuate the colored leaves.

On this day Amtrak was the booby prize; I was really after the Ringling Brothers Circus Train that was coming east from Selkirk Yard. And that photo is stored in a different file.

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Smoky Light in the White Mountains.

Yesterday (26 July 2021), the White Mountains were obscured by hazy smoke that had settled upon the Mount Washington Valley as a result of raging forest fires in the West.

The sun was out, but an eerie gauzy brownish-fog was lingering in the low-lying areas filtering the light.

Working with my Nikon Z6, I made these photos in the smoky light of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley Train coming up the Hill from Conway. This was a stark contrast to the similar images I made last week of the Valley train arriving at North Conway.

North Conway, New Hampshire.

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Italian Fast Train gliding Slowly

During a whirlwind trip to Italy in April 2017, I spent a day around Florence (Firenze) photographing and taking notes for my book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

On this trip I was traveling very light and only brought two cameras: my wee Lumix mark 2 (a Panasonic LX7) for digital, and Nikon F3 with 35mm and 135mm lenses to expose film.

At Firenze Statuto I made this sequence with the LX7 of a passing FS ETR1000 high speed passenger train on its way out of town. Once on the Direttissma this train will accelerate up to 186mph, but here the train is traveling at a more conservative speed.

The original Italian Direttisma was the world’s first purpose-built high speed railway, predating the Japanese Shinkansen by a half century.

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Misty Evening at Crawford

There was a low ceiling at Crawford Notch, NH the other evening. The tops of the mountains were in the clouds, yet the tracks and station were clear from mist.

Kris & I arrived after sunset when there was just a hint of daylight remaining. Regular readers of Tracking the Light may recognize that I like to make photos at twilight, and often work my cameras when there is very little light remaining in the sky.

Below are three interpretations of the same Nikon NEF RAW file that reflect minor adjustments to contrast, color temperature and color saturation.

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Valley at the Golf Course

Yesterday afternoon was sunny and pleasant in North Conway, NH.

As part of my job as Manager Marketing & Events at Conway Scenic Railroad, I made a few photos of our afternoon Valley Train from Conway returning to the North Conway station.

On the final leg of its short journey down the Conway Branch this ascends a short 3 percent grade and crosses the Golf Course Crossings.

A former Maine Central Style B lower quadrant semaphore decorates the east-end of our yard. (The semaphore does not serve either a control or protective function).

I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 mirror-less digital camera and processed the camera’s NEF RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.

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Rainy Night at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts

Saturday night, July 17, 2021, I revisited Palmer, Massachusetts with Kris Sabbatino and Pat Yough, where we made night photos of the CSX signals at CP83.

For me photographing at Palmer at night is an old tradition that began in the 1980s.

Where I used to make time exposures with a Leica IIIA loaded with Kodak Tri-X, on this visit I worked with my modern Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera mounted on my father’s Gitzo carbon fiber tripod.

My own tripod had remained in New Hampshire, so needed a loan of my dad’s legs.

A westward CSX highrail truck passes CP83.

I made minor adjustements to color temperature and contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

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Dublin Airlink-2013.

On this day in 2013, I traveled on the Dublin Bus 748 Airlink from Dublin Airport to Heuston Station. I rode the upper deck of the double decked bus.

This view on board was the product of my old Panasonic Lumix LX3 digital camera.

I carried this small camera with me everywhere to document my travels until it finally failed in Spring 2014, when I replaced it with a Lumix LX7.

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North Pownal Eleven Years Ago

On this date, July 17, 2010, I exposed this series of digital images with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a prime Canon f2.8 24mm lens.

This camera was very new to me at the time. It was my first digital SLR and I had purchased it on advice of Chris Guss just a month earlier.

I bought it to augment my first digital camera, a Lumix LX3 (first of four similar cameras).

I was traveling with David Hegarty, and we caught Pan Am Southern’s intermodal freight symbol 22K passing through the curves on the Boston & Maine Fitchburg line at North Pownal, Vermont.

This famous photographer’s location is located in the far south-west corner of the state.

This morning, I made some nominal adjustements to the Canon RAW files using Adobe PhotoShop to correct for color temperature and bring in detail in the shadows and highlights.

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Misty Arrival at Crawford.

Traveling on the head end of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer, I was first off the train upon its arrival at Crawford station.

Although often Crawford is crowded with people when the Mountaineer arrives, the damp misty weather appeared to have discouraged all but few on-lookers.

I made this view of the train with low flying clouds shortly before the engine was uncoupled for the run-around in preparation for the return to North Conway, NH.

Believe it or not, one of the most common complaints from travelers on Conway Scenic is ‘The train came back the same way it went out!’.

If we came back any other way, that would be a pretty good trick!

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View from the Head-End

Saco River trusses at Glen, NH.

The other day I traveled on the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer in order to take notes on running times to help revise the schedule, and to make photos for publicity, marketing and the company files.

This is a selection of the images I exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom lens.

Bartlett, NH.
Bartlett Roundhouse.
3rd Iron.
Near milepost 81 on the ascent to Crawford Notch.

WIlley Brook Bridge.
Crawford Notch near mp 84.

Working with the camera’s RAW files, prior to post processing, I converted the files to DNG format using Iridient software and then for final presentation adjusted the DNG files using adobe Lightroom .

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Boston & Maine 4266

Yesterday morning was glorious and sunny in North Conway, NH.

Members of the 470 Club (a group that has preserved and owns several pieces of historic railroad equipment based at the Conway Scenic Railroad) were repairing former Boston & Maine F7A 4266 at the North Conway roundhouse..

I made these views using my Panasonic Lumix LX7.

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Gray Locomotives in High Sun—Variations on a theme.

High sun—when the sun is at or near the highest point in the sky—can be a difficult time to make railroad photos. The harsh contrast presented by midday light makes for unflattering and abrasive visual conditions. But does that mean we should refrain from photography? I know many photographers who might say ‘Yes.’

Last month on the way to Moosehead Lake, Kris Sabbatino and I paused at Pan Am Railway’s sprawling Waterville Yard where we made a few photos of a freight sitting near the east end of the yard.

Guilford painted GP40s are a rare item these days, and worthy of documentation. Soon all of Pan Am Railways may be swept into CSX, giving a growing urgency to photographs of this New England railroad system.

I made several images of the GP40s idling in the yard using my FujiFilm XT1. In Post processing, I adjusted the camera RAW files making slight changes to contrast, exposure and color temperature. Below are four similar variations of the same scene.

These top two variations were created from the same RAW file and primarily differ in the interpreatation of color and contrast, whith particular attention to lightening the shadow areas on the top image.

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Vestiges of the WIld River Railroad.

It’s not on most maps, but the Wild River Railroad was a short-lived lumber-hauling line that was ripped up early in the 20th century.

The other day, Kris Sabbatino and I explored a vestige of this railroad, by driving the old right-of-way to the Wild River camp ground.

I made this photo looking northward toward Hastings and Gilead, Maine using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto.

The last train used the line about 118 years ago.

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July 4th Fireworks at North Conway.

Last night Conway Scenic Railroad operated its annual Firecracker Expresses to carry spectators from Conway to North Conway for a patriotic fireworks display.

Although it had been raining all afternoon, the sky cleared off at sunset, and the fireworks went ahead as scheduled, beginning just after 930pm.

As part of of my role as Conway Scenic’s Manager of Marketing & Events, I helped organize our special trains and their promotion. Several hundred people rode the trains which operated as advertised.

My Fiancé Kris Sabbatino and I traveled on the Firecracker Express to North Conway and made photos of the railroad’s iconic station and the explosive displays.

It was an excellent event.

Working with my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless digital camera mounted on my antique Bogen tripod, I made a variety of time-exposures.

Years ago I’d photographed fireworks using color slide film. I realized that I hadn’t done this in a long time and this was my first serious effort to capture a fireworks display digitally. I was a bit rusty at getting my timing right, but after missing a few of the loud bangs in the sky, I managed to refine my technique.

Working with the camera at ISO 200, my exposure times ranged from 4 seconds to 30 seconds, while I varied my f-stop between 4.0 and f11.

In general, I found I obtained my most satisfactory results at about 10 seconds at approximately f8.

After exposure, I imported the camera’s RAW NEF files into Adobe Lightroom for contrast and color adjustment. Through this technique I was able to improve the sky detail and balance the appearance of the images to reflect the scene more closely as I saw it. The benefit of the Nikon Z6 is its sensor’s exceptional dynamic range.

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Gorham by Night

St Lawrence & Atlantic 393 passing the Gorham Station made for a subject akin to the UFO landing in the 1970’s film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ but accented with an awesome sounding EMD 645-diesel roar.

These photos were exposed last Friday night using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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12mm at the Reflection Pond.

Here’s another of my photos at dusk from our pursuit of St. Lawrence & Atlantic’s westward freight 393 last week. Kris and I were positioned along the south shore of the Reflection Pond near Gorham, NH.

My tripod was occupied holding my Canon EOS-3 during a 30 second time exposure. This film photo remains latent at this writing.

While the Canon was exposing film, I made a few hand held photos with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit with the ISO set at 5,000.

These are two of the 1/2 second exposures that night.

I adjusted the Fuji RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.

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Night Photo—Secret Revealed!

I made these images the other night when Kris & I were photographing the St Lawrence & Atlantic’s westward road freight (train 393).

Night photography isn’t easy, or straight forward.

There’s a variety of approaches.

These images were exposed during the last hints of daylight.

To capture the train in motion in very low light I used a ‘secret combination’: a telephoto with a wide maximum aperture and a high ISO setting on the camera.

The telephoto minimizes the relative movement of the train to the camera sensor; the wide aperture lets in greater amounts of light and thus allows for a faster shutter speed. Likewise, the higher ISO also contributes to using a faster shutter speed.

However, the real secret was exposing manually, taking into account of the very bright headlights relative to the over all scene, while taking a position relatively off axis to the headlights to avoid the very bright lights directly hitting the front element of the lens.

FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens, camera set to ISO 3200 and 1/60th of a second.

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