Documenting the railway scene is more than just making pretty photos of trains passing bucolic countryside.
April 13, 2011, ten years ago today, having spent a weekend on England’s North Yorkshire Moors Railway (making pretty photos of steam locomotives in the moors), I took the Thameslink electric suburban train from Harpenden to London.
I alighted at Blackfriars, where I found the station under construction.
Friday, April 9, 2021, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a Work Extra on its Conway Branch. The sky was clear and blue and the sun bright. This was a perfect opportunity to experiment with my Nikon Z6 digital camera.
Although I purchased this image making machine six months ago, I haven’t come close to mastering it.
The Z6 has an amazing ability to capture and store visual information.
However, to best translate the Nikon RAW (NEF) file requires a bit of study and interpretation, and it is in the interpretation that I am still learning.
Below are two images of the Work Extra, and two interpretations of each. The top in each sequence represents the camera-JPG output with built-in Vivid color profile (scaled but otherwise unadjusted in post processing). The bottom of each sequence is my interpretation of the NEF file using Lightroom, where I’ve made nominal changes to color temperature, shadow and highlights, and overall contrast.
Five years ago, I traveled on the second leg of a two-day Irish Railway Record Society diesel rail tour. We had laid over at Killarney, and in the morning a select portion of the group made a round trip to Tralee and back, before heading eastward for a circuitous trip back to Dublin.
It was a gray Irish day, raining and spitting snow.
Ken Fox was our driver from Killarney in the morning, and Class 076 was our locomotive.
Traveling on the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland Cravens carriages afforded me some great views from the train as we made our way through the lush Spring countryside.
These digital images were exposed using my Fujifilm XT1.
It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since I made the sprint from my old apartment at Islandbridge in Dublin to the top of the Phoenix Park Tunnel on the Conyngham Road to catch the elusive HOBS on its run toward Dublin’s North Wall yards.
As previously covered in Tracking the Light, Irish Rail’s modern ballast train is known by its initials HOBS, which stands for High Output Ballast System.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D digital camera, I exposed this sequence of images as the train accelerated around the bend at Islandbridge Junction. Old Irish Rail 074 was in the comparatively short-lived silver, black & yellow freight livery.
On this day (April 6th) 2014 I exposed a sequence of digital images of the Lisbon Metro (no, not Lisbon, New Hampshire) using my Lumix LX3.
Although I was soon to replace my trusty Panasonic Lumix LX3 with the more advanced and flexible LX7 model, I feel that in many ways the end-picture quality of the LX3 was preferable over the that from the LX7.
Recently, through the kindness of Tracking the Light reader Wm Keay, I now have in my possession my third LX7, which makes it my forth Lumix digital camera.
I’m looking forward to the next round of photos from the ‘wee Lumix’—long may it serve me!
Reading Company was among the most prolific users of the Hall Disc signal, one of the earliest forms of an electrically actuated signal.
Curiously, Reading continued to install new Hall Discs years after perfection of the electric three-position semaphore.
A few of Reading’s Halls survived into the diesel era.
Reading & Northern, which operates significant sections of the old Reading Company, installed this recreated Hall Disc near its Port Clinton, Pennsylvania offices in homage to Reading’s classic signaling.
In December 2014, I made this sequence of photos using Pat Yough’s FujiFilm XT1, on a trip to photograph R&N’s 4-6-2 Pacific number 425 that was running Christmas trips to Schuylkill Haven and Minersville.
Now that I’ve endeavored to recreate the Reading Company in HO Scale, I’ve stumbled upon a quandary: How to make operating scale models of the antique Hall Disc signal?
It was ten years ago today that I exposed this digital image of a Dublin LUAS tram gliding over the River Liffey on the Sean Heuston Bridge (formerly Kings Bridge).
At the time, I was working with my first, and only, digital camera, a Panasonic LX3 that I purchased primarily to use as a light meter to aid my film photography and to make social photos of my friends.
I soon learned that the Lumix was an exceptional image making machine and came to use it on almost a daily basis.
On March 31, 2021, I joined Conway Scenic’s ‘Work Extra 573’ that departed North Conway, NH in the morning to open the Mountain Division over Crawford Notch.
This was the first train over Crawford Notch since last November.
In this view west of the siding at Sawyers, the train has stopped for the crew to remove fallen branches that had fouled the gauge.
I exposed the above photo using my FujiFilm XT-1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom, and converted the RAW file to DNG format using Iridient X-transformer. I then adjusted this file with Adobe Lightroom to bring in sky detail, lighten shadows, reduce contrast, and improve color saturation.
Over the course of the day-long trip, I exposed more than 300 individual photos using two cameras, while recording more than an hour of video for the company archives.
Monday, March 22, 2021 was a clear bright day in North Conway, NH.
Not a steel wheel was turning, but Conway Scenic Railroad had a variety of equipment positioned around the yard, so in the afternoon I ventured out of my office in the North Tower of the railroad station to make a few photos.
All of these images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom lens. These were scaled from the camera JPG files profiled using the in-camera Velvia color palate.
Two weeks ago on our northward journey, Kris Sabbatino and I paused at Wells River to photograph the Vermont Rail System freight that we had been shadowing.
Over the years I’ve photographed the former Boston & Maine routes around Well River on various occasions several times, but until this most recent trip, I never managed to catch a train in motion on this infamous span.
Infamous because, back in 1984, this bridge had been damaged and effectively shut the line to traffic until it was repaired.
Exposed using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.
Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog on Railway Photography.
We maintained an old tradition: watching the passage of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at Palmer, Massachusetts.
Kris Sabbatino and I met some old friends at CP83 in Palmer where we enjoyed takeout from the Steaming Tender (located inside the historic Union Station).
I looked up at the signals and said, ‘449 ought to be hitting the circuit at CP79 any second now.’ And on cue the light cleared to ‘green over red’.
I made these photos of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited hitting the Palmer diamond using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens. I set the camera manually with a 1/1600th of a second shutter speed to better freeze the motion of the train.
Amtrak 449 is the Boston section of the train, which joins the New York section at Amtrak’s Albany-Rensselaer.
Last week, we heard New England Central 608 sounding for State Line from Moulton Hill in Monson, Massachusetts.
That was the call to send Kris Sabbatino and me into action.
We drove post haste through Monson, as the northward freight was approaching the ‘Monson Tunnel’ (Route 32 underpass at Academy Hill), and selected a spot well ahead of the train where the morning sun provided excellent illumination.
I made these two views using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens.
After exposure, I imported the NEF (RAW) files into Adobe Lightroom where I re-profiled the color and contrast.
Last Monday, March 8, 2021, Kris Sabbatino and I, followed New England Central’s southward 611 freight.
I drove us to my old standby location at East Northfield, where the NECR line toward Palmer, Massachusetts and New London, Connecticut diverges from the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River line (now operated by Pan Am Southern).
As the train approached I exposed a series of photos using my Nikon Z6.
I’ve displayed two variations of the same image.
The top image is a camera generated JPG with color set to Nikon’s Vivid profile.
The bottom image I created from the NEF RAW file in Adobe Lightroom by manipulating color, contrast, and saturation to emulate my FujiFilm XT1’s in-camera ‘Velvia’ mode.
My Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera is an amazing tool for capturing images.
It has a tremendous ability to capture detail across a broad dynamic range.
Its RAW (NEF) files allow for a high degree of exposure latitude and post processing adjustment.
It’s unadjusted files are the closest to ‘true’ color of any camera that I have owned.
And yet, it is almost too much detail. But without the supersaturated punch that I’ve come to accept from my other digital cameras, notably my Fuji X-series.
On Monday, Kris Sabbatino and I photographed New England Central’s 611 arriving at Brattleboro, Vermont under a clear polarized blue dome. A near perfect morning, and yet contrasty with crusty snow on the ground and deep dark shadows cast along the sides of the locomotives.
I exposed for the snow to retain highlight detail with an expectation of making post processing adjustments to the NEF files with Adobe Lightroom.
My goal was to eye-up (estimate) the adjustment of my RAW files in order to emulate the richly saturated color profile automatically provided by my Fujifilm XT1 JPGs. This was an unscientific approximation without benefit from a detail study of the Nikon’s histogram in comparison with the Fuji’s.
I’ll plan on making a more critical project by working with these types of comparisons at a later date.
As we raced east on Rt2 in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s ED-8, I kept my eye open for the turn that lead down to the railroad location on the old Boston & Maine known as ‘Farleys’.
I thought back to that February morning, 35 years ago, when working with my father’s Leica, I exposed the final frame on a roll of Kodachrome 64 of an eastward Boston & Maine loaded Bow coal train meeting the westward POPY (Portland to Potomac Yard) at Farleys.
While ED8 wasn’t quite as thrilling as that rolling meet, it was pretty neat to soak in the sight and sounds of this 106-car freight grinding up the grade toward Erving.
I exposed this photo using my Nikon Z6 with an aim to adjust the RAW (NEF) file to maximize the data presented so as to compensate for the excessively contrasty scene.
It was a wintery weekend a few weeks ago, when Kris Sabbatino and I briefly revisited the forlorn former Grand Trunk station along Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic at Groveton, New Hampshire.
I made these digital studies using my Nikon Z6 digital camera, and processed the files for color and contrast in Adobe Lightroom.
On December 13, 2014, Pat Yough and I visited Reading & Northern’s former Reading Company main line near Auburn, Pennsylvania where the former Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch crossed on a through truss bridge.
Working with my Canon EOS-7D fitted with a 100mm lens, I exposed a sequence of Reading & Northern’s 4-6-2 Pacific number 425 that was leading a Christmas excursion toward Schuylkill Haven.
This is among the scenes that inspired me to recreate the Reading Company in HO scale.
Yesterday (Sunday February 21, 2021) a clear blue dome made for excellent winter photographic conditions.
Kris Sabbatino and I went out to picture Conway Scenic’s afternoon Snow Trains.
We caught the 3pm departure passing Glen, New Hampshire.
After exposing a few Provia 100F color slides of the train crossing the truss bridge over the Ellis River, I made this view with my FujiFilm XT1 as the westward train approached the grade crossing.
I’ve presented two versions. The first is the camera-JPG using the Fuji Veliva color profile. The second is a JPG made from the camera-RAW, which I first converted using Iridient X-Transformer to a DNG file, then working in Adobe Lightroom I made very slight adjustments to the highlights and shadows to maximize the detail in the image while retaining the color profile.
Notice the difference in the amount of highlight detail in the snow, particularly to the left of the train. Also notice the tint of the green paint on the front of locomotive 216.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021, Conway Scenic organized another plow extra to clear accumulating snow on the line between North Conway and Attitash near Bartlett, NH.
Instead of following the plow train by road as I have in the past, I arranged to travel on it, mostly riding in GP7 573 that powered it.
Although there was only about 18 inches of snow at North Conway, we encountered deeper snow and drifts on the run toward Attitash, with some of the deepest snow along West Side Road, near where the old Maine Central Mountain Division ducks under Route 302 west of Glen, NH.
I made these views with my FujiFilm XT1. It wasn’t as warm as it looks!
This morning I am preparing a short video on the plow ride that I will post on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Facebook page later today. This is a follow up to last week’s video of Conway Scenic’s Plow Extra that has proven extremely popular with hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook.