Category Archives: black and white film

Brian’s Limited Edition Prints, Signed & Numbered.

Just three prints remain for sale! Order one today!

I’ve made five traditional 11×14 black & white prints of my recent photograph of the former New Haven Railroad electrification and drawbridge at Westport, Connecticut.

This represents the first time I’ve printed one of my ‘stand processed’ black & white negatives. The prints are signed in pencil and numbered 1/5 to 5/5.

I’m selling the remaining three prints for $100 each plus shipping.  First come first serve. If you are interested please contact me via email at: briansolomon.author@gmail.com

I exposed the photograph using a vintage Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm lens on 120 black & white film. I processed using the ‘stand processing’ technique to obtain maximum tonal range with deep shadows and delicate highlights.

I made these silver prints in the traditional way on Ilford double weight 11×14 photographic paper, fixed and washed to archival standards. These have been pressed and are suitable for matting and framing.

I chose the Westport drawbridge because it is graphically engaging and historically significant. This bridge and electrification are examples of early 20thcentury infrastructure in daily use on one of America’s busiest passenger lines.

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Retrospective in 3 Photos: Amtrak E60s in the Early 1980s.

In my early days, picturing former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics was one of my main photographic interests.

I held Amtrak’s newer E60 electrics is disdain.  These modern, boxy electrics appeared to be supplanting the GG1s. For me they lacked the historic connections, the elegant streamlined style, and the character of the GG1. They were bland and common.

I may not have been fond of the E60s. But I always photographed them. They were part of the scene, and important elements of modern operations.

Recently I rediscovered these E60 photos along with some other long-missing black & white negatives.

Amtrak E60 972 leads a westward/southward train at the PATH (Husdon & Manhattan) station in Harrison, New Jersey on a gray wintery afternoon in 1981.
Kodak Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.
The view from my grandparents’ balcony in Co-op City in The Bronx overlooked Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad Hell Gate Bridge route. I made this view using a Leitz 200mm Telyt telephoto lens attached to a Visoflex reflex viewfinder. Although klutzy, this lens arrangement allowed me to attach the telephoto lens to my Leica 3A. Focusing on moving subjects was a challenge. I made this view hand-held and while I nailed the focus  my level was completely off. I corrected the skew in post processing.

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Brian’s Limited Edition Prints For Sale, Signed & Numbered.

 

I’ve hand printed  five 11×14 black & white  prints. If you wish to buy one contact me via email: briansolomon.author@gmail.com

I’ve made five traditional 11×14 black & white prints of my recent photograph of the former New Haven Railroad electrification and drawbridge at Westport, Connecticut.

This represents the first time I’ve printed one of my ‘stand processed’ black & white negatives. The prints are signed in pencil and numbered 1/5 to 5/5. One print has already been sold.

I’m selling the remaining four prints for $100 each plus shipping.  First come first serve. If you are interested contact please me via email at: briansolomon.author@gmail.com

I exposed the photograph using a vintage Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm lens on 120 black & white film. I processed using the ‘stand processing’ technique to obtain maximum tonal range with deep shadows and delicate highlights.

I made these silver prints in the traditional way on Ilford double weight 11×14 photographic paper, fixed and washed to archival standards. These have been pressed and are suitable for matting and framing.

See my post called: Stand Process for more detail on how I processed the negatives.

I chose the Westport drawbridge because it is graphically engaging and historically significant. This bridge and electrification are examples of early 20thcentury infrastructure in daily use on one of America’s busiest passenger lines.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

 

 

Stand Process compared with Normal Process.

This is a technical follow up on my post showing examples of stand processed film.

Several readers were interested in seeing comparisons between stand processed negatives versus normally processed negatives.

I made these photos in the back yard to demonstrate the differences between processed negatives. This is intended to show differences in the amount of information presented and changes in tonality.

Although there are slight differences in the composition of the scene, these variations are irrelevant for this presentation.

All exposures were made on 120-size Kodak Tri-X roll film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens, set at f22 1/60thof second.

Photos are grouped with both the positive scan of the original negative (to show how the black & white negatives appear without reversal) and the digitally reversed ‘positive’, that appears as would a print of the negative. Photos have NOT been altered except for scaling. There have been no adjustments to gamma, density, etc.

Details of the differences in processing are indicated in the captions.

This is a work in progress.

Normal process:

Kodak Tri-X processed in HC110 dilution B (1-32) at 68F for a total of 9 minutes in two baths. Agitation 3 inversions every 30 seconds. No post processing adjustment or manipulation.
Reversal of the above negative: Normal process.

 

Low Contrast Process, using normal dilution and agitation.

Low contrast process: Kodak Tri-X processed in HC110 dilution B (1-32) at 67F for a total of 8 minutes in one bath. Agitation 3 inversions every 30 seconds. No post processing adjustment or manipulation.
Reversal of the image above—Low contrast process: Kodak Tri-X processed in HC110 dilution B (1-32) at 67F for a total of 8 minutes in one bath. Agitation 3 inversions every 30 seconds. No post processing adjustment or manipulation.

 

Stand process without toning.

Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 10 seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. No toning.
Several scan of the above negative> Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 10 seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. No toning.

Stand Process with Selenium toning to boost highlight density.

Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 1o seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. After wash, negative treated in selenium toner (1 to 9) for 9 minutes.
Several scan of the above negative> Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 1o seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. After wash, negative treated in selenium toner (1 to 9) for 9 minutes.
Color scan of the above negative to show slight selenium tint. This image has by far the most amount of information contained.

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Black & White, Stand Development.

Years ago, when I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I recall whispers of a non-conventional approach to processing black & white film.

Key to conventional black & white processing is regular agitation of the tank. This keeps the developer from stagnating, minimizes streaking and mottling of the image area, while greatly speeding the development of the film.

Until recently, I’ve always agitated my film, but made a point to minimize this activity, since excessive agitation results in a host of other defects and undesirable characteristics.

Stand processing, as it’s now known, was what I heard in whispers during college.

Basically, you mix a very weak developer solution (approximately one third the concentration of ‘normal’ developer), agitate for about 15 seconds when introducing the solution to the tanks, then leave it to stand for about an hour with NO AGITATION. Then agitate briefly before draining the tanks and continuing process as normal: stop, fix, rinse, etc.

Kodak 120 Tri-X with Stand Processing in a mix of HC110 1 to 100 with water.
Kodak Tri-X stand processed in HC110.

By doing this, you use the developer to exhaustion, which is more economical and yields a different result than by working with short times and more concentrated solutions.

This doesn’t work well with 35mm film because bromide salt deposits tend to cluster around the sprockets resulting in streaking.

I made a series of tests using 120-size film, which has no sprockets.

An advantage of stand processing is a very different tonal curve that features extremely rich blacks with great detail in shadows, and broad tonality in the mid-tones. When the mix is just right, the highlight regions should reach an optimal density that allows for excellent detail without loss of data.

Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Metro-North. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Westport, Connecticut. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Westport, Connecticut. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.

Key to making the stand process work is controlling chemical fog. Without controlling chemical fog, the shadow areas will gain too much density and there will be an undesirable loss of image data leading to a poor quality negative.

There are other elements of the process that aid in making for more effective negatives, and like any black & white process, these require trial and error refinement to yield the best results.

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Maine Central’s Rockland, Maine Roundhouse—August 1980.

I was just a kid with a camera. Luckily, the camera was a Leica 3A.

I’d loaded it with Tri-X and exposed a few views around the Rockland, Maine roundhouse during a visit there with my family in August 1980.

Months later I processed the film in Microdol-X (not the best choice of developers, but it’s what I used at the time) and made a few tiny prints. Then I put the negatives in a paper envelope and mostly forgot about them.

Rockland, Maine in August 1980.

Two years ago, when looking for some other photos, I re-discovered the negatives in a big batch of missing photos, and scanned them at high-resolution with an Epson flatbed scanner.

This photo required a little post processing adjustment to improve tonality and even out contrast, while removing a few dust specs.

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Click here to order Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

Wisconsin & Southern at Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

In July 2016, John Gruber and I photographed Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg job on its run from Madison to Reedsburg.

Although, I made many digital photographs that day, I also exposed a few photos on Ilford Pan F using a vintage Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.

Notice how the tonality and texture of the image draws your eye in a variety of directions. The effects of  tire tracks in the gravel and the pole shadows are enhanced through use of a monochromatic image making medium.

Reedsburg, Wisconsin in July 2016.

 

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily and sometimes twice.

Dublin by Night: 1000 shades of Dark.

I’d use ‘gray’ in place of ‘dark’, but apparently the phraseology has assumed new meanings.

I could just say ‘Dublin in Black & White’, but that isn’t really correct either.

Working with my Nikon F3 loaded with Foma Classic 100 black & white film, I made these photos during March 2018 wintery weather in Dublin.

To keep my camera steady for long exposures, I used various tripods, depending on the surface and circumstance.

Irish Rail’s Loop Line bridge over the River Liffey.

My exposures varied, but most were between 1 and 8 seconds. I calculated exposure manually using a Minolta IV Flash meter (in reflective mode).

I processed the Fomapan 100 film in Ilford ID-11 stock mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes 15 seconds, plus pre-soak with a token amount of Kodak HC110, then scanned negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

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Steam on Retropan.

On one level, it seems appropriate to make images of steam locomotives and their environment with Retropan. ‘Retro on Retro’ right?

Yet, I know many old-school black & white photographers would object to the essential qualities of Retropan black & white film, which by design is comparatively soft and grainy.

Yes, there are sharper films; and of course there’s colour, not to mention digital, but the reason I chose Foma Retropan for these photos was because of the gritty quality it offers.

Someone might ask why does the RPSI run a steam locomotive, when there are more efficient diesel railcars available?

Connolly Station, exposed on Retropan 18 March 2018.
Connolly Station, exposed on Retropan 18 March 2018.

Ooo! Look an efficient diesel railcar. And it’s on Retropan too! Drumcondra, Dublin.
Approaching Glasnevin Junction, Dublin.
Maynooth.
Locomotive number 4 at Maynooth. Notice the modern signal in the distance and the bright lamps on the locomotive.

 

Psssst! I also made some colour slides, and a whole bunch of colour digital image on the same day.

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My new book ‘Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe features RPSI trains in its section on Ireland.

It is due out in May 2018 and may pre-order the book from Kalmbach Books: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com

For details on  RPSI and passenger excursions see: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com

Atmosphere under the old Roof.

A couple more Tri-X views from Connolly Station of last Sunday’s RPSI steam trip to Maynooth.

See my earlier post: Snow! Steam! Action!

https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5nz

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3 with 35mm lens.
Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3 with 35mm lens.

For details on RPSI steam and diesel excursions see: Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

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Snow! Steam! Action!

It was cold and snowy at Dublin’s Connolly Station last Sunday.

While snow complicated Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s planned trips to Maynooth, it made for ideal conditions to expose black & white photos.

Using my Nikon F3 with 35mm and 135mm lens, I made these images on platform 3.

My new book ‘Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe features RPSI trains in its section on Ireland.

It is due out in May 2018 and may pre-order the book from Kalmbach Books: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com

For details on  RPSI and passenger excursions see: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com

RPSI No 4.

All were exposed using Kodak Tri-X black & white film, which I processed in Ilford ID-11 (1-1 at 68 degrees F for 7 minutes 45 seconds, plus extended presoak with very dilute HC110 to pre-activate development.)

I scanned the negatives  using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

RPSI No 4.

More snowy steam images images to follow!

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Irish Rail ICR and Sperry Train at Mallow, County Cork.

For me, sometimes black & white film provides the best medium for capturing a scene.

Working with my Nikon N90S loaded with Ilford FP4 black & white film, I exposed this sequence of photographs at Mallow, County Cork.

Soft afternoon sun provided some nice light; just the sort of low sun that allows for tonality and texture to be interpreted on black & white film.

Irish Rail 075 rests in the Mallow yard with the Sperry rail defect detection train.
The addition of a spoil wagon at the back of the Sperry consist was unusual and worth of a few photographs.
Filtered sun makes for contrast and tonality well suited to black & white film. I exposed these views using my Nikon N90S with 35mm f2.0 Nikkor AF Lens.

 

 

An Irish Rail ICR (InterCity Railcar) arrives at Mallow from Cork on its way to Dublin.
Here’s a contrast between the antique looking Sperry train and the sleek ICR.

Previously, I’d struggled with FP4 to get a range of tones that satisfy me. With this roll of film, I used Ilford ID11 stock solution without dilution at 68 degrees F (20C) for 5 minutes, with only a short water bath prior to develoment.

Although, my negatives still required a touch of contrast adjustment in post processing, I’m very happy with the way they turned out.

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Retropan Test—Further Experiments with a New Emulsion.

Tracking the Light focus on creating photos and this post is about the nuts and bolts of working with black & white film, and pursuing means to refine the process.

What better way to spend a damp, windy snowy day, then to expose and process black & white film in new ways?

I’d read about ‘stand processing,’ but I’d never tried it.

Stand processing uses developer at very low-concentration with virtually no agitation for very long process times.

Among the potential advantages of stand processing is greater tonality with exceptional highlight and shadow detail. A secondary benefit is that it requires much less developer. Also, I wondered if I could better control granularity by eliminating the effects of agitation (the answer from this test was: no).

I’d previously experimented with Foma Retropan, a modern film rated at 320 that emulates the effects of traditional emulsions. For those photos I processed the film in Foma’s specially formulated Retro developer. I found the negatives to be grainy, but offering a distinctive tonality with soft highlights.

See: Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-4Bj] and

Unexpected Results: My Third Experiment with Retropan. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-4BP]

Below are some examples of Retropan using stand development in Agfa Rodinal (mixed 1:100 with water) for 40 minutes, 10 seconds agitation at beginning of development, and again at the end. Development temp 74 F.

Retropan stand process for 40 minutes in Rodinal mixed 1 to 100 with water. 135mm lens.
Retropan stand process for 40 minutes in Rodinal mixed 1 to 100 with water. 24mm lens.

For comparison, a couple of hours later  I also exposed more Retropan and processed this in Agfa Rodinal Special (as distinct from ordinary Rodinal) but with agitation and short process times; one batch (mixed at 1:32) at 68F for 4 minutes;

Retropan 4 minutes Agfa Rodinal Special with 10 second agitation every 30 seconds, plus 9 minutes selenium toner. 24mm lens.

A second batch (mixed at 1:32) at 70F for 70 minutes. I then toned these negatives for 9 minutes in a selenium solution to boost highlight detail.

Retropan 7 minutes (70F) Agfa Rodinal Special with 10 second agitation every 30 seconds, plus 9 minutes selenium toner. 50mm lens

This is a work in progress and I have no formal conclusions, but makes for some interesting images.

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RPSI Train with Irish Rail 081 at Enfield.

It was nearly 20 years ago that I traveled on this Irish Railway Preservation Society special from Connolly Station Dublin to Mullingar.

The train paused for a crossing with an up-passenger at Enfield, and I made this view from the main road bridge.

It was my first trip to Enfield, and I returned many more times over the years. The signal cabin and mechanical signaling were the big attraction for me.

Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F2 with 24mm lens. Processed in ID11 and scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.

 

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NI Railways—Lisburn Sunset: Variations on a theme.

Here are colour and black & white views at NI Railway’s Lisburn station exposed at sunset in late January 2018. Both original images were exposed within a few moments of each other.

The colour photo was exposed in RAW format using my Lumix LX7 digital camera, while the black & white image was made on Kodak Tri-X exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens. (Film processed in ID11 1-1 for 8 minutes at 20C (68 F).

I imported the files into Lightroom and made a series of contrast adjustments to better balance the sky with the train, station and platforms.

I made my changes to compensate for limitations of the recording media while aiming for greater dynamic presentation.

Below are both the unaltered files, Lightroom work windows, and my penultimate variations, which are aimed to demonstrate the changes, the means of alteration, and my results.

Unaltered RAW file (except for scaling necessary for internet presentation). Exposed with a Lumix LX7. I have not yet interpreted the data captured by the camera.
Lightroom work window showing some of the corrections and adjustments that I’ve made to the camera RAW file. I’ve also manually leveled my image.
My final output from the altered RAW file. This shows my adjustments to contrast and exposure.
Unmodified scan of my original black & white negative (reversed to make a positive image). I have not yet made corrections to the file. Note the muddy shadows and overall flat contrast.
Lightroom work window showing level correction.
Lightroom work window showing various global contrast controls and changes. I’ve also made localized changes to the sky using a digitally applied graduated filter (shown with lateral lines across the sky) and a radial filter (not shown)  to the front of the train. Notice the relative position of central sliders at right.
Final black & white output—original image exposed on Kodak Tri-X. Notice how the film image does a better job of rendering detail in the sky.

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Jim Shaughnessy with his latest book: Essential Witness.

Last month I visited with Jim Shaughnessy, who shared with me his latest book Essential Witness that features some of his finest vintage black & white photographs.

I’ve enjoyed this wonderful book, not only for the exceptionally well composed images of railroading, and its beautiful black & white reproduction but because Jim has photographed in many of the same places that I often make my own images.

This gives me a greater perspective and appreciation for both railroading and railroad photography.

I made these portraits of Jim using my Nikon F3 with 50mm lens. Keeping with tradition, I exposed Kodak Tri-X processed in Ilford Perceptol stock.

Jim is selling signed copies of his book. You may contact Jim via email at: JShaughnessy@nycap.rr.com

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Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 1.

Back in the mid-1980s, my friends and I made trips to Mechanicville, New York where the adjacent Boston & Maine and Delaware & Hudson yards lent to lots of action and a great variety of diesel locomotives.

The yard was an early casualty of Guilford’s short lived consolidation of B&M and D&H operations. By 1986 the yard was a ghost town.

In more recent times a small portion of the yards were redeveloped for intermodal and auto-rack facilities, but very little of the sprawling trackage remains

In December, I returned to Mechanicville with a Leica IIIA and Sumitar loaded with Kodak Tri-X in an effort to recreate the angles of photos I exposed in November 1984 using the same camera/film combination.

To aid this exercise, I scanned my old negatives and uploaded these to my iPhone. The viewfinder of the Leica IIIA presents difficulties as this is just a tiny window and not well suited to precision composition. (Topic for another day).

Also complicating my comparisons was the fresh layer of snow in the 2017 views.

In some places the only points of reference between ‘then’ and ‘now’ views are the electrical lines crossing the yard.

Horizontal view from November 24, 1984. An eastward B&M freight is about to cross the diamond with Maine Central 252 in the lead.
Nearly the same angle in December 29, 2017.
November 24, 1984.
December 29, 2017 at the same location.
Delaware & Hudson C-420 406 crossed Viall Avenue in Mechanicville, New York on November 24, 1984.
Looking east at Viall Avenue on December 29, 2017. Note the change of grade crossing signals.

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Housatonic at Housatonic—Revisited!

In June 2016, I posted on Tracking the Light some views of the Housatonic Railroad at Housatonic, Massachusetts (located along the Housatonic River).

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2016/06/14/housatonic-railroad-at-housatonic-an-example-of-contrast-control/

In November 2017, I returned to this location in advance of the approaching northward Housatonic freight NX-12 that featured two early 1960s-era GP35s in the lead followed by 32 cars (28 loads, 4 empties) and another GP35 at the back.

I find the railroad setting here fascinating. The combination of the traditional line with wooden ties and jointed rail in a setting of old factories, freight house and passenger station makes for a rustic scene out of another era.

Working with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens I made a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X. And, I also exposed a sequence of digital color photos using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Freight house at Housatonic, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X with a Nikon F3 fitted with a 50mm Nikkor lens. Film processed in Kodak D76 1-1 with water for 7 minutes 20 seconds at 68F.
Freight house and factories, looking north from the westside of the tracks. In today’s railroad world, this scene is decidedly rustic. 
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to improve shadows and highlights.
Tri-X black & white photo of Housatonic Railroad freight NX-12 working northward.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to lighten shadows and control highlights.
Tri-X photo with 50mm lens.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.

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The Famous Keddie Wye

BNSF in the Feather River Canyon Part 2

The old Western Pacific Junction at Keddie, California between WP’s east-west transcon line from Oakland to Salt Lake City and the Inside Gateway/High Line route north to Bieber was once one of the most photographed bridges in California.

What’s not evident from most photographs is that this impressive looking bridge can be viewed from California Highway 70—the main road through the Feather River Canyon.

The famous Keddie Wye.

On a dull October 2003 afternoon I made this view of the famed ‘Keddie Wye’ (as the junction is popularly known).

Contrast and texture make this photo work. My color slides from that day of the train crossing the bridge are less impressive.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

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BNSF in the Feather River Canyon-1

On October 30, 2003, I spent a day photographing BNSF and Union Pacific trains on the old Western Pacific route through California’s Feather River Canyon.

This exceptionally scenic route has long been a popular place to picture trains.

Although photogenic, one of the conceptual problems with the canyon making the balance between train and scenery work.

Too much train, and the canyon becomes a sideshow. Too much canyon and the train is lost in the scenery.

One way to make balanced is through the clever use of lighting.

That’s what I’ve done here.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

I’ve pictured an eastward BNSF climbing through Rich Bar, and by back lighting the train, I’ve helped emphasize it’s form that might otherwise be lost in the darker reaches of the canyon.

 

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Chessie System Against the Sun; Lightroom instead of Darkroom!

On a trip to the Pittsburgh area, I made these black & white photos on Tri-X in February 1987 at New Castle, Pennsylvania.

While, I like the effects of back lighting on this westward Chessie System train, I was thwarted in my efforts at producing satisfactory prints.

Complicating my printing problems were edge effects that had resulted in un-even processing that affected the sky highlights more dramatically than shadow areas.

This is a scan of the original black & white negative. The photo suffers from flare, uneven processing and less than ideal contrast. Also the sky is a bit over processed and thus appears too dark on the negative (and too light in the prints).

After about a half dozen attempts using Kodak double-weight paper I’d given up.

The other day this roll of 120 Tri-X finally worked its way to the top of the scanning pile, and after scanning at high-resolution, I thought maybe I’d try to work with the back-lit photos using Lightroom to see if I could improve upon my printing efforts from 1987.

This is the un-modified scan from the negative. I’ve not made any corrections to contrast, exposure, or provided localized improvement. Nor have I spotted the image.
Here’s the photo after my first round of corrections.

Instead of dodging and burning on the aisle, working digitally I’ve applied digital graduated filters to control highlights and shadows, contrast, and the overall exposure.

After some more adjusting this is my final image. Not perfect, but a big improvement over the muddy mottled original photo.

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Modern Monochrome: Three Views at Carneys Point, New Jersey.

On my visit to Carneys Point, New Jersey earlier this month, I exposed a few select frames of Kodak Tri-X using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.

Previously, I posted a selection of the digital color photos that featured Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11. See: Bright Day on the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. https://wp.me/p2BVuC-59B

I processed the film yesterday (Monday, 27 November 2017) using my two-stage development recipe:

By starting with ‘presoak’ solution that features a very weak developer, I allow for increased development in the shadow areas. My primary developer for this roll was Kodak D-76 stock solution diluted 1-1 with water.

While I intentionally  under processed the film to avoid excessive highlight density, following stop bath, fixing baths, and rinse, I then soaked the negatives in selenium toner (mixed 1 to 9 )for 8 minutes to boost highlights to my desired ideal.

The results are these broad-toned monochromatic images with delicate silvery highlights.

A side effect of this process is the exceptionally archival quality of selenium toned original negatives that without any expensive storage conditions should long outlive my digital photos.

Conrail Shared Assets CA11 works at Carney Point, New Jersey.
The old Bell Telephone logo is a blast from the past.
My special ‘presoak’ developer aids in greater shadow detail.

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Pan Am Southern at Buckland—Pick the best of three Photographs.

Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.

The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.

The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.

Telephoto view made digitally with a FujiFilm XT.
Wide-angle view exposed on black & white film.
No locomotive in this black & white photo. Is it always important to feature the locomotives?

I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?

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Irish Rail 202! Hooray!

What? you say.

It’s the elusive 202, found lurking in my archives!

Here’s the backstory: In the dozen or so years between 1998 and when Irish Rail withdrew and stored a portion of its relatively modern EMD-built 201-class locomotives (numbers 201-205, 210-214), I spent a lot of time wandering the system making photos.

I have many hundreds of photos of the 201s in action, hauling passenger and freight trains all over the Irish Rail network.

Some locomotives were common; I must have a hundred photos of class leader 201 on the roll. And every time I turned around, I seem to find 215 leading a train. Actually, I still do! Old 215 is among the 201-class still on the move, albeit in the modern green and silver paint instead of classic orange, yellow and black.

Of the 35 201s, I found that engine 202 was by far the most elusive. A few years ago when scouring my vast collection of more than 15,000 colour slides picturing Irish Rail, I located just three images of 202.

One was from the window of a Mark 3 carriage at Roscommon, one was an image at Limerick Junction of Bo-Bo 176 towing 202 with flat wheels up-road, and the best of the lot was a rainy day image of 202 with a Tralee-Mallow-Cork service near Rathmore, County Cork.

How 202 so thoroughly eluded me during this period baffles me.

Anyway, the other day I was scanning some previously unprinted 120-size black & white negatives, when I found this view of 202 working down-road at Kildare with Irish Rail’s Mark 2 Airbrake carriages. (Which were withdrawn from active service shortly after this photo was exposed).

Irish Rail 201-class locomotive 202 leads Mark 2 Airbrake fitted carriages and a ‘Dutch-van’ downroad at Kildare on 16 August 2002. Exposed on 120 Tri-K using a Rollie Model T with Zeiss Tessar lens. Engine 202 was distinguished from the others in its class because of the different style of type-face on the road number on the front of the locomotive. Do you have photos of 202 on the move? It still exists, stored at Inchicore with other surplus 201 class locomotives.

There are some other rare images on this roll, but this for me is the rarest!

I’ll need to locate the colour slides from that day and see what I find.

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East Deerfield October Sunrise—Ilford Pan F.

The other morning at Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard I met up with Tim, a fellow photographer.

He asked, ‘Are you going to take that?’—meaning the sunrise over the yard.

‘Yeah, since we’re here. Why not?’

I’ve only made countless photos of this yard in the morning, but that’s never stopped me before.

For this image, I exposed Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50) using a Leica IIIA with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. With handheld meter to gauge the lighting, I exposed this frame at f3.5 1/60th of a second.

My aim was to capture detail in the sky and allow the tracks and yard to appear as a silhouette.

East Deerfield Yard looking east at sunrise. October 2017.

I processed my film as follows: Kodak D76 mixed 1 to 1 for 6 min 30 seconds at 68F, followed by stop bath, 1st fix, 2nd fix, 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse, then 9 min selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 (one part toner to nine parts water), 3rd rinse, permawash, 4th rinse.

After scanning the negative with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner, I made a few nominal adjustments to contrast using Lightroom, while removing unwanted dust-specs.

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Steam and Rain—shallow focus and black & white.

It’s undoubtedly all wrong. It was nearly dark and raining steadily when I exposed these photos of former Great Northern Railway (of Ireland) V-Class 4-4-0 number 85 Merlin at Lisburn.

This is a follow up post from my digital views of the same evening titled Steam in the Rain: RPSI Steam & Jazz at Lisburn—25 August, 2017 that appeared on Tracking the Light a couple of weeks ago. Honer Travers had brought me down to Lisburn to watch 85 arrive and introduce me to the crew.

Working in low light, exposed these photos on Fomapan 100 Classic using my battle worn Nikon F3 with an old non-AI f1.4 50mm lens.

My exposure times ranged from 1/30th to 1/8th of a second, and all photos were made handheld. I processed the film in Ilford Perceptol stock solution for 5 minutes 45 seconds at 71 degrees F.

By panning vertically I aimed to convey a sense of motion. Notice that the buffer beam on 85 is sharp.
Trailing view at the footbridge in Lisburn.

1/8th of second at f2.

By using the lens wide open, I was working with shallow depth of field and a comparatively soft overall view. While the slow shutter speed allowed for motion blur. These are not conditions conductive to making razor sharp images. So I had no intentions of doing so.

Sometimes making softer, more interpretive images better conveys the spirit of the scene than clinically sharp images with over the shoulder light.

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Exploring Repurposed Railway Vestiges in County Down; 8 new photos.

Here’s another instance where I was working with two cameras and two very different photographic media.

My Lumix LX7 is an easy tool to capture images digitally, while the Leica IIIa I carry requires a bit more work and yields a very different result using traditional 35mm black & white film.

Newcastle, County Down is a classic sea-side resort on the Irish Sea at Dundrum Bay.

It’s been many years since the old Belfast & County Down Railway branch line saw activity, yet the station-building survives.

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Colour view exposed digitally using a Lumix LX7. Notice how the Lidl logos jump out at you in the colour views.
Flowers work better in colour than in black & white.
A sidelight view of the old station building showing old railway fencing. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

A couple of weeks ago, Honer Travers brought me on a tour of rural County Down and was keen to point out the old Newcastle Station and nearby railway hotel.

Today, the old station has been repurposed to house a Lidl market, while the old railway hotel remains as a resort hotel (sans railway traffic).

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Does this colour view work better?
The automobiles are part of the scene. Lumix LX7 view.
The old station as seen in context with the surrounding buildings and streets.

My intent was to document these historic structures in their present roles.

 

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Lisburn Station in Black & White.

It was raining.

I had the Leica IIIa fitted with a vintage Nikkor f3.5 35mm screw-mount lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X.

And yes, I had a digital camera with me. Two, really. And I also made some colour views. I’ll tend to cover my bases when at a special location.

Honer Travers and I traveled down from Dublin on the Enterprise, having changed at Portadown to an NIR (Northern Ireland Railways) 4000-series CAF built railcar. Arriving at Lisburn, I paused to make these two black & photos of our train.

Fine grain in the rain. Lisburn station exposed on black & white film.
This a view from the footbridge. Both images were exposed with a Leica fitted with a vintage f3.5 Nikkor 35mm wide-angle lens.

In Dublin, I processed the film using Agfa-mix Rodinal Special (not to be confused for bog-standard Agfa-mix Rodinal) mixed with water 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes.

I like to play with developer to see what I can get with different combinations of chemistry. Agfa Rodinal Special with short development time allows for fine grain and a metallic tonality. While not as rich as Kodak HC110 (dilution B), the grain appears finer with Rodinal Special.

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From the Negative File: CSX’s former Boston & Albany.

On July 22, 2017, I made this unusual view of CSX Intermodal train Q012 on the old Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts.

July 22, 2017; CSX at West Warren, Massachusetts, exposed on Kodak Tri-X.

What’s unusual about it?

Not only was it made on Kodak Tri-X black & white film using an 80-year old Leica camera body fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens, but my processing was non-standard.

After a pre-soak with a miniscule amount of developer, I gave the film it’s primary development in Ilford Perceptol stock mixed with water 1-1 for 8 min 30 seconds at 69 F. Following development, stop, fix1, fix2, and thorough rinse, I treated the still wet film in selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 with water for 8 minutes.

The selenium toner gives the negatives a slightly lavender hue while increasing the highlight density to provide a silvery sheen. This involves an ion-exchange with the silver halide in the film which offers a secondary benefit of greater long term stability.

After toning, I re-wash negatives for at least 10 minutes.

For internet presentation here, I scanned the dried negatives on an Epson V750 flatbed scanner at high-resolution TIF files, then imported the files to Lightroom for final adjustment, dust removal and scaling. (My TIF files are far too large to upload on Word Press for internet).

Instead of scanning the negatives in black & white, I scanned them in color which retains the purple tint of the selenium toner for effect.

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Seven Retro-views on Retropan: West Trenton, New Jersey.

On one level the name of the film sounds a bit silly; ‘Retropan.’ This is actually a relatively new emulsion that aims to fulfill a classic aesthetic.

It is a soft, slightly grainy black & white negative film that provides a sensibility that reminds me of photos taken in the 1960s and 1970s.

As far as I’m concern this is a limited application film, but it has it’s place. I’ve documented my experiments with Foma’s Retropan previously over the last year. See:

Retropan 320—My First Experiment.

Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film.

I made these most recent Retropan photos at along the SEPTA/CSX former Reading Company tracks at West Trenton, New Jersey using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens.

But, yes I also made a few digital color photographs at the same location.

Working with multiple cameras and multiple types of media, allows me to take different visual approaches at the same time.

The old Reading Company station building at West Trenton has been adapted for other applications. In other words the station isn’t a station any more. Confusing matters is that it’s still at the station. Got it?
It’s been a very long time since this old stainless steel electric was the latest thing on steel wheels. These day it’s among SEPTA’s rolling antiques.
Wide-angle views with grainy black & white film screams late 1960s to me.
The ‘smart’ phone bursts the illusion in this view. Obviously not ‘back in the day’.

Well, except all the trains not at this station!

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Night and No Tripod, Improvise!

-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.

A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.

I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.

My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.

I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.

Long exposures hand-held are not easy.

I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.

Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.

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Volcano at Keets Road—Pan Am Railway’s Connecticut River Freight.

Last week, Mike Gardner and I positioned ourselves at Keets Road south of Greenfield, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line.

Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDPL (East Deerfield Yard to Plainville, Connecticut) had departed East Deerfield and was idling on the Deerfield Loop track waiting to head south.

Finally, the train received the signal to proceed and began its southward trek. In the lead was GP40 352, one of several Pan Am diesels equipped with cab-signal equipment for operation over Amtrak south of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Once on the Connecticut River mainline the engineer opened the throttle to accelerate and his locomotives erupted with an dramatic display of noise and effluence.

Here are two of the views I exposed; a color view made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 fixed telephoto lens, and a black & white view exposed with a Leica on Kodak Tri-X.

Pan Am Railways symbol freight EDPL approaches Keets Road crossing on the Connecticut River Line south of Greenfield, Massachusetts.
A closer view that I exposed using a Leica IIIa fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon wide angle lens. Kodak Tri-X black & white negative film, processed by hand in a special mix of Ilford Perceptol developer (mixed 1 to 1 with water) for 8 minutes at 68F, and then following stop, fix and rinse,  the negative was toned with a selenium solution (1 part to 9 with water) for 7 minutes, rewash, dried and scanned on a Epson V750Pro flatbed electronic scanner.

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Overcast Afternoon at East Deerfield—June 29, 2017.

This is the third in my series of farewell posts on the famed East Deerfield ‘Railfan’s Bridge.’

The McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) has been a popular place to photograph trains since the steam era. Work has begun to replace this old span with a new bridge to be located about 40 feet further west.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve exposed a disproportionate number of photos here. Yet, it has remained a good place for railroad photography for several logical reasons:

It’s at a hub; because of the bridge’s location at the west-end of Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield yard, there tends to be a lot of action and opportunities to witness trains here. While waiting along the line can become tiresome, if not tedious, but there’s often something about to happen at East Deerfield.

The location above crossovers at the throat to the yard, this combined with yard leads and engine house tracks, plus the junction with the Deerfield Loop (that connects with the Connecticut River Line) west of the bridge make for some fascinating track work.

Elevation is always a plus.

There’s ample parking nearby.

The light in early morning and late evening here can be excellent. I’ve made some wonderful fog photos here, as well countless morning and evening glint shots. How about blazing foggy glint? Yep done that here too. And about ten days ago I got a rainbow.

The afternoon of June 29, 2017 was dull and overcast. Mike Gardner and I had arrived in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight 28N (carrying autoracks and JB Hunt containers). We’d also heard that its counterpart 287 (empty autoracks from Ayer, Massachusetts) was on its way west.

As it happened the two trains met just east of the bridge.

I exposed a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 21mm Super Angulon lens, while simultaneously working in digitally color with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.

Photographer Mike Gardner on the famed ‘Railfans Bridge’ at East Deerfield.
Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight 28N with a Crescent Cab approaches East Deerfield Yard.
Auto racks roll under McClelland Farm Road at East Deerfield West.
Pan Am Southern 28N (left) meets its counterpart, symbol freight 287 at East Deerfield yard.
One of the attractions of the East Deerfield bridge is the action.

Too many photos here? Undoubtedly. But I bet they age well. Especially when the old vantage point has finally been demolished.

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Old Tracks Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s daily blog focused on the nuts and bolts of Railway Photography.

Today’s post explores the former Boston & Maine yard at Shelburne Falls (technically Buckland, but I’ll let the pundits argue that privately), now home to the modest Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. See: http://sftm.org

Last week Mike Gardner visited the site to make photographs of Pan Am Railway’s eastward autorack train symbol 28N. While waiting, I exposed a few views of the disused yard tracks parallel to the old Boston & Maine, now Pan Am, mainline.

Kodak Tri-X processed in Ilford Perceptol 1-1 with water for 8 minutes at 70F, then toned in Selenium for 7 minutes. Negatives rinsed, washed, dried and scanned in color using an Epson V750 Pro.

Pan Am Southern symbol freight 28N at Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

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My Secret Revealed! Follow up on ‘Four views at Bridge Street Monson’.

Did you ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s detective story called ‘The Purloined Letter’? Essentially Poe reveals that sometimes the best place to hide something is in plain view.

Two days ago (Thursday June 22, 2017) in Tracking the Light I posted a subtle puzzle called:

Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

While on the surface this was a comparison between black & white and color images; in fact it was a more complex comparison between similar photographs.

One clue was the following, “I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film images?”

The other major clue was in the title, “Two Takes, Four Views.”

A little background. On May 16, 2017 I made the color photo of New England Central GP38 3809 leading train 608 upgrade. A few days later, I was following the same train with the same locomotive-consist and I had the opportunity to return to Bridge Street and make another image from the same location. Rather than repeat my efforts in color, I opted to make a black & white photograph with my Leica.

The secret: The fundamental difference between the images is that they were exposed on different days.

Thus there are subtle differences in the angle of the camera to the train, the lighting (higher in the B&W photo as a result of being exposed about an hour later), the locomotive exhaust is different (which several viewers commented on), the train consist itself is different (although the locomotives are the same), and in the elapsed days between images the leaves on the trees had grown to obscure more the track in the distance (which is why it is more difficult to see the freight cars in the black & white views).

Admittedly, by comparing color with black & white it was easy to steer many viewers from observing the other, and more subtle, differences between the black & white and color images. I further hid my secret by directing the observer to study variations in tonality between the three variations in the B&W images.

Would you have noticed more quickly if the leading locomotive had been a different engine in the color view?

Exposed on May 16, 2017.
My third of three black & white variations; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality.

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Oh, and by the way, I prefer the color view over the black & white, the light was much nicer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ware? June 15, 2017.

It’s a town with a funny name.

Massachusetts Central serves Ware on a mix of former Boston & Albany and Boston & Maine lines.

For the last few years the railroad has stored two of its antique locomotives in the Ware yard, including its unusual former Southern Railway EMD NW5 number 2100.

I have many images of this locomotive in various paint schemes over the years; hauling freight, switching the yard, and working excursion trains.

I made these photos the other day with a Nikon F3 fitted with an old school (non-AI) Nikkor 24mm lens (a favorite tool of mine for making unusual and dramatic images).

24mm view in the afternoon.
A vertical engine photo with a wide-angle lens, and I clipped the pilot. The travesty of it all!

My process was also unusual. Working with Ilford HP5 rated at ISO 320 (instead of 400), in the dark room I allowed the film to get a very small degree of base fog to thus raise the detail in the shadow areas, while under-processing the film in Kodak D-76 (stock solution mixed 1-1 with water) by nearly 40 percent. Instead of an 11 minute time as recommended, I cut my time to just over 7 minutes, but raised the temperature to 73 degrees F for increased activity. This also boosts the grain a little but that adds to the texture of the photos and clearly distinguishes them from digital images produced by modern cameras.

 

As you might guess, I’m not opposed to visual characteristics in a photo that hint at the process that created them.

 

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