Category Archives: black and white film

Crazy places to put tracks!

Lisbon trams—Part 2.

Old four wheel cars and ancient buildings are part of the attraction to Lisbon’s antique tram network, but for me the best part are the crazy track arrangements.

This network has some of the most extreme trackage of any railway in the world relying on adhesion principles for traction. In other words: no racks, cogs or cables.

I exposed these black & white views with my Nikon F3 on 1 April 2019 while exploring Lisbon with fellow photographer Denis McCabe.

What better way to spend April Fool’s Day?

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Lisbon: narrow streets and trams—Part 1.


This could be a book, or at least part of one.

Lisbon is visually intense and everywhere I looked I saw photos to be made.

This is the first is multi-part series of photos that I made on Lisbon streets on 1 April 2019.

Exposed on Fuji Acros 100 with a Nikon F3, processed in Rodinal.

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Porto Campanha at Night—four photos.


Monochrome; black & white; noir—what ever you like.

I made these views on an evening in late March at Porto’s Campanha Station using a Nikon F3 loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic film.

Negatives were processed using an dilute HC110 presoak (1-300 with water plus wetting agent) followed by  ID11 1-1 69 F for 7 min 30 sec then following stop, fix and extended rinse, a final bath of selenium toner 1-0 for 7 min 30 sec and re-wash and final rinse in distilled water.

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Mystical Railway Viaduct—Luxembourg.


Not many people travel to Luxembourg to photograph railway bridges.

I made this view on Fuji Acros 100 black & white film using a Nikon F3 fitted with a f1.8 105mm Nikkor prime telephoto.

To enhance the mystique of the viaduct, I opened the lens to nearly its widest aperture and focused on the tree branches.

Later, with a digital camera I photographed trains crossing the bridge in color.

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Faces of Steam: Portraits of RPSI’s train crew.


Working with a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic, I exposed these portraits of some of the men working Railway Preservation Society’s 18 March 2019 trips from Dublin Connolly Station to Maynooth.

 I processed the film in a non-standard way to obtain a period look while giving photos optimal tonality in a contrasty situations.

First: I pre-soaked film it in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 (measured 3 parts per 1000 with water, plus wetting agent) for about 7 minutes at 72 F;

Second: primary developer consisted of Ilford ID-11 1 to 1 with water at 69 F for 6 minutes;

Third: following stop bath, two fixer baths, and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in a 1-9 selenium solution (outdoors to avoid breathing toxic fumes) for 8 minutes. This was followed by several rinse cycles and a final rinse in distilled water.

Negatives were scanned in colour to retain the selenium tint.

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Dublin at Night: Fomapan Classic 100.

Working with Czech-made Fomapan Classic in my Nikon F3, I’ve wandered the streets of Dublin seeking timeless images.

By careful chemical manipulation in the processing of the negatives, I aimed to extract exceptional shadow detail, maintain rich black tones and control highlight areas.

I’ve exposed these views over the last few weeks. In many instances, I’ve set my lenses to their widest apertures both to let greater amounts of light to reach the film, but also for the effects offered shallow depth of field.

Weather, including fog, added to the challenge and the atmosphere.

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Clontarf Road: Irish Rail’s Tara Mines freight on the Move in the Fog at Night.


Irish Rail moves zinc ore from Tara Mines in Navan to the port of Dublin on weekdays. The trains are short and relatively heavy. Owing to restrictions on trackage serving the mine Irish Rail always assigns the General Motors 071 diesels to this run.

Last week, 27 March 2019, Jay Monaghan and I met on the station platforms at Clontarf Road on Dublin’s north side specifically to catch the laden Tara mines passing in the gloom.

A thick wintery fog made for a dose of extra gloom just for good meaure.

I made a variety of test exposures of passing DART trains (Dublin Area Rapid Transit electric suburban service) and got into position for the Main Event.

The drumming of an EMD 12-645 diesel announced the arrival of the evening’s freight.

I made a series of photos Working with my Lumix LX7 digital camera (with ISO racked up to 800), and a Nikon F3 fitted with f1.8 105mm lens and Ilford HP5 film.

Irish Rail 086 with Tara on film: Ilford HP5 with a Nikon F3 and f1.8 105mm lens.
Lumix LX7 set at ISO800
Lumix LX7 set at ISO800 and panned a little bit.
Lumix LX7 set at ISO800
Irish Rail 086 with Tara on film: Ilford HP5 with a Nikon F3 and f1.8 105mm lens.

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Irish Rail Old Cabra Road Dublin.


Here’s a few black & white views exposed last week on Kodak Tri-X of Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to the North Wall/Connolly.

Recently, Irish Rail has expanded service on the Grand Canal Docks—Hazel Hatch/Newbridge run and now trains run at least hourly throughout the day.

Following a Grand Canal Docks bound passenger train was the daily Up IWT Liner (Ballina to North Wall, Dublin).

Since these trains were coming out of the relatively harsh midday sun, I opted to work with black & white film, which makes the most of the contrast and allows me to control shadow and highlight detail to a greater degree than with my digital cameras, while giving the images a period look.

Irish Rail 234 with Up IWT Liner (Ballina to North Wall, Dublin) at Old Cabra Road in Dublin

To maximize tonality and detail from the negatives I employed a ‘split process’ using two developers.

First I use a very weak solution of Kodak HC110 mixed 1 to 250 to water. To intensify the detail in shadows while avoiding over processing highlight areas, I keep the developer temperature comparatively high (73F) and allow it to work to exhaustion. My second developer is Ilford ID mixed 1-1 for 6 minutes 45 seconds with one minute agitation intervals. Then stop; fix 1, fix 2, rinse for 3 minutes, hypoclear, then a series of final washes. Dry and scan.

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A Moment in Time: Suburban Train Crossing Amiens Street—February 2019.


Every so often everything really comes together.

As Jay Monaghan and I walked along Dublin’s Amiens Street in the fog, I heard an Irish Rail train blast its horn approaching the platforms at Connolly Station.

There wasn’t much time to react. I made fine adjustments to my Nikon F3 as I put the camera to my face and released the shutter.

This image was among photographs exposed on 27 February 2019 on Ilford HP5.

I processed this using a development technique to maximize dynamic range and tonal response.


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Film Test: Rollei 80S Retro.


Saturday, 23 February 2019, I tested a roll of Rollei 80S Retro 35mm black & white film.

This is a unusual emulsion: the film consists of a clear polyester base, which significantly alters the tonal range in scanning. This is a very fine grain emulsion that features high red light sensitivity, which makes red light appear much lighter. From what I’ve read, it also incorporates a degree of infrared sensitivity, which may be enhanced by the use of red filters.

Following recommendations by the manufacturer and various accounts published on the web, I processed my roll in Agfa Rodinal, which tends to yield a very rich black.

I exposed the entire roll in Dublin, while I made a few photographs around Heuston Station, for this exercise concentrated on views of the city. Once I feel I’ve mastered processing this emulsion, I may make some serious railroad photos with it.

The photos below are scanned using an Epson V500 flatbed scan and tidied up using Lightroom.

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Double-Headed Meatballs at Bridgeport.


For me the AEM-7s will always be ‘meatballs’. This name is twice-removed metaphorical allusion. The AEM-7 was derived from the Swedish class Rc electric. The allusion to meatballs is a reference to ‘Swedish meatballs’ and thus shortened to just meatballs, with Sweden being implied.

On December 27, 1986, my old pal TSH and I paid a visit to Bridgeport, Connecticut on a tour of former New Haven Railroad properties.

I made this photograph using my father’s Rollieflex Model T with 645 ‘super slide’ insert.

In my mind the composition made perfect use of the rectangular window. I wonder what I would have come up with if I’d exposed the view as a square?

In my notes, I have a photographic log sheet with details from our December 27, 1986. This should include time, film-type and exposure information, as well as the train number/name. Unfortunately my notes are nearly 3,800 miles away!

In the days after exposing this photograph I made a large print, 11×14 or 16×20 in size, which has sadly vanished. Perhaps, someday I’ll make another.

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Kildare Summer 1999.



In the summer of 1999, I was standing on the footbridge at Kildare station where I focused on Irish Rail 225 leading Mark3 carriages as it approached at speed.

My first Nikon N90S was loaded with Ilford HP5 and fitted with an old Tokina 400mm fixed focal length telephoto.

The train was common; my photograph was unusual. Working with extreme telephoto compression, I’ve framed the train in the arch of road-bridge, which has the effect of accentuating the pattern of the crossovers east of the bridge.

I recall the piercing Doppler squashed screech of 225’s horn as it neared the platforms, warning passengers to stand back.

The memory of that sound and the following rush of air as the train raced past puts me back in that place in time nearly 20 years gone. I know too well how I was feeling at the time. Strange how one photograph of a train can summon such memories and feelings.

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Black & White on the Bog.


On Friday, 15 February 2019, during my visit with Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe to Bord na Mona’s operations at Lanesborough, I worked with three cameras to document operations.

My FujiFilm XT1 and Lumix LX7 were for exposing colour digital photos, while I employed a Nikon F3 to make classic 35mm black & white images.

I processed the film yesterday using custom tailored formulas.

The first roll was Ilford HP5 that I’d bought a couple of days earlier at John Gunn’s Camera on Wexford Street in Dublin. I processed this using a two stage development, starting with an extremely dilute solution of Kodak HC110 (roughly 1 part developer to 250 parts water) which used as presoak. The weak developer helps activate the chemical reaction and improves shadow detail without overdeveloping highlight areas.

The second stage of development involved Ilford Perceptol mixed 1-1 with water and heated to 71F. Based on past experience, I left the film in the developer for 12 minutes, then stop bath, 1stfixer, 2ndfixer, pre-wash, hypoclear, main wash (10 minutes) and final rinse in distilled water.

After drying, I scanned the negatives with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and touched up the scans using Lightroom.

Stay tuned for more photos from the Bord na Mona!

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Milwaukee Road Depot at Brookfield, Wisconsin in the Snow.


On January 19, 2019, TRAINS Magazine’s Brian Schmidt and I visited the old Milwaukee Road Depot at Brookfield, Wisconsin to photograph a westward CP Rail freight.

It was cloudy and snowing lightly.

Working with my Nikon F3 and 50mm lens, I exposed these views on Ilford FP4 black & white film.

I processed the film using multi-stage development in Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water, then toned the negatives for 7 minutes in a selenium solution to boost highlights.

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New England Central 608 Stafford Springs—Part 3.


As New England Central 608 approached downtown Stafford Springs on January 14, 2019, I set my Nikon F3 to expose a textured image.

The old buildings adjacent to the tracks are as much of a visual attraction as the train itself.

Working with an f1.8 105mm lens, I exposed three frames of Kodak Tri-X.

To process the film, I used my custom tailored split process, that uses two developers, followed by selenium toning of the fixed negatives. This maximizes the tonality of the film, while giving me glossy highlights. A secondary effect of the toner is the slight lavender hue.

After processing, I scanned the negatives in color using an Epson V750 scanner.

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Amtrak Turbo Train—Rochester.

In November 1986, I exposed this view on a free roll of Kodak T-max 100 supplied to me by Kodak.

At the time, I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology learning about photography.

Where other students focused on perfume bottles and what not, I was more interested in capturing the scene on the old Water Level Route.

Amtrak’s morning departure from Rochester made for a good subject to test the free roll of film.

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Philadelphia on Film


New Years Day I exposed two rolls of Ilford HP5 (400 ISO) using a Nikon F3 with f1.8 105mm lens.

In my wanders in Philadelphia to capture the festive splendor of the annual Mummers parade, I also made images of the city’s architecture and neighborhoods.

Philadelphia is a city of contrasts, and my aim was to produce stark and revealing photographs. Urban textures are enhanced by the silvery selenium enhanced highlight, inky black shadows.

By intent there’s a foreboding darkness to these images.

Granularity and shallow depth of field are characteristics my choice of lens and film and make for distinctive photos. These are distinctly different than digital images I made during the same outing.

My chemical process is non-standard: in addition to split processing the film (using two stage development), I selenium-toned my finished negatives to alter contrast.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner, then made very slight adjustments in post processing.

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Millers Falls High Bridge—Two Views.


Why make one photo and when you can get two?

I like to work with more than one form of media.

In this instance, New England Central’s southward 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer turn) was crawling across the antique Millers Falls Highbridge in its namesake Massachusetts town.

My vantage point was the 2007-built Route 63 highway bridge.

This is more than a century newer than the parallel railway span.

First I exposed a burst of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 90mm lens. Then I made a single black & white photo on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.

By design the black & white view is textured. I realize that black & white doesn’t appeal to everyone, yet I’ve worked in black & white for my entire life, and I often find my traditional film photos more interesting to look at than the digital images.

And that is why I do both.

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Northfield, Massachusetts: New England Central Timeless Monochrome?

Last week on a trip along the Connecticut River Valley with fellow photographer Mike Gardner, I exposed this view of New England Central job 611 at Northfield, Massachusetts.

Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3 with a Nikkor f1.8 50mm lens. Film scanned using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner. Negatives adjusted using Lightroom.

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Borris Viaduct in Silver.

Last month, Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin and I explored the old Great Southern & Western Railway viaduct at Borris, County Carlow, see: Magnificent Vestige at Borris, County Carlow. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5Qe].

In addition to digital photos, I made a select few film photographs.

For me there’s something fascinating and compelling about putting a relic of former times on film. It’s just more real.

Miles from Dublin.

View from the viaduct.

Photos were exposed using a Canon EOS3 with 40mm pancake lens on Kodak Tri-X; and the film processed in Ilford ID11 stock developer mixed 1 to 1 with water for 7 minutes 30 seconds at 68F, then scanned with a V500 flatbed scanner and imported into Lightroom for final adjustment.

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When Reality Looks Like Fantasy—Kingsbridge Monochrome

Yesterday, I had one frame of film left in my Nikon F3.

I’d been exposing photos of Dublin’s North Side and I wanted to process the film before dinner.

I exposed this view of Heuston Station and the old Kingsbridge (now Sean Heuston Bridge) on frame 37.

The sky was impressive; dark blue with textured clouds rolling across it like a flowing tapestry.

To make the most of the usual light, I did a few tricky things.

I exposed the film for the sky and clouds with the intention of some non-standard chemical processing.

To make the most of the shadows with out roasting the highlights, I presoaked the film in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 at 75F for 6 minutes with very little agitation. Then, I drained the presoak solution and processed the film in Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes (considerably less than the recommended time).

The results were even better than I expected.

Looking across Dublin’s Croppy’s Park toward Kingsbridge and Heuston Station. Exposed using a 24mm Nikkor lens on an F3 SLR camera loaded with Ilford HP5 black & white film. Processed for maximum dynamic range.

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Monochrome at Mallow—13 October 2018.

More monochrome film photos: Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s autumn tour at Mallow, County Cork last Saturday.

These were exposed on Kodak Tri-X using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens and processed in Ilford ID11 developer.

Black & white film is well suited to making atmospheric images on dull days.

Mallow, Co. Cork.

Irish Rail’s Noel Enright at Mallow, Co. Cork.

Irish Rail’s Noel Enright gives the green flag at Mallow, Co. Cork.

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One Week Ago: RPSI Special Rolls through Cork’s Kent Station.

This day last week (13 October 2018), I traveled on and photographed Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s autumn diesel tour called The Southwestern.

Damp dark weather may make it difficult to expose over the shoulder lit three quarter views, and it may ruin Lumixes (See: Final Frame? Lumix LX7 Coils Up), but it’s ideal for making black & white photos on film.

Working with my battle-worn Canon EOS-3 with a 40mm pancake lens, I exposed this view of the train at Cork’s Kent Station using Kodak Tri-X.

On Monday, I processed the film using Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water. Following a presoak with exceptionally dilute HC110 to initiate development, I gave the film 7 minutes and 30 seconds in the ID11 at 68F (20C) with intermittent agitation.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and made nominal contrast adjustments using Lightroom.

Kodak Tri-X view of Cork’s Kent Station on 13 October 2018.

More monochrome images to follow!

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John E. Gruber 1936-2018.

John E. Gruber, photographer, editor, author and friend—passed away October 9, 2018, aged 82.

John was a generous man with a keen eye who selflessly promoted railroad photography, history, art and preservation. He was visionary, multi-talented and prolific.

While early on he made a name through his clever insightful lens-work, John’s greatest contributions to railroad image making were through his promotion of other image makers and his abilities to connect people.

His legacy will be the many friendships he made, the ideas he fostered, and setting the bar ever higher for railroad image making.

On the Kenosha streetcar.

Among his North Shore photographs at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Among his North Shore photographs at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Among the dozens of images I made of John over the last 25 years are these black & white photos from a trip we made together in 2016.

I always enjoyed John’s company; and his work inspired me in more ways than I can articulate. He and I collaborated on many projects, including no less than five books. He will be missed.

Rest in Peace John.

Here’s a link to a Trains podcast interview I conducted with John back in August.

https://soundcloud.com/user-312824194/conversations-with-brian-solomon-episode-4

Link to John’s obituary: https://www.cressfuneralservice.com/obituary/273136/John-Gruber/

 

 

Enterprising Patterns at Connolly

Real black & white under a Victorian-era train shed.

Here’s some views I made of the Enterprise in August 2018 using my Canon EOS-3 with a 40mm lens with Fuji Acros 100 film.

I like the reflections in the windows.

Sometimes its fun to play with the level. Is this an improvement or an annoyance?

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NI Railways 3021 at Cultra, Co. Down.

No, not on display. Not yet! This was a service train.

It had just begun to rain. So rather than making a potentially bland colour view, I exposed this photograph on black & white film using my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm lens

My choice of film is a bit obsolete:  Fuji Acros 100. I have a few rolls left in my bag.

Afterwards, I hand processed in a Paterson tank with Rodinal Special mixed 1 to 31 with water for 3 minutes 45 second at 68F.

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Dublin’s College Green with Tram—Fuji Acros 100.

The Green Line Cross City extension cuts through College Green, one of Dublin’s most pictured intersections.

I made this view in August 2018 using my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm lens on Fuji Acros 100 black & white film.

This I processed by hand in a Paterson tank using Rodinal Special liquid developer concentrate mixed 1 to 31 with water for 3 minutes 45 second at 68F.

The negatives were scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner, and contrast was nominally adjusted in post processing to make for a more pleasing digitally presented image.

College Green, Dublin. On the left is Trinity College, on the right is the Bank of Ireland which occupies buildings designed in the 18th century for the Irish Parliament.

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Dublin Pub Immortalized on Tri-X-And yes there’s a Railroad Photo too.

Several days ago, two Dublin photographers and I converged on the Conyngham Road, where Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to Connolly Station/North Wall enters the Phoenix Park Tunnel.

Our interest was Belmond’s Grand Hibernianled by an Irish Rail class 071 diesel.

Afterwards we paid a visit to Ryan’s of Parkgate Street, a local pub just a short walk up the street and near Dublin’s Heuston Station, where I continued to make photos with my vintage Nikon F3 with 50mm f1.4 lens.

Working with a wide aperture on film allows for selective focus and the ability to select a subject and offset it against a soft background. This the opposite effect often provided by many digital cameras that tend to use a smaller aperture and sharpening software to produce greater depth of field and razor sharp images.

Belmond’s Grand Hibernian heads for Dublin Connolly Station. Kodak Tri-X exposed with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.

I used Kodak Tri-X, which I processed in Ilford ID-11 using a traditional recipe with my customized multiple-split process to maximize shadow and highlight detail.

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In the Shadow of the Old Canal: Black & White Views of Coopers Cafe.

It’s been decades since the old Grand Canal Harbour behind the Guinness Brewery was drained and filled in.

Dublin’s Guinness brewery had an historic relationship with the Grand Canal. The old canal harbour was located across the street from the brewery complex.

The old Harbour Bar takes its name from the Grand Canal Harbour. The canal buildings are at the far right of this  image.

Recently, I explored this area on my way over to visit Coopers Cafe operated by my friends Jeff and Noel Brennan.

This is on the edge Dublin’s Liberties, an industrial neighborhood with a lot of history. Today, it’s up and coming, although many of the neat gritty old buildings remain.

Photos exposed on Ilford FP4 using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens. Processed in Ilford ID11 using a customized recipe.

Coopers Cafe is located directly behind the Guinness brewery on the corner of Bond and Robert Streets.

Breakfast is served anytime from opening till closing. I had mine at 2pm.

There’s a lot of history around Coopers Cafe. Come in, have a coffee or tea and soak in the atmosphere!

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John Gruber at IRM.

The Illinois Railway Museum (IRM) is a wonderful repository of American railway equipment and artifacts.

Last month, photographer John Gruber and I spent a couple of hours wandering around, photographing and traveling on IRM’s preserved trains.

John has an on-going exhibit of his finest Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee photographs in IRM’s East Union station.

He asked if I could make a few photos of him surrounded by his photography.

Lumix LX7 digital photo, partially desaturated for effect.

John Gruber surrounded by his North Shore photos at the East Union station.

Frisco 2-10-0 1630 made a cameo appearance.

Back in the day, John worked with an iconic Nikon F single lens reflex. Today, he carries a Canon EOS 7D. Both have served him well. Right John?

As we were leaving we crossed paths with Trains Magazine editor, Jim Wrinn.

“Small world!”

Jim Wrinn greets John Gruber.

If you are planning a trip to Illinois Railway Museum, be sure to check John’s photos!

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Old School: Steam and Coal Dust.

What better place to work with black & white film than on the locomotive footplate?

Last week, I made these steam portraits and views of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s engine 85 at work using my battle worn Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X.

Processing the film was the tricky part.  I did this by hand the old fashioned way.

To make the most of highlight and shadow detail, I used multiple-stage split-development, followed by selenium toning to give highlights the silvery edge.

After processing, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

So in the end presentation my silver photos are digital after all.

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Bus Meet on Digital Black & White.

Here’s something different. I had my FujiFilm X-T1 set up to record monochrome with a digitally applied red filter to alter the tonality.  Working with a Zeiss 12mm lens, I made this view at Arlington, Massachusetts of two MBTA buses passing on Massachusetts Avenue.

This digital black & white image is unaltered from the camera-produced JPG except for scaling for internet presentation.

How does this black & white compare with film?

It is a lot easier, but is it better?

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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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