Category Archives: black and white film

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.

Tracking the Light posts everyday and sometimes twice!

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 exposed 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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

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!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily, sometimes twice.

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

 

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.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

 

 

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

 

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.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

 

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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