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.
I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?
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 (Which were withdrawn from active service shortly after this photo was exposed).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
On July 22, 2017, I made this unusual view of CSX Intermodal train Q012 on the old Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts.
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.
-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.
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.
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.
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.
Too many photos here? Undoubtedly. But I bet they age well. Especially when the old vantage point has finally been demolished.
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.
Tracking the Light posts something different every day!
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?
Tracking the Light Posts Daily
Oh, and by the way, I prefer the color view over the black & white, the light was much nicer.
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).
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.
New England Central’s grade over State Line Hill climbs through Monson, Massachusetts. When I’m in Monson—where I live for part of the year—I can hear the trains as they pass through town.
In recent posts, I’ve focused my cameras on New England Central’s weekday freight, job 608, that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back.
In the long days, the present schedule for 608 finds it in a number of classic locations that are well-lit for photography.
I can go after the train on any given morning, as often as I choose, and this allows me the freedom to explore different angles, photographic techniques, and visit locations repeatedly to make more interesting images.
I like to work in black & white and I choose to use traditional film cameras with which I can craft images in the old school. I process the film myself using custom-tailored recipes, and then scan for presentation here.
Why black & white film? First of all it’s not simply monochrome. My black & white photography is the culmination of decades of experimentation. This shouldn’t imply that the photos are inherently better than simple digital snap shots, but infers that I’ve put more thought and energy into achieving my end result.
Here I’ve displayed three variations of a black & white image I exposed using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens at Bridge Street in Monson. I’ve adjusted the contrast and tonal range producing subtle differences in each interpretation. For comparison, I’ve also supplied a similar digital color view that I exposed with my Lumix LX7.
I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film image variations?
Three freight railroads, plus Amtrak share the tracks at Bellows Falls. Yet on the morning of my visit last week not a wheel was turning.
I worked with the cosmic morning light to make a few photos of the old station building and the railway environment.
Not all great railway photos need trains. And Tracking the Light is more about the process of making railway photos than simply the execution of ‘great train pictures’.
For these images I worked with my Lumix LX7 (color digital photos) and a Leica 3a with screw-mount 35mm focal length Nikkor lens (black & white photos exposed on Kodak Tri-X and processed in Ilford Perceptol).
I have my favorites. Can you guess which these are?
In 2011 a late summer storm swept away the old Bartonsville Covered bridge.
A year or so later a replacement bridge built to the same pattern as the old one was completed.
I made these views on my trip to Vermont on June 7, 2017.
The black & white photographs were exposed using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens, both in the morning on the east end, and in the afternoon on the west. The color views are products of my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
I like the ability to make photos of a traditional appearing subject using traditional cameras and film. This requires skill and technique. However, it’s also nice to be able to work with more than one camera and in various media at the same time.
High sun in June doesn’t offer the most flattering light. Straight up and down sun, with harsh contrast, and inky shadows conspire to make for difficult photos.
Last week, Paul Goewey and I waited at this rural grade crossing near Cavendish, Vermont for Vermont Rail System’s southward (eastward) freight 263. Slow orders and other delays resulted in a much longer than expected wait.
I had Fomapan 100 black & white film in the Leica 3A. I’ve been experimenting with this Czech-made film since October last year. Among its benefits is its exceptional ability to capture shadow detail.
To intensify this desirable characteristic, I processed the film with two-stage development. First I let the film soak at 68F in a water bath mixed with a drop of HC110 and Kodak Photoflo for about 3 minutes.
For the primary developer I used Ilford Perceptol Stock for 5 minutes 25 seconds at 69F with very gentle agitation every 60 seconds. Then stop bath, two bath fixer, 1st rinse, Permawash, 10 minute second rinse.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson Perfection V750 Pro flatbed scanner, then imported the negatives into Lightroom.
Ideally my chemical processing should yield negatives that don’t require work in post processing. But in this case I found I needed to make minor adjustments to contrast and exposure.
I’ve presented two examples; one is scaled but otherwise unaltered. The other has my exposure and contrast adjustments.
So what do you do when you find an old roll of black & white film? A roll that has sat, exposed but unprocessed, for years, for decades.
You could throw it away. But that would be a dumb thing to do. There is another option.
Back in July 1991, my old pal TSH (a regular Tracking the Light reader) and I made an epic two and half week trip across the American West.
On that trip I exposed dozens of rolls of Kodachrome 25 slide film using my Nikon F3T. But I also brought my Leica M2, and exposed a few rolls of black & white film.
While I processed some of the black & white shortly after the trip, for reasons I can’t justify, two rolls of Ilford FP4 remained unprocessed.
These have followed me through the years. I had them so long that I’d forgotten when I’d exposed them. They were mixed in a bag with other unexposed film.
Several years ago, I worked out a special process for getting good results from old black & white film. I’ve processed rolls up to 40 years after exposure and found presentable images on them.
Although the latent image remains in the film’s silver halide crystals for decades, simply processing the film in the ordinary fashion won’t yield desirable results.
I’ve found it necessary to work with multiple stage development, which requires unusually long process times. Key to making this work is a carefully measured antifogging solution. I will detail this process in future posts.
I made this view of an Arborway-bound PCC car about 1980. I’d exposed the photo using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar, probably on Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.
I scanned this from a print I made back in the day. During that period (1978-1982) I often traveled with my father to Boston and I made a lot of photos of MBTA transit operations. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep precise notes on this print.
Here’s one of the photos displayed yesterday for comparison.
Lately, New England Central’s (NECR) Willimantic-Palmer freight 608 has been running on favorable schedule for photography.
If you’ve been following Tracking the Light lately, you might have gleaned the mistaken impression that New England Central’s northward freight can only be photographed hard out of the sun at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
In fact on its present schedule there are many nicely lit photographs of the northward run between Willington, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts, this time of year.
And, when the crew turns quickly at Palmer, there can be a host of very nicely lit locations in the southward direction.
It helps to know where and when to go. I’ve been at this a while. Back in Central Vermont Railway days (precursor to New England Central) and before I could drive, I’d chase this line on my bicycle. By the time I was 15 I knew all the best angles.
These views are from one productive morning a few weeks ago. More to come!
These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.
On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.
So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?
This time, I processed it using Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for eight minutes, rewashed and scanned.
One small change; in this instance, I gave the film a little more toning than previously, which should make for slightly more silvery highlights. This is a subtle change, and probably barely perceptible on internet presentation.
Compositionally, I’ve made an effort to include the village and not just focus on the locomotives.
I’m by no means done with this project, and I’ll continue to post with more photos and insights over the coming weeks. (Including some color views to please Dave and others morally opposed to black & white).
The other morning in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, I exposed this view of New England Central’s northward freight that runs daily from Willimantic, Ct., to Palmer, Massachusetts.
The train was coming hard out of a clear morning sun. Using a Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor 35mm screw-mount lens, I exposed this view on Foma Retropan 320.
Retropan is a comparatively coarse grain emulsion that offers a distinctly different range of tones than expected with Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X, or other black & white films in the same sensitivity range.
It also produces a characteristic halo-effect in bright highlight areas.
I processed the film more or less as recommended using Foma’s specially formulated Retro Special Developer, and then scanned it with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. I made minor adjustments to contrast in Lightroom.
As I anticipated, my results from this experiment are more pictorial than literal.
Tracking the Light posts something different every day.
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland is naturally historically minded, obviously. But in this situation I’ve used a vintage 1930s Leica IIIa with period Nikkor 35mm lens to expose traditional black & white film.
All of these photos were made on RPSI’s diesel tour to Galway and Kilkenny on 8 April 2017.
For some images I used Kodak Tri-X processed in Iford ID11 and toned with selenium, for others I worked with Ilford FP4 (ISO 125) which I processed in Agfa Rodinal Special.
Tracking the Light will be on autopilot for a week while Brian is traveling. New material will continue to post everyday, but notices will be delayed. See the Tracking the Light home page at: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight.
Kent Station Cork:
For me there’s something about a Victorian train-shed that begs for black & white. I made this photo on my most recent trip to Kent Station in Cork on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIA with 35mm Nikkor lens.
Tracking the Light normally posts new material daily.
The other day, I loaded my old Nikon F3T with Rollei 35mm black & white Infrared film. A few weeks earlier I tested a roll of this emulsion and processed it to determine the ideal chemistry, times and temperature.
These photos are from the second roll, which benefited from refined processing technique.
All photos were exposed as recommended by the manufacturer using a 25A (red) filter. To obtain more extreme infrared effects I’d need to use a 72R (deep red) filter. Since I’m not in possession of one of these, we’ll have to wait for that experiment.
By design, infrared film yields high contrast images with brilliant highlights and inky dark shadows. (Blue light is rendered darker than with pictorial pan chromatic emulsions, so blue sky and shadows appear unnaturally dark.)
I made these photographs along Dublin’s LUAS Red Line on Abbey Street. Late low sun made for especially dramatic lighting.
Irish Rail’s Kent Station in Cork City is a cool place to make photos. It’s unusual curved train shed, plus antique platform awnings and brick station buildings have a Victorian appearance that offer a contrast with the modern trains that now serve passengers here.