Category Archives: black and white film

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Irish Rail 202! Hooray!

What? you say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

 

 

East Deerfield October Sunrise—Ilford Pan F.

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

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

‘Yeah, since we’re here. Why not?’

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

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

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

East Deerfield Yard looking east at sunrise. October 2017.

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Steam and Rain—shallow focus and black & white.

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

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

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

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

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

1/8th of second at f2.

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day

 

 

 

Lisburn Station in Black & White.

It was raining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

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

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

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

What’s unusual about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

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

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

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

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

Retropan 320—My First Experiment.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, except all the trains not at this station!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Night and No Tripod, Improvise!

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

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

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

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

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

Long exposures hand-held are not easy.

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

Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Overcast Afternoon at East Deerfield—June 29, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

Elevation is always a plus.

There’s ample parking nearby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

Old Tracks Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light posts something different every day!

 

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

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

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

Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ware? June 15, 2017.

It’s a town with a funny name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

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?

My first post-processed variation of New England Central’s 608 climbing at Bridge Street, Monson, Mass.
Here I’ve lowered the over-all contrast, which allows for greater shadow and highlight detail, but overall produces a softer tonality.
My third variation; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality and deeper blacks.
Is color better? Chime in with your opinion in the comments section.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day

Railroad Station at Bellows Falls, Vermont.

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’.

Fog and sun; Those specks in the sky are birds.

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?

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Bartonsville Covered Bridge—Seven Origninal Photographs.

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.

Compare this image made on Kodak Tri-X (rated by me at ISO 320, Kodak sells it a ISO 400) with the other black & white photos exposed with the same camera but on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa photo on Fomapan 100.
Bartonsville Covered Bridge.
Bartonsville Covered Bridge.
Vermont Rail System 263 approaches the Bartonsville Covered Bridge. Fomapan 100. Image adjusted in Lightroom to improve contrast.
Image made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1.
Image made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1.

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.

Any favorites?

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Chester, Vermont—Revisited.

I don’t recall the first time I visited the old Rutland Station at Chester. It was in the Steamtown-era and lost in the fog of my earliest memories.

I do recall watching Canadian Pacific steam locomotives run around the excursion train here in the days before I regularly made photos.

Yes, there was a time when I didn’t always carry a camera.

Those days ended on my tenth birthday when Pop gave me my own Leica IIIa.

That camera rests on the shelf waiting to be repaired. In recent years I’ve been playing with identical IIIa bodies of the same period (late 1930s).

Here are a few views of Chester exposed with various cameras on June 7, 2017.

The details are in the captions. Any favorites?

Lumix LX7 view in the morning at Chester.
Lumix LX7 view in the morning at Chester.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100. Afternoon view with VRS 263 in the distance.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens on Fomapan 100.
Vermont Rail System freight 264 heading north (west) toward Rutland approaches Chester. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

Cavendish: A Study in High Light.

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.

The unaltered image. This is scaled for internet presentation but not adjusted for contrast or exposure.
By making minor adjustments with Lightroom, I lightened the shadow areas to make better use of the detail captured by the film, softened the overall contrast, lowered the highlights, and used a digitally applied graduated filter to adjust highlights in the sky to make the clouds stand out better.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Processing Old Film; Union Pacific in the Blue Mountains.

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.

July 23, 1991, a Union Pacific unit train ascends the Blue Mountain grade toward Kamela, Oregon, passing a location known Bodie. I processed this film in May 2017 using my customized process. The results would have been better if I hadn’t waited more than a quarter century, but they aren’t bad considering. One of the defects of the long process time is an increase in grain size.
Union Pacific SD60M at Bodie, Oregon Jul 23, 1991. Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron.
At the back of the unit train were a pair of SD40-2s working as helpers.
Some great sound from these locomotives.

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.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

 

 

Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017.

On May 6, 2017, I made a few rainy afternoon photos of Boston’s Green Line streetcars along Beacon Street.

These were exposed old school; a Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5, exposure calculated using a hand-held Minolta Mark IV light meter.

In these views, I’ve divided up my frame to account for the white sky and the effect of contrast and tonality. Do you think these photos would work in color?

Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017. Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).
Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

MBTA Gone Retro—Looking Back at Park Street.

Yesterday’s post featured contemporary views of MBTA’s Park Street Station in Boston. See: http://wp.me/p2BVuC-4Pk

Today’s post goes back in time.

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.

Green Line streetcars use the upper level at Park Street.

Tracking the Light posts every day!

New England Central—Making the Most of a Sunny Morning.

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!

Leica view on black & white film—Ilford HP5 rated at 320 ISO, processed in Ilford Perceptol developer and toned with selenium. NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut. FujiFIlm X-T1 digital photo using in-camera. Velvia color profile.
Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NER 608 about to cross Rt319 north of Stafford Springs.
A few minutes later at Stateline (on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border). Note the passing siding. I’m standing on Route 32 looking southward.
Leica view at Stateline.
Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts, near the site of the old Central Vermont Railway Monson Station (gone more than 60 years).
Leica view on HP5 at Washington Street.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

South Station, Boston, Massachusetts—in B&W and Color.

I rarely travel with just one camera.

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?

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

Tracking the Light posts Every Day!

Making use of a dull Morning—Another Take of 608.

So, if I called this Stafford Springs, Connecticut Part 3, would you be interested.

In truth, this is less about Stafford and its morning freight train and more about lighting and technique.

In two previous posts [see: New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again, and Going Against the Grain  I’ve detailed my efforts at photographing New England Central 608 working through Stafford Springs in harsh morning sunlight. This post depicts the same train on a dull morning, but also in black & white (Sorry Dave Clinton, but it has to be done).

I’m using the same camera-lens combination; a Leica IIIa with a screw-mount f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens. This time loaded with Ilford HP5. My process is about the same as in my earlier post New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

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.

New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs at 7:20am on May 10, 2017 ; exposed using a Leica IIIa with f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens at f4.5/f5.6 1/200th second on HP5.
A slightly closer view of New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs. I’ve made this on at a slightly lower angle.

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).

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Going Against the Grain.

Sometimes, I push the limits.

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.

A photo of the setting at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
New England Central’s freight with EMD diesels working long-hood first at Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Retropan’s halo effect combined with the large amounts of flare from the sun hitting the front element of the lens contributes to this interpretive image.

Tracking the Light posts something different every day.

Steam at Bray Head on Easter Monday.

Sometimes the railway photo isn’t about the train.

I made this pair of photos at Bray Head, County Wicklow, Ireland on Easter Monday 2017.

Railway Preservation Society engine No 4 was working trips from Dublin to Graystones, so I made the trek out along the head to capture these timeless views.

Although I made a few digital images, I prefer these black & white photos.

These were exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Leica IIIA and processed in Perceptol (1:1 for 14 minutes at 69 degrees F). No toning. Although, I think a dip in selenium would improve the contrast a bit.

Tracking the light posts every day.

RPSI Gone Retro.

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.

You’ll spot subtle differences in tonality.

Kodak Tri-X, rated at ISO 320 and processed in a two bath developer then toned with selenium for 9 minutes mixed 1 to 9 with water.
Kodak Tri-X, rated at ISO 320.
Portarlington. Kodak Tri-X, rated at ISO 320
Ilford FP-4 processed in Agfa Rodinal Special.
Kodak Tri-X, rated at ISO 320
Kodak Tri-X, rated at ISO 320
View from the train near Woodlawn. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
Focused on the train at Attymon. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
My view of the train at Attymon in black & white. I’ve got a tight shot in colour. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
Galway. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
Galway. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
Galway. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
Ballinasloe. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
Portarlington. Kodak Tri-X processed in Ilford ID11 and toned with selenium. Note the extreme range of exposure latitude. 
Kilkenny. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.
At the end of the day in Connolly Station, Dublin. Ilford FP-4 rated at ISO 125.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

 

Irish Rail—Two Silhouettes.

A couple of weeks ago I made these Irish Rail silhouettes on Stores Street near Bus Aras.

The black & white photo was exposed on Ilford HP5 with my Nikon F3T fitted with a f1.4 50mm lens, processed in ID11, and scanned with an Epson V500.

By contrast, the colour image was exposed digitally using my Lumix LX-7 with Leica Vario-Summilux lens.

Do you have a preference?

Personally I like the bird in this one, although my placement of the train is less than ideal because it blocks the nearer lamp.
This view is closer to what I’d originally envisioned and features both lamps in silhouette.

Dublin Loop Line in Infrared.

Here’s a few more views exposed on Rollei 35mm Infrared film. These portray Irish Rail’s Loop Line Bridge over the River Liffey in Dublin.

Exposed on Rollei Infrared B&W film using Nikon F3T with 24mm Nikkor lens and 25A filter.
Exposed on Rollei Infrared B&W film using Nikon F3T with 24mm Nikkor lens and 25A filter.
Exposed on Rollei Infrared B&W film using Nikon F3T with 24mm Nikkor lens and 25A filter.

Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is traveling.

 

Romantic Ruin—overgrown cutting near New Ross, County Wexford.

This old railway right of way once carried the line that connected New Ross and Palace East, County Wexford (Ireland), a section closed in 1963.

Exposed on Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with screw mount 35mm Nikkor lens.

Tracking the Light is on auto pilot while Brian is traveling. See http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight

Why not include a bit of foreground to add depth and make a more interesting image?

Too often railway images lack depth owning to a tendency to place all the elements of the scene near or at infinity (from the perspective of camera focus).

Consider including closer elements to add a bit depth.

Exposed on Fomapan 100 using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens. Film processed in Ilford Perceptol (stock solution, mixed from powder) for 6 minutes at 68 degrees F. Negatives toned with selenium solution mixed 1 to 9 with water for 7 minutes.

Here the fences, which would often be viewed as obstructions, have been used to make for a more interesting image, which, by the way, tells a story about the location.

Tracking the Light is on autopilot while Brian is traveling by train.

Cork’s train shed in black & white—plus travel notice.

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.

Kodak Tri-X processed in Agfa Rodinal Special (not to be confused with ordinary Ordinal) mixed 1:30 with water, 68 degrees F, at 3 minutes 15 seconds with 2 minute pre-soak (with a trace quantity of developer). After initial processing (dev, stop, 1st fix, 2nd fix, hypo clear, 10 minute wash), negatives were treated with Selenium toner for 7 minutes, then carefully rewashed in running water for 15 minutes). Scanned using Epson V500 flatbed scanner, and digitally processed using Lightroom.

Tracking the Light normally posts new material daily.

East Deerfield Sunset‑Variations on a Scene.

Groundhog Day 2017.

Mike Gardner and I were in place at East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) to document the arrival of Pan Am symbol freight POED (from Portland, Maine).

As the freight pulled beneath the bridge at the west-end of the yard, I made a series of photographs with different cameras.

I often work with two or more cameras at the same time: digital, black & white film, color slide film (results pending), more digital. That’s my style of making images. I sort out the results later.

Any favorites?

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor wide angle lens.
FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens.
FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens plus Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter.
FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens plus Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter.

Foray into Infrared—Part 1.

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.)

Processed using Agfa Rodinal Special mixed 1-31 with water. Timing adjusted to keep highlights in check.

I made these photographs along Dublin’s LUAS Red Line on Abbey Street. Late low sun made for especially dramatic lighting.

 

Tracking the Light posts daily.

 

 

 

Kent Station, Cork—Three Evening views.

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.

I exposed these views on 16 March 2017.

Digital image exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon.
Black & white film photograph exposed on Fuji Acros 100 with a Leica IIIa fitted with a screw-mount 35mm Nikkor wide angle lens.
2600 railcars bask under sodium vapour lamps at Kent Station Cork. Digital image exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon.

Tracking the Light posts daily.