Yesterday, November 25, 2020, we brought a light engine to Conway, NH to help decorate Conway Scenic Railroad for the holiday season.
At Conway, as we were finishing our decorating, I set up to capture the scene with my FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm lens, I heard the characteristic honk!-honk!-honk! of migrating geese . . .
I quickly repositioned and readjusted my zoom to incorporated the V-formation of the birds.
After I arrived back in North Conway, I downloaded the files to my MacBook Pro and adjusted this one to post it on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Facebook page and for transmission to the Conway Daily Sun for an up-coming article.
In September, I brought Kris Sabbatino to Pemaquid Point, Maine. This is a place steeped in my memories; many years ago on visits to my grandparent’s Maine summer house, we’d visit this rocky promenade where a thin sliver of land scratches the North Atlantic.
Fascinated by the waves in my youth, I’d drift perilously close to the water.
A wise friend once said that we may grow old but we can remain immature forever.
Drawn by the ocean, aiming to expose a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 that I brought here for the purpose, I was mesmerized by the tide. Kris called to me— as my mother had decades earlier—that I was too close; too far out.
A rogue wave loomed behind, reared up and splashed over me. My wee Lumix succumbed immediately. My Nikon F3 quietly blinked off and was silent. Two cameras down and soaked to the skin, I was lucky . . .
October 31st, 2020; Halloween:I heeded the advice of Tom Carver, who admiring the robust qualities of Nikon’s film cameras suggested that I let the F3 dry out for a few weeks, and then try it again. So, I put a fresh battery and it flickered to life.
Kris and I went down to Conway, NH., where Conway Scenic’s final day of ‘Pumpkin Patch’ was underway. Here I made a photo of Engineer Wayne Duffett—dressed as a Imperial Storm Trooper from the Star Wars films—as he sat in the cab of GP9 1751.
Both photos were exposed on Fuji Velvia 50, which at more than $18 a roll, is among the most expensive film I’ve ever bought. The F3 returned to life on Halloween. My slides were returned to me from AgX Imaging lab in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan yesterday.
Last week, Conway Scenic Railroad temporarily evicted former Boston & Maine F7A 4268 from stall 4 at the North Conway, NH roundhouse where the locomotive has been undergoing an operational restoration by the 470 Club (that also owns sister F7A 4266 which is operational at CSRR).
Saturday morning (November 21, 2020) brilliant late-autumn presented excellent light to photograph this relic of mid-20th century dieselization. B&M 4268 was originally an EMD demonstrator and features the builder’s less-common ‘passenger pilot’, which makes it distinctive among B&M’s F-unit.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1 with recently acquired 16-55mm Fujinon lens. After exposure, I converted the camera-RAW files to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer software, which does a more effective job of transforming these files for conversion by Adobe Lightroom, than either Lightroom itself or other image processing software.
After conversion, I imported the DNG files into Lightroom and made some minor adjustments to color temperature, contrast, and highlight/shadow detail plus saturation.
Below are examples of the in-camera FujiFilm JPG (using Velvia color profile, and a comparison DNG file converted from RAW using the Iridient software.
All photos were then scaled and exported using Lightroom.
Saturday, November 14, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its final Mountaineer of the 2020 operating season. As scheduled, this ran from North Conway to Crawford, Notch, New Hampshire and return.
Historically CSRR ceased operations over Crawford Notch earlier in the season.
I used this rare late-season move over the former Maine Central Mountain Division to make some unusual photos. Bare leaf-less trees allow for views that are unobtainable during the summer and early autumn.
During the course of the operating season, I’d made several head-end trips and Hyrail inspections of the line to look for angles. Some of the finest locations I found are a long way from public highways.
For this photo of eastward train 162, I climbed to an elevated point, and used my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Working with slide film had its perils. Normally, I used 36 exposure roles.
However, I’d carefully load my manual cameras and try to squeeze as many photos out of each rolls as possible.
This was risky, because often the last frame would get ruined in processing. So, I typically save that final frame for something less important, but still interesting.
On April 23, 1997, my father and I waited on a Shinkansen platform at Nishi Akashi west of Osaka. I made a few photos of this passing Series 300 Series highspeed train as it blasted by at approximately 186mph.
Working with my old Nikon F3T, I exposed this final frame on a roll of Fuji Provia 100 as the train passed me at speed. In processing, Fuji cut the last little bit of the slide (to the left of the train).
For years this slide sat in a box, unworthy of slide shows. I scanned it yesterday. Below are two versions. One is full frame, the other is cropped.
As a follow up to yesterday’s Tracking the Light post, here’s a photograph at the same location exposed a few minutes later of a northward MBTA commuter train from Providence, Rhode Island, passing Mansfield, Massachusetts.
I exposed this photo with my FujiFilm XT1 moments after the train made its Mansfield Station stop. The HSP46 diesel-electric locomotive is at the back of the push-pull consist.
Back in July (2020), I posted a photo of Guilford Rail System 252 under the title ‘Unexpected Surprise’. See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/07/23/unexpected-surprise/
The significance of the locomotive is that Maine Central 252 (pictured) is now owned by Conway Scenic, where I now work as the Manager of Marketing.
Today’s TTL photograph portrays the same train, Guilford’s EDLA (East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts) a little later on the same May 1997 evening.
After photographing it near Farleys, Mike Gardner and I had continued east on Route 2.
Here on the Wendell-Erving town line, I had aimed to recreate a photo that I’d made with photographer Brandon Delaney a dozen years earlier, when I caught an eastward train from the same spot. In that earlier photo a derelict barn was standing to the left of the road.
In this view all the remained of the barn was the foundation.
I offer two variation of the same photo. The top is a straight scan without post processing adjustment to contrast, color etc. The second features my processing to improve the appearance of the image.
Often I consider my Kodachrome slides among my finest photographs.
By not always.
In the mid-1990s, Kodachrome went through an unsettled phase and the film didn’t perform as well as it had in the late 1980s early 1990s. The reasons for these changes may be a discussion for another day.
On April 11, 1997, I joined photographers Mike Gardner and George Pitarys on a productive chase of New England Central’s southward freight, number 608.
At Willimantic, Connecticut, I made this photo along the river by some old thread mills (some since demolished).
April light can be challenging. Harsh contrast combined with a yellowish tint from air pollution makes for a raw ‘brassy’ quality that Kodachrome didn’t reproduce well.
I scanned this slide a little while ago and then imported the TIFF file into Adobe Lightroom, which I used to soften the contrast, lighten the shadows and correct the harsh color rendition. See adjusted version below
It isn’t perfect, but then again the lighting on the day wasn’t ideal.
How a year goes by! November 4th last year sticks in my mind as one of the best nights for rainy night photography in a very long time.
I’d caught up with fellow poor-weather nocturnal photographers, Jay Monaghan, Paul Maguire and Kevin O’Brien at Drumcondra in Dublin to catch the elusive Irish Rail ‘HOBS’ (ballast train) hauled by General Locomotives diesel 075.
It was cold and sluicing rain.
After catching the ballast passing Drumcondra station, we nipped across town by rail to Sandymount, where we waited in the rain for another shot.
Working with my Fujifilm XT1 I made these memorable images.
Now, armed with Iridient X-Transformer, I went back to last year’s success and re-interpreted some of my favorite images from that damp Irish evening, which now seems so distant.
Tracking the Light Publishes Daily!
[Note: my intent was to publish this on November 4, 2020, but when composing the post I accidentally posted it immediately. My efforts to reschedule the post had the net effect of disrupting the link. So I’ve reposted it this morning (Tuesday November 3).]
Where better to photograph a train on Halloween than Frankenstein trestle?
This afternoon, Kris Sabbatino and I ventured to this iconic landmark to catch the eastward Conway Scenic Mountaineer.
Mount Washington seen to the right of the train was covered in fresh autumn snow.
The bridge is named for the nearby cliffs, which were named not for the characters of Mary Shelley’s fictional story, but rather for the family of German artists that painted landscapes of the Mount Washington Valley in the 19th Century.
Lost in the woods of northern New Hampshire is this relic of an era—all but lost to time.
The long-abandoned Maplewood Station served resort traffic on Boston & Maine’s Bethlehem Branch, a short railway built as narrow gauge in the late 19th century and later converted to four foot eight and a half inches.
By the 1920s, New England railroading was already in decline, and this branch was one of the earliest class I abandonments. Yet the old station building survived.
On the advice of Wayne Duffett, Kris Sabbatino and I made a foray into the forest to find this hollow spectre of railroading, languishing like a sad old ghost, and soon to crumble back into the earth.
I made these digital photos variously using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit and Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikkor zoom.
The ability to improve my interpretation of Fuji RAW files using Iridient X-Transformer made me curious to re-examine some of my Fuji photos from years gone by.
I selected a photo that I made on trip to Switzerland with photographer Denis McCabe in April 2017. This image was made at the Champery terminus of a TPC branch that extends into the Alps from Aigle.
Here I’ve presented a comparison between the Lightroom interpreted RAW (scaled and converted to JPG for internet presentation) and the same file converted into a DNG file using Iridient X-Transformer. Since it is difficult to appreciate the improved sharpness when viewed on a small scale, I’ve enlarged a portion of each image that focuses on the LED lamps and rivets on the then new Stadler railcar.
The final image was derived from the Iridient converted DNG and involved nominal adjustments to color balance, color temperature, contrast and saturation that are aimed a making a more pleasing final photograph.
Below are a few more photos from last Saturday’s 470 Club Special over the Maine Central Mountain Division.
Heavy early season snow made for a cosmic setting at Fabyan, NH where the locomotives ran around the train for the return run to North Conway.
Conway Scenic Railroad’s track patrol wasn’t as impressed with the snow as the passengers on the special. Prior to the train’s arrival at Fabyan, the members of the patrol had to remove numerous fallen trees which had succumbed to the weight of the early season snow.
Sun at Fabyan made for some interesting photo opportunities.
These images were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer and adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.
New England Central Railroad (NECR) began operations of the former Central Vermont route in February 1995. Initially, it ran the railroad with a small fleet of largely former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio GP38s numbered in the 9500-series.
In 1998, NECR was in the process of renumbering these locomotives into the 3800-series, which logically echoed their model type.
In October 1998, photographer Mike Gardner and I spent a morning photographing the southward 608 on its run from Palmer, Massachusetts to New London, Connecticut. The lead engine displayed its new 3800-series number, but the trailing engine still had its old number.
Many of the GP38s have carried these 3800-series numbers ever since that time.
Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon N90S with Nikon f2.8 80-200mm AF zoom lens. The freight is crossing the Yantic River at Yantic, Connecticut.
A few weeks ago on Tracking the Light, I described my early experiences with Kodak’s Ektachrome LPP (a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition), of which I received a free-sample from Kodak back in August 1993.
Among the other photos on that roll, was this view exposed shortly after sunrise of Amtrak’s Los Angeles-bound Coast Starlight crossing Southern Pacific’s massive Benicia Bridge near Martinez, California.
I had loaded the film into a second-hand Nikkormat FTN that I fitted an f4.0 Nikkor 200mm telephoto.
This slide sat in the dark until I scanned it on October 6, 2020.
On a visit to New York City in 1998, my father and I made a trip on the Flushing Line of the New York Subway.
I exposed these photos using Fuji Sensia II (100 speed slide film) with my Nikon N90S.
Last week I digitized the slides using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner powered by VueScan software.
To make the most of the dark contrasty images I opted for multiple pass scans—a feature offered by VueScan that is similar in concept to the HDR setting used my some modern digital cameras—that blend several scans of the same image at different exposure values into one file to maximize shadow and highlight detail.
After exposure, I adjusted the scans using Adobe Lightroom and outputted these images with watermark for internet presentation.
Today’s photo is in honor of my late-friend, Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts, who would have turned 91 today (October 12, 2020).
In the 1940s, Bob Buck made priceless photos of New York Central’s Boston & Albany around Warren, and elsewhere across the railroad. For most of his life he ran Tucker’s Hardware, later Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, which was a gathering point for those interested in railroads.
On December 6, 1992, I exposed this photo of an eastward Conrail freight, probably SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester RR) climbing through Warren behind six General Electric B23-7s.
I had Kodachrome 25 film loaded in my Nikon F3T and I used a 35mm PC (Perspective Control) lens, all neatly leveled out on a Bogen 3021 tripod with ball head.
The pronounced chugging of multiple FDL diesel engines powering these locomotives as they ascended the grade through Warren would have announced the approach of the freight several minutes before the headlight appeared west of the old Warren Station.
The making of this image would have coincided with one of my countless visits to Tucker’s Hobbies in the 1980s and 1990s.
On November 24, 1998, photographer Mike Gardner and I were wrapping our photography for the day, having spent it following the old Erie Railroad mainline in New York state. A railroad then operated as part of Conrail’s Southern Tier District.
Just after sunset, we were visiting the old bridge (since removed) over the east end of the Gang Mills Yard (near Corning, New York). A bit of evening ‘drop under’ sun had tickled the clouds pink, when a headlight appeared to the west.
Working with my Nikon N90S with 80-200mm lens, I made a sequence of photos on Kodachrome 200 of the passing Conrail piggyback train. This film offered speed, but it was difficult to work with. Not only was K200 grainy, but it had a fairly narrow expose latitude as compared with either Fuji Sensia or Kodachrome 25.
At the time I made the slide, I’d exposed for the sky, aiming to retain the texture and color, but as a result the tracks and train were a bit under exposed. Last night, I made a multiple pass scan from a slide in the sequence. Then in post processing, I lightened the foreground, while adjusting color and contrast for a more pleasing image, yet one that hopefully looks like it was exposed on Earth, and not on Mars.
Below are two comparisons. The first is the unadjusted scan (scaled for internet), the second is my adjusted scan.
In the summer of 1993, I attended an event in San Francisco hosted by Kodak to debut a new Ektachrome slide film. As part of the event, Kodak gave everyone a sample of LPP, a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition.
I had recently bought a Nikkormat FTN from a co-worker, and promptly loaded the camera with the new film.
It was mid-August, when I climbed to the top of a hill over-looking Southern Pacific’s Cal-P route with a view of Suisun Bay/Carquinez Straits and the stored navy ships anchored there.
Curiously, this SP westward freight had a Conrail C32-8 in consist. This was one of ten built as test beds for Conrail in summer 1984 and routinely operated on the Boston & Albany route through the 1980s. They were known as ‘camels’ because of their hump-back appearance. It was odd to see such a familiar locomotive so far from home.
The railroad takes on different characters when view from line-side versus that when view from from the locomotive cab.
The perspectives and impressions you get when standing on the ground are very different than the views from a locomotive cab in motion.
Part of this is the difference in elevation. Part is where you can safely stand in relation to the railroad and how lineside obstructions alter your view.
Over the last few weeks and months I’ve made various headend and walking trips on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
Among the most interesting places is the area east of Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.
Below are two views exposed three days apart from the same location near milepost 83 looking west. One is from the ground of Conway Scenic Railroad’s train 162—the eastward Mountaineer, the other from the headend of the westward train.