Category Archives: photography

Grand Hibernian—17 September 2016

Five years ago, I was poised at the army bridge near Mosney over the old Great Northern line to photograph the, then new, Belmond Grand Hibernian on its run from Dublin to Belfast.

This luxury tour train made weekly tours of the Irish network in season.

Irish Rail class 201 number 216 was painted to match Belmond’s train set, and was routinely assigned to the train.

Belmond’s choice of a dark navy blue made for challenging photos in conditions other than bright sun. In photos, this shade of blue often appeared almost black, and when lightened using post processing software tended to shift green.

In this view, I selectively lightened the front of the locomotive, and applied minimal lightening to the shadow areas of the entire scene. I’ve attempted to retain the true color of the train as best I can.

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Sunburst near Shannonbridge—13 September 2014.

On this day seven years ago, Denis McCabe and I were photographing Bord na Mona’s Blackwater Network near Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly, Ireland.

At sunset we caught this laden peat train heading toward the Shannonbridge generating station located on the eastbank of the River Shannon.

This is a RAW file from my old Lumix LX7 processed in Adobe Lightroom to better balance the colorful sunset sky with the shadow areas on the ground.

Between 1998 and 2019 I made dozens of trips to photograph Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge systems.

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Travels with a Ballast Train-Part 1

On Friday, I was attached to the Conway Scenic Railroad ballast extra, which I documented, but also used as transportation to make video of the Conway Valley train.

Working with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera, I made this sequence of photos of the ballast train in the rich September morning light.

It was a beautiful day to make photos. More to follow!

Kearsarge station on the Redstone Branch in North Conway, NH.
Kearsarge station on the Redstone Branch in North Conway, NH.

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The End for an Old GP?

Yesterday I learned through social media that New England Central 3850 suffered a main generator fire while climbing State Line Hill (located in my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.)

Over the last 26 years, I’ve made countless photos of this antique EMD diesel-electric at work and at rest.

While I cannot predict the future, I know that often with older diesels, a main generator failure may represent the kiss of the scrapper.

When it came to New England Central in 1995, 3850 carried the number 9531, which is how I picture it in the December 1996 view below.

I made this photo at Palmer, Massachusetts using a mix of artificial lighting, including electronic strobe for fill flash, and my original Fujichrome slide is strongly tinted.

I scanned this slide using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner driven by Epson Scan 2 software. Working from a high-resolution TIF file, I initially scaled the photo without corrections.

Then, working with slider controls in Adobe Lightroom, I implemented a variety of color corrections, plus contrast and exposure adjustements to overcome flaws with color balance and exposure. Below are both results for point of comparison.

This is a scaled JPG of the uncorrected scan which reflects how the original slide appears to the eye. Compare this with a partially color corrected version below.
Above is my first color-corrected scan aimed at better representing the colors of the locomotive as they would have appeared to my eye at night. Although imperfect, it is an improvement over the original slide.
Here’s an alternative version aimed at further reducing the green tint from the mercury vapor light and reducing overall contrast. This is closer to the way the scene would have looked.

Tracking the Light is a Daily Photoblog focused on railroads.

NIR-Derry 5 April 2002

NI Railways had a minimalist presence in Derry, Northern Ireland when I visited there on 5 April 2002.

The railway station consisted of a 1960s-era bus shelter style building and a single platform serving two tracks, situated flush with the River Foyle.

I made these photos while boarding an NIR 80-class railcar bound for Belfast.

My camera was a rugged Contax G2 Rangefinder fitted with 45mm Zeiss Planar lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X black & white film. I used a red filter to alter the black & white tonality and boost contrast.

For me the film’s contrast and stark spring lighting was well-suited to the minimalist railway infrastructure.

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EDRJ at Zoar—Rangefinder Slide

Working with my Contax G2 Rangefinder fitted with a Zeiss 28mm Biogon, I made thisa color slide at Zoar, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg Line.

Photographer Pat Yough and I had started the day(February 13, 2005) at Guilford’s East Deerfield Yard, where at daybreak symbol freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) was being readied for its westward journey.

We followed the freight west, using the lightly traveled road to the Hoosac Tunnel to reach Zoar.

February 13, 2005.

A few days ago, I’d posted a view of this same train on its approach to the East Portal. See:

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2021/08/29/same-bridge-different-day/

Lately, I’ve been scanning my older slides. This is stored in a metal Logan box along with 500-600 select Guilford Rail System/Pan Am Railways photos exposed between 1998 and 2018.

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Ballast Train

The unusual moves; the uncommon train; the special unscheduled and unexpected operation. These are what fascinate me about railroads.

On most days, Conway Scenic operates its selection of normally scheduled excursion. By contrast it’s work trains are comparatively rare.

Yesterday, September 3, 2021, Conway Scenic’s former Maine Central GP7 No. 573 ran light to from North Conway to Conway to collect a pair of ballast cars that were expected to be loaded.

After lunch the engine returned with the ballast cars to North Conway where it ran around and proceeded back to Conway.

I was on-hand to make these photos using my Nikon Z6.

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New England Central on a Frosty morning.

I made this Fujichrome slide of the New England Central yard at Palmer, Massachusetts in January 1998—just a few weeks before embarking on my first trip to Ireland

The subtle duo-chromic hues and stark winter landscape make for a simple frame for what I find a visually complicated image.

Carefully observe the unorthodox use of selective focus.

Where a common solution for a focus point might have been on the nose of the locomotive, instead I aimed at the distant truss bridge at the south-end of the yard, while leaving the tracks in the foreground slightly blurred.

The use of lighting selective provides silhouettes.

Texture in the tracks, trees and sky, add complexity.

What is the subject? The locomotive? The tracks? Or the truss bridge and poles in the distance?

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Glinty Diamond on Kodachrome

In 1997, I still kept one camera loaded with Kodachrome 25.

At the end the day on August 6th during a visit to Vermont, Mike Gardner and I paused at the Bellows Falls station for a few photos.

Working with a Nikon F3T, a 24mm Nikkor wideangle lens, I made this Kodachrome slide of the setting sun reflecting off the rails of the diamond where Green Mountain Railroad crossed New England Central.

There are certain types of lighting siutation where Kodachrome really shined! And this is one of the them.

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White Flags at Sawyers

Sawyers siding is just west of the 4th Iron Bridge over Sawyer River.

Sunday Aug 29, 2021, Conway Scenic operated two trains from North Conway to Sawyers to run around. The first was the regularly scheduled Valley train, on its daily run that boards at North Conway at 1230pm.

The second, which ran about an hour later, was a charter for New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. This carried ‘white flags,’ which by the rulebook indicates an extra train operating by train order without an assigned schedule.

I made these photos of the charter at the east end of the Sawyers siding with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. Both were processed using Adobe Lightroom to boost shadow detail, warm color temperature, and increase color saturation.

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Same Bridge—Different Day

Tracking the Light is a blog that focuses on the process of railroad photography, and how certain techniques produce different results. Light, angle and season play an enormous role in the end result.

In yesterday’s Tracking the Light, I featured a misty autumn-morning view of a westward Guilford Rail System freight crossing the bridge over the Deerfield River on approach to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2021/08/28/misty-morning-at-east-portal/

Today, I’m featuring a photo exposed a few months later (February 2005) of another westward freight crossing the same bridge: winter versus autumn; south side of the bridge versus the north; and later in the morning. Another difference was my choice of lens: 45mm on the winter view; 180mm on the autumn.

In addition, I’ve included two slightly different versions of the February 2005 photo, as well as one of the photos from yesterday’s post for point of comparison.

This freight was EDRJ, which Pat Yough and I followed all the way to the Hudson River and beyond!

Compare this view with the verson below.- 45mm lens.

February 13, 2005. In the above photo I made slightly different adjustments in post processing in regards to color temperature and exposure.

Both images were made from a scan of the same slide, which had been exposed on Fujichrome film using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 45 mm Zeiss lens.

Here’s the comparison view that was posted with yesterday’s (August 28, 2021) Tracking the Light. Fujichrome with 180mm lens, October 2004.

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Misty Morning at East Portal

October 1, 2004: in time-honored fashion, I followed a westward Guilford Rail System freight from the yard at East Deerfield to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel.

The river valleys were filled with autumn mist. I arrived at the grade crossing near the tunnel portal several minutes ahead of the freight (symbol WARJ).

As the roar of the EMD diesels grew closer, morning sun began to clear the mist making for cosmic lighting effects.

I exposed a series of Fujichrome slides using a Nikon F3 fitted with f2.8 180mm lens. I calculated my exposure manually using a Minolta Mark4 light meter, as I typically did with the F3.

I scanned these slides last night using an Epson V600 scanner with Epson Scan 2 software.

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Glinty SD40-2

The old McClelland Farm Road Bridge at the west of Guilford Rail System’s East Deerfield Yard was a favorite place to make photos of diesel locomotives.

Back in August 2004, I made this detailed low sun view of CP Rail SD40-2 5857 passing below the ever-popular bridge.

Fujichrome color slide exposed with a Nikon F3 and 180mm telephoto lens.

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High short Hood South

Yesterday at Conway Scenic we turned GP35 216 on the turntable.

Now the high short hood is facing south.

This directional change was performed for operational reasons, but has also opened up a variety of photographic possibilities, especially on the return run of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer from Crawford Notch.

I made these views in the North Conway, NH yard using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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Dresden in Color

Although many of my favorite photos of Dresden are black & white images, I also have a good few color images.

In June 2001, on a visit to the Dresden Hbf, I made this Fujichrome color slide using my old Nikon N90S.

A day or two later the N90S stopped working while photographing in Leipzig.

Would this photo work more effectively in black and white?

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Chocorua Dam on Ektachrome

In the villiage of Chocorua in Tamworth, New Hampshire is an historic mill dam.

I made this atmospheric view of the Chocorua Dam last October on Kodak Ektachrome 100. Using a comparatively slow shutter speed shows movement in the water.

A couple of weeks ago I scanned the color slide with my Epson V600 scanner. Final presentation for viewing here required nominal adjustment in Adobe Lightroom.

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Meadville viewed with a Canon.

Over the years I’ve used a great variety of Camera-film combinations.

In 2009, I largely worked with a pair of Canon EOS-3s loaded with Fujichrome.

On an October trip to photograph along the old Erie Railroad, I had one of my EOS-3s fitted with a Canon 100-400mm. The morning of the 6th, I caught Western New York & Pennsylvania’s HNME (Hornell, New York to Meadville, PA) arriving a Meadville.

A dozen years earlier I’d photographed the same Montreal Locomotive Works diesel working the Cartier Railway in Quebec using Nikon cameras loaded with Kodachrome.

I wonder how I might capture this scene today with my current camera combinations?

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20mm view of the Arcade & Attica

On a foray to western New York state in July 2009, I made this 20mm wide-angle image of the Arcade & Attica tourist train near Arcade, New York.

I was working with RVP-100 (Velvia 100, no ‘F’), exposed using a Canon EOS-3.

Velvia 100 had a red-bias that makes for a difficult image to scan in a high contrast situation, such as this view of the steam locomotive.

Working in Adobe Lightroom, I made a variety of changes to contrast and color balance to help compensate for the red-bias color slide.

Adjusted slide-first version.
Final adjustment.

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Room with a View

Irish Rail class 141 number 167 glides over the River Liffey at Islandbridge, Dublin.

I made this view from my old apartment at Islandbridge in December 2005.

Although I had just recently purchased a Canon EOS3, I was still working with my old Nikon F3s, which is what I used to expose this view on Fujichrome.

At the time there were still a number of class 141/181 General Motors diesels working for Irish Rail.

Over the years, the trees and other obstructions gradually hemmed in my view of the tracks, so that by the time I left more than a dozen years later, it was more difficult to obtain an uncluttered photo of a train crossing the Liffey from the apartment.

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Empty Beet on the Barrow Bridge:

On December 28, 2005, toward the end of Irish Rail’s final beet season, I stood on the western shore of the Barrow, where I aimed a Nikon F3 fitted with a 180mm f2.8 lens and loaded with Fujichrome toward the multiple span Pratt truss that crosses the river.

NI Railways 112 (on loan to Irish Rail) worked east across the span at about 5mph with a train of four-wheel empty beet wagons.

Last night I scanned the nearly 16-year old slide using my Epson V600 scanner at relatively high resolution (3200 dpi) then imported the resulting TIF file into Lightroom.

The RAW scan exhibits a minor red tint. To compensate I made a variety of changes. First I moved the black point to the limit of data loss with the aid of the histogram. This adjusted the tonal range of the slide, then I worked with green-magenta and blue-yellow color correction sliders to balance the color, while paying close attention to hue in the shadow areas. 

Finally I made some nominal contrast and saturation changes to make for a more pleasing image before outputting as a medium resolution JPG  crafted for optimum internet presentation.

Below is the unadjusted JPG along with my final adjusted JPG for comparison. Since every computer screen is slightly different and provide varied interpretations of my images.

the proof of  success for my adjustments may be in the color prints that I have yet to make.

This is a JPG made from the unadjusted TIF scan. Notice the slightly red hue and a lack of a rich black tone.
This is the scan following adjustment.
Screen shot of the Lightroom work window.

In addition, I’ve also included a screen shot of the Lightroom control panel so that you may see how I’ve moved the sliders to improve the scan.

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Provia 100F on the Rhein

Among the photos in my ‘Scan pile’ was this Fujichrome Provia 100F slide of a northward SBB Cargo train on the westbank of the Rhein near Lorch, Germany

It was among the color slides that I chose to scan during the week using my old Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software.

Yesterday, I had prints made from some of my recent scans and was impressed by the way the scanning captured detail in the film right down to the grain.

Provia 100F color slide exposed on September 17, 2019.

Tightly cropped version to show detail.

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Kent Station, Cork—April 2002.

On a day trip to Cork City (Ireland) in April 2002, I made this photo using my Contax G2 rangefinder on Kodak Tri-X.

I had the camera fitted with a 45mm Zeiss lens. Key to the image tonality was an orange filter, which gives the photo a contrasty snap with lots of texture in the sky while lightening the rendiition of the shade of orange paint on the class 201 diesels.

Kent Station, Cork, Ireland, April 2002.

I’d processed the film using a custom mix of Ilfotec HC.

To scan the film, I used my Epson V600 flatbed scanner with Epson Scan 2 driving software. I made nominal adjustments to contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

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Semmering Monochromes

This represents another experimental series of scans with my V600 and recently downloaded Epson Scan 2 (6.4.99.0) software.

I’d purchased my Epsom V600 about 2011 to replace an earlier Epson V500 scanner that had suffered a failure. Until recently I was using the original Epson software to drive the V600. The other night I decided to upgrade the software and install it on a more modern & much faster Apple MacBook Pro.

Although Epson’s Scan 2 software appears to have been on the market for a while, I’d just discovered it the other day. More to the point, I’ve found that it vastly improved my scans. This scanner-driver software combination offers greater clarity, exceptional sharpness, and runs faster and more consistently which allows the same scanner to perform noticeably better than with the earlier Epson driver.

I’d exposed this medium-formet Kodak Tri-X 400 ISO black & white film using my Rollei Model T, while exploring Austria’s Semmering Pass with photographer Denis McCabe in August 2003. On a warm afternoon we waited out a thundershower at the station shelter in Breitenstein.

 I’d processed the film after my return to Dublin using Ilfotec HC liquid developer which offered broad tonal range and very fine grain.

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Cal Train at Bayshore—A Scanner Story

The other day I uploaded Epson Scan 2 to drive my ten-year old Epson V600 scanner.

I decided to make a few test scans and selected this Fujichrome color slide I exposed of a San Jose-bound Cal Train at Bayshore, California on August 13, 2009.

I was delighted with high-quality scan using this improved scanner-driver combination. I imported the TIF file into Adobe Lightroom to make minor adjustments to color and contrast in order to improve the Web-presentation.

This is a scaled Jpg from the adjusted TIF.

Original 35mm slide exposed on Fujichrome using a Canon EOS3 with 100mm lens.

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CLassic CHrome: Sierra Railroad Baldwin

I’ve only photographed Baldwin diesels a few times.

The most memorable was back on April 3, 1993. I was traveling with fellow photographer Brian Jennison, and we made a morning of following this Sierra Railroad Baldwin on its run from Oakdale into the Sierra foothills toward Jamestown, Califronia.

Near Chinese Camp, we hiked to this shallow cutting, where I used my Nikon F3T fitted with a 105mm f1.8 lens to expose a Kodachrome sequence of the antique diesel leading a train of Southern Pacific wood chip cars .

This Baldwin made a characteristic low RPM chortle, unlike any modern diesels.

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Amtrak at Oakland

On an afternoon in August 2009, I stood atop a parking garage near Jack London Square in Oakland, California where I made this view featuring an Amtrak Capitols train against a backdrop of the city’s sprawling port facilities.

I was working with a Canon EOS3 fitted with a 100-400mm zoom lens to expose a Fujichrome slide. This was several months before buying my first digital camera.

During my five week stay in California that year I exposed more than 80 rolls of color slide film. Many of my photos featured scenes around San Francisco Bay. At the time I envisioned writing a book on San Francisco, but I didn’t get sufficient interest from my publishers at the time to move that proposal forward.

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All’s Quiet at Bellows Falls

On our drive from North Conway to Massachusetts last month, Kris and I stopped over at Bellows Falls, Vermont .

Amtrak’s Vermonter had yet to resume operation. New England Central’s line had been washed out to the south at Putney. While, Vermont Rail System’s Green Mountain Railroad (former Rutland Railroad) seemed quiet.

With my Lumix LX7, I exposed these photos of the Bellows Falls Station, the tunnel beneath downtown, and the Grist Mill Museum near the tunnel.

I created these JPGs from the camera’s RAW files using Adobe Lightroom, where I adjusted the color, contrast and saturation to make for more pleasing images, which more closely resembled what I perceived on the day.

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Three years ago on August 5th, John Gruber dropped me off at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station where I photographed Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service before boarding a train for Chicago Union Station. There I changed for the eastward Lake Shore Limited.

I made these images using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit.

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Pssst! Wanna buy a Railroad Station?

Last week I learned, much to my surprise, that the old Boston & Maine station at Berlin, NH is still standing. So yesterday (31 July 2021), Kris Sabbatino and I drove to the east side of this old New Hampshire milltown to investigate.

I made these photos from the street using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

I’ve seen stations in better shape than this one. Also, it has been without regular passenger service for about 60 years. The tracks have been lifted and its a long walk from the center of town. But it has a ‘For Sale’ sign out front! (If you are interested).

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Lens, Light, Location!

There are many ways to picture a train passing the same place. The challenge is to find new and different ways to make photos at familar spots.

I work at the North Conway Station, NH which is just a short walk from my apartment, and I photograph there almost daily.

Several times in the last couple of weeks I have featured photos of the returning Conway train approaching the North Conway Station.

I’ve reviewed some of my earlier posts, while including my photos from Wednesday afternoon. These were made using my old Canon EOS7D with an older model Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.

I’d brought this 100-400mm to work so that my office partner, Trainmaster Mike Lacey, could make some telephoto digital photos with the lens.

However, before I handed the lens over to him, I figured I may as well use it capture the Valley coming up the Hill to North with GP9 1751 in the lead.

Canon 100-400mm lens extended to 340mm.
Canon 100-400mm lens extended to 250mm.

For comparison, here are two of the earlier photos previously posted to Tracking the Light.

This is the view from Tuesday’s Tracking the Light post that show the same train, at the same location, but from ground level with a very smoggy sky. Made with my Nikon Z6 mirror less with a 24-70mm lens.
Last week’s photo. This is the afternoon Valley train passing the semaphore on a bright day. Also from ground level, but at a broader angle.

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore in 2003

I’ve been reviewing 40 years worth of Amtrak photos for an article I’m writing for a German magazine.

In the mix of old chromes was this 2003 view of the eastward Lake Shore Limited east of milepost 129 between Chester and Middlefield, Massachusetts on CSX’s old Boston & Albany mainline.

Relatively few of Amtrak’s P42 Genesis diesels were painted in the short-lived Northeast Direct livery, making this a relatively unusual photo.

Working with a Nikon fitted with an f2.8 180mm telephoto, I was trying to make the most of a heavily backlit situation in early October. In situations like this I’d typically use my notebook to shield the front element of my lens to minimize the effects of flare. Backlighting autumn foliage helps accentuate the colored leaves.

On this day Amtrak was the booby prize; I was really after the Ringling Brothers Circus Train that was coming east from Selkirk Yard. And that photo is stored in a different file.

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Smoky Light in the White Mountains.

Yesterday (26 July 2021), the White Mountains were obscured by hazy smoke that had settled upon the Mount Washington Valley as a result of raging forest fires in the West.

The sun was out, but an eerie gauzy brownish-fog was lingering in the low-lying areas filtering the light.

Working with my Nikon Z6, I made these photos in the smoky light of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley Train coming up the Hill from Conway. This was a stark contrast to the similar images I made last week of the Valley train arriving at North Conway.

North Conway, New Hampshire.

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Italian Fast Train gliding Slowly

During a whirlwind trip to Italy in April 2017, I spent a day around Florence (Firenze) photographing and taking notes for my book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

On this trip I was traveling very light and only brought two cameras: my wee Lumix mark 2 (a Panasonic LX7) for digital, and Nikon F3 with 35mm and 135mm lenses to expose film.

At Firenze Statuto I made this sequence with the LX7 of a passing FS ETR1000 high speed passenger train on its way out of town. Once on the Direttissma this train will accelerate up to 186mph, but here the train is traveling at a more conservative speed.

The original Italian Direttisma was the world’s first purpose-built high speed railway, predating the Japanese Shinkansen by a half century.

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