Category Archives: photography

Sunny Morning at Sunnyside—Queens, New York c1978.

I was on bright morning in 1978 that I made these black & white photos with my old Leica 3A fitted with a Nikkor 35mm lens.

I was standing with my father and brother on a Long Island Rail Road platform near Sunnyside yard. I was about 12 at the time.

My subject was the graffiti covered Flushing Line subway train.

30 years earlier my father made photos of New Haven Railroad EP4 electrics and Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics from near this same spot!

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Fordham Road in THe Bronx—Looking back.

Another two black & white photos from the depths of my archive.

These scenes were captured with my old Leica 3A nearly 40 years ago.

Technically they aren’t great photos. But these distilled what I saw in the Bronx.

Fordam Road at Webster Avenue in the Bronx, circa 1980.

The view inside the Forham Road subway station was made when we were on our way downtown—to Manhattan. Can you hear the roar of the train as it approaches? I can.

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November Sunshine at South Barre; Mass Central GP38s Working the Old Spur.

Here’s another pair of photos from ‘Super Tuesday’—November 26, 2019.

Fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I mopped up a few nice photographs on the north-end of the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

These images were made on the spur that connects the branch with the Wildwood Reload on the far side of Route 32 at South Barre, Massachusetts.

I made both images using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

November sun; when it shines, it’s brilliant!

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CSX SD40-2 at Rotterdam Jct.

Yesterday I scanned this 20-year old slide of an eastward CSX freight passing the signals at CPRJ—Rotterdam Junction, New York.

I’d exposed the slide using my first Nikon N90S on Fujichrome Sensia RA slide film.

I made great use of the Nikon N90S, and when I wore out the first one, I bought another.

Oddly, when reviewing my slides, I find that my work with the N90S wasn’t as refined as the photographs that I made with either my Nikon F3 (with which I used the same lens pool as the N90S) nor my Contax G2 rangefinder that had its own lenses.

I can’t really explain this phenomena, but I wish I’d recognized it sooner.

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November Evening at Newbridge.

Last month I made this photograph of a down Irish Rail Intercity Railcar paused at Newbridge on the Dublin-Cork mainline.

I was changing trains on my way to Sallins.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7, file processed in Lightroom and scaled for internet presentation. To make the most of the nocturnal setting, I set my camera to overexpose by 1/3 of stop (+ 1/3 on my exposure compensation dial). This compensates for the specular highlights which tend to skew the camera meter toward underexposure.

In this situation under exposure would result in the image appearing too dark.

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An RR Train on the Astoria Line.

It was April 26, 1984 when my brother and I embarked on big tour of the New York City Subway in Queens and Brooklyn.

Exposed using my old Leica 3A with 50mm Sumitar lens.

I made this view from the front of an outbound train on the Astoria Line. On the middle track was an RR train heading toward Queens Plaza and beyond. This was during the era when the subway was still covered in grafitti.

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Providence & Worcester from across a Pond.

Notice the article ‘a’ rather than ‘the’. For today’s Tracking the Light, I am posting a view literally made from across a pond, rather than taking a metaphorical view from ‘across the pond’ (used as an ironic understated allusion for the North Atlantic Ocean).

You know, just in case there was any confusion!

This photograph was exposed last Tuesday afternoon, on Providence & Worcester’s former Boston & Maine Worcester to Gardner, Mass., route, and features the daily northward freight heading for interchange with Pan Am Railways/Pan Am Southern at Gardner.

Interestingly, I was traveling with Mike Gardner (no relation to the town), and this represented the fourth railroad I’d photographed on that Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Pretty neat! And with a cool pond too!

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The Bronx, New York—c.1980.

Using my Leica 3A, I made this view from a NYCTA city bus in The Bronx circa 1980.

I don’t have any notes at all from this trip.

In all likelihood, I was using a 35mm Nikkor lens with a screw-mount designed for the Leica 3 series cameras. This was a favorite of mine at the time because it required an adjustable external viewfinder that made it easier to compose than the tiny window on the camera body.

The primary subject of the photo was the subway train on what I think was the White Plains Road elevated line. At right is my brother Sean. We were traveling with our grandmother from Fordham Road toward Co-op City as part of a shopping trip.

This photo has been quietly hiding, unprinted and unseen in a glassine negative sleeve for nearly 40 years! (Try that with your favorite phone photo.)

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Mass-Central Reflections—Gilbertville, Massachusetts November 26, 2019.

November 26, 2019 was one of those very productive days.

Following my earlier successes last Thursday with New England Central at Stafford Springs, and CSX at Palmer and West Warren, Mike Gardner and I went to breakfast at Girly’s Grille in Palmer, timing our departure so that would could intercept Mass-Central freight on its way up the Ware River Line to South Barre.

We caught up with the train at Gilbertville, one of my favorite locations along the old Boston & Albany branch.

I’d spotted this puddle in the parking lot near the station, which made for an excellent reflective surface to picture the passing train.

Key to making this image is the adjustable rear-screen display on my FujiFilm XT1, which among other features has a leveling bar.

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30 Years ago in CTC Board

In November 1989, I had my first CTC Board Cover Feature on Conrail’s Boston & Albany.

Ironically, I received my contributor’s copy a few weeks after I’d moved to California.

I found a copy of the magazine yesterday while digging around for a missing notebook from the 1980s.

Cover photo exposed using my Leica M2 with 35mm lens on Kodachrome 25 slide film—Conrail TV8B at CP-79 east of Palmer, Massachusetts.

Sometimes when you look for one thing, you find something else!

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Taking A Ride on the A-train: New York City Subway

It was about 1980, when I made this interior view of an R10 subway car during a trip with my father around New York City. Pop thinks this was on the 8th Avenue line in Manhattan. It was one of three photos I made of the Subway that day .

The cars were not air-conditioned and the open fans intrigued me.

This was in that unsavory era on the Subway when the subway cars were decorated inside and out with graffiti.

Exposed on black & white film with my old Leica 3A 35mm camera.

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On the Roll with CSX’s Q264—Five Photos.

CSX Q264 is a unit autorack train that terminates at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, November 26, 2019, I was waiting at CP83 in Palmer for fellow photographer Mike Gardner to arrive. To the west, I could hear the distant roar of a heavy eastward train.

Long ago I learned to use my ear. Listening, and knowing what you are hearing can make the difference between finding a train and missing one.

Mike pulled in and I signaled to him there was in eastbound on the diamond (crossing at Palmer between New England Central and CSX’s Boston Line).

I was delighted because low rich November sun illuminated CP83 and there weren’t any automobiles in the parking lot in front of the Steaming Tender restaurant (that occupies that the old Palmer Union Station).

As Q264 rolled through, I said to Mike, “quick, jump in! The train is limited to 30mph at the diamond, we’ll get him down the line.”

And we were off in hot pursuit!

Up to West Warren, a recent and long-time favorite location of mine for railroad photography. We pulled over where the Boston Line is adjacent to Route 67, and I exposed another sequence of photos.

That was two trains, on two lines in less than two hours, but it was only going to get better! Tuesday was a very good day!

More to come!

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New ENgland Central November Sunrise at Stafford Springs

Yesterday morning (November 26, 2019) was misty with a hint of orange in the sky.

New England November mornings can make for cosmic settings for railroad photos.

I made my way to downtown Stafford Springs to catch New England Central’s 608 winding its way through town.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1, I exposed this 90mm view of the northward freight as it crossed Route 32 in the center of town at 717am. (A little earlier than I expected).

Three GP38s in the classic New England Central blue and yellow (or navy and gold, if you prefer) paint scheme were in the lead.

It was the start of an auspicious and productive day of railroad photography!

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CSX Q022 on the Roll at West Warren—November 25, 2019.

November sun and a little elevation is a good start.

I’d spotted CSX’s Q022 rolling across the Palmer diamond as I departed the old union station, where I’d pulled in to see if anything was happening!

(No scanner and poor timing on my part!)

Not a bother. I drove post haste west on Route 20 and Route 67 to West Warren.

CSX’s Q022 had a decent size train, but with nearly 9,000 hp leading in the form of a pair of GE Evolutions, the train made good progress climbing eastward through the Quaboag River Valley.

I had time to park at West Warren, Massachusetts and walk briskly to the South Street Bridge, an old standby vantage point where I’ve made countless railroad photos in the last 35 years.

I exposed these views using my Lumix LX7.

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New York City Revisited.

Two weeks ago when in Dublin, I went to see the motion picture Joker, a dark film in a fictional New York City setting of the early 1980s, portrayed in classic DC Comics fashion as ‘Gotham’.

Story-line and characters aside, the film’s scenes, setting and lighting recreated New York City, especially the Bronx, as I remember it from visits with my grandparents in the 1970s and 1980s. Portions of the Joker were filmed in my father’s old neighborhood. My memories were of that stark gritty dark time when graffiti covered subway cars were the norm.

Since arriving back in the USA, I’ve delved into my collection of early photos from New York City, some of which embody that fascinating apocalyptic darkness conveyed in the film, yet were merely the products of exploration of New York with my family.

However, where the film portrayed misery, mental illness, anger and extreme violence in brilliantly crafted cinema-graphic excellence, my photos were the product of child’s view to capture an exciting, albeit dark place, filled with urban wonders, railways, and visually captivating scenes.

Like a muddy river, the chain link fence was both a feature and a barrier.

Some of my early NYC photos were exposed on color slide film, others were on black & white. Almost all were made with my vintage 1930s Leica 3A.

These views were exposed on a very gray day in 1981, when exploring the former New Haven Railroad lines in the Bronx, my dad drove my brother and me to the NYCTA’s Westchester Yards off the Pelham Bay Line.

This was on the flight path to Laguardia Airport, and as I photographed the subway trains, my brother spotted the planes landing.

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Narrow Gauge at Shannonbridge

Earlier this month, I traveled with some friends to Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland to photograph the Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge operations.

Working with Kodak Tri-X in a Nikon F3 with 105mm lens, I made this view of a laden train crossing the River Shannon.

I processed the film using a twin-stage (split development) process: presoaked in Kodak HC110 mixed 1-200 for 5 minutes; then Ilford ID1 mixed 1 to 1 for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F with gentle agitation every minute for 10 seconds. After stop bath (30 seconds), twin fixer baths of 3 minutes each and extensive rinsing, I toned the still wet negative using a Selenium batch mixed 1-9 for 8 minutes 30 seconds.

In addition to this traditional black & white photo, I also exposed digital photos using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras. Color and black & white, film and digital, yes I have most of formats covered.

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New England Central at State Line Crossing—Two Recent Photos.

In recent days, New England Central’s Willimantic, Conn., to Palmer., Mass., turn running as job 608, has been back on its daylight schedule, which sees it reaching Stafford Springs, Connecticut at about 730am.

Thursday (November 21, 2019), I made a morning project of intercepting the train and photographing it on its northward run.

At the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, the railroad crests the top of a divide known as ‘State Line Hill’ and begins its descent toward Palmer. Just north of the top of the hill the tracks cross Route 32, which is where I set up to make my photo.

This view was made using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm prime telephoto.

I aimed to make a split scene, where the highway and railroad cross at the center and direct the eye to opposite sides of the frame.

The subject is the train, which has just caught the sun at the intersection of the state boundary.

The second view in shows the locomotive better, but is a less evocative image.

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January 2020 Trains Magazine—Views from Across the Pond

Trains Magazine cover photo by Jim Wrinn.

My author’s advance copy of the January 2020 Trains Magazine arrived the other day.

This features my latest column titled ‘Observations from Across the Pond’

This begin with one journey and ends up some place altogether.

My column appears on page 15 of the January 2020 issue.
Among the dozens of trains I photographed on my September 2019 visit to Germany was this DB freight led by a new Siemens Vectron electric exiting the Loreley Tunnel along the east bank (right bank) of the Rhein.

Tracking the Light is Brian Solomon’s DAILY Railway Photography Blog.

Central Vermont RS-11 at Palmer—October 1984.

Back in October 1984—35 years ago— I made this nocturnal view of Central Vermont RS11 3606 at the Palmer, Massachusetts yard.

With my Leica mounted on a tripod, I exposed this view using a mix of existing light and electronic strobe for fill light. I’d work with a large Metz flash that allowed me to control the quantity of light being emitted. To soften the blast, I’d squelch the emission to about 1/4th and wrap the flash head in a white trash bag. I’d then make a series of blasts from different angles while leaving the shutter open.

My old Leica 3A had a ‘T’ setting that would leave the shutter open indefinitely. An exposure such as this would require about 30 secs to a minute for me to make the blasts.

This was one of at least four frames that I exposed that October evening so long ago! My notes from the day have vanished, much to my disgust, as I tended to keep records of all my photography.

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Visit to Westport—June 25, 1986—Five Photos.

I was sifting through some old 120 black & white negatives yesterday and found these photographs from a morning’s photography along the old New Haven Railroad in Connecticut from June 1986.

I started the morning in South Norwalk, then moved down to Westport.

Most of the photos from the morning were exposed on Kodachrome slide film, but I made a few select images on Kodak Tri-X using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T using a 645-size ‘superslide’ insert to obtain a rectangular crop.

Amtrak 904 leads the eastward mail train at Westport at 9:18am on June 25, 1986. Kodak Tri-X with Rollei Model T exposed at f8/11 1/500 sec and processed in Kodak D76 at 68 degrees.

Most interesting to me now are the views of Amtrak’s eastward mail train behind AEM-7 904. This carried a group of baggage cars at the back including some from VIA Rail.

While I have detailed photographic notes from the day, what I don’t have recorded were my thoughts on the experience at the time. This was one of several similar trips I made to former New Haven electrified territory in the summer of 1986.

Amtrak mail train with a VIA Rail baggage car.
Catenary masts at Westport draw.

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RIP-Tony Renehan

Tony on locomotive 461 in Dublin in May 1998.

It is with sadness and a sense of great loss that I must report the passing of retired Irish Rail engine driver Tony Renehan. Although it has been a decade since Tony retired from Irish Rail, he had continued to travel on rail tours and was a regular face at Irish Railway Record Society slide shows among other events.

Tony was the first Irish Rail driver that I got to know. I met him in May 1998 on the footplate of RPSI steam locomotive 461 where he sat in command of the engine. My first question to him was about the engine’s valves and we immediately stuck up a friendship.

He was a rare individual whose depth and breadth of knowledge spanned numerous subjects; historical, mechanical and others. His interests were broad within the span of railways, and he was always willing to share his knowledge, but wouldn’t bluff his way when he reached the limit of certainty.

Few men could match his understanding of railway locomotives. On many occasions we met, sometimes over a pint of stout, to discuss the details of locomotives and their operations. I was always interested in what Tony had to say, because no matter how familiar I was with the subject, Tony always had a level of insight, an angle or a question that pushed the envelope of knowledge one step further.

Tony at Banteer, Co. Cork on locomotive 186 in 2006.

I’ll miss our conversations and discussions. And the file remains open on topics he’d sent me to learn more about, but on I which hadn’t yet reported back.

Rest in Peace, Tony!

On the eve of retirement in Jan 2009.
At Nancy Hands on Park Gate Street in Dublin in 2011.

Conway Scenic 7470 Switching in the North Yard—four photos.

At the end of June 2019, I exposed a few frames of Ilford HP5 using an old Nikkormat FTN with 105mm Nikkor Lens of Conway Scenic’s 0-6-0 7470 working the North Yard at North Conway, New Hampshire.

Following my normal presoak procedure; I processed the film using Ilford ID-11 mixed 1-1 with water for 6 minutes 15 secs at 70F.

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Tech Briefs Gives CTech media an Honorable Mention

The news magazine Tech Briefs gave the Creative Technology (CTech) archival media project an honorable mention in their November 2019 issue.

This is the long term archival media project that I’ve been working on with CTech.

The photograph in the article shows one of the glass slides that I processed and prepared for testing on board the International Space Station.

Tech Briefs is monthly magazine that highlights Nasa technology.

Previously on Tracking the Light Post, I offered this summary of the project:

Several years ago my concerns over the lack of long-term archival storage for my growing collection of railroad photographs (and those of my fellow photographers) led me to begin working with scientists at Creative Technology LLC, including my father Richard Jay Solomon, Clark Johnson Jr., and Eric Rosenthal, in order to find a means of preserving photography, especially digital photography, by using proven technologies.

This evolved into a much larger project aimed at preserving and storing all digital media using silver technology—similar to that used to make photographs.

NASA took an interest in Creative Technology’s concept and contracted them to send examples of the storage media to the International Space Station to test its ability to withstand the rigors of the space environment.

Also See: 

http://www.creative-technology.net/CTECH/WORF_NASA_Press_Release.html

If you are interested in learning more about this project contact:

Eric Rosenthal, 732-580-9555 eric@creative-technology.net 

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Amtrak Shuttle Crossing the Connecticut River—February 6, 2019.

Last February the Connecticut River was swollen.

I made this telephoto view of a northward Amtrak shuttle (running from New Haven, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts) using a Nikon F3 with a 105mm lens and loaded with Fuji Acros 100 black & white film.

I like the way the Amtrak train glints in the morning sun.

To maximize tonality and detail, I used a split-development process, first soaking the film in a very dilute mixture of Kodak HC110, then using a more concentrated mix of Rodinal for primary development.

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Conrail and Conway in December 2019 TRAINS Magazine.

Travels have kept me on the move. But last night I finally sat down with the paper copy of December 2019 Trains and read my column on page 13 that talks about New York Central and Conway Scenic.

Cover of Dec 2019 trains.

There I am on page 13!

Here’s the scene I wrote about in the column but didn’t picture in the article. I made a couple of color slides here too.

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Surprise at Ballinasloe—Three Photos.

I really wasn’t expecting what I saw! (Click on Tracking the Light to see the whole story and photos).

It was the second time in as many months that I arrived by train at Ballinasloe, County Galway.

In September, the reason for my arrival was to photograph the Steam Dreams excursion operating with Railway Preservation Society of Ireland engine number 4.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2019/09/14/steam-on-the-midland-at-ballinasloe/

Last week, Ballinasloe was to be the jumping off point for the latest of my Bord na Mona adventures (to be covered in Tracking the Light in the future).

Irish Rail’s Galway line wouldn’t be an operation characterized by variety. Except for the very occasional excursion, the vast majority of movements consist of the common 22000-series Intercity Railcars (ICRs).

So, when I positioned myself at the Dublin end of the down platform, my intent was to document the ICR that I’d arrive upon with Ballinasloe’s handsome Midland Great Western Railway station.

Why was the up-home signal green? We’d just crossed the up-Galway at Athlone.

As the 0735 Dublin to Galway train pulled away, I was startled and surprised to see a pair of 2800-series railcars ready to depart up-road. What was this?

After I made my photos, it occurred to me that this was the weekly equipment transfer for the Ballina Branch. Ah, yes. And perhaps, I should have known.

I’m happy that I had camera in hand to picture this relatively unusual movement. Sometimes, even when you think you know what to expect, something sneaks up and surprises you!

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—THREE PHOTOS—LUAS Vodafone Tram at Dundrum

The impressive cable-stayed suspension bridge at Dundrum is one of my favorite places to picture Dublin’s LUAS Green Line.

A week ago, I timed my arrival at Dundrum to coincide with the passage of the Vodafone advertising tram that wears a colourful temporary livery.

There was perhaps 10 minutes left of sun in the Irish winter sky.

Photos exposed using my Lumix LX7

At left is the old Dundrum railway station—LUAS Green Line operates over portions of the old Harcourt railway line.

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Bord na Mona Sunset

Literally and figuratively.

Friday, it was officially announced that Ireland’s Electrical Supply Board (ESB)  intends to close the Lough Ree and Shannonbridge power stations at the end of 2020.

This doesn’t bode well for the Bord na Mona narrow gauge systems that exist largely to supply these stations with fuel.

A couple of weeks ago on a visit to the Lanesborough system I made this sunset view of an empty train returning to the bog for reloading.

Lumix LX7 photo.

I’ve made dozens of trips over the years to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge railways. While in recent years, it’s been understood that these railways were on borrowed time, I still find sad that they will soon be without their primary traffic.

These are fascinating and wonderful railways with lots of charm and photographic potential.

In 2020, I hope to continue photographing the systems around Lanesborough and Shannonbridge, as well as some of the other Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways.

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Irish Rail 225 on the 0800 to Cork.

This morning, Irish Rail 201-class diesel-electric number 225, recently overhauled after years of inactivity, worked the down 0800 Dublin Heuston to Cork passenger train.

From what I hear, this is the first time this nearly quarter-century old locomotive has worked a passenger train since returning to service.

I made these photos a few minutes ago at Islandbridge Junction while out for my morning walk.

Exposed using a FujiFIlm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

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More Adventures with the Ash Train!

Tuesday last week, my arrival at Sallins, County Kildare by Irish Rail suburban train was merely a jumping off for a much more productive photographic endeavor.

See yesterday’s post,  SUBURBAN TRAINS PASS AT SALLINS.

So Tuesday last week, I met fellow photographer Aiden McDonald outside Sallins and traveled by road for another visit to Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough narrow gauge network. This was my fourth foray in 2019 photographing on this wonderful industrial railway, and my second in less than a week.

My first visit to Lanesborough was more than six years ago and of all the Bord na Mona systems, it is my favorite.

We lucked out and met the empty ash train immediately on crossing the line near Derraghan More, County Longford.

It was bright and sunny and followed the train all the way back toward the Lough Ree Generating Station.

This was just the warm up and for the next six hours we were treated to almost non-stop action on one of Ireland’s coolest little railways.

A meet with a pair of empty trains returning to the bog for reloading.

Sadly this is an Indian Summer for the system, both literally and metaphorically. Word to the wise: time is running short.

Photo adjusted with digitally applied ND Grad using Light Room. A bit heavy handed here by my normal standards of adjustment, but possibly necessary for a more successful image.
Leading the ash train was one of the last locomotives on the Lanesborough system still working in the older Bord na Mona paint livery. This photo also benefits from wee bit of digital adjustment to the sky.

These photos were made using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Suburban Trains Pass at Sallins.

Most passengers were heading toward Dublin in the morning. I was heading into the country. That was my train at left.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Most were undoubtedly heading off to work.

I was heading off to make photos.

But wait, was that work? Not in a conventional sense, but I worked diligently at making the best photos I could. Sallins was just the jumping off point—more soon!

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Frame 37: Foreboding Boppard Sunrise

Cloud and mist hung over the Rhein Valley near the bend in the river at Boppard.

Sunrise made for a dramatic sky; this produced a mixing of light and dark, day with night, and color light with black& white film.

Several years someone asked me how I was making the transition from film to digital, I said, ‘I still haven’t recovered from the transition to colour!’

And here’s your proof. This was the final frame on a 36 exposure roll.

Exposed using a Nikon F3 with f1.8 50mm loaded with Kodak Tri-X.

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