Category Archives: photography

Northfield, Massachusetts: New England Central Timeless Monochrome?

Last week on a trip along the Connecticut River Valley with fellow photographer Mike Gardner, I exposed this view of New England Central job 611 at Northfield, Massachusetts.

Exposed on Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3 with a Nikkor f1.8 50mm lens. Film scanned using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner. Negatives adjusted using Lightroom.

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Dynamic View of Chicago Departing Union Station.

I exposed this photo from the back of Silver Splendor as it rolled eastward on Amtrak no48, the Lake Shore Limited.

 For this photo I used my Lumix LX7, and by using a slow shutter speed I allowed the tracks to melt into a sea of motion blur.

Exposure details: f1.6 at 1/5thof a second. Camera steadied by the passenger car.

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Burlington’s Zephyr on Display

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy’s famous Zephyr is one of the most significant trains of the 20thCentury.

In November, I photographed the preserved Zephyr at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, where the historic train set is proudly display in the lobby.

It was great to see the Zephyr in person again. Last time I saw the train back in the 1990s, it was undergoing a thorough cosmetic restoration in Wisconsin.

I’ve written extensively about the Zephyr, describe the train’s context, history and technology.

The Zephyr set important technological precedents. For propulsion, it was the first train powered by the Winton 201 diesel engine, which made it America’s first diesel-powered streamliner—a bit of trivia that might have been less important if the diesel had not ultimately vanquished steam. From a streamlined perspective it was significant as well. The body was the work of Philadelphia-based Edward G. BuddCompany and was constructed from shot-welded stainless-steel using Budd’s proprietary welding technique developed for automobile construction—From my book Streamliners—Locomotives and Trains in the Age of Speed and Style.

You can buy my book from Amazon see:

https://www.amazon.com/Streamliners-Locomotives-Trains-Speed-Style/dp/0760347476

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Chicago Metra in Transition—November 2018

In recent months, Chicago Metra has been painting its older EMD diesels in a modern livery.

My first experience seeing these old engines in new dress was approaching Chicago Union Station on Amtrak number 4.

I made these views ‘on the fly’ from the dutch door of former Burlington Vista Dome Silver Splendor(nee Silver Buckle) that was rolling over old home rails on the last lap of the run from Los Angeles.

I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 18-135mm zoom lens, which gave me necessary compositional flexibly as the scenes rapidly changed.

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BNSF on the move in Missouri.

Rolling east on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, I made a variety of photos of BNSF freights from the train as we crossed Missouri on the way from Kansas City to Chicago.

Here we have one view from a Superliner, one from the dutch door of Silver Splendor and one from that car’s panoramic dome.

Over taking an eastward freight as viewed from Silver Splendor’s dome. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo from the dutch door. A BNSF westward stack near Bosworth, Missouri.
Along the Mississippi near Ft Madison, Iowa, the view from an Amtrak Superliner. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Kansas City: Amtrak, a Dome and a Streetcar!

I’d never experienced Kansas City by rail before.

This was just a brief visit, a mere layover while Amtrak no4Southwest Chiefchanged crews and dropped off and collected passengers.

I made photos of the car I’d been traveling in: former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Budd Vista-Dome Silver Splendor (nee: Silver Buckle).

I like the contrast between the 1956-build streamlined dome and the nearly new Siemens Charger diesel-electric.

Kansas City Icon; FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Crew change for No.4 at Kansas City. FujiFIlm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Old and new: FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.

The modern streetcar was a surprise. I’d forgotten that Kansas City had recently re-adopted this classic form of transport.

Soon we were rolling east toward Chicago!

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January 2019 TRAINS Features my John Gruber Tribute.

Yesterday I received my author’s advance copy of Jan 2019 TRAINS Magazine.

This is the first issue of the new redesigned Trains.

This is an excellent issue and I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy it.

I dedicated my column to my friend John Gruber who passed away in October.

It’s a sad irony that John was with me at Kalmbach Media the day my new portrait was taken for the magazine’s redesign.

Cover of January 2019 Trains.
Here’s an excerpt of my January 2019 column.

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Frontier Yard, Buffalo, December 3, 1988.

It was 30 years ago today that I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide at the east-end of Buffalo’s Frontier Yard.

In this view, there are two westward freights on the former New York Central Water Level Route.

I was fond of Conrail’s six-motor General Electric diesels, and C36-7 6620 caught my eye.

Looking east on the former New York Central on December 3, 1988. Kodachrome 25 slide exposed at f4.5 1/250th of a second.

My notes from the day have gone missing, which is unusual and annoying, because I’ve generally made a habit of keeping detailed note from each trip over the years.

However, I recall that I was traveling with Doug Eisele and Pete Swanson and that we made a tour of Buffalo area freight operations. I exposed this view using my Leica M2 with a 90mm Elmarit.

The day began bright and clear, but by midday clouds had rolled in from Lake Erie.

 

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Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Sunrise at Argentine, Kansas.

Two weeks ago Amtrak’s Southwest Chief greeted a frosty sunrise at BNSF’s sprawling Argentine Yards, west of Kansas City.

I made these digital photographs from the dome and vestibule of Silver Splendor,the former CB&Q Vista-Dome in which I was traveling cross-country.

A rosy sunrise tints my perspective; it sure made this famous yard look like a neat place.

BNSF westbound at Argentine Yard.

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Dusk at Raton, New Mexico.

These days the only regular trains to use the old Santa Fe Raton Pass crossing are Amtrak 3 and 4, the Southwest Chief. The days of helpers over the three percent are all but a memory.

This day two weeks ago: Arriving on No.4, we had more than ten minutes at Raton to stretch our legs and take in the mountain air.

I used the opportunity to make some twilight images of Silver Splendor, the Budd-built Vista-Dome that I was traveling on.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and Zeiss 12mm Touit lens, I exposed several views in the blue glow of evening. Dusk is a great time to balance the light inside the passenger car with outside illumination.

f2.8 1/15th of a second, ISO 1600.
f3.6 1/15th of a second, ISO 1600.
f3.2 1/15th of a second, ISO 1600.

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Semaphores on the Santa Fe—Five Photos.

Between Albuquerque and Raton Pass (on the New Mexico-Colorado state line) I counted three bastions of Union Switch & Signal style-T2 upper quadrant semaphores on our journey over the former Santa Fe in Vista-Dome Silver Splendor.

I watched the blades drop from the vertical as we passed—a scene I’d not witnessed for many years.

The view of a semaphore dropping from ‘clear’ to ‘stop and proceed’ as seen from Vista Dome Silver Splendor on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.
Lumix LX7 photo near Las Vegas, New Mexico.
East of Las Vegas, New Mexico. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.
FujiFilm XT1 photo.

In 2018, these signals represent the last large collections of active semaphores on any North American mainline.

The Style T2 was detailed in my book Classic Railroad Signals in a sidebar titled ‘Sante Fe Semaphores Survive in New Mexico’ by John Ryan and the late John Gruber.

Classic Railroad Signals was published by Voyageur Press in 2015. It is available at:

https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9780760346921/Classic-Railroad-Signals.html?direct=1

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Irish Rail Four-Wheel Cement—May 2005.

Yesterday, 30 November 2018, I located a collection of my Irish Rail slides from 2005. Among them were these views of ‘bubble cement’  trains (consisting of pressurized four-wheel powdered cement wagons) passing Islandbridge in Dublin on 26thof May that year.

These were exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) and processed at Photocare on Abbey Street in Dublin.

I scanned these using an Epson V750Pro flatbed scanner making large TIF files, then made colour and contrast adjustments using Lightroom to improve presentation. In addition, I also implemented some digital sharpening to make the photos prior to outputting as scaled JPGs (for Internet presentation) to  make these appear closer to modern digital images.

Irish Rail 134 and 156 lead a Platin to Cork cement train at Islandbridge Junction on 26 May 2005. Exposed using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 45mm Zeiss lens.
Empty cement led by Irish Rail 077 approaches the Phoenix Park Tunnel in Dublin on 26 May 2005. Exposed with a Nikon F3T.

Irish Rail stopped operating cement through Dublin about a decade ago, and so these views are now historic.

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Relics at Lamy, New Mexico—November 2018.

As we approached our station stop Lamy, New Mexico, I relocated from Silver Splendor’s dome, where I’d been enjoying the old Santa Fe mainline journey at the head-end of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, tothe car’s dutch doors to make photos of antique equipment stored line-side near the station.

The ability to photograph from opened dutch doors is a rare pleasure on modern trains.

In my youth, I’d spent hours soaking in the atmosphere in the vestibules of trains, making photos with my old Leica 3A.

Santa Fe Southern at Lamy, New Mexico.
Santa Fe Southern at Lamy, New Mexico.
Lamy station, New Mexico.

Amtrak station Lamy, New Mexico.

I exposed these modern photos using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Rail Runner at Albuquerque—November 2018

‘I shudda taken that left turn at Albuquerque’—Bugs Bunny.

I always associate Albuquerque with the Warners Brothers Cartoons.

So it seems appropriate that the New Mexico suburban train is called the Rail Runner and features a stylized cartoon bird on its side.

Not my finest effort, but it shows the cartoon bird on the side of the Rail Runner. Lumix LX7 photo.

‘Beep! Beep!

I exposed this view from the vestibule of dome car Silver Splendoron Amtrak’s Southwest Chief paused at the Albuquerque station

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‘Santa Fe All the Way!’ Arizona Sunrise Rolling East on the BNSF Transcon.

Last week, I awoke to sunrise east of Flagstaff, Arizona riding in Budd Vista Dome Silver Splendor as it traveled east on Amtrak no.4, the Southwest Chief.

The luxurious 1956-built stainless steel dome is a classic car from America’s streamlined era.

It was on its way to a new home on the East coast after years being based in California.

The pleasure of traveling in a Vista Dome is enjoying its comfortable elevated panoramic view of the passing scenery. An added bonus on BNSF’s former Santa Fe Transcon is the unceasing parade of freights.

Sunrise on the Santa Fe east of Flagstaff, Arizona on November 18, 2018. Notice the headlight of an approaching BNSF freight.
Sunrise on the Santa Fe east of Flagstaff, Arizona on November 18, 2018.
Overtaking an eastward BNSF freight east of Dennison, Arizona. 90mm view.
Rolling east at Winslow, Arizona. 90mm view from Silver Splendor.

These images were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1. Some of the photos were adjusted in post processing to compensate for the dome’s tinted glass.

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Brief Barstow Visit and a Flash From the Past.

Amtrak’s eastward Southwest Chief, train number 4, made a relatively long stop at Barstow, California, affording me time to explore and photograph historic rolling stock (displayed near the platforms) by the Western America Railroad Museum.

I find it strange to see once-familiar locomotives exhibited as static displays. In the 1990s, I regularly photographed Santa Fe’s FP45, such as number 95 seen at Barstow. Back then these were working machines. Today, 95 a decayed appearing vestige of another era.

Compare the static equipment—displayed like dinosaur bones to a curious public—with Budd Vista dome Silver Splendorin consist on the Southwest Chief.The dome is a functional piece of equipment on its transcontinental journey from Los Angeles to its new home.

Growing up in New England, I had a childhood fascination with Barstow, which I viewed as a treeless desert Mecca of all good things Santa Fe. Although I’ve photographed in Barstow several times over the years, this one short nocturnal visit was especially surreal.

All photos were made handheld with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

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Inky Gloom and Artificial Light: Metrolink at Riverside California.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

Key to my success was the high ISO setting (ISO 5000) and auto white balance setting that adjusted and balanced myriad artificial light sources.

Lacking a tripod, I positioned and steadied the camera on the half open ‘dutch door’ of private passenger car Silver Splendor as it was paused across from the Metrolink train storage sidings in Riverside, California.

My exposures were about 1/2 second at f2.8 (ISO 5000).

To make the most of the photos, I imported the camera RAW files into Lightroom and adjusted highlights and shadows to make for more pleasing final images.

November 17, 2018, Riverside, California.
November 17, 2018, Riverside, California.

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Tracking the Light Extra: Fullerton by Night—Dome Car on the Southwest Chief.

Saturday evening, November 17, 2018, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief—train number 4—made its scheduled station stop at Fullerton, California, its first after departing Los Angeles Union Station.

Budd Vista Dome Silver Splendor  was in consist on its big trip east.

The dome was met by some of its California fans who waited trackside to see it off on its journey.

Silver Splendor was making the trek to its new home on the East Coast after many years entertaining travelers in the West.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, train no.4, pauses at Fullerton, California.
Former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Budd-built Vista Dome on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief at Fullerton, California on November 17, 2018.
Fullerton, California.
A view East on the old Santa Fe at Fullerton. Seven hours earlier I’d been making photos from that footbridge.

I exposed these views hand-held using my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Fullerton by Day: Metrolink from LA.

On November 17, 2018, I made this view of Metrolink train 662 eastbound on the old Santa Fe at Fullerton, California.

To make the most of the palm trees that line the platforms, I cross-lit the train, exposing from the north-side of footbridge over the line.

Metrolink’s white locomotive hauling a mix of white and  stainless-steel cars effectively reflect light on the shadow side of the train, which make for a more even exposure and help balance the photograph by compensating for the otherwise inky darkness of the high-sun shadows.

These views are looking west . I used a telephoto lens that compresses the row of palms.

Some seven hours after I made this image, I was back at Fullerton again. Stay tuned for my nocturnal views from the same station.

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Silver Splendor at Los Angeles Union Heading East on Number Four.

One week ago, former Chicago Burlington & Quincy Budd-built Vista dome Silver Splendor (originallySilver Buckle) was positioned behind the baggage car on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, train number four.

This elegant stainless steel streamlined car was about to embark on a transcontinental journey towards its new home.

Amtrak 87 leads train no.4 waiting to depart Los Angeles on Saturday August 17, 2018.

Photos exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

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Palms, Sun and Glass: Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.

I prefer the term  ‘Anaheim Station’.

Last week, working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, I exposed these digital photos of one of California’s most modern, and most impressive railway stations.

This is such an impressive looking building that I drove past it while I was trying to find it!

Slightly diffused mid-morning sun made for nearly ideal lighting to make the most of this facility.

Would front lighting make for a better photo?
Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center is abbreviated ‘ARTIC’.
Backlit diffused sun with overhead skylights made for a difficult exposure.
View with a 12mm Touit lens.
Footbridge to go from the station building to the Metrolink platforms.
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, train 1565, paused at Anaheim. 12mm Touit view.

Do you have any favorites?

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Metrolink Pacific Sunset.

Last Friday, November 16, 2018, as the sun dropped near the horizon and a layer of cloud and haze filtered the light, I repositioned myself from San Clemente Pier, northward to the Metrolink Station at San Clemente, California.

I selected my location in order to make photos of a southward, Oceanside-bound suburban train with the sun setting over the Pacific.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, I exposed several sunset silhouettes as the train arrived onto the station platform.

To make the most of the sunset lighting, I exposed manually for the sky, allowing the locomotive and cars and other terrestrial objects to appear dark.

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Blasted Charger on the Beach: What to do when you over expose.

I was hoping to make a photo of one of Amtrak’s new Siemens Charger locomotives working the Pacific Surfliner.

I typically set my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera manually.

Most of the time this works well, as I gauge my exposures using the in-camera histogram. However, I’d become distracted immediately before the train arrived in the scene, and I grossly over exposed my sequence of photos.

Luckily, since I typically expose both RAW and JPG files I was able to work with the overexposed RAW image and correct for some of my exposure error using Lightroom.

Below are examples of the overexposed camera JPG and corrected RAW files, as well as a screen shot of the Lightroom work panel showing the position of exposure, contrast, and saturation control sliders into order to show how I successfully corrected the photo.

This is the unadjusted camera JPG which shows the degree of overexposure.
This is my first version of the restored image, a Lightroom produced scaled JPG created from the camera RAW file. Notice how I was able to extract highlight detail all but lost in the Camera JPG above.
My refined restored version of the over exposed photo.
Here’s the screen shot of my Lightroom work window. Notice the positions of the adjustment slider controls and histogram.

This is what some might call ‘Fixing it in Photoshop’, although I used Photoshop’s cousin, ‘Lightroom’, rather than the classic program.

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Flash from the Past: Southern Region Slamdoor EMUs at Herne Hill, London.

I exposed this vintage Fujichrome colour slide using a Nikon N90s in March 1999.

My reason for selecting Herne Hill was to picture the Eurostar in third rail territory on its run from Waterloo International to the Channel Tunnel. Catching this suburban train as it passed the junction was just happen-stance.

The old slam door cars are now more than a decade gone from revenue working, and to me this photo seems like a long time ago.

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4 Views: Los Angeles Metrolink at San Clemente Pier, California.

Just a few views of Metrolink trains on the old Santa Fe Surf Line at San Clemente, California.

California evening sun, surf and palm trees make for a nice light in a pleasant setting.

I exposed these photos from San Clemente Pier last Friday.

Using an 18-135 zoom lens gave me the needed flexibility to adjust my field of view as the trains passed.

Metrolink train 641 at San Clemente.
Los Angeles Metrolink train 641 at San Clemente, California.
Los Angeles Metrolink train 641 at San Clemente, California.
Los Angeles Metrolink train 609 at San Clemente, California.

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BNSF Stack Train at Fullerton, California—November 2018.

The triple-track mainline at Fullerton, California is a great place to watch and photograph trains.

In addition to a steady procession of transcontinental container traffic, Amtrak and Metrolink passenger trains operate over the line and make stops at the old Santa Fe station.

Centralized Traffic Control with bi-directional signaling on all three lines allows dispatchers flexibility to route trains in either direction over any mainline track. There are crossovers immediately east of the station platforms.

The challenge of photographing from the pedestrian bridge is navigating the wire mesh. While my Lumix LX7 with its small diameter lens did a better job of getting through the fence, I opted for my Fuji camera because I wanted a longer telephoto lens to bring in the stack train which had stopped on the middle line waiting for a signal.

BNSF Stack Train at Fullerton, California. I made this view on Friday November 16, 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
I made this view on Friday November 16, 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
Trailing view of the eastward double stack at Fullerton featuring locomotives working remotely as ‘Distributed power’ at the back of the train.

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Vermonter Crosses the Connecticut at Windsor Locks

On the afternoon of November 14, 2018, I exposed this view from the east bank of the Connecticut River looking across toward Windsor Locks as Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossed the circa 1906 New Haven Railroad-built bridge.

To help balance the contrast and better retain detail in the sky, I used an external graduated neutral density filter made by Lee Filter.

This is a 0.9ND or three stops grad filter.

In addition, I adjusted the camera RAW file to maximize highlight and shadow detail, control contrast and improve saturation.

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Tram passing the Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava.

Back in 2006, I made this view on Fujichrome Sensia of a rebuilt and modified Tatra tram passing the  Slovak National Theatre, in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Slovak National Theatre on 31 May 2006.

Slovakia is among the countries I profile in my new book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, now available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

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Brian Solomon is presently traveling.

Los Angeles Green Line at LAX

After arrival at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), I made my way to the Metrorail light rail station.

You have to take the LAX ‘G’ bus to get there.

Buying the fare took a bit of skill.

This photo was exposed in ‘Scene-mode, night photo’. It is a composite image created digitally.

Once up on the platforms, which are elevated high above ground level at the Aviation-LAX station, I made a few photos of passing trains using my tired and battle work LUMIX LX7. Then I boarded a Green Line train to change for the Blue.

I processed these photos using  Adobe Lightroom.

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Classic Dutch ‘Hondekop’ EMUs at Eindhoven

In May 1996, I exposed this color slide of Nederlandse Spoorwegen ‘Hondekop’ (dog face) electric multiple units at Eindhoven.

The Netherlands is among the countries I profile in my new book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, now available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

Vintage Dutch trains at Eindhoven, The Netherlands on May 22, 1996.

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Morning Freight on the old Boston & Maine.

On the morning of November 14, 2018, I made these views of Pan Am Railway’s EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland, Maine manifest freight) crossing the Connecticut River as it left it’s western terminus on the old Boston & Maine Railroad Fitchburg route.

This side-lit scene benefitted from diffused directional light and a textured sky.

FujiFilm XT1 set for Velvia color profile with 18-135mm zoom lens.
FujiFilm XT1 set for Velvia color profile with 18-135mm zoom lens.

I exposed the photos using my FujiFilm XT1 and processed the RAW files to reveal maximum shadow and highlight detail while emphasizing the rich morning light.

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Jim Shaughnessy in the October 2018 Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society

 

Cover of the October 2018 Irish Railway Record Society Journal, photo by Mike K. Belshaw, IRRS collection.

The October 2018 Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society features my obituary to American photographer and author Jim Shaughnessy who passed away in August this year.

I paid tribute to Jim and his work, both in America and Ireland, while also explaining how I helped Jim publish his photography in the Journal. Jim was always delighted to be represented in this Irish publication.

A thumbnail view of my tribute to Jim Shaughnessy in the October 2018 Journal.
The Journal did an excellent job of reproducing my portrait of Jim holding his last book ‘Essential Witness’, which features some his finest North American photography. Using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens, I exposed this view on 35mm black & white film during a visit last December.

The Journal is published thrice annually and I’ve been contributing material for nearly 18 years.

To learn more about the Irish Railway Record Society see: http://irishrailarchives.ie

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Tracking the Light Extra! Pan Am Railways Office Car Train Today.

This morning (November 14, 2018), I traveled with my old friends Paul Goewey and John Peters to make photographs of Pan Am Railway’s office car train.

The OCS began its run at East Deerfield Yard for its run down the Connecticut River Line to Springfield and Hartford Line toward Berlin and then to Plainville, Connecticut.

A gust of wind kicks up the dust at East Deerfield Yard filtering the back lit morning sun. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.
Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

Normally the bastion of Pan Am’s well-kept FP9s, today the OCS ran with GP40s because of the need to have cab-signal equipped/Positive Train Control compliant locomotives on Amtrak’s Hartford line and related connections.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

I made these backlit photos in the morning from the old ‘East Deerfield Railfan’s Bridge’, a span soon to be replaced as the new bridge is nearing completion.

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