Category Archives: photography

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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Classic Dublin with Low October Sun—Claude Road.

Monday, 28 October 2019 was a bright day in the Irish capital.

Although the main focus of the day was catching Irish Rail’s IWT Liners and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Haunted Expresses, the weather was conducive to making captivating photos of the more pedestrian trains.

Photographer Jay Monaghan and I had spent the day traveling around Dublin, grabbing angles of the passing trains.

In the afternoon we made our way to the Claude Road footbridge west of Drumcondra Station and set up for the outbound RPSI train.

While waiting, I made this view of an outbound ICR (intercity railcar) working the afternoon Dublin to Sligo service. In the distance is the Croke Park stadium. Further, are the iconic ‘Chimneys’ or ‘Stacks’ for the Poolbeg Generation Station.

135mm view with a FujiFilm XT1.
Wideangle photo exposed with a Lumix LX7.

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Model Railway Exhibition at Blackrock.

Last Sunday, 27 October 2019, I traveled to Blackrock College in suburban Dublin to attend the South Dublin Model Railway Club ‘Model Railways and Hobbies Exhibition’.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I made a few dozen photos of the trains, displays, presenters and attendees. Below is a selection.

Often when photographing model railways I work with comparatively slow shutter speeds. In some circumstances this allows for greater depth of field, in others it helps convey a sense of motion.

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Spooky Retro Special.

Tonight is Halloween.

Last night I processed a roll of Rollei 80S Retro that I exposed last summer.

The timing was apropos.

I made these images using my Nikon F3 with f1.8 105mm lens. My cousin Stella was visiting from the West Coast and we were exploring spooky graveyards in Western Massachusetts.

You may wonder why I waited nearly four months to process the film. Was it an infusion of Irish spirits and pucas that lent inspiration?

No, it was actually simpler than that. My preferred developer for Rollei 80S Retro is Rodinal and in Dublin I keep a healthy volume of this antique solution on hand. So I brought the film with me from America for processing in Dublin. However, distractions and writing have kept me occupied for weeks and I just got to souping the film last night!

I have an adjusted recipe for this very unusual film that yields stunning results.

Rollei 80S Retro will provide superb tonality, super fine grain, and a deep rich black when processed properly.

I’ll be posting more view to my Instagram account over the coming hours and days. See my photos on Instagram at: briansolomon.author

Tracking the Light looks to the Dark Side Tonight!

Making the Most of a Magnificent Bridge.

Last week it was dull and cloudy in Dublin. I was on a quest to find a bag for my vacuum cleaner, and was wandering shops and shopping centres on Dublin’s North Side.

During this quest, I called into the Hugh Lane art gallery on Parnell Square.

Now, I had no illusions of finding a bag for a Henry Hoover there. Instead, I wanted to gaze upon the paintings. You know, as you do.

Entering one of the galleries, a painting of a bridge immediately arrested my gaze. However, rather than merely wandering up to it, I first looked at the selection all around it.

This one painting stood tall among the rest. As it turns out it was a Monet of London’s Waterloo Bridge.

According the description, Monet had rented accommodation near the bridge, and painted this one bridge more than 40 times. Now that impressed me.

Also, in this painting, Monet opted to portray a dull, misty morning, when the combined effluence of smoke, steam, and pollution mixed with the mist to diffuse the light adding depth and mystery.

A few days later, I was in Drogheda, County Louth, where I aimed to picture Irish Rail’s immense Boyne Viaduct.

No mist and smog for me this day. But one bridge image tends to inspire another.

So here we have the down Enterprise Dublin to Belfast. (But that’s not the train I aimed to picture in Drogheda).

Next time in London, I’ll endeavor to photograph Waterloo Bridge. Although I doubt I can do it justice.

Oh, just in case your curious, I never found a bag for my Henry Hoover! These seem to be very elusive items in the Irish Republic, apparently.

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Great Northern Railway Compound at Laytown Viaduct.

Saturday, 26 October 2019, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland ran a series of trips using Great Northern Railway (Ireland) compound 4-4-0 number 85. on old home rails.

This presented ideal opportunities for photography.

Too often steam locomotives are operated mid-day in high light, which present poor conditions for photography. Saturday’s trips benefitted from low late October sun and cool conditions.

I set up at Laytown where late afternoon sun illuminated the viaduct over an Irish Sea estuary.

The clouds were a nuisance, with dark shadows covering the scene until moments before the locomotive charged northward across the bridge toward Drogheda.

I exposed this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

Thanks to everyone at Irish Rail and RPSI for making Saturday’s steam trips a success!

See: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com

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Irish Rail 225 Back On the Roll!

After nearly a decade hiatus from revenue service, Irish Rail class 201 number 225 is again working trains.

Yesterday, Monday 28 October 2019, photographer Jay Monaghan and I walked up to Cabra and patiently waited for 225 that was leading the down IWT Liner (North Wall in Dublin to Ballina, County Mayo.)

Giving the train an extra bit of color were 11 hot-pink ‘ONE’ 40-foot containers, which are relatively new to Irish Rail.

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Sunshine at Mount Dillon—Two Views in County Longford.

Here’s two digital photos exposed last week: coming and going: One oriented in the portrait format and one in the landscape.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm prime telephoto, I made this view of an empty Bord na Mona narrow gauge train returning to the bog for reloading.

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This view shows the pair of empty trains at Mount Dillon.

Lucky meet at Lanesborough!

Brilliant sunny skies in County Longford made for an auspicious foray into Bord na Mona country.

Finding narrow gauge trains is part of the challenge.

Last week I was traveling with Mark Healy and Aiden McDonald . I was acting as navigator, and worked with my iPhone and my collection of annotated Ordinance Survey maps as we scoured the bog lands looking for movement.

While the first couple of locations were quiet, when we arrived at this overhead bridge near the Lough Ree Power Station in Lanesborough, I spotted a laden train.

Within a minute, we could hear trains coming from both directions and were afforded a running meet! Neat!

I exposed these views using my Lumix LX7. Working in Lightroom, I adjusted contrast and exposure to compensate for the extremes between light and dark.

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Locked in Portabello.

Years ago I lived a few blocks from the Grand Canal in Portabello, Dublin.

In more than five years there, I never once saw a boat traverse the locks.

Last month during a walk along the old canal with some friends, I watched a floating restaurant navigate one of the locks, which made for some 18th century entertainment.

I exposed these views using my Lumix LX7.

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CinCinnati Union Station—17 Years ago.

I was driving from Madison, Wisconsin to Roanoke, Virginia on October 25, 2002.

I stopped at Cincinnati to make photographs of Fellheimer & Wagner’s art deco masterpiece: Cincinnati Union Station, a railway station inspired by Helsinki’s Main Station.

This was among the photos I made on Fuji Acros 100 using my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with the super wide-angle flat-field 16mm Hologon. I featured this station in my book Depots, Stations & Terminals, published by Voyageur Press.

Seventeen years ago! Gosh!

Tracking the Light is like the Energizer Bunny!

Dusk on the Corridor—October 25, 1991

Twenty eight years ago on this day, my brother Sean and I made a survey of the former PRR electrified mainline south (timetable west) of Philadelphia.

Rather than literal interpretations, I was aiming for something more interpretive.

I’d bought a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 160 slide film. This featured a ‘tungsten balance’ designed to work with incandescent lamps and so featured a very cool color temperature, which accentuates the effect of dusk.

My notes from the day are nearly 4,000 miles away, so I can’t tell you which suburban platform on which we were standing when I made this time exposure of a rapidly approaching Amtrak train in the blue glow of the evening.

What I remember most from that evening was a sky filled with migratory birds, chirping, singing and squawking as they flew by.

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Signal Sunset Sunburst—34 Years Ago!

On this day in 1985, I exposed this view at Palmer, Massachusetts using my father’s Rollei Model T.

I silhouetted the setting sun behind the northward home signal at Central Vermont’s diamond crossing with Conrail’s Boston Line.

This old search light was soon replaced with a modern color light. Last year that signal was again replaced by even more modern hardware.

120 Verichrome Pan exposed with a Rolle Model T with Zeiss Tessar. Processed in D76. Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985

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Experimenting with A Lumix LX100.

For me the Lumix100 poses an imaging quandary.

It is an excellent tool. The camera is compact, well-built, packed with features, and has a superb lens that contributes to stunning image quality.

Fota Island, Cork.
Midleton, Co. Cork.

My difficulty with the camera is fitting it into my arsenal of imaging tools.

The LX100 lens range is lacking compared with my other cameras. It is fine for photos exposed in the ‘normal’ range. Its zoom spans the range from 24 to 75mm. In my younger days that range would have been enough to offer me virtually everything I needed for my photographic vision.

I’ve been spoiled by wider and longer lenses. These days, I want to push the range of view just a little further. I often see images that are beyond the range offered by the LX100.

That says more about the way I photograph than about the LX100.

As readers of Tracking the Light are aware, I carry a Lumix LX7 with me just about everywhere. While the LX100 is unquestionably a better camera, the LX7 suits me better for three reasons: 1) it is very compact and light weight, so fits nicely in my jacket pocket 2) it is comparatively inexpensive so when I wear it out or destroy it, I’m not out of pocket for a huge replacement sum. 3) The LX7’s zoom lens covers my vision more closely.

That said, I’m now coveting an LX100 because it is such a fantastic image making tool. Also, because its narrow zoom range limits my comfort zone, it will force me to make better photographs and consider compositions that otherwise I might not see.

But that is just speculation now. Last week, I gave back the borrowed LX100 to Denis McCabe who had lent it to me. I made about 500 photographs with the camera during the week I had it in my camera bag. As I write this Denis and his LX100 camera on are a grand adventure to the far side of the globe.

I’m still sifting through my LX100 images. There’s many more.

Carrigaloe, Cork.
Glounthaune Village, Cork.
Irish Rail Mark4 interior.

Tracking the Light Explores Photography Everyday!

Kanturk Castle.

In the rain we approached the ruins of the 17th century mansion house known as Kanturk Castle in rural north Co. Cork.

This spooky hollow of century old stones hints at ambitions long forgotten, banquets feasted upon, and a way of life long past. In truth, except for the brief description of the structure posted in front of it, I know virtually nothing about it.

Yet the ruins make for compelling photographs. I made these colour photos with my Fujifilm XT1, whie simultaneously working with a Nikon F3 and Tri-X black & white film. When I finish my current book project, I’ll process that film and begin scanning.

What do these photos have to do with railroads? Well, Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin and I came across the castle while we were following the abandoned branch that ran from Banteer via Kanturk to Newmarket. The branch ran nearby the old castle.

Ironically, while the castle ruin is centuries old and the railway was only abandoned in 1963, there’s precious little left of the railway line, and in some places we were unable to find tangible evidence of the line to photograph!

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Stop the Car!

Often I have a pretty good idea what’s on the program. Yet, sometimes when traveling, I come across completely unexpected.

So for me this was a surprise: The Linmag Railgrinder at Banteer, County Cork.

So let’s back up: last week it was dull and drizzly. I was traveling by road with Ken Fox in rural north county Cork. As we approached Irish Rail’s Banteer Station, one of the railway’s smaller halts, I spotted this Linmag rail grinder in the sidings east of the station platforms,  I said, ‘whoa! Stop the Car!’

Ken found it amusing, when I leapt out, cameras in hand, to photograph this interesting rail maintenance equipment.

Irish Rail doesn’t own its own modern rail grinder so it contracts Linmag to profile its rails.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1.

See: https://www.linmag.com

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CONRAIL EXTRA APRIL 1, 1989

For me Conrail was always interesting to watch; I never knew what might show up next.

On April 1, 1989, Conrail was 13, having begun operations on that date in 1976.

I awoke to find heavy snow blanketing the fields and trees of western New York. I met up with Doug Eisele and we drove out into the late season snow seeking trains.

The coolest thing we photographed that day was this Conrail HAZ extra running east from Niagara Falls over the Southern Tier route.

I was always keen on the former Erie Railroad, so that made this comparatively unusual move of great interest to me.

Today, I’m keeping my mind focused on completing my Conrail book. If it’s not Conrail, I’m not paying attention, which has complicated breakfast options. (That’s a Big Blue joke).

Tracking the Light is Conrail Focused Today.

Conrail Rolling!

At 351pm on September 20, 1989—Just over 30 years ago—I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron near Silver Creek, New York.

Although a favorite slide, this is one of thousands of Conrail photos I reviewed for my latest Conrail book that didn’t make the final cut.

This weekend I’ll put the final touches on the manuscript and send my selection of photos to Kalmbach so that the book may enter its next phase of production.

Tracking the Light Rolls with Conrail this weekend!

Cobh Junction‑Glounthaune, Co. Cork—Revisited.

The trackage arrangement at Irish Rail’s Cobh Junction, Glounthaune gives the location great photographic interest.

Here the Cobh Branch and Midleton lines divide.

Historically, the line to Midleton (left) had continued to Youghal and was envisioned as a scheme to continue on to Waterford. Later the Cobh Branch (right) was built to reach the old port at Queenstown (Cobh).

The Cobh Branch developed as double-track suburban route, and ultimately the priority of the lines at the junction was reversed.

By the 1980s route via Midleton to Youghal had languished and allowed to go fallow. Ten years ago, after decades of inactivity, Irish Rail rebuilt and revitalized the route as far as Midleton. Today both lines are busy with passenger trains.

A Cobh Branch train bound for Kent Station, Cork approaches Glounthaune station.

This week, Ken Fox gave me a tour of Cork area railways, including trips along the Cobh and Midleton routes.

I made this view from the station footbridge at Cobh Junction, Glounthaune using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

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Lumix LX100 at Littleisland, Co. Cork.

Sunday, 13 October 2019, I exposed this view of an Irish Rail 2600-series railcar at Littleisland on the Cobh Branch destined for Kent Station, Cork.

For me this was a test of the Lumix LX100 that Denis McCabe lent me.

The scene is cross-lit; so the sun is off-camera to my left, leaving the railcar on the ‘Dark Side’ while the signal cabin is brightly illuminated. Complicating the contrast are the fluffy white clouds and a polarized sky above.

This image was adjusted from the camera-RAW file using Lightroom. I darkened highlight areas to obtain greater detail, while lightening shadow regions, and used a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold detail in the sky.

Two points: I find the RAW files from Lumix LX100 exceptionally sharp; and the files have very good dynamic range which gives me plenty of room to make adjustement in situations with extreme contrast.

More Lumix LX100 photos soon!

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Cork Talk Tonight!

This evening, Tuesday15 October 2019, I’ll be presenting a slide show and talk featuring my travels in Spain and Portugal to the Munster Branch of the Irish Railway Record Society at the Brú Columbanus Rooms at Cardinal Way, Wilton in Cork City.

The talk begins about 8pm.

This evening it will be Real slides, not imitations!

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Lumix LX100 Second Test

A few years back I tested a LUMIX LX100 digital camera.

I very much liked the camera, but had just invested in a FujiFilm XT1.

I’ve recommended the LX100 to several photographers.

This week, Denis McCabe, who acted on my advice purchased an LX100 and has been getting very good results with it. He has lent me his camera for further evaluation.

On Friday, 11 October 2019, I traveled by Irish Rail to Portarlington and exposed these photos as a test.

More tests and analysis to follow!

On Friday, 11 October 2019, I traveled by Irish Rail to Portarlington and exposed these photos as a test of an LX100 digital camera.

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Through the Mists of Rhein!

One September 2019 morning on Germany’s Rhein, clear skies were obscured by a thick mist hugging the river. As the warm rays of the rising sun graced the tops of the nearby hills, the mist cleared, which made for some cosmic lighting.

I exposed these photographs digitally using my FujFilm XT1. But I also exposed a few colour slides using a Nikon F3 with 105mm lens.

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