It was just a year ago, March 30, 2019, that I exposed this digital image of a Comboios de Portugal (national railway of Portugal) passenger train winding along the picturesque Douro Valley near Aregos .
Denis McCabe and I had spent a week documenting Portuguese railways. Fine weather and excellent scenery combined to make this an enjoyable and successful Iberian adventure.
For this photo, I worked with my compact Lumix LX7. This compact camera produces outstanding results, owing in part to its Leica Vario-Summilux lens. Previously on Tracking the Light I published some of my Douro Valley photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.
In the mid-1980s, my friends and I would convene at Washington Summit on Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline.
Located in the Berkshires, several miles timetable east of the old station at Hinsdale, the summit offered a good view in both directions and a pleasant, quiet place to wait for trains.
On this May 1985 afternoon, the chugging of an eastward freight could be heard for several miles before it came into view. I opted to frame the train with the Top of the B&A sign.
This sign was replaced in the 1990s; Conrail was divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern in 1999; the old Bullards Road over bridge (seen in the distance) was removed in 2003; and the trees have grown much taller. So there’s not much left of this scene today, although the tracks are still there.
Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with Canon f1.8 50mm lens.
Yesterday, David Swirk issued a statement explaining why the Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operations as planned in April. I’ve included an excerpt of the statement below.
In recent weeks, I’ve been continuing to photograph, video record, and prepare advertising materials for the railroad. I’ve included a few photos of the way things appeared at North Conway on March 20, 2020.
We continue to plan for our delayed reopening.
Excerpt of Friday’s statement.
Conway Scenic Railroad will not resume operation as planned in April 2020. This is in compliance with the recently issued New Hampshire Stay-at-Home order that is going into effect ll:59 PM Friday, March 27, 2020. This order is in response to the unfolding Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation that is aimed to end the spread of the disease by restricting public movement and preventing non-essential businesses from opening. Conway Scenic Railroad will continue to closely watch the unfolding events relating to the containment of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
On May 14, 1985, I exposed this photo of Pioneer Valley Railroad’s stored RS-3 203 at the railroad’s Westfield, Massachusetts yard.
PVRR was one of the Pinsley-owned railroads.
In 1985, my photographic efforts were supported by a shoe-string budget. I’d buy bulk 100-foot rolls of 35mm black & white film to roll my own cassettes. At the time I was working with a 1938-vintage Leica 3A with a screw-mount Cannon f1.8 50mm lens.
I’d process the film at college using Kodak D76.
Three decades later I’d scan the negatives. I have hundreds of rolls from that era picturing thousands of scenes, most of which can never be repeated.
New York’s Canisteo Valley was among my favorite places to photograph in the late 1980s. The lure of the Erie Railroad and the old Union Switch & Signal Style S signals had captivated my interest.
On the morning of July 19, 1988, my old pal TSH and I were on one of our annual summer rail-photo adventures. We had started before dawn, and picked up a westward Conrail OIBU rolling though the Canisteo toward Hornell, New York.
Trains moved right along on the former Erie Railroad mainline and racing ahead of it in a Dodge Dart, I parked and leaped out of the car at a preselected location at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) and began to set up my photograph.
I was working with equipment I borrowed from my father. The Leica M2 loaded with PKM (Kodachrome 25 professional) was mine, but the 200mm Telyt mounted with a bellows on a Leica Visoflex viewfinder and positioned on a antique Linhof tripod were his.
In our hasty chase, I’d cut my set up time too fine. It was lashing rain and I was struggling to set up and level the tripod, while trying to focus the camera using the Rube Goldburg Visoflex arrangement. My exposure was about f4 1/8 of a second.
Conrail’s BUOI came into view before I had time to refine my composition: this imperfect photo was the result. I recall the frustration of fighting with the equipment as the roar of the train intensified and the rain obscured my vision.
Let’s just say, that at the time I wasn’t impressed with my image. I’d cropped too much of the foreground and the whole image is off level. So for 30 years, it sat in the Kodak yellow cardboard slide box that it had been returned to me from lab in.
Last year, I scanned it. Ironically, this damp-day silhouette closely captures the spirit of Conrail’s Canisteo Valley that had captivated my photographic interest. The reflection of the headlight on the glossy codelines is the finesse that I didn’t manage to capture in most of brighter-day photography.
I’m glad I didn’t throw the slide away.
This morning I cropped and leveled the image in an effort to correct for my failings in 1988. I’m not sure I improved it any.
I liked the old Boeing-Vertol LRVs. (Light Rail Vehicles).
The shape of the cars lent well to photography.
The San Francisco cars reminded me a the old orange creamsicle frozen treats.
Back in December 1990, I made this view of a Boeing car leaving the Geneva Street car house for a run on the M-Ocean line. I was working with my old Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens on my F3T loaded with Kodachrome 25.
I made great use of that lens, but sold it in 1996 when I bought my 80-200mm zoom. In retrospect, I made better photos with the fixed 200mm.
My preferred camera-lens combination in 1997 was a Nikon N90s with Nikkor 80-200 zoom lens.
This versatile set up gave me great flexibility. At the time I was still exposing both Fujichrome and Kodachrome slide film, but was leaning more and more toward Fujichrome.
Ironically, in retrospect I found that camera flexibility doesn’t necessarily produce the best photos. I think this is because the zoom lens allowed me to quickly adjust the focal length and perspective, I didn’t spend the time to properly scrutinize the scene for the best possible image. This not a fault with the equipment, but in how I was using it.
This photo of JR trains crossing an overpass in Tokyo reminds me when I felt the N90S, 80-200mm lens and Fujichrome Provia gave me limitless photographic potential. Maybe it still does?
It was on a misty May 2009 morning that I exposed this Fujichrome slide of a tram in the village of Bad Schandau in Germany’s Elbe River Valley.
This was just a few months before I purchased my first digital camera and when I still exposing lots of color slide film.
Yesterday I scanned this slide using an Epson V750 scanner and then processed the file using Lightroom.
Below are two Lightroom Jpgs. The top is uncorrected, the bottom reflects digital tidying up for internet presentation.
Specifically, I adjusted the gamma for better contrast by putting the darkest regions at the toe of the curve (far left) and moving the highlights to the top of the curve (far right) while increasing contrast in the middle range. I reduced the amount of magenta and increased the yellow for better color balance, and applied a small degree of digital sharpening for edge effect. (This doesn’t actually make the photo sharper, but it looks sharper on screen). Lastly, I made a nominal correction for level by slightly rotating the image (which crops it).
On January 13, 2015, Jack May and I explored NJ Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system to make photographs.
I made this view on Fujichrome Provia100F using my Canon EOS 3 with a 40mm pancake lens—a winning combination for contemporary Transit photos with historical format continuity. (A fancy way of saying, I exposed photos of streetcars on film back in the day, and I still do!).
Traveling to Wrocław Poland from Prague in May 2000 was an adventure, but it seemed like an easy puzzle to solve when compared to trying to locate the Polish letter ‘ł’ (which should appear as a letter ‘L’ but with a slash mid-way through its flank) on my Apple.
The good news is that computers have the ability to provide a variety of obscure characters.
The bad news is that finding these characters hidden in the maze of Apple’s darker recesses requires opaque-puzzle finding skills and supreme patience! (Not my forté!)
I gave up, but Pop was able to pry from the darkness the key to producing a ‘ł’ on the MAC.
Now, I wonder, can you see the ‘ł’ on your device du jour?
Oh yeah, and while visiting Wrocław, I spent some time photographing the trams there.
As a teenager living in rural Monson, Massachusetts, I thought Jersey City was a fascinating urban wonderland.
It was gritty, dirty, decayed and very urban with lots of history.
A virtual playground!
I made this photo at Exchange Place station on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson former Pennsylvania Railroad controlled Hudson & Manhattan rapid transit route between New York City and New Jersey terminals.
As a photograph it isn’t my finest, but I feel I captured my sense of wonder about PATH.
Thursday, February 20, 2020, for the second time in about a week, Conway Scenic dispatched its vintage Russell Snow plow to clear the line to Attitash.
I arrived at the North Conway station at 0545 and was prepared for a chase of the plow westbound. Complicating my efforts was that I had a TV interview with White Mountain TV16 scheduled at 0845.
I cut it a bit fine, but arrived at the studio in ample time to chat with host Rob Clark on air. I don’t think too many viewers copped-on that I’d been freezing in the field making photos only minutes before stepping on set. (I’d changed hats in the interval).