Category Archives: photography

Taking a Chance on Sunset at Bethel, Maine.

In the 1990s, I chased the glint with Kodachrome in my cameras.

Sometimes on the remote chance of getting a one in a 10,000 shot, I’d set up on some lightly used section of track in the golden hour on the off chance that I’d be rewarded.

My chances were better than the lottery

Sometimes I got lucky.

Last Saturday, September 26, 2020, I was driving around western Maine with Kris Sabbatino. We stopped near Bethel to get bottles of water at a convenience store. Ahead of me in line was a woman who spent $81 on a six pack of beer and lottery tickets.

Personally, I feel that lottery tickets are a waste of money. Although my grandfather had phenomenal luck with cards and lottery tickets and sometimes won.

Instead of spending money on the lottery, we took a slight detour to the old Grand Trunk tracks. This is now Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic. Operations are infrequent and largely nocturnal. The number of daylight trains through Bethel in a year can be counted on one hand. This year I’ve been aware of only three.

Despite these remote odds, I set up in the glint light and waited for a few minutes.

I was only rewarded with this sunset view of empty tracks. Yet my odds of success were far better than the lottery and I saved money on the tickets.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 90mm prime telephoto.

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Foliage at 4th Iron.

On Friday evening, September 25, 2020, I exposed this digital photograph on the former Maine Central Mountain Division at 4th Iron using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

There are four iron bridges between Bartlett and Sawyers along the Saco River. The easiest to photograph is 4th Iron, which not only can be seen from Highway 302—that runs parallel to the railroad—but even has its own parking area complete with a sign ‘4th Iron’.

I liked the spot because of the bright red trees on both side of the Sawyers River.

The train pictured is Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer that was returning from Fabyan to North Conway, New Hampshire.

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Martin Stream—File Comparison

Today, I am posting three variations of the same image file.

This is from Sunday’s chase of Pan Am Railway’s SAPPI-3 and pictures the freight crossing Martin Stream near Hinckley, Maine.

The bucolic setting was side lit–a condition that presents a contrast challenge. I made the image using my FujiFilm XT1 with 28mm pancake lens.

Recently, and on the advice of my old pal TSH, I purchased Iridient software, which offers a different interpretation of the FujiFilm RAW files.

Below are examples of the in-camera FujiFilm JPG (using Velvia color profile), a DNG file converted from the Fuji RAW by Adobe Lightroom, and a comparison DNG file converted from RAW using the Iridient software.

All were then scaled and exported using Lightroom. I made identical color and contrast corrections to the two DNG files. (My interpretation, not Fuji’s)

My intent is to compare the Iridient processing with Adobe’s. The Camera JPG is a third reference.

Since this is one of my first experiments with the Iridient software, I cannot claim to be a master of working with it.

I’ve labeled each image below.

FujiFilm in-camera JPG using Velvia color profile. This was scaled for internet presentation with no alternations to color balance, color temperature or contrast.
Fuji Camera Raw converted to DNG by Adobe Lightroom and adjusted for color balance, color temperature and contrast.
Fuji Camera Raw converted to DNG by Iridient and then imported to Adobe Lightroom for color balance, color temperature and contrast correction (same settings as above).

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Maine Central GP38 255—Bangor, Maine.

On August 26, 1986, Art Mitchell was giving photographer Brandon Delaney and me a tour of Maine railways.

We had perfect Kodachrome weather.

Among our stops was Maine Central’s Bangor Yard, where I made this view of GP38 255 working an eastward freight.

I was fascinated by the antique switch lamp in the foreground, which was still part of the railroad’s functioning equipment and not merely a decoration.

I had Kodachrome 64 loaded in my Leica 3A, and I exposed this color slide with a 65mm Leitz lens mounted using a Visoflex (a Rube Goldberg-inspired reflex view-finder attachment) on the screw-mount pre-war (WW2) 35mm camera.

This somewhat awkward camera arrangement was my standard means for exposing color slides at that time. I made careful notes of my exposure, which was f8 at 1/200th of a second. (My Leica 3A used some non-standard shutter speeds.)

Today, I find the GP38 interesting because its sister locomotive, number 252, is a fixture at the Conway Scenic Railroad (although at present it is out of traffic and awaiting repairs).

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Work Train Running east.

These days a morning eastward train is a relatively rare event on Conway Scenic’s former Maine Central Mountain Division route.

On Friday evening, our work train returning from work at Crawford Notch had tied up on the siding at Bartlett. So, on Saturday morning (September 12, 2020) a train crew went out to bring it back to North Conway.

I drove to Bartlett to make a few photos in the crisp morning light.

Canon EOS 7D w 100mm lens.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

These photos were made digitally using my both Lumix LX7 and Canon EOS 7D (with 100mm lens).

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RoadRailer at South Fork March 10, 2001

Working with Fuji Provia 100F loaded in a Nikon F3, I exposed this photo of an eastward Norfolk Southern RoadRailer at South Fork, Pennsylvania on March 10, 2001.

I was traveling with fellow photographer Mike Gardner, while making photos for a book to be titled ‘Modern Diesel Locomotives,’ published by MBI.

I scanned the slide the other day using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 digital slide scanner, driven with VueScan software.

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Sunday Special Photographer’s Mountaineer—September 6, 2020.

This past Sunday, September 6, 2020, I’d organized a special Mountaineer that operated on an extended schedule to allow for a few photo stops along the way.

I traveled on the head-end with engineer Gary McFarland to spot the train at key locations.

I carried two cameras; a Canon EOS3 with 40mm pancake lens loaded with Kodak E100 slide film and a Lumix LX7 digital camera. Below are few of the Lumix photos.

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Conway Scenic Conway Way Freight—11 images.

Last Saturday, September 5, 2020, the second of our Railfan photo freights operated from North Conway to Conway on the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch.

We stopped the freight at several locations during the journey, and made a pick up at Conway.

I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with my 18-135mm Fujinon Zoom lens. Unfortunately, upon arriving back at the North Conway yard, my lens suffered a failure with the linkage inside the lens that controls the range of view, leaving me to work with my Canon EOS 3 film camera for the remainder of the evening.

I’m presently assessing lens/camera replacement alternatives.

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Conway Scenic Railfan’s Weekend—September 5 & 6.

This week I’ve been preparing for Conway Scenic’s annual Railfan’s weekend—traditionally held on Labor Day weekend.

This year the conditions relating to the containment of Covid-19 have imposed a host of constraints that will make our Railfan’s Weekend a more subdued affair than in previous years. Sadly this is unavoidable. However rather than cancel the event, we decide to move forward with it for the benefit of our fans and loyal supporters.

We’ve placed 470 Club’s Boston & Maine F7A 4266 back in service and this will work photo freights on Saturday (boarding at 10am and 2pm at North Conway) and on Sunday it will lead a special Photographers Mountaineer (that will make photo stops on its journey to Crawford Notch).

The railroad hopes to have a variety of its equipment on display, including several pieces that have been sheltered by the roundhouse for most of 2020.

Below are just some of the photos that I’ve made this week, while helping to organize the Railfan’s event.

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Boston & Maine F7A 4266 Works the Mountaineer—four new photos.

Yesterday, Boston & Maine F7A 4266 led the Mountaineer westbound to Crawford Notch.

This may not seem like a big deal for long time observers of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, as it has occurred in previous years. However, it was the first time I’d ever witnessed this locomotive outside of the yard, and the first time I’d photographed it working a train. (This locomotive is owned by the 470 Club, which also owns sister B&M F7A 4268 that is undergoing an operational restoration.)

I thought it was pretty cool to finally see this antique on the move!

All going well, 4266 will work the train again today as well as the 930am Conway run.

Site of the Intervale, NH station.
Bartlett, NH.
Approaching the Gateway at Crawford Notch.
Approaching the Gateway at Crawford Notch.

This coming weekend, September 5th and 6th, Conway Scenic will host its annual Railfan’s Weekend. Owing to constraints imposed by the on-going Covid-19 epidemic, the event will necessarily be scaled back from previous years. However, 4266 is scheduled to work a pair of photo-freights on Saturday, and an Extra Photographers Special Mountaineer on Sunday.

The Photo freight has space for a few passengers, and tickets may be ordered online or from the CSRR ticket office (603-356-5251).

I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.

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Odd Couple at Springfield Station.

In July 1984, I was only a few weeks out of High School. My Pal TSH and I were on one of our photography adventures. Bob Buck of Tucker’s Hobbies in Warren, Massachusetts had alerted us to the fact that Amtrak’s southward Montrealer had suffered a locomotive failure, and had been brought down by a borrowed Canadian National M-420.

At that time seeing a Canadian National locomotive in Springfield was an event, and the M-420s were a rare catch. Over the coming years CN M-420s would become increasingly common on the Central Vermont, but that was in the future and at this time I was very keen to catch this rare bird in home territory.

I made this photo of the foreigner on track 2A at the east end of Springfield Union Station (Massachusetts) along side a row of Amtrak /CDOT Budd-built SPV2000s that were assigned to work the Springfield-Hartford-New Haven shuttle service in the early/mid 1980s. The SPVs would only survive on this run for another couple of years and were relative rare machines.

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East Deerfield Yard, September 30, 1984—Two photos.

I took a break from classes at Hampshire College and ventured to Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) with some friends for a day of photography.

Among the many trains we saw that day was B&M’s EDSP (East Deerfield to Springfield) through freight that operated with a GP18/GP9/GP7 locomotive combination.

At the time this was a refreshing throwback, as more modern and often mixed lash-ups of B&M, Maine Central and Delaware & Hudson locomotives tended to predominate on the east-west Fitchburg route via the Hoosac Tunnel.

I was especially keen to picture GP7 1566, which was among the last to retain its vertical white nose stripe and harked back to an earlier era.

Photos were exposed on Kodak black & white film using my Leica 3A.

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400mm four-photo sequence near Rogers Crossing

The former Maine Central Mountain Division crests a rise just east of  Bartlett near Rogers Crossing (where the railroad crosses Route 302 west of the Attitash Ski area).

Friday, I set up here with my Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens to capture a Conway Scenic work extra west led by GP35 216.

The extreme visual compression afforded by this lens exaggerates the grade profile of the line to show the effect of this rise.

This sequence of images is intended to show the train climbing the grade.  

I selected my focus point manually and initiated the camera’s autofocus independently of the shutter release in order to control the focus to my satisfaction. This separate focus-control is among the features of the Canon EOS 7D.

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White balance—Two Examples.

The other day was bright, but overcast, leading a color temperature quandary. Should I set the white balance to ‘auto’ or something else.

Working with my 10-year old Canon EOS 7D with 20 year old 100-400mm zoom, I made a series of photos of Conway Scenic’s 930am train at Conway, New Hampshire as it prepared for its return run to North Conway.

Significantly, I altered the white balance setting between these two images. For the first: the zoom was set at 170mm, and the white balance was at ‘auto white balance’; in the second image the zoom was set to 180mm, and the white balance was manually adjusted to ‘overcast’ which warms the scene.

Auto white balance.
Overcast white balance.

Both images are scaled for internet presentation from in-camera JPG without adjustments to color temperature, color balance, exposure, contrast or saturation.

Someone may ask which white balance setting is ‘true’, and unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. Each of us sees color slightly differently and our brains provide an automatic white balance. There is no one right answer, only an approximate compromise.

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Boston & Maine Silhouette.

June 15, 1985 was a memorable day.

It dawned clear and bright.

On the advice of Ed Beaudette My pal TSH and I started the day at White River Junction, Vermont, where we spent several hours photographing the parade of trains.

By midday, Boston & Maine’s CPED was headed south toward East Deerfield, Massachusetts and we followed it to make photos.

The sights and sounds of four Boston & Maine GP9s working in multiple will always stick with me.

At the time we weren’t well versed with the lay of the land, and did our best to follow the Connecticut River line with little more than a basic map.

At Claremont, New Hampshire we stumbled upon the famous high bridge, just moments before the southward CPED rolled across.

Working with my father’s Rollei Model T loaded with 120-size Kodak Verichrome Pan roll film, I exposed a single frame of the freight in silhouette crossing the bridge.

I processed this in Kodak D76. My processing skills were only slightly better than my ability to find locations on the fly. In retrospect, I should have used a different developer, or at least used a more dilute solution, because my resulting negative was over developed and lacking in broad tonality.

In later years, I refined my photographic skill, however I can’t go back to catch four B&M GP9s on the bridge, so I have to work with the existing negative.

For presentation here: after scanning the original negative, I imported the hi-res scan into Lightroom, where I implemented a variety of contrast and exposure adjustments to make for a more visually pleasing image and then outputted a scaled lo-res scan for internet presentation here.

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Seaboard System 1984

Seaboard System was a short-lived grouping of Seaboard Coast Line and affiliated properties that superseded the ‘Family Lines’ name prior to the amalgamation of these railroads into CSX Transportation.

In December 1984, I exposed this view of Seaboard System GE diesels switching south of downtown Orlando, Florida on the former Atlantic Coast Line main line.

Ilford FP4 black & white film exposed with a Leica 3A. Film processed in Kodak D76.

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Union Pacific at 3rd Street in West Oakland, California.

Here’s a gem from my black & white archive.

Working with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens, I exposed this image on 35mm Kodak Tri-X black & white film. I processed this in Edwall FG7, which allowed for richer tonality than D76 (my more typical developer of the time).

In April 1991, this was a common scene in West Oakland, California, before Union Pacific bought Southern Pacific, the railroad accessed the region via the former Western Pacific. WP route reached the Oakland yards via street trackage on 3rd Street (which ran parallel to SP’s street trackage on Embarcedero via Jack London Square, two blocks to the south).

It was the era before ditch lights were common equipment on UP locomotives. This freight is westbound.

When I revisited Oakland in 2008, I found little trace of the 3rd street trackage, with all moves now concentrated on the former SP line through Jack London Sq.

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Severn Valley at Bewdley

In 2004, I paid a visit to the Severn Valley Railway while photographing for a calendar on British Steam Railways.

Of the preserved railways in the UK, the Severn Valley is among my favorites and one of the most photogenic.

Finding this slide in my collection reminded me that I’m long overdue for another visit.

I made this photo of Erlestoke Manor leading a southward train toward Kidderminster using a Nikon loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide film.

To make the most of this vintage slide, I made a multiple-pass scan with a Nikon Super Cooolscan500 slide scanner powered by VueScan software then imported the hi-res scan into Lightroom where I adjusted contrast, color balance, color temperature, saturation and the exposure of the sky.

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GP35 at Conway.

Yesterday morning, August 20, 2020, offered near-perfect late summer light.

I traveled on the 0930 train from North Conway to Conway and made photographs of the locomotive, a former Norfolk & Western GP35 that is painted to resemble a classic Maine Central locomotive and lettered for Conway Scenic Railroad.

Although, I rarely post classic ‘three-quarter’ locomotive roster photos on Tracking the Light, I thought I’d do so here, along with other angles. All were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

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Hidden Wonders at Philips, Maine.

Following up on yesterday’s Tracking the Light Post . . . Kris Sabbatino and I had found the tracks of the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes two-foot gauge tourist railroad recreation and decided to investigate!

A covered bridge once carried tracks over this river at Philips—Lumix LX7 photo.

Using the powers of the internet we learned there was more to see than the small station at Sanders; so we drove toward the village of Phililps, Maine and down the appropriate side street. A sign advising hikers and railfans provided the needed clues.

Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes must be one of these Brigadoon Railways that comes to life at infrequent intervals but spends most of the time secluded deep in a forest.

We met no one. We saw nothing on the move. We took only pictures. And left without a trace.

The historic Sandy River & Rangely Lakes gave up the ghost in 1935. This is relic from the original operation.
Some wee diesel disguised as a Forney. Lumix LX7 photo.
The original SR&RL roundhouse burned to the ground in 1923 destroy three fine locomotives in the process. This is a recreation. Lumix LX7 photo.
You just never know what lurks among the trees! Lumix LX7 photo.

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Elusive Two Foot Gauge at Sanders Station.

We were aware that there was a contemporary two-foot gauge tourist railroad on a portion of the historic Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes—a once extensive line that succumbed during the Great Depression.

So, on a recent drive around rural western Maine, Kris Sabbatino and I visited Philips, Maine and were delighted to find the small station at Sanders, where two-foot gauge tracks met the road.

The sign on the station read ‘Trains will run in 2021’.

After making a few photos, we decided to explore further . . .

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Danville Junction Then and Now—Three photos.

In October 1999, I made this view of a meet between the Great Train Escapes tour train and a St Lawrence & Atlantic freight. Both trains were led by MLW-built M-420 diesels.

Eastbound at Danville Junction in October 1999.

Since that photo 21 years ago, much has changed at Danville Junction,

The trees have grown; the track arrangement was simplified, the St Lawrence & Atlantic was amalgamated into the Genesee & Wyoming network, the MLW diesels have vanished from the scene, and the tour train doesn’t operate any more.

Looking east at Danville Junction in June 2020.
Former St Lawrence & Atlantic alignment at Danville Junction in June 2020.

In June, Kris Sabbatino and I paid a brief visit to Danville Junction, my first since 1999. It was a surreal experience for me. So little of it seem familiar.

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Four Views from the New Haven Line—1980.

When I was young, my brother and I would take the train from Springfield or Hartford to visit my grandparents in the Bronx. Starting in 1977, I’d always carry my vintage Leica 3A fitted with 50mm Summitar lens and loaded with Kodak black & white film.

We typically traveled on an Amtrak Budd RDC or SPV-2000 self-propelled railcar to New Haven, where we would change for a through train to either Rye, New York or Grand Central. My parents would buy us tickets and I’d usually take care of the travel logistics.

I don’t recall the specifics of this trip. These images were on an isolated strip of negatives stored in a glassine negative envelop with only ‘1980, Amtrak/C-Dot New Haven Line’ to identify it.

C-dot train at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
New SPV-2000 on the Danbury Branch at South Norwalk, Connecticut.
New SPV-2000 on the Danbury Branch at South Norwalk, Connecticut.
Stamford, Connecticut

I doubt that I was photographing through the glass—If you know what I mean.

I would have processed the film in the sink at home in Massachusetts using Kodak Microdol-X developer.

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Searchlights and a Tunnel Motor at Cabazon

Here’s a classic from my Kodachrome file: Southern Pacific SD40T-2 8378 West ascending Beaumont Hill on the Sunset Route at Cabazon, California on January 30, 1994.

I had Kodachrome 25 loaded in my Nikon F3T, which was fitted with an f5.6 Tokina 400mm lens.

My focus point was not on the front of the locomotive, but rather on the searchlight signal to the right of the train. Since the signal was the emphasis of the photo, you may wonder why I didn’t move a little closer to make it appear larger. The reason is simple: I wanted to include the ‘Cabazon’ sign on the signal relay cabinet, which identifies the location and was key to the interlocking.

Just in case you are curious, the second locomotive in the train consist is a Conrail SD40-2.

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MBTA Green Line Boeing-vertol on Kodachrome.

January 6, 1993 was a clear bright morning in Boston when I exposed this telephoto view of this MBTA Boeing-Vertol light rail vehicle at Cleveland Circle.

I was working with my of Nikon F3T loaded with Kodachrome 25. Last month I scanned this slide at 4000 dpi, then scaled it using Lightroom for presentation here.

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E100-Final Frame of a Stormy Sunset

I’ve been experimenting with Kodak Ektachrome E100 slide film.

Kodak reintroduced Ektachrome in 2018/2019, several years after production this once popular film had been suspended.

I exposed one roll in Portugal in March 2019 and I was pleased with my results.

In the last couple of months, I bought more of this film and loaded it into my Canon EOS-3.

This photograph was exposed in July 2020 as a storm cleared over the North Conway station at sunset. It was my last frame in the camera, so there was no opportunity for bracketing.

Richard’s Lab in California processed the film, and a few minutes ago I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 digital scanner powered by VueScan software. Since the slide is relatively dark, I opted for a multipass scan to extract the maximum data possible.

I processed the scan in Lightroom and lightened one version while softening the contrast.

Below are my results.

Unadjusted multipass scan of original E100 color slide exposed in July 2020.
Scan adjusted using Lightroom to brighten overall exposure while controlling highlight and shadow areas.

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St. Lawrence & Atlantic crossing at Mechanic Falls, Maine—A lesson in Ilford HP5.

In June, Kris Sabbatino and I inspected the former Grand Trunk line at Mechanic Falls, Maine.

For some viewers the details of the process may seem like minutia, for me it is integral to my Black & white photography. Being in control of the process gives me the ability to make better photographs—Distinctive images that stick in the mind and resonate. 

For this photograph, I exposed Ilford HP5 using a Nikon F3. I processed the film using customized split development, starting first with Kodak HC110 diluted 1-300 with water for 6 minutes, followed by Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water warmed to 70F for 7 minutes, followed by stop bath, dual fixing baths, first rinse, Permawash, and a 10-12 minute final wash, then final rinse in distilled water.

I first used Ilford HP5 in 1982, on the advice of my photo instructor Mark Bistline. Over the last 38 years I’ve slowly refined my process to get nearly the ideal tonality for the images I expose with it. Why ‘nearly’?, because I’m always tweaking my recipe.

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Conway Scenic Publicity Train

On August 12, 2019—one year ago—I’d organized a special publicity run over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch to make photos and video of Conway Scenic’s then ‘Notch Train’—the train soon to be rebranded as the ‘Mountaineer’.

This departed Crawford eastbound just after sunrise.

I had preselected scenic locations along the former Maine Central Mountain Division where we stopped the train for static photos and organized roll-bys for video.

I was working with three still cameras that day, while Adam Bartley worked with the company video camera.

Our operating crew was Mike Lacey and Joe Costello.

These photos were made with my Lumix LX7. Several images from this run have since appeared in Conway Scenic advertising and in magazine articles.

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Cal Train at King.

In October 2003, I made this view of Cal-Train F40PH 914 leading train 74 at 7th and King Street in San Francisco.

You can easily tell this is train 74, because Cal Train put numerical train ID’s on the locomotives displayed near the cab windows. It was among the peculiarities of this intensely operated former Southern Pacific suburban operation.

This image nicely illustrates the difference between a train number which delineates a service and a locomotive number that identifies a piece of equipment. Just in case you were confused.

Exposed on Fujichrome film with a Nikon N90S.

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Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington on Film.

Here’s some nice cool photos from January.

I’d exposed a single roll of Provia 100F with a Nikon F3 on January 18, 2020, during the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington’s “Grand Reunion” event that I attended with Wayne Duffett.

I’ll admit; I wasn’t rushed to get my film processed.

To reduce the cost of shipping, normally I batch process film, by sending in five or more rolls at time to my lab of choice. These days I’ve been using Richard’s Lab in California, which has been giving me good results with their E6 processing.

This particular roll was stranded in Massachusetts, partially because of the Covid-19 outbreak & travel restrictions etc, and partially because I’ve been focused on North Conway, New Hampshire, where the Conway Scenic Railroad has occupied much of my working time.

Finally, I got the film back yesterday! I scanned a few of the images for display here using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan software. I scanned these at 4000 dpi and made multi-pass scans to extract the maximum amount of date from each image and thus make the most of the film’s high dynamic range.

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