Category Archives: railroads

Tracking the Light EXTRA: Author’s Advance of July Trains!

My author’s advanced copy of the July 2018 Trains has been eagerly awaited.

July 2018 Trains will be available soon!

In addition to my monthly column, I authored and illustrated two large feature articles.

The first is a detailed nuts and bolts discussion on Positive Train Control signaling, the second a travel guide to one of my favorite places: Germany’s Rhein.

I’m extremely pleased with how both stories turned out. Special thanks to my hosts at SEPTA for allowing me to better understand the intricacies of their modern signaling. And thanks to everyone at Trains Magazine for bringing these stories to print!

My SEPTA PTC story starts on page 24, this is half of the opening spread that spans two pages. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss lens.
Travel down the Rhine beginning with my two page opener on pages 34-35. Can you guess which photo(s) in this feature were exposed on film and which are digital?

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Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe is available from  the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01304

SNCB at Brussels Midi 22 Years Ago!

Upon arrival from Köln, Germany On this day, 25 May 1996, my father and I made photographs in the rain at Brussels Midi.

I’ve since returned to Brussels on many occasions when the weather has been more hospitable.

Brussels is among the cities profiles in my new book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, now available from Kalmbach Books/Kalmbach Hobby Store.

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Classic Chrome: On this day, 24 May 1996 Views along the Rhein.

Classic Chrome: On this day, 24 May 1996 Views along the Rhein.

On this day in 1996, my father and I made a circle trip along the Rhein from Köln to Koblenz, traveling south via the Right Bank and north via the Left Bank lines.

Working with two cameras, I exposed these views on Kodachrome and Fujichrome slide film.

Looking back, its amazing to see how much has changed on German railways in the last 22 years.

Confluence of Rhein and Mosel rivers at Koblenz. 24 May 1996.
DB shunting locomotives at Koblenz Hbf on 24 May 1996.
View of a northward freight on the Right Bank line along the Rhein from the walls of the Festung Ehrenbreitstein (fortress).
A northward IC train passes Namedy, Germany at speed behind a class 103 electric.
Minutes later a northward EC (EuroCity) long distance train passes Namedy, this view with a 28mm lens.

The scenic Mittelrhein are among the great railway trips profiled in my new book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, now available from Kalmbach Books/Kalmbach Hobby Store.

My new guide book on European Railway Travel with a cup of Barry’s Tea.

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Terrible Railroad Pictures? Tips for Overcoming Common Problems

Bad timing, poor exposures, lousy composition and blurred images can all result in missed opportunities.

Was it human error or an equipment malfunction? You got to the tracks in time but your camera didn’t perform as expected. Is there something wrong with your camera, or was it simply set the wrong way.

There’s the moment of frustration  when you press the shutter release and nothing happens, or the auto focus goes haywire, or you realize the camera is in  a ‘mode’ and not the right one for making railway pictures—All well and good if you have time to resolve the problem, but if a train is passing at speed, you might end up with regrets rather than results.

Nice angle, interesting subject, but the dreaded ‘shutter lag’ may make your life difficult. (Shutter lag simulated digitally for effect).

Even if you are an experienced railroad photographer, you should take the time to learn the peculiarities of your equipment and double check the exposure and focus settings BEFORE you expect a train to enter the scene.

Earlier, were you using the self-timer? Be sure to turn it off again before you expect to use the camera for making action photos.

Why was the camera set to manual? AND why was it a f22 at 1/8000 of a second?

If you don’t know why, that’s going to be a problem. So step back and go over the basics. Or rely on ‘automatic’ modes until you have the time to cover that properly

Locomotive headlights can confuse camera autofocus systems. The result may be that at the very moment you need to rely on autofocus, it fails you.

One potential solution, if the autofocus starts hunting wildly quickly point the camera away from the headlights and allow it to find a focus point, then point it back at your subject.

Another solution: before the train arrives in the scene, auto focus on a preset point, then switch the autofocus off so that it won’t attempt to refocus at the last minute.

Autofocus problems tend to be more acute on dull days and in low light.

No pixels were harmed in the making of this post.

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Bill Hough Reviews Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe

Bill Hough has posted a excellent review of my new book, Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe on Trn.trains.com

Thanks Bill!

Check out my new guide book See link:

http://trn.trains.com/railroads/2018/05/book-review-brian-solomons-railway-guide-to-europe

Click the link above to read the review.

To buy the book from Kalmbach Publishing click HERE.

The cover of my new book features the medieval tower at Oberwesel, Germany.

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When East is West: Two Trains at the Junction.

I’ve been making photos at the Junction at East Northfield since the 1980s.

The other day, on the third visit in two weeks to this iconic New England location (where New England Central’s line connects with Pan Am Railway’s Conn River route), I had a reckoning.

It occurred to me that railroad timetable ‘East Northfield’ is actually north and west of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts.

How is this possible?

Some Highway maps show railroad ‘East Northfield’ in West Northfield.

This timetable location has been called ‘East Northfield’ since the steam era,  and the present NECR sign reflects this historic geographic incongruity.

New England Central’s northward 611 (running from Palmer to Brattleboro) holds south of the junction at East Northfield for Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, led by P42 number 59. (Don’t get me started on train numbers versus engine numbers!)
Amtrak 56 accelerates away from the junction at East Northfield, clearly identified by the New England Central sign at left. Back in the old days, there was a railroad station on the right side of the tracks, and that was the ‘East Northfield Station’.
After Amtrak 56 completed its station stop at Brattleboro and cleared railroad location at West River, NECR’s dispatcher gave northward freight 611 permission to proceed. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.

No doubt at some point in the future, the geography will be retro-actively re-written to accommodate this oversight on the part of historic railroad timetable writers. What will they make of my captions!

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Vermont Rail System; the Dark Side.

On Friday May 11, 2018, I made this view of Vermont Railway System SD70M-2 432 ascending the grade at Mt. Holly on Green Mountain Railroad’s former Rutland.

Over the years I’ve made a number of photos at Mt. Holly, and I like to work the ‘dark side’ of the tracks here, because it better features the old siding that is still in place there.

This telephoto cross-lit dark-side view also adds a sense of drama and better features the mountains in the distance.

Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens; ISO 200 f5.6 1/500thof a second.

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Still at Work after all these Years: New England Central GP38s.

New England Central began operations on the former Central Vermont Railway in Febraury 1995 using a dozen freshly painted secondhand GP38s.

More than 23 years later, and two changes of ownership, and New England Central still has a handful of these old GP38s working in the same paint scheme.

Last week, a matched pair of these engines was working the Willimantic-Palmer freight, job 608.

I made an effort to catch these venerable diesels on the roll.

New England Central 3857 leads the southward 608 at Stafford Spring, Connecticut. I was aiming to feature the blossoming tree at the right. Photo adjusted in post processing.
New England Central 608 approaches the Route 32 overbridge south of Stafford Springs, Connecticut in May 2018.

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Pan Am’s ED-4 Rolls Ballast on the Connecticut River Main Line.

For nearly 35 years, locomotives have worn Guilford gray and orange paint. The scheme is has been out of vogue since introduction of the new Pan Am liveries about ten years ago, yet a few of the locomotive are still working in the old paint.

I made these views of GP40 316 working local freight ED4 hauling state-owned ballast cars southward at Hillside Road in South Deerfield.

Is this tighter version a better photograph?

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens. I opted for the ‘darkside’ angle in order to better feature the hills in the distance (that make this a distinctive location) as well as the tie-piles that indicate the improvement to the track is on-going.

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Acela Express Cross-Lit on the Draw.

Yes, I’m trying to pick a title that will get you to read this post.

I could call it ‘Fast Train on the Bridge’ or ‘Amtrak on the New Haven’, or ‘What? NO! Not Westport, Again!’ Or perhaps the accurate, if opaque, ‘Trailing View over the Saugatuck.’

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. To make this photo work, I had to carefully mind the shadows from catenary poles so they didn’t appear to intersect the sloping face of the Acela Express train set.

In late April, I made this trailing view of a Boston-bound Acela Expresstilting train crossing the former New Haven Railroad draw bridge at Westport, Connecticut.

By working from the outbound Metro-North platform in the evening, I cross lit the train for dramatic effect and to better show the infrastructure.

Cross-lighting, is when the main light source (the sun in this case) primarily illuminates only the facing surface of the subject, while the  surfaces are bathed in shadow. This presents a more dramatic contrast than three-quarter lighting, which offered relative even illumination across the subject.

Cross-lighting is often most effective for railroad photography when the sun is relatively low in the sky. In this instance the compression effect that results from the long telephoto lens works well with the cross lit train.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. To make this photo work, I had to carefully mind the shadows from catenary polls so they didn’t appear to interect the sloping face of the Acela Expresstrain set.

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Class 201 Retrospective: Northern Irish Railways 8208 Everywhere but the Enterprise.

Next up for my 20 years in Ireland/class 201 numerical retrospective is old 208/8208: to be different, I’m posting views of 8208 (one of two Class 201s owned by NIR for Enterprise service) working a variety of trains but not the Enterprise!

Originally, the locomotive was number 208, and it had been painted in an attractive NIR blue livery, similar to the 111-class diesels.

I never saw it in blue.

208 as I first saw it; a thumbnail scan from a slide I made in 1998.
Working a Dublin-Waterford train at Athy in July 2003, shortly after it was renumbered 8208.
For few years 8208 worked in a unusual variation of the Enterprise livery, as pictured here on an RPSI excursion near Clonsilla on the Sligo line in 2009.
NIR 8208 in the latest Enterprise livery working Irish Rail’s IWT liner from Ballina at Memorial Road in Dublin.

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In the Shadow of the Jungfrau—One Year Ago Today!

On this day (23 April) 2017, I was photographing at Grindelwald, Switzerland while researching my Railway Guide to Europe. (Just published by Kalmbach Books).

See: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01304?

I made these views from the station platform at Grindelwald, where the Bernese Oberland Bahn (BOB) meets the Wengernalpbahn. The Wengernalpbahn drops into the valley toward Grindelwald Grund, where the line reverses for the steep rack-aided ascent toward Kleine Scheidegg.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens. Bright morning sun made for perfect lighting on this dramatic mountain scene.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens. A Wengernalpbahn train descends toward Grund.

This was among the many lines Denis McCabe and I photographed in Switzerland that week.

In my book, I offer a variety of useful and practical advice for traveling European railways, while highlighting scenic journeys, interesting routes, and some of Europe’s most interesting cities and towns. The book compiles more than 20 years of European travel in to just over 400 pages.

Click here to order Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

I exposed the cover photo in Germany’s Rhein Valley using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

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Lisburn Station on a Sunny Morning.

It was nearly two weeks ago that I exposed these views on a clear cold morning at NI Railway’s Lisburn Station.

There’s nothing like a polarized sky and low sun. The photos almost make themselves.

These were exposed using my Lumix LX7.

Soon afterward I was rolling along toward Portadown.

A clear blue dome; great conditions for photograph.
Lisburn Station is among the best preserved former Great Northern Railway stations.
GNR’s heralds are still in place on the canopy supports.

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Western Rail Corridor Train Arriving Limerick

On Saturday, 7 April 2018, I made these photos of an Irish Rail 2800-series railcar working a Western Rail Corridor service from Galway arriving at Limerick’s Colbert Station.

I used my Lumix LX7, then working with the RAW files in Lightroom, made nominal adjustments to colour temperature, contrast and highlight density.

Lumix LX7 photo at Limerick.
Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts has posted Daily for almost five years.

 

 

Ireland’s Most Colourful Train?

Easter Monday, photographer Jay Monaghan and I were in position at Memorial Road in Dublin to catch the RPSI carriage transfer on its way from Connolly Station to Inchicore.

These were the same carriages featured in yesterday’s post, ‘Steam Crosses Dublin’s Loop Line’.

Getting from Dubin’s city centre to Memorial Road, required a well-timed sprint to catch the 25B bus.

Although we were hoping for Irish Rail 073 in heritage paint, 201-class locomotive 232 in silver, green and  yellow added colour to RPSI’s heritage train.

Irish Rail 232 leads RPSI’s Cravens up the gullet on Easter Monday. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Tight telephoto trailing view of the RPSI train heading toward Inchicore Works.
Although the train is slightly more distant, I prefer this training view because the trees to the left of the line aren’t cropped.

So, was this Ireland’s most colourful train on Easter Monday 2018?

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Steam Crosses Dublin’s Loop Line.

This scene presented three visual challenges;

  • Dublin’s Loop Line is a difficult bridge to picture trains upon owing to a high degree of foreground and background clutter, complex lattice girder construction, and brightly coloured graffiti.
  • Tank locomotive number 4 is an awkward mass and largely painted black that makes for a hard subject to picture satisfactorily, even on a good bright day.
  • It wasn’t a bright day; the lighting conditions were flat (low contrast) and bland.

Further complicating matters, there wasn’t more than a few seconds warning before the train entered the scene, so I needed to be poised.

Friends on board assisted my timing by keeping me up to date as to the location of the train.

I made my views from the Rosie Hackett Bridge (opened in 2014) looking down river toward Dublin Port.

Rather than work with a zoom, I opted for my fixed focal length 90mm telephoto on my FujiFilm X-T1. This gave me a wider aperture, allowed for shallow depth of field to help distinguish the train from its background, and is a very sharp lens  corner to corner.

DART electric suburban trains made for opportunities to make practice photos to test exposure, depth of field, focus and composition.

As the train clattered across the bridge I made several exposures, trying to minimize the distractions of bridge infrastructure and background clutter.

My first view of RPSI No. 4 on the bridge. This subtly shows Dublin port in the distance and features traffic on the south quays.
This is probably the best of my efforts. I adjust the contrast locally to help emphasize the smoke from the engine. I suppose that’s cheating in some eyes, but all I did was enhance the smoke to help show direction and that the engine was working and not static.
How about this view of RPSI’s nice painted Cravens carriages? The rippled patters in the Liffey was an attraction of this angle.

Although these are nice attempts, I’m not 100 percent satisfied, but without better light and an elevated view, I’m not sure how I could have made substantially better photos.

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Santa Fe in the Tehachapis: On This Day 25 Years Ago.

This was one of dozens of Kodachrome slides I exposed in California’s Tehachapi mountains on April 3, 1993—25 Years ago today.

Fellow photographer Brian Jennison and I were on an epic excursion making images of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe trains.

For this view I’m standing on a hillside near Tunnel 2 looking toward Bealville of a westward Santa Fe intermodal train. It was a beautiful Spring morning and the purple lupin flowers were in bloom.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a 35mm perspective control lens (with adjustable front element).

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NI Railways Celebrates 50 Years Today!—1 April 2018

NI Railways marks 50 today!

The other day, I made a few views of the celebration stickers and posters.

Lumix LX7 photo.

To help celebrate, I’m also posting a view I made of an old 80-class railcar at Whitehead back on 19 April 2000.

19 April 2000 at Whitehead. Fujichrome photo exposed with a Nikon.

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Steam on Retropan.

On one level, it seems appropriate to make images of steam locomotives and their environment with Retropan. ‘Retro on Retro’ right?

Yet, I know many old-school black & white photographers would object to the essential qualities of Retropan black & white film, which by design is comparatively soft and grainy.

Yes, there are sharper films; and of course there’s colour, not to mention digital, but the reason I chose Foma Retropan for these photos was because of the gritty quality it offers.

Someone might ask why does the RPSI run a steam locomotive, when there are more efficient diesel railcars available?

Connolly Station, exposed on Retropan 18 March 2018.
Connolly Station, exposed on Retropan 18 March 2018.

Ooo! Look an efficient diesel railcar. And it’s on Retropan too! Drumcondra, Dublin.
Approaching Glasnevin Junction, Dublin.
Maynooth.
Locomotive number 4 at Maynooth. Notice the modern signal in the distance and the bright lamps on the locomotive.

 

Psssst! I also made some colour slides, and a whole bunch of colour digital image on the same day.

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My new book ‘Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe features RPSI trains in its section on Ireland.

It is due out in May 2018 and may pre-order the book from Kalmbach Books: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com

For details on  RPSI and passenger excursions see: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com

Class 201 Retrospective: Old reliable, 203.

As part of my 20 years in Ireland/201 numerical retrospective, I’ll offer just a couple views of Irish Rail 203.

My memories of this engine are largely the blast a horn and the rush of air as it passed with Mark 3 carriages in tow on the Dublin-Cork line.

My first summer photographing trains in Ireland was characterised by gray days and dirty 201s. I don’t recall why, but Irish Rail had let its fleet become manky at that stage. Irish Rail 203 blasts through Hazel Hatch mid summer 1998. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia 100 with a Nikon F3 and 135mm lens.
On 23 Jan 2005, Irish Rail 203 approaches Cherryville Junction with a down train from Dublin. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia with a Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon lens.

One instance stands out about the others though: I was showing some American friends around the island; we’d borded the Cu na Mara Mark3 international set at Heuston behind locomotive 215 destined for Galway. We got as far as Hazel Hatch, when 215 coiled up and we were sent into the loop to await a rescue loco from Inchicore.

Guess which engine was sent to bring us to Galway? (This is not a trick question).

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Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 2: Boston & Maine east of Reynolds.

At the end of December 2017, I revisited Mechanicville, New York with an aim of making some contemporary photos at the same angles as images I’d made back in November 1984.

Then and Now comparisons are common enough, but what makes these photos significant is that I’ve exposed both the historic photos as well as the modern images  using the same type of film and equipment (a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar loaded with Kodak 35mm Tri-X).

I describe my technique in the earlier post:

See: Mechanicville, New York; Then and Now Part 1. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5ha].

These pairs of photos show the Hansen Road Bridge east of Reynolds, New York, which is just a couple of miles from XO Tower at Mechanicville. In the 1984 views, my friends and I were following an eastward Boston & Maine train.

Back then the B&M route was much busier than it is today, although the line still carries a good share of freight.

Double track from Mechanicville extended east to an interlocking (which I believe was called ‘Schneiders’) east of Reynolds and near Schaghticoke. The main tracks were grade separated on approach to the interlocking, which made this a distinctive location.

Maine Central 252 leads an eastward Boston & Maine freight at Hansen Road east of Reynolds, New York. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X with a Leica IIIA with 50mm Sumitar. November 1984.
Comparison view on  December 29,  2017 also with a Leica IIIA, 50mm Sumitar and exposed on Tri-X. Sorry there’s no MEC GP38 in this view! (You’ll need to visit the Conway Scenic to see that). The other main track was lifted in the early 1990s after a decline in freight traffic on the B&M route.
Trailing view from Hansen Road, November 1984. The open top auto racks really date the photo.
Comparison view from Hansen Road on December 29, 2017. The trees have really grown up in the last three decades.

In the 33 year interval between photos, the Hansen Road bridge was replaced, which slightly alters the angle for photography.

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TRAINS Hot Spots on Sale in Easons

Trains Magazine’s special issue ‘Hot Spots’ with my article on interpreting railroad signals is on sale at Easons on O’Connell Street in Dublin.

I exposed the lead photo at DeKalb, Illinois on a March morning 23 years ago using a Nikkormat FTN loaded with Fujichrome.

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Holywood Sunset?—Febraury 2018.

At Holywood, NI Railways skirts the Lagan estuary on its way from Belfast to Bangor.

Although a mostly overcast afternoon,  hints of colour and the occasional shaft of light appeared in the evening sky.

I’d been trying to put the pieces of a lighting puzzle together where I could feature an NIR train with the dramatic sky, but I didn’t manage to get what I envisioned.

By the time I found the optimal location for a photo with a train, the really dramatic light had faded.

I exposed these views with my Lumix LX7.

Sunset over the Lagan looking toward Belfast. Exposed with m Lumix LX7.
Train on the left; dramatic light on the right. (And no suitable location on the far side of the tracks.)
This location would have made for a perfect angle of a train with the dramatic sky, but by the time I reached this spot the light had faded. You can’t win all the prizes.

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Class 201 Retrospective: Irish Rail Class Leader Locomotive 201

To mark my twenty years photographing Irish Railways, I thought it would be a neat exercise to display images of each of the 201-class General Motors diesels in numerical order. I’ll intersperse these posts with other Tracking the Light features.

Today, I’m beginning with the class leader. This engine famously arrived in Ireland in a Russian-built cargo plane.

That event was before my time in Ireland, but I made hundreds of photos of engine 201 around Ireland before it was withdrawn from traffic and stored at Inchicore.

On 23 May, 2003, Irish Rail 201 leads a Dublin-Galway train at Athenry. Exposed with a Contax G2 with 28mm lens on Fujichrome Sensia.
It was on 6 April 2005, that I framed Irish Rail 201 in the bridge arch at Thurles, County Tipperary. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor lens.
Begin in 2005, Irish Rail began applying a variation of its orange and black livery to the 201s that featured largely yellow ends to make the locomotives more visible. Class 201 works a Rugby special at Cherryville Junction in 2006. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3 with 180mm lens.

Next in this series, I’ll feature never before published photos of Irish Rail’s very elusive 202.

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Retropan Test—Further Experiments with a New Emulsion.

Tracking the Light focus on creating photos and this post is about the nuts and bolts of working with black & white film, and pursuing means to refine the process.

What better way to spend a damp, windy snowy day, then to expose and process black & white film in new ways?

I’d read about ‘stand processing,’ but I’d never tried it.

Stand processing uses developer at very low-concentration with virtually no agitation for very long process times.

Among the potential advantages of stand processing is greater tonality with exceptional highlight and shadow detail. A secondary benefit is that it requires much less developer. Also, I wondered if I could better control granularity by eliminating the effects of agitation (the answer from this test was: no).

I’d previously experimented with Foma Retropan, a modern film rated at 320 that emulates the effects of traditional emulsions. For those photos I processed the film in Foma’s specially formulated Retro developer. I found the negatives to be grainy, but offering a distinctive tonality with soft highlights.

See: Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-4Bj] and

Unexpected Results: My Third Experiment with Retropan. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-4BP]

Below are some examples of Retropan using stand development in Agfa Rodinal (mixed 1:100 with water) for 40 minutes, 10 seconds agitation at beginning of development, and again at the end. Development temp 74 F.

Retropan stand process for 40 minutes in Rodinal mixed 1 to 100 with water. 135mm lens.
Retropan stand process for 40 minutes in Rodinal mixed 1 to 100 with water. 24mm lens.

For comparison, a couple of hours later  I also exposed more Retropan and processed this in Agfa Rodinal Special (as distinct from ordinary Rodinal) but with agitation and short process times; one batch (mixed at 1:32) at 68F for 4 minutes;

Retropan 4 minutes Agfa Rodinal Special with 10 second agitation every 30 seconds, plus 9 minutes selenium toner. 24mm lens.

A second batch (mixed at 1:32) at 70F for 70 minutes. I then toned these negatives for 9 minutes in a selenium solution to boost highlight detail.

Retropan 7 minutes (70F) Agfa Rodinal Special with 10 second agitation every 30 seconds, plus 9 minutes selenium toner. 50mm lens

This is a work in progress and I have no formal conclusions, but makes for some interesting images.

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Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

Yesterday I was thrilled to receive my Author’s advance copy of my Railway Guide to Europe.

This represents a culmination of more than 20 years of wandering around exploring Europe by rail, while seeking places to make photographs.

I exposed the cover photo in Germany’s Rhein Valley using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

This is aimed at helping you plan your trips around Europe by offering experience, suggestions and thoughts on where to go, how to get there, how to buy the best tickets, while hinting at what to avoid.

This is illustrated with hundreds of my best European photographs.

It goes beyond the railways and suggests myriad interesting places to visit with detailed sections on London, Paris, Vienna and Rome among other European cities.

This should be available at the end of May.

You may pre-order it from Kalmbach Books: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com

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Sun on the Bog; Nice Light on Bord na Mona—February 2018.

This is a follow-up to Friday’s post:

February 2018 Foray into the Irish Bog in search of Narrow Gauge freight. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5jR]

The Irish Midlands are famously cloudy.

However, when the evening sun shines it makes for some wonderful photographic opportunities.

In February, Denis McCabe and I waited out the clouds, and caught two pairs of laden Bord na Mona trains in bright sun.

These images were exposed near Rathangan, Co. Kildare.

FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

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February 2018 Foray into the Irish Bog in search of Narrow Gauge freight.

Since 2012, Denis McCabe and I have made detailed exploration of Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge railways networks.

See: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1 [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-8J]https://wp.me/p2BVuC-oR

Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013 [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-oR]

Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-28X]

These photos are from our most recent foray. We caught this pair of empty trains working their way east from Clonbulloge to a loading area near Rathangan.

Bord na Mona typically operates trains in pairs to ease the loading process.

Moon-like landscape on the bog east of Clonbulloge.

Fair weather clouds were gradually giving way to sunshine.

Images were exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens.

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It was Twenty Years Ago Today that I made my First Trip on Irish Rail.

On 27 February 1998, I traveled on Irish Rail from Limerick to Dublin, changing at Limerick Junction and Kildare.

Today also marks the anniversary of my first visit to Dublin.

I made these photos at Limerick Junction on 27 February 1998 while changing trains. Since that day, I’ve made hundreds of railway trips around Ireland and exposed countless thousands of photos.

Posted from Dublin on 27 February 2018.

Irish Rail 128 with a Mark3 push-pull set  had just arrived at Limerick. I traveled on this train; it was my first Irish Rail experience. I was astounded that a ‘switcher’ had hauled the train! (Irish Rail’s 121 class diesels were built by General Motors and based in part on the SW-series switchers, but were geared for mainline speeds.) Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with 135mm lens.
Now this was promising! Rail freight on the move at Limerick Junction. At the time I didn’t know if I was looking toward Dublin or away from it. Turns out that the train on right was the ‘Up Ammonia’ from Cork. (Dublin was at my back) Live and learn! My connecting  train was to arrive from Cork after the Up Ammonia had passed. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikon F3 with 135mm lens. 

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This Day 12 Years Ago—An old GP9 on the Move.

On this day (February 19, 2006), I exposed this photo of Guilford’s ‘Sappi Job’ at Fairfield, Maine.

In the lead is an old Boston & Maine GP9 that had been built in 1957 using some trade-in components from World War-II era FT diesels.

I was traveling with Don Marson and Brian Jennison and exposed this view on Fujichrome with a Nikon F3 with 180mm lens.

Last weekend, I was making use of that same lens to photograph Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways.

On the morning of February 19, 2006 (12 years ago today) Guilford Rail System GP9 51 leads the ‘Sappi Job’ off the old Maine Central Hinckley Branch at Fairfield, Maine on its way toward Waterville. Note the vintage GRS searchlight to the right of the locomotive.

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Empty Coal Train Hatzenport, Germany.

The Mosel Valley is a wonderfully scenic setting to picture trains on the move.

In September 2015, my friends and I hired a car at the Köln airport and drove to the Mosel for several days of photography.

We selected this vantage point high above the railway line in Hatzenport and photographed a procession of freight and passenger trains.

I exposed this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens; ISO 640 f7.1 at 1/250th sec. White balance was set manually to ‘shade’ to warm up the scene. RAW file converted to a Jpg for presentation.

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Changing Trains.

Changing Trains.

As a railway photographer, I’ve often used changing trains as an opportunity to make photos.

Years ago I made photos at New Haven, Connecticut on the way to and from New York City.

Last week I changed from the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise to an NI Railways local train at Portadown, Co. Armagh.

In the ten minutes at Portadown, I made these views with my Lumix LX7. Locomotive 8208 in the siding was an added bonus.

Normally this end of the Enterprise painted 201 diesels are facing the Enterprise train sets.

Tracking the Light Special: Irish Rail 071 in Heritage Paint—Now.

At 1007 (10:07 am) this morning (8 February 2018), Irish Rail’s 071 (class leader of the popular 071 class of General Motors-built diesel locomotives) passed Islandbridge Junction with the down IWT Liner.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1with 90mm Fujinon lens. It’s a bit misty in Dublin. Image scaled from in-camera Jpeg without post processing contrast or exposure adjustment.

This locomotive was repainted in 2016 into the attractive 1970s-era livery.

Although, I’ve made a number of photographs of this locomotive in heritage paint before, it’s always nice to see it on the move. I’m told it had been laid up for the last few months and it’s only back on the road this week.

Tracking the Light is Daily.

 

March 2018 Trains Magazine Features My Photo of Amtrak 611.

I was pleased to learn the my wintery photo of Amtrak ACS-64 611 was selected for the cover of the March 2018 issue of Trains Magazine.

Using my Canon EOS 7D and a telephoto lens, I exposed this view on a visit to Branford, Connecticut with Patrick Yough just over three years ago.

On January 10, 2015, Amtrak ACS-64 No. 611 leads train 161 westward at Branford, Connecticut.

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Looking Like a Scene from Kubrick’s 2001: A Stereo Space Odyssey.

A lesson in Night-photography.

It was an arctic evening at East Brookfield when we crossed the bridge over the tracks near CP64.

There it was, making an alien roar: the Loram rail-grinder in the old sidings.

Hard snow on the ground and the moon rising.

‘This will just take a couple of minutes’.

We were on our way to a gig at Dunny’s Tavern, but I wanted to make a few photos of this machine. Interestingly, it was my old friend Dennis LeBeau that both invited us to the gig and alerted me to the Loram grinder.

I tried a few photos using my Lumix LX7 in ‘night mode’. But the extremely low light levels didn’t make for great results.

Handheld ‘Night Mode’ has its limitations. This isn’t the sharpest photo and the shadow areas are muddy and lacking detail.
Another view in ‘Nightmode’. Compare this view with the photos below.

So then I balanced my LX7 in the chain-link fence, dialed in 2/3s of a stop over exposure, set the self-timer to 2 seconds, pressed the shutter and stood back.

I did this several times until I made an acceptably sharp photo.

I exposed a RAW file using A-mode with 2/3s of a stop over exposure. By using the self-timer I minimized vibration. In lieu of a tripod, I positioned my Lumix LX7 in the chainlink fence. (Special secret technique!). This is the unmodified RAW file in the Lightroom work window.

 

I manipulated the RAW files in Lightroom to better balance the information captured during exposure.

Using contrast and exposure controls in Lightroom, and gauging my efforts using the Histogram (top right) I adjusted my photo to look like this.
The improved image from the RAW file.

I know someone will moan about the tree at left. There’s nothing I can do about that, it’s part of the scene. Sorry 2001-fans, no black slab! So far as I can tell, anyway.

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NI Railways—Lisburn Station Details in Color.

Last week, using my Lumix LX7 I exposed these detailed views of the old Great Northern Railways (of Ireland) station at Lisburn, County Down.

I also made a few photos with a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens on Kodak Tri-X. I’ll need to process those and scan them before I can present those here.

Sunset over the station’s chimneys. Lumix LX7 photo.
Schedule alteration notice. Don’t be waiting for that last train!
Evidence of the old order.
Belfast-bound CAF railcar departing Lisburn.

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