Category Archives: railroads

AEM-7 and an E-unit—August 1981.

My grandparents had a grand view of the old New Haven Railroad at Pelham Bay Park from their apartment in Co-op City, The Bronx, New York.

Using my old Leica IIIa, I made hundreds of photos of trains rolling along under wire.

This is among the more unsual photos from their 19th floor terrace. On a visit in August 1981, I made numerous photos of diesels underwire, as the result of a failure with the early 1900s electrification that had forced Amtrak to tow its normally electrically hauled trains with diesels.

In this photo, one of Amtrak’s few remaining EMD E8As hauls a then-new AEM-7 electric and train eastward toward New Haven.

At the center of image is Goose Island.

Exposed using a Leica IIIa with 50mm Sumitar lens.
Enlarged portion of the train showing the diesel and electric locomotives.

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October 25, 1985—Palmer Diamond

This day has always been a special one for me!

On this day 36 years ago, I spent the afternoon making photos at Palmer, Massachusetts.

I exposed this image using my father’s Rollei model T loaded with Kodak VPX (Verichrome Pan) 120-size black & white film that I later processed in Kodak D76 developer.

At that time I was attending Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts where I was studying photography and music.

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Take a Note: NHSE at Chester—October 20, 1985.

For many years, I recorded my photographic adventures with detailed note pages that were organized by date and included: time, location and train information, exposure and camera information, and sometimes interesting or noteworthy details of operations.

On October 20, 1985 (36 years ago today) I was working with my father’s Rolleiflex Model T in tandem with my Leica 3A, when I pictured Conrail’s NHSE (Cedar Hill Yard, New Haven, Connecticut to Selkirk Yard, New York) ascending the old Boston & Albany grade at milepost 126.4 in Chester, Massachusetts.

At that time the New Haven trains still routinely carried cabooses.

Displayed here are the black & white photo exposed with the Rollei with 645-size insert (note notches for ‘Super Slide’ format). I was using Kodak Verichrome Pan 120-size film that I’d processed in D-76 developer.

These are among the photos that I plan to show at my talk to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts on Thursday evening in Malden.

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Open Access at Kralupy

Hey, I didn’t make this up.

On October 14, 2016 during our exploration of the Czech Republic, fellow photographer Denis McCabe and I caught this Metrans Container freight rolling through Kralupy.

I exposed this view as part of a sequence using my FujiFilm XT-1 digital camera.

A Bombardier TRAXX type of electric rolls through Kralupy with a container train in tow.

Kralupy is a busy junction to the north of Prague, wear we witnessed a steady parade of freights.

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Caboose at the Diamond—August 1982

Working with my old Leica IIIA loaded with Kodak black & white, I made this trailing view of a former Pennsylvania Railroad caboose at the back of an eastward Conrail freight on the old Boston & Albany at Palmer, Massachusetts.

The institution of the caboose on American freight trains was still going strong in August 1982. But within just a couple of years, cabooses on mainline through freights would become scarce.

Changes in technology and crew reforms accelerated by the Staggers Act of 1980 facilitated the elimnation of the caboose on most freight trains by the late 1980s. Conrail began eliminating cabooses on through freights on B&A route in April 1984.

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GP9 at Ware—1987.

The other day I was digging around for some Boston & Albany negatives that I’d exposed back in the 1980s in preparation for a program that I’m putting together for the Mass Bay RRE.

Among the negatives I found was a roll of Kodak TMY (T-Max 100) black & white film that I’d exposed with my father’s Rollei Model-T on December 28, 1987.

I’d followed the Mass-Central freight from Palmer up to Ware in a light snow fall. The train had stalled on Ware Hill, but eventually got where it was going.

In this view Mass-Central’s GP9 7015, a former Conrail unit, was holding the mainline, while Mass-Central’s CF-7 2443 switched at the southend of the yard.

It was a gray day, but well suited to the subtle tonality of the Kodak black & white film. I scanned the negatives using my Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software. I made some nominal adjustments to contrast to improve presentation here.

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Frankenstein Foliage

Yesterday, I made this image of the Mountaineer descending at the Arethusa Falls grade crossing against a backdrop of autumnal foliage and the famous Frankenstein Cliff in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

A shaft of sun illuminated the front of GP35 216 which made for a tricky exposure.

I’d preset the camera settings in manual mode, anticipating the bright yellow front of the engine catching the wink of sun. Further adjustment of highlight and shadow areas was necessary in post processing.

Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera with 24-70mm Nikkor zoom lens. NEF Raw file adjusted in Adobe Lightroom.

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Digital Dawn—November 8, 2008

On November 8, 2008, Chris Guss lent me his Canon 50D and we explored the greater Chicago rail scene making photos.

It was one of my earliest experiments with digital photography.

I made this photo of Chicago Metra commuter trains tied up at Kenonsha, Wisconsin.

About a year later I finally acquired my first digital camera.

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CSX on Velvia

May 4, 2007, I was just back from England. Not yet over my jet lag, I drove in the Berkshires of Massachusetts to photograph CSX freights on the former Boston & Albany.

I made this view west of the rock cut at milepost 129, on the 1912 line relocation between Chester and Middlefield, Massachusetts.

A westward freight was led by an SD70MAC.

I’d exposed the photo using my Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with Fujichrome Velvia 50.

Although Velvia is an extraordinarily sharp film that offers tremendous dynamic range and deep rich colors, I’ve often found this to be difficult emulsion to expose properly.

The original slide is about 1/2 stop under exposed, which means its a bit too dark.

To correct for this flaw, I scanned the original using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and imported the scan into Adobe Lightroom where I lightened the midtones, adjusted shadows, and corrected the color balance to compensate for excessive red/magenta in the processed chrome.

Below is the unadjusted scan (for comparison) and two versions of the corrected slide scan.

My unadjusted scan for comparison. This image is too dark and sufferes from a strong red/magenta bias.
This my first color corrected and exposure adjusted image.
My final adjusted scan. Notice the juxtoposition of the clouds with the shadowed bushes on the lower right. Both are key elements to my composition aimed to augment the dynamics of the locomotives.

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Bright Colors on the West Slope.

The leaves are changing noticeably later this year as compared with last year.

East of Crawford Notch, New Hampshire the foliage is still a bit on the green side, but to the west the colors are turning.

This is one of the best railroad autumn foliage photos I made thus far. It shows Conway Scenic Railroad Mountaineer on the Crawford-Fabyan leg of its run.

September 29, 2021.

Will this foliage season live up expectations, or will the trees go from green to brown?

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Conrail SD40-2s at MG Tower

Here’s another frame from a roll of 35mm Plus X exposed on a summer 1989 trip to the old Pennsylvania Railroad with my old pal TSH.

Until today, this picture has not seen the light of day.

35mm Plus-X exposed with a Leica M3 and 90mm Elmarite. Negative scanned using a Epson V750 flatbed scanner and digitally processed in Adobe Lightroom.

I processed the film 32 years ago in Kodak D76, sleeved the negatives, and made a select few prints, of which this image was not one of them.

It was a dull day, and I was working with a tight budget, where I saved my Kodachrome for the best shots. What seemed a bit pedestrian in 1989, really captures my attention now.

I like the photo today because it frames the desceding train in the steam-era PRR signal bridges, features the famous MG Tower (recently demolished by Norfolk Southern), and captures the drama of a heavy train bathed in brake shoe smoke. It is an image from another era, now gone.

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Conrail 6666 at Cresson, PA.

Working with a Leica M3 fitted with a 50mm Summicron, I exposed this photo of Conrail SD45-2 6666 on the wye at Cresson, Pennsylvania in July 1989.

I loaded the camera with Kodak Plus-X (ISO 125). Interestingly, back then I rarely used this once-popular film in the 35mm format as instead I tended to prefer either Kodak’s Tri-X (ISO 400) or Ilford FP4 (ISO 125).

I don’t recall why I opted for Plus-X on this day at Cresson, but reviewing my negatives, I now find that this fllm offered pleasing tonality and I wish I’d tried it more often!

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Amtrak at the Vernon Backwater

Immediately south of the old Central Vermont Railway yard at Brattleboro, Vermont is a causeway across the Vernon Backwater of the Connecticut River.

This is another old favorite place of mine to picture trains on the move.

Today, brush growing on the causeway poses a visual challenge. Where years ago the causeway offered an unobstructed view of a train, today, careful positioning is necessary to avoid cropping the front of the locomotive as it works its way south over the man-made fill.

The other day Kris and I visited this location, arriving just a few minutes before Amtrak’s southward Vermonter was expected.

I made this photo using my Nikon Z6.

I scaled the in-camera JPG using Lightroom, without making modifications to density, color temperature, contrast, or color balance.

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Amtrak at Cheapside

The other day, Kris and I intercepted Amtrak’s northward Vermonter, train 54, crossing the former Boston & Maine bridge at Cheapside in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

For me the train was the ‘frosting’. The cake is the cool 1920s-era deck truss bridge.

I’ve driven by this structure hundreds of times, but only rarely photographed trains on it.

Catching Amtrak in low afternoon sun made for excellent conditions to make the most of the bridge.

Exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
Exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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Bright Morning at the Station.

Friday morning I walked to North Conway station where I work.

It was a brilliant sunny day with a cool breeze and a textured sky.

The week after Labor Day is traditionally quiet. A lull in the masses. The summer crowds have gone, the leaf peepers have yet to arrive.

The leaves around the station are already showing hints of autumn color.

Everyday prospective train riders call and ask if the day of their trip will be during peak foliage—As if Conway Scenic Railroad’s ticket agents are visionaries or fortune tellers.

Conway Scenic Railroad’s North Conway, New Hampshire station.

I made these photos from North Conway, New Hampshire’s Schouler Park using my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless digital camera and processed the NEF RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.

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Misty Mountaineer

Yesterday (September 9, 2021) I traveled on the headend of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer to Crawford Notch in order to calculate train timings for this month’s timetable change.

Among my jobs at the railroad, in addition to Marketing, is that of timetable planner.

When we reached the old Maine Central station at Crawford, I climbed down from the locomotive to make a few photos from the ground, then boarded again for the run-around.

All photos were made using my Nikon Z6 and processed using Adobe Lightroom.

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The End for an Old GP?

Yesterday I learned through social media that New England Central 3850 suffered a main generator fire while climbing State Line Hill (located in my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.)

Over the last 26 years, I’ve made countless photos of this antique EMD diesel-electric at work and at rest.

While I cannot predict the future, I know that often with older diesels, a main generator failure may represent the kiss of the scrapper.

When it came to New England Central in 1995, 3850 carried the number 9531, which is how I picture it in the December 1996 view below.

I made this photo at Palmer, Massachusetts using a mix of artificial lighting, including electronic strobe for fill flash, and my original Fujichrome slide is strongly tinted.

I scanned this slide using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner driven by Epson Scan 2 software. Working from a high-resolution TIF file, I initially scaled the photo without corrections.

Then, working with slider controls in Adobe Lightroom, I implemented a variety of color corrections, plus contrast and exposure adjustements to overcome flaws with color balance and exposure. Below are both results for point of comparison.

This is a scaled JPG of the uncorrected scan which reflects how the original slide appears to the eye. Compare this with a partially color corrected version below.
Above is my first color-corrected scan aimed at better representing the colors of the locomotive as they would have appeared to my eye at night. Although imperfect, it is an improvement over the original slide.
Here’s an alternative version aimed at further reducing the green tint from the mercury vapor light and reducing overall contrast. This is closer to the way the scene would have looked.

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NIR-Derry 5 April 2002

NI Railways had a minimalist presence in Derry, Northern Ireland when I visited there on 5 April 2002.

The railway station consisted of a 1960s-era bus shelter style building and a single platform serving two tracks, situated flush with the River Foyle.

I made these photos while boarding an NIR 80-class railcar bound for Belfast.

My camera was a rugged Contax G2 Rangefinder fitted with 45mm Zeiss Planar lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X black & white film. I used a red filter to alter the black & white tonality and boost contrast.

For me the film’s contrast and stark spring lighting was well-suited to the minimalist railway infrastructure.

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NECR-No Logo

I don’t think this what author Naomi Klein had in mind!

In May 1997, New England Central’s southward 559 was led by GP38 9549—a noteworthy engine at the time because it lacked the company logo on its short hood.

Without the classic New England Central logo on the engine, this image represents a generic North American freight train.

Twenty Four years later, a few of NECR’s GP38s are still working in the railroad’s classic blue and gold paint.

New England Central 559 approaches Plains Road in Tolland, Connecticut in May 1997. The Route 32 bridge over the tracks is visable in the distance.

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EDRJ at Zoar—Rangefinder Slide

Working with my Contax G2 Rangefinder fitted with a Zeiss 28mm Biogon, I made thisa color slide at Zoar, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg Line.

Photographer Pat Yough and I had started the day(February 13, 2005) at Guilford’s East Deerfield Yard, where at daybreak symbol freight EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) was being readied for its westward journey.

We followed the freight west, using the lightly traveled road to the Hoosac Tunnel to reach Zoar.

February 13, 2005.

A few days ago, I’d posted a view of this same train on its approach to the East Portal. See:

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2021/08/29/same-bridge-different-day/

Lately, I’ve been scanning my older slides. This is stored in a metal Logan box along with 500-600 select Guilford Rail System/Pan Am Railways photos exposed between 1998 and 2018.

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Ballast Train

The unusual moves; the uncommon train; the special unscheduled and unexpected operation. These are what fascinate me about railroads.

On most days, Conway Scenic operates its selection of normally scheduled excursion. By contrast it’s work trains are comparatively rare.

Yesterday, September 3, 2021, Conway Scenic’s former Maine Central GP7 No. 573 ran light to from North Conway to Conway to collect a pair of ballast cars that were expected to be loaded.

After lunch the engine returned with the ballast cars to North Conway where it ran around and proceeded back to Conway.

I was on-hand to make these photos using my Nikon Z6.

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New England Central on a Frosty morning.

I made this Fujichrome slide of the New England Central yard at Palmer, Massachusetts in January 1998—just a few weeks before embarking on my first trip to Ireland

The subtle duo-chromic hues and stark winter landscape make for a simple frame for what I find a visually complicated image.

Carefully observe the unorthodox use of selective focus.

Where a common solution for a focus point might have been on the nose of the locomotive, instead I aimed at the distant truss bridge at the south-end of the yard, while leaving the tracks in the foreground slightly blurred.

The use of lighting selective provides silhouettes.

Texture in the tracks, trees and sky, add complexity.

What is the subject? The locomotive? The tracks? Or the truss bridge and poles in the distance?

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Glinty Diamond on Kodachrome

In 1997, I still kept one camera loaded with Kodachrome 25.

At the end the day on August 6th during a visit to Vermont, Mike Gardner and I paused at the Bellows Falls station for a few photos.

Working with a Nikon F3T, a 24mm Nikkor wideangle lens, I made this Kodachrome slide of the setting sun reflecting off the rails of the diamond where Green Mountain Railroad crossed New England Central.

There are certain types of lighting siutation where Kodachrome really shined! And this is one of the them.

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Meet with the Governor at Bartlett

Yesterday (Sunday August 29, 2021), Conway Scenic Railroad hosted New Hampshire’s Governor Chris Sununu on his Super 603 Thank You Tour.

I was closely invovlved with the logistical planning for the Governor’s special train. We needed to continue to operate our regularly scheduled Valley trains, so I planned a meet at Bartlett.

This was excuted in traditional fashion. Speed through Bartlett is limited to ten mph. Conway Scenic’s Valley Train returning from Sawyers cleared for the special by reversing into the siding near the Bartlett freight house. There was no delay to the Governor’s train, and the absolute minimum delay necessary to the Valley.

Working in my capacity as Manager, Marketing & Events, I made these photos of the meet from the special using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

View of the Valley Train from the Governor’s special.
Valley engineer Wally Hills tips his hat to the special.
Conductor Adams on the Valley waves from the rear platform of open-end observation lounge Gertrude Emma, as the Governor’s special rolls through Bartlett on the main track.

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Same Bridge—Different Day

Tracking the Light is a blog that focuses on the process of railroad photography, and how certain techniques produce different results. Light, angle and season play an enormous role in the end result.

In yesterday’s Tracking the Light, I featured a misty autumn-morning view of a westward Guilford Rail System freight crossing the bridge over the Deerfield River on approach to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel.

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2021/08/28/misty-morning-at-east-portal/

Today, I’m featuring a photo exposed a few months later (February 2005) of another westward freight crossing the same bridge: winter versus autumn; south side of the bridge versus the north; and later in the morning. Another difference was my choice of lens: 45mm on the winter view; 180mm on the autumn.

In addition, I’ve included two slightly different versions of the February 2005 photo, as well as one of the photos from yesterday’s post for point of comparison.

This freight was EDRJ, which Pat Yough and I followed all the way to the Hudson River and beyond!

Compare this view with the verson below.- 45mm lens.

February 13, 2005. In the above photo I made slightly different adjustments in post processing in regards to color temperature and exposure.

Both images were made from a scan of the same slide, which had been exposed on Fujichrome film using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 45 mm Zeiss lens.

Here’s the comparison view that was posted with yesterday’s (August 28, 2021) Tracking the Light. Fujichrome with 180mm lens, October 2004.

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High short Hood South

Yesterday at Conway Scenic we turned GP35 216 on the turntable.

Now the high short hood is facing south.

This directional change was performed for operational reasons, but has also opened up a variety of photographic possibilities, especially on the return run of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer from Crawford Notch.

I made these views in the North Conway, NH yard using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.

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Nostalgia for a Bad Slide.

Languishing in my Miscellaneous Railroad Seconds file (Bad Slides) from 1982-1983 was this back lit winter view of the Central Vermont Railway yard in Palmer, Massachusetts.

I’d exposed this Kodachrome 64 slide using my old Leica 3A fitted with 50mm Sumitar.

This is a technically flawed photo. It is considerably off-level. The exposure is slightly on the dark side. The composition is a bit loose. And the color is decidedly magenta owing to a processing abnormality on the part of Kodak.

As an exercise, I decided to scan the slide and import into Lightroom to see if I could improve it.

I’ve included the unadjusted scan. A screen shot of the adjustment window. And, my final adjusted image.

My unadjusted scan.
Leveled, cropped, color and contrast corrected scan.

Screen shot of the Adobe Lightroom work window showing the degree of change during an early edit of my ‘Bad Slide’. I ended up taking out even more magenta.

I ended up wondering how I might photograph this scene today, using my most modern cameras. Also I wonder, is my ‘bad slide’ really all that bad? It may mean little to random viewers, but it conjured up in my memory the Palmer Yard of my youth. There’s a pair of idling Central Vermont Alco RS-11s, and in the distance the train they had recently delivered. Just about everything in the photo reminds me of how exciting I found railroading when I was 13.

Would a ‘better’ photo convey the same feeling for me?

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Meadville viewed with a Canon.

Over the years I’ve used a great variety of Camera-film combinations.

In 2009, I largely worked with a pair of Canon EOS-3s loaded with Fujichrome.

On an October trip to photograph along the old Erie Railroad, I had one of my EOS-3s fitted with a Canon 100-400mm. The morning of the 6th, I caught Western New York & Pennsylvania’s HNME (Hornell, New York to Meadville, PA) arriving a Meadville.

A dozen years earlier I’d photographed the same Montreal Locomotive Works diesel working the Cartier Railway in Quebec using Nikon cameras loaded with Kodachrome.

I wonder how I might capture this scene today with my current camera combinations?

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Room with a View

Irish Rail class 141 number 167 glides over the River Liffey at Islandbridge, Dublin.

I made this view from my old apartment at Islandbridge in December 2005.

Although I had just recently purchased a Canon EOS3, I was still working with my old Nikon F3s, which is what I used to expose this view on Fujichrome.

At the time there were still a number of class 141/181 General Motors diesels working for Irish Rail.

Over the years, the trees and other obstructions gradually hemmed in my view of the tracks, so that by the time I left more than a dozen years later, it was more difficult to obtain an uncluttered photo of a train crossing the Liffey from the apartment.

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Arctic Ore at Torne Trask

On a July 2002 morning, I made this view of an LKAB class Dm3 heavy electric passing the disused electric substation at Torne Träsk, Sweden.

My friend Markku Pulkkinen and I spent several days in high summer exploring the Malmbanen that connects Swedish iron ore mining areas in the Arctic with the port of Narvik in Norway.

At that time, many of the ore trains were still powered by the massive three-section Dm3 siderod electrics.

Working with a vintage German Rollieflex Model T, I exposed this view on Kodak 120 Tri-X in the 2 ¼ inch square format. When I returned to Dublin, I processed the film in a custom mix of Ilfotec HC developer. Recently I scanned the film using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software, then made minor adjustments to contrast using Adobe Lightroom.

For the Facebook output and lead-in image I cropped the square photo, but this view is uncrossed. 

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Provia 100F on the Rhein

Among the photos in my ‘Scan pile’ was this Fujichrome Provia 100F slide of a northward SBB Cargo train on the westbank of the Rhein near Lorch, Germany

It was among the color slides that I chose to scan during the week using my old Epson V600 flatbed scanner powered by Epson Scan 2 software.

Yesterday, I had prints made from some of my recent scans and was impressed by the way the scanning captured detail in the film right down to the grain.

Provia 100F color slide exposed on September 17, 2019.

Tightly cropped version to show detail.

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CLassic CHrome: Sierra Railroad Baldwin

I’ve only photographed Baldwin diesels a few times.

The most memorable was back on April 3, 1993. I was traveling with fellow photographer Brian Jennison, and we made a morning of following this Sierra Railroad Baldwin on its run from Oakdale into the Sierra foothills toward Jamestown, Califronia.

Near Chinese Camp, we hiked to this shallow cutting, where I used my Nikon F3T fitted with a 105mm f1.8 lens to expose a Kodachrome sequence of the antique diesel leading a train of Southern Pacific wood chip cars .

This Baldwin made a characteristic low RPM chortle, unlike any modern diesels.

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Amtrak at Oakland

On an afternoon in August 2009, I stood atop a parking garage near Jack London Square in Oakland, California where I made this view featuring an Amtrak Capitols train against a backdrop of the city’s sprawling port facilities.

I was working with a Canon EOS3 fitted with a 100-400mm zoom lens to expose a Fujichrome slide. This was several months before buying my first digital camera.

During my five week stay in California that year I exposed more than 80 rolls of color slide film. Many of my photos featured scenes around San Francisco Bay. At the time I envisioned writing a book on San Francisco, but I didn’t get sufficient interest from my publishers at the time to move that proposal forward.

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Five Years ago at Santa Ana

On August 4, 2016, I spent a little while at the Metrolink station in Santa Ana, California on the old Santa Fe photographing passenger trains coming and going.

As modern adapted stations go, Santa Ana is cool.

This view was made from the footbridge over the tracks. I was putting my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera through its paces.

Working with Lightroom, I made adjustements to color temperature, contrast and color saturation to improve this Fuji RAW file. I wanted to make the most of the California color palate.

Metrolink F59PHi 877 works at the back of train 687.

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