Category Archives: Tips and Technique

On this Day in 2016, I visited Valenciennes, France.

It was two years ago today (22 April,  2018), that I made my second visit to Valenciennes, France.

Although it was dull, I worked with my Lumix to make these views of SNCF’s TGV high-speed sets at the Valenciennes former Nord railway station.

Not every day is bright and sunny; not every city is blessed with world-class wonders; and not every high-speed train is moving fast.

Valenciennes has a nice old station and a showcase small-city modern tram system.

Later in the day, I caught up with my Finnish friend Mauno Pajunen, and toured Belgian railway sites in the region.

Over the next few days , I made a high-speed railway journey to Bordeaux and  and then through the Channel Tunnel to London—all part of my exploration that contributed to the content of my latest book; Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe.

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

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One Year Ago: SBB on a Clear April Morning Along Lake Geneva.

I made these photos on 21 April 2017 along the shore of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva near St. Saphorin.

SBB’s busy double track electrified line and stunning Swiss scenery with bright sun was a winning combination for great photographs.

This was one stop on a week-long exploration of Swiss railways with Denis McCabe while I was preparing my Railway Guide to Europe.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera on 21 April 2018.
Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera on 21 April 2018.

 

SBB freight. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera on 21 April 2018.
Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera on 21 April 2018.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 digital camera on 21 April 2018.

Switzerland’s Lake Geneva region is one of  many scenic areas profiled in my new book on European railways published by Kalmbach Publishing this Spring.

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

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Sun and Cloud, The RPSI Cravens at Claude Road: A Lesson In Patience.

On Satuday 24 March 2018, I shared Dublin’s Claude Road foot-bridge with Paul Maguire and Ciarán Cooney, as we waited for the RPSI Cravens to run from Inchicore to Connolly for a scheduled inspection of the equipment.

It had been completely sunny, but as the time for the train approached, clouds began to dapple the morning sky.

I exposed this view using a Nikon N90S with 180mm Nikkor telephoto lens on Fujichrome Provia100F slide film.

The light was in flux when I released the shutter. Was the train in sun?

I had to wait more than three weeks to find out, since I’ve just received my slides back from the lab.

Irish Rail 084 leads the RPSI  Cravens eastward at Claude Road. File adjusted with Lightroom.

I made some nominal adjustments to contrast and colour balance after scanning.

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I feature Irish Rail and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in my new Railway Guide to Europe, which is now available from Kalmbach Books.

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

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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Blue and Silver Train on a Gray Day.

I’d arrived at Adelaide Station in Belfast on this NI Railways 4000-series CAF railcar from Portadown.

Although it was windy, spitting rain and dull, and I had made photos at Adelaide at various times in recent months, I exposed this view anyway.

You never know when the common will seem fascinating. Someday something in this scene will be gone, and then the picture may take on new significance.

Lumix LX7 photo at Adelaide in Belfast.

Tracking the Light has posted daily for nearly five years.

Class 201 Retrospective: Irish Rail 206, the first of the Enterprise 201s.

As part of my 20 years in Ireland/201 numerical retrospective, this is my opportunity to present  a few views of Irish Rail 206.

When I first arrived in Ireland in 1998, 201-class locomotives numbers 206 to 209 (as they were then identified) were painted for the cross-border Belfast-Dublin Enterprisepassenger service.

On 4 March 2000 Irish Rail 206 works the Enterprise at Donabate. Exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO100) using a Nikon F3T.
On 11 May 2005, Irish Rail 2005 was ‘ex works’ following overhaul after its fire, making one of many trips on a Liner (point to point freight). It passes Islandbridge Junction, one of my often used locations. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Contax G2 rangefinder.
Same location, same train on 17 May 2005. Here I’m using a 135mm telephoto lens on my Nikon F3T to bring in the Wellington Testimonial (obelisk).
And almost the same angle on 16 December 2010, this time captured digitally using a Canon EOS 7D. So while these are three photos of the same locomotive on similar trains at essentially the same location, each features a different treatment as result of changes in lighting, season, type of camera, lens focal length, and the angle of composition.

It is my understanding that these four numbers were chosen for the Enterprise201s to pay historical tribute to steam locomotives of the same numbers that had worked the service in an earlier era.

In my time these were painted specifically for the re-equipped Enterprise using De Dietrich carriages (derived from the original French TGV single-level carriages)

Of the four, 206 River Liffey has been my favorite, but until relatively recently it is also one of the more elusive 201s in passenger service (in regards to my photography).

Around 2002, it suffered a fire and was out of traffic for about three years. When it returned, it spent months working freights.

Only recently, have I again found it regularly working as intended. It now wears the latest Enterprise livery, which is laterally asymmetrical and features a giant purple swoop across the side of the locomotive.

I made this digital photo of 206 at Belfast Central Station on 26 March 2018, working as intended. Lumix LX7 photo. The high angle allows for good detail of the roof, which is not often seen from ground level.

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Wisconsin & Southern at Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

In July 2016, John Gruber and I photographed Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg job on its run from Madison to Reedsburg.

Although, I made many digital photographs that day, I also exposed a few photos on Ilford Pan F using a vintage Leica IIIA fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens.

Notice how the tonality and texture of the image draws your eye in a variety of directions. The effects of  tire tracks in the gravel and the pole shadows are enhanced through use of a monochromatic image making medium.

Reedsburg, Wisconsin in July 2016.

 

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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.

 

 

Irish Rail 074 at Limerick; A study in contrast—Four New Photos.

Under the train shed at Limerick’s Colbert Station is dark and gloomy.

Outside it had been raining.

Then the clouds drew back and brilliant midday sun blasted across the city.

Bright sun and inky shadows.

I made these views using my Lumix LX7 on Saturday, 7 April 2018.

Irish Rail 074 catches a wink of light under the train shed at Limerick Colbert Station.
Contrast of light and dark makes for a study in silhouette and vivid daylight. (File adjusted in post processing).
Irish Rail 074 up close and personal.
How many years has it been since Irish Rail last used the gantry for revenue freight at Limerick?

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RPSI’s The Branch Line Wanderer-Part 2

Here’s another section of images from last Saturday’s The Branch Line Wanderer, an RPSI excursion that visited various Irish secondary lines.

I exposed these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1.

The trip was operated by Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Rail.

Limerick.
Cloughjordan on the Nenagh Branch.Cloughjordan on the Nenagh Branch.
Cloughjordan on the Nenagh Branch.
Cloughjordan on the Nenagh Branch.
Irish Rail down Mark 4 at Thurles.
Irish Rail up Mark 4 at Thurles.
Sunset from RPSI train near Templemore.

 

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light  publishes daily!

Prelude to RPSI’s Branchline Explorer—7 April 2018

If everything has gone according to plan, as you read this I’m traveling upon Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s diesel-hauled Branchline Explorer rail tour.

I made this photo on 6 April 2018 of Irish Rail 071 (in 1970s heritage livery) leading the RPSI preserved Cravens carriages across the River Liffey at Islandbridge in the fading light of the evening.

Thanks to Jay Monaghan!

An Irish Rail ICR working Grand Canal Docks suburban service exits the Phoenix Park Tunnel on 6 April 2018. Irish Rail 071 with RPSI Cravens can be seen in the distance. Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 camera fitted with a 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
An instant classic: Irish Rail 071 (class leader in retro paint) leads the RPSI Cravens across the River Liffey at Islandbridge in Dublin. Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 camera fitted with a 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.

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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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DART in the Snow.

On the 18th of March, snow fell in Dublin, again.

I made these views at Connolly Station of a southward DART suburban train using my FujiFilm XT1.

The trick is not underexposing the snow.

Falling snow can make for a great sense of depth.

Connolly Station, Dublin.

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Location Location Location: Making Claude Road Work.

I was trying think of a title that would get you to read this!

The Claude Road footbridge in Dublin offers an interesting vantage point for Irish Rail, but comes with its fair share of challenges.

It’s a location on an S-bend, which is a good thing, but also a visual puzzle, calling for the optimal lens-camera combination to yield satisfactory results.

I like the location because of the old mill in the distance to the west, and the views of Croke Park stadium to the east that offer distinctive location identification.

An Irish Rail ICR heading east for Connolly Station approaches Claude Road.
A slightly wider view of the same train.
An inbound 29000 series railcar heads toward Drumcondra Station, Croke Park looms in the distance.
An outbound 29000 series railcar some a similar vantage point.
To make the most of this image, I adjusted contrast and exposure in post processing.
Irish Rail 077 works ‘light engine’ toward Inchicore. This is a trailing view to make the most of the morning sunlight.

High railings at the center part of the footbridge can make it difficult for me to obtain the perfect angle, without aid of a footstool or tilting rear camera display.

I made these views on a sunny morning with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. The Fuji’s adjustable rear display allows me to hold the camera at arm’s length over the bridge railing..

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Working With Glint: Cherry Orchard and a Late Running Liner.

Last week, Irish Rail operated a late IWT liner that departed Dublin in the evening, instead on its normal mid-morning path.

A group of my friends went to Cherry Orchard in the west Dublin suburbs to capture this relatively unusual move. While waiting for the freight, I made views of the evening passenger parade.

The sky was clear of clouds and sun was aligned with the Cork line making some interesting possibilities of glint and silhouette photographs.

In the 1990s, I exposed hundreds of images in this type of dramatic lighting conditions. The characteristics of Kodachrome 25 slide film made it well suited to glint photographs and I had my K25 exposures refined to a high art.

Glint photographs are more difficult to capture digitally, and I find that I have to control contrast and use digital masks/digital applied graduated neutral density filters in post processing to obtain the results that I expect.

An up-cork with a Mark 4 push-pull set catches the evening glint at Cherry Orchard.
I made this view of a down road Intercity Railcar from the north side of the line.

 

Irish Rail’s IWT liner roars toward the setting sun.
Glint light is an excellent means of capturing the drama of railways in motion.

Key to this exercise is underexposing a raw file sufficiently to retain detail in the sky and glinty areas of the image, than lighten shadows while making localized highlight adjustments in post processing.

These photos were made using my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Dublin by Night: 1000 shades of Dark.

I’d use ‘gray’ in place of ‘dark’, but apparently the phraseology has assumed new meanings.

I could just say ‘Dublin in Black & White’, but that isn’t really correct either.

Working with my Nikon F3 loaded with Foma Classic 100 black & white film, I made these photos during March 2018 wintery weather in Dublin.

To keep my camera steady for long exposures, I used various tripods, depending on the surface and circumstance.

Irish Rail’s Loop Line bridge over the River Liffey.

My exposures varied, but most were between 1 and 8 seconds. I calculated exposure manually using a Minolta IV Flash meter (in reflective mode).

I processed the Fomapan 100 film in Ilford ID-11 stock mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes 15 seconds, plus pre-soak with a token amount of Kodak HC110, then scanned negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

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Class 201 Retrospective: Irish Rail 204 in four photos.

The unremarkable 204.

Not as rare to my lens as 202, but not as common as say 201, 205, or the seeming omnipresent 215. Today, views of 204 on the move are still pretty neat since it’s been more than eight years since it turned a wheel.

These are all Fujichrome photos, since I never photographed 204 at work using a digital camera. Maybe someday it will return to service. But even then I might take it on slide film for old time sake.

Can you spot the ‘bad’ photo? (read the captions)

Irish Rail 204 races down road at Ballybrophy on 7 April 2007.
Nearly 12 years ago, freshly paint Irish Rail 204 passes Cherryville Junction.
One for the bin? Here we have a fascinating photo of Irish Rail in transition; I exposed this view almost ten years ago to the day: March 2008. Locomotive 204 leads Mark 3s west at Islandbridge Junction as a new Mark 4 set rolls up-road; at left is a four-wheel ballast train led by a pair of Bo-Bos (class 141/181 General Motors diesels), with another Bo-Bo at right working as a station pilot. Look to the upper right in the yard and you’ll see a set of new Rotem ICRs. But this was bad photo: never mind all the railway action, I committed a compositional faux pas; I chopped the top of the Wellington Testimonial in the Phoenix Park! That’s it, pitch the photo! Nothing to see here!
On another day, Irish Rail 204 leads the Platin-Tullamore cement. I was disappointed that an 071 didn’t work the train, but I’m sure glad I made this photo anyway!

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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

Atmosphere under the old Roof.

A couple more Tri-X views from Connolly Station of last Sunday’s RPSI steam trip to Maynooth.

See my earlier post: Snow! Steam! Action!

https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5nz

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3 with 35mm lens.
Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Nikon F3 with 35mm lens.

For details on RPSI steam and diesel excursions see: Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

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Snow! Steam! Action!

It was cold and snowy at Dublin’s Connolly Station last Sunday.

While snow complicated Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s planned trips to Maynooth, it made for ideal conditions to expose black & white photos.

Using my Nikon F3 with 35mm and 135mm lens, I made these images on platform 3.

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

RPSI No 4.

All were exposed using Kodak Tri-X black & white film, which I processed in Ilford ID-11 (1-1 at 68 degrees F for 7 minutes 45 seconds, plus extended presoak with very dilute HC110 to pre-activate development.)

I scanned the negatives  using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

RPSI No 4.

More snowy steam images images to follow!

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I stood here for what? Fool in the Rain: Irish Weather Part 2.

Having a little information can be a dangerous thing.

Irish Rail’s 073 in heritage paint was working the IWT  liner.

It’s just a short walk to Islandbridge Junction.

In theory, if I timed my walk right I wouldn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes.

And then for reasons unknown, Irish Rail held the IWT Liner in the Phoenix Park tunnel for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes seems like eternity when some fool is waiting in the rain.

Was it worth it?

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens. (f2.5 1/500 second at ISO 400)
Screen shot showing camera EXIF data.

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Irish Rail 073 in Heritage Paint at Dublin’s North Wall.

Irish Rail 073 was repainted in 2017 into heritage orange paint.

When I arrived in Ireland 20 years ago, most locomotives were in some variation of this orange-livery. Today, 073 is a novelty.

The bright orange with white trimming makes for a great subject, even on cloudy days since its stands out well from the background.

I made these views last week at Dublin’s North Wall of the arriving IWT Liner.

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

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Fool in the Rain, Irish Weather Part 1.

On the way to Belfast from Dublin a couple of weeks ago, the rain lashed down. Instead of changing trains at Portadown, I opted to remain dry a little long and remained on the Enterprise all the way to Belfast Central.

It was still cloudy in Belfast, but the rain had stopped.

I traveled to Great Victoria Street, then changed for an all stops NI Railways train and alighted at Adelaide just as the clouds receded and bright evening light prevailed.

An express to Lisburn passes Adelaide. You’d hardly know that an hour earlier it was lashing rain.
A few minutes later, a 4001-series CAF passes on an all stops service. This pair of photos offers a good comparison between the 3001 and 4001 series CAF railcars employed by NIR.
NIR 4010 slows for its station stop at Adelaide.

I exposed these views with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Fujinon 18-135mm zoom lens.

So I wasn’t a fool in the end; or was I?

If I’d changed at Portadown, I would have arrived at Adelaide sooner and I may have photographed a train with a rainbow.

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Cover Considerations:  Out-takes from my Railway Guide to Europe.

What makes a good cover photo?

The short answer is the image that the publisher hopes will best sell the product.

When I was asked to supply potential cover images for Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, I searched through hundreds of photos that I thought might work.

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

My book should be available at the end of May.

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

It is aimed at people looking to travel around Europe by train.

I hoped for a cover image that showed a modern passenger train in a classic setting. Also, while the book covers a wide geographical span, I thought it would be best for the cover to focus on central Europe.

Kalmbach books narrowed my selection about 8 photos; while the choice was ultimately theirs, the image of a DB Regional Express passing a medieval tower at Oberwesel made my final cut.

This photo was exposed in nice soft sunlight; it offers a pleasant scenic summer setting with a simple, yet striking composition showing a river, a castle and a decidedly modern European passenger train. The train’s paint scheme makes it easy to distinguished it from the surrounding landscape and it appears relatively high in the image area (if it appeared too low, it might not work well to sell the book). Also, there’s ample space for the book title and other writing.

I made the cover image while on a visit to the Rhein valley with Gerry Conmy, Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe. We spent the afternoon of 8 September 2015 photographing a parade of trains on the Rhein’s ‘left bank’ line.

The cover image was selected from a burst of 4 photos. I’ve included a variety of the other photos I made during the same afternoon.

This photo was made slightly later in the sequence of photos from which the cover image was selected.

 

This Mittelrheinbahn local train was exposed a few minutes after the cover image. The lighting isn’t as nice as the cover image.
A DB class 101 electric leads an IC train at Oberwesel. Although a dramatic image, the train is lower in the image area, the catenary masts present greater visual clutter and the train is a generation older, thus will tend to date the book more quickly.
DB auto train. Admittedly, while I like the views of freight trains, these are are unlikely to sell the book to passenger train riders. I did include a handful of freight photos inside the book. Including a vintage image my father made on an SNCF freight in 1960.
A Swiss Cargo intermodal freight at Oberwesel. This was one of many freights that I photographed that afternoon.
An Austrian EC train with leased Taurus electric and ÖBB carriages, makes for a nice international image. The colors of the locomotive don’t work as well as the DB Regional Express ultimately selected.

 

Crossrail is one of many private operators running freight on German rails.
A DB class 101 leads an EC train with SBB carriages. Now who left his camera bag in the photo?
Catching this vintage class 225 ‘Rabbit’ with a maintenance train was a real coup. Yet, hardly cover material for a book aimed at riding trains.
Here’s a slightly different angle at the same location. This features a castle perched atop the hill, but is a more cluttered view.

All of these images were exposed over the course of less than an hour using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe should be available at the end of May.

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

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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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Irish Rail ICR and Sperry Train at Mallow, County Cork.

For me, sometimes black & white film provides the best medium for capturing a scene.

Working with my Nikon N90S loaded with Ilford FP4 black & white film, I exposed this sequence of photographs at Mallow, County Cork.

Soft afternoon sun provided some nice light; just the sort of low sun that allows for tonality and texture to be interpreted on black & white film.

Irish Rail 075 rests in the Mallow yard with the Sperry rail defect detection train.
The addition of a spoil wagon at the back of the Sperry consist was unusual and worth of a few photographs.
Filtered sun makes for contrast and tonality well suited to black & white film. I exposed these views using my Nikon N90S with 35mm f2.0 Nikkor AF Lens.

 

 

An Irish Rail ICR (InterCity Railcar) arrives at Mallow from Cork on its way to Dublin.
Here’s a contrast between the antique looking Sperry train and the sleek ICR.

Previously, I’d struggled with FP4 to get a range of tones that satisfy me. With this roll of film, I used Ilford ID11 stock solution without dilution at 68 degrees F (20C) for 5 minutes, with only a short water bath prior to develoment.

Although, my negatives still required a touch of contrast adjustment in post processing, I’m very happy with the way they turned out.

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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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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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Sunset at Craigmore Viaduct.

A few weeks ago I posted a shadow silhouette made from the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise crossing the old Great Northern Railway (of Ireland) Craigmore Viaduct.

LX7 photo from the train.

Last week I had the opportunity to make a photo of the same bridge from the ground, thus making use of the shadow from a completely different angle.

Exposure was the tricky part, since the sun was low on the horizon, but partially blocked by the passing train. I made these photos with my Lumix LX7 without use of filters or post-processing adjustment.

Lumix LX7 ISO80, f8 at 1/1000th second, 60mm setting on the zoom.
Lumix LX7 ISO80, f8 at 1/1000th second, 60mm setting on the zoom.

Thanks to Honer Travers and William Malone with whom I was traveling.

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RPSI Driver Training Special at Laytown.

A rare sunny Sunday in Ireland. It was clear from dawn to dusk.

Making it extra special was Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s driver training special using tank engine No. 4 and the preserved Cravens carriages.

This worked the Northern line between Connolly Station in Dublin and Drogheda.

I was traveling with William Malone and Honer Travers.

We decided to visit the viaduct at Laytown, which offers a good place to catch a steam locomotive at work.

I made this view using my Lumix LX7, but also exposed a sequence of Fujichrome colour slides with my Nikon N90S and 35mm lens. We’ll have to wait to see those.

My Lumix LX7 is a nifty tool for making action photos of train. Although a small camera, it has the ability to produce both RAW and JPG files and features a remarkably sharp lens.

I find that engine number 4 photographs best from a broadside angle. It looks awkward viewed head-on.

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Square Crossing O’Connell Street—Dublin.

Construction of Dublin’s new Cross City LUAS tram route has resulted in two square crossings. One at Abbey and Marlborough Streets, the other at Abbey and O’Connell Street.

This has opened up a variety of photographic opportunities to get two or more trams in one photo.

I made this view on O’Connell Street looking east on Abbey Street toward the pub called Grand Central.

Exposed digitally using a Lumix LX7.

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Irish Rail’s IWT Liner on a Saturday

I was traveling with Denis McCabe.

‘So where do we go?’

‘Try Cherryville first,’ I offered.

It was a bit brushed in and completely backlit. But we knew that.

‘How about Monasterevin? If we go to the bridge over the Barrow the sun will be side on.’

And so it was. We caught a the parade of Saturday morning passenger trains (I posted one of these yesterday). But then it clouded over.

‘Not much use here when there’s a white sky.’

So we moved up to the station.

We didn’t wait there long before the headlight of an 071 appeared.

In short order we caught the IWT Liner passing on its way to Ballina, County Mayo.

After  exposing a few colour slides,  I made a burst of digital images using my FujiFilm XT1.

Owing to the high contrast scene, I opted to make some exposure and contrast adjustments in post processing. I did this within the parameters of the histogram and so retained all the detail captured in my RAW file.

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Irish Rail Crossing the Barrow at Monasterevin.

I made this broadside view of an Irish Rail InterCity Railcar (ICR) crossing the River Barrow at Monasterevin.

To stop the action, I set my FujiFilm XT1 manually as follows: ISO 400, Shutter Speed = 1/1000th second, f-stop = f6.3.

I was working with a fixed focal length 90mm telephoto (a ‘prime’ lens which is not a variable focal length ‘zoom’).

The XT1’s digital format this is roughly equivalent to a 135mm lens on 35mm film.

A high shutter speed is necessary for stop action photography when photographing at a right angle to the subject’s direction of travel.

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Psssst . . . hey pal, I rode a bus to get these photographs!

What?

It’s true.

Last week I traveled around Northern Ireland on a Translink Adult Zone 4 iLink day card, which allows for unlimited travel on NI Railways and Translink buses for a flat fee of £16. This offers great value and travel flexibility.

I arrived at Coleraine from Derry and wanted to make a photo of a train arriving at Portrush. Rather than take the branch train and wait around at Portrush for an hour to photograph the next arrival, I opted to board a bus.

Not only did the bus take less time than the train, but arrived before the connecting branch train was supposed to depart. This gave me time to explore my angles and set up my photo.

Portrush still features classic mechanical signaling, although on my visit the signal cabin was ‘switched out’. (In other words the cabin was not involved in controlling train movements on the line, which is a normal situation when there’s only one train at a time working between Coleraine and Portrush.)

Semaphores against a background of the North Atlantic/North Channel.
I selected a low angle to better feature the semaphore blade, while waiting to carefully position the train as an element in the photo between the home signal (in the distance) and cabin at left. Contrast and colour adjusted in post processing.

Once the train arrived I made a few photos of it in the station, then boarded for the return trip to Coleraine (and on to Belfast).

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CSX in the Snow.

Just an ordinary winter’s day at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts last month.

I made this view of CSX’s B740 using my Lumix LX7 .

Exposing for snow can be tricky. Remember the camera doesn’t know what’s supposed to be white.

One of the advantages of digital photography is the ability to check the exposure on-site. Although this scene had a tricky exposure, I was able to gauge my result at the time of exposure.

Consider the dynamic range of exposure in the this image: note the headlights on the locomotive (which appear brighter than the snow on the ground) and the sky (which is slightly darker than the snow).

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