Yesterday (Sunday February 21, 2021) a clear blue dome made for excellent winter photographic conditions.
Kris Sabbatino and I went out to picture Conway Scenic’s afternoon Snow Trains.
We caught the 3pm departure passing Glen, New Hampshire.
After exposing a few Provia 100F color slides of the train crossing the truss bridge over the Ellis River, I made this view with my FujiFilm XT1 as the westward train approached the grade crossing.
I’ve presented two versions. The first is the camera-JPG using the Fuji Veliva color profile. The second is a JPG made from the camera-RAW, which I first converted using Iridient X-Transformer to a DNG file, then working in Adobe Lightroom I made very slight adjustments to the highlights and shadows to maximize the detail in the image while retaining the color profile.
Notice the difference in the amount of highlight detail in the snow, particularly to the left of the train. Also notice the tint of the green paint on the front of locomotive 216.
I paid a visit to the Ontario Midland at Sodus, New York on a windy October day in 1987.
The sky was a tumble with autumnal clouds blowing off Lake Ontario with occasional patches of blue sky.
I made this view on Kodachrome 25 slide film with my Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron.
I’d missed a wink sun on the Alco RS-11 by a few moments.
I wonder why I didn’t wait a little while to see if it would have come out again?
Below are three versions of the photo. The first is my uncorrected scan, the second and third are variation with corrections to exposure, contrast, saturation and color balance implemented with Adobe Lightroom.
It was a dull Friday afternoon in mid June 2005, when DH and I were exploring locations along the Cork Road (Dublin to Cork) between Mountrath, Co Laois and the top of Ballybrophy Bank.
We’d stopped in sight of the tracks on a lightly traveled dirt road, and were cleaning the car, when off to the east we heard the distant drumming of a class 071 in Run-8 (full throttle).
Irish Rail’s class 071s are mid-1970s era EMD diesel-electrics, built with Dash-2 technology and powered with 12-cylinder 645E3 (turbocharged) engine. Their sound is distinctive.
I grabbed my Nikon F3 loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO). As the Friday-only ‘Down Kerry’ (Dublin Heuston to Tralee) came into view, the sun peaked out from a thick overhead cloud-bank. Irish Rail 072 was driven by Irish Rail’s Ken Fox, who recognized us and gave a few friendly blasts of the hooter (horn).
As the train passed on its ascent toward Ballybrophy, the sound intensified—a characteristic of the doppler effect. We could hear the aged EMD until Ken shut off at the top of the bank—several miles distant.
On October 22, 1987, I made this study of former Reading Company 50-foot boxcars stored on the Genesee & Wyoming at P&L Junction in Caledonia, New York.
When Reading was folded into Conrail, Delaware & Hudson took title to a variety of Reading Company equipment, yet these cars were still painted for their original owner.
For more than 30 years this Kodachrome slide languished in the dark, and only recently did I retrieve it. These cars are of special interest to me now because I’m building a scale interpretation of the Reading Company in HO, and, Kris Sabbatino and I recently purchased models of Reading Company cars similar to these.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Leica M2 with a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit.
Scanned using a Nikon SupersCoolScan5000 digital scanner operated using VueScan software. Scan adjusted in Adobe Lightroom.
Working with ripe professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM), I made a series of photos of Norfolk Southern trains traversing the former Nickel Plate Road street trackage on 19th Street in Erie, Pennsylvania.
This was part of a great adventure with my pal TSH in the summer of 1988 that brought us to many fascinating places on the railroad.
Kodachrome was wonderful film, and PKM was among my favorite emulsions, but when used a little on the ripe side (too fresh) it shifted cyan (blue/green).
I scanned this slide the other day using a Nikon Coolscan5000 digital scanner then imported the high-res TIF scan into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.
Working with the sliders in the program, I made a host of small corrections to color, contrast, and exposure that improve the overall appearance of the photo while minimizing the effects of the cyan color cast.
I’ve included a scaled version of the unaltered scan; my adjusted scan, and one of the Lightroom work windows that shows some of the adjustments that I made during post processing.
Back in the mid-1980s, I’d often catch Central Vemont’s southward road freight arriving at Palmer, Massachusetts. This would operate overnight from St. Albans, and typically arrive in the morning.
On this occasion, 444 was lead by a colorful mix of locomotives including Grand Trunk Western GP38 5808 and a couple of GTW GP9s, a CV GP9, and a Canadian National M-420.
I must have been so enthralled by the array of motive power that I didn’t mind my exposure. My original slide is about 2/3s of a stop over exposed. Which means the photograph is too light.
Back in the day, I’d instantly reject an image of this quality as ‘unsuitable’ for projection. Although, I labeled the slide, I filed it away with my ‘3rds’, where it was protected from the light for more than 34 years.
I scanned it the other day using a Nikon Coolscan5000 digital scanner, making a multiple pass scan to extract the most amount of data possible in a 4000 dpi scan, then imported the TIF file into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment.
The actual adjustment required to correct for over exposure required just a few seconds of my time. Using the histogram as a guide, I lowered the exposure, set the black and white limits and exported as a JPG for presentation here.
Below is the unadjusted scan, followed by my exposure adjusted scan.
I was working on a book on Electro-Motive Division early General Purpose diesels. Specifically the GP7s, GP9s, GP18s and GP20s.
I needed photos of GP18s to illustrate the book, and at the time New York Susquehanna & Western was still regularly operating their small fleet of three GP18s, which the railroad had bought new from EMD.
So, photographer Pat Yough and I drove to central New York state and sought out these vintage locomotives.
I made these Fujichrome color slides at Cortland, NY, where the NYS&W operated a portion of the old Lackawanna.
Last night I scanned the slides, then processed the images in Adobe Photoshop to correct for color, adjust highlight and shadow areas and make other minor adjustments to contrast etc. Below I display both the uncorrected and corrected scans to show the differences between them.
Outside my window it is snowing, so looking at photos made on a bright Spring morning is a refreshing change of scene!
The other day plowing through my old yellow Kodak boxes, I found one marked in pencil ‘RR-BAD, 2nds & 3rds’.
Translated from my teenaged sorting classification system this was code for ‘real garbage, but not so bad that it should be thrown away’.
Without opening this box, hidden away in the dark for more than three decades, I joked to Kris Sabbatino, “these slides are marked as ‘Bad’, so they must be the best of the lot!”
I explained further, “In my younger days I’d dismiss a photo for the slightest perceived imperfection and classify it as ‘junk’. I know better now! Any box that’s coded as ‘garbage’ is filled with lost treasure!”
Sure enough when I opened this yellow box last night and examined it closely, I found host of fascinating photos. Many only a quick correction away from public presentation.
So what was wrong with this view of a Bangor & Aroostook GP7 at Northern Maine Junction? I’d exposed it on Kodak Ektachrome back in July 1983, and missed my ideal exposure. The original is a bit hot (too light). But that’s a quick fix using Adobe Lightroom.
What you see here is my corrected scan of the original overexposed slide. Not all that bad after all!
I exposed this color slide on a visit to Brussels with my father in May 1996.
I carried two cameras on that trip. My primary body was a Nikon F3T that I bought new from Nikon in 1990. My secondary camera was second hand Nikkormat FTN with an outer covering of red leather. I called it ‘my red Nikkormat’.
Back then, I’d usually load Kodachrome 25 in the F3T, and Fujichrome 100 in the Nikormat. I exposed film in both cameras manually using a handheld Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter to calculate exposure.
Among the hundreds of 35mm slides returned to me from the processing lab the other day was this Kodak Ektachrome E100 slide of Conway Scenic Railroad 573 and 4266 leading the 2020 Railfan’s Day photo freight that I helped organize.
September 5, 2020 was a perfect clear day with rich blue sky and warm late-summer sun.
In addition to a great number of digital photographs, I also exposed color slides for slide shows and to keep for posterity.
With slides I get the best of both worlds; analog archival material and a scannable transparency that is easily digitized for internet presentation.
I scanned the slide using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner, set to 4000 dpi and a ‘White Balance’ color profile.
Below I’ve attached the VueScan control window that shows my various manual settings; the RAW uninterpreted scan of the slide, and the adjusted scan after I altered shadow and highlight contrast and other parameters in Adobe Lightroom.
Last week, Conway Scenic Railroad temporarily evicted former Boston & Maine F7A 4268 from stall 4 at the North Conway, NH roundhouse where the locomotive has been undergoing an operational restoration by the 470 Club (that also owns sister F7A 4266 which is operational at CSRR).
Saturday morning (November 21, 2020) brilliant late-autumn presented excellent light to photograph this relic of mid-20th century dieselization. B&M 4268 was originally an EMD demonstrator and features the builder’s less-common ‘passenger pilot’, which makes it distinctive among B&M’s F-unit.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm X-T1 with recently acquired 16-55mm Fujinon lens. After exposure, I converted the camera-RAW files to DNG format using Iridient X-Transformer software, which does a more effective job of transforming these files for conversion by Adobe Lightroom, than either Lightroom itself or other image processing software.
After conversion, I imported the DNG files into Lightroom and made some minor adjustments to color temperature, contrast, and highlight/shadow detail plus saturation.
Below are examples of the in-camera FujiFilm JPG (using Velvia color profile, and a comparison DNG file converted from RAW using the Iridient software.
All photos were then scaled and exported using Lightroom.
Working with slide film had its perils. Normally, I used 36 exposure roles.
However, I’d carefully load my manual cameras and try to squeeze as many photos out of each rolls as possible.
This was risky, because often the last frame would get ruined in processing. So, I typically save that final frame for something less important, but still interesting.
On April 23, 1997, my father and I waited on a Shinkansen platform at Nishi Akashi west of Osaka. I made a few photos of this passing Series 300 Series highspeed train as it blasted by at approximately 186mph.
Working with my old Nikon F3T, I exposed this final frame on a roll of Fuji Provia 100 as the train passed me at speed. In processing, Fuji cut the last little bit of the slide (to the left of the train).
For years this slide sat in a box, unworthy of slide shows. I scanned it yesterday. Below are two versions. One is full frame, the other is cropped.
Using my FujiFilm XT1, I made this photo on First Street when visiting Los Angeles in August 2016.
I was pleased to catch then-new cars working the Metro Rail Gold Line light rail line.
Below are two variations. The top is the in-camera JPG, using the ‘Velvia’ color profile. The second view I converted from Fuji RAW to DNG format with Iridient X-Transformer (a specialized 3rd party software aimed at producing superior results with Fuji RAW files) before importing into Lightroom for final adjustment.
Back in July (2020), I posted a photo of Guilford Rail System 252 under the title ‘Unexpected Surprise’. See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2020/07/23/unexpected-surprise/
The significance of the locomotive is that Maine Central 252 (pictured) is now owned by Conway Scenic, where I now work as the Manager of Marketing.
Today’s TTL photograph portrays the same train, Guilford’s EDLA (East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts) a little later on the same May 1997 evening.
After photographing it near Farleys, Mike Gardner and I had continued east on Route 2.
Here on the Wendell-Erving town line, I had aimed to recreate a photo that I’d made with photographer Brandon Delaney a dozen years earlier, when I caught an eastward train from the same spot. In that earlier photo a derelict barn was standing to the left of the road.
In this view all the remained of the barn was the foundation.
I offer two variation of the same photo. The top is a straight scan without post processing adjustment to contrast, color etc. The second features my processing to improve the appearance of the image.
Often I consider my Kodachrome slides among my finest photographs.
By not always.
In the mid-1990s, Kodachrome went through an unsettled phase and the film didn’t perform as well as it had in the late 1980s early 1990s. The reasons for these changes may be a discussion for another day.
On April 11, 1997, I joined photographers Mike Gardner and George Pitarys on a productive chase of New England Central’s southward freight, number 608.
At Willimantic, Connecticut, I made this photo along the river by some old thread mills (some since demolished).
April light can be challenging. Harsh contrast combined with a yellowish tint from air pollution makes for a raw ‘brassy’ quality that Kodachrome didn’t reproduce well.
I scanned this slide a little while ago and then imported the TIFF file into Adobe Lightroom, which I used to soften the contrast, lighten the shadows and correct the harsh color rendition. See adjusted version below
It isn’t perfect, but then again the lighting on the day wasn’t ideal.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw last month when Kris Sabbatino and I re-visited Belfast, Maine.
In 1980, my father and I paid two visits to Belfast, one of which involved a train ride to Burnham Junction and back on the Belfast & Moosehead Lake freight. On those trips I made photos of B&ML’s yard and roundhouse on black & white film using my Leica IIIA.
In August 1997, I revisited Belfast, and found the B&ML yard intact, but ghostly quiet.
I’d read that the good citizens of Belfast despised the railroad yard and its environment and that they had evicted the railroad that the city had once owned.
I was shocked of how completely this quaint delightful compact railroad yard along the Belfast waterfront had been so totally erased from the scene. It has been replaced with a sandy parking lot.
I was unprepared because I had not brought with me the photos from my earlier visits. I found it very difficult to recall exactly where I had stood. The landmarks I knew existed only in my head.
The tracks, the structures, the trains and the character of the environment that I seen in my earlier visits were now gone.
Sadly, I’ll need to return again with my earlier photos in hand and attempt a more accurate series of ‘then and now’ images.
The views below are looking north. My attempts to recreate the roundhouse scenes looking west are not good enough to reproduce here.
Going back over my Fuji digital files from 2015, I’ve selected this image of a VR Group Stadler railcar working the then-new Helsinki Airport train at Leinelá, Finland.
Below are three interpretations of the same image exposed using my FujiFilm XT1. The first is the In-camera JPG without color correction or alteration except for scaling and watermark.
The second is the Fuji RAW file imported and adjusted strictly using Lightroom.
The third is the Fuji RAW file first converted using Iridient X-Transformer and then imported into Lightroom where I implemented the same color and contrast corrections.
One minor difference with this Iridient interpretation is that I turned off the the feature that automatically corrects for lens distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting. So this gives a slightly less invasive digital interpretation and a truer sense of the visual information as recorded by the sensor.
The ability to improve my interpretation of Fuji RAW files using Iridient X-Transformer made me curious to re-examine some of my Fuji photos from years gone by.
I selected a photo that I made on trip to Switzerland with photographer Denis McCabe in April 2017. This image was made at the Champery terminus of a TPC branch that extends into the Alps from Aigle.
Here I’ve presented a comparison between the Lightroom interpreted RAW (scaled and converted to JPG for internet presentation) and the same file converted into a DNG file using Iridient X-Transformer. Since it is difficult to appreciate the improved sharpness when viewed on a small scale, I’ve enlarged a portion of each image that focuses on the LED lamps and rivets on the then new Stadler railcar.
The final image was derived from the Iridient converted DNG and involved nominal adjustments to color balance, color temperature, contrast and saturation that are aimed a making a more pleasing final photograph.
Last Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Conway Scenic operated a work extra to Conway to assist with preparations for the annual Pumpkin Patch event being held for the next three weekends.
The train was organized with relatively little advanced notice, and the only available locomotive was former Boston & Maine F7A 4266, owned by the 470 Club. Our other locomotives were out on passenger assignments or out of service awaiting repairs or maintenance.
Since the cab of the locomotive was facing railroad timetable west, the decision was made to use a caboose as a shoving platform and the train reversed from North Conway down the former B&M branch to Conway.
I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. Fuji RAW files were converted to DNG files using Iridient X Transformer and then imported into Adobe Lightroom for final adjustment.
Yesterday, October 15, 2020, I made a late season foliage photo of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer descending from Crawfords at milepost 79 near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and 90mm prime telephoto, I set the ISO to 1000. I needed relatively high sensitivity because I was working in the shadows of the trees and mountain side and wanted a sufficiently fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the train, while using a smaller aperture to minimize headlight bleed.
Then I imported the Fuji RAW files directly into Adobe Lightroom for processing, while making a comparison set of files by importing them first into Iridient X-Transformer which converts the files to a DNG format and then imported these into Lightroom.
As previously described on Tracking the Light, the Iridient software does a superior job of interpreting the Fuji RAW files.