Working with my old Nikon F3T and an f1.8 105mm lens, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of a Cal-Train ‘Commute’ departing San Francisco, seen taking the bend at 7thStreet in February 1992.
Interestingly, lately I’ve been making good use of this same camera and lens combination for exposing black & white negatives and Fuji Provia 100F color slides.
If this image seems familiar, its because back in the 1990s it appeared in various publications.
I scanned the slide this morning using a Nikon Coolscan5000 digital scanner and processed the hi-res TIF file in Lightroom to adjust color and produced a scaled file for internet presentation.
Typically, I scan Kodachrome slides at 4000 dots per inch (or higher) to maintain the high resolution of the original photographs. Since these files are in the 120-170MB range they require scaling to upload them to WordPress for presentation here.
Tracking the Light is a work in progress and publishes new material daily!
Monochrome; black & white; noir—what ever you like.
I made these views on an evening in late March at Porto’s Campanha Station using a Nikon F3 loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic film.
Negatives were processed using an dilute HC110 presoak (1-300 with water plus wetting agent) followed by ID11 1-1 69 F for 7 min 30 sec then following stop, fix and extended rinse, a final bath of selenium toner 1-0 for 7 min 30 sec and re-wash and final rinse in distilled water.
Working with a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens loaded with Fomapan 100 Classic, I exposed these portraits of some of the men working Railway Preservation Society’s 18 March 2019 trips from Dublin Connolly Station to Maynooth.
I processed the film in a non-standard way to obtain a period look while giving photos optimal tonality in a contrasty situations.
First: I pre-soaked film it in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 (measured 3 parts per 1000 with water, plus wetting agent) for about 7 minutes at 72 F;
Second: primary developer consisted of Ilford ID-11 1 to 1 with water at 69 F for 6 minutes;
Third: following stop bath, two fixer baths, and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in a 1-9 selenium solution (outdoors to avoid breathing toxic fumes) for 8 minutes. This was followed by several rinse cycles and a final rinse in distilled water.
Negatives were scanned in colour to retain the selenium tint.
Tracking the Light is on ‘auto pilot’ while Brian is traveling.
Never pass up a perfect sunny photograph. That’s been my policy for a very long time and its one that pays off.
There’s nothing special about an Irish Rail Rotem-built InterCity Railcar (ICR) on the Sligo Line.
And 20 years ago there was nothing special about a General Motors 071 diesel-electric with Mark 2 carriages on the same run. Photos like this one will age well. Someday some young photographer will wish that he/she was at Clonsilla to capture a scene like this one.
Please note: Although Brian will be traveling next week, Tracking the Light will continue to post articles every day.
It was Spring 1989 when I made this view of Delaware & Hudson’s westward EBBU at West Middlebury, New York on Conrail’s former Erie Railroad line from Hornell to Buffalo.
This was during New York, Susquehanna & Western’s operation of D&H, after it left the Guilford system and before it was acquired by Canadian Pacific.
Leading the train is a Delaware & Hudson locomotive still wearing Guilford colors but lacking the big ‘G’ on the side.
West Middlebury was a preferred location to catch mid-morning westward trains because the alignment of the railroad favored the morning sun as actually it ran southwest-northeast before curling around to get over Attica Hill.
I was still studying photography at the Rochester Institute of Photography, and typically worked with my antique Leica and Rolleiflex cameras. However for this image, I owe the generosity of my college roommate, Bob, who lent me his Hassleblad 503C for the day. I loaded this with Kodachrome 64 120, which offered superb sharpness and color rendering.
The camera’s 80mm Zeiss Planar lens was among the sharpest lenses available.
To demonstrate this fantastic combination of camera and film, I’ve offered three versions of this photo. The first is the uncropped image; the others show degrees of cropping to demonstrate both the versatility of the Hasselblad’s square format and the ability to crop in while retaining detail and sharpness.
I made this view handheld, and unfortunately didn’t get the level 100 percent perfect, so for years this view sat in my ‘seconds’ file. You could make a wall size print from the original chrome and count the blades of grass.
Looking at this Conrail photo makes me feel that March 23, 1989 wasn’t that long ago.
I’d left my apartment in Scottsville, New York before dawn and headed west on Rt33 in my white Toyota Corolla.
I knew I had a westbound climbing Batavia Hill—the nominal rise of the Water Level Route that ascended the Niagara Escarpment on the way toward Buffalo.
My Leica M2 was loaded with Kodachrome 200 ‘Fast Kodachrome’ (three stops faster than K25, which was my normal film in 1989).
I parked the car west of Batavia near CP406 (where New York Central’s 1950s track re-alignment to avoid downtown Batavia rejoined the historic railroad route). With time running short, I hike east beneath the code lines and set up my Leica with a 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto on my Bogen 3021 tripod.
I could hear the slow moving westbound as the sun glimmered above the horizon. But then behind me fast moving eastward stack train blasted for Donahue Road. . .
The headlight of the westbound appeared and over the next few seconds I captured a running meet between the two Conrail trains. K200’s warm color balance and grain structure made for the perfect combination to distill the moment.
I’ve run this photo in various publications and it’s one of my favorite Water Level Route views.
I spent the rest of the day photographing along the former Erie Railroad, which was alive with trains. I remember it all as if it was yesterday.
Working with my Lumix LX7 I made these three evening glinty views of Irish Rail trains to and from Cork at Dublin’s Heuston Station.
I’ve always loved the soft orange glow of filtered evening light.
Where’s the filter you ask? It’s in the sky. A mix of clouds and pollution—particulates and other stuff—alters the spectral qualities of the setting sun by pushing the color balance toward the red-orange end of the spectrum.
Working with Czech-made Fomapan Classic in my Nikon F3, I’ve wandered the streets of Dublin seeking timeless images.
By careful chemical manipulation in the processing of the negatives, I aimed to extract exceptional shadow detail, maintain rich black tones and control highlight areas.
I’ve exposed these views over the last few weeks. In many instances, I’ve set my lenses to their widest apertures both to let greater amounts of light to reach the film, but also for the effects offered shallow depth of field.
Weather, including fog, added to the challenge and the atmosphere.
I have a variety of my favorite images in my screen saver file that the computer brings up at random when I stop using it.
Many are railroad photos, some recent, some from the archives. One is a photo of a Shinkansen high speed train approaching Tokyo, another is a small critter on a railroad tie in Colorado, a third is a recent view on Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central on a bitterly cold evening.
In my mix is this classic view of Santa Fe DASH8-40BW 575 racing eastward through a curve at Willard, New Mexico.
I exposed it on Kodachrome 25 during a trip to California in January 1994. I worked with my old Nikon F3T with a prime 200mm Nikkor telephoto that was one of my staple lenses for many years.
Tracking the Light Posts Something Different Every Day!
June 1996: It had been just over a year since Union Pacific absorbed Chicago & North Western.
I made this view of a westward UP train with SD60M 6276 in the lead.
A father with his young son on a bicycle look on in wonder.
This single frame was exposed with my Nikon F3T and 35PC (perspective control) lens on Kodachrome 25. The film’s slow speed combined with side lighting and minimum aperture of just f3.5 only allowed me a shutter speed of 1/250thof a second, which wasn’t fast enough to freeze the train’s motion in this broadside view.
I feel that the slight motion blur makes the photo because it conveys the speed and mass of the train in contrast to the relative fragility of its on-lookers.
The tree branches at top right help accentuated the blurring effect.
Irish Rail moves zinc ore from Tara Mines in Navan to the port of Dublin on weekdays. The trains are short and relatively heavy. Owing to restrictions on trackage serving the mine Irish Rail always assigns the General Motors 071 diesels to this run.
Last week, 27 March 2019, Jay Monaghan and I met on the station platforms at Clontarf Road on Dublin’s north side specifically to catch the laden Tara mines passing in the gloom.
A thick wintery fog made for a dose of extra gloom just for good meaure.
I made a variety of test exposures of passing DART trains (Dublin Area Rapid Transit electric suburban service) and got into position for the Main Event.
The drumming of an EMD 12-645 diesel announced the arrival of the evening’s freight.
I made a series of photos Working with my Lumix LX7 digital camera (with ISO racked up to 800), and a Nikon F3 fitted with f1.8 105mm lens and Ilford HP5 film.
I tried to pick and exciting sounding title! These are some more of my thoughts on railroad night photography, the nuts and the bolts:
The other evening at Clontarf Road in Dublin, I was experimenting with various ISO settings in preparation for a more serious photo I was about to expose under the wires on Irish Rail.
Normally with my Lumix LX7, I limit the ISO settings to between 80 and 200, because this camera tends to get noticeably noisy/grainy at the higher settings.
Higher ISO increases the effective sensitivity of the sensor but does so at the expense of image quality, especially in regards to exposure latitude and noise. (Technically that’s not exactly correct, but for the sake of space and clarity that’s how I’m going to explain it here.)
In my night situation using a higher ISO setting will allow me a faster maximum shutter speed, which I need to stop a train in motion. Yet with each one-stop increment the image quality suffers more severely.
Keep in mind with each doubling of the ISO, the camera gains one stop: So, ISO 100 to 200 is one stop, 200 to 400 one stop, etc; and each jump allows an equivalent one stop increase in shutter speed. So in the lighting conditions at my location and using my LX7 aperture set at f1.4, ISO 100 allowed 1/15 of a second; ISO 200 1/30th; ISO 400 1/60th; ISO 800 1/125. Obviously, I needed to go higher than ISO 200 to stop the action. (Or simply pan the train, but that’s a story for another post).
Here are two views of static DART electric trains in low light that I made simply as comparison tests to see how the higher ISO setting compared visually. (Ignore the minor variations in composition).
At the small size displayed for internet viewing there’s only a slight difference. One is at the camera’s minimum ISO setting which is 80; the other is at 800, which three and a third stops faster.
Here’s a few black & white views exposed last week on Kodak Tri-X of Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to the North Wall/Connolly.
Recently, Irish Rail has expanded service on the Grand Canal Docks—Hazel Hatch/Newbridge run and now trains run at least hourly throughout the day.
Following a Grand Canal Docks bound passenger train was the daily Up IWT Liner (Ballina to North Wall, Dublin).
Since these trains were coming out of the relatively harsh midday sun, I opted to work with black & white film, which makes the most of the contrast and allows me to control shadow and highlight detail to a greater degree than with my digital cameras, while giving the images a period look.
To maximize tonality and detail from the negatives I employed a ‘split process’ using two developers.
First I use a very weak solution of Kodak HC110 mixed 1 to 250 to water. To intensify the detail in shadows while avoiding over processing highlight areas, I keep the developer temperature comparatively high (73F) and allow it to work to exhaustion. My second developer is Ilford ID mixed 1-1 for 6 minutes 45 seconds with one minute agitation intervals. Then stop; fix 1, fix 2, rinse for 3 minutes, hypoclear, then a series of final washes. Dry and scan.
When I see a thick fog rolling in during the fading light, I see photo opportunities everywhere.
Fog is one my favorite photographic conditions, and the thicker, the better!
The fine thick mist has many benefits. It acts as a diffuser, which spreads the light, reducing contrast between the brightest highlights and shadows. It also tends to allow for photography in every direction, which opens up numerous angles and perspectives that I may not consider on a bright day.
Most importantly fog adds depth and mystique to a scene, making even the most mundane places intriguing, while masking unsightly elements such as garbage, graffiti and wires.
The other evening a thick fog settled over Dublin and I made my way to Connolly Station. Below are a few views from my Lumix LX7.
Saturday, 23 February 2019, I tested a roll of Rollei 80S Retro 35mm black & white film.
This is a unusual emulsion: the film consists of a clear polyester base, which significantly alters the tonal range in scanning. This is a very fine grain emulsion that features high red light sensitivity, which makes red light appear much lighter. From what I’ve read, it also incorporates a degree of infrared sensitivity, which may be enhanced by the use of red filters.
Following recommendations by the manufacturer and various accounts published on the web, I processed my roll in Agfa Rodinal, which tends to yield a very rich black.
I exposed the entire roll in Dublin, while I made a few photographs around Heuston Station, for this exercise concentrated on views of the city. Once I feel I’ve mastered processing this emulsion, I may make some serious railroad photos with it.
The photos below are scanned using an Epson V500 flatbed scan and tidied up using Lightroom.
Before sunrise this morning (Sunday 24 February 2019) I photographed Dublin’s Heuston Station dressed in artificial red light.
In the past, Heuston Station has been variously bathed in white light, green for St. Patrick’s Day, or variations on the Irish Tri-Colour flag.
For these photos I worked with my Lumix LX7 mounted on a mini Gitzo tripod. I switched the image stabilizer ‘off’, and set the white balance to ‘daylight’. Exposures were calculated automatically with minor adjustment in-camera.
In the summer of 1999, I was standing on the footbridge at Kildare station where I focused on Irish Rail 225 leading Mark3 carriages as it approached at speed.
My first Nikon N90S was loaded with Ilford HP5 and fitted with an old Tokina 400mm fixed focal length telephoto.
The train was common; my photograph was unusual. Working with extreme telephoto compression, I’ve framed the train in the arch of road-bridge, which has the effect of accentuating the pattern of the crossovers east of the bridge.
I recall the piercing Doppler squashed screech of 225’s horn as it neared the platforms, warning passengers to stand back.
The memory of that sound and the following rush of air as the train raced past puts me back in that place in time nearly 20 years gone. I know too well how I was feeling at the time. Strange how one photograph of a train can summon such memories and feelings.
On Friday, 15 February 2019, during my visit with Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe to Bord na Mona’s operations at Lanesborough, I worked with three cameras to document operations.
My FujiFilm XT1 and Lumix LX7 were for exposing colour digital photos, while I employed a Nikon F3 to make classic 35mm black & white images.
I processed the film yesterday using custom tailored formulas.
The first roll was Ilford HP5 that I’d bought a couple of days earlier at John Gunn’s Camera on Wexford Street in Dublin. I processed this using a two stage development, starting with an extremely dilute solution of Kodak HC110 (roughly 1 part developer to 250 parts water) which used as presoak. The weak developer helps activate the chemical reaction and improves shadow detail without overdeveloping highlight areas.
The second stage of development involved Ilford Perceptol mixed 1-1 with water and heated to 71F. Based on past experience, I left the film in the developer for 12 minutes, then stop bath, 1stfixer, 2ndfixer, pre-wash, hypoclear, main wash (10 minutes) and final rinse in distilled water.
After drying, I scanned the negatives with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and touched up the scans using Lightroom.
The other evening I made a few handheld photos of Irish Rail class 201 diesel number 217 River Fleskat Dublin’s Heuston Station.
217 was working a Mark4 set on the 2100 schedule to Cork.
There are myriad approaches to night photography. In this instance, I worked with my Lumix LX7 without a tripod.
I’m fortunate because I have an unusually steady hand. The Lumix further aids my efforts because it has image stabilization.
I set the camera to ISO 200, and working in ‘A’ (aperture priority) I manually set the lens aperture to its widest opening, which in this case is f1.8. The wider the aperture, the more light passes through the lens to reach the sensor, so having a ‘fast’ lens (one with a small maximum aperture number, such as my f1.8 lens) is a huge benefit.
This set up allowed me work with a 1/10 of second shutter speed, which is adequate speed for a static photograph.
If I had been using my FujiFilm XT1 with the kit zoom lens, my widest aperture would have been about f4.5, which is nearly two full stops slower than f1.8, which means at ISO200, I’d require about ½ second exposure to obtain a comparable result, which is too slow for a sharp handheld image in most instances.
Another way of approaching this would be raise the ISO. So with the FujiFilm set up just described, I could increase the ISO setting to 800, which would boost the effective sensitivity of the sensor by two stops (bringing me back up to 1/10thof a second using f4.5). However, this would also boost the noise level and reduce sharpness.
Back in the old days, I would have used Kodachrome, and that would have required a tripod, and probably some filters to colour-correct for the artificial light. Today, digital cameras when set to ‘auto white balance’ do an admirable job of balancing the colour for fluorescent, sodium vapor and other forms of artificial light that tend to tint an image.
Normally for night work with the Lumix, I’d dial in a 1/3 over exposure compensation (+ 1/3 on the exposure compensation dial) however in this situation the relatively bright night sky where low cloud was illuminated by lots of artificial light combined with the silver body of the locomotive and bright platform lighting, obviated the need for boosting the exposure by 1/3 of a stop.
However, I did make some very subtle changes in post processing to help visually separate the roof of the locomotive from the sky.
It was a bright overcast afternoon on 26 May 2005, when I photographed Irish Rail 077 leading an empty bubble cement train from Conyngham Road in Dublin looking toward platform 10 at Heuston Station.
I made this photo on Fujichrome slide film using my Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor ‘prime’ telephoto lens.
The telephoto compression has the effect of making the distant mountains seem closer while foreshortening the appearance of the cement train, which makes the individual four-wheel cement wagons seem even shorter than they were.