What are you supposed to do while waiting for trains?
How about take portraits of each other on the railroad platform.
That’s what we did two weeks ago at Paoli, Pennsylvania!
I made some views of my brother Sean and his partner Isabelle with my wife Kris as a westward Amtrak Keystone and SEPTA trains made station stops. Then Kris made a couple of photos of me with Sean and Isabelle using my Nikon Z7-II.
Hi ISO and auto white balance makes night photos easy!
Google Maps makes it much easier to navigate to the west shore of the Susquehanna River at Marysville, Pennsylvania to reach the famed Rockville Bridge.
I recall pouring over maps in the 1980s, trying to locate the correct sequence of turns to get to River Road. The challenge of this location is that the path is indirect and the main highways running parallel to the river and railroad do not facilitate straight forward exits.
On my most recent visit, I followed Google Maps instructions to my map ‘pin’ situated at the westend of Rockville Bridge. I approached the bridge just as a Norfolk Southern freight was easing across the 48 stone arches.
I returned to the vantage point on the north side of the bridge that Kris and I had visited nearly a year ago. This allowed me to make a long telephoto view of the train and capture the dramatic sky to the east.
Thursday I traveled with Conway Scenic’s Plow Extra to Attitash, and then east from Mountain Junction down the Redstone Branch to Kearsarge in North Conway.
My primary objective of this trip was to make video footage of the plowing and plow crew for Conway Scenic, both to document the activity and to help promote the railroad.
I used my Nikon Z-series mirrorless camera to record both still photos and video. In general, I feel more confident in my ability to work with still images than video, but I still made a lot of video clips which I am now editing into a short film that will hopefully play on Conway Scenic’s Facebook page as well as other accessible media.
Below are a few of the still photos from Thrusday’s adventure on the rails.
I often work with multiple cameras. Since purchasing my Nikon Z7-II at the end of last year, I now often work with both my Nikon mirrorless cameras in tandem. I’ve fitted my Z-series 70-200mm zoom to my Z6, and a Z-series 24-70mm to the Z7-II.
This arrangement gives me the flexibility to make a variety of different angles quickly, swaping back and forth between the two cameras as needed.
In addition to that, I’ll often have my Lumix LX7 at hand and sometimes an older Nikon loaded with film.
Last week, I was poised at Gap, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line that is now operated by Amtrak. Most of Amtrak’s trains are Keystone corridor push-pull sets powered by Siemens-built ACS-64 electric locomotives. An exception is the New York-Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian that runs daily and its typically led by a GE-built P42 Genesis diesel.
I got a tip that the eastward Pennsylvanian (train 42) was running with a P42 wearing one of the heritage paint schemes and I was in position to make the most of that train, while waiting on its late-running westward counterpart (train 43). Watching a train tracking ap on my phone, I wondered which train would reach me first.
I heard a GE chugging to the east and turned to find train 43 working west led by P42 number 117 . First I made a few images with the Z6 and 70-200mm, then made a few close up photos with the Z7-II and 24-70mm, before making a couple more trailing views with the Z6. I’ve included six of these images here in order of exposure to provide a sense of how I made the most of these cameras in tandem.
Minutes after train 43 went by, I spotted train 42 in the distance with the aforementioned heritage-painted locomotive in the lead. Stay tuned for those photos!
On this day, photographer Tom Carver and I were at Val Royal, Montreal to photograph Canadian National’s electric suburban trains.
In the orange glow of evening on a memorably cold day, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my old Nikon F3T with Nikkor 200mm lens.
Little did I know then, that 30 years later I’d be working daily with some of these very same cars: Conway Scenic Railroad operates former CN electric cars 6739, 6743, 6745 and 6749 as coaches on its excursion trains.
The other day there was nice afternoon light in the yard at North Conway, NH. The 470 Club’s famous pair of F7As were positioned on the Short Track in front of Conway Scenic’s 1874 passenger station building and the passenger consist was out on the branch which made of a nice photo opportunity.
I made this series of three-quarter roster-style views, making slight changes to my angle to alter foreground and background. Among the items I was trying to include were the station building and the flags in the distance, while also paying attention to the clouds and making slight exposure adjustments.
Recent news of exceptional snowfall in western New York State led me to review some of the photos I made during my years in Rochester, NY in the 1980s.
I was digging BIG box of slides lettered ‘3rds’—those that had been deemed unworthy during an edit many years ago and put aside. Certainly some of those slides are poor interpretations. But mixed in are some gems.
On January 27, 1988, I made this photo of a westward Conrail Trailvan piggyback train west of downtown Rochester, New York at milepost 374 (included in the image a lower left) at Lincoln Park. The train was kicking up snow as it raced along the former New York Central Waterlevel route.
My camera of choice was a Leica M2 rangefinder fitted with a 90mm Elmarit that was loaded with Kodachrome 25 slide film.
The most likely reason that I rejected this photo was because it was partially overcast. Other than that it looks pretty good to me today!
Scanned at 4000 dpi with a Nikon LS 5000 scanner and VueScan software. I imported the TIF file into Lightroom and outputted three versions; the top is scaled but unaltered, the bottom two versions benefit from a variety of minor corrections to level, color temperature, exposure and saturation. The middle version is warmer than the bottom.
It was a heavy hazy day at Council Bluffs in August 1998, when I made a few photos of Union Pacific E9 949.
Working with a Nikon N90s fitted with a Nikkor f2.8 80-200mm lens, I first made a ‘telewedge’—a cute name for a three-quarter ‘wedgie’ style roster shot that was exposed with a telephoto lens.
Then I made a few close ups from essentially the same vantage point, but using a even longer telephoto setting.
I scanned these Provia 100 RDP II slides using a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan 9.7.96 software using the ‘fine’ mode and 4,000 dpi, and ‘autolevels’ color balance. Although scaled for internet presentation, I made no adjustments to color balance, color temperature, contrast, exposure or sharpness.
In the early 1990s, Amtrak’s F40PH was the ubiquitous long distance passenger locomotive.
When I made this photo on the evening of February 22, 1992, the F40PH seemed very common.
Amtrak had more than 200 F40PHs. I have thousands of photos of them from New Hampshire to California; from Quebec to Florida. Yesterday morning on my way to work I wondered, ‘Did I photograph them all?’
I scanned this Kodachrome slide using VueScan software and a Nikon LS5000 ‘Super Coolscan5000’.
Below are two versions, both scaled from the hi-res original scan using Adobe Lightroom. The top has ot been modified in post processing, while the bottom is the same scan following a series of minor modifications aimed at making a better image.
I exposed this Kodachrome 25 color slide on Jan 11, 1998 of Conrail SD80MACs leading SEBO eastbound approaching CP83 in Palmer, MA.
Below, I’ve posted five different examples of scans all from the same slide. All were made with an Epson V600 flatbed scanner. All were scaled from TIF RAW files using Lightroom without alterations in post processing (In otherwords other than scaling, I didn’t make changes to the files to alter the appearance of the scans.)
In addition to the full scan of each slide is a greatly enlarged view to better judge the quality of the scan
The first three were exposed with Epson Scan 2 software; the last two using VueScan 9.7.96. The purpose of these various scans is to show how minor changes in scanning may alter the end appearance of the scan.
Modern LED information signs have become commo place on many passenger railroads as means of identifying trains.
The challenge for photographers is capturing the messages displayed by these signs.
Many LED do not produce continous light output and pulse or flicker. To the human eye the light souce seems continuous, but when photograhing at comparatively fast shutter speeds some or all of the LEDs are between pulses and appear dark in the photograph.
Where banks of LEDs are employed these may appear in images as meaningless arrangements of spots, or missing significant portions of the intended message.
One way to capture the lights is to work with a comparatively slow shutter speed, usually 1/60th of a second or less. The difficulty is that to stop a moving train, it is normally recommended to work with faster shutter speeds (often 1/250th of a second or faster).
Another consideration is the relatively low amount of light produced by LED that full daylight these often appear dim. Photographing LED signs in low light, on an overcast day or at dawn, dusk, or evening, allows the lights to appear brighter relative to ambient lighting conditions.
On a visit to Norfolk, Massachusetts with Kris in November, I made this sequence of images of MBTA Train 2706 at various shutter speeds to show how the lights in the sign appears at 1/640th, 1/250th, and 1/60th of a second.
Over the years, I’ve photographed hundreds of locomotives, on scores of railways, in dozens of countries.
Occasionally I’ve opted for the classic ‘three-quarter’ roster angle. More often I’ve opted for various more dramatic, interpretive, or dynamic views.
A long time ago I learned that when I find some equipment resting in a accessible location, to photograph it from a great variety of different angles, because you never know what might suit a book or magazine article later on.
Two weeks ago on our visit to Cape Cod, I had the opportunity to make a sequence of photos of this former New Haven Railroad FL9 that now works for Cape Cod Central and was assigned to the west end of the Polar Express at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.
I have countless photographs of FL9s in various schemes when they worked for Amtrak, MTA, CDOT and Metro North, so this was an opportunity to do something a little different.
While on the theme of tourist railroads on the old New Haven Railroad at Christmas, I thought I’d present this ten year old color slide.
In December 2012, Tim Doherty and I had visited Connecticut’s Valley Railroad that was featuring its Chinese-built 2-8-2 Mikado dressed in New Haven paint on its Christmas trains.
In the late afternoon light, I made this Fujichrome Provia100F slide at Deep River using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
I scanned the slide last night and processed the 4000 dpi TIF file using Lightroom. Below are two versions. The top is a scaled, but unadjusted, version of the original scan. The bottom one has been altered to more closely resemble the effect of 1950s Kodachrome film
Green Moutain Railroad GP9 1850 leads the railroads freight XR1 through a rock cut on the former Rutland Railroad near Gassetts, Vermont on November 19, 1992.
I was interested in featuring the use of old rails to support stones in the cut and had followed this freight since its engines left the railroad’s round house at North Walpole, NH, earlier that morning. The recent installation of an oscillating headlight on th GP9 also caught my attention
Working with my old Nikon F3T and Nikkor f1.8 105mm, I exposed this slide on Kodachrome 25 at f5.6 at 1/125 second.
Slide scanned with a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner at 4000 dp, adjusted and scaled using Lightroom.
On the evening of Easter Sunday 1988, I visited the old Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh station and yard at East Salamanca, New York.
CSXT was still a relatively new railroad, and this southward freight from Buffalo featured former Baltimore & Ohio GP40/GP40-2s painted for CSXT component Chessie System but with CSXT sublettering.
CSXT was in the process of spinning off it’s former BR&P trunk to Genesee & Wyoming start up Buffalo & Pittsburgh. I was anticipating the change, but the sale was still several months away.
I made a series of Kodachrome 25 slides of the train changing crews at dusk using my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron firmly mounted on a tripod. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the exposure and my slides are about one stop too dark. This one was made at f4 at ¼ second.
Part of my problem was that my Sekonic Studio Deluxe lightmeter wasn’t accurate in low light. Another issue was that I didn’t compensate for reprocity failure, which was a characteristic of Kodachrome films in low light.
I scanned this K25 slide with a Nikon LS-5000 scanner using VueScan software which enabled a multiple pass scan to maximize data capture of highlights and shadows. I imported the high-res (4000 dpi) scan into Lightroom and adjusted the file to compensate for underexposure.
Kris and I went to see the Cape Cod Central on Satuday evening. The railroad had decked out the former New Haven Railroad station and signal tower with an elaborate display of Christmas lights for their Polar Express excursions.
Working with my Nikon Z6 set at high ISO, I exposed this series of handheld night photos.
During a visit to Cape Cod the other day, Kris and I made photographs at Corn Hill Beach in Truro, Massachusetts.
Using my Nikon Z6 with f2.8 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom, I made a series of the surf. To ‘freeze’ the water I used a very fast shutter speed (typically 1/8000th of a second) while back lighting the bay and using shalow focus for a diorama effect.
Below are six examples of the water frozen in time.
The other day I was going through a carton of slide boxes from the mid-1990s. I found a roll from a day out with photographer Mike Gardner to capture New England Central in Connecticut.
On Halloween day 1997, we followed southward freight 608 to New London, photographed a few Amtrak trains on the Shore Line, then followed 608 on its northward return trip to Palmer, Massachusetts.
At South Windham, Connecticut, I made a view on the old Fuji Provia 100 (RDP) using my first Nikon N90S with f2.8 80-200mm Nikon zoom lens.
The soft afternoon sun resulted in a somewhat under exposed slide that never made my final cut, and so remained in the green Fuji box for more than 25 years.
I scanned it with a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan 9.7.95 (recently updated from the earlier version of VueScan that I’d been using for a few years), and then imported the high-res TIF file (scanned at 4000 dpi in ‘Fine’ mode) into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment and scaling.
Below are JPGs from the unaltered scan and from my adjusted scan to improve the overall visual appeal of the time. Adjustments included warming the color temperature, adjusting sky denisty, lightening the overall exposure, and contrast control.
I’ve also included a photo of Mike, who is a regular Tracking the Light reader.
On the morning of 23 November 2004 a thin mist covered the ground near Ballycullane, County Wexford. A laden Irish Rail sugarbeet freight had just passed and I could still hear the drumming of the Class 071 diesel at it worked Taylorstown Bank.
I made this trailing view of Irish Rail’s per way gang using a Nikon F3 with Nikkor f2.8 180mm lens. The camera was loaded with Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO slide film). Note the lamps at the back of the freight.
I exposed a variety of slides during our visit to Maam Cross in October.
Jim Deegan and company were hard at work on the on their Midland Great Western restoration project when Kris and I arrived by coach.
Working with a 30-year old Nikon F3 loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F, I made these slides of the lads.
The film was processed and mounted by AgX Imaging in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. I scanned the slides with a Nikon LS5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan 9.7.08 software and processed the TIF files in Adobe Lightroom for presentation here.
A month ago—LUAS on Provia—18 Oct 2022—I made these photos of LUAS trams working the Green Line in the Dublin City Centre using a Nikon F3 with Provia 100F (RDPIII) color slide film.
During our trip to Ireland I exposed 7 rolls of film along with hundreds of digital photos. This is just a sampling of a few photos from our last day in Dublin.
Last night, I scanned the slides using a Nikon LS 5000 (Super Coolscan5000) slide scanner powered by VueScan software and then imported the scanner’s hi-res TIF files into Adobe Lightroom for minor color and exposure corrections.
I find that film offers a different quality of image, which is part of the attraction. But, I also find that working with my old Nikon F3s produces different compositions than I get when making photos digitally. So despite the inconvenience of carrying both film and digital cameras and the comparatively high cost of exposing color film, I continue to work with both film and digital media.
Reviewing my slides from the mid-2000s, I find that 2006 was an unusually productive year for me. My techniques and equipment had reached a peak, while my varied subjects resulted a wealth of interesting images.
Consider this Fujichrome slide exposed near Branford, Connecticut in February 2006.
A westward Shore Line East commuter train caught the glint of the sun a few minutes before sunset. The low winter evening sun tinted with particulates from pollution along I-95 combined with crisp winter air to create a rich quality of light.
I scanned the slide last night at high resolution and made a few minor adjustment using Adobe Lightroom to improve the dynamic range of the scan.
A few days ago, I exposed this high contrast view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Budd RDC ‘Millie’ at Conway, New Hampshire using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.
The camera simultaneously saves each exposure as a RAW and JPG file. I’ve set the camera to profile the JPG with the in-camera ‘Vivid’ color setting.
In this sequence, I compare the un-altered camera RAW (RW2) file with the un-altered in-camera JPG file and my altered (adjusted) Jpg image that I manipulated in Adobe Lightroom to make the most of the camera RAW data. Notice the differences to shadow and highlight detail.
I’ve also included a screen shot of the Lightroom work window to reveal the changes that I made.
It was Irish Rail’s final sugarbeet season, although no one knew it at the time.
We set up at Charleville Junction on the Dublin-Cork line on the Cork-side of Limerick Junction to catch V250, a laden train led by locomotive 081.
I made this view on Fujichrome. It sat in a closet in Dublin for nearly 15 years and I only recently retrieved it from storage.
Last night I scanned the slide using a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner and then adjusted the hi-res TIF file using Adobe Lightroom to correct color temperature and color balance while making minor contrast and exposure corrections.
Below is the file before adjustment and after. In both images presented here, I scaled the files as JPGs.
To help promote Conway Scenic Railroad’s culinary services, I arranged to have the company culinary van wrapped with photos of the railroad.
For the sides of the van, I opted for a photo of the Mountaineer at Frankenstein Bridge that I exposed in September 2020. This image appears in many of the railroad’s billboard, print and digital ads and has become a marketing icon.
The back of the van is decorated with a classic view of the North Conway, New Hampshire railroad station that also appears in print ads.
Silverline Graphics assisted with the basic design concept, and SignSmith LLC of Gorham, Maine performed final design and applied the wrap to the van.
I made these photos of the van in the railroad’s North Conway yard.
Among the thousands of slides that I recently retrieved from storage in Ireland, was this image that I’d exposed on Fujichrome in Bavaria, Germany on January 20, 2008.
Denis McCabe and I were on a week-long photographic exploration of southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
This location on a Deutsche Bahn (DB) single track line at Bad Grönenbach featured traditional German mechanical signaling.
This slide was in a box labled ‘Bavaria, Extras’. (My code to indicate that I’d already culled the preferred images and filed them elsewhere.)
Last night, I scanned the slide using a Nikon LS-5000 Super CoolScan slide scanner powered by VueScan 9.7.08 software.
I selected ‘Ektachrome’ with a ‘White Balance’ color profile and scanned as a TIF at 4000 dpi. Then I imported the scan to Adobe Lightroom and made several JPG variation. The first is scaled without correction. The others display various minor adjustments aimed at improving the image.