Last night a damp inky gloom greeted us as we alighted from Amtrak’s Vermonter at the former Pennsylvania Railroad station at Wilmington, Delaware.
A SEPTA Silverliner V electric multiple unit set sat on the opposite platforms waiting to depart for Philadelphia.
I made several exposures with my Lumix LX7. Working with the RAW files in Lightroom, I maximize the amount of visual information in the photos by lightening shadows and darkening highlights while adjusting contrast and color saturation.
In this instance, New England Central’s southward 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer turn) was crawling across the antique Millers Falls Highbridge in its namesake Massachusetts town.
My vantage point was the 2007-built Route 63 highway bridge.
This is more than a century newer than the parallel railway span.
First I exposed a burst of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with 90mm lens. Then I made a single black & white photo on HP5 using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.
By design the black & white view is textured. I realize that black & white doesn’t appeal to everyone, yet I’ve worked in black & white for my entire life, and I often find my traditional film photos more interesting to look at than the digital images.
On the evening of December 4, 2018, I panned CTrail train 4461 led by engine 6695 at the new Berlin, Connecticut station.
Berlin is brightly lit and makes for a good vantage point to watch and photograph passenger trains on the Hartford Line.
To make this pan photo, I set the shutter speed at 1/30thof second, fixed a point in my view finder and moved my camera and body in parallel with the train in a smooth unbroken motion as it arrived at the station.
Panning is a great means to show a train in motion.
These days the only regular trains to use the old Santa Fe Raton Pass crossing are Amtrak 3 and 4, the Southwest Chief. The days of helpers over the three percent are all but a memory.
This day two weeks ago: Arriving on No.4, we had more than ten minutes at Raton to stretch our legs and take in the mountain air.
I used the opportunity to make some twilight images of Silver Splendor, the Budd-built Vista-Dome that I was traveling on.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 and Zeiss 12mm Touit lens, I exposed several views in the blue glow of evening. Dusk is a great time to balance the light inside the passenger car with outside illumination.
Between Albuquerque and Raton Pass (on the New Mexico-Colorado state line) I counted three bastions of Union Switch & Signal style-T2 upper quadrant semaphores on our journey over the former Santa Fe in Vista-Dome Silver Splendor.
I watched the blades drop from the vertical as we passed—a scene I’d not witnessed for many years.
In 2018, these signals represent the last large collections of active semaphores on any North American mainline.
The Style T2 was detailed in my book Classic Railroad Signals in a sidebar titled ‘Sante Fe Semaphores Survive in New Mexico’ by John Ryan and the late John Gruber.
Yesterday, 30 November 2018, I located a collection of my Irish Rail slides from 2005. Among them were these views of ‘bubble cement’ trains (consisting of pressurized four-wheel powdered cement wagons) passing Islandbridge in Dublin on 26thof May that year.
These were exposed on Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) and processed at Photocare on Abbey Street in Dublin.
I scanned these using an Epson V750Pro flatbed scanner making large TIF files, then made colour and contrast adjustments using Lightroom to improve presentation. In addition, I also implemented some digital sharpening to make the photos prior to outputting as scaled JPGs (for Internet presentation) to make these appear closer to modern digital images.
Irish Rail stopped operating cement through Dublin about a decade ago, and so these views are now historic.
As we approached our station stop Lamy, New Mexico, I relocated from Silver Splendor’s dome, where I’d been enjoying the old Santa Fe mainline journey at the head-end of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, tothe car’s dutch doors to make photos of antique equipment stored line-side near the station.
The ability to photograph from opened dutch doors is a rare pleasure on modern trains.
In my youth, I’d spent hours soaking in the atmosphere in the vestibules of trains, making photos with my old Leica 3A.
I exposed these modern photos using my FujiFilm XT1.
It had been more than 20 years since my last visit to New Mexico. This was my first by rail.
I was on my way east with Dave and Rhonda Swirk and Derek Palmieri of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, documenting Budd Vista-Dome Silver Splendor on its journey from Los Angeles to its new home in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
As we glided east at the head-end of Amtrak number 4 theSouthwest Chief,we met or overtook dozens of freights, many of them intermodal trains, on BNSF’s former Santa Fe Transcon.
Wow, BNSF sure runs a lot of freight!
I exposed these photos digitally using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.
Part of the challenge of making photos of trains from the train is trying to compose while in motion of moving subjects. Not only does this make if difficult to level the camera, but it leads to motion blur and other potential defects.
I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Key to my success was the high ISO setting (ISO 5000) and auto white balance setting that adjusted and balanced myriad artificial light sources.
Lacking a tripod, I positioned and steadied the camera on the half open ‘dutch door’ of private passenger car Silver Splendor as it was paused across from the Metrolink train storage sidings in Riverside, California.
My exposures were about 1/2 second at f2.8 (ISO 5000).
To make the most of the photos, I imported the camera RAW files into Lightroom and adjusted highlights and shadows to make for more pleasing final images.
On November 17, 2018, I made this view of Metrolink train 662 eastbound on the old Santa Fe at Fullerton, California.
To make the most of the palm trees that line the platforms, I cross-lit the train, exposing from the north-side of footbridge over the line.
Metrolink’s white locomotive hauling a mix of white and stainless-steel cars effectively reflect light on the shadow side of the train, which make for a more even exposure and help balance the photograph by compensating for the otherwise inky darkness of the high-sun shadows.
These views are looking west . I used a telephoto lens that compresses the row of palms.
Some seven hours after I made this image, I was back at Fullerton again. Stay tuned for my nocturnal views from the same station.
Last Friday, November 16, 2018, as the sun dropped near the horizon and a layer of cloud and haze filtered the light, I repositioned myself from San Clemente Pier, northward to the Metrolink Station at San Clemente, California.
I selected my location in order to make photos of a southward, Oceanside-bound suburban train with the sun setting over the Pacific.
Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, I exposed several sunset silhouettes as the train arrived onto the station platform.
To make the most of the sunset lighting, I exposed manually for the sky, allowing the locomotive and cars and other terrestrial objects to appear dark.
I was hoping to make a photo of one of Amtrak’s new Siemens Charger locomotives working the Pacific Surfliner.
I typically set my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera manually.
Most of the time this works well, as I gauge my exposures using the in-camera histogram. However, I’d become distracted immediately before the train arrived in the scene, and I grossly over exposed my sequence of photos.
Luckily, since I typically expose both RAW and JPG files I was able to work with the overexposed RAW image and correct for some of my exposure error using Lightroom.
Below are examples of the overexposed camera JPG and corrected RAW files, as well as a screen shot of the Lightroom work panel showing the position of exposure, contrast, and saturation control sliders into order to show how I successfully corrected the photo.
This is what some might call ‘Fixing it in Photoshop’, although I used Photoshop’s cousin, ‘Lightroom’, rather than the classic program.
The triple-track mainline at Fullerton, California is a great place to watch and photograph trains.
In addition to a steady procession of transcontinental container traffic, Amtrak and Metrolink passenger trains operate over the line and make stops at the old Santa Fe station.
Centralized Traffic Control with bi-directional signaling on all three lines allows dispatchers flexibility to route trains in either direction over any mainline track. There are crossovers immediately east of the station platforms.
The challenge of photographing from the pedestrian bridge is navigating the wire mesh. While my Lumix LX7 with its small diameter lens did a better job of getting through the fence, I opted for my Fuji camera because I wanted a longer telephoto lens to bring in the stack train which had stopped on the middle line waiting for a signal.
On the afternoon of November 14, 2018, I exposed this view from the east bank of the Connecticut River looking across toward Windsor Locks as Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossed the circa 1906 New Haven Railroad-built bridge.
To help balance the contrast and better retain detail in the sky, I used an external graduated neutral density filter made by Lee Filter.
This is a 0.9ND or three stops grad filter.
In addition, I adjusted the camera RAW file to maximize highlight and shadow detail, control contrast and improve saturation.
After arrival at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), I made my way to the Metrorail light rail station.
You have to take the LAX ‘G’ bus to get there.
Buying the fare took a bit of skill.
Once up on the platforms, which are elevated high above ground level at the Aviation-LAX station, I made a few photos of passing trains using my tired and battle work LUMIX LX7. Then I boarded a Green Line train to change for the Blue.
On the morning of November 14, 2018, I made these views of Pan Am Railway’s EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland, Maine manifest freight) crossing the Connecticut River as it left it’s western terminus on the old Boston & Maine Railroad Fitchburg route.
This side-lit scene benefitted from diffused directional light and a textured sky.
I exposed the photos using my FujiFilm XT1 and processed the RAW files to reveal maximum shadow and highlight detail while emphasizing the rich morning light.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian Solomon is Traveling.
Tracking the Light aims to Post new material Daily.
These photos were exposed using my resuscitated Lumix LX7. I worked in RAW and adjusted the files in post processing to optimize highlight and shadow placement, present more pleasing contrast, and improve color saturation.
Clear evening, northward freight, five units and a deck-girder bridge; working with my FujiFilm XT1, I made this broadside view at Three Rivers, Massachusetts of New England Central’s 611 on its return run from Palmer to Brattleboro, Vermont.
My Zeiss 12mm Touit is a special application lens. It’s very wide, very sharp, and free from barrel distortion. However, its necessary to keep the camera level to avoid line convergence as a result of the wide field of view.
A clear sky and low autumn sun begs for photography.
Yesterday, Mike Gardner and I visited Palmer, Massachusetts for lunch at the Steaming Tender, located in the old Union Station, where CSX’s former Boston & Albany crosses New England Central’s former Central Vermont.
Not a wheel turned. So after lunch, I ascertained that New England Central’s 611 was close. Off we went, driving north.
At Three Rivers we saw the freight crawling south through town and hastily set up our photograph.
Nothing fancy; this is just a traditional three-quarter view of a colorful freight in nice afternoon light with late autumn foliage. There’s something satisfying about that.
In addition to digital photos, I made a select few film photographs.
For me there’s something fascinating and compelling about putting a relic of former times on film. It’s just more real.
Photos were exposed using a Canon EOS3 with 40mm pancake lens on Kodak Tri-X; and the film processed in Ilford ID11 stock developer mixed 1 to 1 with water for 7 minutes 30 seconds at 68F, then scanned with a V500 flatbed scanner and imported into Lightroom for final adjustment.
Here’s an archived digital view I made in the summer of 2011 at Smithton, Pennsylvania along CSX’s former Baltimore & Ohio mainline.
Bad luck, just as this eastward freight came into view, a fair weather cloud muted the afternoon sun. I made a sequence of photos with my Canon EOS 7D.
Working with Lightroom, I re-worked the image starting with the camera RAW file. Unlike the camera Jpg which is compressed, the RAW file contains greater amounts of information than maybe immediately evident.
By making nominal adjustments in post processing, I was able to create a more pleasing photograph. I worked on the sky, locally bringing in highlight details in the clouds by moving the highlight slider control to the left, which scales back the relative brightness of the highlight areas.
On a global level (for the whole file), I brightened shadows, warmed the color balance, increased saturation and adjusted contrast.
Lastly, I focused on the train and made very slight (subtle) adjustments to the exposure by lightening and changing contrast.
For comparison, I’ve included both the unaltered in-camera JPG and two versions of the altered camera RAW file.
On this day six years ago, Denis McCabe and I were on an exploration of Ireland’s narrow gauge Bord na Mona (Peat Board) operations radiating from the Edenderry generating station located near the village of Clonbullogue, Co. Offaly, when we discovered this view from overhead bridge over the double track narrow gauge line.
I exposed my photo using a Canon EOS7D with 200mm prime lens. Nominal overexposure resulted in a slightly washed out image.
Six years after the fact, I worked with the RAW File in Lightroom, to bring back some of the sky detail not apparent in the camera-produced Jpg, while aiming to improve colour saturation and colour balance.
Brian Solomon sits down with Trains’ passenger columnist Bob Johnston and retired Amtrak engineer Craig Willett to talk about the national passenger carrier. This is the second in a multi-part conversation that began in Episode 2.
I was trolling through the archives searching for views of Irish Rail’s Mark 2 airbrake carriages and came across this view of class 071 locomotive 088 at Portarlington in summer 1998.
It makes for a fascinating comparison with a similar photo I made of the same locomotive hauling the recent Railway Preservation Society of Ireland autumn tour arriving at the modern Portarlington station.
In retrospect, I wish I’d located the vintage photograph prior to the tour so I could more closely match the angle.
The 1998 view is made from the old footbridge which is now out of service. The October 2018 photo was exposed from the modern footbridge, which is situated further east and slightly higher.
Yesterday, I had one frame of film left in my Nikon F3.
I’d been exposing photos of Dublin’s North Side and I wanted to process the film before dinner.
I exposed this view of Heuston Station and the old Kingsbridge (now Sean Heuston Bridge) on frame 37.
The sky was impressive; dark blue with textured clouds rolling across it like a flowing tapestry.
To make the most of the usual light, I did a few tricky things.
I exposed the film for the sky and clouds with the intention of some non-standard chemical processing.
To make the most of the shadows with out roasting the highlights, I presoaked the film in a very dilute bath of Kodak HC110 at 75F for 6 minutes with very little agitation. Then, I drained the presoak solution and processed the film in Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes (considerably less than the recommended time).
As the sunset on Dublin, Monday a week ago (15 October 2018), I used my FujiFilm X-T1 to expose several series of silhouettes as LUAS trams crossed the old Kingsbridge (now formally Sean Heuston Bridge) over the River Liffey.
My goal was to capture the rays of sun bursting through the windows of the tram cars.
I only had a few minutes where the sun was in the optimal position, and luckily LUAS was operating trams on short headways, so I had several opportunities.
My camera was set for ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous high or ‘ch’ on the left-hand dial) which exposes a rapid burst of images when pressing the shutter button.
By exposing for the sky and sun, I allowed the shadows to become an inky black. Using the smallest aperture (f22 on my 90mm lens) creates the sunburst effect while also allowing for better definition of the sun in the sky.
Yesterday was a bright sunny morning in Dublin. I coordinated my walk to SuperValu at Heuston South Quarter to neatly coincide with the passage of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner.
I timed this well and only waited a few minutes at Islandbridge Junction. Rather than my normal angle from ‘the box’, I opted for an over the wall view a little further up.
Continuing along St. John’s Road toward Dublin Heuston Station, I was surprised to hear another 071. I peered over the wall to discover that Irish Rail 073 (in heritage orange paint) had come down to shunt Belmond’s Grand Hibernian.
Dashing to SuperValu, accomplished my shopping in record time, and returned trackside to catch 073 bringing the Grand Hibernianthrough the wash, and then stopped in front of me at Islandbridge Junction. As this was happening Paul Maguire sent me text to alert me that the elusive Sperry train was on its way over to me.
Minutes later, Irish Rail 076 with Sperry came across to Platform 10 where it was scheduled to run around before heading to Bray.
I walked around to Conyngham Road to catch the Sperry train on its way into the Phoenix Park Tunnel.