This day last week (13 October 2018), I traveled on and photographed Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s autumn diesel tour called The Southwestern.
Damp dark weather may make it difficult to exposed over the shoulder lit three quarter views, and it may ruin Lumixes (See: Final Frame? Lumix LX7 Coils Up), but it’s ideal for making black & white photos on film.
Working with my battle-worn Canon EOS-3 with a 40mm pancake lens, I exposed this view of the train at Cork’s Kent Station using Kodak Tri-X.
On Monday, I processed the film using Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water. Following a presoak with exceptionally dilute HC110 to initiate development, I gave the film 7 minutes and 30 seconds in the ID11 at 68F (20C) with intermittent agitation.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and made nominal contrast adjustments using Lightroom.
Last week on a visit to Cork, I made these views of Irish Rail’s 2600 railcars working Cork-Cobh and Cork-Midleton services from Glounthaune village looking across the water toward Glounthaune/Cobh Junction station.
I was working with my FujiFilm XT1 and Canon EOS-3 cameras. The Canon was loaded with Provia 100F, and we’ll have to wait for the slides to be processed.
Regular Tracking the Light readers know that I often favor low-light ‘glint’.
This is tricky light to expose satisfactorily. It is a matter of getting the balance between highlights and shadows right, which is a subjective decision on the part of the photographer.
Yesterday, 13 October 2018, I exposed these views of an LED (light emitting diode) signal on Irish Rail at Limerick Junction.
Take a careful look at the yellow aspects in the respective images.
In the top photo, the yellow LEDs appear relatively dim (and much dimmer than they seemed in person). On the bottom photo these are brighter.
Many LEDs do not produce constant light output and flicker many times a second. Although you cannot see this with your naked eye and the light output appears constant, in fact the light is blinking. When you use a fast shutter speed the camera only captures a portion of the light emitted and so the signal lights seem too dim.
The key when photographing LED signals is to use a relatively low shutter speed. In this case 1/60thof second is much better than 1/400th.
Another tip when making effective LED signal photos is to make the most of subdued lighting which can make the signals seem brighter than the light around them.
Over the weekend, Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin and I made an exploration of abandoned Irish railways in counties Carlow and Wexford.
We began at Bagenalstown and worked our toward Wexford.
I find long abandoned railways inherently compelling, but sometimes difficult to convey in pictures.
This is a selection of images from my FujiFilm XT1 on the Bagenalstown to Palace East route, a line shut to traffic in the 1960s. In some places structures, bridges and rights-of-way remain, in others the line has been reclaimed and there’s virtually nothing left to see.
These photos are to convey the aura of the closed line, I’ve made no effort to place them in geographical order.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll cover the visual highlight of the line.
As I got off the down Waterford train from Dublin at Bagenalstown, County Carlow, I immediately began considering photo options. I didn’t have much time, because the train was only in the station for a couple of minutes.
I took a position at the back of the Irish Rail ICR adjacent to the old station building, and made a series of digital photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fuji zoom lens.
I’ve selected two of the sequence here: One wide angle, one telephoto; same camera, same location, same vantage point, same railcar, but different focal lengths.
Irish Rail operates International Warehousing & Transport (IWT) container liner freights five to six days per week between Dublin Port and Ballina, County Mayo.
On 3 October 2013, Colm O’Callaghan and I photographed Irish Rail 082 working the down IWT Liner at Clondalkin on the quad track section of the Dublin-Cork line. Back then the locomotive wore the now obsolete black, silver and yellow ‘freight’ livery.
On 1 October 2018, two days ago, I caught the very same locomotive working the up IWT liner at Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin. It’s now in battle ship gray paint, as are most of the 071s, except numbers 071 and 073 that are dressed in heritage paint.
Several days ago, two Dublin photographers and I converged on the Conyngham Road, where Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to Connolly Station/North Wall enters the Phoenix Park Tunnel.
Our interest was Belmond’s Grand Hibernianled by an Irish Rail class 071 diesel.
Afterwards we paid a visit to Ryan’s of Parkgate Street, a local pub just a short walk up the street and near Dublin’s Heuston Station, where I continued to make photos with my vintage Nikon F3 with 50mm f1.4 lens.
Working with a wide aperture on film allows for selective focus and the ability to select a subject and offset it against a soft background. This the opposite effect often provided by many digital cameras that tend to use a smaller aperture and sharpening software to produce greater depth of field and razor sharp images.
I used Kodak Tri-X, which I processed in Ilford ID-11 using a traditional recipe with my customized multiple-split process to maximize shadow and highlight detail.
I’ve been unusually fortunate to catch Irish Rail’s 071 almost everyday for the last couple of weeks.
This locomotive is the class leader and features a heritage livery based on the as-delivered General Motors scheme.
It is very popular with photographers.
On Saturday 22 September 2018, locomotive 071 worked the Belmond Grand Hibernian cruise train from Dublin Heuston to Connolly Station. Until yesterday, it had been assigned to the Dublin-Ballina IWT Liner container train.
To make this view, I used my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss Touit 12mm lens. To help bring in sky detail, I attached a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (a physical filter), then made further adjustment to RAW files in post processing using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter, which allowed me to make adjustments to highlight and shadow detail.
Additional adjustments were made globally (the entire image) to modify contrast and colour saturation to improve the appearance of the photograph.
Gauzy autumn light is perfect for photographing black steam locomotives on the move.
Yesterday, Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated steam excursions between Dublin, Drogheda and Dundalk. Plans to work with engine 85 were foiled by difficulties with the turntable at Connolly Station.
Instead RPSI engine No.4 did the work.
Paul Maguire and I drove to a remote overhead bridge near Mosney.
I exposed this view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. To make the most of the scene, I imported the RAW file into Lightroom and adjusted it for contrast and saturation, using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to bring in sky detail.
Learn more about the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland:
Museums offer opportunity to study historic equipment and take in the spirit of earlier times. But can be challenging places to make captivating photos. Confined quarters, cluttered arrangements, and other visitors can complicate composition.
Contrasty mixed source lighting is another problem. Thankfully modern digital cameras do an excellent job of balancing florescent, incandescent light with direct and indirect daylight. While the ability to make test shots helps to obtain better exposures.
I exposed these images using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
Two Sunday Mornings in a row I walked up to the line with an aim of catching an 071 class locomotive in heritage paint leading Belmond’s Grand Hiberniancruise train on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Two Sundays, two locations, two heritage locomotives (numbers 073 and 071 respectively), and two different Irish Rail scheduled trains that got in my way.
Gosh, bad luck!
In both instances, I came away with different photos than I’d set out to make.
My question: might these photos age well? Perhaps the intrusion of the ROTEM ICRs may make these photographs more interesting in years to come?
I’m not one to get overly excited when a photo opportunity doesn’t work as planned. Sometimes it’s best to just keep making photos when a scene plays out.
PSSSST! (I also made some sneaky 35mm slides that may make the most of both situations).
Earlier this week it was organized for me to travel on the footplate of Great Northern Railway of Ireland 85.
The thrill of experiencing a steam locomotive cab on the main line is a rare privilege.
My job was to make photographs and stay out of the way.
Locomotive 85 is a three cylinder compound 4-4-0, a 1932 product of Beyer Peacock.
The compound arrangement is what intrigued me, but like the low droning throb sounding from the 20 cylinder diesel powering an EMD SD45, this element of the steam equipment is beyond my ability to picture.
Instead, I had to settle for making images of the crew at work and the locomotive in motion.
The footplate offers a rough ride, while swirling coal dust and locomotive exhaust complicate photography and the handling of sensitive equipment. The lighting is at best difficult. Staying out of the way often means that I wasn’t always able to get the angle I really wanted and needed to make due with where I was able to stand.
Special thanks to everyone at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) and at Irish Rail for making my locomotive journeys possible.
For details about the RPSI and scheduled steam and diesel trips see:
In the 1950s and 1960s, My father made a project of photographing the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee, the distinctive interurban electric line connecting it’s namesakes.
Last month, John Gruber and I paid a visit to the Illinois Railway Museum at Union, Illinois. Like my father, John had focused on the North Shore. He made hundreds of excellent photographs that distilled the spirit of the railway.
North Shore was before my time, but I feel that I know the line thanks to my dad’s and John’s photographs, which were featured in books by the late William D. Middleton.
The railway may be gone 55 years, but key pieces of it’s equipment survive.
I made these digital views of preserved North Shore cars at IRM using my FujiFIlm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens. This flat-field super wide-angle lens is well suited to making images in the tight quarters of IRM’s car barns.
John Gruber has an on-going exhibit of his finest North Shore photography in the East Union Station at IRM. This will be subject of another Tracking the Light post.
Sometimes a station name conveys a grander image than what’s really there.
Cherry Orchard in Dublin comes to mind. Put out visions of lush blossoming trees in a bucolic pastoral setting, and replace it with industrial squalor, palisade fencing, graffiti and garbage. Yet, it’s still a good place to catch trains on the move.
Then we have today’s featured location: NI Railway’s modern station at Botanic in Belfast. For me the name invokes images of flowing beautiful gardens, tall majestic trees and rows of manicured flowers, perhaps a fountain.
Er, not exactly.
While more salubrious than Dublin’s Cherry Orchard (and undoubtedly safer too), Botanic isn’t a wonderland.
The Dublin & Kingstown commenced operations in 1834. Today, the line is part of Irish Rail’s national network and also hosts Dublin Area Rapid Transit suburban electric trains.
In August 2018, I exposed this view of the down evening Dublin-Rosslare passenger train approaching Blackrock along the shore of Dublin Bay.
I like the modern candy-apple green livery that now graces some of Irish Rail 29000-series diesel railcars, and I find that it works especially well in a scene such as this one.
To make for a more appealing photograph, I imported the camera RAW into Lightroom and made a few minor adjustments to contrast and color temperature. Among my most important changes was to lighten the shadow areas to more closely represent what we see with our eyes.
On Sunday’s an Irish Rail class 071 works Belmond’s luxury cruise train, the 10-car Grand Hibernian, on its run from Dublin Connolly to Waterford.
Although slightly back lit, I found the famed ‘Gullet’ offers a good place to catch this train at work.
This cutting dates from the 1840s and features three tracks.
In this instance, Irish Rail 082 was accelerating down the middle road with the posh-looking train. (‘Down’ refers to traveling away from Dublin, and doesn’t reflect the gradient, which in this situation is actually rising).
Working with both my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto and Lumix LX7, I made two sets of digital photos.
The locomotive sound was impressive as on this particular Sunday a couple weeks back the roads in the area were shut for a foot race and there was very little ambient noise compared with a typical day in Dublin. Perhaps, I should have made a recording!
I was running a few final errands before heading to the airport.
CSX had been working on making CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts compliant with positive train control requirements, which has coincided with commissioning new signal hardware.
By the time I return, the old signals will likely have been retired and the new system up and working.
Crossing the South Main Street bridge in Palmer, I spotted a New England Central local working the diamond, and a CSX intermodal train (Q022) waiting to the west.
This gave me enough time to set up and made a few final photos of the transitional arrangement at CP83 in Palmer.
Changeable lighting made for patches of direction sun under a partial blanket of cloud. I tried to use these sunny spots to my best advantage since the train was moving slowly through the interlocking.