Here’s a photo from my black & white archives that I’d completely dismissed. I’d exposed it at Huntington, Massachusetts in March 1985.
There were a few of problems with this image that irked me.
The first was cosmic. Moments before I release the shutter, a cloud coverd the front of the train. That sort of thing used to drive me nuts.
The second was strategic. I’d released the shutter a little earlier than I’d like, leaving the train just a bit distant. I didn’t have a motor drive in those days, and typically would wait for the decisive moment to take my photo.
The third was a chronic failing from my Leica 3 days. I tended to photograph slightly off level, leaving most of my photos annoyingly tilted.
All of these flaws are now easily overcome using Adobe Lightroom.
I altered the exposure and contrast to correct for the obscured sun, while bringing in sky detail partially lost to over exposure. I cropped the photo to minimize the foreground, and this pleasantly altered the composition to feature the code lines to the right of the locomotives and milepost 119 on the left. Lastly, I leveled the image, a task that take now about 2 seconds.
Looking at this photo now, I find that I’m very pleased with it. It has aged very well. The minor flaws don’t bother me, since these were easily corrected, while the overall subject fascinates me. It is the time machine I needed today.
During a week-long vacation to coastal Maine in July 1983 to visit my grand parents, I was given the keys to the family Ford for the day. On the recommendation of my friend Bob Buck, I visited a host of interesting railroad locations in Maine.
My forth stop was at Bangor, where I photographed the Maine Central yard and a local freight switching there using my Leica 3A.
The negative for this black & white image had resided in a marked envelope until last week when I finally scanned it.
In 1983, my photographic processing abilities were rudimentary, and frankly I wasn’t very good at developing black & white film. Only recently, I was able to overcome some of the technical failings in this image by adjusting the scan I made using Adobe Lightroom.
Unlike some of my photos displayed on Tracking the Light that only receive minor corrections to tweak contrast or exposure, in this image I needed to make some fairly substantial corrections to contrast and exposure, while eliminating a host of spots.
There’s virtually nothing in this scene remaining today, and now manned crossings are nearly extinct.
Another choice image from my recently scanned roll of Ilford FP4 exposed in Spring 1985.
I made this view with a 50mm lens looking timetable west at the west end of Conrail’s old Boston & Albany yard in Palmer, Massachusetts. I had driven in behind Howlett’s Lumber to photograph a Sperry rail defect detection car that was stored near the B&A freight house.
Just about everything in this scene has changed. The freight house was demolished in Janaury 1989. The large building at right beyond burned down some years later. The code lines were removed after the B&A was re-signaled in 1986-1987.
I’ve posted two versions of this photo. The top is my unaltered and uncorrected scan. The bottom reflects a series of nominal adjustments using Adobe Lightroom.
The other day on a brief visit to Palmer, Massachusetts,Kris and I paused for a minute to make a photo of this Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP38-2 at the New England Central’s former Central Vermont yard. (Both NECR and B&P are part of the Genessee & Wyoming family.)
I thought of the countless photos that I’ve made of locomotives here over the last 45 years. Yet, I had never seen this locomotive here before. (Or certainly not in its current guise anyway.)
I made the image toward the end of daylight. Rich winter light graced the late afternoon sky, while the locomotive was largely bathed in shadow.
To make for a more pleasing image, I balanced the highlights and shadows and made adjustments to color temperature and contrast using Adobe Lightroom. The Sky Mask tool sampled this work. I felt my initial edit was a bit heavy handed so I toned it down a bit for presentation here.
In July 2003, I exposed a single frame of 120 size Tri-X looking toward the old Duncormick Station on Irish Rail’s lightly used South Wexford line.
I’d processed the film in Ilfotec HC shortly after the time of exposure. The other day I scanned this photo along with other images on the roll.
Working with Adobe Lightroom 5.0, I made use of the ‘select sky’ feature under the ‘New Mask’ option (located at the righthand side of the control panel and indicated with a pixilated circle icon) to make the sunset sky more dramatic.
Previously, I would have achieved a similar effect by creating a linear gradiation mask to make my adjustments.
The advantage of the ‘select sky’ mask is that it neatly segregates the sky area from the rest of the image and allows for a cleaner adjustment while requiring less work on my part.
In this case, to make the sky appear more dramatic, I used the ‘clarity’ slider, moving to the right (+) which increases the constrast without a substantial loss of detail.
Below are both the unaltered scan of the original black & white negative, and my adjusted version. In addition, I’ve included a screenshot of hte Adobe Lightroom control panel.
In January 1991, I traveled with Southern Pacific Dispatcher JDS to the Tehachapis in Southern California.
Working with my Leica M2 loaded with Kodak 5063 (35mm Tri-X) black & white film, I made this photo of the helpers on the back of loaded unit coal train SNTA-C (Skyline Mine to Trona, California Coal) passing the signals at Bealville.
At the time, I was experimenting with Edwal FG7, a liquid developer that yielded high-contrast and fine grain while producing a deep black.
The other day, I scanned several rolls from this trip and others to Southern California and then processed the scans with Adobe Lightroom.
Below are two versions of the same image. The top is the unadjusted scan, the bottom reflects changes to contrast and exposure aimed a producing a more pleasing image.
September 30, 2016, on the advice of Ken Fox, I traveled to Killarney for an unusual convergence.
Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Explorer and the Belmond Grand Hibernian—Ireland’s only two high-end tour trains were both scheduled to arrive at Irish Rail’s Killarney on the same afternoon.
I made my photos and then returned to Dublin on-board Irish Rail’s regularly scheduled train that was worked with one of the common Hyundai-ROTEM Intercity Rail Cars (ICRs).
I made this view on board the ICR using my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens loaded with Ilford HP5 processed.
I processed the film in Kodak HC110 mixed 1-64 with water at 68f for 4 mins. Later I toned the processed negatives in a Selenium solution mixed 1-9 for 9 minutes. This last step boosted the highlight detail to give a silvery glisten.
Negatives scanned with an Epson Perfection V600 flatbed scanner.
Recently I bought a Nikkor f2.8 70-200mm Z-series lens for my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
After more than a year of experiementing with the Z6 by putting the camera through its paces, I decided I really needed a longer zoom to compliment the 24-70mm lens that I’d been using on the Z6.
The other day, I made this view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley Train arriving at North Conway from Conway, New Hampshire using the new lens.
The lighting was strongly backlit, which helped illuminate the late-season autumn foliage, but made for some harsh shadows.
To compensate in the photo displayed here, I worked with the Nikon NEF RAW file in Adobe Light room to lighten the shadow areas and darken the highlights to help reduce the contrast in the over all image.
I also warmed the color balance and slightly increased the saturation, and made a very slight crop at the lower lef to remove a visual distraction.
Compare the modified photo above with the version below. The lower photo is from the same file but without modification (except for scaling necessary for internet presentation) so that you can see effect of my changes.
Late October traditionally represented the start of Irish Rail’s sugarbeet season. This was among the most intensive freight operations in Ireland and saw up to seven laden trains daily operated from the beet loading point at Wellingtonbridge, Co. Wexford to the processing factory near Mallow in Co. Cork.
In November 2005 halfway through the final sugarbeet season, I made this photo of laden and empty trains crossing at Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary.
Standing on the footbridge in the station, I working with a Nikon F3 loaded with Fujichrome. One of my favorite lenses at this time was a manual focus Nikkor f2.8 180mm, which saw good use during beet season.
May 4, 2007, I was just back from England. Not yet over my jet lag, I drove in the Berkshires of Massachusetts to photograph CSX freights on the former Boston & Albany.
I made this view west of the rock cut at milepost 129, on the 1912 line relocation between Chester and Middlefield, Massachusetts.
A westward freight was led by an SD70MAC.
I’d exposed the photo using my Contax G2 rangefinder loaded with Fujichrome Velvia 50.
Although Velvia is an extraordinarily sharp film that offers tremendous dynamic range and deep rich colors, I’ve often found this to be difficult emulsion to expose properly.
The original slide is about 1/2 stop under exposed, which means its a bit too dark.
To correct for this flaw, I scanned the original using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and imported the scan into Adobe Lightroom where I lightened the midtones, adjusted shadows, and corrected the color balance to compensate for excessive red/magenta in the processed chrome.
Below is the unadjusted scan (for comparison) and two versions of the corrected slide scan.
On Wednesday, I shadowed Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer on its ascent of Crawford Notch.
Ironically, one of the most dramatic unobstructed views of the line can be obtained directly off Route 302, the road which runs parallel to the railroad in the Mount Washington Valley.
I exposed this photo of the Mountaineer on ‘the Girders’ bridge near the scenic vista pull-off at Crawford Notch using my Nikon Z6 digital camera. I processed the camera’s NEF file using Adobe Lightroom to lighten shadows and correct the color temperature, while nominally boosting saturation.
I’m not suggesting a fix for Conrail or its aftermath, just a few adjustments to a 24-year old Kodachrome slide.
Two weeks ago, I located this slide in my collection and scanned with with an Epson V750 flatbed scanner driven by Epson Scan 2 software.
This portrays an eastward Conrail freight on the Boston & Albany near West Warren, Massachusetts, where the railroad crosses the Quaboag River. I’d exposed it on May 5, 1997.
In my view the photo is imperfect: The level is seveal degrees off, I’d missed the reflection in the river, the lighting is a bit high and harsh, my exposure was about one half stop too dark, and the processing left the image with a red-magenta tint.
I can’t fix the lack of reflection, but I addressed most of the other imperfections using Adobe Lightroom. In less than ten minutes, I was able to import, correct and export the improved image.
For comparison, I’ve included both the uncorrected scan (scaled for internet) and my corrected photograph.
There was a thrill of listening to an eastward freight ascending the Boston & Albany grade on approach to Warren, Massachusetts and wondering what locomotives would round the corner.
In February 1984, I was in my final term of high school. It was a warm weekend morning when I visited Bob Buck’s Tucker’s Hobbies. Bob advised me of an approaching Conrail freight and I walked briskly to the Route 67 bridge east of the old passenger station, where I made this photo.
The freight was led by an eclectic collection of EMD and GE diesels. It was one of only a very few times that I caught a GP35 leading a freight on the Boston & Albany.
Immediately south of the old Central Vermont Railway yard at Brattleboro, Vermont is a causeway across the Vernon Backwater of the Connecticut River.
This is another old favorite place of mine to picture trains on the move.
Today, brush growing on the causeway poses a visual challenge. Where years ago the causeway offered an unobstructed view of a train, today, careful positioning is necessary to avoid cropping the front of the locomotive as it works its way south over the man-made fill.
The other day Kris and I visited this location, arriving just a few minutes before Amtrak’s southward Vermonter was expected.
I made this photo using my Nikon Z6.
I scaled the in-camera JPG using Lightroom, without making modifications to density, color temperature, contrast, or color balance.
Five years ago, I was poised at the army bridge near Mosney over the old Great Northern line to photograph the, then new, Belmond Grand Hibernian on its run from Dublin to Belfast.
This luxury tour train made weekly tours of the Irish network in season.
Irish Rail class 201 number 216 was painted to match Belmond’s train set, and was routinely assigned to the train.
Belmond’s choice of a dark navy blue made for challenging photos in conditions other than bright sun. In photos, this shade of blue often appeared almost black, and when lightened using post processing software tended to shift green.
In this view, I selectively lightened the front of the locomotive, and applied minimal lightening to the shadow areas of the entire scene. I’ve attempted to retain the true color of the train as best I can.
Yesterday I learned through social media that New England Central 3850 suffered a main generator fire while climbing State Line Hill (located in my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.)
Over the last 26 years, I’ve made countless photos of this antique EMD diesel-electric at work and at rest.
While I cannot predict the future, I know that often with older diesels, a main generator failure may represent the kiss of the scrapper.
When it came to New England Central in 1995, 3850 carried the number 9531, which is how I picture it in the December 1996 view below.
I made this photo at Palmer, Massachusetts using a mix of artificial lighting, including electronic strobe for fill flash, and my original Fujichrome slide is strongly tinted.
I scanned this slide using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner driven by Epson Scan 2 software. Working from a high-resolution TIF file, I initially scaled the photo without corrections.
Then, working with slider controls in Adobe Lightroom, I implemented a variety of color corrections, plus contrast and exposure adjustements to overcome flaws with color balance and exposure. Below are both results for point of comparison.
Tracking the Light is a Daily Photoblog focused on railroads.
NI Railways had a minimalist presence in Derry, Northern Ireland when I visited there on 5 April 2002.
The railway station consisted of a 1960s-era bus shelter style building and a single platform serving two tracks, situated flush with the River Foyle.
I made these photos while boarding an NIR 80-class railcar bound for Belfast.
My camera was a rugged Contax G2 Rangefinder fitted with 45mm Zeiss Planar lens and loaded with Kodak Tri-X black & white film. I used a red filter to alter the black & white tonality and boost contrast.
For me the film’s contrast and stark spring lighting was well-suited to the minimalist railway infrastructure.
Tracking the Light is a blog that focuses on the process of railroad photography, and how certain techniques produce different results. Light, angle and season play an enormous role in the end result.
In yesterday’s Tracking the Light, I featured a misty autumn-morning view of a westward Guilford Rail System freight crossing the bridge over the Deerfield River on approach to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel.
Today, I’m featuring a photo exposed a few months later (February 2005) of another westward freight crossing the same bridge: winter versus autumn; south side of the bridge versus the north; and later in the morning. Another difference was my choice of lens: 45mm on the winter view; 180mm on the autumn.
In addition, I’ve included two slightly different versions of the February 2005 photo, as well as one of the photos from yesterday’s post for point of comparison.
This freight was EDRJ, which Pat Yough and I followed all the way to the Hudson River and beyond!
Both images were made from a scan of the same slide, which had been exposed on Fujichrome film using a Contax G2 rangefinder with 45 mm Zeiss lens.
Languishing in my Miscellaneous Railroad Seconds file (Bad Slides) from 1982-1983 was this back lit winter view of the Central Vermont Railway yard in Palmer, Massachusetts.
I’d exposed this Kodachrome 64 slide using my old Leica 3A fitted with 50mm Sumitar.
This is a technically flawed photo. It is considerably off-level. The exposure is slightly on the dark side. The composition is a bit loose. And the color is decidedly magenta owing to a processing abnormality on the part of Kodak.
As an exercise, I decided to scan the slide and import into Lightroom to see if I could improve it.
I’ve included the unadjusted scan. A screen shot of the adjustment window. And, my final adjusted image.
I ended up wondering how I might photograph this scene today, using my most modern cameras. Also I wonder, is my ‘bad slide’ really all that bad? It may mean little to random viewers, but it conjured up in my memory the Palmer Yard of my youth. There’s a pair of idling Central Vermont Alco RS-11s, and in the distance the train they had recently delivered. Just about everything in the photo reminds me of how exciting I found railroading when I was 13.
Would a ‘better’ photo convey the same feeling for me?
Over the years I’ve used a great variety of Camera-film combinations.
In 2009, I largely worked with a pair of Canon EOS-3s loaded with Fujichrome.
On an October trip to photograph along the old Erie Railroad, I had one of my EOS-3s fitted with a Canon 100-400mm. The morning of the 6th, I caught Western New York & Pennsylvania’s HNME (Hornell, New York to Meadville, PA) arriving a Meadville.
A dozen years earlier I’d photographed the same Montreal Locomotive Works diesel working the Cartier Railway in Quebec using Nikon cameras loaded with Kodachrome.
I wonder how I might capture this scene today with my current camera combinations?