It was a bright and hazy August 1989 morning, when my old pal TS Hoover and I set up on the east bank of the Susquehanna River to capture this view of the famous former Pennsylvania Railroad Rockville Bridge.
I made this Professional Kodachrome 25 (PKM) slide using my old Leica M2 with a 90mm Elmarit.
It was just one of many Conrail photographs exposed on one of our great adventures in the 1980s!
For viewers on Facebook, you’ll need to click the link to Tracking the Light to get the view of the mountain.
Last night in the fading glow of a summer’s evening, Conway Scenic’s Adam Bartley and I made video and still of photos of the railroad’s Dinner train that was out on a demonstration run.
Adam worked the company video camera, while I used my Lumix, Fuji, Canon and Nikon cameras to make film and digital photographs.
Our final set for the evening was looking west at Intervale, where we caught the returning train led by former Maine Central 252, a classic GP38 and veteran locomotive on the line. I set my photograph to capture Mount Washington, New England’s tallest peak, looming large above the train.
These images were exposed using my Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens. RAW files were adjusted for contrast, exposure, color balance and color saturation in post processing using Lightroom.
The other day on the Conway Scenic, I was telling film student Adam Bartley about a photograph I’d exposed on the former Canadian Pacific at Cookshire, Quebec.
I have relatively few photos on the old CP line in Quebec east of Montreal, and this one is one of my favorites.
I made it with very little set up time, and using something less than my sharpest lens.
This appeared as a full page image on page 102 of Railway Photography, a book authored with the late John Gruber in 2003. We dedicated the book to the memory of our friend the artist Ted Rose, who had passed away the previous year.
If you are not viewing this on post on Tracking the Light, you’ll need to click the link or you’ll miss the panoramic photo.
Last Friday (July 19, 2019), we traveled on Conway Scenic Budd-built RDC 23 Millie east toward Redstone, New Hampshire on the former Maine Central. On the return we paused at Pudding Pond so that I could make some photographs.
Once I was off the car, by arrangement it moved forward so the front of the RDC was catching the sunlight.
In addition to conventional photos, I also made this panoramic composite using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. The camera has a panorama preset that requires you to make an even sweep across the scene while holding the shutter release. The camera sews together the images and outputs them as a completed panorama.
Last week at North Conway, New Hampshire hot humid afternoon gave way to rain forest-like torrential rains.
In the twilight of early evening, I exposed this raining view using my Lumix LX7 handheld.
The slight blurred effect is a combination of the cascading downpour and relatively slow shutter speed. For me the combination of heavy rain, dusk, and slight camera blur makes for a painterly effect that helps transcend the decades.
Near the summit of the former Maine Central Mountain Division at Crawford Notch, the line passes through a deep rock cutting in a natural low point in the mountains known as the Gateway.
Conway Scenic’s normal operations of its Notch Train to Crawford’s Station finds the train passing the Gateway at the peak of high sun. In other words, one of the most difficult times for photography using natural lighting.
Fires in the West resulted in particulate matter and haze, which last week provide a great degree of diffusion, making these condition an ideal time to catch the Notch Train on its uphill run.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed this view from the railroad east end (compass south) of the famous cutting. Having locomotive 1751 in the lead was an added bonus.
These are not the words I want to see at the back of my camera screen.
Let’s back up:
Yesterday, after traveling to the top of New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain via the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway with my friends, I made a series of cosmic photos of the surrounding scenery.
However, during my photography all of a sudden as I was reviewing photos the words ‘Card Read Error!’ came up on my camera screen.
This is bad news: it means that the recording media has been damaged or corrupted.
When this happens to you, don’t panic, but follow these instructions:
1) DO NOT attempt to expose more photos using the damaged card. Doing so can greatly complicate your future ability to retrieve the images that you’ve already exposed.
2) Turn your camera off.
3) Take the card out of the camera.
4) Replace the card with a fresh spare. (I always carry two or three spares with me).
5) Test the camera using the spare card. If it seems to work as normal, you can probably resume photography. If it doesn’t, there may be a more complicated problem.
6) Before downloading, do not ‘format’, ‘erase’ or take any action that will add/subtract information / data to or from the card.
7) Later, when you are home, attempt to download your card using an external device. In my case I have a card reader that inserts into my MacBook using a USB port.
8) After you successfully download the card, put it aside and mark it ‘defective’. Once recording media goes bad it is unwise to continue to use it. Buy a new card.
In my situation, I waited until evening, I first downloaded the new card that I’d inserted into my after the first card went bad. Only after all the photos from the new card were successfully downloaded and backed up on an external hard drive, did I began downloading the images from the damaged card.
I was lucky and all my images were downloaded with relative ease. I marked the suspect card ‘BAD’ and put it away. I will not use the card again. If I could not download the card using my normal software, I’d have to go through a more complicated procedure to attempt to retrieve missing photos.
Incidentally, camera-recording cards are only designed for short-term storage. I routinely download my cards nightly. While, I hold on to the cards for future re-use, I do not use them for long-term storage.
I suggest that all digital and digitized images be stored in triplicate and in different places. Further, since all hard drives will eventually go bad, it is wise to periodically re-backup data on new media. At least once a year I back up older files on new hard drives and check to make sure that files transfer successfully.
Wednesday evening July 10, 2019, I made this sunset view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s dinner train at Bartlett, New Hampshire.
The dinner train uses largely the same consist as the railroad’s Notch Train, but operates in the evening from North Conway to Bartlett and return.
Owing to the extreme exposure contrast between the darker areas of the car’s undercarriage and the highlights in the sky, I carefully balanced my exposure using the camera’s histogram to retain the maximum amount of detail, and later adjusted the RAW file in Lightroom in post processing to allow for the most pleasing image.
The other evening I exposed this trailing view of Conway Scenic’s RDC number 23, Millienear Glen-Jackson on its evening run up to Attiash .
On of the best kept secrets among Conway’s scheduled trains are its RDC runs for Attitash that depart North Conway on select evenings at 6pm.
I like the RDC, a typical Budd Car, that was common to New England passenger services when I was growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s.
For this photo, I was working with a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm prime telephoto. The camera color profile was set to Velvia (see photo above), but ultimately I worked with the camera-RAW file in Lightroom to adjust color temperature, contrast and saturation (see photo below).
Warm sunny summer mornings are very pleasant. However with the warm weather comes rapid plant growth which can complicate railroad photography.
Take for example these views that I made at Vernon, Vermont at the end of June, 2019.
New England Central’s 611 crew was taking Brattleboro-Palmer turn southbound with locomotive 3476 in the lead (a one upon a time EMD SD45 re-built to a SD40-2/’SD40-3’ configuration.)
To get a bit of elevation, I scaled a mound on the east side of the line, near the grade crossing at the switch for the old power plant.
I liked the cows grazing in the nearby field, so working with my Canon EOS-7D with 200mm lens, I made a distant view. Unfortunately for the, the brush had grown so much that it seems like the freight is emerging from the undergrowth!
I also made a few photos with a FujiFilm XT1 and 27mm pancake lens. Of these, the more distant view seems to work better from a compositional standpoint. SD45 enthusiasts make argue otherwise!
Toward the end of June 2019, I visited New England Central’s yard at Brattleboro, Vermont.
It was the first time in many months that I used my old Canon EOS-7D, which I’d fitted with a 200mm telephoto lens.
As the 611 crew was getting organized to take Brattleboro to Palmer turn south, I made these photos.
I’ve always like the Canon color palate, which I believe is a function of their lenses and sensor. This is decidedly different than the digital photos I make with either my FujiFilm XT1 or Lumix LX7. Playing with a long telephoto is always fun, although in recent years I’ve shied away from very long lenses, as I’ve found that they tend to be overused.
Last Tuesday, June 25, 2019, I’d photographed an eastward CSX intermodal train at Palmer, Massachusetts that took the controlled siding at CP83 and then eased up to the east end of the siding at CP79.
I took a chance and drove expeditiously to West Warren in anticipation of a westward freight. I was rewarded for my efforts.
The lighting was tricky but colorful. The sunrise was heavily tempered by clouds rolling in from the west.
To make the most of the contrasty scene, I used a Lee graduated neutral density filter over the front of my lens to reduce exposure in the sky, and then underexposed the entire scene by about two thirds of a stop. I used the in-camera histogram to gauge my exposure by aiming to obtain minimal loss of detail in highlight and shadow areas. To the eye, my RAW files seem a little dark, but this is by intent.
In post processing, I lightened shadow areas while controlling highlights in an effort to replicate scene as I saw it.
Such are the challenges with modern photography. With black and white film, I would have exposed for the shadows and printed for the highlights, but that technique won’t work with digital photography. Where black & white film could hold great detail in dense highlights, but suffered from thin and detail-less shadow regions, digital sensors have the opposite sensitivity range.
Among the mix of photos and video I exposed on Saturday June 29, 2019, was this Lumix LX7 view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s steam locomotive 7470 leading the Trains Planes and Automobiles rare mileage excursion west of Crawford Notch near Fabyans, New Hampshire.
To preserve the sense of motion, I manually selected a small aperture and slow ISO (80) to allow for a comparatively slow shutter speed, while making a slow full body sweep keeping parallel with the forward motion of the locomotive.
I continued this technique for some of the passing cars as well.
I’ve often found that the panning technique can be an effective way to compensate for an overcast situation.
I’ve just scratched the surface reviewing the many photos I made yesterday (June 29, 2019) of Conway Scenic’s Trains, Planes and Automobiles steam excursion over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
This was the first public excursion with Conway’s new Budd-dome Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor) as featured on Tracking the Light. And the first time the car was teamed up with steam locomotive 7470.
I made this view of the iconic Willey Brook Trestle on the return run in the afternoon where the steam locomotive was trailing.
For years I’d admired photos from the vantage point on the rocks above the bridge, which has been used to photograph the railway since it was constructed in the 1870s.
I never realized how difficult it was to get up there until I had to make the ascent myself, with all my gear in tow.
This view was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit mounted on a Gitzo tripod. I used an external Lee graduated filter to help improve sky detail.
By working in the vertical-oriented portrait format, I was better able to show the distance of the stream below the bridge and the great verticality of the entire scene. I’m specifically mimicking a 19thcentury glass plate view, while remembering a Kodachrome slide my friend Brian Jennison exposed here of a Maine Central freight.
Over the last few weeks, Conway Scenic has been working its former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 on short runs in preparation for the summer season and for its big outing over Crawford Notch to the end of the line at Hazen’s Crossing near Whitefield on June 29, 2019.
Last Saturday (June 22), I was up early to catch 7470 working the yard at North Conway. Call me a purist, but I found watching this 0-6-0 switching freight and passenger cars in preparation for its daily excursion work more enchanting than the excursions themselves.
First of all, as an 0-6-0, engine 7470 was intended for switching, so what better assignment could it have?
Secondly, the crisp morning with rich low June sun made for nearly ideal photographic conditions.
I made these digital images using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.
This week, I’ll be scoping places on the old Maine Central Mountain Division looking for the best photographic vantage points to catch 7470 on its ascent of Crawford Notch. The train is scheduled to depart North Conway at 9am.
If you are interested, tickets are still available for the trip, which includes rare mileage from Fabyans to Hazens.
Nineteen Years ago, I was traveling with Denis McCabe and Tony Gray to photograph Railway Preservations Society of Ireland’s annual ‘Two Day Tour’.
We stopped along the N25 opposite the water from Cobh, Junction, Glounthaune, Cork, where I used a telephoto lens to expose this view of former Great Northern Railway (Ireland) steam locomotive 171 hauling Irish Rail Cravens carriages on a trip to Cobh.
At the time, an overcast day photo of 171 working tender first didn’t excite me much, and I left this slide with the other ‘seconds’ from that trip
However, in May of this year (2019)—almost 19 years to the day after I exposed the photo—I rediscovered this slide. It was still in the original box in which it was returned to me from the lab. Time has improved my photo and I think it’s pretty neat now.
I scanned it using an Epson V750 Pro flat bed scanner and processed the file using Lightroom.
On Friday, June 21, 2019, Conway Scenic sent locomotive 1751 to Crawfords, New_Hampshire in order to position an excavator that had been working west of the summit.
This was 1751’s first assignment on the Mountain since repairs at North Conway earlier in the week.
Later the locomotive was sent west to Hazen’s at the far reaches of Conway Scenic’s operations on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
I made these views from highway 312 using my Fujifilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In post processing, I digitally applied a graduated neutral density filter to make for better sky detail on the gray day.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019. Conway Scenic has a special Notch Train planned. This will run with steam locomotive 7470 all the way from North Conway over Crawford Notch to Hazen’s to participate in the Trains Planes and Automobiles special event.
It was a little more than six months ago that I made this view of a heritage streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana while walking to the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal to board Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.
I exposed this digitally using my FujiFilm XT1 with my zoom lens set at 110mm.
Lately, I’ve shied away from using the zoom and instead prefer to work with my prime lenses. However, the zoom is well suited for street photography owing to its variable focal length.
On March 16, 1986, I hiked west of milepost 84 on Conrail’s Boston & Albany route to photograph Amtrak train 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited(Boston section).
This was just a few months before Conrail single tracked the line between Springfield and Palmer, Massachusetts.
I was keen to document the Boston & Albany’s line that passed through the northern reaches of my home town, Monson, Massachusetts, in the railroad’s traditional directional double track configuration.
This lone image is part of my much more extensive project to document the Boston & Albany route on film.
I exposed the photo on 120 roll film using my father’s Rollei Model T. In May 2019, I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. For presentation here, I adjusted contrast and exposure using Lightroom.
On June 1, 2019, after several years of slumber, Conway Scenic Railroad’s 0-6-0 7470 made its first steps, moving under its own power around the railroad’s North Conway , New Hampshire yard.
The sights and sounds of this former Grand Trunk 0-6-0 have delighted visitors and residents of North Conway since the early 1970s, so having the locomotive back under steam represents a milestone event for the railroad’s 2019 operating season.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7.
Among the challenges of photographing excursion railroads is working with high-summer light. Operations favor the schedules of the majority of the visiting public, and during summer often this tends coincide with the dreaded midday sun.
Black steam locomotives make for an extra challenge as the drivers and other reciprocating gear tend to be masked by the inky shadows of the highlight.
In this circumstance high-thin clouds diffused high-sun and resulted in better contrast than on a completely clear day. Working with my RAW files in Lightroom I made further adjustments to shadow areas in order to make my images more appealing.
Last week, I made this panoramic composite using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm fixed-focal length (‘prime’) telephoto.
New England Central on the left; Vermont Rail System on the right; the station at White River Junction between them.
By ‘composite’, I mean that the camera exposed numerous single frame images as I swept across the scene and then assemble them internally using pre-programmed software. This feature is offered by both my XT1 and Lumix LX7 digital cameras.
Several days ago, I posted a view of a dusty diamond in the Bellows Falls, Vermont yard that I exposed way back in 1978. Tracking the Light readers wrote in and wondered if this disused section of track survived, and one suggested that it did still exist.
So, the other day, I stopped over in Bellows Falls while driving northward and searched for the old diamond at the southeast area of Vermont Railway’s former B&M/Rutland yard.
I’ll admit that I drove over the section of track in question before I finally spotted it, well buried in dirt and partially covered by a puddle.
Making matters difficult, was that in my youthful focus on the diamond, I completely cropped the building next to it, which if I had included in my earlier photo, would have made finding the location easier.
Below are several comparison views plus a scan from the original slide.
On April 18, 1984, I was photographing Conrail’s Boston & Albany at Warren, Massachusetts, an activity that undoubtedly coincided to a visit with my friend Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies.
Early in the afternoon, I caught a westward train with three (then new) SD50s rolling by the old Boston & Albany Warren station.
This was in double-track days, when Conrail still operated train in the current of traffic in accordance with rule 251 and the long established automatic block signals that protected movements on the line.
Cabooses were still the norm on through freights, but not for much longer. Within a few months caboose-less freights would become standard practice on the B&A route and across the Conrail system.
I made this view on Kodak 5060 safety film (Panatomic-X) using my 1930s-era Leica 3A with 50mm f2.0 Summitar lens. I processed the film in the kitchen sink using Kodak Microdol-X and then made the unfortunate choice of storing the negatives in a common paper envelope, which is where they remained until last week.
Panatomic-X. Now if there was one great black & white film, that was it. Slow as molasses, but really great film. It was rated at 32 ISO (or ASA as it was called in those days) and tended to result in some thin negatives, but it gave great tonality, fine grain, and scans very well.
I’m glad I have these negatives, ignored and stored inappropriately for all these years. If only there was still a Conrail, cabooses on the roll, and Bob Buck at Tucker’s Hobbies to tell you all about it!
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On April 23, 2000, I exposed this view of Irish Rail 072 with Mark 2s at Sligo.
It was a typical overcast Irish day.
Working with Fujichrome Sensia II (ISO 100), my result was a slightly underexposed colour slide, common with these unflattering lighting conditions.
To improve the photograph, I scanned the original slide at very high resolution (4000 dpi) using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 digital scanner and outputted the file as a hi-res TIF.
I then imported the TIF into Lightroom and made a few minor changes to contrast, colour balance, and exposure that I feel make for a much-improved photograph.
While I can output the adjusted file as a TIF, the resulting file size is much too large for presentation on this site. Instead, I’ve made a pair of low-res JPG’s specifically sized for internet presentation here. One is scaled from the un-adjusted original scan, the other is my improved scan.
At the end of the day (no, really, like the sun was setting and everything) photographers Pat Yough, Tim Doherty and I set up at Coolidge Corner on MBTA’s Green Line Beacon Street route.
Soft golden glint made for some nice light.
I made these images with my Lumix LX7 in RAW format, imported the files into Lightroom where I made adjustments to lighten the shadow areas and soften the contrast, then exported as small Jpg files for internet presentation here.
I have a zillion photographs in Palmer, Massachusetts.
‘Zillion’ inferring an undetermined non-specific large quantity.
So why chase CSX’s Q263 down the Valley?
We arrived at the site of the old Boston & Albany freight house at the west end of Palmer yard just in time to catch Q263 (empty autorack train from East Brookfield) passing Mass-Central’s local freight.
Mike Gardner and I had photographed CSX’s loaded autorack train Q264-21 (as featured with ‘DPU’ the other day on Tracking the Light) and were waiting for the crew to take the empty autorack Q263-23 west.
For more than an hour we waited at milepost 67 in Brookfield, Massachusetts.
As recommended, I made several test shots with my Fujifilm XT1 as the lighting conditions changed.
Then finally Mike announced ‘HEADLIGHT!’
I exposed a test burst of photos CSX Q263-3 in the distance and then . . .
[insert expletive here]
With a 32GB card, I can store hundreds of images. So many that I forget to even check how many I have left. And so at this critical moment, I’m left pixel-less.
Well, thankfully I had my Lumix LX7 around my neck and so managed a close-up photograph anyway. But there’s a lesson for you in this story. And for me too!
Here’s another photo from the darkest depths of my archives, hidden away for decades and scanned on Monday.
From a technical standpoint it is not a great photo. It was never meant to be.
I exposed this view in 1978. I was aged 12 and the diamond on a curved section of track caught my interest so I photographed what I saw. The making of this image is not more complicated than that.
As I remember it: this view shows some disused industrial/yard trackage on the periphery of the former Boston & Maine/Rutland yard in Bellows Falls, Vermont. I exposed the photo on trip to visit Steamtown and Bellows Falls with my family. I seem to remember insisting that my parents stop the car so I could make the picture.
I’m happy that I had the foresight to expose this photo, but I wish that I could have documented this odd scrap of track in a more effective way. Yet that’s a lot to ask of a 12 year old with a camera!
Not every photo wins a prize, but some age better than others!