Category Archives: Tips and Technique

EMDs on the Roll! Conrail-Era SD60M.

Gosh, I remember when 6798 was NEW and blue. This is among Conrail-era SD60Ms still at work on Norfolk Southern.

To make for a more dramatic locomotive action photo, I’ve taken a low angle medium-telephoto view.

Notice how the angle features the wheels on rails, allowing you to see below the locomotive.

Engine exhaust blurs the wires beyond, demonstrating the engines are working.

By focusing on the locomotives; I’ve cropped most of the following freight, more than a mile of it in tow.

Exposed at LaPorte, Indiana on Norfolk Southern’s former New York Central Water Level Route mainline. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto. ISO 200, f5, 1/500thsecond; JPG image processed from camera RAW file using Lightroom; contrast and exposure adjusted globally and locally to improve visual impact.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

Documenting the Common: Norfolk Southern Double-stacks at CP485.

Norfolk Southern’s Water Level Route is among the busiest freight routes in the East.

It features a continual parade of trains; long freights led by common modern diesels.

Here a cookie-cutter General Electric Evolution-series works east with a double stack train, ducking under the South Shore line at CP485 near Burns Harbor, Indiana.

Isn’t this freight the modern day equivalent of a New York Central freight led by F7s; or a generation earlier by a common Central H-10 Mikado?

Freight trains are about freight and I’ll often make photos of the consist.

But does it matter that I exposed this image? Where does it fit in the BIG picture?

I was pleased when I made this view. Chris Guss and I had enough time to set up, but didn’t wait long. I recalled a photo made more than 20 years ago in this same territory; Mike Danneman and I spent a snowy February morning photographing Conrail. Those photos are looking better all the time.

The common deserves to be recorded.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Irish Rail Workhorse Diesel; The Unremarked 221 in four photos.

Here’s four views of Irish Rail 221; two film, two digital; two orange, two green & silver; two with passenger, two with freight; one in snow, three without; but all showing this machine on the move.

221 leads the down Dublin-Cork liner at Ballybrophy on 25 March 2005. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100F using a Nikon F3 with 180mm lens.

This is part of my on-going series depicting Ireland’s class 201 diesel electrics to mark my 20 years photographing in Ireland. Photographic details in the captions.

Irish Rail 221 leading Mark 3 carriages at Kildare on a damp summer day in 2005. Exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100F using a Nikon F3 with 180mm lens.
Freshly painted 221 (with expanded number) leads the down IWT liner (Dublin to Ballina container train) at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin. Exposed digitally using a FuijFilm XT1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens. Notice the effect of scale with the monument visually positioned over the locomotive. The date of exposure was 21 September 2017.
Irish Rail 221 in the snow at Islandbridge in Dublin on 28 February 2018. Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm XT1 and 27mm pancake lens.

Question: do head-on telephoto views portray the shape of the 201-class effectively?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

South Shore Revisted

Last week, Chris Guss and I revisited the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend street trackage at Michigan City, Indiana.

This classic vestige of interurban railroading always makes for interesting photos.

My father, Richard J. Solomon first visited the South Shore at Michigan City back in 1958.

My first trip over the line was 26 years later.

I exposed this sequence of an afternoon eastward electric train using my FujiFilm XT1 with prime 90mm telephoto. I was playing with the focus.

At Michigan City the tracks are the subject.
In this view I’ve focused on the train. If the sun had been out, this would have been a harshly lit afternoon image.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

 

New Signals at Dusk—working with high ISO.

Saturday evening I used my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit to photograph CSX’s westward Q437 (Framingham, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York) at Palmer, Massachusetts passing the new signals at CP83.

They’ve yet to be activated and the new signals are in place alongside the Conrail-era signals installed in 1986.

It was dusk and the light was fading fast. I pushed the camera ISO to 2500, and exposed this action shot at 1/250th of a second at f2.8.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

Pan Am Pacing View at the New York State Line!

With photographer Mike Gardner behind the wheel, we were in hot pursuit of Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction).

Rolling along with the train at the Vermont-New York state line west of Pownal, Vermont, I made this pacing view.

There’s wasn’t time for niceties such as carefully calculating exposure. I set the camera shutter speed dial to ‘A’ and exposed a burst of images in RAW.

After the fact I adjusted shadows and highlights in Lightroom to make for a better balanced photograph.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Telephoto and Wide Angle of EDRJ at Rices.

Rices at Charlemont, Massachusetts used to be an interlocking, where the Boston & Maine’s line went from double to single track.

Back in the 1980s, I’d catch meets here between eastward and westward freights.

Much has changed.

Not only was the interlocking decommissioned and later removed, but almost all evidence of it, including the old signal bridge are now gone. Trees and brush have grown up between the railroad and the river, and trees along the road are taller than ever.

This now makes for a pretty challenging setting.

At some point I’ll present ‘then and now’ views, but these photos demonstrate telephoto and wide angle photos of the same train from the same vantage point.

There was nice afternoon light on Pan Am’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) so I settled on my traditional location, which still gets a bit of sun late in the day.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

Hump-set in the Rain.

The sky opened up as the East Deerfield hump set was crossing the Connecticut River bridge at the east end of Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield Yard.

I thought the effects of the cascading rain added atmosphere to the scene.

90mm Fujinon telephoto view.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Bus Meet on Digital Black & White.

Here’s something different. I had my FujiFilm X-T1 set up to record monochrome with a digitally applied red filter to alter the tonality.  Working with a Zeiss 12mm lens, I made this view at Arlington, Massachusetts of two MBTA buses passing on Massachusetts Avenue.

This digital black & white image is unaltered from the camera-produced JPG except for scaling for internet presentation.

How does this black & white compare with film?

It is a lot easier, but is it better?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

Vermonter in the Rain.

We got soaked!

I’d checked my phone; Amtrak 55 had departed Brattleboro, Vermont a few minutes behind the advertised, but was moving southward at a good clip.

Mike Gardner and I had inspected locations around East Northfield, Massachusetts and settled on the view from an overhead bridge near the ballast pit at Mount Hermon.

Earlier in the day we’d missed New England Central 611 (yes, this happens!) and so we weren’t taking any chances.

In position, camera in hands we were poised and ready for the train.

And then the sky opened up. ‘It can’t rain any harder!’

OH YES IT CAN!!!

The rain eased, the train came into view, and we exposed our photos.

90mm, f3.2 1/500 at 400 ISO

Soft light, mist and condensation, and a lack of harsh reflections from the midday sun (hidden by layers of cloud), contribute to an atmospheric scene.

It was worth the dampness!

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Coal Train: Saving a Sunset Chrome.

On November 15, 1987, I followed a loaded PLMT coal train east from Buffalo, New York. This train had operated with Pittsburgh & Lake Erie locomotives and was being handled by Guilford’s Delaware & Hudson via trackage rights over Conrail’s former Erie Railroad.

Try to fit all that on the slide mount!

At the time these coal trains operated about once a week, and while it wasn’t uncommon to find P&LE locomotives, catching the trains on film was challenging.

I made this view on Kodachrome 25 with my Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron Lens. It’s a badly under exposed long pan (about 1/8 of a second) from a hillside off the Canisteo River Road, in the valley of that name, a few miles east of Adrian.

The original slide was made at the very end of daylight, and the slow speed ISO25 film didn’t give me the needed sensitivity to capture the scene with adequate exposure.

That’s a long way of saying; it was dark and I underexposed the film.

Here’s the scaled, but unadjusted scan. It’s about 3 to 4 stops underexposed. The slide is nearly opaque except for the sky. Exposure was about f2.0 at 1/8 second on Kodachrome 25 (ISO 25).

Thankfully, I didn’t through the slide away.

I scanned it using VueScan 9×64 (edition 9.6.09) software and a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 slide scanner. It opted for manual controls; I selected 4000 dpi input, under ‘color’ I used the Kodachrome K14 color profile, and while output was set at 4000 dpi as a TIF file.

I then imported the TIF into Lightroom for color, exposure and contrast adjustment, necessary to compensate for my extreme underexposure. To hold sky detail, I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter.

Here’s my first round of adjustments. I thought the sky and overall color balance  seemed a bit otherworldly so I zeroed out the adjustments and started again. Compare this with the image below.
Although similar, this version is better balanced and looks closer to the original scene. Although underexposed, the Kodachrome film was able to capture some detail over more than 6 stops, allowing for post processing adjustment.

Although slightly grainy, the results are much improved over the original and captures my intended effect of the train rolling at speed through the Canisteo Valley at dusk.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

New CT Rail Hartford Line Commuter Trains—First Day in Eight Photos!

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I exposed more than 100 photos of the new Connecticut commuter rail service on the Hartford Line.

There’s nothing like the first day.

Train rides were FREE.

Springfield, Massachusetts on June 16, 2018.
Springfield, Massachusetts on June 16, 2018.
Springfield, Massachusetts on June 16, 2018.

 

Amtrak 461 at Berlin, Connecticut on June 16, 2018.

Yesterday, June 16, 2018 the long awaited CT Rail Hartford Line Commuter service commenced.

My father and I traveled on the first train from Berlin, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts. It was a bright clear morning.

Contrast was a challenge, and for some of these photos I imported the camera RAW image into Light Room for exposure, color balance and exposure adjustment.

Amtrak 460 at Berlin, Connecticut on June 16, 2018.
CT Rail 6653 at Berlin, Connecticut on June 16, 2018.
CT Rail 6653 at Berlin, Connecticut on June 16, 2018.
CT Rail 6654 at Berlin, Connecticut on June 16, 2018.

 

If you haven’t seen it, check out my latest book: Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, now available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01304

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

 

 

More New England Central GP38s-Four Photos!

For the last month, New England Central’s 608 (Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer, Massachusetts and back) has continued to run with a  pair of GP38s.

(I missed the day when 608 ran with three!)

What’s so special about this?

These locomotives began with New England Central when it commenced operations in February 1995, and have continued to work the railroad in the same paint (if not the same numbers) ever since.

A classic view of 608 running northward near Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.
A classic view of 608 running northward near Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.

Originally there were a dozen, but the ranks have thinned.

New England Central has changed owners twice since 1995; it was originally a RailTex property, then RailAmerica, today Genesee & Wyoming.

NECR has acquired or borrowed many other diesels over the years.

Yet for me the few surviving blue and yellow GP38s offer a sense of continuity, and also represent a throw-back to when EMD’s 645 diesels were dominant on American railroads.

How much longer will New England Central continue this vintage railroading?

A view of 608 running northward passing Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 90mm telephoto lens.

Will these GP38s see G&W corporate colors? Will they be reassigned elsewhere on the expansive G&W railroad family? Will newer locomotives assume their duties?

Never take anything on the railroad for granted; eventually everything changes.

Change makes old photos more interesting.

A 12mm view with my Zeiss Tuoit lens fitted to the FujiFilm X-T1.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Connecticut River Composition.

Last week I made these views of New England Central’s northward 611 freight as it crossed the Connecticut River bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

The longer days feature the evening sun in a northerly position that allows for sunlight on the nose of the locomotive as it crosses the bridge.

Although I’ve often worked the south side of this span, this was the first time I’ve made successful photos of a train from the north side.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 and prime (not zoom) 90mm telephoto lens.
Several turbo-flutters later (about 8 digital ‘frames’ or exposures), also made with my FujiFilm X-T1 and prime (not zoom) 90mm telephoto lens. 

I was watching the light and the effect of reflections in the river as I composed my photos.

For these digital images I was working with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.

Lumix LX7 photo. The locomotives are more fully on the bridge, but here I’ve lost the effect of the nose reflection in the water.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Pacing the New England Central.

We were trying to overtake the New England Central ballast train extra

(see: Extra train on New England Central. https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5yy).

I rolled down the passenger-side window of my friend’s Golf, and exposed a series of photos with my Lumix.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

I’ve described this technique previously; I adjusted the f-stop (aperture control) manually to its smallest opening (f8), my ISO was at its slowest setting (80), and I put the camera to aperture priority.

I intended this combination of settings to automatically select the appropriate shutter speed for ideal exposure, while using the slowest setting to allow for the effect of motion blur.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

I kept the camera aimed at the locomotive while allowing for ample foreground to blur by for the effect of speed.

This works especially well to show the large diesel working long-hood forward, which is not its usual position.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.
Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Amtrak’s Vermonter with American Flags.

This is a grab shot; I didn’t have time to do what I intended (and the sun went in).

We arrived at the small cemetery at West Northfield, Massachusetts minutes before Amtrak 56 (northward Vermonter).

 The brush along the railroad has recently been cut. Unfortunately, a brush cutting/removal machine was awkwardly (as in non-photographically) positioned by the tracks, foiling my intend angle for a photo. I was going to try ‘plan b’.

I’d heard the crew call ‘Approach’ for East Northfield, I was hoping for time to swap to a wide angle lens, when I saw the headlight.

No time: so instead, I hastily composed this vertical view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

The front of the locomotive is nearly centered. I wonder if I should have let it move a bit more to the left for a more effective composition?

I like the American flags, placed for Memorial Day. I wonder about my placement of the front of the locomotive relative to the gap in the brush. Should I have let the locomotive continue a few more feet to the left?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Grand Central Terminal—From A Different Angle.

Working with a Leica and Visoflex reflex-viewing attachment mounted on a tripod, I exposed this Kodak Kodachrome 64 slide with a 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto lens.

Looking toward the skylights of New York Central’s architectural masterpiece.

I calculated the exposure using an old GE handheld light meter, which I promptly dropped on the floor of the famous New York City terminal, destroying the device’s sensitive electro-mechanical photocell and needle.

That was back in 1986.

It turned out that my meter had been giving me hot readings. After I bought a new meter a couple of days later, I began obtaining more accurate daylight readings and better overall Kodachrome exposures.

However, because the meter had been encouraging me to ‘over-expose’ (allow more light to reach the film than I intended), I actually produced a better color slide here at Grand Central Terminal, because slight over-exposure was necessary to balance the lighting and bring out the grandeur of the architecture.

If I’d exposed as I intended, my photo would have appeared darker. So, what makes this photo effective was the result of accidental relative over-exposure. How about that?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Headlights too Bright? Now What?

I’d heard complaints about this. You’ll find my solutions are the very end of this blog text.

Pan Am Railway’s 7552, a former CSX General Electric-built DASH8-40C (sometimes simplified as ‘C40-8’), features modern white light-emitting diode (LED) headlights.

The sun went in, so I ‘opened up’ the aperture to f5.6. This exacerbated the effect of LED headlight bleed.

The problem is that these white LEDs viewed head-on are much brighter than ordinary incandescent-bulb headlights. Unnaturally bright headlights may have some advantages; they undoubtedly offer better illumination and can be spotted from greater distance.

However they tend to be mesmerizing, which may have something less than the desired effect from a safety point of view.

I first encountered these headlights about 10 years ago photographing an electric locomotive in Munich, Germany.

With the sun out slightly, I used a smaller aperture and also was nominally  off-axis, two things that help minimize the effects of light bleed.

For photography bright LED headlights pose a couple of problems. They can confuse both auto exposure and auto focusing systems, and as a result may contribute to under exposed and/or out of focus digital photos.

Also, many digital cameras only have a limited ability to handle extreme contrasts, resulting in an unappealing effect that I’ll call ‘light-bleed’, when bright light appears to spill over to adjacent areas of the image. A similar problem is a ghosting effect caused by reflections from external filters or inner elements on some lenses.

So what do you do?

I found that these LEDs are only unacceptably bright when viewed head-on, so by moving off axis, you can greatly reduce the unpleasant visual effects of these bright lights. That’s one solution, anyway.

Here I’m significantly off axis, which virtually eliminates the bleed problems.

Another way to suppress headlight bleed is to select a smaller aperture (larger f-number). I work my cameras manually, so this is easy enough to accomplish. If you are using automatic modes, you’ll need to select an aperture priority setting that allows you to control the aperture. Just mind your shutter speed or you might suffer from motion blur.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

 

 

Three Tips for Making Better Railroad Photos

1) Use your foreground. Unless you’re a ballast enthusiast, avoid emphasizing the ballast. Too many railroad photographs suffer from excessive foreground clutter and other distracting elements, so when you’re composing an image pay attention to the bottom of your frame.

2) Watch your focus. Although most modern cameras have auto focus systems, too many use center-weighted auto-focusing sensors. These produce an unfortunate side-effect of encouraging novice photographers to center their subject, which tends towards bland and ineffective composition. More advanced cameras have tools such as variable focus points and focus locks that help you get around the centering problem.

Although an imperfect image, take notice the focus: A center weighted autofocus system may have resulted in the front of the locomotive appearing soft, while the hoppers at the center of the image being  tack sharp. Alternatively, I  may have had to alter the composition to suit the failings of the auto focus system, which would have produced a compromised photo.

3) Avoid Flare. One of the reasons traditional photography technique stressed over the shoulder lighting was to avoid the unpleasant effects of lens flare. This is caused when the primary light source hits the front element of your lens and cause streaks and patterns across your image while lowering overall contrast. You can make successful backlit photographs by finding ways to minimize direct sun or other primary light sources; stand in the shadow of a tree, building or other object; no shadows available? Make your own with a flat piece of cardboard, book, or spare copy of TRAINS magazine. One last point: while you should avoid flare, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should eliminate it entirely. In certain circumstances, a little flare can improve a photo. Watch the way Hollywood uses flare for dramatic effect.

To make this backlit shot work, I used a 28mm wide-angle lens and shaded the front element with my left hand to avoid unwanted lens flare. Notice how the clouds and foreground elements frame the primary subject, adding interest and balance without becoming overly distracting. Also, would a dark colored locomotive have produced an equally effective photo? The effect of slight backlighting on a silver train can result in a dramatic effect.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

East Deerfield New Bridge—June 2018 Up Date.

We called it the ‘waste too much film bridge’.

How many thousands of photographs have been exposed from the old bridge at the west end of Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard?

The new bridge is progressing. I made these photos a few days ago.

Old and new bridges at McClelland Farm Road, East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

As mentioned in an earlier post, a new pole-line has been erected to the east of the old bridge that threatens to ruin photographs. How will this ultimately affect views from the new bridge?

Suitable vantage points are key to making good photographs, so I’m curious to see what the new bridge offers. If it turns out to be of little use, I’ll need to find new vantage points.

South approach to the new bridge.
North abutment with Pan Am tracks in foreground.
Looking west from the old McClelland Farm Road bridge.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo -in-camera panoramic composite image.

What do you think?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Pan Am Railways crosses the Connecticut; Old and Older and both Blue.

I had a late start the other day.

After intercepting Amtrak’s southward Vermonter on the Connecticut River Line, I drove to Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard(near Greenfield, Massachusetts)  to see if anything was moving.

Fortuity and patience combined enabled me to make photos of Pan Am Railways POED crossing the Connecticut River Bridge (immediately east of the yard).

In the lead was 7552, one of two (soon to be three) former CSX DASH8-40Cs wearing Pan Am Railways paint, plus one of the railroad’s last remaining 600-series six motor EMDs (619, that began its career as a Southern Pacific SD45) still in traffic.

Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

Catching this pair of locomotives together is a coup. I’ve always found transition periods make for interesting photographs; during the last year, these second-hand GE’s have sidelined many of Pan Am’s older locomotives.

Will this be the last time I catch one of the 1980s era GEs working together with a 1960s era six-motor EMDs in Pan Am blue paint?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Retrospective in 3 Photos: Amtrak E60s in the Early 1980s.

In my early days, picturing former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics was one of my main photographic interests.

I held Amtrak’s newer E60 electrics is disdain.  These modern, boxy electrics appeared to be supplanting the GG1s. For me they lacked the historic connections, the elegant streamlined style, and the character of the GG1. They were bland and common.

I may not have been fond of the E60s. But I always photographed them. They were part of the scene, and important elements of modern operations.

Recently I rediscovered these E60 photos along with some other long-missing black & white negatives.

Amtrak E60 972 leads a westward/southward train at the PATH (Husdon & Manhattan) station in Harrison, New Jersey on a gray wintery afternoon in 1981.
Kodak Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.
The view from my grandparents’ balcony in Co-op City in The Bronx overlooked Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad Hell Gate Bridge route. I made this view using a Leitz 200mm Telyt telephoto lens attached to a Visoflex reflex viewfinder. Although klutzy, this lens arrangement allowed me to attach the telephoto lens to my Leica 3A. Focusing on moving subjects was a challenge. I made this view hand-held and while I nailed the focus  my level was completely off. I corrected the skew in post processing.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

From the Closet: Ektachrome Rejects from March 1987.

When I was at the Rochester Institute of Technology, once or twice a year Kodak would gift photo students with a selection of new products to try.

On this occasion, I had been given a sample of two rolls of the latest Ektachrome.

A professor gave us a vague assignment to make color photographs, so I wandered up to Lincoln Park, a junction on Conrail’s Water Level Route west of downtown Rochester, New York, and exposed these photos.

There I found local freight WBRO-15 working with GP8 7528. The crew was friendly and quite used to me photographing of their train.

Back in 1987 my serious railroad photos were exposed using 120 black & white film or on Kodachrome 25. These Ektachromes were an anomaly. After the assignment was turned in, I relegated the remaining images to my ‘seconds box’ and forgot about them—for 31 years!

I found them back accident the other day, and so scanned them post haste.

You mean pairs of Conrail SD50s aren’t common any more on Water Level Route road freights?

I thought my Rochester friends would get a kick out of seeing them. How much has changed since March 11, 1987?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Kimball, South Dakota on this Day in 1995.

It was on this day, May 29, 1995, that Tom Danneman and I chased a Dakota Southern freight on a former Milwaukee Road line across the rolling South Dakota prairie.

Track conditions didn’t allow for train speeds greater than about 5 to 10 mph, so we were able to make several sets of images over a relatively short period of time.

I made this view at dusk with a Nikon and 200mm lens while standing at grade crossing near Kimball. I like the way the electrical polls and wires frame the tracks and train.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Pan Am Railway’s EDBF: Stone Arches and DASH8s.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens, I exposed this view of Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDBF (East Deerfield to Bellows Falls) working the Connecticut River line at Bernardston, Massachusetts.

The early evening sun in May reaches the northside of the old stone viaduct at Bernardston.

I like the technological and geometrical contrasts of boxy General Electric diesels on the 19thcentury stone arch viaduct.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

 

 

Irish Rail 212 Flying Along at Cherryville Junction.

I made this panned view of Irish Rail class 201 number 212 working up-road at Cherryville Junction on 11 January 2003.

Blurred birds help convey the sense of speed as 212 races toward Dublin on 11 January 2003. This is part of my sequence of posts commemorating 20 years of railway photography on Irish railways. Next up is Irish Rail 213.

Panning is an effective technique for conveying motion. For this view I used a short telephoto lens and a comparatively slow shutter speed, probably about 1/60thof a second, while moving the camera in tandem with the locomotive.

Key to making an effective pan is maintaining constant speed and smooth motion.

Novice panners may make the mistake of stopping panning as they release the shutter. This results in a jarring complete blur that produces something less than the intended effect.

Tracking the Light Publishes New Material Each and Every Day.

Terrible Railroad Pictures? Tips for Overcoming Common Problems

Bad timing, poor exposures, lousy composition and blurred images can all result in missed opportunities.

Was it human error or an equipment malfunction? You got to the tracks in time but your camera didn’t perform as expected. Is there something wrong with your camera, or was it simply set the wrong way.

There’s the moment of frustration  when you press the shutter release and nothing happens, or the auto focus goes haywire, or you realize the camera is in  a ‘mode’ and not the right one for making railway pictures—All well and good if you have time to resolve the problem, but if a train is passing at speed, you might end up with regrets rather than results.

Nice angle, interesting subject, but the dreaded ‘shutter lag’ may make your life difficult. (Shutter lag simulated digitally for effect).

Even if you are an experienced railroad photographer, you should take the time to learn the peculiarities of your equipment and double check the exposure and focus settings BEFORE you expect a train to enter the scene.

Earlier, were you using the self-timer? Be sure to turn it off again before you expect to use the camera for making action photos.

Why was the camera set to manual? AND why was it a f22 at 1/8000 of a second?

If you don’t know why, that’s going to be a problem. So step back and go over the basics. Or rely on ‘automatic’ modes until you have the time to cover that properly

Locomotive headlights can confuse camera autofocus systems. The result may be that at the very moment you need to rely on autofocus, it fails you.

One potential solution, if the autofocus starts hunting wildly quickly point the camera away from the headlights and allow it to find a focus point, then point it back at your subject.

Another solution: before the train arrives in the scene, auto focus on a preset point, then switch the autofocus off so that it won’t attempt to refocus at the last minute.

Autofocus problems tend to be more acute on dull days and in low light.

No pixels were harmed in the making of this post.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

East Deerfield West: Providence & Worcester 2009 leads the Plainville Job.

In 1982, Boston & Maine bought several routes in Massachusetts and Connecticut from Conrail. Among these were lines clustered around Plainville, Connecticut, accessed via trackage rights over Amtrak’s Springfield-New Haven Line.

Today, Amtrak’s route requires advanced signaling on leading locomotives and only a handful of Pan Am’s engines are so equipped. As a result, Pan Am sometimes operates a borrowed Providence & Worcester engine on its East Deerfield to Plainville freight.

As of last week, Pan Am’s EDPL was still operating on a daylight schedule, however with increased Springfield-New Haven passenger services to commence in June, this operation may become nocturnal.

I made these views from the old McClelland Farm Road bridge, a vantage point that will soon be gone when the new bridge opens.

Looking east from the old McClelland Farm Road Bridge.
EDPL prepares to cross over to access the East Deerfield Loop that connects with the Connecticut River line.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Medium Clear at Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Pan Am’s EDBF (East Deerfield to Bellows Falls) gets a medium clear aspect (30 mph indication) at Greenfield, Massachusetts to proceed northward on the Connecticut River line.

Medium clear is displayed on the signal at left with a red over green over red.

Modern LED cluster signals offer relatively bright aspects that can be easier to photograph in daylight than older styles of color light signals that use traditional incandescent lamps.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm zoom lens, set to 135mm telephoto.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Vermont Rail System; the Dark Side.

On Friday May 11, 2018, I made this view of Vermont Railway System SD70M-2 432 ascending the grade at Mt. Holly on Green Mountain Railroad’s former Rutland.

Over the years I’ve made a number of photos at Mt. Holly, and I like to work the ‘dark side’ of the tracks here, because it better features the old siding that is still in place there.

This telephoto cross-lit dark-side view also adds a sense of drama and better features the mountains in the distance.

Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens; ISO 200 f5.6 1/500thof a second.

Tracking the posts daily!

 

 

Pan Am’s ED-4 Rolls Ballast on the Connecticut River Main Line.

For nearly 35 years, locomotives have worn Guilford gray and orange paint. The scheme is has been out of vogue since introduction of the new Pan Am liveries about ten years ago, yet a few of the locomotive are still working in the old paint.

I made these views of GP40 316 working local freight ED4 hauling state-owned ballast cars southward at Hillside Road in South Deerfield.

Is this tighter version a better photograph?

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens. I opted for the ‘darkside’ angle in order to better feature the hills in the distance (that make this a distinctive location) as well as the tie-piles that indicate the improvement to the track is on-going.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Stand Process compared with Normal Process.

This is a technical follow up on my post showing examples of stand processed film.

Several readers were interested in seeing comparisons between stand processed negatives versus normally processed negatives.

I made these photos in the back yard to demonstrate the differences between processed negatives. This is intended to show differences in the amount of information presented and changes in tonality.

Although there are slight differences in the composition of the scene, these variations are irrelevant for this presentation.

All exposures were made on 120-size Kodak Tri-X roll film using a Rolleiflex Model T with 75mm Zeiss Tessar lens, set at f22 1/60thof second.

Photos are grouped with both the positive scan of the original negative (to show how the black & white negatives appear without reversal) and the digitally reversed ‘positive’, that appears as would a print of the negative. Photos have NOT been altered except for scaling. There have been no adjustments to gamma, density, etc.

Details of the differences in processing are indicated in the captions.

This is a work in progress.

Normal process:

Kodak Tri-X processed in HC110 dilution B (1-32) at 68F for a total of 9 minutes in two baths. Agitation 3 inversions every 30 seconds. No post processing adjustment or manipulation.
Reversal of the above negative: Normal process.

 

Low Contrast Process, using normal dilution and agitation.

Low contrast process: Kodak Tri-X processed in HC110 dilution B (1-32) at 67F for a total of 8 minutes in one bath. Agitation 3 inversions every 30 seconds. No post processing adjustment or manipulation.
Reversal of the image above—Low contrast process: Kodak Tri-X processed in HC110 dilution B (1-32) at 67F for a total of 8 minutes in one bath. Agitation 3 inversions every 30 seconds. No post processing adjustment or manipulation.

 

Stand process without toning.

Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 10 seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. No toning.
Several scan of the above negative> Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 10 seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. No toning.

Stand Process with Selenium toning to boost highlight density.

Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 1o seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. After wash, negative treated in selenium toner (1 to 9) for 9 minutes.
Several scan of the above negative> Stand process: HC110 mixed 4 ml to 500 ml of water plus special additives to minimize the cumulative effects of chemical fogging; 1o seconds agitation at beginning of process, stand for 1 hour at 72F, process as normal through wash cycle. After wash, negative treated in selenium toner (1 to 9) for 9 minutes.
Color scan of the above negative to show slight selenium tint. This image has by far the most amount of information contained.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Spring at Cushman: New England Central’s northward 611.

During the last few days everything’s gone green in central Massachusetts.

I was driving north and overtook New England Central’s 611 on its run from Palmer back to Brattleboro.

At Cushman in Amherst, Massachusetts the spring greenery and flowers combined with soft early afternoon light made for a pleasant setting.

After a wait of just 20 minutes, the NECR freight hit the crossing and I exposed a sequence of digital images using my FujiFilm X-T1. From there the chase was on!

Exposed at ISO 250 f6.4 1/500 18-135mm lens set at 18mm.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Acela Express Cross-Lit on the Draw.

Yes, I’m trying to pick a title that will get you to read this post.

I could call it ‘Fast Train on the Bridge’ or ‘Amtrak on the New Haven’, or ‘What? NO! Not Westport, Again!’ Or perhaps the accurate, if opaque, ‘Trailing View over the Saugatuck.’

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. To make this photo work, I had to carefully mind the shadows from catenary poles so they didn’t appear to intersect the sloping face of the Acela Express train set.

In late April, I made this trailing view of a Boston-bound Acela Expresstilting train crossing the former New Haven Railroad draw bridge at Westport, Connecticut.

By working from the outbound Metro-North platform in the evening, I cross lit the train for dramatic effect and to better show the infrastructure.

Cross-lighting, is when the main light source (the sun in this case) primarily illuminates only the facing surface of the subject, while the  surfaces are bathed in shadow. This presents a more dramatic contrast than three-quarter lighting, which offered relative even illumination across the subject.

Cross-lighting is often most effective for railroad photography when the sun is relatively low in the sky. In this instance the compression effect that results from the long telephoto lens works well with the cross lit train.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. To make this photo work, I had to carefully mind the shadows from catenary polls so they didn’t appear to interect the sloping face of the Acela Expresstrain set.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

Black & White, Stand Development.

Years ago, when I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I recall whispers of a non-conventional approach to processing black & white film.

Key to conventional black & white processing is regular agitation of the tank. This keeps the developer from stagnating, minimizes streaking and mottling of the image area, while greatly speeding the development of the film.

Until recently, I’ve always agitated my film, but made a point to minimize this activity, since excessive agitation results in a host of other defects and undesirable characteristics.

Stand processing, as it’s now known, was what I heard in whispers during college.

Basically, you mix a very weak developer solution (approximately one third the concentration of ‘normal’ developer), agitate for about 15 seconds when introducing the solution to the tanks, then leave it to stand for about an hour with NO AGITATION. Then agitate briefly before draining the tanks and continuing process as normal: stop, fix, rinse, etc.

Kodak 120 Tri-X with Stand Processing in a mix of HC110 1 to 100 with water.
Kodak Tri-X stand processed in HC110.

By doing this, you use the developer to exhaustion, which is more economical and yields a different result than by working with short times and more concentrated solutions.

This doesn’t work well with 35mm film because bromide salt deposits tend to cluster around the sprockets resulting in streaking.

I made a series of tests using 120-size film, which has no sprockets.

An advantage of stand processing is a very different tonal curve that features extremely rich blacks with great detail in shadows, and broad tonality in the mid-tones. When the mix is just right, the highlight regions should reach an optimal density that allows for excellent detail without loss of data.

Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Metro-North. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Westport, Connecticut. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.
Westport, Connecticut. Holga 400 120-size film exposed with a Rollei model T. Stand processed.

Key to making the stand process work is controlling chemical fog. Without controlling chemical fog, the shadow areas will gain too much density and there will be an undesirable loss of image data leading to a poor quality negative.

There are other elements of the process that aid in making for more effective negatives, and like any black & white process, these require trial and error refinement to yield the best results.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

 

Dynamic Photo: German Electric on the Shore Line.

Amtrak Siemens-built ACS-64 ‘Cities Sprinters’ are the standard electric locomotives for Regional and Long Distance services operating on the Northeast Corridor.

I made this view of Amtrak 160 blasting through the station at Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

For my raw and unmodified composition I gave the camera a slight tilt that makes for a more dynamic image of the fast electric in action.

My original composition features a slight angle intended to better convey speed and motion.

Purists might flinch at my altering of the level, so I’ve ‘corrected’ the photo in post processing and offer the more ‘normal’ view as well.

Here’s the revised image, ‘corrected’ in post processing.

Who said you can have your cake and eat too?

Which version do you prefer?

Don’t Miss Out!

Check Tracking the Light Every Day.