Category Archives: Tips and Technique

HDR versus Manipulated RAW; or Flowers with NI Railways.

My Lumix LX7 has an ‘high-dynamic range’ feature. Otherwise known by its initials ‘HDR’, high-dynamic range is a technique for digital imaging that allows greater detail in highlights and shadows by combining several images of the same subject that were exposed at different values.

The LX7 includes the HDR setting as one of the options in ‘scene mode’ (SCN on the selection dial). This rapidly exposes a sequence of images and combines them in-camera to produce a single HDR JPG. Obviously you need to hold still when you make the photo.

Also it helps to photograph a static scene or the result my get a bit weird.

In this instance, I photographed some flowers on the platform of NI Railway’s station at Whitehead, Co. Antrim (Northern Ireland).

This is my HDR composite photograph. The camera automatically exposes a burst of images at various exposure settings and combines them in-camera to produce a single image with greater shadow and highlight detail than is normally possible with a single frame.

There are other ways of accomplishing a similar result.

So I decided to compare the HDR with some manipulated versions of a camera RAW file that I exposed of the same scene. With the RAW images, I’d adjusted the file with Lightroom post processing software, selectively altering contrast, gamma, and colour saturation and colour temperature to make for a more pleasing photograph.

Specifically I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter, while making global changes to highlights and saturation.

The output of the RAW is also as a JPG, which I scaled for presentation here.

This view is from a single RAW file exposed with the Lumix LX7 and manipulated digitally to maximize highlight and shadow detail. This is my first of two manipulations.
This is a more intensively manipulated file than the image immediately above. Again this image was from a single camera RAW file. This one features slightly darker highlight values.

I made two versions of the RAW interpretation.

In both sets of images I’ve intentionally focused on the flowers and not the NIR train.

Which do you prefer?

Tracking the Light Explores Photography Daily.

Views of a Level Crossing and Some Sheep; Moira—Part 2 (four new photos)

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post on NI Railway’s Moira Station.

I’m always looking for a different angle, and I found a variety of ways to photograph Moira last Sunday.

The vantage points for these photos were all within a one-minute walk of each other.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
Lumix LX7 digital photograph.
A view from the road near the station. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Virgin HST at London Kings Cross.

This is among the hundreds photos I chose for final consideration for my book on European Railway Travel. It is not an outtake. Instead this is among my selections for the section on railways of Great Britain.

Exposed on 3 May 2016 using my Lumix LX7. This image was adapted from the camera RAW image for maximum dynamic range.

In the text I discuss the great London terminals, and I use this photo to illustrate Kings Cross. I like it because it features a vintage HST in nice light with a dynamic view of the classic train shed beyond.

The HST (High Speed Train) was introduced by the then nationalised British Railways (BR) in the mid-1970s as the Intercity 125.

As a 125 mph train capable of operating on many existing lines with minimal changes to infrastructure and signaling this represented a significant improvement over older trains that allowed BR to speed schedules and more effectively compete with other modes.

More than 40 years later, many of the old HSTs are still on the move.

Exposed on 3 May 2016 using my Lumix LX7. This image was adapted from the camera RAW image for maximum dynamic range.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Train with Castle Rejected! German Outtakes Part 2.

Another example of some photos that didn’t make the final cut for my book on European Railway Travel.

You might think that catching a train with medieval castles in the background is pretty neat.

It is.

But I have many photos at this curve at Oberwesel on the busy Rhein left bank route. I’ve selected several potential candidates from this excellent German location and these two just didn’t seem book worthy.

Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.

Tracking the Light posts everyday.

German Outtakes-1

As mentioned last week, I’m in the final lap of assembling a book on European Railway travel.

This image is among my ‘outtakes’ from the section on Germany.

I have hundreds of photos along the Rhein. I like this one because it shows the twin tunnels on the right bank opposite Oberwesel, but the wires in the sky annoy me, as does the clutter in the river at right and shrub on the left.

There’s better photos to select from for my book.

A Swiss Cargo freight works forward along the Rhein in September 2015. Really? That was two years ago? Gosh, where does the time go? Exposed with a FujiFilm XT1.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Steam and Rain—shallow focus and black & white.

It’s undoubtedly all wrong. It was nearly dark and raining steadily when I exposed these photos of former Great Northern Railway (of Ireland) V-Class 4-4-0 number 85 Merlin at Lisburn.

This is a follow up post from my digital views of the same evening titled Steam in the Rain: RPSI Steam & Jazz at Lisburn—25 August, 2017 that appeared on Tracking the Light a couple of weeks ago. Honer Travers had brought me down to Lisburn to watch 85 arrive and introduce me to the crew.

Working in low light, exposed these photos on Fomapan 100 Classic using my battle worn Nikon F3 with an old non-AI f1.4 50mm lens.

My exposure times ranged from 1/30th to 1/8th of a second, and all photos were made handheld. I processed the film in Ilford Perceptol stock solution for 5 minutes 45 seconds at 71 degrees F.

By panning vertically I aimed to convey a sense of motion. Notice that the buffer beam on 85 is sharp.
Trailing view at the footbridge in Lisburn.

1/8th of second at f2.

By using the lens wide open, I was working with shallow depth of field and a comparatively soft overall view. While the slow shutter speed allowed for motion blur. These are not conditions conductive to making razor sharp images. So I had no intentions of doing so.

Sometimes making softer, more interpretive images better conveys the spirit of the scene than clinically sharp images with over the shoulder light.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

How Many Lighting Conditions Do You Work With?

Think about it? How many different type of light will you work with?

I know a fair few sunny-day photographers. No sun, no photo.

I know others who only come out at night.

I have my favorite types of light and preferred angles, but I’ll photograph in a variety of situations.

There’s your old standby; ‘over the shoulder three-quarter sun’.

But there’s lots of types of sun and angles; clear cloudless mid-morning sun is nice; how about side-lit midday sun? Or hazy backlit sun?

Hazy cross-lit sun with white sky.

Then there’s; low sun, glint, and the full back-lit sunset silhouette.

Of course with glint, you can subdivide it any number of ways; hard glint (silver glint), soft glint, golden glint, etc.

Likewise with overcast lighting. Not all cloudy days cast the same light.

Perhaps the most difficult is when the darkest cloud is above you and the rails glisten silver and the sky is white (but bright) off in the distance.

Then there’s rain; light rain, hard rain, driving rain, and ‘#@*#@@!!!! what am I doing out in this?!’ rain. Then there’s; sun and rain, and rainbow with dark sky.

Also; light falling snow, falling powdery snow, heavy falling snow, and one of my favorites; heavy falling snow with cross-lit sun’.

Then the next day: light snow on ground, heavy snow on ground, VERY heavy snow on ground. Then after it warms up; dead dirty snow.

Evening dusk with a hint of blue; evening dusk with stars twinkling. Evening dusk with comet (I’ve got it!), and even better, morning twilight with comet (got that too).

Then you have your mists and fogs; light fog, heavy fog, and mist clinging to top of hill in distance with full morning sun in foreground (another old favorite).

Night with stars; night with half moon, night with full moon; sodium vapor light, mercury vapor light; florescent light; incandescent light; and mixed electric light.

I like some of the specialized lighting effects such as ‘cathedral light’ where daylight is allowed to pierce shadows indirectly from the side, with no direct daylight in the scene. (Best accomplished in a snow shed, under a highway bridge, or in a train shed.)

There’s; train lost in shadow of its own exhaust backlit by rising sun.

And; everything in scene covered in hoar frost, backlit by rising run.

Not to mention; train in silhouette against fog bank in front of hill backlit by rising sun.

There’s more, but I bet I’ve lost some readers already.

Tracking the Light Discusses Photography Everyday.

Glint, Flare and Clouds; Evening in the Gullet.

I realize that today’s title might not catch everyone’s eye.

How about: ‘Clean GM Diesel on a Freight’?

Or, ‘Irish Rail at Rush Hour’ ?

‘Gullet Glint’?

Anyway, this post is about light.

I was waiting on the Up IWT liner (International Warehousing & Transport Ballina, County Mayo to Dublin Northwall container train)with recently painted Irish Rail 071 class diesel number 082.

Just ahead of this Dublin-bound freight was the Up-Galway passenger train with a common set of ICRs (InterCity Railcars).

I was photographing into the sun. My intent was to work the glint effect. (That’s when the sun reflects off the side of the train).

Usually, I find this is most effective when you shade the front element of the lens to minimize flare. Notice the two variations with the ICR.

By shading the front element I’ve prevented the rays of the sun from directly hitting the front element of my lens, thus minimizing the effects of flare.
In this view, exposed moments after the photo above, I’ve allowed the sun to hit the front element to show the effects of flare. This small adjustment can produce very different results. Often I aim to control the amount of flare; a little bit lightens shadows and adds some colour to the scene but too much can result in unpleasant and unnatural looking light streaks or light fog.

By the time the freight reached me clouds had partly shaded the sun leaving only a hint of back-lighting.

All the photos were made using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera RAW Files were all adjusted for colour balance, colour saturation and contrast using the same ratio of change. (In other words, although I’ve manipulated the final result, all the photos have received the same degree of alteration).

The clouds shaded the sun for me here.
In this image, I adjust the exposure on site to compensate for the clouds blocking the sun.

Tracking the Light discusses photography daily.

Lumix LX7 at Belfast Central.

I had a few minutes between trains at Belfast Central, so in the interval I made a few photos with my Lumix LX7.

To compensate for less than ideal lighting I made nominal adjustments to the RAW files in post processing using Light room.

Essentially I lightened the shadows, brought down the highlights in the sky, and boosted colour saturation while slightly increasing overall contrast.

Douglas Adams once wrote something to the effect: ‘There’s no language that has a word that means “as pretty as an airport”‘.
An inbound NI Railways train.
Red ‘tail lamps’ indicate that this is a trailing view.
NI Railways 8209 on the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise.
No flash was used in the exposing of this photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Telephoto versus Wide angle: Picturing Irish Rail’s Tara Mines Run at Drogheda.

A few days ago, my daily Tracking the Light post featured a long distance telephoto view of Irish Rail’s Tara Mines zinc ore train crossing the Malahide causeway.

See: Long View: Tara Mines Zinc Ore Train at Malahide. 

In that photo the train is relatively small in a big scene.

Three days later, David Hegarty and I were again out along the old Great Northern line, this time at Drogheda, to photograph the Tara Mines on the move.

In contrast to the distant view in the earlier posting, the photographs displayed here  focus tightly on the locomotive and train using more classic three-quarter angle.

In the top photograph, I used my FujiFilm XT1 with a 90mm fixed telephoto for a tight compressed view (what some photographers might term a ‘telewedgie’).

While in bottom photograph I used my Lumix LX7 with zoom lens set with a wide-angle perspective that approximates the angle of view offered by a 35mm focal length lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm fixed telephoto lens. Notice the crossovers located on  curved track.
Lumix LX7 wide view.

I prefer the telephoto view for overall appeal; this handles the soft lighting conditions more satisfactorily, focuses more closely on the locomotive and train, minimizes bland elements of the scene such as the ballast and white sky, and offers a high impact image of the train in motion. Also it helps emphasize the trackage arrangement with crossovers between the up and down lines.

Tracking the Light Discusses Railway Photography Daily.

 

 

Coming and Going: The Belfast-Dublin Enterprise on the old Great Northern Line near Mosney

There’s a lightly used road bridge over Irish Rail’s old Great Northern line south of the former station at Mosney that offers a clean view in both directions.

The Irish Sea is in the distance to the east.

A week ago David Hegarty and I spent a few hours here making photos of passing trains.

The Enterprise is a cross-border service connecting Belfast and Dublin. Trains are arranged in a push-pull configuration with the locomotive at the Belfast-end. Exposed at 1/1000th of a second to minimize motion blur.
Trailing view: Exposed at 1/1000th of a second to minimize motion blur.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a fixed focal length 27mm pancake lens, which offers an angle of view rough equivalent to a 41mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera. In other words it is a slightly wide-angle perspective.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Long View: Tara Mines Zinc Ore Train at Malahide.

On the morning of 25 August 2017, David Hegarty and I were in position at Malahide looking toward the old Great Northern Railway causeway to photograph a laden Tara Mines Zinc Ore Train led by Irish Rail class 071 locomotive number 077.

I liked this location because it allowed me to picture the whole train in a scenic setting. As you can see the Tara Mines train is very short as demonstrated in this  broad-side view (if you are viewing on FB you may need to click on Tracking the Light for the full photo).

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an f2.0 90mm fixed telephoto.

To make this work I used a medium telephoto and then in post processing cropped the extraneous portions of the sky and water at top and bottom of the image.

I also altered contrast, colour balance and colour saturation.

I’m not fully satisfied though, because the dark locomotive and dull wagons with relatively flat lighting tend to get lost in the overall scene.

Tracking the Light Explores Photographic Technique Daily.

Belmond in the Gullet; Navy Blue Train as viewed with Lumix and Fuji Digital.

Three photos:

Belmond is a high-end tour train operator that since 2016 has served Ireland with its Grand Hibernian sleeping car train.

This has been a popular topic for railway photographers as it represented a return of the Mark 3 carriage to Irish rails and makes for a decidedly different passenger train in contrast with Irish Rail’s regularly scheduled services.

Yet, as previously mentioned on Tracking the Light, the train itself is challenging to capture in images owing to its largely unbroken dark navy-blue paint.

In dull light this looks nearly black.

I’ve found that the most effective photographs of the Belmond Grand Hibernian are made in bright sunlight.

These views were exposed at ‘the Gullet’ west of Dublin’s Heuston Station. One was made with my Lumix LX7 with the Vivid colour profile; the other two with my FujiFilm X-T1 using the Velvia colour profile.

Belmond’s Grand Hibernian exposed using a FujIFilm X-T1 digital camera with fixed 90mm lens.
A view of the same train exposed moments later with my Panasonic Lumix LX7.
On Saturdays the Belmond train is shunted in the Gullet in order to move it from Heuston Station to Dublin Connolly. This requires another locomotive to couple to the back of the train and haul it via the Phoenix Park Tunnel. Notice the changeable lighting conditions and how that affects the appearance of the navy-blue paint. Exposed using a FujIFilm X-T1 digital camera with fixed 90mm lens.

Files were scaled in Lightroom for internet presentation, but were not altered in post processing in regards to exposure, colour balance, colour temperature or contrast.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Irish Rail 220 with IWT Liner at Islandbridge Junction on 17 August 2017.

Clear blue dome. Nice view. Short walk.

Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin.

I exposed this photo of Irish Rail’s IWT Liner (Dublin North Wall to Ballina, Co. Mayo) on the morning of 17 August 2017 using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a 27mm pancake lens.

Exposed at f9 1/500th of a second at ISO 400 using a 27mm pancake lens (provides an angle of view equivalent to a 41mm lens on a full-frame 35mm film camera).

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light posts something new everyday.

Tram on O’Connell Street in Dublin: LUAS Cross City Trackage Trial

On Friday August 18, 2017, Mark Healy and I met to document a LUAS 5000-series tram trial on new Cross City trackage.

This was my first experience seeing a tram working recently completed Cross City trackage.

Mark and I have been documenting LUAS Cross City progress for more than two years.

Working with Lumix LX7 RAW file, I lightened shadows and adjusted contrast. In the distance is Dublin’s famous Spire.
I made this view using my Lumix LX7s HDR (high dynamic range) mode that digitally combines several images in-camera to allow for better shadow and highlight detail.
The trailing tram takes the points at the top of O’Connell Street to use the turn back loop to reach the southbound line on Parnell Street. Is this the first time a tram has negotiated this trackage? First time I’ve seen it anyway.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Belmond’s Grand Hibernian at Cabra.

A couple weeks ago, I met fellow photographer Jay Monaghan in Cabra to document the passing of Belmond’s luxury tour train that was making it’s scheduled move to Dublin’s Connolly Station.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera, I opted for this portrait-oriented (vertical) telephoto view to accentuate the Dublin Mountains. In contrast to my view, Jay executed a very nice wide-angle photograph that better shows the cutting and the length of Belmond’s train.

Working with the camera-RAW file in post processing, I adjusted contrast and lightened shadow areas slightly to lessen the effects of midday-sun.

The Grand Hibernian uses 10 custom refurbished former Irish Rail Mark3 carriages, making it the longest regularly scheduled passenger train in Ireland.

In this instance an Irish Rail class 071 diesel is working the train, but for most moves Irish Rail 216 specially painted in Belmond navy-blue is assigned to it.

In season, Belmond’s high-end excursion train makes tours of Irish railways.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

Exploring Repurposed Railway Vestiges in County Down; 8 new photos.

Here’s another instance where I was working with two cameras and two very different photographic media.

My Lumix LX7 is an easy tool to capture images digitally, while the Leica IIIa I carry requires a bit more work and yields a very different result using traditional 35mm black & white film.

Newcastle, County Down is a classic sea-side resort on the Irish Sea at Dundrum Bay.

It’s been many years since the old Belfast & County Down Railway branch line saw activity, yet the station-building survives.

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Colour view exposed digitally using a Lumix LX7. Notice how the Lidl logos jump out at you in the colour views.
Flowers work better in colour than in black & white.
A sidelight view of the old station building showing old railway fencing. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

A couple of weeks ago, Honer Travers brought me on a tour of rural County Down and was keen to point out the old Newcastle Station and nearby railway hotel.

Today, the old station has been repurposed to house a Lidl market, while the old railway hotel remains as a resort hotel (sans railway traffic).

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 35mm screw mount Nikkor lens. Film processed in Agfa-mix Rodinal Special mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 31 at 68F for 3 minutes. Negatives scanned with an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Does this colour view work better?
The automobiles are part of the scene. Lumix LX7 view.
The old station as seen in context with the surrounding buildings and streets.

My intent was to document these historic structures in their present roles.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day

 

 

 

Enterprise on the Move.

The Dublin-Belfast Enterprise service is a joint effort of NI Railways-Translink and Irish Rail.

I’d bought my tickets on-line from Irish Rail’s website.

It was a rainy weekday at Dublin’s Connolly Station when Honer Travers and I boarded the train for Portadown.

After arrival at Portadown we changed for a NI Railways local train.

I exposed these photographs using my Lumix LX7.

Ticket barriers at Dublin’s Connolly Station, exposed with a Lumix LX7 digital camera.
The Enterprise uses specially appointed equipment dedicated to the service.
First Class features 1 x 2 seating.
My Lumix LX7 is an excellent tool for making interior views of railway carriages.
Drizzly weather on the way north.
Cross-platform transfer at Portadown.
An NI Railways CAF-built 4000-series diesel railcar at Portadown. This was a very well-patronized local train.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Dusk in the Gullet; Illustration of Digital Sunset in 5 variations.

What? Not another of those InterCity Railcars?!

Yep.

I made these views from the St. John’s Road Roundabout bridge at Killmainham/Islandbridge in Dublin.

The light was fading, the train was shadowed and the situation routine: Irish Rail’s ICR pass this spot dozens of times daily. In fact, these trains rumble up and down all day long.

Unmodified Lumix camera RAW file (except for scaling). I’ve exposed for the sky.

What initially caught my interest was the sunset glow in the north-west sky.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX7, which exposes a RAW file.

After the fact, I made some heavy handed adjustments to exposure, contrast, colour balance and colour saturation to show what is possible with post processing.

Here’s my first adjusted file; working with the RAW I’ve made a variety of alterations.

In addition to enhancing the sky, I lightened the train and cutting while making a variety of localize adjustments, such as to the flowers at lower left.

I’m using the same essential approach that I used to apply to my black & white photography when making prints in the darkroom, except its now done digitally on the computer.

Unmodified camera RAW (scaled as a JPG for internet presentation).
My first modified RAW image (presented as scaled JPG).

The graffiti at lower right is bit of an annoyance. In my final version, I’ve darkened the area around the graffiti to minimize it.

My second modified RAW where I’ve tried to minimize the graffiti under the bridge.

My first modified RAW image (presented as scaled JPG).

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

From the Negative File: CSX’s former Boston & Albany.

On July 22, 2017, I made this unusual view of CSX Intermodal train Q012 on the old Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts.

July 22, 2017; CSX at West Warren, Massachusetts, exposed on Kodak Tri-X.

What’s unusual about it?

Not only was it made on Kodak Tri-X black & white film using an 80-year old Leica camera body fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens, but my processing was non-standard.

After a pre-soak with a miniscule amount of developer, I gave the film it’s primary development in Ilford Perceptol stock mixed with water 1-1 for 8 min 30 seconds at 69 F. Following development, stop, fix1, fix2, and thorough rinse, I treated the still wet film in selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 with water for 8 minutes.

The selenium toner gives the negatives a slightly lavender hue while increasing the highlight density to provide a silvery sheen. This involves an ion-exchange with the silver halide in the film which offers a secondary benefit of greater long term stability.

After toning, I re-wash negatives for at least 10 minutes.

For internet presentation here, I scanned the dried negatives on an Epson V750 flatbed scanner at high-resolution TIF files, then imported the files to Lightroom for final adjustment, dust removal and scaling. (My TIF files are far too large to upload on Word Press for internet).

Instead of scanning the negatives in black & white, I scanned them in color which retains the purple tint of the selenium toner for effect.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

Orcuttville in the Fog, New England Central 608 on the Roll.

A thick layer of fog in Stafford, Connecticut made for an excellent environment for dramatic photos.

New England Central 608 (Willimantic – Palmer way freight) was on its northward leg, when I caught it approaching Connecticut Route 319 at Orcuttville.

A lone GP38 was at work this day with more than 20 cars in tow.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1. The tricky part of this photo was balancing the exposure of the headlight/ditchlights with ambient light. I prefer the overall exposure slightly on the darkside for greater drama. Compare with the Lumix LX7 image below.
New England Central 608 with GP38 3845 approaches the crossing at Orcuttville. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Early Bird Gets the Worm or, as the case may be, the New England Central local freight!

During the long days of July, I made a point of being up and OUT as early as there was light in the sky.

Those trains that go bump in the night in Winter have a bit of light on them in July.

I made this view before 6 am of the New England Central local crossing the Palmer diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant is located in the old Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station station at left.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm lens.

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Vestige of the Chicago & North Western.

In July (2017), John Gruber and I visited the old Chicago & North Western at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin. I was surprised to find that the railroad’s old mailbox remained.

It has been more than 22 years since the old C&NW was absorbed by Union Pacific. In 1995 at the end of C&NW’s independent operations I’d made photos of this same mailbox, which for me served as a symbol of the railroad.

Now it’s a faded vestige of another era. More than just the paint has changed.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm lens.
Lumix LX7 photo at Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Wisconsin’s East Troy Electric, Revisited—July 2017.

Back in the 1990s, Pentrax Publishing’s Paul Hammond and I focused on the East Troy Electric for an article in Locomotive & Railway Preservation magazine. At the time I was the Editor of Pacific RailNews, and he of L&RP.

We worked with the railway to produce some unusual and compelling photographs, including a high-impact view of one of their electric locomotives in motion that was used as the cover of the magazine.

For that effort, California-based railway photographic legend Richard Steinheimer paid me a personal compliment.

Three weeks ago, John Gruber, TRAINS Brian Schmidt and I spent a sunny afternoon re-exploring the East Troy Electric.

It was the first time I’d made digital images of this colorful Wisconsin preserved railway. I’ve included a selection below.

East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
Elegant Farmer, Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Mukwonago, Wisconsin, FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Troy Electric. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.
East Troy, Wisconsin, Lumix LX7 photo.

Thanks to East Troy Electric’s Tom Fleming for his hospitality.

See: http://www.easttroyrr.org

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Surprise at Lena; Canadian National Monster Freight—How many cars??

As noted in yesterday’s post, I’d been inspecting a maintenance train parked on the siding at Lena, when lo and behold, the signal cleared to green.

I alerted John Gruber and we took positions to make photographs.

So there we were along the old Illinois Central at Lena, Illinois in the fading glow of the evening sun. This had been IC’s line from Chicago via Dubuque to Council Bluffs, Iowa and Back in the mid-1990s it had been operated as a regional called the Chicago, Central & Pacific, before being re-incorporated into Illinois Central on the eve of IC being absorbed by Canadian National.

Looking west on the old Illinois Central. Fuji film X-T1 photo.
John Gruber (at left) is poised to capture the action.

A headlight twinkled into view, and I could see that a freight was coming, but not very fast.

As it grew closer I had the innate sense that it was a really huge train.

Finally it roared by with CN SD70M-2 in the lead. Many cars into the train was a lone CN DASH8-40C employed as a DPU (distributed power unit, modern railroad lingo for a radio controlled remote.)

This was a real monster! A land-barge. Just simply huge. Eastbound at Lena, Illinois in the fading evening light.
Meet with the odd-maintainance train feature in yesterday’s Tracking the Light.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I counted the cars. And do you know what? This was the largest/longest train I’d ever seen on the move. That’s with more than 40 years of watching trains. Any guesses as to how many cars? Trust me, it was a doosie!

(To those of you that I’ve told about this already, please keep the correct answer under your hat. And if anyone was working this monster, perhaps you have greater appreciation for its size than I do.)

The answers will be revealed in an up-coming post!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

Seven Retro-views on Retropan: West Trenton, New Jersey.

On one level the name of the film sounds a bit silly; ‘Retropan.’ This is actually a relatively new emulsion that aims to fulfill a classic aesthetic.

It is a soft, slightly grainy black & white negative film that provides a sensibility that reminds me of photos taken in the 1960s and 1970s.

As far as I’m concern this is a limited application film, but it has it’s place. I’ve documented my experiments with Foma’s Retropan previously over the last year. See:

Retropan 320—My First Experiment.

Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film.

I made these most recent Retropan photos at along the SEPTA/CSX former Reading Company tracks at West Trenton, New Jersey using a Nikon F3 with 24mm Nikkor lens.

But, yes I also made a few digital color photographs at the same location.

Working with multiple cameras and multiple types of media, allows me to take different visual approaches at the same time.

The old Reading Company station building at West Trenton has been adapted for other applications. In other words the station isn’t a station any more. Confusing matters is that it’s still at the station. Got it?
It’s been a very long time since this old stainless steel electric was the latest thing on steel wheels. These day it’s among SEPTA’s rolling antiques.
Wide-angle views with grainy black & white film screams late 1960s to me.
The ‘smart’ phone bursts the illusion in this view. Obviously not ‘back in the day’.

Well, except all the trains not at this station!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Looking Down on BNSF—Savanna, Illinois, July 2017.

A long long time ago, back in the 1990s, I’d travel with Mike and Tom Danneman (and others) to the Mississippi River Valley to photograph the old Chicago, Burlington & Quincy route to the Twin Cities.

Among our favorite vantage points were river-side bluffs in the Mississippi Palisades State Park north of Savanna, Illinois.

The line on the east bank was Burlington Northern back then. Today it is BNSF Railway (reflecting the 1995 merger between Burlington Northern and Santa Fe).

On a bright afternoon in July, John Gruber and I returned to this old haunt and put ourselves in position to make a few photographs.

As hoped, BNSF operated several trains, and we exposed views from the tops of the bluffs. I made these with my FujiFilm X-T1.

Any favorites?

Looking timetable east toward Savanna.
You can hear eastbound whistle for a crossing a mile or so before they come into view.
A little glint off the river makes for nice atmosphere.
Is this train carrying  oil or ethanol? From this height I wasn’t sure.
Like many trains in the West, this unit tank train had a DPU at the back. (Distributed power unit, railroad lingo for a radio-controlled remotely operated locomotive).
A westward intermodal train races up-river toward the Twin Cities from Chicago. I remember when seeing a double stack train was a BIG deal.
Look an old fashioned car load train!

Tracking the Light posts daily!

 

 

Eastward at Merrimac on the old North Western—lighting challenge; one file and four results.

Here’s a lighting challenge: A freight train crossing a big bridge against an overcast sky.

Expose for the train and the sky gets washed out (loss of detail). Expose for the sky and the train is too dark.

So what do you do?

I expose for the sky and then adjust the file in post processing.

Why? Because it is easy enough to lighten slightly underexposed areas, but once highlight detail is lost through over exposure it cannot be recovered.

To balance the exposure in post processing, I lightened the shadow areas globally. This took all of about 30 seconds to accomplish in Lightroom. I also made minor adjustments to overall color balance and saturation. Afterwards, I played with the file to make some outlandish versions for point of comparison.

Of the four, the second from the top is the only image I’d normally present. The bottom of the four is intended to be a little absurd.

This is an unadjusted JPG scaled from the camera RAW file. In other words, I did not interpret the data, assign color profile, or otherwise alter the appearance of the image.
Wisconsin Southern’s Reedsburg-Madison freight at the Lake Wisconsin Bridge at Merrimac. This is my adjusted file; using Lightroom, I’ve made nominal adjustments to lighten shadows and improve color balance and saturation in order to make for a more realistic and appealing photograph.
For the giggles I made more dramatic alterations to the camera RAW file in this example. Without consideration for realism, I’ve darkened the sky using a digitally applied graduated neutral density filter, pumped up the color saturation and wildly altered the color balance using various controls in Lightroom. This sort of extreme effect is often applied to photos appearing on the net. I’m not a huge fan of candy-cane coloring, but it certainly seems popular and it is easy enough to accomplish.
Here I’ve pushed the limits a little further. All in the name of distorting the image. Incidently, while the original RAW file remains unchanged, the effect of these extreme changes to the JPG output has the effect of compressing the image and results in loss of data that may make the JPG difficult to print the image in a book or magazine. Also the way this appears on your screen may be very different from how I see the image on mine.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

 

 

Mainline now Branchline—Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg, Wisconsin.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with Rich and John Gruber to photograph Wisconsin & Southern’s Reedsburg to Madison freight.

This plies a former Chicago & North Western route that in its heyday a century ago was a double-track mainline running from Chicago to the Twin Cities via Elroy.

Today, it is a ambling branch line with lots of 10 mph running: No directional double track, no signals, no fast passenger trains, and the line is truncated at Reedsburg.

On this day a matched set of back to back SD40-2s was an added attraction. We decided on Hatchery Road in Baraboo as our first photo location. I opted to feature the skewed rural grade crossing.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with an 18-135mm zoom lens. File manipulated in post processing to balance exposure and improve color balance. Compare the contrast and color balance between this image and the others. Notice subtle differences and see how the alter the appearance of the locomotives in their environment.
This view features a cooler color-balance (tends more toward the blue).
Adjustments to contrast of the middle tones using the ‘clarity slider’ in Lightroom resulted in greater separation between the red and silver on the locomotive stripes.

To balance the exposure, I manipulated the camera RAW files in Lightroom using digitally applied graduated neutral density filter to better hold sky detail, while lightening shadow areas and making slight adjustments to overall contrast and color balance.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Whoops! The Unfortunate Effects of Shutter Lag.

Timing is crucial in making successful images of moving trains.

Even a few tenths of second can make the difference between a stunning photograph and a throwaway.

After years of photographing trains on the move, I’ve developed techniques for releasing the shutter at precisely the right moment.

When I examine different types of cameras for their suitability as picture making machines, one thing I always look for is shutter delay. Many inexpensive cameras fail in this regard. When you press the button if the camera hesitates it will routinely make railway action photography more difficult.

Many inexpensive cameras suffer from inadequate computer processors that can contribute to a delay. Another difficulty are the autofocus systems that impose a delay between the time you press the shutter and when the shutter opens.

Some cameras, such as my Lumix LX7 and Fuji X-T1 allow for various adjustments to autofocus and exposure settings than can help minimize the effects of ‘shutter lag’. But you have to play with the settings to get just the right combination.

Having the camera ‘on’ and queued up (poised and ready) helps.

High speed trains are difficult to capture full frame.
This was a late frame in a sequence but demonstrates what can happen if your camera hesitates at the decisive moment.
If you miss an ordinary train, well you can try again. Miss a rare special move, you might feel like giving up and taking up something passive, like bus spotting. Don’t blame yourself, get a better camera!
If when you press the shutter button your camera doesn’t instantly expose a photo, your results may look something like this image. While in some circles it’s considered trendy to chop the subject, for the most part this isn’t the desired result for most railway photographers.

If you find that too often your photos look like these, you may wish to consider acquiring a picture-making device that has better reaction time. What use is a camera that forces you to miss photos? Why suffer the repeated frustrations and disappointments associated with ‘shutter lag?’

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

 

 

 

Follow That BUDD!

Not to be confused with: “Follow THAT! Bud.”

Earlier this month, in the high-summer light, while traveling from Reading & Northern’s Reading Outer Station on its former Reading Company Budd Cars (Budd Company Rail Diesel Cars otherwise known as RDCs), I wondered about photo locations along Reading & Northern’s lines.

Back in the day (lets call it the early 1960s) my father, Richard Jay Solomon, photographed Reading Rambles along these same Reading Company routes (and also occasional put the company’s regularly scheduled passenger trains on film).

For years, I’d looked at these slides without fully grasping where they were taken.

One trip over the old Reading answered many questions. Around each bend, I recognized locations, thinking ‘Ah Ha! So that’s where Pop made THAT photo’ and so on. (I’m still waiting for Pop to finish labeling his slides; he’s got about as far as 1960 thus far. HINT: Don’t wait 57 years to label your photos).

In the Lehigh Gorge, Pat Yough and I chatted with our friend Scott Snell—an accomplished member of the railway photo fraternity. Scott offered us the opportunity to ride with him as he chased the Budd cars back toward Reading.

Having traveled up by rail, we jumped at the opportunity to make photos of our train in late afternoon summer sun. So we traveled with Scott by road from Jim Thorpe to Reading, by way of Tamaqua, Port Clinton and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Here are some of my results thanks to Scott and Pat’s knowledge of the line.

Not on the old Reading Company, but in fact on the former Central Railroad of Jersey line at Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania.
New Ringgold, Pennsylvania on the old Reading Company line between Port Clinton and Tamaqua. This was a definite, “Ah Ha” location. (And I don’t mean the Norwegian pop band.)
Pop bagged a Reading double-header crossing this field. That photo has appeared in books.
Not far from the former Reading Company station at Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Norfolk Southern at Mexico, Pennsylvania.

No, we are not ‘south of the border.’

This is a location along Norfolk Southern’s old Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division west of Harrisburg between Thompsontown and Mifflin.

A couple of weeks ago, Pat Yough and I were re-exploring this busy route and these images were among my views from that effort.

Here are three photos from a sequence that I made of Norfolk Southern symbol freight 21A as it approached the grade crossing at Mexico.

Image 1: Norfolk Southern 21A roars west at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
Image 2: A slightly closer view of Norfolk Southern 21A  at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.
Image 3: Closest of three views of Norfolk Southern 21A  at Mexico, Pennsylvania. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 telephoto lens.

Which of these do you like best?

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

 

 

RDC’s at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania—lessons in high light.

Shiny stainless steel trains in high summer light. Another photography challenge.

Earlier this month during my explorations of eastern Pennsylvania with Pat Yough, we traveled on the Reading & Northern from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe, aboard a restored pair of RDCs.

The train arrived at Jim Thorpe in the highlight, in other words when the sun is nearly overhead.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1, I made a variety of images, then imported the RAW files into Lightroom for post processing.

As previously described in Tracking the Light, among the tools available with post processing software are various exposure and contrast controls that make it possible to adjust the RAW file to produce a more pleasing final image.

By lowering highlights, and raising the shadows, while adjusting color temperature, I can maximize the information captured by the camera sensor to produce a more pleasing image that more closely resembles what I saw at the time of exposure.

Below are a few of my processed images.

Shortly after arrival from Reading, Reading & Northern’s RDCs have paused in front of the historic former Central Railroad of New Jersey station at Jim Thorpe. I’ve attempted to make a more pleasing image by lightening shadows and controlling highlights while slightly warming the color temperature to compensate for the proliferation of blue light.
This is a similar image but taken from an in-camera Jpg with pre-selected Fuji Velvia digital color profile.
Back lit in the gorge near Jim Thorpe. Here a silver train has a contrast advantage over a darkly painted engine.
Later in the afternoon the lighting wasn’t as harsh, yet this image still required improvements in post processing to compensate for excessive contrast.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Tracking the Light reaches Milepost 5!

Today, July 19th is the fifth anniversary of Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light.

On this day in 2012 Tracking the light made its debut. Since then it has become a daily Blog.

 

See; Installment 1: Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont

http://wp.me/p2BVuC-4

Kodachrome slide of a Central Vermont freight train at Windsor, Vermont.
Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont. Originally posted on July 19, 2012.

Tracking the Light focuses on more than just displaying pictures of railways, trains and locomotives, but aims at disseminating information on the techniques applied to railway photography.

Subscribe to Tracking the Light

Click the ‘reply’ button/go to the ‘Leave a Reply’ box at the bottom of the page; then tick the box: ‘Check here to Subscribe’ to receive notifications for new posts’.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

CSX on the Move at West Trenton, New Jersey.

A week ago, July 7, 2017, Pat Yough and I were photographing at West Trenton, New Jersey. I made this view with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm Pancake lens.

This is compact, lightweight lens designed for the Fuji X-series mirror-less digital cameras. With the sensor on my X-T1 the 27mm lens has the equivalent field of view offered by a 41mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.

In other words it offers a slightly wide-angle perspective that is comparable to the natural field of view of the human eye.

Here I’ve carefully positioned the cab of the leading locomotive between the gap in the trees to make for a clearer composition. Classic three-quarter lighting and camera angle combine for a traditional view with a nearly traditional angle of view.

I caught CSX symbol freight Q-301 rolling toward Philadelphia on the old Reading Company. My exposure was f4 1/1000th of a second at ISO200.

 

Tracking the Light Posts Daily

Geneva Tram in Traffic.

A Geneva tram near Cornavin Station. FujiFilm X-T1 Photo.

I made this view in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2017. A tram waits in morning traffic. By using a telephoto perspective, I’ve compressed the scene and exaggerated the effect of the traffic jam.

Tracking the Light is on AutoPilot while Brian is traveling.