Earlier this month I exposed this view of Amtrak train 57 on the move crossing a fill on the Connecticut River Backwater just south of Brattleboro, Vermont.
There was soft directional lighting with a textured sky. To better balance the exposure I worked with an external graduated neutral density filter positioned over the front element of the lens with the darkest portion of the filter ever the sky.
I’m not entirely satisfied with the results, but the filter helped.
Luckily, I also exposed a black & white photo that I hope to process with my next batch of film!
Forty years ago I had a fleeting glimpse of Mexico City’s streetcar system.
By the time of my December 1979 visit, all of the traditional streetcar lines in the downtown area were out of service. However, PCC cars remained in service on a pair of peripheral lines on the south-side of the city that connected at the end of a Metro Line.
I regret not having the opportunity to travel on the trolleys, but at least I got to see and photograph them.
For me this sunset view of Mexico City street trackage is a symbolic photograph, and yet one that has haunted my imagination for decades. Technically speaking it is a poor photo; under exposed and the last frame on a roll of Kodachrome with the right side effectively cropped by the tape used during processing. I’ve cleaned up the slide a little for better presentation here.
Sometimes those scenes we only glimpse stick in our imagination more than those that we were immersed in. Do you remember that 1960s song recorded by Vashti Bunyan ‘Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind’?
On August 5, 1984, my late friend Robert A. Buck gave me an unforgettable tour of the Bangor & Aroostook in central Maine.
Among the stops on our trip was a brief visit to the disused tower at Lagrange. If you look to the right you can see Bob and his famous green van through the weeds.
I exposed this photo on Kodak Plus-X using an old Leica 3A with a Canon f1.8 50mm screw-mount lens. I processed the film in Kodak Microdol-X and stored the negatives for 35 years in an envelope. Last month I scanned the negatives using an Epson V750 scanner.
In January 1994, my father and I paid a visit to Perris, California, where I made some photos of this pair of rebuilt Santa Fe EMD diesels, along with the railroad station before proceeding to the Orange Empire Railway Museum.
Santa Fe 2725 was a GP30u, which lost the characteristic semi-streamlined cab roof when rebuilt from a GP30 in the early 1980s.
Does anyone remember the spoof newspaper ‘Not the New York Times’?
Anyway, at first glance this nocturnal photo might be mistaken for a mid-1950s view of a New York Central EMD GP with a Bangor & Aroostook boxcar.
Of course there are lots of hints to the contrary. If you look carefully, the GP9 in this view has ditch lights (a feature of the 1990s and later). The paint scheme, while inspired by the ‘New York Central’ lightning stripe, isn’t really like anything actually used by the railroad on a GP9. And, of course this engine has dynamic braking grids (just barely visible at the top of the long hood), , which as everyone knows(to quote a phrase) isn’t representative of New York Central’s GP9s, since none had dynamic brakes.
Just imagine the roar! Conrail C30-7 6600 leads three former Erie-Lackawanna 20-cylinder EMDs!
So far as I can remember, this was the only time I caught an SDP45 (second unit) hard at work on the Boston Line.
I made these views of an uphill BAL (Ballast train) at Middlefield, Massachusetts on a day’s photography with my old pal TSH on a beautiful spring evening in June 1984. I was a week away from my high-school graduation.
My only regret is that I didn’t have better photography skills and better equipment.
Yesterday I scanned this 20-year old slide of an eastward CSX freight passing the signals at CPRJ—Rotterdam Junction, New York.
I’d exposed the slide using my first Nikon N90S on Fujichrome Sensia RA slide film.
I made great use of the Nikon N90S, and when I wore out the first one, I bought another.
Oddly, when reviewing my slides, I find that my work with the N90S wasn’t as refined as the photographs that I made with either my Nikon F3 (with which I used the same lens pool as the N90S) nor my Contax G2 rangefinder that had its own lenses.
I can’t really explain this phenomena, but I wish I’d recognized it sooner.
It was April 26, 1984 when my brother and I embarked on big tour of the New York City Subway in Queens and Brooklyn.
I made this view from the front of an outbound train on the Astoria Line. On the middle track was an RR train heading toward Queens Plaza and beyond. This was during the era when the subway was still covered in grafitti.
Using my Leica 3A, I made this view from a NYCTA city bus in The Bronx circa 1980.
I don’t have any notes at all from this trip.
In all likelihood, I was using a 35mm Nikkor lens with a screw-mount designed for the Leica 3 series cameras. This was a favorite of mine at the time because it required an adjustable external viewfinder that made it easier to compose than the tiny window on the camera body.
The primary subject of the photo was the subway train on what I think was the White Plains Road elevated line. At right is my brother Sean. We were traveling with our grandmother from Fordham Road toward Co-op City as part of a shopping trip.
This photo has been quietly hiding, unprinted and unseen in a glassine negative sleeve for nearly 40 years! (Try that with your favorite phone photo.)
November 26, 2019 was one of those very productive days.
Following my earlier successes last Thursday with New England Central at Stafford Springs, and CSX at Palmer and West Warren, Mike Gardner and I went to breakfast at Girly’s Grille in Palmer, timing our departure so that would could intercept Mass-Central freight on its way up the Ware River Line to South Barre.
We caught up with the train at Gilbertville, one of my favorite locations along the old Boston & Albany branch.
I’d spotted this puddle in the parking lot near the station, which made for an excellent reflective surface to picture the passing train.
Key to making this image is the adjustable rear-screen display on my FujiFilm XT1, which among other features has a leveling bar.
Tracking the Light sometimes Scores on Thursdays in November!
It was about 1980, when I made this interior view of an R10 subway car during a trip with my father around New York City. Pop thinks this was on the 8th Avenue line in Manhattan. It was one of three photos I made of the Subway that day .
The cars were not air-conditioned and the open fans intrigued me.
This was in that unsavory era on the Subway when the subway cars were decorated inside and out with graffiti.
Exposed on black & white film with my old Leica 3A 35mm camera.
CSX Q264 is a unit autorack train that terminates at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
On Tuesday, November 26, 2019, I was waiting at CP83 in Palmer for fellow photographer Mike Gardner to arrive. To the west, I could hear the distant roar of a heavy eastward train.
Long ago I learned to use my ear. Listening, and knowing what you are hearing can make the difference between finding a train and missing one.
Mike pulled in and I signaled to him there was in eastbound on the diamond (crossing at Palmer between New England Central and CSX’s Boston Line).
I was delighted because low rich November sun illuminated CP83 and there weren’t any automobiles in the parking lot in front of the Steaming Tender restaurant (that occupies that the old Palmer Union Station).
As Q264 rolled through, I said to Mike, “quick, jump in! The train is limited to 30mph at the diamond, we’ll get him down the line.”
And we were off in hot pursuit!
Up to West Warren, a recent and long-time favorite location of mine for railroad photography. We pulled over where the Boston Line is adjacent to Route 67, and I exposed another sequence of photos.
That was two trains, on two lines in less than two hours, but it was only going to get better! Tuesday was a very good day!
More to come!
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day, sometimes twice!
Earlier this month, I traveled with some friends to Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland to photograph the Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge operations.
Working with Kodak Tri-X in a Nikon F3 with 105mm lens, I made this view of a laden train crossing the River Shannon.
I processed the film using a twin-stage (split development) process: presoaked in Kodak HC110 mixed 1-200 for 5 minutes; then Ilford ID1 mixed 1 to 1 for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F with gentle agitation every minute for 10 seconds. After stop bath (30 seconds), twin fixer baths of 3 minutes each and extensive rinsing, I toned the still wet negative using a Selenium batch mixed 1-9 for 8 minutes 30 seconds.
In addition to this traditional black & white photo, I also exposed digital photos using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras. Color and black & white, film and digital, yes I have most of formats covered.
In recent days, New England Central’s Willimantic, Conn., to Palmer., Mass., turn running as job 608, has been back on its daylight schedule, which sees it reaching Stafford Springs, Connecticut at about 730am.
Thursday (November 21, 2019), I made a morning project of intercepting the train and photographing it on its northward run.
At the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line, the railroad crests the top of a divide known as ‘State Line Hill’ and begins its descent toward Palmer. Just north of the top of the hill the tracks cross Route 32, which is where I set up to make my photo.
This view was made using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm prime telephoto.
I aimed to make a split scene, where the highway and railroad cross at the center and direct the eye to opposite sides of the frame.
The subject is the train, which has just caught the sun at the intersection of the state boundary.
The second view in shows the locomotive better, but is a less evocative image.
Back in October 1984—35 years ago— I made this nocturnal view of Central Vermont RS11 3606 at the Palmer, Massachusetts yard.
With my Leica mounted on a tripod, I exposed this view using a mix of existing light and electronic strobe for fill light. I’d work with a large Metz flash that allowed me to control the quantity of light being emitted. To soften the blast, I’d squelch the emission to about 1/4th and wrap the flash head in a white trash bag. I’d then make a series of blasts from different angles while leaving the shutter open.
My old Leica 3A had a ‘T’ setting that would leave the shutter open indefinitely. An exposure such as this would require about 30 secs to a minute for me to make the blasts.
This was one of at least four frames that I exposed that October evening so long ago! My notes from the day have vanished, much to my disgust, as I tended to keep records of all my photography.
I was sifting through some old 120 black & white negatives yesterday and found these photographs from a morning’s photography along the old New Haven Railroad in Connecticut from June 1986.
I started the morning in South Norwalk, then moved down to Westport.
Most of the photos from the morning were exposed on Kodachrome slide film, but I made a few select images on Kodak Tri-X using my father’s Rolleiflex Model T using a 645-size ‘superslide’ insert to obtain a rectangular crop.
Most interesting to me now are the views of Amtrak’s eastward mail train behind AEM-7 904. This carried a group of baggage cars at the back including some from VIA Rail.
While I have detailed photographic notes from the day, what I don’t have recorded were my thoughts on the experience at the time. This was one of several similar trips I made to former New Haven electrified territory in the summer of 1986.
I made this telephoto view of a northward Amtrak shuttle (running from New Haven, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts) using a Nikon F3 with a 105mm lens and loaded with Fuji Acros 100 black & white film.
I like the way the Amtrak train glints in the morning sun.
To maximize tonality and detail, I used a split-development process, first soaking the film in a very dilute mixture of Kodak HC110, then using a more concentrated mix of Rodinal for primary development.
Last week, Ballinasloe was to be the jumping off point for the latest of my Bord na Mona adventures (to be covered in Tracking the Light in the future).
Irish Rail’s Galway line wouldn’t be an operation characterized by variety. Except for the very occasional excursion, the vast majority of movements consist of the common 22000-series Intercity Railcars (ICRs).
So, when I positioned myself at the Dublin end of the down platform, my intent was to document the ICR that I’d arrive upon with Ballinasloe’s handsome Midland Great Western Railway station.
Why was the up-home signal green? We’d just crossed the up-Galway at Athlone.
As the 0735 Dublin to Galway train pulled away, I was startled and surprised to see a pair of 2800-series railcars ready to depart up-road. What was this?
After I made my photos, it occurred to me that this was the weekly equipment transfer for the Ballina Branch. Ah, yes. And perhaps, I should have known.
I’m happy that I had camera in hand to picture this relatively unusual movement. Sometimes, even when you think you know what to expect, something sneaks up and surprises you!
Friday, it was officially announced that Ireland’s Electrical Supply Board (ESB) intends to close the Lough Ree and Shannonbridge power stations at the end of 2020.
This doesn’t bode well for the Bord na Mona narrow gauge systems that exist largely to supply these stations with fuel.
A couple of weeks ago on a visit to the Lanesborough system I made this sunset view of an empty train returning to the bog for reloading.
I’ve made dozens of trips over the years to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge railways. While in recent years, it’s been understood that these railways were on borrowed time, I still find sad that they will soon be without their primary traffic.
These are fascinating and wonderful railways with lots of charm and photographic potential.
In 2020, I hope to continue photographing the systems around Lanesborough and Shannonbridge, as well as some of the other Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways.
During October’s Cobh Rambler tour, I made these views at Cork’s Kent Station on Kodak Tri-X black & white film.
The tour was operated by Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in conjunction with Irish Rail.
Kent’s curved Victorian train shed makes for a fascinating venue to photograph a modern railway in action, while the inclement weather on the day translated well with the traditional media.
I processed the film using a customized split development process consisting of Kodak HC110 presoak mixed 1-200 followed by primary development using Ilford ID11 1-1. The negatives were scanned using an Epsom V500 flatbed scanner with some minor final adjustment using Lightroom.
Tuesday last week, my arrival at Sallins, County Kildare by Irish Rail suburban train was merely a jumping off for a much more productive photographic endeavor.
See yesterday’s post, SUBURBAN TRAINS PASS AT SALLINS.
So Tuesday last week, I met fellow photographer Aiden McDonald outside Sallins and traveled by road for another visit to Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough narrow gauge network. This was my fourth foray in 2019 photographing on this wonderful industrial railway, and my second in less than a week.
My first visit to Lanesborough was more than six years ago and of all the Bord na Mona systems, it is my favorite.
We lucked out and met the empty ash train immediately on crossing the line near Derraghan More, County Longford.
It was bright and sunny and followed the train all the way back toward the Lough Ree Generating Station.
This was just the warm up and for the next six hours we were treated to almost non-stop action on one of Ireland’s coolest little railways.
Sadly this is an Indian Summer for the system, both literally and metaphorically. Word to the wise: time is running short.
Last night I processed a roll of Rollei 80S Retro that I exposed last summer.
The timing was apropos.
I made these images using my Nikon F3 with f1.8 105mm lens. My cousin Stella was visiting from the West Coast and we were exploring spooky graveyards in Western Massachusetts.
You may wonder why I waited nearly four months to process the film. Was it an infusion of Irish spirits and pucas that lent inspiration?
No, it was actually simpler than that. My preferred developer for Rollei 80S Retro is Rodinal and in Dublin I keep a healthy volume of this antique solution on hand. So I brought the film with me from America for processing in Dublin. However, distractions and writing have kept me occupied for weeks and I just got to souping the film last night!
I have an adjusted recipe for this very unusual film that yields stunning results.
Rollei 80S Retro will provide superb tonality, super fine grain, and a deep rich black when processed properly.
I’ll be posting more view to my Instagram account over the coming hours and days. See my photos on Instagram at: briansolomon.author
Tracking the Light looks to the Dark Side Tonight!
I was driving from Madison, Wisconsin to Roanoke, Virginia on October 25, 2002.
I stopped at Cincinnati to make photographs of Fellheimer & Wagner’s art deco masterpiece: Cincinnati Union Station, a railway station inspired by Helsinki’s Main Station.
This was among the photos I made on Fuji Acros 100 using my Contax G2 rangefinder fitted with the super wide-angle flat-field 16mm Hologon. I featured this station in my book Depots, Stations & Terminals, published by Voyageur Press.
Twenty eight years ago on this day, my brother Sean and I made a survey of the former PRR electrified mainline south (timetable west) of Philadelphia.
Rather than literal interpretations, I was aiming for something more interpretive.
I’d bought a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 160 slide film. This featured a ‘tungsten balance’ designed to work with incandescent lamps and so featured a very cool color temperature, which accentuates the effect of dusk.
My notes from the day are nearly 4,000 miles away, so I can’t tell you which suburban platform on which we were standing when I made this time exposure of a rapidly approaching Amtrak train in the blue glow of the evening.
What I remember most from that evening was a sky filled with migratory birds, chirping, singing and squawking as they flew by.
Tracking the Light Posts Everyday, sometimes more than once!