Cranberry Colored Santa Fe

Massachusetts Coastal GP7U 2006 was originally Santa Fe Railway GP7 2689.

On our visit to Cape Cod, we found this antique from 1951 basking in the late afternoon sun at the Hyannis yard.

I made a selection of photos from different angles, using different cameras and different lenses, to show how the angle of the sun and other differences can greatly affect how color is perceived and recorded.

So which is the ‘true’ color of the locomotive? There isn’t any ‘true’ color, it all depends on how you perceive it in the moment. The appearance of paint color changes with as the light changes.

Cape Cod Central’s cranberry is a difficult color in part because it is a mix a blue and red hues. Blue is greatly affected by the color of the sky; red by the sun. With a polarized sky and the sun low on the horizon the angle of view (and angle of reflection) affects the apparent color more than on a day with more diffused sunlight and the sun higher in the sky.

Complicating matters for the modern day photographer is that different camera sensors and color profiles also affect the way that color is recorded.

This is the classic three/quarter angle.Exposed using a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom. Set at 45mm, f9.0 at 1/80th of a second. ISO 80.
A slightly more broadside view: the shadow hints at the angle of the light. Exposed using a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Nikkor Z-series zoom. Set at 40mm, f9.0 at 1/80th of a second. ISO 80. Note the relative position of the moon compared with the above image.
This photo was made just a few minutes after the above image while using my Lumix LX7; ISO 80, f4.0 1/250th second. The camera has a different sensor and color profile than the Nikon. The color balance has a greater amount of red and the saturation is higher than with the Nikon images above.
Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom set to 160mm. ISO 100 f9.0 1/320th of a second .Back lighting with low sun produces a ‘glint’ effect that reflects a portion of the sunlight back toward the camera. This has the effect of desaturating the color of the equipment. While we can still see the cranberry coloring on the locomotive, it is significantly subdued compared with the images made using over the shoulder light. This is partially the result of having to ‘stop down’ (underexpose) to compensate for the brighter ‘glint’ light.
This is a tighter variation exposed using a longer focal length setting on the zoom lens (200mm compared with 160mm in the image above). Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom, ISO 100 f9.0 1/320th of a second.

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