Tag Archives: Acela

New Haven on New Years Eve—It Ain’t Pretty, but it’s busy!


Many years ago, my old pal T.S. Hoover and I would make a project of photographing the old New Haven Railroad during the holiday season.

This past New Years Eve (December 31 2018), I maintained this tradition, although that wasn’t my intent!

I was transferring from Amtrak 405 from Springfield to Amtrak 195 from Boston. Let’s just say the Boston train wasn’t holding to the advertised and I had ample time to wander around and make photographs of the passing action.

New Haven isn’t pretty,  high level platforms combined with a plethora of poles, catenary masts, catenary, signs, garbage, stray wires and other visual clutter hasn’t improved this classic setting, but there’s a great variety of equipment on the move.

Shoreline East lurking on left, CT Rail Hartford Line on right; FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
CT Rail Hartford Line train. Lumix LX7 photo.
Shoreline East train with a former Amtrak P40 at the back departs eastward for Old Saybrook. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

Metro North M8s on left, old M2s on the right. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens..

No GG1s, RDCs, FL9s, E8s or other relics that made this a fascinating place when I was a teenager. For that matter there weren’t any E60s, AEM-7s, F40s or SPV-2000s either.

Boston-bound Acela Express. Lumix LX7 photo.

Boston-bound Acela Express. FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.
FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

And finally, train 195! Hooray! Lumix LX7 photo.

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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.

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Amtrak HST at Kingston, Rhode Island.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 12mm Zeiss Touit, I made these views of an Amtrak High Speed Train at Kingston, Rhode Island.

Digital photograph exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

Digital photograph exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

These trains are typically assigned to Amtrak’s Acela Express services on the Northeast Corridor between Boston, New York and Washington.

But are they Acelas if they aren’t working those scheduled trains?

And, when Amtrak’s newest high speed trains (note lack of capitals) assume Acela Express services (presuming the marketing name remains unchanged), what can we expect to call the old HST sets?

Sometimes railroad photography really is about the train.

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Amtrak’s Acela Express train 2252 catches the glint at Branford, Connecticut.

I said. “Give it five minutes, that Acela ought to be along. The light’s nice, it would be a shame to waste it.”

Exposed manually using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera. 1/1000th of a second at f7.1 ISO 400.

Amtrak’s High Speed Trains in Acela service make for nice evening subjects since their stainless-steel bodies reflect the light well.

Exposure can be a bit tricky. If you don’t compensate for the flash of glint, you might end up with a washed out photo (over exposed).

Here’s a secret; anticipate the flash as being about 1.5 stops brighter than the ambient lighting and set your exposure manually rather than using one of the camera’s automatic settings.

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Sunday-only Acela Express Blitzes Marcus Hook—December 4, 2016.

 

[This vertically oriented image may not crop well on some social media sites—click directly to Tracking the Light for the full post.]

The former Pennsylvania Railroad south of Philadelphia is an electrified multiple-track raceway. Decades ago this was the stomping ground of the railroad’s famous streamlined GG1 electrics.

Fastest of today’s trains is Amtrak’s Acela Express.

The long tangent at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania offers a good place to watch and photograph these fast trains at speed.

Last Sunday, Pat Yough and I paid a visit and photographed Sunday-only Acela Express 2211 on its run to Washington D.C.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with an 18-135mm Fujinon lens set at 135mm (equivalent in 35mm camera terms to a 203mm focal length). ISO 400; shutter speed 1/500th, aperture f8, camera set manually, but using autofocus.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with an 18-135mm Fujinon lens set at 135mm (equivalent in 35mm camera terms to a 203mm focal length). ISO 400; shutter speed 1/500th, aperture f8, camera set manually, but using autofocus.

 

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Acela Coming and Going; Alternative Views at Madison, Connecticut-June 23, 2016.

On a previous visit to Madison, Connecticut, I noted that a long lens would work well in the curve east of the Shore Line East station.

In earlier posts, I presented examples of Amtrak’s Acela against a sunset sky; and a wide-angle view of it blitzing the station. See; Acela Sunset: Miracles of Digital by working with a RAW File and Amtrak Acela at Speed; when one thousandth of a second isn’t fast enough.

The other day Pat Yough showed me some examples he made with his digital Nikon of trains glinting in the curve at Madison. Since to emulate this effort, I’d require a longer focal length lens than I have for my FujiFilm X-T1, I opted to fire up my Canon 7D with a 200mm lens, and joined Pat for another evening’s photography on the Shore Line route.

Often I find that by making repeated trips through the same territory will allow me to make the most of my photography. I can learn where the light and shadow fall, how the railroad operates, and how to work with the various elements at hand to make the most effective images. If I miss something or make a mistake on one trip; I learn from it and armed with this knowledge try again.

I made this dramatic glint photo using my Canon EOS 7D with a 200mm lens. The camera's smaller sensor size which contributes to the telescopic effect. Using 35mm film camera, this view would required a lens length of approximately 280mm.
I made this dramatic glint photo using my Canon EOS 7D with a 200mm lens. The camera’s smaller sensor size contributes to the telescopic effect. If I were using a 35mm film camera, this view would required a lens length of approximately 280mm. [Update; I’ve been given a revised figure of 320mm based upon Canon’s conversion 1.6 factor.]

A trailing view of Amtrak's Boston-bound Acela (train 2168) at the same curve in Madison, Connecticut.
A trailing view of Amtrak’s Boston-bound Acela (train 2168) at the same curve in Madison, Connecticut.

In this situation, I needed a longer lens to make the image work. However since the sun is only sets on the north side of the tracks here for a few weeks, I needed to act while the light was right.

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Old School at Old Saybrook or Amtrak’s Acela and a Cotton Candy Sky.

 

After reviewing my black & white negatives from the 1980s, I decided it would be productive to use my old camera for some modern photography. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve exposed several rolls of 35mm film and processed them in the darkroom.

Last week I made use of my old Leica 3A at Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

While the passing trains were the primary subject; it was the fleecy cotton-candy sky that really caught my attention.

Successful black & white photography often makes use of texture and contrast. Here the sky worked well.

A New York bound Amtrak High Speed Train (working as an Acela service) blitzes the station at Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Exposed with a 21mm f4.0 Super Angulon. I exposed for the sky, allow other elements of the scene to remain in relative shadow.
A New York bound Amtrak High Speed Train (working as an Acela service) blitzes the station at Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Exposed with a 21mm f4.0 Super Angulon. I exposed for the sky, while allowing other elements of the scene to remain in relative shadow.

Sometimes wires are a nuisance; here they are integral park of the scene. Also rather than emphasize deep rich shadows, I've exposed for the sky to allow this textured area to draw the eye. Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Sometimes wires are a nuisance; here they are integral park of the scene. Also rather than emphasize deep rich shadows, I’ve exposed for the sky to allow this textured area to draw the eye. Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Amtrak ACS-64 600 David Gunn pauses at Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Here I've used a Nikkor 35mm lens on my old Leica. Notice how this lens treats the contrast of the scene. Every lens is different, and choosing the best lens for the circumstance is more than merely selecting the desired focal length.
Amtrak ACS-64 600 David Gunn pauses at Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Here I’ve used a Nikkor 35mm lens on my old Leica. Notice how this lens treats the contrast of the scene. Every lens is different, and choosing the best lens for the circumstance is more than merely selecting the desired focal length.

These images were exposed using Fuji Acros 100 negative film; processed in Kodak HC-110 at 1:32 (with water) for 4 minutes 30 seconds with continuous agitation.

Final image processing was done following scanning with Lightroom.

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Amtrak Acela at Speed; when one thousandth of a second isn’t fast enough.

Madison, Connecticut: until June 2016, I’d never made a photo there in my life, and as it turns out I was there twice inside of a week.

This isn’t really a coincidence; having scoped the location on June 7th, I returned a few days later to make the most of light on the long days.

I exposed these views from the Shore Line East station of Amtrak’s westward (southward) Acela train 2173 flying along the former New Haven Railroad Shoreline route.

For this angle, I employed my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit and a graduated neutral density filter (to retain sky detail). My shutter speed was 1/1000th of a second.

I had the motor drive set on ‘CH’ (continuous high), a setting I descriptively call ‘turbo flutter.’ This automatically exposes a burst of images in rapid succession.

Normally there’s only nominal differences between the frames, but in this situation the train’s rapid motion combined with my super-wide angle perspective resulted in considerable changes in the relative placement of the head-end.

Amtrak Acela 2173 at Madison, Connecticut.
Amtrak Acela 2173 at Madison, Connecticut.

Amtrak Acela 2173 at Madison, Connecticut.
Amtrak Acela 2173 at Madison, Connecticut.

Amtrak Acela 2173 at Madison, Connecticut.
Amtrak Acela 2173 at Madison, Connecticut.

Also, as it turns out, 1/1000th isn’t fast enough to stop the action. Maybe next time I’ll try 1/2000th.

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Acela Sunset: Miracles of Digital by working with a RAW File.

The long days make for photographic opportunity. While modern digital cameras have the ability to capture scenes previously out of reach with film. Yet, sometimes there’s still work to be done after the fact.

The other day, Pat Yough and I were exploring locations along Amtrak’s former New Haven Shoreline at Madison, Connecticut.

 

“Headlight!”

“It’s the Acela.”

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens, I had very little time to prepare for my image.

However, the colors of the evening sky attracted my attention and I knew I needed to use a relatively fast shutter speed to stop the action. I set the ISO to 6400, which allowed me to use a 1/500th of second shutter speed at f3.2.

(I set my camera manually.)

While the front of the Acela was exposed more or less as I’d hoped, the sky detail was washed out.

Later, using Lightroom for post processing, I was quickly able to produce three variations of the original image that brought back sky detail.

Admittedly the original file isn’t the sharpest image. But, I find one the great benefits of the digital medium is the ability to go back to the camera RAW file and adjust color and contrast sliders to make for a more pleasing final photograph.

Which of the four photos is your favorite?

This image was made from the unmodified RAW file. RAW represents the data captured by the camera. However, often there is greater detail in the file than is immediately evident.
This image was made from the unmodified RAW file. RAW represents the data captured by the camera. However, often there is greater detail in the file than is immediately evident.

First adjust variation. Using Lightroom, I inserted a digital graduated filter to bring in sky detail and improve color saturation, while making over all adjustments to contrast. I also cropped the image slightly to minimize the intrusive visual elements on the left.
First adjusted variation. Using Lightroom, I inserted a digital graduated filter to bring in sky detail and improve color saturation, while making over all adjustments to contrast. I also cropped the image slightly to minimize the intrusive visual elements on the left.

Second adjusted variation: My overall work was similar to the first adjusted image (above) except I lightened the shadow areas. This is an interesting example of an illustration, but really doesn't convey how the scene appeared to me, as the trees to the left of the Acela were really pretty dark. In other words I've over compensated. This does show the level of information captured by the camera.
Second adjusted variation: My overall work was similar to the first adjusted image (above) except I lightened the shadow areas. This is an interesting example of an illustration, but doesn’t really  convey how the scene appeared to me at the time of exposure:  the trees to the right of the Acela were  pretty dark. In other words I’ve over compensated in my interpretation. It  does show the level of information captured by the camera.

Third adjusted variation. Instead of using a graduated filter, as with the first two adjusted images, I made all my changes globally (in other words equally to the whole image area). I brought down the highlights, darkened the overall exposure, while nominally lightening the shadow regions to keep them from becoming too dark. I ever slo slightly boosted the saturation. While a little darker than the other images, this was is closest to what I saw at the scene. (Also, notice I've run this image full frame without cropping).
Third adjusted variation. Instead of using a graduated filter, as with the first two adjusted images, I made all my changes globally (in other words equally to the whole image area). I brought down the highlights, darkened the overall exposure, while nominally lightened the shadow regions to keep them from becoming too dark. I ever so slightly boosted the saturation. While a little darker than the other images, this was is closest to what I saw at the scene. (Also, notice that  I’ve run this image full frame without cropping).

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Tracking the Light Special Update—Amtrak Acela 2253 at New Haven

Reporting live from Amtrak train 54, The Vermonter, on June 27, 2015. During our engine change at New Haven—electric locomotive 914 was replaced with Genesis diesel 102—I made photos of Amtrak’s Boston-Washington Acela Express, train 2253 arriving at New Haven.

No engine change needed for the Acela express! The total elapsed time on the platform was just two minutes.

Amtrak Acela Express train 2235 with power car 2106 at New Haven. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak Acela Express, train 2235, with power car 2006 at New Haven. Lumix LX7 photo.

Broadside of the Acela Express at New Haven.
Broadside of the Acela Express at New Haven.

Amtrak Acela Express, train 2235, at New Haven. Lumix LX7 photo.
Amtrak Acela Express, train 2253, at New Haven. Lumix LX7 photo.

Old Amtrak AEM-7 914 heads for New Haven motor storage. A few weeks ago sister locomotive, Amtrak 915 was sent to Strasburg, Pennsylvania for preservation. How much longer will the old AEM-7s work? Lumix LX7 photo.
Old Amtrak AEM-7 914 heads for New Haven motor storage. A few weeks ago sister locomotive, Amtrak 915 was sent to Strasburg, Pennsylvania for preservation. How much longer will the old AEM-7s work? Lumix LX7 photo.

Vermonter passengers watch the New Haven engine change.
Vermonter passengers watch the New Haven engine change.

Imagine the time savings for the Vermonter if it ran with a dual-mode diesel-electric—electric, such as the Bombardier locomotives used by NJ Transit!

Photos exposed with my Lumix LX7.

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