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