Kris and I arrived at Duplainville, Wisconsin where the Canadian National’s former Wisconsin Central crosses Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road. We were there just in time to see that the signals were cleared for an eastward train.
We got into position, post haste, to roll by Amtrak’s eastward Empire Builder—train No. 8.
As No. 8 blitzed by, I made these images working with my Nikon Z6 mirror-less digital camera. I processed the images in Lightroom to make the most of the NEF files recorded by the camera.
My grandparents had a grand view of the old New Haven Railroad at Pelham Bay Park from their apartment in Co-op City, The Bronx, New York.
Using my old Leica IIIa, I made hundreds of photos of trains rolling along under wire.
This is among the more unsual photos from their 19th floor terrace. On a visit in August 1981, I made numerous photos of diesels underwire, as the result of a failure with the early 1900s electrification that had forced Amtrak to tow its normally electrically hauled trains with diesels.
In this photo, one of Amtrak’s few remaining EMD E8As hauls a then-new AEM-7 electric and train eastward toward New Haven.
Labor Day weekend 1978: my dad brought my brother and me out to roll by Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited at the route 148 overpass in Brookfield, Massachusetts.
Working with his ‘motorized’ (mechanical wind-up) Leica 3A, I made a rapid fire sequence of the train as it roared west behind E-units.
I processed the film in the kitchen sink and made a few prints, then for the next four decades the negatives rested quietly in the attic.
I used this Epson scan of one of the negatives from that day as one of the opening photos in my program titled ‘Tracking the Light’ that I presented live last night to the Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the Pearl Street Station in Malden, Massachusetts.
Immediately south of the old Central Vermont Railway yard at Brattleboro, Vermont is a causeway across the Vernon Backwater of the Connecticut River.
This is another old favorite place of mine to picture trains on the move.
Today, brush growing on the causeway poses a visual challenge. Where years ago the causeway offered an unobstructed view of a train, today, careful positioning is necessary to avoid cropping the front of the locomotive as it works its way south over the man-made fill.
The other day Kris and I visited this location, arriving just a few minutes before Amtrak’s southward Vermonter was expected.
I made this photo using my Nikon Z6.
I scaled the in-camera JPG using Lightroom, without making modifications to density, color temperature, contrast, or color balance.
On an afternoon in August 2009, I stood atop a parking garage near Jack London Square in Oakland, California where I made this view featuring an Amtrak Capitols train against a backdrop of the city’s sprawling port facilities.
I was working with a Canon EOS3 fitted with a 100-400mm zoom lens to expose a Fujichrome slide. This was several months before buying my first digital camera.
During my five week stay in California that year I exposed more than 80 rolls of color slide film. Many of my photos featured scenes around San Francisco Bay. At the time I envisioned writing a book on San Francisco, but I didn’t get sufficient interest from my publishers at the time to move that proposal forward.
Three years ago on August 5th, John Gruber dropped me off at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station where I photographed Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service before boarding a train for Chicago Union Station. There I changed for the eastward Lake Shore Limited.
I made these images using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit.
May 1, 1971, Amtrak was born—Fifty years ago today.
I wrote about Amtrak’s 50th anniversary in my May 2021 Trains column.
To commemorate this half-century mark on Tracking the Light, I’m posting this scan of a color slide I that I exposed back in October 2000 of Amtrak P42 No. 1 crossing the Quaboag River at West Warren, Massachusetts.
At the time, I was working to fulfill a assignment for Mark Hemphill, then editor of Trains. Ultimately, Trains used a similar view of this same locomotive on this same bridge that I made a few days later. That photo showed P42 No. 1 panned using a slow shutter speed to convey speed.
On the evening of June 7, 2015, I exposed these two color slides of a northward Amtrak train on CSX’s former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac pausing for a station stop at Ashland, Virginia.
This was on a trip with Pat Yough to photograph Norfolk & Western J-class steam locomotive 611. On this day, we’d made a side trip to Ashland to catch up with photographer/author Doug Riddell.
I was working with a Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens. At the time film choice was very limited, and so I had the camera loaded with Fujichrome Provia 100F. Ten years earlier, I would have had a much greater choice of emulsions to pick from.
We maintained an old tradition: watching the passage of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at Palmer, Massachusetts.
Kris Sabbatino and I met some old friends at CP83 in Palmer where we enjoyed takeout from the Steaming Tender (located inside the historic Union Station).
I looked up at the signals and said, ‘449 ought to be hitting the circuit at CP79 any second now.’ And on cue the light cleared to ‘green over red’.
I made these photos of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited hitting the Palmer diamond using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens. I set the camera manually with a 1/1600th of a second shutter speed to better freeze the motion of the train.
Amtrak 449 is the Boston section of the train, which joins the New York section at Amtrak’s Albany-Rensselaer.
Note: To get the full picture, you will need to view this post on Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light.
I like to find non-standard angles and unusual perspectives to make common subjects, uncommon.
In April 1989, an Amtrak F40PH leading Amfleet, was about as common as it got.
I’d set up along Conrail’s former New York Central Waterlevel Route at milepost 399, near the School Road grade crossing, east of Batavia, New York.
Working with a Leica M2 with 200mm Telyt prime telephoto attached using a Leica Visoflex and fixed to a Bogen 3021 tripod, I selected a rail-level view.
My angle deliberately forces the eye away from the primary subject. Why do this? The bright Amtrak train already dominates the scene, so by forcing the eye downward it makes for an unusual angle that better captures your attention.
An unwise photo editor, might try to crop the bottom 20 percent of the image in a misguided effort to center the train from top to bottom.
Sadly, photographer’s compositions are too often foiled by less insightful editors.
On December 5, 2014, my brother and I, stood on the platform at Overbrook, Pennsylvania along the former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D, I exposed this photo of an approach medium aspect on an old PRR position light signal. At left, Amtrak’s westward Pennsylvanian—train 43—glides toward the station behind P42 number 71.
I made a host of minor modifications in post processing aimed at improving the camera RAW file.
In June 1994, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using a Nikkormat FTN fitted with a Nikon AF28mm lens (focused manually) of Amtrak number 5, the westward California Zephyr as it worked upgrade along the Truckee River on Southern Pacific’s famous Donner Pass crossing.
The other day, I scanned this slide and then imported the unmodified scan into Adobe Lightroom to make corrections.
Kodachrome 25 was an amazing film with very fine grain and a tremendous exposure latitude. Among the difficulties with the Kodachrome emulsions was its cyan/red color bias. When the film was fresh it tended toward a cyan (blue-green) bias, and as it aged it shifted red.
The roll I used was relatively fresh and required significant color adjustment to produce a near neutral bias.
I’ve included scaled versions of: the unmodified scan, the color and contrast adjusted scan, and the Lightroom work window.
A few weeks ago on Tracking the Light, I described my early experiences with Kodak’s Ektachrome LPP (a warm-tone emulsion with subtle color rendition), of which I received a free-sample from Kodak back in August 1993.
Among the other photos on that roll, was this view exposed shortly after sunrise of Amtrak’s Los Angeles-bound Coast Starlight crossing Southern Pacific’s massive Benicia Bridge near Martinez, California.
I had loaded the film into a second-hand Nikkormat FTN that I fitted an f4.0 Nikkor 200mm telephoto.
This slide sat in the dark until I scanned it on October 6, 2020.