Tag Archives: Amtrak

Amtrak’s Vermonter with American Flags.

This is a grab shot; I didn’t have time to do what I intended (and the sun went in).

We arrived at the small cemetery at West Northfield, Massachusetts minutes before Amtrak 56 (northward Vermonter).

 The brush along the railroad has recently been cut. Unfortunately, a brush cutting/removal machine was awkwardly (as in non-photographically) positioned by the tracks, foiling my intend angle for a photo. I was going to try ‘plan b’.

I’d heard the crew call ‘Approach’ for East Northfield, I was hoping for time to swap to a wide angle lens, when I saw the headlight.

No time: so instead, I hastily composed this vertical view using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens.

The front of the locomotive is nearly centered. I wonder if I should have let it move a bit more to the left for a more effective composition?

I like the American flags, placed for Memorial Day. I wonder about my placement of the front of the locomotive relative to the gap in the brush. Should I have let the locomotive continue a few more feet to the left?

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Retrospective in 3 Photos: Amtrak E60s in the Early 1980s.

In my early days, picturing former Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electrics was one of my main photographic interests.

I held Amtrak’s newer E60 electrics is disdain.  These modern, boxy electrics appeared to be supplanting the GG1s. For me they lacked the historic connections, the elegant streamlined style, and the character of the GG1. They were bland and common.

I may not have been fond of the E60s. But I always photographed them. They were part of the scene, and important elements of modern operations.

Recently I rediscovered these E60 photos along with some other long-missing black & white negatives.

Amtrak E60 972 leads a westward/southward train at the PATH (Husdon & Manhattan) station in Harrison, New Jersey on a gray wintery afternoon in 1981.
Kodak Tri-X processed in Microdol-X.
The view from my grandparents’ balcony in Co-op City in The Bronx overlooked Amtrak’s former New Haven Railroad Hell Gate Bridge route. I made this view using a Leitz 200mm Telyt telephoto lens attached to a Visoflex reflex viewfinder. Although klutzy, this lens arrangement allowed me to attach the telephoto lens to my Leica 3A. Focusing on moving subjects was a challenge. I made this view hand-held and while I nailed the focus  my level was completely off. I corrected the skew in post processing.

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When East is West: Two Trains at the Junction.

I’ve been making photos at the Junction at East Northfield since the 1980s.

The other day, on the third visit in two weeks to this iconic New England location (where New England Central’s line connects with Pan Am Railway’s Conn River route), I had a reckoning.

It occurred to me that railroad timetable ‘East Northfield’ is actually north and west of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts.

How is this possible?

Some Highway maps show railroad ‘East Northfield’ in West Northfield.

This timetable location has been called ‘East Northfield’ since the steam era,  and the present NECR sign reflects this historic geographic incongruity.

New England Central’s northward 611 (running from Palmer to Brattleboro) holds south of the junction at East Northfield for Amtrak 56, the northward Vermonter, led by P42 number 59. (Don’t get me started on train numbers versus engine numbers!)
Amtrak 56 accelerates away from the junction at East Northfield, clearly identified by the New England Central sign at left. Back in the old days, there was a railroad station on the right side of the tracks, and that was the ‘East Northfield Station’.
After Amtrak 56 completed its station stop at Brattleboro and cleared railroad location at West River, NECR’s dispatcher gave northward freight 611 permission to proceed. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.

No doubt at some point in the future, the geography will be retro-actively re-written to accommodate this oversight on the part of historic railroad timetable writers. What will they make of my captions!

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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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Dynamic Photo: German Electric on the Shore Line.

Amtrak Siemens-built ACS-64 ‘Cities Sprinters’ are the standard electric locomotives for Regional and Long Distance services operating on the Northeast Corridor.

I made this view of Amtrak 160 blasting through the station at Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

For my raw and unmodified composition I gave the camera a slight tilt that makes for a more dynamic image of the fast electric in action.

My original composition features a slight angle intended to better convey speed and motion.

Purists might flinch at my altering of the level, so I’ve ‘corrected’ the photo in post processing and offer the more ‘normal’ view as well.

Here’s the revised image, ‘corrected’ in post processing.

Who said you can have your cake and eat too?

Which version do you prefer?

Don’t Miss Out!

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March 2018 Trains Magazine Features My Photo of Amtrak 611.

I was pleased to learn the my wintery photo of Amtrak ACS-64 611 was selected for the cover of the March 2018 issue of Trains Magazine.

Using my Canon EOS 7D and a telephoto lens, I exposed this view on a visit to Branford, Connecticut with Patrick Yough just over three years ago.

On January 10, 2015, Amtrak ACS-64 No. 611 leads train 161 westward at Branford, Connecticut.

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Amtrak in the Snow; f9 and be there.

Running errands again.

Amtrak 449 was only 2 minutes late leaving Worcester.

I stopped in at CP83 in Palmer between tasks (I had to mail a letter and visit the bank).

Signals lit westbound; first all red, then a high green on the main track.

“Clear signal CP83 main to main”

f9.0 1/500th of second at ISO 400.

With my ISO preset to 400, using the histogram in the camera, I set my exposure as follows; f9.0 1/500th of a second.

I like my snow white; but not blown out (over exposed).

F7.1 1/500th at ISO 400.
F7.1 1/500th at ISO 400.

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Tracking the Light Wishes You Happy Holidays!

Here’s my holiday card. Amtrak’s westward 449 led by heritage locomotive 156 passes West Warren, Massachusetts, Sunday December 10, 2017.

Amtrak 156 has been on my list for a long time. Of all the Amtrak paint schemes over the years, this is by far my favorite.

Although I caught 156 second unit out three days earlier (see yesterday’s Tracking the Light), this locomotive had eluded my photography for years. Apparently it had been assigned to the Vermonter for a month a few years ago, but I was out of the country.

Every other time it was some place, I was some place else.

But finally everything came together; first snow of the season, Amtrak 156 in the lead, and soft afternoon sun at one of my favorite former Boston & Albany locations; the engineer gave me a friendly toot of the horn, and I’m pleased with the outcome of the photos.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm Fujinon Aspherical pancake lens. File processed using Lightroom. And yes, I also exposed some color slides! (But no black & white film).

I hope you have a great holiday season and you find your 156 in the new year.

Tracking the Light wishes you Seasons Greetings too!

 

 

 

Amtrak Lake Shore Limited and a Wink of Sun.

At the end of the day (really!), Mike Gardner and I were waiting for Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (train 449) at the grade crossing in Westfield, Massachusetts (milepost 107).

Shortly before the train came into view the sun popped out of the clouds just above the tree line and illuminated the scene with golden light.

I popped off a couple of color slides and some digital images.

For the digital I made a last minute exposure adjustment. I didn’t have that luxury with the slides, but my film camera was set within about a half stop of the ideal exposure.

We’ll have to wait and see if my slides are ok. Or not.

My quarry was the elusive 156 in the ‘pointless arrow’ heritage scheme. Pity it was trailing.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens.

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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 163 at Providence, Rhode Island.

Amtrak ‘Cities Sprinter’ ACS-64 number 633 tows one of its sister electrics with train 163 as it arrives at Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday, December 2, 2017.

I exposed this view using my Lumix LX-7.

Amtrak’s line at Providence is charmless, but functional. Heavy electrification in an urban environment is rarely picturesque. To make a satisfactory image of a moving train takes patience, skill or both.

This is a routine view of American passenger rails in action, nothing sexy, and nothing complicated or tricky photographically.

Lumix LX-7 digital photo exposed at 12:19pm on December 2, 2017; ISO 80, f4.0 at 1/400th of a second, handheld with adjustable camera zoom lens set to the functional equivalent of a 65mm focal lens on tradition 35mm film camera.
Here’s a screen shot of the photo with a window showing the EXIF data stored with the digital file.

Does my cross-lit midday view of a Siemens electric with 1970s-era Amfleet passenger cars work for you?

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Amtrak Pepsi Can on Kodachrome—High Resolution Scan (and how I made it).

I have thousands of properly exposed Kodachrome slides from the 1980s and 1990s. This view of Amtrak 502 was exposed at Oakland, California 16th Street Station in August 1992.

Gradually I’ve been scanning these into my archive. I’ve experimented with several different scanners and software, using various settings and techniques.

So far, I found that I get sharpest and most colorful scans by using a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 driven with VueScan 9×64 (version 9.5.91) software.

For more on VueScan see: www.hamrick.com

VueScan offers me a high degree of control, but I’ve found requires a bit of practice and experimentation to obtain the best scans.

I typically scan Kodachrome 25 slides at 4000 dpi (dots per inch) and  then output as a Tif file to obtain the greatest amount of data. For this slide I opted to make a multiple pass scan to retain a higher degree of shadow detail. (VueScan offers the multiple pass option under its ‘Input’ pull down menu).

To make the most of the scan for internet presentation, I imported the Tif file into Lightroom and lightened the shadows and balanced the highlights, before outputting as a scaled Jpg. (The original scan remains unchanged during this process).

Kodachrome slides recorded tremendous amounts of information and the original Coolscan Tif is far too large to present here.

Incidentally, a version of this photo appears on page 148 of my book Modern Diesel Power (published by Voyageur Press in 2011). The scan in the book was made by my publisher and isn’t the scan presented here.

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Amtrak 603 Then and Now.

Over the years I made countless photos of Amtrak’s block-like E60 electrics working underwire.

So for me it’s a bit strange to see one of these 1970s-era machines on static display outside of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania alongside a PRR DD1 electric and some other classics, including a 1980s-era AEM-7 (topic of a future Tracking the Light Post).

Exposed using a Lumix LX7 in November 2017.

Since today Amtrak 603 represents the E60 fleet, I scanned through my archives to locate photo of 603 at work on the Northeast Corridor. It’s pictured with a long distance train on August 1, 1986 at Linden, New Jersey.

I made this view on Kodachrome using a Leica 3A fitted with a 200mm Leitz Tellyt using Visoflex reflex attachment.

I couldn’t have anticipated then that engine 603 would someday be a museum piece!

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Amtrak Northeast Direct Heritage Unit in Motion.

Two weeks ago I caught Amtrak engine 184 in the Northeast Direct heritage scheme working train number 56 (northward Vermonter).

 The light was fading, so I upped the ISO on my FujiFilm X-T1 to 1000 and exposed these views using my 27mm pancake lens.

Although I set the shutter to 1/320 of a second, the relatively fast train still necessitated panning to keep the locomotive sharp. Panning had the effect of setting off the background in a sea of blur and conveying a sense of motion to the photos.

The Northeast Direct livery was briefly applied to locomotives in the mid-1990s. Engine 184 was repainted in this livery in 2011 to commemorate Amrak’s 40th Anniversary.

White balance was set at ‘daylight’ in order to better retain the blue glow of dusk.

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Amtrak’s Keystone at Gap, Pennsylvania.

A mid-afternoon Amtrak Keystone train from Harrisburg, works the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line at Gap, Pennsylvania.

Today’s ACS64 ‘Cities Sprinter’ electrics are to Amtrak what the 1930s-1940s era GG1s were to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

ACS64 660 leads Keystone service number 670 eastward at Gap. (Engine number versus train number).

Note my framing of the locomotive between the two catenary poles, leaving room for the farm in the distance and the tree at the far right.

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Diesels Under Wire on the Main Line.

Not just any old ‘mainline,’ but the famous Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Main Line— so called because it was built as the ‘Main Line of Public Works’ in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

I made this view of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian taking the curve at Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Where most of the trains on this line draw power from the high-voltage AC catenary, Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian changes from an electric to a diesel locomotive at 30th Street to avoid the need to change at Harrisburg.

This is Amtrak’s only service on the former PRR west of Harrisburg. The lone long distance train on what was once a premier passenger route, and unusual on the electrified portion of the line.

I exposed this sequence at Berwyn using my FujiFilm XT1 and 18-135mm zoom lens.

To make the most of the curve and autumn color, I positioned myself on the outside of the curve at Berwyn. The chug of Amtrak’s P42 diesel alerted me to the approach of this westward train.

 

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Tracking the Light Extra: Live from Trenton, New Jersey.

I’m posting from Amtrak’s WiFi on-board the Vermonter enroute to Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

It’s cold, wet, dim outside.

Here’s a few views from my Lumix LX7 at Trenton, New Jersey, exposed just a little while ago.

View from McDonalds at Trenton Transportation Center. November 13, 2017.
Amtrak train 172 arrives at Trenton.
Looking toward New York City.
Pan photo of an arriving NJ Transit train.

Keystone train with old Metroliner Cab car.

Amtrak train 56, the Vermonter arrives at Trenton.

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Amtrak Crosses the Schuylkill River—November 2017.

 

 

On a warm Saturday afternoon I exposed a series of photos of Amtrak’s bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia using my Lumix LX7.

To boost contrast and color saturation, I imported the Lumix RAW files into Lightroom and made adjustments manually.

In 1914, the Pennsylvania Railroad built this massive arch over the Schuylkill River to replace it original 1867 double-track bridge constructed of stone arches and a metal truss span.

Although the bridge resembles the stone arches it replaced, this isn’t actually a stone arch bridge, but rather reinforced concrete arches faced with sandstone.

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.

 

SEPTA local crosses the Schuylkill. Lumix LX7 photo.

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New Diesel Railcar at New Haven and a Surprise.

Back in the summer of 1981, I was changing trains at New Haven, Connecticut and made this photograph of a new Budd-SPV2000 assigned to the New Haven-Springfield shuttle.

Until I scanned this photo, I didn’t realize I’d made a photo of Amtrak’s short-lived LRC tilting train. Look in the distance to the right of the SPV-2000 and you’ll see the Canadian-built tilting train.

Exposed on black & white film using a Leica IIIa rangefinder camera.
Enlarged view of my original 35mm negative. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica IIIa rangefinder camera.
Do you recall the 1966 film ‘Blow Up’?

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SEPTA’s Rare Birds Under Wire.

Amtrak has retired all of its once-common AEM-7 electrics.

SEPTA’s small fleet of AEM-7s remain on the roll, but replacements have been ordered. Soon the sun will set on America’s adaptation of the Swedish Rc-series electrics.

A couple of weeks ago, Pat Yough and I focused on SEPTA’s rare birds that typically only work rush hour push-pull services.

It was a fine bright evening to make commuter rail images and I used my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens to expose these photographs.

SEPTA AEM-7 2305 leads train 9745 on the old Pennsylvania Railroad.
SEPTA 2303 at West Trenton, New Jersey.

Today’s relatively ordinary images of SEPTA AEM7 electrics under wire will soon be rare. Why wait to the last minute to make photographs of equipment soon to be extinct?

 

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Trenton, New Jersey at Dusk—July 6, 2017; digital photography in low-light.

The other evening I arrived at Trenton, New Jersey on board Amtrak train 55 the Vermonter.

 

Lumix LX7 photo at Trenton, New Jersey, July 6, 2017.

The blue glow of dusk prevailed. That moment between daylight and evening when the hue of the light adds a extra atmosphere to photographs.

That is of course, unless your camera has its ‘auto white balance’ set, which will neutralize the color and make for blander, duller images.

To avoid this problem, I set my white balance to ‘daylight’, which forces the camera to interpret the bluer light more or less as I see it.

These images were exposed using my Panasonic Lumix LX7 in ‘Vivid’ mode at ISO 200.

SEPTA at Trenton, New Jersey, July 6, 2017. Lumix LX7 photo

 

A SEPTA train enters the station bound for Philadelphia.

Other than scaling the in-camera Jpgs for internet presentation, I’ve not made changes to the appearance of these photos in Post Processing; color balance, color temperature, contrast, exposure and sharpness were not altered during post processing.

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Amtrak’s battle-worn Amfleet, now 4 decades on the roll.
Amtrak 55, the Vermonter has the signal at Trenton. The diagonal arrangement of amber lights indicates ‘approach’.

Tracking the Light EXTRA: Three Photos Live from Amtrak 55 The Vermonter

I’m posting live from Amtrak 55, the southward Vermonter south of Berlin, Connecticut on July 6th, 2017.

Below are three views from the Lumix LX7, processed from RAW files using Lightroom while traveling on the train.

Amtrak train 55, the southward Vermonter arrives at Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Lumix LX7 photo adjusted from a camera RAW file in Lightroom to improve sky detail, lighten shadows and increase saturation.
Inside Amtrak number 55 near Windsor, Connecticut.
Windsor station; not a stop for the Vermonter. Lumix LX7 photo.

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(Sometimes TWICE!)

Vermonter north of Northampton, Massachusetts (and a hint of something to come).

Amtrak’s Vermonter passing an old Tobacco Barn in the Connecticut River flood plain north of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Sunday, June 25, 2017, Amtrak’s mobile App indicated that train No. 54, the Sunday Vermonter had departed Northampton about 7 minutes past the advertised.

Tim suggested we try the location pictured here (right off Massachusetts Route 5). It’s the same spot that about a month earlier we caught Pan Am Railway’s office car special returning from Springfield.

This setting reminds me of locations in Illinois and Iowa, looking across farm fields with old barns as props. In the mid-1990s, I made many photos along those lines.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 at 1/1000th of a second.
While waiting for the train, I made this view of the barns on infrared black & white film using a Leica IIIa with 50mm Summitar lens fitted with a special dark red filter (designed for infrared photography). More on this project in a future post.

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Amtrak 449 at West Warren—Modified RAW file.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed a camera RAW file of Amtrak’s 449 at West Warren, Massachusetts on May 31, 2017.

This location is old hat for me. I’ve made dozens of images of Amtrak here over the years.

Unaltered Camera RAW file. Although this was scaled for presentation, no changes were made in regards to constrast, exposure, color saturation or composition.

Here I’m presenting two versions.

The top is the completely un-modified camera RAW (no changes to color, contrast, shadow or highlight detail) that I converted in Lightroom to a JPG for internet presentation

On the bottom is a modified RAW file (saved as a Jpg for internet presentation). Here, using Lightroom I’ve applied a mask to the sky area to improve the exposure and better pulling in cloud detail, while adjusting for color and saturation.

The modified RAW file, converted to a Jpg for presentation here. The sky has been alternated using a mask, while a semi-circular mask was applied to the nose of the locomotive to minimize the effects of glare.

I applied a small circular mask on the front of the locomotive to reduce the effects of glare. In addition, I made overall changes to contrast, while boosting saturation, and lightening shadows slightly.

The end-effect is a more saturated and pronounced sky, lighter shadows, a slight warming of overall color temperature, and better controlled highlight areas.

If you don’t like these, you can try it yourself sometime. Amtrak 449 passes West Warren daily between 245 and 310 pm

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South Station, Boston, Massachusetts—in B&W and Color.

I rarely travel with just one camera.

These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.

On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.

So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

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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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Amtrak 163 at Old Saybrook, Connecticut—January 29, 2017.

For a change, I thought I’d present a three-quarter lit view of a nice clean train on a clear sunny January afternoon. (If you are viewing on Facebook, be sure to click the link to Tracking the Light to see the un-cropped image).

Often on Tracking the Light I detail unusual or uncommon photographic techniques. I’ve discussed how to make pan photographs, how to work with graduated neutral density filters, how to expose at night or in very low light.

I made this at Old Saybrook. Pat Yough and I were wandering around Connecticut after the BIG Railroad Hobby Show, and we paused here to catch Amtrak 163 led by clean ACS-64 635.

Nothing fancy about this photo, although I’ve include the relevant details in the caption, just in case you are curious.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens; set at 43.9mm (equivalent to a 66m focal length in 35mm SLR terms). ISO 200, f7.1 at 1/500th of a second. Metered manually using the center weighted camera meter. Both shutter speed and aperture were set manually. Color profile is Fuji’s Velvia (a built-in camera preset). Other than scaling for internet presentation, I made no color correction, contrast, exposure or gamma adjustments to the camera-output JPG file.

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Snow in the Hudson Valley—January 2017.

Last week, I made another visit to the scenic Lower Hudson Valley.

At first I was delighted by about 6 inches of freshly fallen snow.

Then I began to discover a new challenge. One by one, I found that all my usual parking spots were essentially inaccessible because of the snow.

Despite this difficulty, I secured a spot near Breakneck Ridge, and made the difficult climb on foot to this vista. While not a bad hike on a dry day, this was tricky with snow on top of mud.

My reward was a clean Amtrak dual mode Genesis running south on the normal northward track to go around a HyRail truck.

Amtrak train 280 passing Bannermans Castle in January 2017.
The nice thing about a zoom lens is the ability to rapidly adjust the focal length.

Photos exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

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Amtrak Keystone—Retro Style.

More experiments with Foma (Czech film producer) so-called  Retropan ISO 320 black & white film. See previous posts:

Retropan 320—First Experiment.

Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film.

Unexpected Results: My Third Experiment with Retropan.

Working with my Nikon F3 fitted with a vintage Nikkor f1.4 50mm lens, I made these views at Strafford, Pennsylvania along the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line west of Philadelphia.

It was a dull Sunday afternoon in January and my hope was to make iconic views using traditional materials that might work more effectively than modern digital color photographs (although I exposed some digital images as well.)

For this batch of Foma Retropan, I returned to hand processing in Paterson tanks. I used Retro Special Developer stock solution (diluted 1:1 with water) with a 4 minutes development time. Prior to introducing the primary developer, I pre-soaked in a water bath with a drop of Retro Special Developer stock for 1 minute.

My aim was to retain the broad tonality achieved with earlier experiments while keeping the grain size relatively fine.

Shallow depth of field and classic graininess make for a photo that looks like film. Because it was made with film. I like that concept. Not sure about the results however. I think this one needs refinement.
Amtrak train number 670, a Keystone service from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania blitzes Strafford on the old Main Line. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens; f2.2 1/250th of a second.
You know it’s not very bright when the streetlights are lit. This was a pretty low contrast scene. I scanned the negatives but did not manipulate the end result.

Honestly, I’m not sure that these photographs work for me. But the lighting was pretty tough. (Flat, dull, and lacking in character and direction).

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Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Revisited: Jersey Avenue—Then and Now.

It was a warm April afternoon in 1978 when my father and I arrived at Jersey Avenue to make photos.

For me this was a thrill. The long tangent in both directions seemed to reach to the horizon, and the trains passed at tremendous speed.

It was also one of my earliest experiences working with a long telephoto lens.

Pop had fitted his 200mm Leitz Telyt with Visoflex to my Leica 3A.

The Visoflex provided me with an equivalent to an SLR (single lens reflex) arrangement for a rangefinder camera by using a mirror with prism to see through the lens.

A New York-bound Metroliner races along the old Pennsylvania Railroad at Jersey Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey. I hadn’t figured out how to focus quickly yet.
My trailing view of the Metroliner was more successful.

Where I was well used to the peculiarities of Leica’s pre-war rangefinder arrangement, using the Visoflex offered a new set of challenges, especially in regards to focusing.

Jersey Avenue April 1978: there I am age 11. Photo by Richard J. Solomon
This southward Amtrak long distance train was led by one of Amtrak’s E60 electrics. I was disappointed as I’d hoped for a GG1.
Check out all the great old streamlined cars. At the time I was so concerned about making this image, I didn’t really appreciate the details of the train.

Fast forward to December 2016. Pat Yough and I were exploring locations on Amtrak’s North East Corridor. I suggested Jersey Avenue because I was curious to see if that was where Pop and I had made those photos so many years ago. (Back in 1978, my photo notes were a bit thin).

Indeed it was. So we made a few photos from approximately the same spot before investigating other locations. Compare my December 2016 views with my much earlier attempts.

Amtrak 93 races through Jersey Avenue in December 2016.
Trailing view of Amtrak 93 at Jersey Avenue.

 

Looking Across the Hudson.

 

My FujiFilm XT-1 has an adjustable rear screen that allows me to hold the camera very low. The heads up display includes a line-level and exposure information that greatly aid in making action photos from a low angle.

I made these images of a southward Amtrak train near Manitou, New York from Mine Dock Park on the far side of the Hudson River (near Fort Montgomery).


Keeping the camera low to the water offers a more dramatic perspective.

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Amtrak on the Hudson—Looking like a Model Railway.

I made this view the other day at Garrison, New York on the old New York Central Hudson Division.

The combination of my elevated angle, soft lighting, unusual track arrangement with a short tunnel, plus a clean Amtrak Genesis dual-mode locomotive make this scene look like a well-executed model railway.

Amtrak 710 leads Empire Service train 236 from Albany-Rensselaer at Garrison, New York on the morning of December 27, 2016. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

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Amtrak’s Berlin Station Destroyed by Fire.

The old New Haven Railroad station at Berlin, Connecticut was a local favorite. Until recently, it was among the last small staffed Amtrak stations with an historic structure in southern New England.

My friend, and Tracking the Light reader, Bill Sample was a regular Amtrak Station Agent at Berlin. For me Berlin was like stepping back to that earlier era, when the small town station was the portal for travel. Bill would often help me plan trips and buy the most effective ticket for my travel plans.

The station itself was a gem. The interior retained characteristics of an early twentieth century station, complete with chalkboard arrival and departure information and rotating ceiling fan.

In recent months, the old Berlin station had been closed as part of double-tracking between Hartford and New Haven and related station renovations and construction of high-level platforms. The old building was to be integrated into a modern facility designed for more frequent service.

Wednesday (December 21, 2016), Otto Vondrak sent me the sad news that the old station had been gutted by fire. Media sources reported that the building was a ‘total loss.’

These Lumix LX3 digital photos show the building as I remember it in recent years.

Lumix LX3 photo.
Lumix LX3 photo.
Berlin was once an important junction with diamond crossings.

The photographic lesson is: never take anything for granted no matter how familiar it is. Someday it may be gone without warning.

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Lake Shore Limited Lost in the Dance.

Amtrak 448 approaches Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Leica IIIA and 50mm Summitar lens.

Here’s another view from my ‘lost negative file’. It captures Amtrak 448, the eastward Lake Shore Limited approaching the Quaboag River bridge between Palmer and Monson, Massachusetts.

I exposed it in mid-December 1983. It was on the same roll as a group of photos from a Monson High School dance that I’d made for the yearbook and members of the band.

Since the envelope read ‘Monson High Dance,’ it was too easily ignored in later years. Also, and more to the point, it was mixed in with another hundred or so rolls that had been misplaced during one of my periods of extended travel in the late 1980s. For years all I could find was a lonely proof print of this scene.

I’m improving my filing system now, but it’s taken a few years!

Tracking the Light Looks Back.

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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Amtrak Solari Board at 30th Street Station, Philadelphia.

These old electromechanical  arrival/departures boards have become scarce.

I exposed these photos at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station in early December 2016.

My train had arrived a few minutes late. Ironically, it was shown as ‘departed’ although it was still on the platform at the time I made these exposures.

Exposed using a Lumix LX7.
Exposed using a Lumix LX7.

philadelphia-30th_st_p1550809 philadelphia-30th_st_p1550808

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