One of MBTA’s HSP-46 diesels leads a mid-morning westward commuter train approaching its station stop in Ayer.
Making effective Midday backlit shots requires challenging photographic techniques.
In this instance, I took an elevated view, slightly over exposed Kodak Tri-X to allow for greater shadow detail while completely cropping the sky to avoid the visual distraction from excessive highlight brightness.
Processing the film was my key for achieving better balance and rich tonality.
Working with Ilford ID-11, I used a 1 to 1 mix with water and lowered the recommended process time for Tri-X from 11 minutes to 7 minutes 45 seconds (at 68.5 degrees F). This lowered the contrast and prevented excessive processing in the highlight areas.
After processing, I toned the negatives with a selenium solution, which give the highlights a slight silvery snap, just enough to make for richer tonality without blowing out all the detail.
My goal was to make the most of the reflections off the rails and the top of the train.
June can be a challenging time to make photographs. There can be wonderful rich sun for couple of hours in the morning, and again in the evening, while during the day high-light presents difficulties with contrast and deep shadows. (Topics for future posts)
Last week, Rich Reed, Paul Goewey, Felix Legere and I arrived at Ayer, Massachusetts in good morning light.
MBTA and Pan Am Railways kept us busy for a little while. And I made these images using my FujiFilm X-T1.
I gauge my digital exposure using the camera’s histogram (a graph displayed in-camera that shows pixel distribution), and as a result I aim to capture the maximum amount of data by balancing the highlight and shadow areas.
If need be I can then adjust the exposure and contrast in post processing to make for the most visually appealing image without sacrificing the amount data captured
I’ve listed my exposures below each photo to provide a frame of reference.
It always surprises me when I find some vestige of former times that I’ve managed to overlook.
Last week my on the advice of Felix Legere, we explored the old Nashua, Acton & Boston Railroad right of way near Forge Village east of Ayer, Massachusetts.
This 24-mile 19th century railroad was among the lines melded into the Boston & Maine system. In 1875, it carried three passenger trains daily between Nashua and Concord Junction. Near Forge Village it crossed the Stony Brook railroad and a trolley line on an overpass.
The NA&B was an early casualty of Boston & Maine retrenchment and abandoned about 1925.
Today, part of the right of way is maintained as Tom Paul Rail Trail. Felix led our expedition to the railroad’s vintage stone arch bridge over Stony Brook (for which the Stony Brook Railroad was named).
I made the color photos with my FujiFilm X-T1, and the black & white with a Leica IIIa with 50mm Summitar lens.
It was a spirited chase; the day was fine and we made many photos.
But, was it really more than 31 years ago that my friends and I followed an extra freight, symbol EDLA from Erving to Ayer? (That was an East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts train, which my notes show as an ‘EDLA-X’, but I’m not sure I have that down right.)
Even in 1985, catching a GP18-GP9-GP18 leading a freight on the old Fitchburg was considered a prize.
The Boston & Maine GP18s are long gone, but a few of the old GP9s are still knocking around.
Recently, I scanned this negative using my Epson V600. I processed the file in Lightroom and cleaned up some of the dust spots.
Something to ponder: later that evening, symbol freight POPY (Portland to Potomac Yard) went west with D&H Alco C-420s in the lead.
A short segment of the Pan Am Railway’s Boston & Maine Greenville Branch extends northward from Ayer, Massachusetts.
While photographing around Ayer the other day, Bob Arnold, Paul Goewey and I had been discussing the branch, where it crosses Ayer’s West Main Street on plate girder bridge.
“I always wanted a photograph there.”
As luck would have it, a little later in the day our wish was granted.
Although like wish granted by a Genie in the bottle, this one came with caveats. The train went up the branch in very dull light, with the ugliest leased engine available and long hood first, with one car.
Beggars can’t be choosers, to quote the cliché. So we worked with what we had.
These modern locomotives have been on the move in New England for a few months now, but they managed to elude me. Or my camera anyway. (I saw one in Worcester some weeks ago.).
The Tier 4 are the most modern high-horsepower freight locomotives offered by General Electric. They are designed to meet EPA’s Tier IV emissions standards.
While similar in appearance to other late model GE freight locomotives, they have a distinctive large capacity radiator and vents at the back. This provides increased heat exchange area in the radiator cab is required to meet the stricter Tier 4 exhaust emission requirement using by using Exhaust Gas Recirculation
On Tuesday, January 26, Bob Arnold, Paul Goewey and I found CSX 3308 working symbol freight SEPO (CSX Selkirk Yard to Portland, Maine) at Ayer, Massachusetts.
I always like to catch new power on the move and we caught this freight at several locations.
What about a classic three-quarter ‘roster view’ you ask? Well, I exposed that on color slide film, of course!
Are these elements insidious intrusions or compositional aids?
The other day I was inspecting a nature photography magazine. Each and every photograph featured a stunning landscape free from the hand of man. Waterfalls and luscious skyscapes, arctic views and verdant forests.
Nowhere were there poles, wires, or tarmac roads. This magazine had portrayed a world free from industry, electricity, commerce, and railways!
Fear not good citizen! Tracking the Light will fill these photographic omissions!
Take for example these images of Pan Am Railways/Norfolk Southern’s intermodal train symbol 22K, photographed in November 2015 near its Ayer, Massachusetts terminal.
A ruinous landscape? Just imagine this scene free from roads, wires, and the hand of man. What would be left to photograph?
At one time the Boston & Maine was a poster child for the General Railway Signal Company.
These days some of the old GRS searchlight signals remain but they are rapidly disappearing.
Here’s a railroad photography tip: catch the old signals while you can, they are fading fast, and soon they will be gone.
I’ve issued this signal warning before, and I’ll do it again.
Over the last month, I exposed these photos along the old B&M in the vicinity of Ayer, Massachusetts. These railroad photos are intended as more of a record, than as active illustrations of the old signals.
Back in my Pentrex Publishing days (in the mid 1990s) I wrote an editorial about the ultimate demise of the searchlight signal.
Even then, this style of hardware was out of favor for new installations, yet thousands of the old signals still remained.
Today they are fast disappearing, and at many installations they are already gone.
Two weeks ago, when traveling with Bob Arnold and Paul Goewey, we opted to photograph an outbound MBTA train passing these General Railway Signal searchlights on the old Boston & Maine west of Ayer, Massachusetts
I wanted to feature one of the new HSP-46 diesels passing the vintage signals to show the contrast in technology. The window for making this type of photograph is rapidly narrowing, as these searchlight’s replacements are in place and will soon be cut in.
Boston’s two primary passenger terminals have no scheduled service between them. Historically, South Station served Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroad lines, while North Station served Boston & Maine’s. Both represented consolidations of older terminals. Today, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority provides suburban service, while Amtrak operates long distance trains from both stations.
To move equipment between North and South Stations (and their respective repair and maintenance facilities), MBTA normally uses the former B&A Grand Junction Branch which crosses the Charles River and passes through Cambridge, thus forming the only Boston-area link between North- and South-side networks.
Some months ago a problem was discovered with the Charles River Bridge. So now MBTA and Amtrak equipment transfers must travel a roundabout route via Worcester (from South Station over the old B&A mainline) then north via Clinton to Ayer, and eastward via the former B&M Fitchburg line toward North Station.
Equipment transfers operate as needed, and I’ve been fortunate to catch several of them over the last few months. On Wednesday, June 5, 2013, I got lucky and stumbled into position just in time to catch one without even trying!
Rich Reed and I had traveled to Ayer to photograph Pan Am Southern’s westward intermodal train 23K. After making successful images of the train, we drove back through Ayer and over the bridge just east of the Station, where I spotted a high-green (clear) signal at AY interlocking for an eastward movement.
I guessed that since this is a controlled signal, it would only be lined if something was due and we set up on the bridge in anticipation. This was the exact location where we’d photographed Norfolk Southern GEs switching a week earlier. See last week’s post: Ayer, Massachusetts, Wednesday May 29, 2013.
As it turned out, the clear signal was for an eastward MBTA commuter train, which arrived shortly and paused for its Ayer station stop. As passengers were boarding we were surprised to spot a second MBTA train coming off the wye from Worcester! This was an equipment transfer, led by MBTA GenSet locomotive 3249 hauling avariety of locomotives and cars.
By shear dumb luck we just happened to be in precisely the right place at the right time.
Had we known this train was coming we’d probably picked a different location to intercept it. Sometimes not knowing what’s going on can earn you a better photo than knowing too much.
Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.