Tag Archives: Boston & Albany

Amtrak Lake Shore Limited—Autumnal Scene at West Warren.

Sometimes the classic view is too good to pass up.

The other day clear sunny skies led Mike Gardner and me to West Warren, Massachusetts to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited passing the old mills along the Quaboag River.

This is a scene I’ve often photographed.

Here I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens with the camera set for a Velvia color profile.

Amtrak train 449, the Lake Shore Limited, as seen passing West Warren, Massachusetts in November 2018.

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CSX on this day Five Years Ago-November 2, 2013.

Five years ago today, I made this view of a westward CSX autorack train on the old Boston & Albany near mp 67 from Route 148 in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

This was exposed digitally using my Canon EOS 7D with a fixed focal length 200mm ‘prime’ lens. This view is the camera produced JPG, scaled for internet presentation.

November 2, 2013.

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Dusk and Telephoto: or Summer 2018 with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited Part 3.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on July 17, 2018, but owing to unknown technical faults the photos would not display properly. There should be four images displayed below with captions.

Tracking the Light is about process and not every photograph is a stunning success.

This post is part of my on going series of exercises photographing Amtrak’s Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited that is running with extra sleepers as result of the temporary suspension of the New York section owing to Penn-Station repair.

Last week, my father and I drove to West Warren, Massachusetts, this time to photograph the eastward train, Amtrak 448.

The benefit of West Warren is the relatively open view with identifiable features. As mentioned previously, summer photography on the Boston & Albany has been made difficult by prolific plant growth along the line that has obscured many locations.

In this instance, I worked with two cameras; my old Canon EOS-7D with 100-400mm zoom, and my FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm fixed telephoto.

Admittedly, the Canon combination isn’t the sharpest set up, but it allows me to play around with a very long telephoto.

Exposed at ISO 1250 f5.6 1/125th of a second using a Canon 7D with 100-400 images stabilization zoom lens set at 400mm.
This view shows the headend, and the collection of Viewliner sleepers and a diner at the rear of the train, plus B&A milepost 75, but I missed the focus, and overall it suffers from low depth of field and poor sharpness owing to a variety of factors including high ISO and motion blur. Not a calendar contender!

The X-T1 is very sharp, especially when working with the fixed (prime) lens.

Same train, same evening, same location; shorter, sharper and faster telephoto lens. But is this a better photo? The whole train is shown, but the image prominently features junk in the background. I’m not thrilled about this one either despite better technical quality.

Complicating matters was that it clouded over shortly before the train arrived, reduced the amount of available light. Details are in the captions.

Trailing view from the same overhead bridge at West Warren. Here a slightly shorter focal length lens may have better suited the scene. The biggest challenge is the overgrowth along the right of way that obscures the curve to the east and clutters the foreground limiting the view of the waterfall and river, etc. Over the last couple of years this location has really grown in.

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Amtrak, Nose Glint, Sleepers, and a Waterfall.

This summer Amtrak 448/449, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited, is the onlysection of the Lake Shore Limited!

 Construction at Penn-Station New York has encouraged Amtrak to cancel the New York section of this popular train, and reassign its Viewliner sleeps to the Boston section.

A clear afternoon had me searching for locations. My first choice was the Tennyville Bridge in Palmer (Rt 32 bridge), but a large quantity of freight cars in Palmer yard discouraged me. My next choice was the field east of Palmer off Rt 67, but I vetoed this place because of excessive brush.

Brush and trees are real problem this time of year along the old Boston & Albany. Not only do the obstruct views of the tracks, but they cast impenetrable dark shadows.

So, I ended up at my standard fall back location at West Warren. Although, I’ve photographed Amtrak 449 here dozens of times, it had several advantages.

It’s a relatively short drive; it has elevation and an unobstructed view of the line from both sides of the tracks; its east-west orientation makes for nice early afternoon lighting; and the waterfall and mills make for an iconic and readily identifiable backdrop.

So, West Warren it was. Again.

I made this sequence with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm pancake lens.

West Warren, Massachusetts is an iconic location on the old Boston & Albany.
By the time Amtrak train 449 reached me, the sun had crossed over to the northside of the tracks. Notice the unfortunate nose-glint’ reflecting off the front of the engine. I tempered this in post processing with an adjustment to the highlight-level.
Here’s the three Viewliner sleepers at the back of the train.

Two difficulties; the nosy angle of the sun made it difficult to get an acceptable broad side angle on the train, so the three sleepers at the back are visually marginalized. Secondly, the wedge angle of the Amtrak P42 front-end kicked back the sun with harsh ‘nose glint’.

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Classic Chrome: On this Day in 1988 I had 2020 Vision.

Ok, make that a vision of Conrail 2020.

It was just after 8am on May 27, 1988, when I exposed this portrait (vertical) view of Conrail BAL013 stopped at CP123 east of Chester, Massachusetts.

The sun was perfect and I used this opportunity to make several photos of the train as it held for westward Conrail intermodal freight TV9, which passed CP123 at 8:13am

This is a Kodachrome 25 slide (using the professional PKM emulsion) exposed using a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron lens.

I scanned the original Kodachrome slide with a Nikon Coolscan5000 scanner using VueScan. Later I scaled the file using Lightroom. I did not alter color balance, contrast, sharpness or other inherent characteristics. The original image has an overall cyan (blue-green) bias that was characteristic of Kodachrome from that period.

I calculated my exposure using a Sekonic Studio Deluxe light meter, and set the camera at f6.3 (half way between the marks for f5.6 and f8) at 1/125thof a second. This was equivalent to my standard exposure for ‘full sun’.

I learned when I moved west that ‘full sun’ is brighter in the Western states than in New England. A bright day in the Nevada desert is a full stop difference than in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

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CSX Intermodal on the Edge of Spring.

On my way through Palmer, Massachusetts, I noticed New England Central’s northward 608 blocked at the diamond crossing with CSX’s Boston Line.

That was a good indication that a CSX train might be close.

After a very short wait this eastward CSX intermodal train came into view. It was probably Q012;‑one of several daily trains that runs to Worcester for unloading.

The trees are still bare, but the sun was bright. In just a few more days the trees will begin to leaf, the grass will become green, and Spring will be in the air.

Exposed digitally with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 90mm Fujinon telephoto. I’ve composed the image to take in the old Union Station, now Palmer’s Steaming Tender restaurant, while positioning the lead locomotive between the control signals at CP83, and keeping the horizon in view.

Mid morning light in Palmer, Massachusetts, April 2018.

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CSX in the Snow.

Just an ordinary winter’s day at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts last month.

I made this view of CSX’s B740 using my Lumix LX7 .

Exposing for snow can be tricky. Remember the camera doesn’t know what’s supposed to be white.

One of the advantages of digital photography is the ability to check the exposure on-site. Although this scene had a tricky exposure, I was able to gauge my result at the time of exposure.

Consider the dynamic range of exposure in the this image: note the headlights on the locomotive (which appear brighter than the snow on the ground) and the sky (which is slightly darker than the snow).

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Four Angles on the Same Freight—L427.

Mike Gardner and I stopped in at Hinsdale, Massachusetts and found CSX L427 (Portland, Maine via Pan Am to Selkirk< New York) stopped on the old Boston & Albany mainline waiting for a crew change.

This had a cool all-EMD locomotive consist; SD60M, SD40-2, SD60M. On a line that tends to be dominated by GE diesels, this symmetrical EMD arrangement is unusual.

We took the time to make photos from a variety of angles.

From the gazebo in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.
Hinsdale.
It brightened up briefly for this classic three quarter angle.
I actually exposed more than a dozen photos, but I like these the best.

Why settle for one view when you can have many?

Icy Morning with CSX Q022—Variations on a Location

It was a bitterly cold morning just after sunrise when I made these views looking across a field off Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts (near CP79, the control point 79 miles west of South Station, Boston, that controls the switch at the east-end of the control siding at Palmer.)

All were made from the same vantage point.

I was working with two cameras. My FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto, and my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake.

The exposure, color profiles and color temperature of the cameras were set up differently, which explains the slight difference in overall density and tint.

Do you have a favorite? And why?

Digitally exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 90mm telephoto.
Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

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Mass-Central at Thorndike, January 3, 2018—See Tracking the Light for Six Snowy Views.

On the previous day, CSX B740 had interchanged a healthy cut of cars for Mass-Central at Palmer, Massachusetts. So I surmised that this would be a good time to catch Mass-Central working both of its GP38-2s together.

Paul Goewey and I arrived in Palmer early, and once we were sure Mass-Central was ready to head north up their line toward Ware (old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch), we began scoping photo locations.

Although brisk and cold, the sun was clear and bright and there was a good amount of snow on the ground.

We set up at the Main Street Crossing along the valley’s namesake river. We didn’t have to wait long before we heard the train coming up the line.

Into the sun. Post processing adjustment was necessary to maximize the detail captured in the Fuji RAW file.
A telephoto view at the same location looking timetable north.
An exposure adjustment gave me this photo.
Mass-Central’s northward train approaches Main Street in Thorndike. Camera JPG.
Adjusted file with wide-angle view point at Main Street Thorndike, Massachusetts.
Post processing adjusted RAW of the train trailing on the crossing.

These views were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens.

 

Classic Angle at the Diamond.

I knew it as the Boston & Albany and Central Vermont diamond in Palmer (diamond describes the shape of rails made by the angled level crossing of the two lines). I made my first photos at this location before I entered 6th grade.

Fast forward to January 2, 2018. I stepped out of the car at Palmer and with the crisp winter air I could hear a train approaching eastbound.

So often my ears have alerted me to a train. In this case the two-cycle roar of classic EMD 645 diesels.

I ambled toward the diamond and made these views. Over-the-shoulder light, with rich mid-morning sun, at a readily identifiable location; nearly perfect.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 27mm lens, I exposed a sequence of images designed to mimic the angle I’d used here many years earlier.

There are more trees here now than in years gone by. Yet I’d made vertical views here before to emphasize the signal.
CSX GP40-2s lead B740 eastbound over the famous diamond.
CSX local freight B740 was carrying cars of pipe to be interchanged at Palmer Yard with the Mass-Central. That gave an a idea for the following day.

 

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Retro Local Freight—CSX B740

Back in the early 1980s, Conrail routinely assigned GP40-2s to road freights on the Boston & Albany. Back then I ignorantly dismissed the GP40-2s as ‘boring’. (But, I made photos anyway).

Today, being older and wiser and having a greater appreciation for locomotives of all kinds, I look back fondly on those olden times.

Luckily, I don’t have to go too far to find GP40s on the move. CSX still assigns vintage GP40-2s (albeit modernized) to the Palmer, Massachusetts local freight, symbol B740. (On the old Boston & Albany).

I see these locomotives as classics, yet still earning their keep, and wearing modern paint.

Exposed digitally; metered manually, ISO 400, f7.1 at 1/500th of a second.
Telephoto view of CSX B740 at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Last week when I exposed these views of CSX B740 at CP83 near the old Palmer Station, it was bright, but partly overcast midday with diffused high sun. Snow on the ground helps lighten the shadows—Decent, if not perfect, conditions for photographing locomotives.

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January 2018 Sunrise—The Day was Only Beginning.

Red sunrise means you’re going to have a good day. Right?

Or was that a red sunset?

Anticipating drop-under at Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.
Looking east on the old Boston & Albany. Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.
And yes, it was cold.

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Final Photo of 2017.

This was the last photo I exposed in 2017.

It was about 4 degrees Fahrenheit at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, when I made this view at 9:38pm on December 31st looking west toward CP64.

The signal had just changed from all red (stop) to red over flashing green (Limited Clear) on the main track.

I exposed the photograph with my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens with the camera mounted on a Gitzo tripod.

Using the ‘A’ mode with aperture set to f2.8, the exposure value boosted by about 2/3rds of a stop, and ISO set to 400, my effective shutter speed was about 5 seconds. A length of time that seems like forever when you are standing alone in the dark with an icy wind in your face.

I checked my exposure and focus and thought to myself ‘good enough’. Which means that if it were warmer, I’d make another image.

This image is a scaled version of the camera-produced Jpg. I did not alter contrast, exposure, sharpness or make other visual corrections during post processing.
Some purest somewhere may someday examine my file and determine that it was made in 2018, and it would have been If I was in Ireland. I don’t bother recalibrating my camera’s clock when I switch time zones. It’s just one of those things.

CSX’s Q007 was lined west. But opted not to wait for it.

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CSX at Warren, Massachusetts—Lessons in Composition Revisited—Six views.

Yes, I’ve done this before.

Warren, Massachusetts is a favorite place to photograph, but also a tricky one.

I used Warren as an example for a similar compositional conversation in Trains Magazine, published about two years ago and  featured photo of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited.

Yesterday (December 29, 2017), I arrived in Warren just in time to set up and catch CSX’s late-running Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield) race up the grade and pass the recently restored former Boston & Albany station.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens, I exposed a burst of images.

I’ve selected three of these, and then annotated versions of the image that I like the best so that you may benefit from my compositional considerations.

I prefer this view over the two closer images. I think the composition works better (as illustrated in the annotated versions) and it emphasizes the station, which personally I find more interesting than the train.
This view was made seconds after the one above. Although the train is closer, most of the interesting elements of the old station have been obscured.
This is a nice photo of CSX’s Q264, but it could be anywhere on the Boston & Albany line. Why bother going to Warren if the station and town are cropped?

There’s no correct answer to composition; in this instance I prefer the more distant view of the train because it better features the old passenger station and the town of Warren; here’s why I feel the composition works:

Important, yet subtle compositional elements at work. Look at the position of the locomotive cab where it visually intersects the station building. It does this as cleanly as possible, without obscuring the dormer window or resulting in visual confusion. The similar color of the locomotive cab and clock tower make for interesting counterpoint. What if the tower was red brick and the locomotive cab was blue?
Here I’ve highlighted several areas of interest. These are points that naturally attract the eye and are focal points to the composition,  providing both  interest and balance.
Here’s is general outline of the composition. The trees provide visual support and context, but are not central subjects. Would this image work as well without them?

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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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Housatonic, Pittsfield, Massachusetts; 3 Photos from Tracking the Light

This post is really about clouds and change.

Two weeks ago, fellow photographer Mike Gardner and I were in Pittsfield, Massachusetts waiting for the arrival of the Housatonic Railroad freight from Canaan.

Standing on a bridge completed in 2016, we were at the center of what had been a massive General Electric plant, but has since been closed and largely demolished.

Somewhere in my older photos, I have a photo of an eastward Conrail freight led by GE diesels passing through this plant that had straddled the Boston & Albany mainline. I also have a photo of the Alco switcher that worked the plant.

The Housatonic freight arrived and paused to make its drop for CSX. The sun emerged from the clouds and I made these views.

Lumix LX7 view. The buildings in the distance were once part of the GE complex that occupied this site.

 

Wide angle view with Lumix LX7.
This new bridge is more than a vantage point, but part of the story. I like the extreme depth of field in this view.

For me the train is incidental. The dramatic cloudy sky with the ruins of the GE Plant tell the story. A story so often repeated across New England.

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CSX near Washington Summit.

Western RailRoad of Massachusetts; Boston & Albany; New York Central System; Penn Central; Conrail; CSX.

CSX is the current operator of the Boston & Albany route.

I made this photo earlier this month of train Q263 westbound at Muddy Pond approaching Washington Summit .

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

In recent years CSX freight volumes over the B&A route have been declining.

Saturday (December 16, 2017), we learned that Hunter Harrison, CSX’s Chief Executive Officer passed away.

I can’t help but wonder what will become of the B&A, and how Hunter’s controversial strategies have affected this route in the few months he was at the reigns of CSX.

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From the Negative File: CSX’s former Boston & Albany.

On July 22, 2017, I made this unusual view of CSX Intermodal train Q012 on the old Boston & Albany mainline at West Warren, Massachusetts.

July 22, 2017; CSX at West Warren, Massachusetts, exposed on Kodak Tri-X.

What’s unusual about it?

Not only was it made on Kodak Tri-X black & white film using an 80-year old Leica camera body fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens, but my processing was non-standard.

After a pre-soak with a miniscule amount of developer, I gave the film it’s primary development in Ilford Perceptol stock mixed with water 1-1 for 8 min 30 seconds at 69 F. Following development, stop, fix1, fix2, and thorough rinse, I treated the still wet film in selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 with water for 8 minutes.

The selenium toner gives the negatives a slightly lavender hue while increasing the highlight density to provide a silvery sheen. This involves an ion-exchange with the silver halide in the film which offers a secondary benefit of greater long term stability.

After toning, I re-wash negatives for at least 10 minutes.

For internet presentation here, I scanned the dried negatives on an Epson V750 flatbed scanner at high-resolution TIF files, then imported the files to Lightroom for final adjustment, dust removal and scaling. (My TIF files are far too large to upload on Word Press for internet).

Instead of scanning the negatives in black & white, I scanned them in color which retains the purple tint of the selenium toner for effect.

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Night and No Tripod, Improvise!

-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.

A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.

I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.

My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.

I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.

Long exposures hand-held are not easy.

I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.

Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.

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Foggy Morning, Palmer, Massachusetts.

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, I arrived in Palmer at about 5am. Although there was clear blue dome above me, a blanket of mist had filled the Quaboag Valley. This was just beginning to clear, when I heard CSX’s westward freight Q427 (Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York) approaching.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens, I exposed several bursts of digital images as the train rolled by the old Palmer Union Station (now the popular Steaming Tender Restaurant).

CSX freight Q427 (Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York) passes CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens at f3.2 1/500th of a second at 200 ISO. Photo scaled from an ‘in-camera’ Jpg made with Fuji’s Velvia color profile.
In this image, I manipulated the Camera RAW file using Lightroom. I lightened the shadow areas, specially on the locomotive. I also electronically applied a graduated neutral density filter to selectively control highlights, contrast and color saturation in the to 40 percent of the image. Compare this image from June 28, 2017,with the photo below, that I’d made here a week earlier (and previously presented on Tracking the Light.)
Originally posted on June 21, 2017: CSX Q019 at Palmer, Massachusetts. I’m pushing the limits of digital image date-capture: Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).

Consider that this is a lesson in lighting: even when you photograph trains at the same location, at the same time of day (but on different days) the results can be significantly different as result of ever changing lighting conditions.

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CSX Q422 at Palmer, Massachusetts

These days most of CSX’s scheduled through car-load freights tend to traverse the east end of the old Boston & Albany during darkness.

True, there’s a couple of intermodal trains, and Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited during the day, but if you want to see an old-school freight train in daylight you’ll have a long wait.

Early in the morning of June 23, 2017, I went over to CP83 (control point 83 miles from South Station) on spec to see if I could catch some freight on the move.

I have a sixth sense or really good hearing (or both), because I stepped out of the car, and I could hear a distant freight with GE diesels laboring toward Palmer.

I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with my fast (f2.0) 90mm lens and walked up to the South Main Street bridge, where I’ve made hundreds of photos over the years.

As the train approached, I realized that it wasn’t an intermodal train, as I expected, but a carload freight. It was CSX’s Q422 (Selkirk, New York to Worcester, Massachusetts).

At 5:29am I made these photos with my camera set to ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld. The ability to raise the ISO to a faster (more sensitive) setting combined with my fast telephoto lens allows for photos like this one.

ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.
ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.

In my old Kodachrome 25 days, my exposure with my Nikon F3 and f2.8 135mm lens (offering an equivalent focal length to the 90mm with the small sensor on the X-T1) would have been: f3.5 at ¼ second. The resulting image of this moving train would have been dramatically different.

 

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Summer Solstice Special.

It was an early sunrise this morning; ruby red with feathered clouds.

Sunrise in Monson, Massachusetts on June 21, 2017. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. Camera-JPG, no changes in post processing except to scale the image for internet presentation. That’s the sky how it looked this morning.

After catching the early glow, I wandered to Palmer, Massachusetts to make a few photographs along the old Boston & Albany route.

Although quiet during midday, CSX’s B&A route sees an intermodal train each way within about an hour or two of sunrise. Patience paid off.

Here’s a sample from this morning’s efforts (June 21, 2017).

CSX Q009 approaches CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.
CSX Q009 at Palmer, Massachusetts. I’m pushing the limits of digital image data-capture: Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).
A BNSF locomotive was trailing on the Q009. It’s rare that I’ve photographed a BNSF locomotive on the B&A route.
CSX Q009 tail-end at Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter (to hold sky detail and color saturation). RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control highlights, shadows and overall exposure, plus color saturation (boosted).
CSX intermodal train Q022 works east at Tennyville in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm zoom lens.
CSX Q022 passing below the ‘Tennyville Bridge’ (Route 32) in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 Fujinon lens.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 Fujinon lens.

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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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Color Photos of the 2017 New York Central System Historical Society Convention.

On the weekend of May 5-7 2017, I attended and spoke at the New York Central System Historical Society Convention held in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

The theme of the convention was the Boston & Albany and it was dedicated to my friend, the late-Robert A. Buck of Warren, Massachusetts. Key to the convention events was a chartered MBTA train that operated from Worcester to Boston.

I gave the banquet talk focusing it around Bob Buck’s B&A experiences and photography as well as my own B&A work.

Special thanks to Society and convention organizers, especially Joe Burgess, Bill Keay, and Rich & Nancy Stoving.

I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

Joe Burgess at registration.
Victor Hand presenting his New York Central photographs.
Banquet hall.
Lumix panoramic view of the banquet hall.
Worcester Union Station.
Stovings at Worcester.
MBTA special at Worcester.

Rich Stoving.
Watching the passing scenery along the old Boston & Worcester route.
Bill Keay on a ‘busman’s holiday’.
Green flags at South Station.
MBTA HSP46 number 2004.
MBTA double-deck Kawasaki car.

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Boston & Albany Program May 6th.

Boston & Albany freight house at Palmer, Massachusetts, photographed using a Rolleiflex Model T on Verichrome Pan black & white film in October 1985. Copyright Brian Solomon.

This Saturday, May 6, 2017, I will present a variation of my Boston & Albany program to the New York Central System Historical Society convention, to be held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

I am listed as the guest speaker and my illustrated talk will begin at about 7pm. This will feature material from the Robert A. Buck collection, and images from the lens of William Bullard (early 20th century photographer), as well as a selection of my own work on the B&A, which spans more than 40 years.

For information on the convention and registration forms see the New York Central System HS website:  www.NYCSHS.org 

or

www.NYCSHS.net

Boston & Albany’s Worcester signal tower shortly before demolition. Copyright Brian Solomon.

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Mass-Central at Gilbertville—an example of digital photography.

I find one of the great benefits of digital photography is the ability to carry a high-quality imaging machine with me at all times. Also, other than the initial investment, the relative cost of individual photos is inconsequential.

As result, I’m unhindered by weight or cost in the seeing and making of photos.

Does this make for better images? Not necessarily, but it facilitates me to make a more complete record of my travels and capture ordinary scenes such as this view of the Mass-Central at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on a brilliant October 2014 afternoon.

Looking south on the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on October 14, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light posts Daily.

Drop Under Light—CSX Q424 at Mitteneague (West Springfield).

A dreary evening at Mitteneague in West Springfield, Massachusetts was briefly brightened by a wink of drop under sun.

Luckily for me, at the very moment the trees in the distance were illuminated by this unexpected golden glow, I heard CSX’s Selkirk to West Springfield manifest freight Q424 approaching.

I exposed these trailing views with my 90mm f2.0 Fujinon lens.

Below are two variations of each image; one is a JPG made from the RAW without interpretation, the other is an adjusted file to represent what I saw at the time of exposure.

This is a scaled JPG made from the Camera RAW file without interpretation. Compare this with the adjust file below.
Image 2: To make for a more realistic and pleasing image, I adjusted the RAW file in Lightroom. Specifically I lightened the shadows while adjusting the blacks, alter the overall gamma (using the Clarity slider), and made a nominal increase in saturation. All changes were made globally (to the entire file).
Scaled, but otherwise un-adjusted JPG made from camera RAW.
Image 4: File adjusted in post processing using the same settings as the earlier image in the sequence (image 2).

Camera RAW files only represent the information (data) collected by the camera sensor, and rarely display an image as the scene actually appeared, thus the need for interpretation/adjustment during post processing.

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CSX Rolling West after Sunrise.

Over the last 39 years I’ve exposed countless hundreds of photos of trains rolling through Palmer, Massachusetts. But that’s not stopped me from continuing the exercise.

Friday, December 23, 2016, I was at CP83 near the Steaming Tender restaurant, when the signals lit up: high green on the mainline for a westward move. That was my cue to get ready.

The previous day I’d gone fishing through the camera cabinet and found an old Nikkormat FT. Perfect! I loaded this up with some HP5 and set out making photos old school. It had been 20 years since I last worked with Nikkormat. I fitted it with a vintage Nikkor 24mm lens.

With this antique in hand I set up a shot by the old Palmer Union Station (Steaming Tender) using the building to partly shade the rising sun. I’d misplaced my handheld lightmeter, so I used my Lumix LX7 to help gauge the exposure.

This was a tricky, I wanted the sun light to be set apart from the skylight and normally this requires a bit of underexposure. But I didn’t want the front of the locomotives to become completely opaque. Ideally, I’d want there to be some detail in the shadows.

As the headlight of a westward freight appeared to east I was still dithering over my exposure. Ultimately I settled on f11 1/500th of a second.

CSX symbol freight Q427 rolls through Palmer on the morning of December 23, 2016. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikkormat FT and 24mm lens. Notice how I’m just letting the sun peak past the station building. A small aperture (f11) aids with the starburst lighting.
I’ve always like the glint effect, and so I made this view of the second locomotive as it rolled by at 30mph. I realize that photographing the second locomotive at speed is a non-standard approach, but it makes for a nice image, does it not?

The trick to bring up the shadow detail was more a result of my processing technique. I needed to retain enough detail in the negative to work with, but once that was established on site, the rest of the work was with the chemistry.

I’ve described this a few times in recent months, but I’ll mention it again:

Before the main process, I prepare a ‘pre-soak’. In this case, I used a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with continuously reversing agitation.

My ‘presoak’ bath consisted of about 200ml of water at 74 degrees F (pardon my mixing of measurement standards) with a drop of Kodak HC110 (about 2-3 ml of developer solution), plus some Kodak Photoflo.

I let film presoak for about 3-4 minutes. Long enough to let the emulsion swell and for the minimal quantity of developer to become completely exhausted. This has the effect giving the shadow areas proportional more development than the highlights, while getting the processing reaction going.

For my main developer, I used Kodak D76 mixed 1-1 with water at 69F for 9 minutes. (This is less than the recommended time of about 11 minutes).

Afterwards I scanned the film using an Epson V750 at 4800 dpi. The photos presented here are scaled in Lightroom from my hi-res files.

A cropped detailed view of the front of the leading locomotive. This view is intended to show that there is reasonable detail in the shadow areas. If I want to I can enhance the shadow contrast in post processing.

No good? Don’t like it? No problem, I can go back and try it all over again!

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Conrail Classic Chrome—SD80MACs at the Twin Ledges.

This photo appeared in Pacific RailNews/RailNews not long after I exposed it on Kodachrome 25 in October 1996. [Click on Tracking the Light for the full vertical image.]

The Twin Ledges is a classic photo location a mile or so west of the old Boston & Albany Middlefield Station in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

Conrail’s SD80MACs were an unusual modern locomotive because they were powered by a 20-cylinder variation of EMD’s 710 diesel,  rated at 5,000 hp. They arrived only a few years before Conrail was bought and divided by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Although their operation on the old B&A was short-lived, they were oft photographed (by me anyway).

Classic Kodachrome: a vertical telephoto view of Conrail SD80MACs leading symbol freight ML482 at the Twin Ledges in October 1996.

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From the Mists of Time; Amtrak in the Fog.

I made this photo sequence in January 1982.

My father and I were trackside near milepost 82 east of Palmer, Massachusetts to catch Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited.

 It wasn’t a nice day. But it was atmospheric.

A headlight pierces the fog.
A headlight pierces the fog.
Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens, negatives scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.
Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens, negatives scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner.
In 1982 I tended to process my film using Kodak Microdol-X. This was a fine grain developer, but not great for overall tonality. By 1985, I'd switched to Kodak D76.
In 1982 I tended to process my film using Kodak Microdol-X. This was a fine grain developer, but not great for overall tonality. By 1985, I’d switched to Kodak D76.
I wonder why I didn't expose one more image of the tail lamps trailing into the mist?
I wonder why I didn’t expose one more image of the tail lamps trailing into the mist?

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There’s Nothing Like a Clear Morning—Careful Navigation Scores the Shot.

The other morning I was aiming for a haircut. I arrived early and the barber wasn’t open yet, but I noticed an eastward CSX intermodal train on the old Boston & Albany that was slowing for the Palmer diamond.

I was on Route 20, about a mile west of Palmer, Massachusetts. I turned the car around, and immediately proceeded east in pursuit. (Haircuts can wait). However, road works at the New England Central bridge over the road caused me a critical delay.

Although the intermodal train was likely blocked, I wasn’t making any progress either, and I still had all of Palmer to get through in morning traffic. As a result, I took a detour and cut over the mountain using Old Warren Road—a favorite shortcut of Bob Buck’s that he showed me many years ago.

This saves several miles, but doesn’t follow the tracks.

As a result, I was able to be in place at West Warren several minutes ahead of the train. After exposing these views I retraced my steps and returned to my original mission!

 

 Lumix LX7 photo at West Warren, Massachusetts.

Lumix LX7 photo at West Warren, Massachusetts.
 Lumix LX7 photo at West Warren, Massachusetts.

Lumix LX7 photo at West Warren, Massachusetts.

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Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited with Two Heritage Units—November 23 2016.

In my family we have a forty year old tradition of going to photograph the Lake Shore Limited.

 The other day my brother arrived up from Philadelphia for the holidays, and I asked, “would you like to go up to West Warren to see the Lake Shore? It has some specially painted engines today?”

So my brother, father and I went to the bridge over the line near milepost 75. We timed our arrive very well. After only a 5 minute wait, Amtrak train 449 with two specially painted General Electric Genesis diesels rolled west along the Quaboag.

Amtrak's westward Lake Shore Limited on November 24, 2016.
Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited on November 24, 2016. FujiFIlm X-T1 digital photo.
Trailing view at West Warren. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.
Trailing view at West Warren. FujiFilm X-T1 digital photo.

Sean said, “Wow, it came by really fast!”

I couldn’t help by find his comment ironic, since I recently composed an opinion piece for Trains Magazine on the topic of the trains operating too slowly. But that’s the topic for another time . . .

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Sunset on the Boston & Albany at East Brookfield—Working with RAW Files.

Yesterday evening I was visiting East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

As the sun neared the western horizon it illuminated some clouds from below, the effect that I call ‘drop under’.

It’s a stunning natural phenomena, but can be difficult to capture effectively because of the extreme contrast.

Armed with my Lumix LX7, I made my way to the overpass near the old station location, as per the suggestion of Dennis LeBeau— photographer, musician and long time East Brookfieldian.

As I made a series of exposures, I knew by observing the camera’s histogram that it would be necessary to work with the RAW files to produce the most effective interpretations of the scene.

Below are some examples for your inspection and consideration.

This is the unmodified file. The only change from camera RAW was a necessary scaling and conversion to JPG for internet presentation (the RAW is too large to upload). I made no changes to color saturation, contrast, or other elements of the image.
This is the unmodified file. The only change from camera RAW was a necessary scaling and conversion to JPG for internet presentation (the RAW is too large to upload). I made no changes to color saturation, contrast, or other elements of the image.
This is my interpreted image from the above RAW. I've used a digitally applied graduated filter to better hold detail in the sky, while improving contrast and increasing saturation with a slight to warming of the color balance to enhance the effect of sunset. Without these changes, the scene would not look as it appeared to my eye at the time of exposure.
This is my interpreted image from the above RAW. I’ve used a digitally applied graduated filter to better hold detail in the sky, while improving contrast and increasing saturation with a slight to warming of the color balance to enhance the effect of sunset. Without these changes, the scene would not look as it appeared to my eye at the time of exposure. Admittedly these alterations are mere subtle improvements and may not be evident on some electronic devices.
This is a horizontal view similar to the above images. Using the 'cut and paste' feature in Lightroom, I've applied the same alterations to this RAW file as described in the image above. This feature not only saves time when adjusting images, but ensures an element of consistency between images made in similar lighting conditions. I use it regularly.
This is a horizontal view similar to the above images. Using the ‘cut and paste’ feature in Lightroom, I’ve applied the same alterations to this RAW file as described in the image above. This feature not only saves time when adjusting images, but ensures an element of consistency between images made in similar lighting conditions. I use it regularly.
A telephoto view made at the same location, but with slight adjustments to contrast controls to accentuate the clouds and rails.
A telephoto view made at the same location, but with slight adjustments to contrast controls to accentuate the clouds and rails. Note the wire crossing the line. I could have taken that out and you’d never have known better, but normally I avoid invasive alterations that physically change the scene.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

CSX Intermodal catches the First Rays of Sunshine—Middlefield, Massachusetts.

Last May (2016), I made this view of an eastward CSX stack train descending the old Boston & Albany grade over Washington Hill.

I was just east of the old Middlefield Station (long defunct), where my late friend Bob Buck had exposed some classic images of B&A’s A1 Berkshires.

A hill behind me blocks the rising sun, until after 6:30am in May. I could hear the train descending as the first rays of sun tickled the iron. Morning clouds waft across the sky making for inky shadows.

Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

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Tracking the Light attempts to post daily! (even when plagued by technical faults, internet outages, and an ambitious travel schedule).