Tag Archives: Cal-Train

Classic Chrome: Cal-Train 7thStreet San Francisco.


Working with my old Nikon F3T and an f1.8 105mm lens, I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide of a Cal-Train ‘Commute’ departing San Francisco, seen taking the bend at 7thStreet in February 1992.

Interestingly, lately I’ve been making good use of this same camera and lens combination for exposing black & white negatives and Fuji Provia 100F color slides.

If this image seems familiar, its because back in the 1990s it appeared in various publications.

I scanned the slide this morning using a Nikon Coolscan5000 digital scanner and processed the hi-res TIF file in Lightroom to adjust color and produced a scaled file for internet presentation.

Typically, I scan Kodachrome slides at 4000 dots per inch (or higher) to maintain the high resolution of the original photographs. Since these files are in the 120-170MB range they require scaling to upload them to WordPress for presentation here.

The San Francisco street-scene and skyline have changed considerably since this February 1992 view.

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Cal-Train at Oyster Point—June 1991.

Consider this composition. Since the eye is naturally drawn to the front of the on-coming locomotive, I’ve made for a more complex image by placing this primary subject off-center.

When setting up this photograph, I was interested in secondary emphasis on the jointed rail, then still in use on Southern Pacific’s mainline at Oyster Point, railroad-timetable east of the old Bayshore Yard.

Note the careful framing of the on-coming train beneath the crossover of the codelines. This one of several compositional elements in this photograph that has been  employed to emphasize railroad technology.

I was also interested in the wafting sea fog, a common atmospheric condition of the summer climate in San Francisco.

Key to my interest and another  crucial compositional element was the dual-headlight arrangement on the Cal Train F40PH-2 locomotive. Although not purchased by SP, these were the last locomotives delivered new to feature the once-standard SP lighting arrangement—a classy characteristic of SP diesel operations.

By 1991, the application of oscillating headlights (commonly called ‘Mars lights’) had fallen out of favor and the practice was already on the wane. The headlights standout because of the slightly backlit lighting that leaves the front of the locomotive dark.

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Tracking the Light Looks Back at Bayshore—Two Photos.

Often it’s the details that make a difference. In April 1991, I made a few photos at Cal-Train’s Bayshore platforms near the San Francisco-end of the old Bayshore yard.

By that time the yard was but a ruin—a vestige of another era. Southern Pacific’s operational presence in San Francisco, still its headquarters at that time, was a shadow of what it had been, and diminishing.

What caught my eye was the old wooden speed-restriction post with Southern Pacific written on it. Here was tangible evidence of the SP at Bayshore.

Pan photo exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens.
Pan photo exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens.

Shallow depth of field helps emphasize the front of the locomotive and the Southern Pacific sign. Photo exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens.
Shallow depth of field helps emphasize the front of the locomotive and the Southern Pacific sign. Photo exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens. The image might have been a little more effective if I exposed it a moment later, when sunlight would have been on the sign. Undoubtedly that was my intention, but I couldn’t have known if I caught it until after the slides were processed.

I made a point of featuring the sign in this pair of photos of passing Cal-Train ‘Commutes.’ Interestingly, these Cal-Train F40PHs were the last locomotives delivered with the classic SP ‘full lighting package’ which included headlight, white oscillating lights, a red oscillating light, and class lamps.

Pan photo exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm lens.

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Cal-Train Terminal—4th & Townsend, San Francisco.

I made this image at dusk on August 11, 2009. For me it represents an exercise in symmetry and minimalism.

CalTrain-terminal-SF-CA-Aug

It could be the cover photo for a Sci-Fi thriller. Whatever works.

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Sun, Blue Sky and Palm Trees.

Cal-Train at San Mateo, California.

Cal-Train exposed on color slide film, August 24, 2009. In two months time, I'd receive my first digital camera.
Cal-Train exposed on color slide film, August 24, 2009. In two months time, I’d receive my first digital camera.

I made this image using my Canon EOS 3 with a 20mm lens. This outbound Cal-Train commute had just discharged passengers at the old Southern Pacific station at San Mateo.

I want an iconic modern image that said ‘California’. What better way to do that, than focus on the Cal-Train logo while incorporating the warm blue sky, palm trees, and a reflection of the sun in the window of the train?

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DAILY POST: Contrast on the Bayshore Cutoff.

A San Francisco Slide Challenge.

I’ve long been intrigued by the short section of the former Southern Pacific Bayshore Cutoff at the old Potrero Wye, where the railroad runs beneath I-280.

This location offers a graphic contrast; the immensity of the highway shadowing the railroad both literally and metaphorically.

The location also poses a photographic challenge. During high light, the tracks are completely within shadow, so I’ve found the best time to photograph is early in the morning or late in the day, when sunlight is below the bridge.

Yet, low sun also poses a problem, as calculating exposure is neither intuitive nor can a camera meter be relied upon. The overwhelming highway structure will tend to result in overexposure as a camera meter tries to compensate for the darkness, yet the side of the train reflects the full brightness of the sun (which to further complicate matters, may be less than sun at midday).

I made this photograph of an inbound Cal-Train ‘Baby Bullet’ in April 2008, using my Canon EOS 3 with a 50mm lens on Fujichrome slide film. I used my Minolta Mark IV handheld meter in reflective mode to sample the exposure on the side of a gray highway support column, and preset my camera accordingly. (I didn’t make note of the exposure, but it was about f5.6 1/500th of second.)

The resulting color slide looks just about perfect, but my exposure/contrast problem was repeated when I went to scan the image.

My first scan of the slide result in this unacceptably dark and contrasty image. Specifically there was compression of the exposure curve that resulted in highlights that are too dark and a serious loss of shadow detail. I'd made this scan using my Epson V600 with the auto exposure 'on'. Obviously to get a better scan, I'd need to take exposure matters into my own hands.
My first scan of the slide resulted in this unacceptably dark and contrasty image. Specifically there was compression of the exposure curve that resulted in highlights that are too dark and a serious loss of shadow detail. I’d made this scan using my Epson V600 with the auto exposure feature ‘on’. Obviously to get a better scan, I’d need to take exposure matters into my own hands.

Here, I found the scanner software’s auto exposure had the reverse problem of my in-camera meter and tended to underexpose the scan. The result was not only too dark, but unacceptably contrasty.

I switched off the auto exposure, and instead used the software’s exposure histogram to set exposure manually as to better balance the highlight and shadow areas. Using this setting, I made a another scan. Afterwards, I fine-tuned the improved scan using Photoshop to make for a more pleasing image by adjusting both contrast and color balance.

This is my second scan. To capture the full dynamic range of the slide, I've broadened my exposure curve manually. Notice that there is considerably more detail in the shadow areas than in the original scan. I've allowed the over all image to appear relatively flat in order to obtain as much detail as possible between the extremes of highlight to shadows. This is an intermediate stage, as the image still doesn't please me.
This is my second scan. To capture the full dynamic range of the slide, I’ve broadened my exposure curve manually. Notice that there is considerably more detail in the shadow areas than in the original scan. I’ve allowed the over all image to appear relatively flat in order to obtain as much detail as possible between the extremes of highlight to shadows. This is an intermediate stage, as the image still doesn’t please me.

I imported the second scan into Photoshop and then manipulated the color balance curve to compensate for an excessive red balance (likely the result of a processing inadequacy; specifically in the shadow areas, possibly the result of very slightly exhausted, or under replenished,  color developer.)
I imported the second scan into Photoshop and then manipulated the color balance curve to compensate for an excessive red balance (likely the result of a processing inadequacy; specifically in the shadow areas, possibly the result of very slightly exhausted, or under replenished, color developer) then made a slight adjustment to the exposure curve to make the highlights slightly brighter and shadows a little darker. I still wasn’t satisfied. The image was neither as I remember it, nor as it appears in the slide. So went back to the second scan and made a new set of modifications, see below.

Here is the fourth version of the image, and in my opinion the version that most accurate interprets the scene as I saw it. I've further manipulated the exposure curve to improve the highlight and shadow contrast while retaining detail in both areas. I was also slightly less heavy handed in my color adjustment because I felt that a warmer tone suited the scene.
Here is the fourth version of the image, and in my opinion the version that most accurately interprets the scene as I saw it. I’ve further manipulated the exposure curve to improve the highlight and shadow contrast while retaining detail in both areas. I was also less heavy-handed in my color adjustment because I felt that a warmer tone suited the scene.

This image is an exception; most of the time I’m satisfied with my first scan. Incidentally, the  pictures reproduced here are scaled Jpgs from very large Tiff scans. The file size of the Jpgs is just a fraction of the original scan size, which is adequate for small-size internet viewing.

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