Tag Archives: California

Brief Barstow Visit and a Flash From the Past.

Amtrak’s eastward Southwest Chief, train number 4, made a relatively long stop at Barstow, California, affording me time to explore and photograph historic rolling stock (displayed near the platforms) by the Western America Railroad Museum.

I find it strange to see once-familiar locomotives exhibited as static displays. In the 1990s, I regularly photographed Santa Fe’s FP45, such as number 95 seen at Barstow. Back then these were working machines. Today, 95 a decayed appearing vestige of another era.

Compare the static equipment—displayed like dinosaur bones to a curious public—with Budd Vista dome Silver Splendorin consist on the Southwest Chief.The dome is a functional piece of equipment on its transcontinental journey from Los Angeles to its new home.

Growing up in New England, I had a childhood fascination with Barstow, which I viewed as a treeless desert Mecca of all good things Santa Fe. Although I’ve photographed in Barstow several times over the years, this one short nocturnal visit was especially surreal.

All photos were made handheld with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

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Inky Gloom and Artificial Light: Metrolink at Riverside California.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

Key to my success was the high ISO setting (ISO 5000) and auto white balance setting that adjusted and balanced myriad artificial light sources.

Lacking a tripod, I positioned and steadied the camera on the half open ‘dutch door’ of private passenger car Silver Splendor as it was paused across from the Metrolink train storage sidings in Riverside, California.

My exposures were about 1/2 second at f2.8 (ISO 5000).

To make the most of the photos, I imported the camera RAW files into Lightroom and adjusted highlights and shadows to make for more pleasing final images.

November 17, 2018, Riverside, California.
November 17, 2018, Riverside, California.

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Fullerton by Day: Metrolink from LA.

On November 17, 2018, I made this view of Metrolink train 662 eastbound on the old Santa Fe at Fullerton, California.

To make the most of the palm trees that line the platforms, I cross-lit the train, exposing from the north-side of footbridge over the line.

Metrolink’s white locomotive hauling a mix of white and  stainless-steel cars effectively reflect light on the shadow side of the train, which make for a more even exposure and help balance the photograph by compensating for the otherwise inky darkness of the high-sun shadows.

These views are looking west . I used a telephoto lens that compresses the row of palms.

Some seven hours after I made this image, I was back at Fullerton again. Stay tuned for my nocturnal views from the same station.

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Palms, Sun and Glass: Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.

I prefer the term  ‘Anaheim Station’.

Last week, working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, I exposed these digital photos of one of California’s most modern, and most impressive railway stations.

This is such an impressive looking building that I drove past it while I was trying to find it!

Slightly diffused mid-morning sun made for nearly ideal lighting to make the most of this facility.

Would front lighting make for a better photo?
Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center is abbreviated ‘ARTIC’.
Backlit diffused sun with overhead skylights made for a difficult exposure.
View with a 12mm Touit lens.
Footbridge to go from the station building to the Metrolink platforms.
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, train 1565, paused at Anaheim. 12mm Touit view.

Do you have any favorites?

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Metrolink Pacific Sunset.

Last Friday, November 16, 2018, as the sun dropped near the horizon and a layer of cloud and haze filtered the light, I repositioned myself from San Clemente Pier, northward to the Metrolink Station at San Clemente, California.

I selected my location in order to make photos of a southward, Oceanside-bound suburban train with the sun setting over the Pacific.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, I exposed several sunset silhouettes as the train arrived onto the station platform.

To make the most of the sunset lighting, I exposed manually for the sky, allowing the locomotive and cars and other terrestrial objects to appear dark.

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4 Views: Los Angeles Metrolink at San Clemente Pier, California.

Just a few views of Metrolink trains on the old Santa Fe Surf Line at San Clemente, California.

California evening sun, surf and palm trees make for a nice light in a pleasant setting.

I exposed these photos from San Clemente Pier last Friday.

Using an 18-135 zoom lens gave me the needed flexibility to adjust my field of view as the trains passed.

Metrolink train 641 at San Clemente.
Los Angeles Metrolink train 641 at San Clemente, California.
Los Angeles Metrolink train 641 at San Clemente, California.
Los Angeles Metrolink train 609 at San Clemente, California.

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BNSF Stack Train at Fullerton, California—November 2018.

The triple-track mainline at Fullerton, California is a great place to watch and photograph trains.

In addition to a steady procession of transcontinental container traffic, Amtrak and Metrolink passenger trains operate over the line and make stops at the old Santa Fe station.

Centralized Traffic Control with bi-directional signaling on all three lines allows dispatchers flexibility to route trains in either direction over any mainline track. There are crossovers immediately east of the station platforms.

The challenge of photographing from the pedestrian bridge is navigating the wire mesh. While my Lumix LX7 with its small diameter lens did a better job of getting through the fence, I opted for my Fuji camera because I wanted a longer telephoto lens to bring in the stack train which had stopped on the middle line waiting for a signal.

BNSF Stack Train at Fullerton, California. I made this view on Friday November 16, 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
I made this view on Friday November 16, 2018 using my FujiFilm XT1 with a 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.
Trailing view of the eastward double stack at Fullerton featuring locomotives working remotely as ‘Distributed power’ at the back of the train.

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Santa Fe in the Tehachapis: On This Day 25 Years Ago.

This was one of dozens of Kodachrome slides I exposed in California’s Tehachapi mountains on April 3, 1993—25 Years ago today.

Fellow photographer Brian Jennison and I were on an epic excursion making images of Southern Pacific and Santa Fe trains.

For this view I’m standing on a hillside near Tunnel 2 looking toward Bealville of a westward Santa Fe intermodal train. It was a beautiful Spring morning and the purple lupin flowers were in bloom.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a 35mm perspective control lens (with adjustable front element).

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The Famous Keddie Wye

BNSF in the Feather River Canyon Part 2

The old Western Pacific Junction at Keddie, California between WP’s east-west transcon line from Oakland to Salt Lake City and the Inside Gateway/High Line route north to Bieber was once one of the most photographed bridges in California.

What’s not evident from most photographs is that this impressive looking bridge can be viewed from California Highway 70—the main road through the Feather River Canyon.

The famous Keddie Wye.

On a dull October 2003 afternoon I made this view of the famed ‘Keddie Wye’ (as the junction is popularly known).

Contrast and texture make this photo work. My color slides from that day of the train crossing the bridge are less impressive.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

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BNSF in the Feather River Canyon-1

On October 30, 2003, I spent a day photographing BNSF and Union Pacific trains on the old Western Pacific route through California’s Feather River Canyon.

This exceptionally scenic route has long been a popular place to picture trains.

Although photogenic, one of the conceptual problems with the canyon making the balance between train and scenery work.

Too much train, and the canyon becomes a sideshow. Too much canyon and the train is lost in the scenery.

One way to make balanced is through the clever use of lighting.

That’s what I’ve done here.

Exposed on Kodak 120-size Tri-X using a Rolleiflex Model T with a Zeiss Tessar; processed in Ilfotec HC, and scanned using an Epson V750. Final contrast adjustments were made in Lightroom to emphasize highlights and lighten shadows.

I’ve pictured an eastward BNSF climbing through Rich Bar, and by back lighting the train, I’ve helped emphasize it’s form that might otherwise be lost in the darker reaches of the canyon.

 

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Sunset at Yuba Pass—Frame 37.

On the evening of February 9, 1994, I exposed the final frame on 36 exposure roll of a Southern Pacific eastward freight ascending Donner Pass at Yuba Pass, California near where I-80 crosses the railroad.

I used an old Nikkormat FTN for this view and exposed the film with the aid of a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell light meter.

This photo demonstrates two things. Firstly the enormous dynamic range of Fujichrome slide film. Secondly, my ability to get the most out of each roll.

At the time I had very little money and yet spent what little I had on film and fuel for my car. I would routinely save the final frame of a roll for something special.

Frame 37 of a 36 exposure roll of Fujichrome 100.

About this time I submitted a page of 20 35mm color slides to the well-known editor of a major railroad magazine, all frame number 37 and 38. I did this to check his attention to detail to see what he’d say.

Years later when I met him face to face, I’d mentioned this effort to him, and he admitted that he’d never even noticed.

You do know that I like to hide things in plain sight? Right? It always astounds me when no one seems to notice. (Rest easy, there’s nothing to see here except a California sunset.)

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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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Sun on the old Southern Pacific Coast Line—July 28, 2016.

Last summer, I spent a pleasant afternoon exploring the old Southern Pacific Coast Line between Simi Valley and Moorpark, California.

At CP Madera, I ascended this cutting and made a series of digital photographs of passing passenger trains.

This was not what I expected: an Amtrak 'Cabbage' (a former F40PH diesel converted as a cab-car with baggage compartment) and single-level Horizon cars with a Genesis diesel pushing at the back. A far cry from the typical Pacific Surfline consist with an F59PHI and Bilevel cars. File converted from a Camera RAW using Lightroom to adjust contrast and lighten shadow areas.
This was not what I expected: an Amtrak ‘Cabbage’ (a former F40PH diesel converted as a cab-car with baggage compartment) and single-level Horizon cars with a Genesis diesel pushing at the back. Amtrak A790 was far cry from the typical Pacific Surfliner consist that features an F59PHI and Bilevel cars. File converted from a Camera RAW using Lightroom to adjust contrast and lighten shadow areas.
Trailing view of Amtrak Pacific Surfline A790 at CP Madera, near Simi Valley, California.
Trailing view of Amtrak Pacific Surfline A790 at CP Madera, near Simi Valley, California.
I made this photo with the camera set in the 'Velvia' colour profile.
I made this photo with the camera set in the ‘Velvia’ colour profile.
A few minutes after Amtrak A790 rolled past, Metrolink 117 from Los Angeles came the other way. Here I've used a telephoto perspective to make the most of the setting.
A few minutes after Amtrak A790 rolled past, Metrolink 117 from Los Angeles came the other way. Here I’ve used a telephoto perspective to make the most of the setting.
As the train approached, I used the zoom lens, pulling back my focal length to a slight wide angle view.
As the train approached, I used the zoom lens, pulling back my focal length to a slight wide angle view.
The view looking west into the evening sun was exceptionally contrasty. So in post processing I lightened the shadows, darkened the sky and lowered the contrast in a effort to produce a more pleasing image.
The view looking west into the evening sun was exceptionally contrasty. So in post processing I lightened the shadows, darkened the sky and lowered the contrast in a effort to produce a more pleasing image. Also, on site I’d shaded the front element of my lens with my notebook. If you look carefully, you can just see the fringe of my notebook cover in the sky. I’ve left this imperfection in, rather than crop it out, so that you can get a sense for what I was doing. 

These were exposed using my Fujifilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens. I calculated the light using the camera’s center weighted meter and set aperture and shutter speed settings manually. Although bright, exposures can be tricky, especially when dealing with flat white locomotives.

It was a real pleasure to make photos in the warm California sun. (As recall, while sitting in Dublin on damp evening composing ‘Auto Pilot’ posts for Tracking the Light!)

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Santa Fe FP45 at Tehachapi Loop; Then and Now Comparison.

My visits to California’s Tehachapis in July and August (2016) made me curious to dig deep into my archives and revisit the photographs I made there in the early 1990s.

I traveled with J. D. Schmid on my first visits to Southern Pacific’s Tehachapi crossing. (Then Santa Fe operated in the Tehachapis via trackage rights on SP, as does BNSF on Union Pacific today).

I made this Santa Fe FP45 photo on a rainy morning February 1991. We were on our way back from a detailed study of the SP’s Beaumont Hill and environs.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens. Santa Fe FP45 91 is the lead.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC lens. Santa Fe FP45 91 is the lead.

While hard to beat the great sound of EMD 20 cylinder diesels working the Tehachapi grades, it was difficult working with Kodachrome 25 to capture the experience. The film was slow and its spectral response didn’t favor dull days.

Certainly the weather was better on my more recent visits. I traveled with David Hegarty, and we had ample opportunity to make photographs in the bright California sun.

A southward BNSF intermodal train ascends the loop at Walong, California. In SP days the railroad was viewed on an east-west axis (west being San Francisco). Today, present owner Union Pacific deems the directions of operation north-south (regardless of compass.
A southward BNSF intermodal train ascends the loop at Walong, California. In SP days the railroad was viewed on an east-west axis (west being San Francisco). Today, present owner Union Pacific deems the directions of operation on a  north-south axis  (regardless of compass.)

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California Sunrise—August 2016.

The sinuous alignment of the old Southern Pacific in the Tehachapis is ideally suited to lining up sunrise photographs.

A blanket of airborne particulates filtered the rising sun, softening the light and giving it a luminous golden tint.

In the 1990s, I made many glint photos on Kodachrome. This one I exposed digitally and adjusted contrast in post processing to make for a more pleasing image.

Where K25 slide film would have retained the ring of the sun, now I have to settle for a golden blob of light.

BNSF_nb_Sunrise_Caliente_DSCF2768-2
BNSF symbol freight Z-LPKNBY7-05L (priority intermodal train from Logistics Park Kansas City to North Bay, California) catches the glint at Caliente, California. ISO 200 at f20 1/500th of a second.

A key to making an image such as this one is manually setting the aperture to control the amount of light reaching the sensor. I metered manually and ignored the camera’s recommended exposure, which wouldn’t have given me the desired effect.

Since I was preparing a classic silhouette, I wasn’t interested in retaining detail in the shadows, but instead aimed to hold tonality in the sky.

Where my ‘normal’ daylight exposure with ISO 200 is about f8 1/500th of second, for this photo, I closed down the aperture to f20, which made for two and half stops less exposure.

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One Month Ago: In the Shadow of the Santa Fe—San Bernardino, California—Six Images.

August 4, 2016 was a blistering hot day in San Bernardino. I arrived by Metrolink from Santa Ana, and departed a little while later by Metrolink for LA Union.

San Bernardino was a big deal on the old Santa Fe Railway; freight yards, locomotive shops, and a classic station.

An old smoke stack still reads Santa Fe.

Santa_Fe_Stack_DSCF2067

During my short visit there was a steady procession of BNSF freights.

I exposed these views using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera. In post processing, (using Lightroom) I adjusted contrast and lightened shadows to compensate for the harsh effects of midday sun.

BNSF_San_Bernadino_DSCF2096BNSF_San_Bernadino_DSCF2098

Santa_Fe_stack_San_Bernadino_DSCF2099

The old Santa Fe station hosts a museum and offices.
The old Santa Fe station hosts a museum and offices. Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit lens.

San_Bernardino_Station_DSCF2062

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Santa Ana, California—Ten Photos in 45 Minutes—August 2016.

During one of my recent Metrolink blitzes, I rode from Los Angeles Union Station to Santa Ana where I changed for an Inland Empire-Orange County Line train running from Oceanside to San Bernardino.

I timed this brief visit to coincide with a flurry of Amtrak and Metrolink trains. I had just 45 minutes to make images of this classic Santa Fe station having never previously explored here.

I found Santa Ana to be an excellent mid-morning location.

The footbridge is photographer friendly and the old Santa Fe building makes for a suitably California setting. The height of the bridge allows for both distant telephoto views as well as wide-angle down-on photos.

I exposed these views digitally using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.

I arrived on Metrolink train 600 from Los Angeles Union Station. I had enough time to walk to the headend and expose this view with my Lumix LX7 before the train departed.
I arrived on Metrolink train 600 from Los Angeles Union Station. I had enough time to walk to the headend and expose this view with my Lumix LX7 before the train departed.
Metrolink 687 arrives behind a borrow BNSF AC4400CW. This framed view was exposed using my Lumix LX7.
Metrolink 687 arrives behind a borrow BNSF AC4400CW. This framed view was exposed using my Lumix LX7.
A Metrolink F59PHI works at the back of Los Angeles bound train number 687. Here my Fujinon 18-135mm lens gave me a nice view of the train and station from the footbridge.
A Metrolink F59PHI works at the back of Los Angeles bound train number 687. Here my Fujinon 18-135mm lens gave me a nice view of the train and station from the footbridge.
Metrolink 633 is among Metrolink's services that doesn't serve Los Angeles Union Station. This is a short-turn that runs from Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo to Fullerton.
Metrolink 633 is among Metrolink’s services that doesn’t serve Los Angeles Union Station. This is a short-turn that runs from Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo to Fullerton.
By using my 18-135 zoom on my Fuji XT1 I was able to exposed a series of trailing photos of Metrolink 633 as it accelerated away from Santa Ana.
By using my 18-135 zoom on my Fuji XT1 I was able to exposed a series of trailing photos of Metrolink 633 as it accelerated away from Santa Ana.
This is a telephoto view of train 633 from the same vantage point as the photo above.
This is a telephoto view of train 633 from the same vantage point as the photo above.
Metrolink's timetable shows both of its services to Santa Ana as well as Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner.
Metrolink’s timetable shows both of its services to Santa Ana as well as Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner.
A detailed view of the Santa Ana station exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.
A detailed view of the Santa Ana station exposed using my FujiFilm XT1.
Amtrak 566 Pacific Surfliner slows for its station stop.
Amtrak 566 Pacific Surfliner slows for its station stop.
Metrolink 802 will take me to San Bernardino. I arrived under partly cloudy skies and departed under a California blue dome. Happy days!
Metrolink 802 will take me to San Bernardino. I arrived under partly cloudy skies and departed under a California blue dome. Happy days!

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Southern Pacific Tracks at Sunset—May 17, 1991.

It was more than 25 years ago that I made this evening view at Pinole, California using my Leica looking west across San Pablo Bay toward Mt. Tamalpias.

Fog rolls in from the Pacific; and the SP was still the SP.

Exposed with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on Kodak Tri-X processed in Agfa Rodinal.
Exposed with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on Kodak Tri-X processed in Agfa Rodinal.

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Bealeville Sunset—golden lining to the cloud of pollution.

Dark clouds with silver linings? Not at sunset.

Combine agricultural dust from the San Joaquin Valley with Los Angeles-area air pollution and you get some wonderful golden light. Throw in a few wild fires and it gets even better!

All that pollution acts as a huge red-orange filter.

On this evening in late July 2016, fellow photographer David Hegarty and I were fortunate to be in place in the California Tehachapis to make good use of the golden light.

As previously featured on Tracking the Light, the railroad was a bit backed up. This enabled us to find a train at the moment of sunset.

A timetable-southward BNSF freight gets a green signal at Belleville, California. FujiFilm X-T1 photo. Image was not altered in post processing except to scale for internet presentation.
A timetable-southward BNSF freight gets a green signal at Belleville, California. FujiFilm X-T1 photo. Image was not altered in post processing except to scale for internet presentation.
California golden glint; exposed digitally using a Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.
California golden glint; exposed digitally using a Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens. Sorry about the wires. I’d crop them, but then the photo would have been ‘altered’. Right?
Here I've included the setting sun. This shows the angle of the light relative to the train necessary to produce the glint effect. I'm standing at the Bealeville grade crossing.
Here I’ve included the setting sun. This shows the angle of the light relative to the train necessary to produce the glint effect. I’m standing at the Bealeville grade crossing.

These images have not been altered digitally in post processing, except for scaling necessary for digital presentation. To maintain the rich rosy glow, I selected a daylight white balance, and was very careful with my exposure, which I selected manually to maintain texture in the sky.

And yes, I also exposed a slide using Fujichrome Provia 100F.

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Caliente Traffic Jam—Traffic in the Tehachapis.

Having been stuck in a few Los Angeles area-tailbacks lately, I’ll say, it’s no fun. However, when the railroad gets jammed, it can make for some bountiful photographic opportunities.

Union Pacific owns and dispatches the old Southern Pacific route over the Tehachapis, yet BNSF (operating on a trackage rights arrangement inherited from the Santa Fe ) runs the lion’s share of the traffic. The mix of UP and BNSF plus outstanding scenery and blazing sun have the stage set.

To adapt a hackneyed Hollywood phrase; ‘Light, cameras, action . . .’

On this late July afternoon UP wasn’t having a good day. One of its northward trains developed braking problems descending near Cable and northward trains began to stack up behind it, including the BNSF ‘Earthworm’ unit grain train that we’d photographed earlier in the day (see: The Earthworm and a Joshua Tree)

UP’s southward trains hadn’t faired much better; as a very heavy manifest had struggled upgrade at a walking pace adding to more congestion.

By evening, UP’s northward train had reached Caliente, where it held the mainline short of the first intermediate signal (as instructed by the dispatcher),while a BNSF southward manifest was in the siding.

More southward trains were coming behind this train, as the loaded northward earthworm crawled downgrade and stopped at the pit of the Caliente horseshoe, short of the grade crossing.

Gridlock!

Three trains at Caliente and nothing moving. Furthermore, a pair of UP Z-trains were making a meet at Cliff.

At this point it was like shooting fish in a barrel, to use another handy cliché, and the evening light was only getting better.

Stay tooned! 😉

Trains on all tracks and nothing moving; UP DPUs on the back of a northward freight on the mainline, a BNSF northward train in the siding, while on the upper level of the horseshoe is the BNSF 'Earthworm' grain train, with its headend holding on the opposite side of the grade crossing 180 degrees behind me.
Trains on all tracks and nothing moving; UP DPUs on the back of a northward freight holding  the mainline, a BNSF northward train in the siding, while on the upper level of the horseshoe is the BNSF ‘Earthworm’ grain train, with its headend holding on the opposite side of the grade crossing  behind me.
Head-end of the Earthworm grain train. Just standing there in warm California sun. I think Kodak exited the Kodachrome business too soon!
Head-end of the Earthworm grain train. Just standing there in warm California sun. I think Kodak exited the Kodachrome business too soon!
Finally, the BNSF Earthworm gets a signal. Here's today's photo lesson. By shifting the focus from the locomotives to the ballast in the foreground I've altered the natural perspective. Essentially, I'm tricking the eye into looking down and this makes the scene seem more like a diorama. Of course you may need to view this image larger than 3x5 inches to get the full effect.
Finally, the BNSF Earthworm gets a signal. Here’s today’s photo lesson: By shifting the focus from the locomotives to the ballast in the foreground I’ve altered the natural perspective. Essentially, I’m tricking the eye into looking down and this focus combined with the pastel lighting makes the scene seem more like a diorama. Of course you may need to view this image larger than 3×5 inches to get the full effect.
Ok, enough playing around, here I've focused on the main event and the rails have been to squeal.
Ok, enough playing around, here I’ve focused on the main event as the rails have begun to squeal.
Looking railroad timetable north (formerly  this was west under the old SP timetable); The earthworm descends toward Bakersfield.
Looking railroad timetable north (formerly this was west under the old SP timetable)  the earthworm descends toward Bakersfield.
First set of DPUs (distributed power units—railroad speak for un-manned radio-controlled remotely-placed locomotives.)
Here we have the first set of DPUs (distributed power units—railroad speak for un-manned radio-controlled remotely-placed locomotives.)
And a new BNSF GE-built Tier IV works as a second set of DPUs at the back of the grain train.
And a new BNSF GE-built Tier IV works as a second set of DPUs at the back of the grain train.
Some quick driving to a pre-selected overlook granted me a final view of the Earthworm as it rolls along Caliente Creek. Who said, 'you can't have your cake and eat it'?
Some quick driving to a pre-selected overlook granted me a final view of the Earthworm as it rolls along Caliente Creek. Who said, ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’?

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The Earthworm and a Joshua Tree—Mojave, California; a Lesson in Composition and Subject.

Forty years ago in Mrs. LaFond’s Fifth Grade class (Main Street School room 22) we were tasked to research a National Park. I think the big name parks were more popular, the likes of Yellowstone and whatnot.

I asked if I could research and write about the Joshua Tree National Monument. At the time this wasn’t a full National Park, but Mrs. LaFond agreed, and so I wrote to the Park Service and they sent me some literature about the odd ‘trees’ and the National Monument.

So why was a ten year old living in Monson, Massachusetts interested in Joshua Trees?

At that time, I’d taken a interest in the Santa Fe Railway, stemming in part from some Lionel F3s that my dad had bought us a few years earlier. This manifested into a desire to make an HO scale model of the desert. I’d read about Barstow, California, and the nearest relevant Park to this Santa Fe hub was the Joshua Tree National Monument.

Fast forward to the early 1990s. My friends and I made regular trips to the southern California desert to photograph trains, and finally had the opportunity to see a real live Joshua Tree.

Last weekend, I was exploring the Mojave Desert with fellow photographer David Hegarty, with an eye on photographing Union Pacific and BNSF trains. Again I had the opportunity to place a Joshua Tree in some photographs.

Here are several views of a heavy BNSF ‘earthworm’ grain train crawling upgrade across the desert floor. (The nickname stems from the prominently brown color of the grain cars, their curved body shape and the crawling effect of the long slow moving consist across the landscape). I’ve juxtaposed the freight with a scruffy Joshua Tree. Knowing what you do now, which do you think is the main focus of my photographs?

A southward (old Southern Pacific timetable direction west) BNSF 'earthworm' unit grain train climbs across the desert floor near Mojave, California—July2016.
A southward (old Southern Pacific timetable direction west) BNSF ‘earthworm’ unit grain train climbs across the desert floor near Mojave, California—July2016.

BNSF_earthworm_grain_train_Mojave_w_Joshua_Tree_DSCF0987

BNSF_earthworm_grain_train_Mojave_w_Joshua_Tree_DSCF0989

BNSF_earthworm_grain_train_Mojave_w_Joshua_Tree_DSCF0992

Here’s an irony: after all these years I’ve never been to the Joshua Tree National Park [https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm ] (upgraded in 1994). I have visited Barstow on several occasions. This features a massive yard and a fascinating old Harvey House and railway station, but is a shocking bland town; ugly, sprawling and commercial.

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Cal-Train near old Bayshore.

May Day 1991; I made this view of a short Cal-Train set at Brisbane,California near the site of Southern Pacific’s old Bay ShoreYard.

Exposed with a Leica M2 on Tri-X. Processed in Agfa Rodinal which made for a grainier negative but very rich contrast in the shadows.
Exposed with a Leica M2 on Tri-X. Processed in Agfa Rodinal which made for a grainier negative but very rich contrast in the shadows.

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Amtrak on the Shore of San Pablo Bay at Pinole on this day 23 years ago.

On the morning of April 18, 1993, I made this Kodachrome slide of an eastward Amtrak train on the shore of San Pablo Bay at Pinole, California.

Exposed using a Nikon F3T with 35mm PC (Perspective Control lens). Note the level horizon.

Compare my use of foreground of the  image below with that featured in this morning’s post at Gurtnellen, Switzerland. In both situations I’ve held the camera close to the ground, while standing on a hill side above the train.

Amtrak_at_Pinole_Apr18_1993_Brian Solomon 234254Tracking the Light post every day.

Sunset on the Sunset Route-Classic Kodachrome

The other day I was scouring the files for a photo Amtrak’s Sunset Limited as an illustration for an article I was writing.

Instead, I found this slide; one of hundreds of images I made along SP’s Sunset Route in southern California during the early-mid 1990s.

A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.
A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.

I’d been following this eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Pass and I exposed this view near Cabazon on the east slope. The setting sun was enhanced by the effects of Los Angeles-area smog that acted as a red filter (an effect of heavy particulates).

I was working with my Nikon F3T and Kodachrome 25 slide film. Always a favorite combination for image making on Southern Pacific Lines.

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Tracking the Light’s Classic Chrome Archive: Santa Fe at Port Chicago, California

While I’m on the road in late July 2015, I thought it would be nice to look back to August 1993. I made this view on the Santa Fe of an eastward GP60M at Port Chicago, California.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using an F3T with 35mm PC lens. Perspective control  made this angle possible.
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 using an F3T with 35mm PC lens. Perspective control made this angle possible.

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Union Pacific near Portola, California May 10, 2008.

Seven years ago today, I exposed this photograph on Fujichrome slide film while working on my book Railroads of California (Voyageur Press, 2009).

Union Pacific on the old Western Pacific seen May 10, 2008.
Union Pacific on the old Western Pacific seen May 10, 2008.

This appears on page 58. My original photo caption read:

Union Pacific SD70M 4772) works east on the old Western Pacific on 10 May 2008. Railroad enthusiasts have long praised the WP’s Sierra crossing because of its easy access to parallel Highway 70. This view was made from a pull off on Highway 70 east of Portola, California. Alternative angles on the same spot are available from the old highway below.

As it turned out my final caption as published in the book was more elaborate.

Related to this image, although not specified in the caption is  today’s date: May 10th.  

This is a significant day for American railroading. On this day in 1869, the famous golden spike ceremony marked the joining of Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads at Promontory, Utah, an event signifying the linking of east and west.

Also on this day in 1893, New York Central & Hudson River Railroad engine 999 made its legendary sprint across New York state where west of Batavia, New York it was reported to have hit 112.5 mph, a figure that was often claimed as a world speed record.

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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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Kodachrome Classic: Amador Central March 1997

After WinterRail 1997, Mel Patrick, John Gruber and I spent a day photographing the Amador Central, a short line that was rumored to be making one of its final revenue runs.

Amador Central number 11 works a short freight in March 1997.
Amador Central number 11 works a short freight in March 1997.

I exposed this Kodachrome 25 slide using my Nikon F3T. It was a clear Spring day in the Sierra foothills and a nice time to be outside making photographs. For me K25 and California sun were always a winning combination.

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Tomorrow: ten years earlier with another EMD locomotive!

Union Pacific at Rock Creek

A Tracking the Light silhouette.

On August 15-16, 2009, I’d been camping in California’s Feather River Canyon near the curved Rock Creek trestle. In the early light of dawn, I made a series of photos of this Union Pacific container train crossing the bridge.

 Exposed on Fujicrome with a Canon EOS 3 with 28mm lens. I gauged my exposure on the sky, intending to make a silhouette of the train and bridge.

Exposed on Fujicrome with a Canon EOS 3 with 28mm lens. I gauged my exposure on the sky, intending to make a silhouette of the train and bridge.

This image features the tail-end ‘Distributed Power Unit’ (a radio controlled remote locomotive). After making this photo I followed the train west down the canyon and made more images.

Thankfully Union Pacific paints its bridges an aluminum color which helps visually separate the girders from the inky blackness of the trees beyond. Would this photo work if the bridge were painted black?

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American River Canyon in October Snow.

Union Pacific on Donner Pass; Standing in Steinheimer’s Footsteps.

Among my favorite locations in California is the spectacular overlook at ‘American’ or ‘Old Gorge’ (if you have a really old time-table) located on the former Southern Pacific crossing of Donner Pass east of Alta.

Here the railroad crawls out on ledge high above the waters of the American River. It’s a on sustained 2.2 percent grade, so eastward trains are in full throttle which makes for sublime sound show.

I was in position on an overcast afternoon, October 30, 2003. The American River Canyon was filled with a thick fog. To the west I could hear traditional EMD 16-645E3 diesels roaring in Run-8. That meant SD40-2s. Real locomotives.

Exposed on Kodak Tri-X with I processed by hand in San Francisco. After initial processing I toned the negatives in a selenium solution mix 1:9 with water for 9 minutes, 1 minute agitation (in a well-ventilated area).
Exposed on Kodak Tri-X which I processed by hand in San Francisco. After initial processing I toned the negatives in a selenium solution mix 1:9 with water for 9 minutes, 1 minute agitation (in a well-ventilated area).

As the train approached, the atmospheric pressure changed and the fog rose out of the canyon and enveloped me. Although it was only the day before Halloween, all of sudden it began snowing furiously. Visibility dropped to nil, and the roar of the eastward freight grew intense.

Working with my Rolleiflex Model T loaded with Kodak Tri-X, I exposed a series of images. It was a memorable moment on Donner.

 

Union Pacific SD40-2s emerge from the fog and snow at ‘American’ on their ascent of Donner Pass.
Union Pacific SD40-2s emerge from the fog and snow at ‘American’ on their ascent of Donner Pass.

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Tomorrow: Irish Narrow Gauge Sunset.

 

Santa Fe on Alhambra Viaduct

Martinez, California—September 1990.

When I was exploring Santa Fe’s Bay Area operations in the early 1990s, the railroad tended to operate a fleet of westward trains to its Richmond, California yards in the afternoon and early evening.

One afternoon, Brian Jennison and I had set up at the Alhambra Viaduct near Martinez. This was a relatively scenic portion of the line, but beginning to get hemmed in by suburban growth.

We knew that the 899 was on its way. This was a short high-priority piggy back train. The real prize of the day was the premier 199, which often had new ‘Super Fleet’ locomotives wearing the reintroduced Warbonnet paint scheme. But we wanted to make the most of the short train as we had time to make different photos of both trains.

To make the most of Santa Fe’s ‘shorty’ 899, I climbed atop the tunnel west of the bridge, and set up this view using my Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens. The light was classic California blue skies with soft autumnal haze that favored Kodachrome 25. My exposure was f5.6 1/250th of second.
To make the most of Santa Fe’s ‘shorty’ 899, I climbed atop the tunnel west of the bridge, and set up this view using my Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f4.0 200mm lens. The light was classic California blue skies with soft autumnal haze that favored Kodachrome 25. My exposure was f5.6 1/250th of second.

This view minimized the suburban sprawl on both sides of the bridge, along with high tension lines in the valley, while putting the steel viaduct in a good perspective. Was it really 24 years ago?

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Redwood Railway

A Visit to the California Western

On May 9, 2008, I took a trip on the California Western from Fort Bragg to North Spur as part of research for my book Railroads of California, published by Voyageur Press in 2009.

The attraction of California Western is the gargantuan trees along the line. The railway winds along the Noyo River passing trees reaching hundreds of feet into the sky.

I exposed this image with my Canon EOS 3 using a 20mm wide angle lens and Fujichrome film. The challenge was selecting the appropriate exposure. What is the primary subject of this photograph? Is it the GP9 situated at center? Or the ominous silhouettes of the massive trees at the right?
I exposed this image with my Canon EOS 3 using a 20mm wide angle lens and Fujichrome film. The challenge was selecting the appropriate exposure: the shafts of bright noon-time sun making for extreme contrasts with the shadowy tree trunks. What is the primary subject of this photograph? Is it the GP9 situated at center? Or the ominous silhouettes of the massive trees at the right?

One of the spooky parts of this experience is the realization that these massive trees are second growth. The much larger original redwoods were cut down a century ago. All that remains of those leviathans is the occasional stump, some of which are more than a dozen feet in diameter.

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Clio Viaduct, California

Under Clear Western Skies.

On the morning of November 11, 2003, John Gruber and I set off from Reno, Nevada and drove up to Union Pacific’s former Western Pacific main line

Although we weren’t expecting it, we caught this BNSF westward freight near Reno Junction and followed it for many miles.

Western Pacific was built by virtue of improved bridge design. Tower supported steel viaducts such as this one allowed for relatively inexpensive construction of very large and tall spans. A century later the bridge remains in service.
Western Pacific was built by virtue of improved bridge design. Steel tower-supported viaducts, such as this one, allowed for relatively inexpensive construction of very large and tall spans. More than a century later the bridge remains in service.

I opted for this view of the famous Clio Viaduct west of Portola, California, where 11 years earlier, I’d exposed a Kodachrome slide of Union Pacific’s Challenger from nearly the same angle.

For this photograph I use my Nikon F3T and Fujichrome slide film.

Personally, I like the bit of glint reflecting off the second locomotive.

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