Tag Archives: Canon EOS-3

Midleton, Co. Cork on Film and Digital.

October 7, 2014.

A few years ago, Irish Rail rebuilt its Youghal Branch between Cobh Junction and Midleton. After decades of inactivity, this route now enjoys a regular interval passenger service. I find it fascinating that this long closed railway is again alive with trains.

A year ago, on a previous visit to Cork, I tried some photos at this location near the Midleton Station. However, it was a flat dull morning and my results weren’t up to par.

So a few weeks ago, Irish Rail’s Ken Fox drove me back to this spot, and on this visit it was bright an sunny. Moments before the train arrived, a thin layer of high cloud momentarily diffused the sunlight, which complicated my exposure.

As the 2600-series railcar approached, I made several digital images with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens and a single Fujichrome color slide using my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens.

Digital image made with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 200mm lens.
Digital image made with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 200mm lens.
Exposed Fujichrome Provia 100F with Canon EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens.
Exposed Fujichrome Provia 100F with Canon EOS 3 with 40mm pancake lens. This image looks great projected on the screen.

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Union Pacific in the Smoke Creek Desert—Sand Pass, Nevada.

On the edge of dry sea.

 Exposed on Fujichrome slide film using a Canon EOS 3 fitted with an f 1.4 50mm lens, set at  f8 1/500th of  second.

Exposed on Fujichrome slide film using a Canon EOS 3 fitted with an f 1.4 50mm lens, set at f8 1/500th of second.

At 9:49am on July 29, 2009, I exposed this image of Union Pacific 5526 leading an eastward double stack train on the former Western Pacific at Sand Pass, Nevada. At the back of the train, another General Electric diesel is working as a ‘distributed power unit’ (a radio controlled remotely operated locomotive).

Phil Brahms and I were exploring the former Western Pacific route across one of the most remote and lightly inhabited regions of the continental United States. This is lonely, barren, wind-swept and wide-open country where you can see for great distances.

Rail traffic was sparse, but we found about four to five freights per day in daylight.

The desert gets much bigger after sunset; the haunting sounds of the wind blowing across the desert floor in the dead of night and the radiant sky with stars blazing above cannot be captured on film. Yet these things stay with you.

That morning, I wrote in my notebook, ‘at dawn, before sunrise, I climbed a hill—coyotes were howling to the east (of me).’

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Daily Post: If you Say Something, See Something.

San Francisco, August 2009.

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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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DAILY POST: Sunset at Worgl.

Arctic Conditions in Central Europe Made for Great Light and Cold Fingers.

A Westward EuroCity train with Italian carriages accelerates away from Wörgl, Austria on February 1, 2006. Exposed on Fuji 400F slide film using a Canon EOS 3 fitted with 75-300 image stabilizing zoom lens.
A Westward EuroCity train with Italian carriages accelerates away from Wörgl, Austria on February 1, 2006. Exposed on Fuji 400F slide film using a Canon EOS 3 fitted with 75-300 image stabilizing zoom lens.

It was my last full day of a week-long visit to Austria in winter 2006. I was changing trains at Wörgl, having spent the better part of the day making photos in the snow. Using my last roll of Fujichrome 400F, I exposed a series of sunset photos from the platform.

Wörgl is a busy place where lines converge on their way west through the Inn valley towards Innsbruck. Every few minutes something would pass over the mainline, and there was an electric switcher working the yard.

Thinking about the photography: working in low winter light the 400 ISO slide film had two advantages. Its faster film speed made it easier to work hand held and helped stop the action. While the warmer color balance favored the snowy sunset scene by accentuating the reds and yellows in the sky.

It was painful to be outside, and as the sun set it got even colder. But soon, I was gliding eastward on an InterCity train to Salzburg ensconced in the warm dining car. I’d enjoyed a hot ‘scheinsbratten mit sauerkraut’ and a tall glass of Schneiderweiss for dinner. The frosty landscape fading from blue to black as the train rolled into the night.

 

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BEFORE THE CRASH: Muni 162 Catches the Sun In 2009

San Francisco Muni Car 162 on the Embarcadero.

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On January 4, 2014, historic Muni 162 was involved in a serious collision with a truck on the streets of San Francisco.

San Francisco streetcar before it was involved in a crash.
San Francisco’s historic Muni car 162 grinds along the Embarcadero in the summer of 2009. Sadly, this car was involved in a serious collision near the location of this image on Saturday January 14, 2014. Exposed on Fujichrome slide film using a Canon EOS 3 with 24mm lens.

This 100-year old car was built by the Jewitt Car Company in 1914, and is one of several authentic San Francisco streetcars working San Francisco Muni’s popular ‘F’ Line.

The car was originally retired from daily Muni service in 1958. It was completely restored by Market Street Railway volunteers between 2004 and 2008.

I made this image of 162 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero on summer evening in 2009, not far from the scene of Saturday’s unfortunate collision.

I featured Muni’s F-line in my book, Railroads of California published by Voyageur Press.

To read learn about Muni 162 see: http://www.streetcar.org/streetcars/162/

For details of the accident see: http://www.streetcar.org/blog/2014/01/no-way-to-start-its-centennial-year.html

For general media accounts see:

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story? section=news/local/san_francisco&id=9381895

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Muni-Trolley-Smashes-Into-Big-Rig-at-Embarcadero-Intersection-Four-Injured-238736091.html

Hopefully, the car will soon be repaired and restored to operating condition.

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DAILY POST: Celebrity Steam at the Niles Canyon Railway


Southern Pacific 2472 Entertains its Public in May 2008

Back in May 2008, I was researching for my book Railroads of California, when I visited the Niles Canyon Railway and made this photograph of Southern Pacific 4-6-2 No. 2472 at Sunol.

Southern Pacific steam locomotive
Fans of all ages gawk at Southern Pacific 2472 paused under steam at Sunol, California on the Niles Canyon Railway in May 2008. Exposed on slide film using a Canon EOS 3 with 24mm lens.

This Baldwin-built heavy Pacific was a fine sight that attracted thousands of visitors to the railway. To the delight of its fans, it powered excursions over the line between Sunol and Niles Station at Fremont.

I’ve made lots of photos of 2472 over the years; and one of these images from the 1990s is the cover of my recently released locomotive anthology titled Classic Locomotives published by Voyageur Press. By contrast, the photo display here is focused on the engine’s fans rather than the locomotive itself.

Incidentally, This old Baldwin has been one of my favorite locomotives for years, and coincidentally, when my mobile phone provider issued my cell phone number about ten years ago, it was these four digits I was given. Although the phone company had the right idea, they gave me the prefix for the Prairie wheel arrangement rather than that for a Pacific.

Also see: Southern Pacific 4449 at Worden, Oregon, April 1991.

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DAILY POST: Focused on the Details

 Irish Rail Close-up and Real.

Footbridge at Clonmel, County Tipperary on November 19, 2004. Exposed with a Nikon F3 on Fujichrome slide film.
Footbridge at Clonmel, County Tipperary on November 19, 2004. Exposed with a Nikon F3 on Fujichrome slide film.

It would be something else if it were unreal, no?

I’ve always liked to make macro views of railways. Examining the texture, colors, and shape of the equipment, track and structures allows for better appreciation of the subject.

One of the best times to make close ups and detail photographs is under dramatic lighting; low sun or stormy light, where richer qualities make for more pleasing tones. Even the most mundane and ordinary subjects seem more interesting with great light.

Yet, detailed views can also make use of dull days when by focusing on texture and using extreme focus can compensate for flat lighting.

Irish Rail made for an especially good subject for detailed images, in part because there was so much antique equipment to photograph. Well-worn infrastructure is inherently fascinating. Here out in the open metal has been doing a job for decades and often it shows the scars from years of hard work, like an old weaver’s time weathered hands.

I’ve made hundreds of Irish Rail close-ups over the years. Here a just a few. Look around railways near you and see what you find! Sometimes the most interesting photographs can be made while waiting for trains.

Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Signal cabin interior at Rathmore. I like lever 23 the most.
Signal cabin interior at Rathmore. I like lever 23 the most. Exposed with a Contax G2 fitted with a 16mm Hologon, focused manually.
Crows congregate on the Carrick on Suir footbridge on December 11, 2004. I made this image with my Nikon F3 with a 180mm Nikkor telephoto while waiting for an empty sugar beet train. Do you think the crows care about blue NIR diesels?
Crows congregate on the Carrick on Suir footbridge on December 11, 2004. I made this image with my Nikon F3 with a 180mm Nikkor telephoto while waiting for an empty sugar beet train. Do you think the crows care about blue NIR diesels?
On Spring evening, Enfield cabin catches a fading wink of sunlight.
On Spring evening, Enfield cabin catches a fading wink of sunlight.
Irish Rail.
Irish Rail 175 basks in the November sunlight at Mallow, County Cork. Canon EOS 3 with 24-70mm zoom lens.

Also see: Irish Rail at Ballybrophy, June 2006Irish Rail Freight April 25-26, 2013 and Looking Back on Irish Railways 1998-2003

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DAILY POST: Northern Ireland in November 2005.


NIR in Transition.

NIR Translink
Coleraine, County Antrim on November 29, 2005. New 3001 class railcars lurk in the shadows while an older 80 class railcar set basks in the morning sun.

 

In November 2005, Translink NI Railways (operator of railway services in Northern Ireland) was in a transitional phase equipment-wise. New 3001 class railcars had been recently introduced, yet many of the older 80-class and Castle class railcars were still on the move.

I drove to Belfast from Dublin, and spent two days riding around on NIR trains making photographs. For the most part the days were sunny and brisk.

At that time of year, the sun in the northern latitudes tends to stay relative close to the horizon throughout the day, which can result in a stark contrasty light.

These images were exposed on Fujichrome at Coleraine, where the Port Rush branch diverges from the Belfast-Derry/Londonderry line.

Like NIR, I too was undergoing an equipment transition; I’d just recently bought a Canon EOS 3, but was still using my older Nikon F3T and N90S for many photographs.

NIR Coleraine signal cabin, November 29, 2005.
NIR Coleraine signal cabin, November 29, 2005.
NIR Translink.
Silhouette at NIR’s Coleraine signal cabin, November 29, 2005.
NIR Translink.
NIR Coleraine station, November 29, 2005.
80 class railcars at Coleraine.
80 class railcars at Coleraine.
With a puff of exhaust, an 80-class railcar accelerates away from Coleraine station.
With a puff of exhaust, an 80-class railcar accelerates away from Coleraine station.

 

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Daily Post: Container Ship at the Golden Gate


Cosmic Morning, San Francisco, September 2009.

Some places are famous for fantastic light and San Francisco Bay is one of them.

OOCL Container Ship
Exposed with a Canon EOS 3 with a 100-400mm image stabilized zoom lens on Fujichrome. Morning and evening offer the most dramatic lighting in San Francisco Bay; the change from night to day often coincides with spectacular and cosmic weather effects.

The combination of stunning scenery and amazing weather and light effects has made this city one of my favorite place to make photographs.

Warm air wafting in from the Sacramento Delta meets cool damp Pacific air producing coastal fog. The sun rises through layers of California smog which gives the light a warm rich quality as it burns through the mists hovering over San Francico Bay, Marin Headlands and the city.

Shortly after sunrise on September 16, 2009, I exposed this view of a container ship heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Soon the ship was out on the open ocean and I was airborne headed east on Jet Blue.

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Irish Rail, Cork, September 2013

Kent Station and Cobh and Midleton Lines.

Irish Rail
Kent Station, Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.

Last week, I traveled by train from Dublin to Cork to make photographs and visit with friends. I was traveling light and only brought two cameras, my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 3. In addition to some Velvia 100F, I also played around with some Fuji 400 color print film I had stored in the refrigerator.

Initially I focused my attention on Kent Station, which features a unique curved train-shed that make it one of the most interesting railway structures in Ireland. Signaling at the Cobh-end still retains a few mechanical semaphores.

Kent Station, Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.
Kent Station, Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.
New Irish Rail logo.
New Irish Rail logo.

 

Later, I worked east making a variety of images at Glounthuane (Cobh Junction) where Cobh and Midleton lines come together. The Midleton line had been closed for decades and was only reopened for passenger service in 2009. Years earlier, I’d explored the then derelict line.

Earlier this year, I featured a series of posts on Irish Railway Record Society’s locomotive hauled Dublin-Cobh-Midleton excursion. See: Irish Railway Record Society Trip to County Cork, 20 July 2013; Sun Scorched Irish Extravaganza—Part 4.

Where that visit was blessed with bright sun through out the day, on this recent trip I experienced more ordinary Irish weather.

Irish Rail signs at Glounthaune, Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail signs at Glounthaune, Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail
Irish Rail 2600-series rail car at Glounthaune, Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail
Irish Rail train to Cobh near Fota, Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail
Irish rail train departing Midleton, Co. Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail
Irish Rail 2600s passing North Esk, Co. Cork. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

Here are a few views from the two cameras. Special thanks to Ken and Janet Fox and Donncha Cronin for location advice and local transportation. Also thanks to John Gunn Camera shop on Wexford Street in Dublin for color negative film processing and prints.

Cork
Kent Station, Cork. September 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

Irish Rail Mark 4 at Kent Station, Cork. Exposed on Fuji 400 ISO color negative film (C41 process) using a Canon EOS 3 with 28-135 mm lens.
Irish Rail Mark 4 at Kent Station, Cork. Exposed on Fuji 400 ISO color negative film (C41 process) using a Canon EOS 3 with 28-135 mm lens.

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Tioga Central, October 7, 2007.

Alcos on the old Fallbrook Route. 

 In October 2007, I was working on my Railroad’s of Pennsylvania book, when Pat Yough and I made a very productive chase of Tioga Central’s excursion train, which operated, from Wellsboro Junction, Pennsylvania compass north along the old New York Central Fallbrook route (including over a Penn-Central-era line relocation).

Alco RS-1
An RS-1 wearing a Lehigh Valley-like livery leads a Tioga Central excursion north of Wellsboro Junction on October 7, 2007. I’d just bought a second-hand 24mm Canon lens from Thom Kinard, and this was a good opportunity to try it out on my Canon EOS 3 loaded with Fujichrome.

Back in the mid-1980s, I failed to take the opportunity to chase an empty Conrail coal train down the line south of Gang Mills Yard (near Corning, New York). At the time the line still went all the way to Newberry Junction, near Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Conrail operated ENSY/SYEN (Enola-Syracuse) manifest trains on this route three days a week, plus unit coal trains.

I’d been standing at the bridge (now gone) at the east end of Conrail’s Gang Mills Yard. There were two trains coming. A westward double stack on the former Erie route, and a southward unit coal train heading down the Fallbrook. I opted to follow the stack train because I didn’t have a good map of Pennsylvania.

Six months later Conrail abandoned the Fallbrook as a through route, and lifted the line south of Wellsboro through the super-scenic Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

While, I’ve since chased Wellsboro & Corning freights and the Tioga Central excursion, I’ve always regretted my poor decision that day. A map, a map, my kingdom for a map!

 

An RS-1 wearing a Lehigh Valley-inspired livery leads a Tioga Central excursion north of Wellsboro Junction on October 7, 2007. I’d just bought a second-hand 24mm Canon lens from Thom Kinard, and this was a good opportunity to try it out on Canon EOS 3 loaded with Fujichrome.

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Irish Rail at Stucumny Bridge, November 2009

Trains Pass At Sunset on the Quad Track.

In November 2009, I was at Stucumny Bridge near Hazelhatch (west of Dublin on the Cork line) to take a look at the recently opened quad track. It was a clear evening and the sun was an orange ball hanging in the western sky.

Shortly before sunset, up and down Mark 4 trains (Dublin-Cork) passed each other making for a nice illustration of the relatively busy line. I’ve always like glint photos where trains reflect low sunlight but these are hard to execute in Ireland for a variety of reasons.

Sunset of trains passing.
An unmodified view; Irish Rail Mark 4 trains pass on the quad track at Hazelhatch in November 2009, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 slide film
using a Canon EOS 3 and f2.8 200mm telephoto .

I exposed this with my Canon EOS 3 and f2.8 200mm telephoto on Fujichrome Velvia 100 slide film. (Velvia has a super-saturated color palate that tends to enhance the sunset glow).

I calculated the exposure based on the sky rather than taking an overall reading that would tend to over expose the image. Here a bit of experience working with low sun really helps.

For me the real problem with the photo is the difficult wire cutting across the middle of the frame. There may have been an angle to avoid this altogether, but with the two trains moving, I had only a few moments to release the shutter. The electrical pylons and high voltage wires in the distance don’t bother me, these are part of the scene.

Irish rail at sunset.
Here’s the same scan of Mark 4 trains at Hazelhatch, but modified using Photoshop to effectively erase the cable cutting across the middle of the frame. This image is an experiment, and by far the exception to the rule. I very rarely alter the content of my images.

I’ve taken the liberty of making an adjusted version of the photo by using Photoshop to extract the wire. I enlarged the scan of the slide and using the ‘Healing Brush’ and ‘Clone’ tools, I effectively blended the offending wire out of the image.

This is not something I normally do. Typically, I don’t apply visual surgery to alter my photos. However, with modern tools and a sense for retouching this is not especially difficult. It’s taken me twice as long to write up this post than it took to erase the wire. You can be the judge.

 

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CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, June 26, 2013

 

Ballast Train at Work

On the evening of June 26, 2013, I arrived at East Brookfield to find Dennis LeBeau observing CSX’s undercutting operations immediately east of CP64.

CSX ballast train.
CSX ballast train in the East Brookfield yard. Exposed with Canon 7D and 28-135mm lens. RAW file modified in post processing to adjust for contrast and exposure with mild sharpening.

Over the last few years, CSX has been improving its former Boston & Albany route between Selkirk Yards (near Albany, New York) and its Worcester, Massachusetts terminal.

Conrail improved clearances on the line in the mid-1980s and began running international containers on double-stack trains in 1989 (I first photographed an eastward Conrail double-stack in Spring 1989). However, CSX’s desire to run larger domestic containers on double stack trains has required further clearance improvement.

Once complete, the Boston & Albany route will be clearance compatible with most of CSX’s former Conrail mainline, which should allow for more traffic to be sent to Worcester. The clearance improvements are coincident with the recent closure of Beacon Park Yard at Alston, Massachusetts in favor of expanded facilities in Worcester.

On Wednesday evening, CSX had every track in East Brookfield occupied, as it cleared equipment from the mainline to allow east and westbound freight to pass (Amtrak had cancelled train 448 (Boston section of Lake Shore Limited). Once traffic had passed, work crews resumed their re-ballasting of the recently undercut mainline.

Three trains at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
On the evening of June 26, 2013, East Brookfield was a hot bed of railway activity. Dennis downplayed the scene, ‘I’ve seen it like this before . . .with Conrail in the 1980s!’. Canon 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX intermodal train.
A General Electric Evolution-series diesel leads an eastward intermodal freight through the work-zone east of CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. Decades ago Boston & Albany had three main tracks between East Brookfield and Charlton. A tower near the location of today’s signals controlled the plant. Today, the line is dispatched remotely from Selkirk, New York. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX Intermodal train East Brookfield_
Wide view: A General Electric Evolution-series diesel leads an eastward intermodal freight through the work-zone east of CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. The old B&A station once stood to the right of the mainline. This burned to the ground in 2010. Lumix LX3 photo.

I was one of a half-dozen civilians observing the activity. Late in the day, the sun emerged from a cloudbank to provide some soft lighting and I kept three cameras busy, documenting the changes.

East Brookfield, Mass.
Observing the on-going work at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Recording changes on CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.
Recording changes on CSX at East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

 

CSX's westward Q427 eases over freshly ballasted track at a walking pace as it approaches CP 64 at East Brookfield. The signals showed 'red over flashing green' —Limited Clear. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
CSX’s westward Q427 eases over freshly ballasted track at a walking pace as it approaches CP 64 at East Brookfield. The signals showed ‘red over flashing green’ —Limited Clear. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
East Brookfield, Mass.
Dennis LeBeau rolls by Q427. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

CSX ballast train at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
CSX ballast train at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Ballast train at work.
Discharging ballast on the former Boston & Albany at East Brookfield. Lumix LX3 photo.
Ballast train at work.
Discharging ballast on the former Boston & Albany at East Brookfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
SD40-2 detail.
CSX SD40-2 8854 works at ballast train at East Brookfield. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
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On the Road with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited

 

Brian’s Trip on 448

Last week I rode from Chicago Union Station over the former New York Central Water Level route to Albany and then via the Boston & Albany to Worcester, Massachusetts.

Amtrak Timetable.
A contemporary work of fiction: Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited public timetable. Exposed with my Lumix LX3

A familiar run, I first made this trip in August of 1983 and I’ve done it many times since. However, both my first trip and most recent have a commonality: I began these trips with some photography on the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy ‘Triple Track’ near Aurora, rode a ‘scoot’ into Chicago and changed for the Lake Shore at Union Station.

While I enjoy train travel, I’m not especially keen on really long runs. My usual limit is about 8 hours. I make exceptions for the Lake Shore. For me this is one of the most interesting American runs.

Amfleet carriage.
Amfleet II rolling east. Exposed with a Lumix LX-3

The queuing process at Chicago Union leaves much to be desired. It reminded me of a recent experience with jury duty. Yet once ensconced in my seat in an Amfleet II coach I was happy enough.

We departed Union Station 3 minutes after the advertised and gradually lost more time over the course of the run. I don’t mind this especially, after all the train’s long standing nick-name is, “The Late for Sure Limited.’

Gliding east in the darkness, I squinted to pick out familiar landmarks, as this trip is the thread that really ties my recent posts together.

At 9:37 pm we eased over the 21st Street Bridge; a few minutes later we clattered across the diamonds with the old Rock Island at Englewood, and at 9:58 we raced through Hammond-Whiting, Indiana. I noted where Chris Guss and I had stood a week earlier to photograph both an EJ&E freight and NS’s Interstate Heritage Unit.

Northern Indiana was alive with trains. We passed a CSX stack train at Curtis on the adjacent former Baltimore & Ohio. East of Michigan City we overtook a South Shore freight led by a pair of GP38s roaring along under wire like an apparition from another era. I heard the Doppler blast as the South Shore hit a crossing alongside of us. It was just a momentary glimpse in the night and not far from a spot where Mike Danneman made photos on an icy February afternoon some 18 years ago.

A seeming endless parade of Norfolk Southern freights greeted us on the Water Level Route. Every few minutes a low base roar would precede locomotives blasting by on an adjacent main track. Although Conrail has been gone 14 years, I still find it odd that Central’s old Water Level Route is now run by two separate railroads.

I dozed off, waking briefly at Toledo to watch an oil train roll east, and empty hoppers used to move fracking sand clatter west. Somewhere between Toledo and Berea, Ohio we lost about an hour.

Sunrise from the train.
A jet soars westward, as Amtrak 448 approaches Berea, Ohio. Lumix LX-3 photo.

Near Berea we met the rising sun and passed the old tower—sacred ground visited by my late friend Bob Buck and countless other fans over the years. This is the divide, from here east we were rode on CSX tracks.

Cleveland, Ohio sunrise.
Cleveland’s skyline features the Van Sweringen brothers’ famed Terminal Tower (center, near the apex of the lift bridge). Lumix LX-3 photo.

We paused for Cleveland, then Erie, and for many miles we ran parallel to the former Nickel Plate Road, which now carries Norfolk Southern freight east of Cleveland.  I was pleased to see many photographers line-side; my train’s journey was well documented!

At Buffalo, I had a pleasant surprise: instead of taking the normal route via CP Draw and CP FW, we were routed over the Compromise Branch that takes a more northerly (and slightly longer route) through Buffalo, rejoining the other line at CP 437 (the control point near the ghastly decaying remnants of Buffalo Central Terminal). Amtrak’s 48/448 serves the suburban Buffalo-Depew station instead of the old terminal.

Behind me a woman traveler was on the phone describing her trip on Amtrak from Oregon: “We live in such an amazing country! Crossing the plains I saw endless herds of wild Bison and red Indians on horseback! There were wagon trains crawling dusty trails against purple mountains and rainbows! And amber fields of grain! Is that wheat, do you think? And Chicago was like the emerald city, its towers scraping the sky. Such a skyline! And all through the Midwest big factories making the produce of America! It’s just wonderful!”

Indeed. Was she on number 8? Or perhaps one of those ‘Great Trains of the Continental Route’ as advertised in my August 1881 Travelers’ Official Guide?

At Rochester, my old friend Otto Vondrak came down for a brief visit. He and I share various Rochester-area experiences. Then eastward into ever more familiar territory.

Otto Vondrak
Otto Vondrak gives me a wave at Rochester, New York—home of Kodak. Lumix LX-3 photo.

At Schenectady, a Canadian Pacific freight overtook us on the Delaware & Hudson before we resumed our sprint to Albany-Rensselaer, where we then sat for an eternity waiting for station space. Here 48 and 448 are divided, with the latter continuing down the Hudson to New York City.

Amtrak seat.
My seat on the Lake Shore. Comfortable and relaxing. Certainly superior to flying, provided time isn’t an issue. With today’s technology, I can review photos I made of Metra’s train shortly before boarding the Lake Shore. I don’t have to wait days or weeks to see my results. Well, except for the Provia I exposed with my EOS3. (I like to keep the bases covered, as it were).

East of Rensselaer, I paid extra special attention to our progress. There are few railroads I know as well as the B&A.  At 4:38pm we met CSX’s Q283 (empty autoracks) at Chatham. We paused at CP171 (East Chatham) to let pass our westward counterpart, train 449. At Pittsfield, CSX’s Q423 (Worcester to Selkirk) was waiting for us.

Brian Solomon
Brian gives Q423 a roll by.
Self portrait with Lumix LX-3.
CSX GP40-2s at North Adams Junction in Pittsfield. It was here that Bob Buck photographed a Mohawk in the snow back in 1947. Lumix LX-3 photo.
CSX GP40-2s at North Adams Junction in Pittsfield. It was here that Bob Buck photographed a Mohawk in the snow back in 1947. Lumix LX-3 photo.

The highlight of the trip was the sinuous descent of Washington Hill’s west slope. There was test of the Westinghouse brakes near the deep rock cut east of Washington Station, and I continued my trip through time and space. Familiar places and landmarks blitzed by the glass; Lower Valley Road, Becket, Twin Ledges, old Middlefield Station, Whistler’s stone bridges along the valley of the Westfield’s west branch, the old helper station at Chester, and east through Huntington, Russell, and Woronoco.

'Twin Ledges'
Drifting downgrade at the famed ‘Twin Ledges’ (between Becket and Middlefield, Massachusetts). Lumix LX-3 photo.
Middlefield: where I've made many photos from that grassy knoll. Lumix LX-3.
Middlefield: where I’ve made many photos from that grassy knoll. Lumix LX-3.
Chester, Massachusetts
‘Chesta!’ (Chester, Massachusetts). Lumix LX-3. (Old Norvel C. Parker grew up here).

At West Springfield we passed the old Boston & Albany yard. Watching the parade of trains in evening at the west end of the yard were ghosts of departed members of the West Springfield Train Watchers; among them founding member Norvel C. Parker, Stuart Woolley—retired B&A fireman, Joseph Snopek—photographer and author, and of course, Bob Buck—B&A’s greatest fan and proprietor of Tucker’s Hobbies.  I waved and they waved back. (Hey, at least I wasn’t seeing herds of wild bison!)

Springfield, Massachusetts
‘Ah! Lovely Springfield, Massachusetts.’ Lumix, LX-3.

After a stop at Springfield Station, I was on my final leg of this journey. We rattled over the Palmer diamonds—where I’ve exposed countless photos over the years, and raced up the Quaboag River Valley, through West Warren, Warren, West Brookfield, Brookfield, and East Brookfield—where my friend Dennis LeBeau and his loyal dog, Wolfie, were line-side to salute my passage.

Palmer diamond as seen from 448.
Palmer, Massachusetts, looking railroad-south on New England Central. It is here, I’ve exposed countless hundreds of images since the 1970s. Home territory and all that. And it goes by in the blink of an eye on 448!
Lumix LX-3 photo.
West Warren.
West Warren, Massachusetts along the Quaboag River. Another favorite spot for railway photography. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Worcester Union Station
Worcester Union Station at sunset. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Worcester, Massachusetts
Boston & Albany carved in stone—Worcester, Massachusetts.

At Worcester, my father, Richard J. Solomon was poised to collect me. And so concluded my latest Lake Shore epic. And, yes, 448 was indeed late: 1 hour 15 minutes passed the advertised. Tsk!

Worcester, Massachusetts.
Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

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Indian Summer for the Irish Rail Class 121‑Part 3

 

General Motors Single Cab Diesels Wander Far and Wide in their Final Years.

Irish Rail container train.
In June 2006, Irish Rail 134 had been assigned to the Waterford-Ballina Norfolk Liner container trains. I featured it in this image exposed at Ballina, County Mayo. I used this photo in my book on Intermodal railroading, published by MBI. Fujichrome film exposed with my Nikon F3T and 180mm lens.

In their final few years of service, Irish Rail 124 and 134 worked a great variety of services. For me, simple knowing these two engines were out there, made photographing Irish Rail more interesting.

Sometimes I knew where they were, other times one would appear unexpectedly. Occasionally they’d get paired together and stay that way for a while, but more often than not, they’d be paired with one of the 141/181 class Bo-Bos.

All of my images of 121s at work were made on film (slide and black & white negative). By the time I’d acquired my first digital camera, old 124 and 134 were no longer active.

Sifting through my slides from their last five or six years, I’ve found numerous images of these engines. As I’ve mentioned previously, every time I saw one, I expected it to be the last time, so I made the most of every opportunity. Here’s a lesson: never expect that you’ll  see something again; so photograph to the best of you ability when you have the chance.

Irish Rail after the storm
The 29th of October 2005 was an exceptional wet, windy and dark autumn day. Irish Rail sugar beet train V252 with 124 and 163 had worked from Wellingtonbridge to Limerick Junction, where it reversed direction for the remainder of its journey to Mallow, County Cork. As driver Ken Fox was easing the train out of Limerick Junction Station there was a momentary burst of sun, making for a dramatic image. Sometimes it pays to go out on the worst days because they can result in the best photos. Although the 121 was trailing, this remains one of my favorite images of a 121 at work. Exposed with my Canon EOS-3 with 50mm lens on Fujichrome Velvia 100 film.

 

Irish Rail's General Motors diesels at Islandbridge Junction.
It helps to have an apartment near the line: in July 2005, I heard the pair of 121s rumble across Irish Rail’s bridge over the Liffey at Islandbridge. I sprinted up to Islandbridge Junction and made a series of photos of the pair with a late-running Dublin-Waterford Liner. Despite the rain, this is another favorite photo. The day didn’t end there, and by evening, thanks to some swift driving by David Hegarty, I had a nice selections of images of the pair of surviving 121s at work. Exposed with my Nikon F3 with 85mm lens on Fuji Sensia 100 slide film.
Irish Rail ballast train
On April 24, 2006, driver Eamon Jones was at the trottle of Irish Rail 166 working with 134 on a ballast train from Portlaoise destined for Waterford where it was based for the next few days. David Hegarty & I caught it passing Cherryville Junction as it slows to take the switch for the Waterford Line. Fujichrome Sensia 100 exposed with my Nikon F3T and 180mm lens.
Blooming gorse with train.
In April 2006, 166 and 134 are working toward Wellingtonbridge with a ballast train from Waterford. At this moment the train has paused to allow the guard to shut the gates behind the train. I opted to strongly feature the gorse that was in full bloom. The old South Wexford line was among my favorites in Ireland. Exposed with Nikon F3T with 24mm lens on Fuji Sensia 100.
Carrick-on-Suir.
Irish Rail 134 leads a laden sugar beet train at Carrick-on-Suir in December 2005. Exposed with a Nikon F3 with 180mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100F.
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Wisconsin & Southern at Lake Monona, June 18, 2013

In the last final minutes of the day’s sunlight.

John Gruber and I went over to Madison’s Lake Monona anticipating Wisconsin & Southern’s (WSOR) road freight heading to Janesville.  I’m working against a deadline, so I brought the laptop with me to read, write and edit, while waiting for the train thus making dual use of my time. John said, ‘You’re putting me to shame!’ All he brought was a camera.

After a 40 minute wait, we heard a horn sounding for a crossing. But it wasn’t coming Madison as we expected. This wasn’t the southward train, but the northward run! So 20 minutes from sundown a pair of SD40-2s crawled across the causeway. It was here that Bill Middleton made some iconic photos more than 60 years ago. John remembered, “His first published picture in Trains; it featured the Dakota 400 crossing the bay.”

Wisconsin & Southern at Madison, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin & Southern SD40-2 4010 eases across Lake Monona with a freight for Madison. Exposed with my Canon 7D fitted with 28-135mm lens. ISO 200.
Wisconsin State Capitol building with freight train.
Wisconsin & Southern SD40-2 4010 catches the glint crossing Lake Monona in Madison. Exposed with my Canon 7D fitted with 28-135mm lens. ISO 200.

I exposed a few slides with my Canon EOS 3, and a flurry of digital images with my EOS 7D. Then we drove over to WSOR’s Madison yard, where we found another freight ready to leave. I made a few photos with my Lumix LX-3 in the fading light.

 

Wisconsin & Southern's Madison Terminal. Lumix LX-3 exposed at f3.5 1/13 second.
Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison Terminal. Lumix LX-3 exposed at f3.5 1/13 second.
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Chicago by Night

An Exercise In Using High ISO.

Chicago is well suited for night photographs. On the evening of June 11, 2013, Chris Guss and I took advantage of warm and windless weather to make a variety of railway images in the downtown area.

I employ a variety of techniques to make night photos. This evening, however, I emphasized my Canon EOS 7D and turned up the ISO to unusually high settings in order to stop the action.

Chicago at night
Union Station as viewed from Roosevelt Road. Exposed with my Canon EOS 7D with a 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens at f2.8 1/40th second, ISO 6400 Camera was firmly mounted on a tripod.

Where color slide film essentially topped out at 400 ISO. My 7D allows me to dial in up to 6400 ISO. Does this offer the same clarity of ISO 100 or 200? No, of course not. But, it’s not so bad either. Is this high ISO technique the only  way to make night photos? Hardly, there are many good ways to go about exposing images at night and this is just one.

Night photo in Chicago.
An Amtrak train passes CP 21st at Chicago’s 21st Street Bridge. Handheld Canon EOS 7D with a 40mm pancake lens, 1/6th second at f.3.2 5000 ISO. It helps to have a rock steady hand.
21st Street Bridge, Chicago.
Chicago’s 21st Street Bridge looking south from the nearby  grade crossing. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1.20th second at f2.8. ISO 5000. This image is a bit pixelated and not as sharp as I’d like, but not bad all things considered.

Today, I can make photos digitally, that would have been all but impossible with film. (Although, that’s never stopped me from exposing a few slides here and there anyway).

Lumix view of Chicago.
Another philosophy: low ISO with long exposure. This makes for a sharper and less pixilated image, but doesn’t allow for stop action of moving trains. In this case I used my Lumix LX3 on a miniature Gitzo tripod positioned on the railing of Roosevelt Road. Exposure: f3.5 at 3.2 seconds, ISO 80. (The camera was set in aperture-prioritiy ‘A’ mode, but I manually over exposed by 2/3s of a stop to compensate for the bright sodium vapor lights and dark sky which tends to cause the camera’s automatic metering to lean toward underexposure.)
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Tracking the Light in Review

 

Light, Camera, Philosophy . . .Action! (Hopefully).

Kodachrome slide of a Central Vermont freight train at Windsor, Vermont.
Central Vermont Railway at Windsor, Vermont. Originally posted with Installment 1 on July 19, 2012.

About 10 months ago (July 2012), I started Tracking the Light. In the short time span since then I’ve had about 19,000 hits. While small numbers compared with Gangnam Style’s viral You-Tube dance video (with more than 1.7 billion hits), it’s a gratifying start. (BTW, there are some train scenes in Gangnam Style,  so it isn’t a completely random reference).

 

Reading Terminal clock
Reading Terminal clock on Market Street, Philadelphia. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens. Originally posted on January 4, 2013.

In my introductory post, I offered a bit of my background with a taste of my philosophy on the subject of railway photography; ‘There is no ‘correct way’ to make photographs, although there are techniques that, once mastered, tend to yield pleasing results. I hope to expand upon those themes in these Internet essays by telling the stories behind the pictures, as well as sharing the pictures themselves.’

Irish Rail trains
Irish Rail Intercity Rail Cars converge on Islandbridge Junction, May 2013. Lumix LX3 photo. I routinely post images of Irish railways. Check regularly for updates. Also, I have a special page on Dublin that is more than railway images. For more Irish Rail click here!
Irish Rail empty timber train.
An empty timber from Waterford near Donamon, County Roscommon, Ireland. Canon 7D with 100mm f2.0 lens.

What began as an infrequent opportunity to share work via the Internet has evolved into a nearly daily exercise. In the interval, I’ve learned a bit what makes for an interesting post, while working with a variety of themes to keep the topic interesting.

TTC Streetcar Toronto.
TTC Streetcar at corner of King and Queen Streets, Sunnyside, Toronto, February 8, 2010.
Lumix LX-3 set at ISO 80. Originally Posted February 8, 2013

Regular viewers may have observed common threads and topics. While I’ve made a concerted effort to vary the subject matter considered ‘railway photography,’ I regularly return to my favorite subjects and often I’ll post sequences with a common theme.

Occasionally I get questions. Someone innocently asked was I worried about running out of material! Unlikely, if not completely improbable; Not only do I have an archive of more than 270,000 images plus tens of thousands of my father’s photos, but I try to make new photos everyday. My conservative rate of posting is rapidly outpaced by my prolific camera efforts.

New England Central GP38 3850 leads train 608 at Stafford Springs on January 25, 2013. A series of difficult crossings in Stafford Springs is the primary reason for a 10 mph slow order through town. Especially difficult is this crossing, where the view of the tracks is blocked by a brick-building. Protection is offered by a combination of grade crossing flashers and traffic lights. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens; ISO 400 1/500th second at f8.0. In camera JPG modified with slight cropping to correct level and scaling for web. A RAW image was exposed simultaneously with the Jpg.
New England Central GP38 3850 leads train 608 at Stafford Springs on January 25, 2013. A series of difficult crossings in Stafford Springs is the primary reason for a 10 mph slow order through town. Especially difficult is this crossing, where the view of the tracks is blocked by a brick-building. Protection is offered by a combination of grade crossing flashers and traffic lights. Canon 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens; ISO 400 1/500th second at f8.0. In camera JPG modified with slight cropping to correct level and scaling for web. A RAW image was exposed simultaneously with the Jpg. Originally posted on January 26, 2013.

Someone else wondered if all my photos were ‘good’. I can’t answer that properly. I don’t judge photography as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Certainly, some of my images have earned degrees of success, while others have failed to live up to my expectations (It helps to take the lens cap ‘off’). Tracking the Light is less about my success rate and more about my process of making images.

Bord na Mona
A couple pair of laden Bord na Mona trains struggle upgrade, laying sand down as they ascend a short steep grade on the run back toward Mountdillon. This is the same stretch of track pictured in Irish Bog Railways–Part 2. Originally posted on March 4, 2013

I’m always trying new techniques, exploring new angles, while playing with different (if not new) equipment.

The most common questions regarding my photography are; ‘What kind of camera do you use?’ and ‘Have you switched to digital?’ I can supply neither the expected nor straight-forward responses. But, in short, I work with a variety of equipment and recording media. I aim to capture what I see and preserve it for the future. I try to have a nice time and I hope to entertain my friends.

 

Learn my secrets, click here. This image was made in Spring 2012 on Fuji Acros 100 film exposed with a Leica 3a and 21mm lens and processed for scanning.
Learn my secrets, click here. This image was made in Spring 2012 on Fuji Acros 100 film exposed with a Leica 3a and 21mm lens and specially processed for scanning.
Eastward Delaware & Hudson symbol freight 'Jet1' passes semaphores at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) east of Adrian, New York on May 14, 1988.
Semaphores are one of my themes. See my post from September 23, 2012. Eastward Delaware & Hudson symbol freight ‘Jet1’ passes semaphores at milepost 320 (measured from Jersey City) east of Adrian, New York on May 14, 1988.

Stay tuned for the details!

Thank you for your support!

By the way: If you know of anyone that might enjoy Tracking the Light, please share with them this site: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

Railroads at night in Palmer, Massachusetts.
Originally posted on December 1, 2013. CSX Q427 rolls through Palmer, Massachusetts, at 11:01 pm on November 30, 2012.
Notice the photographer’s shadow superimposed on the blur of the train. Single exposure with Panasonic Lumix LX-3 with Leitz Summicron lens, zoom set to 5.1mm, ISO 200, exposed in ‘A’ mode with +2/3 over-ride, f2.2 at 7 seconds.
Entirely exposed with existing light; no flash.

 

CSX General Electric Evolution-series diesels work west at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 17, 2013. Exposed digitally with my Canon EOS 7D.
CSX General Electric Evolution-series diesels work west at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 17, 2013. Exposed digitally with my Canon EOS 7D.

 

CSX Q264 at West Warren, Massachusetts.
CSX Q264 at West Warren, Massachusetts.

 

Martinez, California, as viewed from Carquinez Scenic Drive. Canon EOS 3 with 100-400 mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Martinez, California, as viewed from Carquinez Scenic Drive. Canon EOS 3 with 100-400 mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.
The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.

 

 

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New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut on May 21, 2013.

 

Brian’s Milk Run.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 was a clear bright morning. I heard New England Central’s 608 climbing State Line Hill through Monson. I dithered briefly about heading out to photograph it. I’ve only photographed New England Central’s trains about a thousand times (metaphorically).

When I went to make myself a cup of tea I discovered to my horror that there wasn’t any milk! Poor show. So, I made the most of both problems. I drove to Stafford Springs, where I waited all of five minutes to score a few nice bright shots of a pair of New England Central GP38s. (I made a couple of slides too—just for ‘the record). Then stopped in at the shop in Stafford Hollow for milk before heading home again.

New England Central GP38s
New England Central freight 608 crawls through Stafford Springs, Connecticut on May 21, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.
NECR_608_Stafford_Springs_3quarter_view_IMG_0562
Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens; exposed at f8 1/500 ISO 200.

What I find interesting is that, 16 years ago I made similar images of the same GP38s in the same location! A lot has changed in that time. Back then New England Central was part of RailTex. Now, after a dozen years as a RailAmerica road, it’s a Genesee & Wyoming property.

Somehow, I doubt that in another 16 years I’ll still be able to make images just like these. But you never know. It’s nice having an interesting railway nearby.

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Mass-Central, Monday May 13, 2013.

 

Blue GP15-2 and Spring Greenery.

GP15-2
Detail of the GATX GP15-2 operating on Mass-Central. The GP15 model features an unusual airflow pattern. Canon 7D.

My brief encounter with Mass-Central’s borrowed GP15-2 on May 10, 2013 (see Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013  encouraged me to seek out this locomotive and spend some more time photographing it on the former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch.

This branch is one of my longest running projects. Back in 1981, I rode my 10-speed bicycle from Monson to Ware to make photographs of Mass-Central’s recently acquired EMD NW5, number 2100. Now, more than 30 years later, that old engine is still on the property, and I’ve been up and down the line by road (and rail) dozens of times.

Despite this familiarity, at least once a year (if not once a season) I’ll take a photo-trip along the line. So, having a nice freshly painted locomotive against fresh spring leaves is a good excuse to get out and the exercise cameras.

GP15-2
Northward Mass-Central freight near Creamery on May 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 20mm lens.
Mass-Central crosses Rt 67 at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Mass-Central crosses Rt 67 at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX-3 photo.
Mass_Central_w_GATX_499_Barre_w_stream_P1480619
Mass Central at Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

Much of the line is on a southwest-northeast angled alignment; and since trains tend depart northbound in the morning from Palmer  and return after midday, I’ve found that the southward return chase can be the most productive for making clean locomotive images.

On Monday May 13th, I spent the morning writing and running errands. Then in late morning, I followed Mass-Central’s line up to Gilbertville where I waited for the weekday freight to pass on its northbound run. (Just to clarify; the weekday freight is all I’d ever expect to see. The days of Boston & Albany’s steam hauled mixed train and milk specials have long since passed!)

Albany station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013.
Former Boston & Albany station at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013.

My timing was good, and after a little while the GP15-2 rolled through northbound with two cars. Not much of a train, but it collected a few more cars near Creamery and continued to South Barre where it worked for about an hour delivering and collecting freight cars.

As expected, the southward chase offered better angles and nicer train. Not only did the southward train have a decent consist of cars, but the sun made some well-timed appearances.

Mass-Central working the spur at South Barre. This light industrial branch diverges near the end of track on Mass-Central's line at South Barre.
Mass-Central working the spur at South Barre. This light industrial branch diverges near the end of track on Mass-Central’s line at South Barre. Canon 7D.
Mass-Central freight
Mass-Central freight near Barre, Massachusetts on May 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 20mm lens.

I made photos with both film and digital Canon bodies as well as my Lumix LX-3, while following all the way south to Palmer  (where Mass-Central interchanges with both CSX and New England Central).

Canon 7D.
Canon 7D.
Mass-Central crossing Rt 32 near Creamery, Massachusetts.
Mass-Central crossing Rt 32 near Creamery, Massachusetts.
Canon 7D.
Mass-Central catches the sun at the Rt 181
Mass-Central catches the sun at the Rt 181 crossing near Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D with 28-135 lens.

I’ve learned to take advantage of unusual or new motive power on the branch, as things can (and do) change quickly. To use a cliché; it’s best to strike when the iron is hot! I was pleased with my results featuring the GP15-2 and I wonder what motive power I’ll find next time I follow the line?

CP 83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D photo.
CP 83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Canon 7D photo.
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San Francisco Muni Light Rail.

Breda Light Rail Vehicles Work San Francisco Streets.

Muni Light Rail

Shortly after sunset in May 2008, a San Francisco Muni L-Taraval car takes the corner from 15th Avenue to Ulloa Street on the way toward West Portal, where the line enters the Twin Peaks Tunnel. Exposed on Fujichrome with a Canon EOS 3 with f28 200mm lens. Eighteen years earlier I made a similar view near this spot, which appeared in an issue of Passenger Train Journal in the 1990s.

Although less photographed than historic cable cars and vintage streetcars, San Francisco Muni’s light rail routes offer plenty of interesting opportunities to make urban railway images.

San Francisco Muni
The sun rises through a thick bank of Pacific fog as N-Judah cars pass on August 27, 2009. This was exposed on Fujichrome slide film with my Canon EOS 3 fitted with a 100-400mm image stabilization zoom lens.

San Francisco enjoys spectacular weather and lighting conditions. My favorite times to photograph are a sunrise and sunset. While the modern Breda-built cars lack the flair of historic PCC’s (see San Francisco Muni F-Line, May 2008), they still make for interesting subjects for the creative eye.

 

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San Francisco Muni F-Line, May 2008

 

PCC Streetcar painted for Pacific Electric passes the Ferry Building.

PCC car San Francisco
Exposed on Fujichrome slide film with a Canon EOS 3 fitted with a 24mm lens.

San Francisco Muni’s F-Line route operates with a variety of vintage streetcars, including streamlined PCC cars painted in various historic liveries to represent systems that originally operated these cars.

Popular with tourists and residents alike, the vintage cars are fun to ride and photograph. Unlike most modern transit, the F-Line offers continual variety, with different cars operating from day to day.

In May 2008, I made this photograph of PCC 1061 dressed for Pacific Electric in front of the restored Ferry Building on San Francisco’s Embarcedero. Originally built for Philadelphia, this was among the cars acquired for operation in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Some restoration work for out-of-service heritage cars has been done by the Market Street Railway (volunteer support group for Muni’s historic rail lines ); these are turned over to Muni when restoration nears the point where cars are ready for revenue service.

 

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San Francisco Bay and Port of Oakland, August 2009

 

Working with Wonderful Light in an Infrastructure-Intense Environment

San Francisco Bay is famous for its beautiful light; the combination of soft sun with rolling Pacific fog and layers of pollution make for a rich textured golden glow in evening and mellow bright conditions during the height of the day.

Following my Northern California theme presented over the last few posts to Tracking the Light, I’m offering a few views of San Francisco Bay exposed in August 2009.

San Francisco Bay at sunrise.
On August 10, 2009, a loaded Pacific containership catches the glint of the morning sun as it passes San Francisco on its way to the Port of Oakland. Where historically San Francisco served as a primary port, today very little heavy shipping happens in the City itself; most port activities are focused in the East Bay around Oakland. Oakland container traffic represents an important business for both Union Pacific and BNSF. Until 1957, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (seen here in silhouette) carried Key System interurban electric trains, and originally also hosted SP’s red electrics as well.
Port of Oakland
An Amtrak Capitols train passes CP North King Street near Jack London Square in Oakland, California on August 25, 2009. The Port of Oakland makes for a fascinating industrial backdrop. Notice the approaches to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. At the time of this photo, new approaches were under construction to replace the 1930s-era steel-lattice cantilever structure.
Train with highways.
On August 24, 2009, the rarely photographed Oakland Terminal Railway navigates former electric line trackage beneath the maze of Interstate highways in Oakland.

These images were exposed on Fujichrome slide film with a Canon EOS 3 and 100-400mm lens.

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Union Pacific Stack Train near Oroville, California, August 15, 2009.

Golden Grass in Smoky Light.

On the evening of August 15, 2009, I was photographing along the former Western Pacific near Oroville, California. At that time, Union Pacific was doing heavy work on its parallel former Southern Pacific line over Donner Pass, and it was understood that double-stack container traffic would soon be shifted off the old WP route in favor of Donner Pass. Time was running out to regularly catch double stack trains on the WP route and I focused my efforts on making the most of this while I could.

Union Pacific container train
Smoke tinted sun makes for a painterly image of this Union Pacific double stack near Oroville, California on Aug 15, 2009. Canon EOS 3 with Fujichrome slide film.

At the end of the day, I made this image of a westward double stack train stopped at a signal east of Oroville. Wildfires had filled the atmosphere with smoke, which lend to a surreal painterly light. Low sun accentuated the effect and the combination of California golden grass with smoke tinted glint light offered wonderful photographic opportunity.

I exposed these images on Fujichrome slide film with my Canon EOS 3 using several different focal lengths. It was a spectacular finish to a productive day of photography. I’d made my first visit to the Western Pacific in October 1989, nearly 20 years earlier. Hard to believe so much time had passed between these trips. In 1966, my father, Richard Jay Solomon, rode west over this line in a dome car on Western Pacific’s famed California Zephyr.

 

Union Pacific container train
Union Pacific container train near Oroville, California.

Significantly, this portion of the Western Pacific route (between Oroville and the lower reaches of the Feather River Canyon) was built new in the early 1960s as part of a line relocation forced by construction of the Oroville Dam.

 

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Union Pacific’s Ozol Yard, Martinez, California, August 12, 2009.

Graphic Use of Morning Light.

UP_Ozol_Yard_Aug12_2009_Bri_2

This photo of Union Pacific’s former Southern Pacific Ozol Yard at Martinez was exposed from the same hillside on the same morning as the image of Amtrak in yesterday’s post (See: Amtrak Capitols Crossing Carquinez Straits, August 12, 2009)

In this case, I’ve walked (or scrambled) further down the hillside from my parking place on Carquinez Scenic Drive. The road is gated overnight and opened to the public in the early morning hours. Finding the right street in Martinez to reach Carquinez Scenic Drive can be a trial to the uninitiated, a good map or sat-nav device is recommended. I used a Northern California DeLorme Atlas and Map Quest, (plus vague memories of having photographed from this road in the early 1990s).

Working with hard silhouettes requires careful exposure. Also, I’ve found it helps to avoid excessive lens flare. This is one of those things you rarely read about. If the sun (or other bright light) hits the front element of your lens it will cause flare which will change the contrast of the image and may cause patterns (light streaks or blobs).

While in some instances it may be desirable to include flare (Hollywood discovered the dramatic use of flare in the 1960s and 1970s), often it is best to minimize it.

What to do? Shade the sun from hitting the front of your lens. Traditionally a lens hood will solve this problem . However, when the sun is very low to the horizon, a simple lens hood isn’t sufficient. To compensate, I’ll try to find something to stand behind (such as a hedge, awning, convenient sign post). If this fails, I’ll use my notebook (which I carry with me everywhere) to shade the lens. For this reason, I often carry a 5×7 in size notebook with a dull charcoal gray cover (to minimize reflection).

I’ll position the notebook in such a way so its shadow covers the front element, but the notebook itself isn’t in the image. This is a handy trick to use for night photography too. It helps to have the camera on a tripod (or have a capable  assistant to hold the notebook!)

In this instance, my intent was to emphasize the glint off the rails and signal bridge in a hard silhouette. Notice where I’ve positioned the locomotives in relation to the glinting sun. I’ve deliberately exposed for the highlights, allowing the shadows to consume most detail.