An article by By Patricia Harris and David Lyon in the Boston Globe Magazine features one of my photos of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer ascending Crawford Notch near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing.
This image has been part of my autumn Mountaineer repertoire for a while and is among photos I made of the train in autumn 2021.
I exposed it with my Canon EOS7D with 100mm prime Canon telephoto.
Here’s a wee secret: part of the visual success of this photo is that the nose of the engine is not the focal point. This a counter-intuitive trick I learned many years ago when exposing Kodachrome, and where many photographers miss the mark. By placing the focus on something other than the main subject you can make a more inviting image.
My photo of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer graces the cover of September/October 2023 Bus Tours Magazine.
For this post I thought it would be nice to say something useful about the photo.
Finding it proved challenging. It’s not like I have one photo of the Mountaineer on Crawford Notch. More like one-thousand. I’m not bragging. It made finding this one a real challenge.
The image was not in the usual Mountaineer selections. An image from the same location has appeared a number of places in recent months, and that photo was made with my Canon EOS7D. But this photo was a puzzle. It wasn’t made with the Canon, but rather with my Nikon Z6. Once I found the correct day in October 2021, I reviewed several sequences looking for a vertical wide-angle.
I was coming up with a goose-egg. Finally after some searching, I started reviewing my original NEF RAW files and found the image I was looking for. This was exposed as a horizontal and cropped vertical!
Below are three versions. The cover of Bus Tours Magazine; the original un-modified NEF RAW file, and an approximation of the modified and cropped file.
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!
At the end of May, I was traveling on the back platform of Conway Scenic’s 125-year old open observation car Gertrude Emma on its morning run to Conway.
Working with my Z6 fitted with 70-200mm lens, I made this pair of trailing views looking back at the iconic North Conway Station. Both images were made with the lens set at 200m and the aperture at f2.8.
Notice the relative position and aparent size of the semaphore to the station as the train pulled away from the station.
These photos are symbolic as well as literal. Yesterday, Kris and I watched as movers loaded our belongings into a truck. By the time you read this we will be on our way to our new home in Pennsylvania. I’ll still work for Conway Scenic, albeit remotely via internet and phone.
My photography for Conway Scenic Railroad often focuses on the people.
The train crew are the faces of the railroad and are often featured in the company’s social media and advertising. Not everyone likes to be pictured, so I tend to focus on those who don’t mind my camera.
Last week, fine Spring weather made for some great light to photograph railroaders at work.
I often use short telephoto lenses and wide f-stops for shallow focus to better set the people apart from the background. In post processing I soften contrast and lighten shadows to make for more flattering images.
Yesterday morning, I traveled on the 1100 Conway Scenic excursion to Conway, NH. After the locomotive ran around and was doing its continuity brake test, I exposed a series of telephoto photos of the train.
Below are two of my favorites.
At the top is a shallow-focus ‘power shot’ that emphasizes the train. Below is a more interpretive angle that includes a family observing the train during the run around. This view reminds me of when I was young and my father would bring my brother and I out to watch trains.
On the theme of F-units and Budd Vista domes, I thought I’d offer these views from May 2017.
I was looking through the digital archives for a photo from May 19th, and I found that for whatever reason, I’ve rarely photographed trains on May 19th! May 18th on the other hand seems to be a be popular day in my files.
So, on May 18th, 2017, I’d followed a Pan Am Railways Office Car Special on the Connecticut River Line with Tim Doherty.
We caught this classy train at variety of interesting locations.
The two F-units, known as ‘The Sisters,’ had served Conway Scenic Railroad from the mid-1990s until about 15 years ago when they were traded to Pan Am for GP38 252 and GP35 216.
My last photos of Monday’s Mountaineer Special were made just east of the Arethusa Falls grade crossing on New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
I’d explored this location for nearly four years. It appears among the early photos of the line that date back to the time of its construction. Yet is difficult to capture effectively. It is most effective of an eastward train.
My fascination is with the distinctive rocks of Frankenstein Cliff that loom ominously above the train. This time of the year can be key to making a successful photograph here. During the summer, when trees are completely leafed out, and light is thick with moisture it can be more difficult to see the cliffs above the train.
Mid-Spring can provides a better balance between the mountainous backround with foreground, while offer a hint of green foliage.
Monday’s Mountaineer Social was the first passenger excursion over Crawford Notch since November.
This famous view has been popular with photographers for generations.
I was standing on the side of Route 302 looking across the chasm toward ‘The Girders.’ Lighting here can be a challenge. Normally when the train reaches Crawford this bridge would be in shadow . On Monday, bright hazy light made for excellent conditions to capture a train in this stunning vista.
To give the passengers a good view of the scenery, Conway Scenic’s trains take easy when approaching the Gateway at Crawford Notch.
The train’s slow speed and a handy telephoto zoom lens allowed me to make several compositions of the train on the bridge by adjusting focal length and framing as the train climbed through the Notch.
Yesterday, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its annual Mountaineer Social demonstration/familiarization train. This was the first excursion of the 2023 season to run over Crawford Notch to Fabyan, New Hampshire.
I followed the train by road to make photos and video for upcoming advertising campaigns.
I made this telephoto sequence at milepost P79 near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing using a Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.
Although back-lit, hazy clouds diffused the light which added depth.
I made some selected adjustments in Lightroom, including overall lightening of the images and softening of overal contrast
Saturday, on our way back from travels in the White Mountains, Kris and I were approaching Sawyers River.
In passing, I said, “The 12:30 Sawyers train should be running around right about now. Check to see what engine is on it today.”
“There’s the head light, hey wait, I think its the F-unit!”
This was a pleasant surprise. Turns out that 470 Club’s former Boston & Maine F7A 4268 that was restored to service in 2022, had been assigned to the Valley services for its first run of the Spring season.
We pulled into the parking lot at 4th Iron Bridge over the Sawyers River and I set up to catch the train on its return to North Conway. GP38 252 was leading eastbound while at the back was the classic F7A.
From here we followed the train east to Bartlett, Goves and Glen, before returning home.
In recent weeks, Conway Scenic’s work train crew have made great use of the railroad’s century-old wooden bodied caboose.
Although it is Spring, a chill has remained in the air in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley. So, several days ago the crew improved the car’s coal stove in the car and put it to use.
Using my Nikon Z7-II (with 24-70mm Nikkor lens), I made these photos at North Conway of the caboose and its classic coal stove To make the most of the large NEF RAW files, I processed them using Adobe Lightroom, reducing highlight density to improve detail, while lightening shadows.
Although, I have described these techniques in previous Tracking the Light posts, in this post, I’ve pushed the effect to a greater degree, which makes the alterations more evident.
Yesterday (May 5, 2023), I accompanied Wayne Duffett of TEC Associates on his annual bridge inspection of the Conway Branch.
We picked up Conway Scenic Railroad HyRail truck TC206 at North Conway and went by road to Conway, where we arranged to set down on the track. From there we proceeded timetable west to look at bridges.
It was a fine Spring morning and probably the nicest day in the Mount Washington Valley in more than a week. A perfect time to be looking at bridges.
I made notes and took photos as Wayne carefully scrutinized every bridge between Conway and North Conway.
I made these images with my Nikon Z7-II, but also exposed photos with my Lumix LX7. I’ll present some of those photos at a later date.
Sometimes the traditional three-quarter view of a train is the best way to go.
Add in a little bit of elevation, over the shoulder sun, a ‘tunnel’, plus a favorite locomotive, and you can have a very nice image of a train.
That was my feeling last Friday (April 21, 2023) at Goves, near Bartlett, New Hampshire when I awaited the passage of Conway Scenic’s Sawyer River train.
I thought about making a long telephoto view of the locomotive framed inside the ‘tunnel’ below Route 302. In the end, I opted to make a traditional railroad photo using 3/4 angle and 48mm focal length with over the shoulder sun .
This location was recently cleared of brush by the railroad, which makes for a nice place to picture a train in motion.
My favorite Conway Scenic locomotive is GP38 252. I’ve been making photos of this engine for forty years. But it has special signifcance for me because it is almost exactly the same age as me.
It was delivered to Maine Central at St. Johnsbury, Vermont in early November 1966; I was delivered at the end of October that year. I wonder what day 252 left Electro-Motive’s factory in LaGrange, Illinois?
Simply catching a work train on the roll is only half the fun.
Seeking out its work area and photographing it in action tells a story.
Last week, I exposed these action photos of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Work Extras at work along the line.
My cameras of choice for these images are my Nikon Z-series mirrorless digital. With a 24-70mm zoom on one, and a 70-200mm zoom on the other I have great flexibilty for making photos of trains and people.
The only problem is the weight! These cameras are fairly heavy.
All the images were processed from Nikon NEF RAW files using Adobe Lightroom.
Last week Conway Scenic’s Work Extra reached Willey Siding on the climb to New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. This consisted of GP9 1751 and a laden ballast car.
For the railroad enthusiast this consist represents an unintentional pairing of former Baltimore & Ohio equipment.
The ballast car was a B&O two-bay coal hopper built in 1941, while GP9 1751 was originally Chesapeake & Ohio 6128 (built in 1956) and following the C&O/B&O merger was transferred to Baltimore & Ohio’s roster becoming 6677. It continued to serve Chessie System and later CSXT until the 1980s.
I wonder if they ever worked together on the former B&O?
I made this selection of images using my Nikon Z-series mirrorless digital cameras, which can do an excellent job of replicating the old Kodachrome 25 color palatte.
My Nikon Z7-II has a feature; the rear display screen is touch sensitive and it allows you to make a photo by touching the screen. It has another feature which senses when you are looking through the eyepiece and switches the view from the rear touch screen to the eyepiece.
On occasion, while moving my eye to the eyepiece my nose touches the rear display and releases the shutter resulting in an unintentional image. This usually annoys me, since I don’t like to erase photos and I don’t like to waste space on my memory card.
Yesterday, I scrambled up an embankment to make a photo of a Conway Scenic’s Work Extra that was collecting felled trees and other vegetation west of Notchland, New Hampshire near milepost 77 . I went to frame up a view of the caboose at the back of the train when my nose made a photo.
Here’s the irony, although unintentional, I like the ‘Nose View’ exposure better than the framed composition I made moments later.
Following this comedy of errors, and before the train moved up the line, I relocated. Once in position, I then made a series of photos of the caboose as it passed me.
Last week, after a season of heavy snow in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, a mid-April heatwave hit the area.
Although it was 75 degrees F, I was standing in about 18 inches of crusty icy snow near the 3rd Iron Truss over the Saco River. I was here that I photographed Conway Scenic’s Work Extra climbing toward Sawyer River behind former Maine Central GP38 252.
The train was hauling felled trees collected along the line up to a location near Rt 302 where they will be recycled.
Bright Spring sun with leafless trees and snow on the ground certainly made for some unusual lighting conditions.
Work trains are among my favorite subjects. So, yesterday morning when Conway Scenic Railroad’s Extra 1751 departed North Conway’s North Yard, I zipped over to Intervale a few photos and then followed the train west to Glen, New Hampshire.
The train was sent out to collect recently felled trees along the Mountain Division. Thearrangement of a GP9 hauling flatcars and a caboose at the back makes for some throwback images.
While the train was working at Glen, I arranged to make a few views from the caboose.
Later, to help promote Conway Scenic, I posted some of these images to the railroad’s social media where they caught significant notice: Wwithin 12-hours they had reached more than 16,000 viewers.
Photos exposed with a Nikon Z7-II as NEF RAW files then processed with Adobe Lightroom.
Saturday and Sunday—April 8th and 9th—Conway Scenic scheduled its Easter Bunny Express. These were the railroad’s first public excursions since Snow Train operations concluded at the end of February. The event was popular with very good attendance and helps instill a love for the railroad in the next generation.
On Saturday, clear blue skys and brilliant bright sun made for excellent photographic conditions, so I dusted off my Nikon Z mirrorless cameras and made a host of photos for the railroad’s social media and other marketing.
I made adjustments to the NEF camera RAW files using Adobe Lightroom to lower contrast and take the edge of the photos, while warming the color temperature and slightly increasing overall saturation.
Part of my strategy for Conway Scenic Railroad’s Spring ad campaign has included placement of large ads and articles in a variety of magazines.
Bus Tours Magazine is an industry publication for tour operators. This is significant because my introduction to Conway Scenic nearly 25 years ago was with bus/train tour group Great Trains Escapes.
The March/April 2023 issue arrived in my office yesterday which features my short lead in article about the railroad, complete with a photo I made a couple of years ago with my Canon EOS7D with 200mm lens of GP9 1751 leading the Mountaineer at Crawford Notch. On the opposite page is a variation of Conway Scenic’s standard ad for the Mountaineer.
The other day, Conway Scenic Railroad’s Buildings & Grounds crew coated the North Conway, New Hampshire station lobby floor with a glossy polyurethane protective finish. I made a few photos for the company’s social media.
The resulting images reminded me a photo that I made at Washington Union Station back in May 2022. In that image, I preserved Daniel Burnham’s classical architecture using a Zeiss Hologon flat-field super-wideangle lens fitted to my Contax G2 rangefinder.
In both photos I used the same visual technique: to maximize the effect of a reflective floor, I placed the horizon relatively high in the frame, while keeping the camera close to the floor.
Friday, March 3, 2023, Conway Scenic operated a plow extra from North Conway to Attitash.
The sky was a clear azure dome; the snow a blazing white blanket. I exposed my photos using Nikon Z-Series cameras.
Establishing correct exposure was tricky, especially when the plow was backlit against a dark wall of leaf-less trees.
For the most part I handled exposure by placing the exposure setting dial in automatic-aperture priority (‘A’ mode) then manipulated the +/- exposure compensation control to make adjustments. The challenge was retaining detail in the snow while maintain good overall exposure.
In post processing, I adjusted the RAW-NEF file to maximize highlight and shadow detail in order to display greater amounts of infomation than exhibited by the in-camera Jpg.
Images edited for contrast and exposure in Lightroom.
Yesterday morning, I walked from my office up to the trestle over River Road in North Conway, NH in order to photograph the Snow Train returning from Attitash.
The polarized blue dome and crusty snow made for very contrasty light. I compensated for high contrast in post processing by lightening the shadow areas and controling highlight detail. This made for a more pleasing image while make better use of the data captured by the camera.
Yesterday, I served as the media interface for Conway Scenic Railroad and the TV crew for New England Traveler who had come up for a wee visit.
I arranged interviews with railroad’s staff and the program’s host Greg B. In addition, I coordinated a visit of the musical duo Eastwood Station, sorted a variety of operational details including a trip on Snow Train, and made still photos for the railroad.
These photos were the producted of my Nikon Z7-II. I processed them in Lightroom for use in the company’s social media.
Yesterday (Saturday, February 11, 2023), Conway Scenic hosted a live radio broadcast from the North Conway, New Hampshire railroad station.
I’d organized Lakes Media to conduct the broadcast across their three radio stations: Lakes FM 101.5, The Hawk 104.9 fm and Mountain Country 97.3. This included interviews with railroad employees, promotional chats, etc.
As part of this event, I’d invited musical duo Eastwood Station to perform live in the station and on the railroad’s 1:30pm Snow Train in order to help promote the railroad and film for a video of their song Snow Train.
This was great fun and resulted in numerous photo and video opportunities.
Thursday I traveled with Conway Scenic’s Plow Extra to Attitash, and then east from Mountain Junction down the Redstone Branch to Kearsarge in North Conway.
My primary objective of this trip was to make video footage of the plowing and plow crew for Conway Scenic, both to document the activity and to help promote the railroad.
I used my Nikon Z-series mirrorless camera to record both still photos and video. In general, I feel more confident in my ability to work with still images than video, but I still made a lot of video clips which I am now editing into a short film that will hopefully play on Conway Scenic’s Facebook page as well as other accessible media.
Below are a few of the still photos from Thrusday’s adventure on the rails.