This day last week (13 October 2018), I traveled on and photographed Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s autumn diesel tour called The Southwestern.
Damp dark weather may make it difficult to expose over the shoulder lit three quarter views, and it may ruin Lumixes (See: Final Frame? Lumix LX7 Coils Up), but it’s ideal for making black & white photos on film.
Working with my battle-worn Canon EOS-3 with a 40mm pancake lens, I exposed this view of the train at Cork’s Kent Station using Kodak Tri-X.
On Monday, I processed the film using Ilford ID11 mixed 1-1 with water. Following a presoak with exceptionally dilute HC110 to initiate development, I gave the film 7 minutes and 30 seconds in the ID11 at 68F (20C) with intermittent agitation.
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner and made nominal contrast adjustments using Lightroom.
On Monday 8 October 2018 at 8pm, I’ll be giving a traditional slide presentation to the Irish Railway Record Society in Cork on General Motors Diesel-Electric Locomotives in North America.
This will feature many of my finest Kodachrome colour slides, along with some more recent material. In addition to previously published photos, I’ll be presenting rare gems, some of which haven’t been seen in many years.
The talk will be held at the Bru Columbanus Meeting Rooms in Wilton, Cork City.
Years past, I made many colourful photos of Irish Rail 213 River Moy on bright Spring days.
One of my first encounters was in May 1998 at Carlow. I’d arrived by bus (Shhh!!) and made photos of the down train (Dublin to Waterford) at Carlow station using my Nikon F3T loaded with Fujichrome Sensia 100.
Seven years later, in the Spring of 2005, I was keen to catch 213 on the move, since this was the first Irish Rail class 201 to wear the revised orange livery with bright yellow front end.
I saw this as a big improvement over the original 201 livery.
And because it fits the theme, I’ve also included a view from April 2006, of 213 descending Ballybrophy-bank racing toward Dublin.
213 hasn’t turned a wheel in many a Spring now. It waits its turn in the sun in a deadline at Inchicore.
Earlier this month I made a visit to Cork to present a program on railway photography to the Irish Railway Record Society.
Honer Travers and I spent an afternoon in Glounthaune where I made these photos on Kodak Tri-X using my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens.
My film processing was very traditional: Kodak D76 (mixed 1 to 1) for 7 minutes 15 seconds at 68F. I agitate very gently to minimize the effect of grain.
Routine operations, such as Irish Rail’s Cork suburban trains, offer great opportunity for creative railway photography. In both of these images, I’ve worked with foreground, middle-ground and background by using shallow depth of field to create a sense of depth.
Saturday 14 October was a great day out; Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated its Munster Double Railtour from Connolly Station in Dublin to Cork and Tralee.
The attraction of this trip was the highly unusual multiple-unit operation of two class 071 diesels together. Both of Irish Rail’s 071s in heritage paint were selected for the trip, which was an added bonus for photographers.
Honer Travers and I joined the trip at Connolly Station and during the course of the day I made dozens of digital images. Below is just a small section.
Tomorrow I’ll focus on the passengers and people participating in operations.
Tracking the Light will be on autopilot for a week while Brian is traveling. New material will continue to post everyday, but notices will be delayed. See the Tracking the Light home page at: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight.
Kent Station Cork:
For me there’s something about a Victorian train-shed that begs for black & white. I made this photo on my most recent trip to Kent Station in Cork on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIA with 35mm Nikkor lens.
Tracking the Light normally posts new material daily.
The most scenic portion of Irish Rail’s run from Dublin to Cork is the final stretch from Mallow to Kent Station Cork.
A few days ago, Ken Fox, Sean Twohig and I made a survey of this area of Co. Cork looking for locations to picture the Mark4 trains, which are among the only regularly scheduled locomotive powered passenger trains remaining on Irish Rail.
I exposed this view between Mourne Abbey and Rathduff. The lush greenery dotted with blossoming gorse makes for a bucolic scene.
Irish Rail’s Kent Station in Cork City is a cool place to make photos. It’s unusual curved train shed, plus antique platform awnings and brick station buildings have a Victorian appearance that offer a contrast with the modern trains that now serve passengers here.
I’m traveling to Cork on Irish Rail’s 0830 Dublin-Heuston to Tralee scheduled train.
Tomorrow (Monday October 3, 2016.), I’ll be presenting a variation of my slide program Irish Railways Looking Back Ten Years to the Cork Branch of the Irish Railway Record Society in the Metropole Hotel in Cork City at 8pm.
Here are a few views exposed with my Lumix LX7 at Heuston Station and on the train-posted LIVE from the train thanks to Irish Rail’s WiFi.
By the way, just in case anyone is curious; Irish Rail 071 in the retro ‘super train livery’ is at the yard in Portlaoise with a spoil train.
Tracking the Light is Daily!
Tracking the light will be on ‘Autopilot’ for the next couple of days, but will continue to display new material every morning.
I arrived at Kent Station, Cork on the 0800 train from Dublin.
My timing was tight; I was aiming to catch Rail Tours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express under the curved roof.
After arriving in Cork, I had less than five minutes to get into position.
Although visually fascinating, Kent’s Victorian-era shed is a tricky place to make photos. The characteristic curvature makes selecting the best angle tough, while the lighting under the roof is limiting.
Using my Lumix LX7 at ISO 200, I was restricted to 1/15th of second at f2.2.
Sometimes limitations force me to make more interesting photos.
When I learned to use my old mechanical Leica there were three primary controls on the camera; a ring to adjust the focus (gauged with the aid of range finder using a ghost image overlaid on the main image); dials to adjust the shutter speed; and a ring on the lens to change the size of the aperture (lens hole) as indicated by a logarithmic scale with ‘f-stops/f-numbers’.
Other than merely pointing the camera, I needed to understand how these controls worked to make successful photos.
Today most imaging making devices take care of details such as exposure and focus, allowing image makers to snap away without concern for the mechanics.
In many instances this freedom facilitates the ability to make photos quickly and with relative ease. Yet, this loss of control steals from the photographer crucial tools.
I still like to set my aperture manually. This has less to do with obtaining the correct exposure (since in camera metering can quickly suggest or set appropriate shutter-speed/aperture combinations) and more to do with adjusting the depth of field to manipulate my composition.
A detailed discussion of how the f-stop (f-number) is determined on a lens and what the numbers mean can fill a textbook.
What is important here is knowing a few basics, such as; a smaller f-number represents a larger aperture size and, but more importantly, how you can use this.
As the size of aperture is increased more light is let into the camera, however with a big hole comes a decrease in depth of field (relative focus); conversely, the smaller the hole size (larger f-number), the less light and the greater the depth of field (relative sharpness between near and far objects).
By using a larger aperture (small f-number, say f1.4) the relative focus will be narrow, with those points not in focus appearing relatively soft compared with the subject in focus.
This relationship becomes exaggerated with longer focal length lenses. Where a super wide angle lens offers great depth of field even with a large aperture opening (small f-number), a long telephoto lens will offer relatively shallow depth of field even when using a small aperture (large f-number, say f16).
While the f-number may used as a constant gauging mark, what is most useful is controlling the degree of relative focus to achieve a desired effect.
Personally, I like the effect of a long lens with relatively shallow depth of field because this allows me to draw the eye of the viewer.
As with many successful stories, it often helps to lead your audience on an unexpected path before giving them what they want. I’ll often tease a viewer by leaving some crucial element of an image just beyond the range of sharpness, while placing the focus on something else, like say a railroad signal. Or vice versa.
Tracking the Light offers daily discussion on Photography.
Cork’s railways were once vastly more complex than they are today.
Over a three-day span beginning 7 May 2016, I was given a thorough tour of Cork’s historic railways that included: a walking tour of the route of the old Cork City Railway; a cycle tour of the route of the Cork, Blackrock & Passage; and a detailed look at the numerous railway terminals that once served this southwestern Irish city.
I made numerous photographs composed to document railway settings as they are today. In many instances service was discontinued decades ago and the lines lifted and so the role of the railway is more conceptual than literal.
Thanks to Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin, Brian Sherman, Kevin Meany and Richard Lee for their expert guidance and historical knowledge.
Catching the light in Ireland can be a fleeting experience. Even on a bright day, cloud often covers the sky. Yet, sometimes luck shines on me. Such was the case last week when I made this photograph of the down Dublin-Cork Mark4 passenger train led by Irish Rail 215.
A brief wink of sun graced the front of the engine just as it approached.
It was seventeen years ago that I caught my first glimpse of the multiple-arch Kilnap viaduct from the window of a scheduled Bus Éireann coach running from Limerick to Cork.
On various occasions since then, I’ve travelled across Kilnap on trains running between Dublin and Cork.
On April 20th, thanks to the expert guidance of Irish Rail’s Ken Fox, I finally visited this noteworthy bridge on the ground and made these photographs. It is just a few miles from Cork’s Kent Station on the double-track Dublin-Cork mainline.
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.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Last week on my visit to Cork, I met with Ken Fox and Donncha Cronin, who are helping me with a book project on overseas rail travel.
During discussions about travel to wild and exotic places, Donncha says, “you might like my view. I don’t know, maybe you can do something with it?”
I’ve said this before, but you have to be there to get the photo.
It helps to have the right tools. In my case, I’d brought a full range of lenses to Cork, and based on my experience last year, I was prepared to make a long telephoto view at Glounthaune.
I wasn’t, however, expecting to make this elevated photograph of the rising sun. That was a bit of luck. Having inspected Donncha’s view, I decided, that ‘yes’, I might be able to work with that.
Fortunately, the next morning was mostly clear, and Irish Rail runs an intensive morning service with trains every half hour from Cobh and Midleton to Kent Station, Cork. (Cobh Junction is where the two lines join.)
With a copy of a working timetable in hand, and my Canon EOS 7D at the ready, I exposed this series of photos as the sun brightened the day.
One trick: I manually set the camera’s white balance to ‘daylight’ to avoid the camera trying to balance out the effect of the colored sunrise.
In addition to these digital photos, I made a couple of color slides.
This was only the auspicious beginning to another very productive day documenting railways around Cork. More to come in tomorrow’s post!
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Now and Then: How Changes to Infrastructure Affect Composition.
Photographic pairs showing locations that have been changed by time are nothing new. Yet, usually there are decades between photo pairs, not just one year.
In the interval between my September 2013 visit to Kent Station, Cork and my subsequent visit in the first week of October this year, the station suffered damage during a fierce storm.
On December 18, 2013, high winds caused the collapse of the historic canopy that had protected the platform serving tracks 1 and 2. In the wind, the old cast iron columns supporting the canopy snapped like toothpicks, and wooden sheathed canopy turned to splinters.
When I arrived off the train from Dublin in the afternoon of October 6, 2014, I was well aware of the change to the canopy, having read about it on RTE’s internet news and again some months later in the Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society.
However, a change such as this cannot really be fully appreciated until witnessed in person. The old canopy was an important fixture of Kent Station and it altered the quality of light on the platforms, as well as protecting passengers from the elements.
In these photo pairings, my goal wasn’t to make precise comparisons to show the exact nature of the changed scene, but rather to show how the canopy, and the lack there of, affected the way I composed my images. I was keen to show the broken cast iron columns because they now tell the story.
Likewise, someday the semaphores will go. And when they are gone, I’ll no longer be intent to frame trains with them. Some other element of the scene will take their place.
When you make photos, how do you balance the elements in the scene? Do you focus on just the primary subject or do you adjust your composition to take in secondary elements, such as that offered by the platform canopy and semaphores in these images? Think about it.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
On May 16, 2001, I was on my way from Dublin to Kilarney by train. Rather than take the most efficient route, I aimed to wander a bit on the way down.
I changed trains at Ballybrophy for the Nenagh Branch to Limerick, then traveled from Limerick to Limerick Junction where I’d time my arrival to intercept the weekday 10:34 Waterford to Limerick cement train.
At the time I was making good use of my Rolleiflex Model T to document Ireland and Irish railways in black & white.
I’d process my negatives in my Dublin apartment and make 5×7 proofing prints at the Gallery of Photography’s darkrooms at Meeting House Square, Temple Bar. Often, I schedule one day a week for printing.
Over the course of a half dozen years, I exposed several thousand black & white images, and made hundreds of prints. Sometimes I’d give prints to friends on the railroad. On more than one occasion I’d later visit a station or signal cabin and find my work displayed on the wall.
However, most of the prints remain stored in boxes. While this may help in their preservation, it doesn’t allow people to enjoy the images.
Here I’ve displayed just a few photos, where instead of scanning the negatives, I’ve scanned prints and this shows both my cropping of the image and the borders. I developed a distinctive border style for my square images that I felt worked well with the format.
In the dozen years that have passed since I exposed these photos, Limerick Junction and the trains that serve it have changed dramatically. The semaphores, cement trains and Class 121 diesels are all gone.
During my fifteen years in Ireland, few railway locations have changed as much as the area around Hazelhatch. I made this photo of a single 121 leading the empty gypsum train (destined for Kingscourt) on June 17, 2000 from Stucumny bridge.
It was my first visit to Stucumny. I was there with Colm O’Callaghan and Mark Hodge, who were well familiar with the spot. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was an air show going on at the nearby Baldonnel Aerodrome. While waiting for the up gypsum we watched the airborne acrobatics.