I’ve asked this question before. While it is nice to have bright sun, often I find the best photos are in the shadows where light and dark contrast to produce a moody image that tugs at something deeper.
Last week after arranging the photo runbys at the famed Willey Brook Bridge, I walked to the headend of the train while the passengers were reboarding. Here the 470 Club’s freshly painted F7A diesels were deep in shadow with the mass of Mount Willard looming above them.
I made these photos using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens and adjusted highlight and shadow areas in post processing.
For me these were among of the best photos of the day. They capture the rugged scenery of Crawford Notch from perspectives rarely pictured.
During Conway Scenic Railroad’s special Railfan Photographer’s Mountaineer, I traveled on the head end to help position the train, while making photos for the company archive.
While the train was discharging passengers at the site of the Mount Willard section house near Crawford Notch, NH, I was across the ravine to the east, set up to photograph the special crossing the famous Willey Brook Bridge (also known as the Willey Brook Trestle).
I made several dozen photos over the course of several minutes, trying to make the most of this photo opportunity. Below is a selection of similar compositions. Why so many? It is impossible to know exactly how a photo may be considered for publication in the future and I’ve learned from experience that it helps to position the subject in a variety of ways within the frame of the viewfinder.
On Monday, May 30, 2022, I photographed the company ballast train at almost precisely the same place. In these views Conway Scenic GP35 216 works upgrade with three loaded ballast cars plus rider coach 6743.
I made these recent photos using my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm lens. Working with the camera RAW files, I made adjustments to color and contrast using Adobe Lightroom.
On Monday, March 28, 2022, Conway Scenic began the process of clearing the former Maine Central over Crawford Notch.
Last year, the railroad reached the summit on March 31st, which was something of a early record for Conway Scenic. In a normal year, the line might remain closed through April.
Former Maine Central 255, a GP38 acquired from the Vermont Rail System late last year, was chosen to make the clearing run West.
Where last year I traveled on engine 573, this year I pursued the first train on the road, and departed about two hours after it left the North Conway yard.
The crew on first movement over the line west of Attitash (the limits of Snow Train operation) expects to find obstructions. During the winter fallen trees, rocks and ice accumulation routinely block the line.
I knew Extra 255 was west of Bartlett, so at various places beyond Bartlett, I inspected the track. Near the Arethusa Falls grade crossing, I contacted the engine crew via train radio to find their location.
They had made it as far as the rock cutting west of the Frankenstein Bridge, where the engine was blocked by a significant ice fall.
I hiked up to the bridge and made photos of the engine returning east.
One of the privileges of working for Conway Scenic is the ability to request a lift back down hill. The brief engine ride saved me another half mile hike in freezing temperatures. When I got back to my car it was just 23F.
This was the first rail movement across Frankenstein of 2022.
On Wednesday, I shadowed Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer on its ascent of Crawford Notch.
Ironically, one of the most dramatic unobstructed views of the line can be obtained directly off Route 302, the road which runs parallel to the railroad in the Mount Washington Valley.
I exposed this photo of the Mountaineer on ‘the Girders’ bridge near the scenic vista pull-off at Crawford Notch using my Nikon Z6 digital camera. I processed the camera’s NEF file using Adobe Lightroom to lighten shadows and correct the color temperature, while nominally boosting saturation.
There was a low ceiling at Crawford Notch, NH the other evening. The tops of the mountains were in the clouds, yet the tracks and station were clear from mist.
Kris & I arrived after sunset when there was just a hint of daylight remaining. Regular readers of Tracking the Light may recognize that I like to make photos at twilight, and often work my cameras when there is very little light remaining in the sky.
Below are three interpretations of the same Nikon NEF RAW file that reflect minor adjustments to contrast, color temperature and color saturation.
The other day I traveled on the head-end of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer in order to take notes on running times to help revise the schedule, and to make photos for publicity, marketing and the company files.
This is a selection of the images I exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 16-55mm Fujinon zoom lens.
Working with the camera’s RAW files, prior to post processing, I converted the files to DNG format using Iridient software and then for final presentation adjusted the DNG files using adobe Lightroom .
Two years ago I made my first trip to Crawford Notch by road in 20 years.
I was on my way to the Conway Scenic Railroad at North Conway to write an article for Trains Magazine.
One thing led to another, and two years later Crawford is now a regular place on my visit list! I was up there again yesterday in HyRail truck TC-205 as part of a bridge inspection with Wayne Duffett of TEC Associates .
This photo was exposed on May 29, 2019 using my FujiFilm XT1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit. I’ve posted two versions, one more saturated than the other.
Last week on our ascent of New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch with Conway Scenic Railroad’s Work Extra 573, we encountered several minor obstacles.
Near milepost 84, about a mile from the summit, an ice fall had blocked the line.
Our crew set out to quickly remove it and then we were on our way again.
The lighting was flat and cold when I exposed these photos with my Nikon Z6. Keep in mind that if the sky had been clear, this portion of the railroad would have been in deep shadow, conditions that may have made for more contrast and thus more difficult lighting conditions.
I adjusted the camera NEF (RAW) files using Lightroom to improve the overall appearance of the photographs.
Last October (2020), I traveled on a rainy day to Crawford Notch on the head-end of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer.
To make the most of the moody autumn conditions, I exposed a roll of Ilford HP5 35mm black & white film.
Last weekend I processed this using my split development method in order to maximize detail in highlights and shadows, while providing for rich tonality.
The specifics are as follows: presoak in a dilute bath of HC110 (1-200) for 5 minutes 30 seconds at 69F with minimal agitation, then main development in Ilford ID-11 1-1 for 6 minutes and 30 seconds agitating using three gentle inversions every 60 seconds. Followed by stop (30 seconds); first fix (2 minutes 30 seconds) and second fix (2 minutes 30 seconds); first rinse (3 minutes); Permawash (3 minutes); second rinse (10 minutes in continuous running water), then final rinse of distilled water with a drop of Photo flo. Dry and scan.
Other than scaling for internet, I made no alterations to tonality or exposure in postprocessing.
Saturday, November 14, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated its final Mountaineer of the 2020 operating season. As scheduled, this ran from North Conway to Crawford, Notch, New Hampshire and return.
Historically CSRR ceased operations over Crawford Notch earlier in the season.
I used this rare late-season move over the former Maine Central Mountain Division to make some unusual photos. Bare leaf-less trees allow for views that are unobtainable during the summer and early autumn.
During the course of the operating season, I’d made several head-end trips and Hyrail inspections of the line to look for angles. Some of the finest locations I found are a long way from public highways.
For this photo of eastward train 162, I climbed to an elevated point, and used my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.
On November 9, 2020, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a special Mountaineer for the benefit of its employees and their guests. This used a foreshortened consist and departed earlier than normal, It proceeded west under clear sunny skies where it made a stop at Bartlett, NH to pause for passengers and to collect catered meals.
Upon arrival at Crawford Station, GP35 216 ran around, while we had the opportunity to make photos. After this short stop, the special then proceeded eastbound and made a second stop at the site of the Mount Willard Section House-onetime home to the famous Evans Family.
Here I made a number of unusual photos while the train was tied down on the Willey Brook Bridge.
All photos were exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
The railroad takes on different characters when view from line-side versus that when view from from the locomotive cab.
The perspectives and impressions you get when standing on the ground are very different than the views from a locomotive cab in motion.
Part of this is the difference in elevation. Part is where you can safely stand in relation to the railroad and how lineside obstructions alter your view.
Over the last few weeks and months I’ve made various headend and walking trips on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
Among the most interesting places is the area east of Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.
Below are two views exposed three days apart from the same location near milepost 83 looking west. One is from the ground of Conway Scenic Railroad’s train 162—the eastward Mountaineer, the other from the headend of the westward train.
Yesterday, September 18, 2020, I traveled on the headend of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer to scope autumn view points for publicity photos.
The trees have hints of the autumn palette and I noted a variety of places near the top of the mountain where I hope to revisit over the coming weeks.
It looks like some of the best color will be near the famous Willey Brook Bridge and Mount Willard Section House in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. We’ll have to wait and see how the autumn colors manifest this season.
I made these views from GP35 216 using my Lumix LX7.
Yesterday, Boston & Maine F7A 4266 led the Mountaineer westbound to Crawford Notch.
This may not seem like a big deal for long time observers of New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic Railroad, as it has occurred in previous years. However, it was the first time I’d ever witnessed this locomotive outside of the yard, and the first time I’d photographed it working a train. (This locomotive is owned by the 470 Club, which also owns sister B&M F7A 4268 that is undergoing an operational restoration.)
I thought it was pretty cool to finally see this antique on the move!
All going well, 4266 will work the train again today as well as the 930am Conway run.
This coming weekend, September 5th and 6th, Conway Scenic will host its annual Railfan’s Weekend. Owing to constraints imposed by the on-going Covid-19 epidemic, the event will necessarily be scaled back from previous years. However, 4266 is scheduled to work a pair of photo-freights on Saturday, and an Extra Photographers Special Mountaineer on Sunday.
The Photo freight has space for a few passengers, and tickets may be ordered online or from the CSRR ticket office (603-356-5251).
On August 12, 2019—one year ago—I’d organized a special publicity run over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch to make photos and video of Conway Scenic’s then ‘Notch Train’—the train soon to be rebranded as the ‘Mountaineer’.
This departed Crawford eastbound just after sunrise.
I had preselected scenic locations along the former Maine Central Mountain Division where we stopped the train for static photos and organized roll-bys for video.
I was working with three still cameras that day, while Adam Bartley worked with the company video camera.
Our operating crew was Mike Lacey and Joe Costello.
These photos were made with my Lumix LX7. Several images from this run have since appeared in Conway Scenic advertising and in magazine articles.
The other evening, Kris Sabbatino and I stopped at the old Maine Central station at Crawford, New Hampshire shortly after moonrise to make night photos of the station.
I mounted my Lumix LX7 on a heavy Bogan tripod and set the ISO to 200. Working in manual mode, I set the camera to between 40 and 80 seconds and tripped the shutter manually (without using the self timer).
Working with the RAW files in Lightroom, I made slight adjustments to highlights and shadows.
Catching the stars in the night sky has always been a favorite effect of mine. I first tried this back in 1977 in my back yard in Monson, Massachusetts.
I arrived at the old Maine Central station at Crawfords (New Hampshire) in the ‘blue hour’—that last hint of daylight before night.
It was snowing lightly.
The railroad was quiet. No trains are expected for months to come!
The scene was serene.
To make this photo, I had my FujiFilm XT1 with 28mm pancake lens mounted on a Bogen tripod. I set the meter for 2/3s of stop over exposure in ‘A’ mode at the widest aperture. The camera selected the shutter speed at 25 seconds.
Over the course of several minutes, I made several exposures ranging from 20 to 30 seconds each.
Among my assignments this past week on the Conway Scenic Railroad was to guide a TV production crew from Boston’s Channel 5 WCVB.
After they enjoyed a ride and a meal in dome car Rhonda Lee, I collected the crew midway up the mountain, and Conway Scenic’s President and General Manager Dave Swirk and I brought them to some of the most scenic vistas on the line to film the train.
They were able to benefit from my weeks of location scouting in order to film a segment on Conway Scenic that is expected to be broadcast in the coming weeks.
It was a beautiful bright day on the mountain, and they were able to get views of Mount Washington with Conway Scenic’s Notch Train.
Near the summit of the former Maine Central Mountain Division at Crawford Notch, the line passes through a deep rock cutting in a natural low point in the mountains known as the Gateway.
Conway Scenic’s normal operations of its Notch Train to Crawford’s Station finds the train passing the Gateway at the peak of high sun. In other words, one of the most difficult times for photography using natural lighting.
Fires in the West resulted in particulate matter and haze, which last week provide a great degree of diffusion, making these condition an ideal time to catch the Notch Train on its uphill run.
Working with my Lumix LX7, I exposed this view from the railroad east end (compass south) of the famous cutting. Having locomotive 1751 in the lead was an added bonus.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019, I used my FujiFilm XT1 to film a short video of Conway Scenic’s historic excursion over Crawford Notch to the far western end of its line at Hazen’s, near the White Mountain Regional Airport in Whitefield, New Hampshire.
The trip represented steam locomotive 7470’s public debut since its recent restoration to service and its first trip leading an excursion all the way to the end of the line. It was also the first public trip using recently acquired Budd dome car Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor), which can be seen directly behind the locomotive in the video.
I planned to this as a follow-up to earlier Conway Scenic shorts, including an interview with Conway Scenic President and General Manager, David Swirk which has attracted more than 40,000 views on Facebook.
So far, this most recent video has had about 6000 views on Facebook and is now also available on Conway Scenic’s NEW YouTube channel. (See link above.)
These videos are part of a strategy designed to promote the railroad using social media.
I’ve just scratched the surface reviewing the many photos I made yesterday (June 29, 2019) of Conway Scenic’s Trains, Planes and Automobiles steam excursion over New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch.
This was the first public excursion with Conway’s new Budd-dome Rhonda Lee (formerly Silver Splendor) as featured on Tracking the Light. And the first time the car was teamed up with steam locomotive 7470.
I made this view of the iconic Willey Brook Trestle on the return run in the afternoon where the steam locomotive was trailing.
For years I’d admired photos from the vantage point on the rocks above the bridge, which has been used to photograph the railway since it was constructed in the 1870s.
I never realized how difficult it was to get up there until I had to make the ascent myself, with all my gear in tow.
This view was exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit mounted on a Gitzo tripod. I used an external Lee graduated filter to help improve sky detail.
By working in the vertical-oriented portrait format, I was better able to show the distance of the stream below the bridge and the great verticality of the entire scene. I’m specifically mimicking a 19thcentury glass plate view, while remembering a Kodachrome slide my friend Brian Jennison exposed here of a Maine Central freight.
On Friday, June 21, 2019, Conway Scenic sent locomotive 1751 to Crawfords, New_Hampshire in order to position an excavator that had been working west of the summit.
This was 1751’s first assignment on the Mountain since repairs at North Conway earlier in the week.
Later the locomotive was sent west to Hazen’s at the far reaches of Conway Scenic’s operations on the old Maine Central Mountain Division.
I made these views from highway 312 using my Fujifilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit. In post processing, I digitally applied a graduated neutral density filter to make for better sky detail on the gray day.
On Saturday, June 29, 2019. Conway Scenic has a special Notch Train planned. This will run with steam locomotive 7470 all the way from North Conway over Crawford Notch to Hazen’s to participate in the Trains Planes and Automobiles special event.
I’d spied some rocks high on Mount Willard above the old Maine Central trestle at Willey Brook.
Conway Scenic’s Lisa King offered to bring me on a hike to those rocks for a commanding view of New Hampshire’s famous Crawford Notch.
“We’ll start at Crawfords Station. It takes about an hour!”
So last Saturday, we departed North Conway about an hour ahead of the Notch Train, and drove to Crawfords, where I was surprised to find about 100 cars parked along the road.
I was astounded to ‘discover’ that one of New Hampshire’s most impressive views attracts hundreds of hikers on bright warm weekend mornings!
We walked up through the forests, fording streams, avoiding bugs, dodging potential encounters with bears (we didn’t see any, but I’ll bet some saw us, since, earlier in the week, I’d spotted a bear cub on the line).
At the top, Lisa brought me a great view looking down the valley, and down onto the famous Willey Brook bridge.
I’m saving the bridge photos for a rainy day.
Next Saturday, June 29, 2019, Conway Scenic has scheduled a special Notch Train to be led by its steam locomotive 7470. This will depart Conway at 9am and run over the Notch and beyond to Hazen’s Crossing near the White Mountains Regional Airport for an event called Trains, Planes and Automobiles.
(I’m told tickets are still available, but get yours soon!)
Call: 603-356-5251 or check Conway Scenic’s website: