I’ve been reviewing hundreds upon hundreds of photos for my book on European Railway Travel.
Here’s a view I like but it didn’t make the cut because I’m using a similar angle that works better. It was one of several views that I made on film, although was also working with my digital cameras that day.
This pictures the famous ‘Hanging Viaduct’ in the Mosel Valley near Bullay.
Two years ago I visited this unusual railway construction with my friends Gerry Conmy, Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe.
Dusk is a great time to make captivating images, provided you get the exposure right.
I made this view at Buchloe, Germany in southwestern Bavaria. It was a little while after sunset, and the cool glow of a winter’s evening sky made for some interesting lighting. The platforms at the station were lit using common sodium vapor lamps, while a lamp in the yard on the left appears to be of the mercury vapor variety.
Among the advantages of twilight is the ability to find a good balance between natural and man made light. Once the glow in the sky fades, the black of night makes balanced exposures more difficult.
Here, I opted to use a Fujichrome emulsion (probably Provia 100F) that had filtration layers designed to minimize discoloration from the spectral spikes typical of man-made lighting, such as sodium and fluorescent sources. These spikes are largely invisible to the human eye, but can produce unnatural color casts on slide films.
One of the features of this image is the old DB Class 218 diesel, a type known colloquially as a ‘Rabbit’ because of its rabbit-ear exhaust stacks.
Several lines come together at Rastatt, Germany, which is an historic city south of Karlsruhe.
Since most through traffic is focused on to a short double track section immediately south of Rastatt , the station serves as a holding area for southward trains queued up to pass through this bottleneck.
In addition to DB’s trains, freight is run by a of variety open-access and private operators. Freights share tracks with passenger trains including high-speed TGV and ICE services and the famous Karlsruhe tram-trains.
I made this selection of images on 19 April 2016 using my FujiFilm X-T1.
On 20 April 2016, I made this image of a Swiss BLS Cargo (Bern Lötschberg Simplon) electric leading a northward freight on DB’s (German Railways) heavily traveled double-track line north of Freiburg, Germany.
Although clear and sunny, the direction of the light was directly behind the locomotive, which is anything but ideal.
To make the most of this awkward lighting situation, I opted to feature the flowering tree that was well-lit by the angle of the sun, and work with the locomotive in silhouette, while taking a low angle to minimize distracting elements on the far side of the line.
In post processing, I’ve lightened the shadow areas of the RAW file to restore detail and improve the overall contrast to the locomotive.
Below are both the unimproved RAW file (only scaled for presentation) and my modified file.
The railways around Karlsruhe, Germany are some of the most versatile and most thoroughly integrated in the world.
Karlsruhe was the pioneer of the ‘Tram-train concept,’ which enabled trams to utilize the heavy rail network.
As a result, trams can travel on city streets and reach beyond using the DB network.
Rastatt, south of Karlsruhe is a busy place where you can see high-speed passenger trains, Intercity and Regional Express passenger trains, freights, and Karlsruhe tram-trains using the same rails.
I made these views of a French TGV and tram-trains in April 2016 using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera. It was a bright morning and nearly ideal for photography.
The imaging challenge at Rastatt is making the shadows work for you and not against you. The curve of line, platform canopies and shadows cast by catenary masts and wires all result in visual elements that can make or break an image.
In early September, my friends and I witnessed the passage of this old German class 140 electric in classic green paint.
Every day in late morning or early afternoon it would work south along the Rhein’s Right Bank (east side) with a freight.
On this day we hiked out to the Loreley statue on a peninsula near the famous Loreley Rock at bend in the river. I made these photos with my FujiFilm X-T1. As the freight drew closer, I opted to pan, which helps set apart the green locomotive from the hillside beyond.
Pairs of red electrics leading more or less uniform consists of coal cars make for great subjects as they wind their way along the supremely scenic Rhein Valley.
Most locomotive-hauled trains traversing Germany’s Rhein Valley work with just a single locomotive, and an ever-greater number of passenger trains use electric multiple units.
By comparison to continual parade of these more common trains, dual-red electrics on coal trains/and empties are relatively rare, and only make an appearance every few hours (often just after you move to change locations).
Here I display two empty trains train, both exposed on 10 September 2015. The first is a morning view on the Left Bank with a pair of DB class 185 electrics, the second is in the evening on the Right Bank across from Oberwesel.
I have no doubt that punchy delicious colours and heavily altered contrast can grab the attention of viewers. I saw Fantasia, I look at Facebook.
It’s not a matter of right or wrong, or right or left. With modern software, tweaking colour and contrast has never been easier.
Below are three versions of an image I exposed digitally in the Rhein Valley. Not necessarily in order: One image is RAW (straight out of the camera, only reduced in size for internet), the other two have been altered.
Of these latter two images, one is my interpretation of how the scene appeared at the time I exposed the photo, the other is pure fantasy.
I’ll let you sort out which is which. Of the three, which do you like the most?
There’re some locations that just jump out at you. This view of the Rhein’s Right Bank is one of them. The combination of the river with vineyards rising above punctuated by the ruins of a medieval castle make for a postcard view.
The railway is an added bonus. Red Die Bahn locomotives are a nice touch. It helps to have bright afternoon sun.
Exposed near Rudesheim, Germany using my FujiFilm X-T1
There we were, poised at Filsen on the Right Bank line anticipating a northward train, but not knowing what would come around the bend next.
Previously, my attention to the signals, had revealed that once the signal cleared to green, a train would pass within 3-5 minutes. However, more than 8 minutes had passed. I wondered what was the cause of the delay.
Then, we were surprised by a lone DB class 145 electric hauling an exceptional load: twenty axles distributed the weight of this Schnabel railcar.
While this was not what I expected to see on the move, my cameras were ready to record what passed. In addition to these digital images, I exposed a 35mm colour slide for posterity.
Die Bahn/Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) operates an intensive nation-wide railway network. The traffic on many lines is impressive.
Conveying volume in photographs is perhaps best done with image sequences.
On the morning of September 12, 2015, Stephen Hirsch, Denis McCabe, Gerry Conmy and I arrived at the Bonn-Beuel station (located on the Right Bank line between Koln and Koblenz) to make a few photographs.
Our choice of locations was fortuitous. As it turned out, planned line works at the Bonn Hauptbahnhof on the Left Bank line had resulted in diversions, and this normally busy line was pushed to its potential capacity.
In addition to the normal half-hourly passenger service and parade of freights, the line was also handling InterCity and EuroCity long distance express trains, plus a mix of freights that might ordinarily use the Left Bank route.
In addition to the two main tracks, Bonn-Beuel has passing loops (passing sidings), which were well used this day. In several instances, a train was held on the main track, while higher priority traffic was routed via the loops around it.
This selection of images is intended to demonstrate how DB handled a mix of traffic on a double track mainline; keep in mind that stopping passenger trains and freights coexisted on the same route.
I’ve included the time that each photograph was exposed, and organized them in chronological order.
I decided to relocate to the island platform, as this offered a better angle for the sun.
To avoid getting blocked again, I walked further south along the platform.
The Right Bank of the Rhein is a busy freight corridor. Trains run in waves, and often follow each other several minutes apart on their north-south journey across Germany.
Kaub station sits wedged into a hillside with a castle above, and a sweeping curve to the south. In the afternoon, the sun swings around, which makes it a great place to photograph trains on the move.
Bombardier’s TRAXX locomotives family includes several classes of electrics. While the DB red class 185s may seen repetitive, open access operations make for a bit of variety. It seems that there’s always another freight working its way up or down the Rhein Valley. And this provides an opportunity to refine photographic angles and technique.
I made this selection using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Germany’s Rhein valley is one of my favorite places to make railway photographs. The combination of great scenery, a fantastic variety of locations, the historic architecture, and a continuous parade of freight and passenger trains on both sides of the river make it hard to beat.
And, at the end of the day (in the most literal use of the cliché), the beer is great!
Oberwesel is south of Boppard and also on an elbow-bend in the river. It’s spectacularly set along the river and against steeply rising hills while featuring castles and a medieval city wall.
The old city wall is set up as a tourist attraction and can be easily used as a platform for photography. Not only does this provide great views of the line on the Left Bank, but gives superb angles of the dual tunnels on the line serving the Right Bank.
I visited Oberwesel in April 2010, but the light was a bit dull, so I’ve been aching for another try at it on a clear day.
While there are some good angles in the morning, I found the best light angles were obtained after about 2 pm. September is a great time to photograph because the light is good throughout the day and it’s past the peak tourist season. Jostling elbows with the masses while trying to focus on a IC train might be challenging.
The parade of trains is unceasing. If one side of the river starts to lag, the other will seem to make up the difference. It was only during the lunch that traffic seemed to lull. Certainly the passenger trains kept coming, but the freights must of all paused for a snack.
Not far from the south edge of city wall in Oberwesel, we found a suitable restaurant with outdoor seating, a choice of beer, and a view of the tracks
A few hours at Oberwesel gave me more great images than I knew what to do with. I could make this a multi-installment post. Will you still be there for Oberwesel Left Bank Northward Views Part 12? Hmm?
The Left Bank at Boppard and Vicinity—September 2013.
Germany’s Rhein offers one of the World’s great railway experiences. Here busy double track railways occupy both sides of the river, largely in sight of one another. This narrow picturesque valley is dotted with old villages, castles, churches and blanketed with vineyards which adds to its charm and make for more interesting photographs.
For the all the challenges of wandering down lightly travel rural branch lines, or seeking out unusual, peculiar and elusive railway operations, sometimes it’s nice to get ‘a fix’ and go to a place where you will see a great volume and variety of trains in a comfortable setting.
The Rhein in early September hit the spot. The weather was perfect; a mix of sun and mist made for great lighting conditions, while temperatures were comfortable. No rain, no heavy wind. And best of all every few minutes a train comes rolling up or down the river.
Historically, the line on the west side of the river, the ‘Left Bank,’ was almost exclusively a passenger line and featured a continuous parade of Regional, IC, EC, and ICE trains, while the ‘Right Bank’ carried freight and an hourly local service.
Today, there are fewer IC/EC/ICE trains on the Rhein as many through services run on the high-speed line between Köln and Frankfurt. While IC/EC/ICE trains still operate about once an hour in each direction (plus local stopping services) now there are more paths for freights on the Left Bank which makes the line more interesting and more varied.
Boppard is located south of Koblenz on a elbow bend and allows for a variety of angles as the sun swings around. I’ve found from previous trips that Boppard is best in the morning. These photos are a selection from three days of photography based around Boppard.
I worked with three cameras; a Lumix LX3, Canon EOS 7D and Canon EOS 3 with Provia 100F film. Only the digital results are displayed here.
As a result of my careful marketing analysis, I’ve determine the best ways for Tracking the Light to go viral are:
1) Encourage Sperry to plan a safely staged ‘derailment’ on Dublin’s LUAS route (to demonstrate the dangers of hidden rail fractures, perhaps) using former a Central Vermont Railway switcher painted in Irish Rail grey and then photograph it on a dull day using my Lumix LX-3. (Along the lines of the theatrically arranged ‘cornfield meets’ of the late Victorian era.)
2) Hire a Korean guy with sunglasses to dance around near the tracks. (Gangnam Style) —hey, with more than 1.5 Billion hits, something must be working, right??
3) Offer free Twinkies to all Tracking the Light subscribers.
4) Plan a merger with LeakyWiks.
5) Encourage everyone who enjoys the site to spread the word (and links) with their friends and urge regular visitors to subscribe! (there’s a box for comments toward the bottom of the posts and a box to tick that enables the subscription feature—admittedly this is a bit Kafkaesque, and hopefully I’ll find a better means of enabling subscriptions soon!)
Incidentally, my elaborate plans to import a German electric for demonstration were to be aborted, unfortunately Amtrak didn’t get the memo! 😉
Railway tracks; classic converging lines aimed toward distant horizons, a symbol of progress and travel, and often the primary subject of for my camera’s lens. Here I’ve presented just two images of railway tracks. One is of the throat to DB‘s Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Frankfurt am Main, Germany) the other is yard trackage on Pennsylvania’s narrow gauge East Broad Top Railroad at Orbisonia. The German photograph portrays well-maintained, heavily used infrastructure with ladders of double slip switches designed to maximize route flexibility. This was made on a sunny summer evening and exposed to retain detail in ballast and avoiding a harsh silhouette (although that can be an effective imaging technique). By contrast, the East Broad Top image shows a preserved three-way stub switch, representing a vestige of lightly built 19th century-style infrastructure, and exposed in the soft light of a foggy autumn morning. In both images railway tracks lead the viewer’s eye out of the frame to unseen horizons. To allow for a level of intrigue. I’ve deliberately masked where the tracks lead.
Both images were exposed on Fujichrome slide film with my Nikon N90S.