Tag Archives: digital camera technique

CSX at Warren, Massachusetts—Lessons in Composition Revisited—Six views.

Yes, I’ve done this before.

Warren, Massachusetts is a favorite place to photograph, but also a tricky one.

I used Warren as an example for a similar compositional conversation in Trains Magazine, published about two years ago and  featured photo of Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited.

Yesterday (December 29, 2017), I arrived in Warren just in time to set up and catch CSX’s late-running Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield) race up the grade and pass the recently restored former Boston & Albany station.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens, I exposed a burst of images.

I’ve selected three of these, and then annotated versions of the image that I like the best so that you may benefit from my compositional considerations.

I prefer this view over the two closer images. I think the composition works better (as illustrated in the annotated versions) and it emphasizes the station, which personally I find more interesting than the train.
This view was made seconds after the one above. Although the train is closer, most of the interesting elements of the old station have been obscured.
This is a nice photo of CSX’s Q264, but it could be anywhere on the Boston & Albany line. Why bother going to Warren if the station and town are cropped?

There’s no correct answer to composition; in this instance I prefer the more distant view of the train because it better features the old passenger station and the town of Warren; here’s why I feel the composition works:

Important, yet subtle compositional elements at work. Look at the position of the locomotive cab where it visually intersects the station building. It does this as cleanly as possible, without obscuring the dormer window or resulting in visual confusion. The similar color of the locomotive cab and clock tower make for interesting counterpoint. What if the tower was red brick and the locomotive cab was blue?
Here I’ve highlighted several areas of interest. These are points that naturally attract the eye and are focal points to the composition,  providing both  interest and balance.
Here’s is general outline of the composition. The trees provide visual support and context, but are not central subjects. Would this image work as well without them?

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Tracking the Light Photo Tip: Don’t Do What I Did!

Yesterday (March 1, 2016) I posted a view of a CSX intermodal train working upgrade at Warren, Massachusetts in the nice morning sun. This was a nice start to a very productive day.

What I didn’t explain was the back-story.

Although I’ve been at railway photography for more than four decades and I spend a lot of time at making my photographs. Occasionally I make mistakes.

Some are minor ones. Others can have more serious implications.

On Saturday February 26th, I was traveling with Mike Gardner. We’d met Tim Doherty and Pat Yough at CP83 (near the Steaming Tender restaurant) in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Shortly after we arrived, CSX’s talking equipment detector in Wilbraham sounded, alerting us to the eastward train. We decided to drive to West Warren to make our photographs. We had ample time to do this, but not enough time to waste.

Upon arriving in West Warren, I noticed that both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm X-T1 cameras had only a few photos left on their respective cards. I should have checked this the night before and put fresh cards in the cameras.

However, since I had a minute, I hastily put new cards in the cameras and wiped them clean.

This was the photo presented with yesterday's post, but I thought I'd put up again for context (it doesn't cost anything extra to show it twice, so why not?). Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
This was the photo presented with yesterday’s post, but I thought I’d put up again for context (it doesn’t cost anything extra to show it twice, so why not?).
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

The day was extraordinarily productive. Mike and I photographed trains on CSX, New England Central, Berkshire Scenic and Pan Am Railways, making it Millers Falls, the Hoosac Tunnel, and Washington Summit among other notable locations.

My Fuji camera was acting strange.

New England Central local freight crosses CSX's Boston & Albany line at Palmer.
New England Central local freight crosses CSX’s Boston & Albany line at Palmer.

Among other problems, it was taking forever to store the images from the camera buffer to the card. I’d expose a burst of images, and two minutes later it would still storing them.

Meanwhile the Lumix was giving me so much bother, I put it down and instead opted to work with my Canon EOS 3 loaded with slide film.

Pan Am Railway's EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. I was snapping away, but something wasn't right. My camera was acting weird!
Pan Am Railway’s EDRJ (East Deerfield to Rotterdam Junction) roars west at Wisdom Way in Greenfield. I was snapping away, but something wasn’t right. My camera was acting weird!

By the end of the day, I notice that the 32GB card in the Fuji was nearly out of space, but I’d only exposed about 150 frames. (Normally I get about 840 images saved as RAW and JPG on a 32GB card). Something was wrong.

I was getting a bit worried, because the next day I was booked on a transatlantic flight, and there’s nothing worse than having serious camera trouble when traveling.

A little later in the day, here's the same EDRJ climbing toward the Hoosac Tunnel at Zoar, Massachusetts. I recalled a day about 30 years ago at this precise location when the last thing I was worried about was the card in my digital camera!
A little later in the day, here’s the same EDRJ climbing toward the Hoosac Tunnel at Zoar, Massachusetts. I recalled a day about 30 years ago at this precise location when the last thing I was worried about was the card in my digital camera!

Digital cameras don’t start acting strange because they are in a bad mood.

However, when I went to down load my photographs, I quickly discovered the source of my problems.

Between a stop for lunch and our next destination, Mike and I paused at Renfrew on the old B&A North Adams branch to photograph the Berkshire Scenic train. This was our second trip along the branch in less than two weeks.
Between a stop for lunch and our next destination, Mike and I paused at Renfrew on the old B&A North Adams branch to photograph the Berkshire Scenic train. This was our second trip along the branch in less than two weeks.

In my rush to put cards in the cameras, I inadvertently put the card formatted for the Fuji in the Lumix and vice versa. Also, rather than re-format the cards, I simply wiped them. Each type of digital camera uses different protocols for storing data, which is why the cameras were acting slow.

I put new cards in each camera and re-formatted them (which effectively erases all data on the card). Problem solved.

Tip for the day: Don’t mix your cards up, take the time before embarking on a fast-paced day to make sure you have clean, formatted cards in your digital camera(s).

Or, if you use film, to make sure your camera is loaded and that your ISO setting is correct.

Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited passes Muddy Pond in Washington, Massachusetts.
Amtrak 449, the Lake Shore Limited passes Muddy Pond in Washington, Massachusetts.
Amtrak 448 meets a CSX freight at CP83 in Palmer just after sundown. Exposed with my FujiFilm XT-1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee graduated neutral density filter. ISO 3200. At this stage the camera was barely functioning and taking forever to store images. I'm amazed I got anything at all!
Amtrak 448 meets a CSX freight at CP83 in Palmer just after sundown. Exposed with my FujiFilm XT-1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit and Lee graduated neutral density filter. ISO 3200. At this stage the camera was barely functioning and taking forever to store images. I’m amazed I got anything at all!

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MBTA PCCs with a Cotton Candy Sky

Mattapan in January.

The sky can make all the difference in a photograph. However, often the way a modern camera presents exposure tends to push sky detail toward over exposure (that means its too light).

The result is a washed out sky that loses all the color and detail that made the scene interesting.

Thankfully, with careful exposure and post processing manipulation of a RAW file, it is easy enough to balance sky detail with the primary subject.

I made these photos the other day at Mattapan during a visit with Tim and Will Doherty and Pat Yough. All were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit lens

I processed the photos using Lightroom (an Adobe program that allows for easy adjustment of the the RAW files).

My first move was to digitally introduce a graduated neutral density filter across the sky to locally adjust contrast and exposure with an emphasis on retaining highlight detail. Next I lightened shadows and adjusted mid-tone detail with the clarity sliders.

My intent was to recreate the scene. It would be easy enough to create a total fantasy using these tools. That balance is purely subjective.

Example 1

Example 1; the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing.
Example 1; this is the scaled RAW file, unaltered except for necessary sizing. Notice that the sky is blown out, especially at the left while the streetcar and tracks are too dark. I exposed this image to favor the sky, knowing in advance that I could retrieve shadow detail to present a better exposure balance in the final image.
Here I've introduced a digital graduated neutral density filter that is only applied to the sky area. This makes the clouds darker while display greater detail in highlight and midtown areas. I haven't altered the overall balance by adjusting contrast or exposure.
An intermediate step for example 1: Here I’ve introduced a digital graduated neutral density filter that is only applied to the sky area. This makes the clouds darker while display greater detail in highlight and mid-tone areas. I haven’t altered the overall balance by adjusting contrast or exposure. As a result the streetcar and ground area are still too dark (because I’ve done nothing to address these areas).
Example 1 final image: Now, I've made global adjustments by lightening the shadow areas and making nominal changes to the mid-tone contrast using the 'clarity' slider. This gives the streetcar and ground a bit of 'snap'.
Example 1 final image: Now, I’ve made global adjustments by lightening the shadow areas and making nominal changes to the mid-tone contrast using the ‘clarity’ slider. This gives the streetcar and ground a bit of ‘snap’.

Tomorrow I’ll present a more dramatic example complete with ‘fantasy’ treatment. Stay tuned!

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Finnish Sr2 electrics pause with an iron ore train.

Every so often a train stops in a photogenic location, which provides ample opportunity to make a variety of images.

Such was the case the other day, when Petri and Pietu Tuovinen, Markku Pulkkinen were providing me tour of greater Kontiomäki.

This pair of Finnish Sr2 electrics had brought a loaded iron ore train west from the Russian-border and were waiting for a path to continue toward Oulu at the junction with the electrified line at the west leg of the Kontiomäki triangle.

While the train was stopped, I used the moment to expose photographs with three cameras. These are a few angles made digitally with my FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less camera, and my pocket-size Lumix LX-7. The slides remain latent.

Exposed with my Lumix LX-7.
A very traditional three-quarter angle as exposed with my Lumix LX-7.
A tighter  three-quarter angle using my FujiFilm X-T1.
A tighter three-quarter angle using my FujiFilm X-T1.
Here I've featured a flower growing trackside. These purple flowers flourish in the Finnish countryside during the summer. Lumix LX-7 photo.
Here I’ve featured a flower growing trackside. These purple flowers flourish in the Finnish countryside during the summer. Lumix LX-7 photo.
How about an angle from the other side of the train? Lumix LX-7 photo.
How about an angle from the other side of the train? Lumix LX-7 photo.
A study of Finnish Sr2 electrics nose-to-nose. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.
A study of Finnish Sr2 electrics nose-to-nose. FujiFilm X-T1 photo.

Since the lighting was relatively even, my goal was to obtain the most impressive angle that features the contours and colours on the Sr2s. VR is in a transition from the older white and red livery to a new white with bright green scheme.

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Photographic Tip: Using a High Speed Motordrive to Improve Your Photos

One traditional school of thought when making photographs is capturing the ‘decisive moment.’

This moment is arbitrary, but in theory it is the instant in time when the elements in the composition are at their optimum relation to one another.

When I work with my old Rolleiflex to photograph moving trains this is a good philosophy. I’ll carefully consider all the elements in the frame, and wait, with shutter poised, until the train is at its optimum point, and ‘click.’

Some time later, often days or weeks later, I’ll process the film. Maybe I got what I was hoping to capture, maybe not.

Such is not the case with my Fujifilm X-T1. The relative cost of exposing one digital frame versus a dozen is inconsequential as compared to film. While the ability of the camera to make a burst of images rapid has completely altered the way I consider my compositions and expose photos.

I’ll still study the scene and look at all the elements. Typically I’ll make a few test photos to check sharpness, exposure and how different focal lengths alter the scene.

But when the train arrives, instead of exposing one photograph, or in the case of my old slide camera a few ‘motor drive’ dupes, I’ll might make a burst of images all the while adjusting my framing to subtly alter the composition. More is better, right?

Then after the fact I can decide which image I like best. I can erase the rest.

Below are five similar views made within seconds of each other. These portray an Irish Rail perway train working the quad track in suburban Dublin. Operation of this particular train is sporadic, and making photographs of it require knowledge, planning and patience.

When it finally came into view, I wanted to be sure I made the best possible photo that shows the train in its environment. Which one do you like the most?

First in the sequence. In total I made nine similar images. Only five are displayed here, including the last.
First in the sequence. In total I made nine similar images. Only five are displayed here, including the last. Among the features of the scene: the ‘ghost station’ in the distance; the quad track line; the road to the left of the line’; old and new mileposts on either side of the line (of which the milepost on the left has been cropped out of this view); and the construction of building going on in the distance.
The train is ever so slightly closer.
The train is ever so slightly closer. But this image is essentially the same as the first. I can erase one of these without any loss.
Here the train is noticeably closer.
Here the train is noticeably closer. It is now slightly off center, which is probably better since it makes better use of the space. I can always crop in on it to tighten the overall composition, but I would rather avoid that.
4 DSCF6377
Here I’ve turned the camera slight to the left, which includes the new mile post, but crops the station.
This is the last of the digital photos. The train is at its closest. But now the 'ghost station' is cropped. Maybe I didn't need to include that anyway? This view accentuates the side of the train more than the distant views and the track panels are more evident.
This is the last of the digital photos. The train is at its closest. But now the ‘ghost station’ is cropped. Maybe I didn’t need to include that anyway? This view accentuates the side of the train more than the distant views and the track panels are more evident. The buildings in the distance have been cropped out as has the horizon. The lighting polls are more prominent, which make for an interesting element. On the downside the locomotive is more centered. I probably should have had the camera slight more to the right, which would have moved the locomotive off-center and included more of the railcars behind it.

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Prague: Tatra Tram on Cobbled Streets

A visit to Prague in May 2000 fulfilled my desire to make gritty urban images. Using my Rolleiflex Model T and Nikon F3T, I exposed dozens of photographs of eclectic Bohemian architecture and electric railed vehicles.

Tatra Tram on Cobbled Streets—cropped view.
Tatra Tram on Cobbled Streets—cropped view.

This image of Tatra T3 working westbound on Prague’s number 9 route is typical of my photography from that trip.

Prague is one of those great cities that seems to beckon a photo at every turn. Or certainly that was my impression.

I’m presenting two versions of the image: the first is tightly cropped view made possible by the camera’s excellent optics and careful processing of the film (also for some adjustments for contrast in digital post-processing); the second is a pure, un-cropped image. Take your pick!

Un-cropped view of a tram on the number 9 route in Prague.
Un-cropped and unmodified view of a tram on the number 9 route in Prague.

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DAILY POST: Magnum LUAS

Saved by the in-Camera Memory!

Back in the old days, if I went out and forgot to load my camera it was tough luck. No film, no photo. And, yes, there were several occasions where I suffered this humility.

Today, with my Lumix LX3, there’s a feature that gets me out of the occasional jam. The camera has a built-in memory that allows me to make several photographs when there is no memory card inserted (or if the memory card has an error/failure).

This means that in those rare situations where I have the camera, but have forgotten the card, I can still make a few photos.

Case in point. On April 11, 2012, I’d grabbed the camera and walked into the Dublin city center to run some errands. At the time, the LUAS tram network had a specially painted tram advertising Magnum ice cream bars. I’d seen this several times, but not managed to get a photo of it.

In fact, this tram had proved unusually elusive, and previous efforts to find it in sunlight failed. But on this day, as I wandered through Smithfield, the purple Magnum tram glided along side of me and came to a stop at an intersection in full sun. Perfect!

Except, when I went to make a photo, I got an error message telling me there was no card! I’d taken it out to download it and left it at home! OH NO! But the camera gave me the option of saving the file to the camera memory! Yea!

Dublin tram.

Specially adorned LUAS tram advertising Magnum ice cream bars pauses at an intersection near Smithfield in Dublin on April 12, 2012. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 and saved to the internal camera memory.

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Tomorrow: The Electroliner

Click to view related posts:

Dublin’s LUAS at Heuston Station, October 14, 2013;

LUAS McDonalds Tram at Heuston Station

White Tram Prowls Dublin’s LUAS 

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DAILY POST: Maine Central at East Deerfield Yard, September 1984.

An Unconventional View of the Ready Tracks.

I was interested to find this collection of Maine Central locomotives at Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard in September 1984. At the time, Guilford’s gray and orange livery was still a novelty.

Using my father’s 21mm Super Angulon on my Leica 3A, I composed this somewhat unconventional view of the ready tracks. This lens was a favorite of mine at the time. I still use it occasionally.

Boston & Maine's East Deerfield Yard
Maine central GP38 260 and a pair of U18Bs were the subjects of interest in my September 1984 black & white photograph. Today, the contrast of the steam-era infrastructure with the diesels makes for an unusual compelling railroad photo. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A fitted with a 21mm Super Angulon lens.

The composition works despite being foreground heavy and exposed on the ‘dark side’ of the locomotives. The image nicely integrates the infrastructure around the locomotives while offering a period look.

At the time I was studying photography at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and made regular visits to photograph the Boston & Maine.

See my earlier post: Johnsonville, New York, November 4, 1984.  

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Tomorrow: A Bird, a Tram, A Canal!

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Daily Post: Westward Freight in Wink of Sun

CSX Q427 Claws Upgrade at Chester, Massachusetts.

For me the old Boston & Albany West end is hallowed ground. This was the first true mountain mainline in the modern sense. The line was surveyed in the mid 1830s and by 1839 trains were working over Washington Summit.

Over the last 30 years I’ve made countless trips to photograph this line and it remains one of my favorites. Yet, I rarely come up here in the winter.

On Friday, February 7, 2014, my father and I went up to Huntington to catch Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited, train 449. Not far behind was CSX’s Q427.

This freight runs daily between Portland, Maine and Selkirk, New York via Ayer and Worcester, Massachusetts. This day it had a pair of General Electric Evolution-Series diesels of the type that have come to characterize modern freight operations on the Boston & Albany route.

Since the train wasn’t making great speed, we pursued it on Route 20, stopping to make photos at opportune locations. At CP 123 (where the line goes from single track to two-main track) Q427 met an eastward freight holding at the signal. We continued upgrade ahead of the train.

I remembered that there’s a gap in the hills at Chester which allows for a window of sun on the line that lasts late in the day. So we zipped ahead of the train.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
Working with my Canon EOS 7D and 200mm lens, I exposed a series of vertical images of CSX Q427 (Portland to Selkirk) as it passed through a window of afternoon sun.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.
The dappled light on the trees and the dark shadowed hillside beyond made for a dramatic painterly back drop, while tree shadows on the foreground snow minimized the effects of glare and provided texture.

At Chester, Pop set up his tripod to make a hi-resolution video of the train climbing. I positioned myself with my Canon EOS 7D with a telephoto lens to make use of the window of sun against a dark background.

As the train grew closer I also exposed more conventional views with my Lumix LX3. The heavy train took more than two minutes to pass.

Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.
Lumix LX3 photo showing the whole scene.

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 Tomorrow: step back 30 years with a visit to West Springfield.

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DAILY POST: Vermonter at Dusk


Ethereal View at Millers Falls, January 2014.

Tim Doherty asked me a few weeks back, “Have you ever tried a shot from the north side of the Millers Falls high bridge?” I’d looked a this several times, but was discouraged by the row of trees between the road and the railroad bridge.

Amtrak
Amtrak‘s northward Vermonter crosses the Millers River on January 12, 2014.

So, on January 12, 2014, at the end of the day (light), Tim and I went to this location with the aim of making images of Amtrak’s northward Vermonter crossing the aged Central Vermont span.

 

As there was only a hint of light left, I upped the ISO sensitivity of my Canon EOS 7D and I switched the color balance to ‘tungsten’ (indoor incandescent lighting which has the same effect as using tungsten balance slide film (such as Fujichrome 64T), and so enhances the blue light of the evening.

 

A call to Amtrak’s Julie (the automated agent) confirmed the train was on-time out of Amherst. Running time was only about 20 minutes (a bit less than I thought) but we were in place, cameras on tripods, several minutes before we heard the Vermonter blasting for crossings in Millers Falls.

The result is interpretive. The train’s blur combined with view through the trees and the deep blue color bias makes for a ghostly image of the train crossing the bridge.

Click to see related posts: Dusk on the Grand CanalAmtrak Extra, Millers Falls, Massachusetts, October 22, 2013

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DAILY POST: In the Spirit of Christmas


Cold, Holiday Lights, and Trains.

New England Central
New England Central’s local freight with locomotive 3015 idles in front of the Palmer Yard (Massachusetts) office. I exposed several images, this one was at about 15 seconds.

The other night in Palmer, Massachusetts an arctic breeze was blowing, but that didn’t stop me from making time exposures to capture the holiday spirit.

I exposed these photos despite numb hands and cold feet. I used my Lumix LX-3 (choice night camera in cold weather) fitted to a large Bogen tripod.

Years ago, I fitted plastic-foam pipe insulation to the tripod legs (as per recommendation by experienced cold-weather photographer Mike Gardner). This makes it easier to handle the tripod when it’s very cold.

My exposures varied from about 1.6 seconds at f2.8 (ISO 200) to 25 seconds at f4.0 (ISO80). I set the camera manually using the histogram from test exposures to gauge my settings.

Christmas lights on dark nights make for exceptionally difficult contrast. If you overexpose to allow good shadow detail the lights get blown out (losing their color[s] as a result). Underexpose to feature the lights and the sky and shadows turn to an inky black.

Somewhere in between is a compromised setting. Rather than ponder the subtleties of the histogram as the blood in my toes congealed, I opted to take a series of images, one after the other, and select the best of the bunch in a warm environment later on.

Palmer's star railroad themed restaurant is the Steaming Tender; this has been colorfully decorated with holiday lights. I made a series of exposures from several angles. This one was exposed correctly for the lights and looked good in the histogram, but appears too dark in my opinion. I prefer the image below.
Palmer’s star railroad themed restaurant is the Steaming Tender; this has been colorfully decorated with holiday lights. I made a series of exposures from several angles. This one was exposed correctly for the lights and looked good in the histogram, but appears too dark in my opinion. I prefer the image below.
This is about one stop brighter. While I feel it looks better overall, one noticeable flaw is that the 'Steaming Tender' sign is overexposed and the lettering isn't readable. Ultimately the solution may be to blend the two images in post processing, but I've not bothered to do that yet.
This is about one stop brighter. While I feel it looks better overall, one noticeable flaw is that the ‘Steaming Tender’ sign is overexposed and the lettering isn’t readable. Ultimately the solution may be to blend two images of different exposures in post processing, but I’ve not bothered to do that yet.
New England Central's 3015 pauses in the yard for a 25 second time exposure. I wonder if the car adds an element of interest to the photo? If not now, maybe in years to come. Lumix LX3 photo.
New England Central’s 3015 pauses in the yard for a 25 second time exposure. I wonder if the car adds an element of interest to the photo? If not now, maybe in years to come. Lumix LX3 photo.
Palmer Mass.
Looking toward CP83 (interlocking at the west end of Palmer) and the old Union Station (now the ever-popular Steaming Tender restaurant). A westward CSX intermodal train from Worcester is gliding through the scene. I exposed this at about 5 seconds at ISO 200. It is about 1.5 stops ‘over exposed’ as per the camera meter, but by using a much lighter exposure I’ve captured the effect of the moonlit high clouds and textures of the snow. On the downside, some of the Christmas lights have blown out (become seriously overexposed).

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DAILY POST: East Brookfield, Massachusetts Moments Before Sunrise.

A Broadside Pan of Modern Locomotives with Autumn Foliage.

CSX Evolution-series locomotive.
CSX Q422 rolls east at CP64 in East Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Exposed using a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens at 1/125th of a second at f2.8, ISO 800.

Early in the morning of October 22, 2013, I noticed that CSX’s Q422-22 was working the east end of Palmer yard. It was too dark to make a conventional image, and the location of the train not suited to make a night photograph, so I headed east.

CSX’s Q422 is not a train I often see. This is a carload train that runs from Selkirk Yard (near Albany) over the former Boston & Albany main line to Worcester. It is one of many symbol freights on the B&A route that tends to be nocturnal.

When I was photographing in the 1980s, Conrail operated a similar train which carried the symbol SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester). This tended to run in the mid-morning and normally followed the intermodal parade.

I made many images of the old SEPW, which back in 1984 typically operated with sets of four GE B23-7s (rated at 2,250 hp each).

Memories of those days flashed through my mind as I drove east toward daylight. I followed the line up the Quaboag River Valley, as I have many times in the past. At West Warren, there was a glow in the eastern sky, but it was still pretty dark, so after a few test shots I continued eastward.

I considered a favorite location at Brookfield, near milepost 67, but decided against it because it was too head on (stay tuned for an image at this location in an upcoming  post).

I’ve found that in very low light, it helps to photograph trains off-axis to minimize the effect of locomotive headlights. When ambient light levels are low (at dawn, dusk, and very dull days) the relative brightness of headlights can result in undesirable flare which can be especially annoying with digital photography.

Recent undercutting work at East Brookfield resulted in clearing of a small hill that has made for a great broad-side photo location. This is set back from the tracks and provides good elevation. Here, I set up and waited.

Before long I could here the chug of  General Electric diesels across the Brookfield flats and then my scanner chirped something to the effect of: “CSXT Q422-22, Clear Signal CP64.”

To get the effect of speed and set the locomotives off from the background foliage, I exposed this image at 1/125th of a second at f2.8, ISO 800.

As CSX’s Q422 ascended Charlton Hill on it last leg of the trip to Worcester, I headed in a north-westerly direction toward Millers Falls. I’ve learned that make the most of a New England autumn, it helps to keep moving.

CSX_3077_w_Q422_Pan_East_Brookfield_2_IMG_3510

For more on photographic panning technique see the following Tracking the Light archive posts: Irish Rail Intercity Railcar Panned; February 18, 2013; and More Secrets on Pan Photos.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution CSX and other America railway networks.

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DAILY POST: Quaboag River Arches at West Warren, Massachusetts

Autumn Color and Mirror-Like River Make for a Diorama-Like Setting.

The rugged unsettled Quaboag Valley between Palmer and West Warren is a beautiful place, but difficult to work with photographically. Access is limited and the narrow valley combined with heavy overgrowth shadows the line much of the day.

CSXT train on bridge.
CSX’s Q022-22 works east on the former Boston & Albany mainline near West Warren, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens. Minor adjustments in post-processing were necessary to control contrast and improve exposure.

My favorite vantage-point is this twin stone-arch bridge near West Warren. Since my last visit, logging efforts have opened the vista a bit more, allowing a slightly higher view of the tracks.

On October 23, 2013, I learned that CSX’s Q022 (eastward Intermodal container train destined for Worcester) was about an hour away, so I put myself in position to make a photograph.

The season’s leaves were just past peak, which is my preferred time to make autumn images of trains. Why? I’ve found that when almost all the trees are orange, brown and yellow, with hints of red, images seem more autumnal than when some trees are their most brilliant shades of red and orange but others remain green.

A stroke of luck was the very still day: there was virtually no wind while relatively low water-levels in the Quaboag allowed for a mirror like reflection of the bridge and train. This effect is much harder to achieve when the sun is out causing light breezes that tend blur the surface of the water.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution CSX and other America railway networks.

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

Explore Tracking the Light’s archives for more than 300 previous posts.

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East Brookfield Station, October 25, 2009

 

Last Look at an Old Boston & Albany Station.

On the Morning of October 25, 2009, I brought my brand new Lumix LX3 out for a test run. I had just received my first digital camera and this was a trial to see if it was any good.

I’d bought it on the recommendation of Eric Rosenthal. My initial hope for the camera was to use as a light meter and to make photos of friends.

Lumix LX3 photo.
East Brookfield, Massachusetts looking west on October 25, 2009—four years ago.

That morning I drove to East Brookfield and made this image of the old Boston & Albany station. Two eastward trains came by and I photographed those on film, not trusting the new purchase for anything important.

I later drove around making photos of local architecture in the autumn color. I soon found that the LX3 was an extremely powerful tool capable of very sharp images and useful for making a great variety of railway photos.

Approximately 11 months later, I received a phone call from Dennis LeBeau of the East Brookfield Historic Society: the station had been torched by vandals and gutted. For another year or so the skeletal remains of the building remained trackside as a sad reminder of what had been.

This Lumix image is exactly four years old today. In the interval, since I made this image I’ve released the LX3’s shutter more than 15,000 times.

 

See Yesterday’s News Flash! Massachusetts Central’s Recently Acquired GP38 makes First Revenue Run

Tracking the Light posts new material daily.

See my Dublin Page for images of Dublin’s Open House Event in October 2013.

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

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London Underground July 2013—Part 2


More Views of the Underground.

As a follow up to yesterday’s post London Underground July 2013—Part 1, I’ve assembled some of my favorite images from last week’s exploration in London.

Underground Station at Covent Garden
The classically tiled Underground Station at Covent Garden is easily identified. Lumix LX3 photo.

The Underground cleverly blends transport and style. In my experience it is one of the world’s most popular public transportation systems. Phrases like ‘Mind the Gap’ appear on mugs and T-shirts, while many shops sell stylized maps of the Underground network.

There’s a lesson here.

Charing Cross Underground station
Charing Cross Underground station is the preferred way to access The National Gallery and other nearby museums. Lumix LX3 photo.
Tube station.
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are among London’s largest tourist attractions. This poster describes Victorian interest in art and places photography in period context. Lumix LX3 photo.
London Tube.
A passenger prepares to board as a Piccadilly Line tube train glides into the Kings Cross St Pancras Underground station. July 2013 photo exposed with a Lumix LX3.
Tube Train.
By placing the camera against the ceiling of the tube train, I secured an unusual angle, minimized vibration to allow for a long exposure, while momentarily attracting the interest of fellow passengers. Lumix LX3 photo.
Air raid signs
Historic Underground signs recall the fear from sky-bourne warfare. Canon EOS 7D photo.
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Sun Scorched Irish Extravaganza—Part 3

 

Classic Views of an Historic Irish Trip.

 

In previous posts I focused on the human side of Irish Railway Record Society’s Dublin-Cork excursion on 20 July 2013.

However, I also made my own share of classic views showing Saturday’s railway excursion at identifiable locations. I’ve displayed a few view here. In addition to digital image I also exposed color slides at key locations.

 

 

See posts from the last few days for more views of Irish Railway Record Society’s 20 July 2013 diesel hauled trip on Irish Rail to Cork, Cobh and Midleton.

Irish Railway Record Society special, 20 July 2013.
Irish Rail 071 and 073 with IRRS Special at Templemore on 20 July 2013.
Irish Railway Record Society special, 20 July 2013.
Irish Rail class 071 number 073 led the excursion on the Cork-Cobh leg of the trip. It is seen during a photographers stop at Rushbrooke, County Cork. The best classic views were made from a nearby road bridge. The train was well spotted for photos. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

 

Irish Railway Record Society special, 20 July 2013.
Irish Rail 071 catches the sun at Cobh, County Cork on 20 July 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
Irish Rail_071_Cobh_Vert_IMG_0250
A vertical three-quarter view (or near to it) of Irish Rail 071 at Cobh, County Cork on 20 July 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Irish Railway Record Society special, 20 July 2013.
At Kent Station Cork, engine 071 runs around the train and will follow to Middleton. There doesn’t appear to be anyone in my photo and who’s that shouting? oops. 😉
Kent Station, Cork
Irish Rail 073 reflects into a Mark 4 train at Kent Station in Cork on 20 July 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

Irish Railway Record Society special, 20 July 2013.
Operation to Midleton required a bit of shuffle owing to a lack of run around facilities. Presently this is the end of the branch. Normally the only equipment on the line are double-ended railcars. Photos of locomotive hauled trains here are highly prized and photographers vied for position to get the best views. Locomotive 073 which brought the train from Cork can be seen in this distance. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

A bit of color: 201-class General Motors diesel number 209 (painted for the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise) on a Mark 4 set at Cork on 20 July 2013.
A bit of color: 201-class General Motors diesel number 209 (painted for the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise) on a Mark 4 set at Cork on 20 July 2013.
Irish Rail 071 catches the sun at Cobh, County Cork on 20 July 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
Twin 071s couple on to the excursion at Kent Station Cork. The view from the Dublin-end of the shed is among the best in the city. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

Irish Rail 2800s.
Irish Rail’s 2600-series railcars pause at the back of the train shed in Cork. These are typical of the trains normally assigned to Cork suburban services. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Irish Rail 086 rests with a ballast train at Lisduff as viewed on the return trip of the IRRS special.
Irish Rail 086 rests with a ballast train at Lisduff as viewed on the return trip of the IRRS special. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

 

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SEPTA’s Media Trolley, June 30, 2013

 

Contemporary views of a Traditional Streetcar Route.

On the afternoon of Sunday June 30, 2013, Pat Yough and I visited Media, Pennsylvania to photograph SEPTA’s Route 101 Streetcar.

Streetcar at Media, PA.
SEPTA’s Route 101 car on East State Street in Media, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens (set at 135mm).

A century ago, single-track streetcar lines graced many American towns. The era of the electric trolley car faded decades ago. Today, Media is virtually in class by itself. Historic re-creations aside, where else in the USA does a single-track streetcar route serve “Main Street”?

The 101 Route is one of two SEPTA (former Red Arrow) streetcar lines radiating from its 69th Street Terminus in Upper Darby in suburban Philadelphia. The other trolley line is the 102 route to Sharon Hill. 69th Street is also served by the Route 100 high-speed interurban line to Norristown (the old Philadelphia & Western line) and the Market-Frankford elevated.

Trolley at Media, PA.
SEPTA’s 101 trolley stops at street corners to collect and drop off passengers. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Trolley.
A Kawasaki streetcar near the end of the line in Media, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.
The trolley is a Media, Icon. Canon EOS 7D photo.
The trolley is a Media, Icon. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Media, Pennsylvania.
East State Street, Media, Pennsylvania on June 30, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
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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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Drowning the Light

 

 

Something a Bit Darker:  Enigmatic or just playing around?

Palmer in Gloom and Rain, May 24, 2013.

Friday evening May 24, 2013 wasn’t the driest night in recent days. I was in Palmer, Massachusetts to meet some friends for dinner. On the way in, I timed my arrival to intercept CSX’s westward Q437 (Worcester, Massachusetts to Selkirk, New York). I’d learned that one of the specially painted ‘Diversity in Motion’ AC4400CWs was leading.

The day was in its final moments with just a hint of blue in the sky. The signals at CP 83 (dispatchers control point, measuring 83 miles from South Station, Boston) lit up moments after I arrived. That gave me about six minutes to think up a photo solution. Since the car-park (parking lot) at Steaming Tender was comparatively empty, I opted for a broadside pan. All I had to work with was my Lumix LX3.

Pan photo of CSX.
CSX Q437 rolls through CP83, Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX3 photo.

I set the LX3 for 200 ISO, switched ‘off’ the image stabilizer (I’ve found this tends to interfere with long pans), and selected ‘aperture priority’ with f2.6 and +1/3 exposure compensation. Then I set the focus manually and waited. There’s a slow order through Palmer, and Q437 passed traveling not faster than 30mph. I made a long pan and the camera selected a shutter speed of 1/3.2 seconds. A long exposure, but not long enough. I still needed to lighten the image in post processing using the program’s ‘curve’s’ feature.

After dinner, it was raining steadily. Rich Reed, Bill Keay & I returned to CP 83 to observe the arrival of a southward New England Central freight. I made a couple of more long pans in the gloom of night. Then, I placed the camera on an old railroad tie to make one final exposure of the train in the rain.

New England Central freight arrives at Palmer yard. Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6 1.3 seconds, panned hand held in the rain.
New England Central freight arrives at Palmer yard. Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6 1.3 seconds, panned hand held in the rain.
New England Central freight arrives at Palmer yard. Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6 1.6 seconds, panned hand held in the rain.
I grabbed a second pan shot, as with the previous image, this one was with the Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.6. Slightly longer exposure: 1.6 seconds, also panned hand held in the rain.
Rain at Palmer yard. May 24, 2013. New England Central freight . Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.5 1/1.6 seconds.
Rain at Palmer yard. May 24, 2013. New England Central freight . Lumix LX3 ISO 200 set at f2.5 1/1.6 seconds.

Something a bit different anyway and it cost me nothing but a few moments of my time (and suffering some gratuitous dampness.)

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Quaboag Valley in Fog and Sun, May 10, 2013

 

Anniversary of the Golden Spike.

Morning of May 10, 2013 finds heavy fog at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. This view looking south on New England Central's former Central Vermont Railway. Canon EOS 7D.
6:38 am on the morning of May 10, 2013 finds heavy fog at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. This view is looking south on New England Central’s former Central Vermont Railway. Canon EOS 7D.

May 10th holds symbolic railroad significance as the anniversary of completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1869—an event that had great national and international importance. Many other railway anniversaries can be linked to May 10 as well.

In 2007, I coordinated a team of 37 photographers to document a full day’s worth of North American railway activity from Nova Scotia to southern California and from the Pacific Northwest to southern Florida in what became a book titled The Railroad Never Sleeps published by Voyageur Press.

Although this seems to be out of print, it remains a stunning photographic collection, which is especially impressive considering it was entirely accomplished within the limits of just one day!It’s hard for me to believe that six years have passed since that day.

Yesterday (May 10 2013), I got up early and aimed for Palmer, Massachusetts, with an aim of making a variety of railway images on this significant day. In the course of just a few hours, I’d photographed five train movements on three different railroads. I was home by 9:30 am. (Although, I was out again later in the day to investigate some changes to railway infrastructure).

When I began my photography there was thick fog clinging to the valleys; this gradually burned off leaving bright sun. Here’s a selection of my efforts.

Train in fog.
6:43 am. New England Central 608 led by GP38 3857 works south of Palmer Yard approaching Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts. On May 10, 2013, the sun was out, just not here. Canon EOS 7D.
Tracks in forest.
7:49 am. The fog had begun to lift when I made this view along Mass-Central’s former Boston & Albany Ware River Branch near Forest Lake, Palmer, Massachusetts. May 10, 2013. Canon EOS 7D.
Here was a complete surprise for me; I was unaware that Mass-Central had borrowed a GATX GP15-2 locomotive until I saw it leading the northward freight. Some quick driving  on my part put me in position at this broadside view where the line crosses Forest Lake. I was pleased, that's a nice looking locomotive in fresh paint.
7:52 am. Here was a complete surprise for me; I was unaware that Mass-Central had borrowed a GATX GP15-2 locomotive until I saw it leading the northward freight. Some quick driving on my part put me in position at this broadside view where the line crosses Forest Lake. I was pleased, that’s a nice looking locomotive in fresh paint. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm Pancake Lens.
Crossing the mountain from the Ware River Valley to the Quaboag River Valley, I heard CSX Q264 call the signal at CP83 in Palmer. I altered my course to intercept it at West Warren, where recent undercutting and brush work has opened up a nice view for morning trains headed east. The sun was just emerging from the fog making for some rich soft light. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
Crossing the mountain from the Ware River Valley to the Quaboag River Valley, I heard CSX Q264 call the signal at CP83 in Palmer. I altered my course to intercept it at West Warren, where recent undercutting and brush work has opened up a nice view for morning trains headed east. The sun was just emerging from the fog at 8:15 am making for some rich soft light. Canon EOS 7D with f4.0 200mm lens.
EMD SD70MAC
8:29 am. Only a few minutes behind Q264 was this eastward intermodal train. The sun was out brightly in Warren and I could hear the roar of EMD diesels well before the train reached me. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens at 28mm.

 

 

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New England Central, Monson, Massachusetts, May 8, 2013

The ‘Pride of Palmer’ Climbs Stateline Hill.

Yesterday morning, jetlag had me awake and alert considerably earlier than I’m accustomed. By 7 am, I’d photographed three trains on two railroads in two states and was on my way home to get some work done. Crazy thing, jetlag.

Tracks in Monson, Massachusetts
New England Central’s former Central Vermont Railway line looking north toward Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts. Canon 7D with an f2.0 100mm lens.

The highlight of the morning’s impromptu photo excursion was this image of New England Central’s ‘Pride of Palmer’ (GP38 3851) climbing through Monson, Massachusetts with a short freight for Willimantic, Connecticut. This is passing Monson’s ‘tornado alley’, where, nearly two years ago a freak afternoon twister made splinters and memories of  many fine buildings and trees.

New England Central GP38 in Monson, Mass.
At 6:16 am on May 8, 2013, New England Central 3851 approaches the ‘Monson tunnel’, now nearly an underpass below Main Street. Canon 7D with an f2.0 100mm lens, ISO 400 exposed at f4.0 1/250th, white balance set for ‘cloudy.’
Train in Monson, Mass.
New England Central 3851 approaches Main Street, Monson. Exposed with a Lumix LX3, set at ISO 200. Image modified with Adobe Photoshop to compensate for exposure extremes and to warm the color balance.

 

 

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Bluebell Railway April 20, 2013—Part II

Attention to Details.

Bluebell Railway
Luggage on the platform at Horsted Keynes on April 20, 1948, no sorry, make that 2013.

 

Bluebell Railway
Old advertisement at Sheffield Park.
Bluebell Railway
Nameplate on locomotive Stowe inside the engineshed at Sheffiled Park. Lumix LX3 photo.

One of the great features of Britain’s preserved Bluebell Railway is its exceptional attention to detail. Everywhere you look there is something to make the past, alive. Old advertisements, piles of luggage, semaphore signals, cast iron warning signs, and buckets of coal.

You hear the clunk of a rod moving a signal blade from red to green, followed by the shrill guard’s whistle and the slam of a wooden door. Then a mild hiss as the automatic brake is released and the sharper hiss from the locomotive as it eases off the platform. Yet, the Bluebell experience isn’t all about its locomotive, or its trains. The Bluebell is a railway experience.

Semaphores.
Outer home semaphore on the Bluebell Railway near Horsted Keynes. I’m especially impressed by Bluebell’s  great attention to period railway signalling (two ll’s). 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.
The number plate on a smoke box door catches the hint of a blue sky beyond. Canon EOS7D with 28-135mm lens.
Bluebell Railway.
A class 9F 2-10-0 emits wisps of steam on the platform at Sheffield Park. Lumix LX3 photo.
Old railway posters
Southern Railway advertisements hint of the glamour of railway travel from another era. Lumix LX3 photo.

The time warp ends when you arrive back at East Grinsted, where you insert your ticket with its magnetic stripe into automatic barriers, then board a modern electric multiple unit with sealed windows, plastic décor and space-age loos that look like they belong on the set of Star Trek.

Crews chat on the platform at Sheffield Park. Lumix LX3 photo.
Crews chat on the platform at Sheffield Park. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

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Bluebell Railway April 20, 2013

Visiting a Preserved Steam Railway.

The Bluebell Railway is Britain’s first standard gauge preserved steam railway. It dates from the early 1960s, and for more than 50 years has offered excursions over a scenic portion of former Southern Railway, ex London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. Today the railway runs from East Grinsted to Sheffield Park (south-southwest of London), and includes a relatively long tunnel.

Bluebell Railway.
Departing Kingscote behind a British Railways class 9F on April 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

Bluebell, like many of Britian’s steam railways, is a fully functioning preserved line, complete with stations, signal boxes (towers), authentic period signal hardware (including semaphores), engine sheds and lots of staff (presumably mostly volunteers), all of  which contributes to the appearance of an historic British railway. In other words, it’s like a time machine!

Bluebell Railway.
Bluebell’s staff wear period railway attire. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

On Saturday April 20, 2013 David Hegarty and I traveled from London by train via East Croydon to East Grinsted. It was a beautiful clear bright day. Bluebell had just recently reopened its line for connections to British rail network at East Grinsted.

Bluebell Railway.
New track! On April 20, 2013, our train from East Grinsted navigates the recently completed connection from the British rail network. After more than five decades of isolation from the British rail network, Bluebell is finally connected.

While not especially photogenic, I found the new East Grinsted transfer a big improvement for reaching the Bluebell. On previous visits, I’d hired a car and drove directly to Horsted Keynes—a mid-point station on the Bluebell. All things being equal, its nice to arrive by rail.

Engine driver on the Bluebell.
Enginemen on Southern Railway 2-6-0 1638 at Horsted Keynes. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

It was interesting to travel behind steam (British Railways 2-10-0 class 9F) over newly laid track. We spent a full day wandering up and down the line by train. At one point we went for a long hike following signposted footpaths to a known good spot (what friends like to call a KGS). I’d found the spot, north of Horstead Keynes, about 10 years ago.

Bluebell Railway.
Bluebell’s dinner train departs Sheffield Park on April 20, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 28-135mm lens.

Biggest challenge to making photos on the Bluebell is their operating practice of locomotives facing north, which can present some difficult lighting angles considering most of the line is on a north-south alignment.

Bluebell Railway.
My known good spot: here a Bluebell train works the bank north of Horsted Keynes. Lumix LX3 photo.
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Irish Rail Ballast Train at Islandbridge, Dublin, April 16, 2013

Iarnród Éireann’s elusive HOBs on the move.

Yesterday morning (Tuesday April 16, 2013) was sunny and warm, but very windy. Fluffy clouds raced across the sky casting shadows as the rolled along. This is always a tough situation when waiting for a train to pass. Often, it seems the desired train passes just as cloud obscures the sun.

I was lucky; a big cloud was just clearing as Irish Rail 080 exited the Phoenix Park Tunnel. There was more than a two-stop difference between the cloudy and sunny spots. With full bright sun, I caught Irish Rail’s ‘High Output Ballast’ (known on the railway as HOBS) passing Islandbridge Junction.

Irish Rail Ballast Train
Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens, exposed at 1/500th second f7.1. In-camera Jpg and RAW files were made simultaneously. This is a scaled Jpg from the in-camera Jpg.

I made a few Fujichrome slides with my EOS 3 and some digital with the Canon EOS 7D. I’ll have to wait a few weeks for the slides, but here are my digital efforts.

Ballast wagon.
Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens, exposed at 1/500th second f9.0. I made a spot decision to stop down from f7.1 to f9, based on the camera meter. With rapidly changing light and a moving train, I didn’t have time to consult the exposure histogram.
Irish Rail Ballast Train
Irish Rail HOBS at Islandbridge.

I’ll be presenting my illustrated talk “Ireland through American Eyes 1998-2008 My first Decade in Ireland” to the London area Irish Railway Record Society  tomorrow, April 18, 2013.

The program begins at 1900 (7pm) upstairs at the Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street, LONDON NW1, (advertised as a 5 minute walk from London’s Euston station). A nominal donation of £3.50 is asked of non-IRRS members (members £2.50)

For more on the IRRS see: http://www.irrs.ie/

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British Rail Class 9F 2-10-0 on North Yorkshire Moors Railway; April 10, 2011

9F 2-10-0 near Goathland
British Rail 9F 92214 approaches Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway on the morning of April 10, 2011. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm zoom lens; ISO 200 f10 at 1/250th second. Metered manually.

British Steam:

Two years ago today, I was visiting Britain’s preserved North Yorkshire Moors Railway. This is an amazing operation. The railway is worked with a colorful mix of preserved steam and diesel locomotives. Trains work on a regular schedule, traversing the sublime Yorkshire Moors. In addition to beautifully restored stations and signal boxes (tower), the railway is well accessed by hiking trails. This location was recommended to me by a member of the railway’s station staff at Goathland—and is only 10-15 minute walk from the station platforms.

This was a pleasant place to spend a crisp Spring morning. I could hear locomotive 92214 barking up the grade for several minutes before it came around the bend into view. Later in the week I had business attending the annual London Book Fair, which while interesting and necessary, couldn’t compare to my brief experience on the North Yorkshire Moors!

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The Sun Doesn’t Always Shine In Dublin; But it did on April 2, 2013!

Irish Rail‘s Day in the Sun—April 2, 2013.

It was a rare day in Dublin. After what has been reported as the coldest March on record (and, undoubtedly one of the grayest), waking up to a clear blue dome was a joy. As a weekday, Irish Rail had fair bit on the move, above its normal schedule of passenger trains.

Irish_Rail_224_IWT_Liner_Islandbridge_Jct_Vert_IMG_0463
Irish Rail Class 201 number 224 rolls through Islandbridge Junction with the Dublin-Ballina IWT-Liner on April 2, 2013.

My first move was to catch the ‘down IWT Liner’ (Dublin to Ballina International Warehousing and Transport container train) from my usual spot. This place is easy, too easy, so has often become my default location. Not to linger, I hopped on the LUAS (Dublin’s tram system) to meet my friend Colm O’Callaghan down (at) the North Wall (near Dublin port).

We proceeded to a favored overhead bridge at Claude Road on Dublin’s North Side to catch Irish Rail’s last orange 071 (number 084) working a long welded rail train up from the permanent way depot (track maintenance yard). This was delayed coming across from Islandbridge by the passage of scheduled trains on the Sligo Line.

Rotem ICR.
A Sligo to Dublin Connolly passenger train passes Claude Road, Dublin.
071 class diesel.
The long welded rail train approaches Claude Road in Dublin on April 2, 2013.
 Once standard, orange trains have all but vanished from Irish Rail in recent years. General Motors-built class 071 number 084 is the last locomotive in traffic to wear orange paint. A new livery is being applied to the 071 class presently.

Once standard, orange trains have all but vanished from Irish Rail in recent years. General Motors-built class 071 number 084 is the last locomotive in traffic to wear orange paint. A new livery is being applied to the 071 class presently.

After catching this unusual train, we moved down to the Cork Line at Lucan South to wait for the ‘Up IWT Liner’ from Ballina led by another of the 071 Class General Motors diesels.

All of these images were exposed with my Canon EOS 7D. Had I anticipated such a productive venture, I would have brought along a film camera. Perhaps next time!

The Ballina to Dublin IWT liner works ‘up road’ on the slow line near Lucan South in west suburban Dublin. Not far behind is a Cork to Dublin-Heuston Mark4 on the fast line. This will overtake the freight in a few minutes.
The Ballina to Dublin IWT liner works ‘up road’ on the slow line near Lucan South in west suburban Dublin. Not far behind is a Cork to Dublin-Heuston Mark4 on the fast line. This will overtake the freight in a few minutes.

Irish_Rail_083_w_IWT_Lucan_South_close_view_w_pylon_IMG_0497

I’ll be presenting my illustrated talk “Ireland through American Eyes 1998-2008 My first Decade in Ireland” to the London area Irish Railway Record Society on April 18, 2013.

The program begins at 1900 (7pm) upstairs at the Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street, LONDON NW1, (advertised as a 5 minute walk from London’s Euston station). A nominal donation of £3.50 is asked of non-IRRS members (members £2.50)

For more on the IRRS see: http://www.irrs.ie/