I made these trailing views of Cape Cod Central’s Dinner Train at Sagamore, Massachusetts in the final minutes of direct sun.
The broad open channel of the Cape Cod Canal adjacent to the railroad plus an open area with minimal shadowing caused by line-side brush and structures made for an ideal place to capture the low-evening sun reflected off the classic passenger cars.
I exposed a burst of photos with my Fujifilm XT1 digital camera with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom set at approximately 50mm.
Exposed at f22 1/125thsecond at ISO 200. Raw file adjusted in Lightroom to control contrast and maximize highlight detail with slight balancing/lightening of shadows.
Last week, Irish Rail operated a late IWT liner that departed Dublin in the evening, instead on its normal mid-morning path.
A group of my friends went to Cherry Orchard in the west Dublin suburbs to capture this relatively unusual move. While waiting for the freight, I made views of the evening passenger parade.
The sky was clear of clouds and sun was aligned with the Cork line making some interesting possibilities of glint and silhouette photographs.
In the 1990s, I exposed hundreds of images in this type of dramatic lighting conditions. The characteristics of Kodachrome 25 slide film made it well suited to glint photographs and I had my K25 exposures refined to a high art.
Glint photographs are more difficult to capture digitally, and I find that I have to control contrast and use digital masks/digital applied graduated neutral density filters in post processing to obtain the results that I expect.
Key to this exercise is underexposing a raw file sufficiently to retain detail in the sky and glinty areas of the image, than lighten shadows while making localized highlight adjustments in post processing.
Air pollution, fluffy clouds and very low sun can create some wonderful soft lighting.
Evening glint is a fleeting ephemeral condition.
The Northeast Corridor in central New Jersey is an ideal place to make use of soft glint.
Long tangent sections of track, a favorable north-east to southwest alignment and ample quantities of air-pollution plus very frequent service, allow for excellent opportunities as the light shifts and fades.
I made these photographs at Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick.
Getting the exposure right is crucial for successful glint photos.
I usually use manual settings. I’ve found that when exposing for glint light it is important pay careful attention to the highlight and shadow areas.
I avoid clipping the highlights (as result of over exposure), but also make sure that I don’t stop down (reducing the amount of light reaching the sensor ) too much, which will make the shadows completely opaque.
Over the shoulder light is easy to work with but doesn’t always make for the most dramatic images. When possible, I like to find dramatic lighting and to see what I can make of it.
So here we have an unusual, captivating and difficult lighting situation.
Looking down the New Brunswick, New Jersey station, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I found this brief shaft of light made by the setting winter sun.
Luckily during the few minutes where sun penetrated New Jersey’s concrete canyons we had a flurry of trains to catch the glint.
I made these images with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail. I made nominal adjustments to shadow and highlight contrast to improve the overall appearance of the images.
The other day Pat Yough showed me some examples he made with his digital Nikon of trains glinting in the curve at Madison. Since to emulate this effort, I’d require a longer focal length lens than I have for my FujiFilm X-T1, I opted to fire up my Canon 7D with a 200mm lens, and joined Pat for another evening’s photography on the Shore Line route.
Often I find that by making repeated trips through the same territory will allow me to make the most of my photography. I can learn where the light and shadow fall, how the railroad operates, and how to work with the various elements at hand to make the most effective images. If I miss something or make a mistake on one trip; I learn from it and armed with this knowledge try again.
In this situation, I needed a longer lens to make the image work. However since the sun is only sets on the north side of the tracks here for a few weeks, I needed to act while the light was right.
Evening sun with a textured fair-weather sky combined with well maintained paving stones and a healthy tree at left made for a visually compelling setting.
Freiburg, Germany still operates some of its vintage Duewag trams that feature a streamlined body and rounded front-end.
To make the most of the svelte classic tram I opted for a low angle and favored the angle of sun for reflective glint. The bicyclist was a fortuitous subject that makes for a more interesting photograph by introducing a human element.
To expose this image I worked my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with the rear live-view display tilted upward, which allowed me to compose the photo while holding the camera relatively low to the ground.
I adjusted my 18-135mm zoom lens to near its widest angle.
The real trick was keeping the composition interesting as the action rapidly unfolded.
In post-processing I darkened the sky and lightened the shadow areas to improve overall contrast.
Which of the three images is your favorite?
(This essay was composed while transiting the Channel Tunnel between Calais and Folkstone on 30 April 2016).
Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light is a Daily Blog discussing Railway Photography.
Another set from the old school: On January 29, 2016 at West Haven, Connecticut, I exposed a series of Fujichrome color slides of Amtrak train 137 (Boston to Washington) using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.
I’ve found that Fujichrome works very well capturing the wide dynamic range and subtle colors of a stainless-steel train reflecting the sunset.
I scanned these slides using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 scanner. The files will be ultimately be archived in three locations on portable high-capacity external hard drives, while the slide will be stored with my other film photographs in a cool dark place.
On June 1, 2014, Pat Yough and I traveled on the Carolinian from Charlotte to the Philadelphia area. We were returning from a successful visit to the North Carolina Transportation Museum’s Streamliners at Spencer event. The train departed Charlotte on time. I enjoyed the service, but I can’t say I endorse North Carolina’s gratuitous air-line style boarding procedures.
As I write this, I’m putting the finishing touches on a book that will feature photography from that adventure (and many others). Tomorrow I fly to Köln, Germany with some Irish friends to begin ten days exploration of the Rhein and Mosel Valleys. During that time Tracking the Light will continue to post daily, but will be on ‘auto-pilot’ for a while. Stay tuned!
In early summer 1986, Conrail was weeks away from converting the Boston & Albany route from a traditional directional double track mainline to a single-track line under the control of CTC-style signals with cab-signal. The first section to be cut-over to the new control system was between Palmer to Springfield, Massachusetts.
Among the results of this change was the abandonment and eventual lifting of the old westward main train west of Palmer.
I was well aware of this pending change and had been documenting Conrail’s work in the area over the preceding months.
On the evening of June 17, 1986, I focused on the westward main track at the Quaboag River bridge just west of the Palmer diamond as Conrail’s eastward SEBO-B dropped down the short grade toward the Palmer yard.
While the train adds interest to the scene; my main focus was the track in the foreground that would soon be gone. I made a variety of images in this area on the weeks up to Conrail’s cut-over day.
Photographing directly into the clear summer sun produced a painterly abstraction. I’ve allowed some flare to hit the camera’s lens which obscures shadow detail and makes for a dream-like quality.
Years after I exposed this frame, I moved to California where I met photographers that had perfected this photographic technique. Interestingly, railroad photographers had been using backlighting to good advantage for a long time. In searching through archives I’ve come across fine examples of Fred Jukes’ and Otto Perry’s works with similar backlighting effects.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr on the last lap to Chicago.
Last Saturday afternoon, Chris Guss, Pat Yough and I finished up a day’s photography on the former Burlington ‘Triple Track’ around La Grange, Illinois.
We inspected Metra’s Congress Park Station, which consists of two narrow platforms along the busy mainline. Here the sun held a little longer than other places where trees were causing difficult shadows.
Shortly before sundown, we caught an outward Metra train. An automated voice announced that this train wouldn’t stop. After it passed, I spotted a headlight on the horizon. Mistaking this for a relatively slow moving freight, I returned to the car for a longer lens.
Pat Yough shouted to me, as the train was approaching quickly. I hastily returned to the platform, making test exposures as I ran.
The resulting photos are what our friend Tim Doherty calls ‘Hail Marys.’ I had just enough time to compose and pop off a few frames as the Zephyr blew through Congress Park.
Amtrak Number 6, the California Zephyr approaches Congress Park, Illinois at sunset on November 9, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm.