During the course of yesterday’s Railway Preservation Society of Ireland The West Awakerail tour to County Mayo I exposed dozens of portraits of the crew, passengers and observers, along with views of the train from many angles.
This selection was exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
Thanks to Irish Rail and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland for a well-planned rail excursion!
In my quest to display transport and railway images while disseminating information on technique, location choice, lighting and how I use photographic equipment, I’ve aimed to cover a diverse range of railway subjects.
These include: freight and passenger; heavy rail and transit; views across North America, Ireland and many other nations; photos by day, by night and in dusk and in twilight; rural, urban and suburban settings; above ground and below; track gauges broad, standard and narrow; preserved railways and modern for-profit carriers; historic and contemporary subjects; film and digital; black & white and colour; wide angle and telephoto; model trains and prototype; views with scenery, with structures, with people; photos in all weather; sun over the shoulder, sun in the face, and sun behind the cloud. Signals, bridges, stations, sheds, and etc; Common places and obscure locations.
Also myriad associated forms of transport including canals, highways and in the skies; active lines and those lifted.
Some images represent a degree of perfection; most are works in progress; a few present examples of failure or missed opportunity.
Minutes ago (on 4 April 2019) I made this view from Conyngham Road in Dublin as an ICR working a Grand Canal Docks-Hazelhatch service exited the Phoenix Park Tunnel and crossed the lattice bridge over the River Liffey.
Spring is in bloom and the trees are just getting their leaves, yet it is freezing outside with a harsh nip in the wind.
Tracking the Light is on ‘auto pilot’ while Brian is traveling.
Never pass up a perfect sunny photograph. That’s been my policy for a very long time and its one that pays off.
There’s nothing special about an Irish Rail Rotem-built InterCity Railcar (ICR) on the Sligo Line.
And 20 years ago there was nothing special about a General Motors 071 diesel-electric with Mark 2 carriages on the same run. Photos like this one will age well. Someday some young photographer will wish that he/she was at Clonsilla to capture a scene like this one.
This week Tracking the Light is on ‘auto pilot’ while Brian is traveling.
On 23 March 2019, I set up in Drumcondra along the Royal Canal on Dublin’s north side to photograph trains working the Newcomen Line.
Normally the visually intriguing Newcomen line trackage is only lightly used during midday with most moves scheduled for weekday rush hours.
Instead, Irish Rail typically routes trains on the parallel double-track line via Drumcondra Station; however on the weekend of 23-24 March 2019 works on that line resulted in diversions to the Newcomen Line.
I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera.
I’ll admit that if you’re not closely familiar with Irish Rail’s Dublin operations my title to today’s Tracking the Light post might seem cryptic.
Two of the Irish Rail 201 class General Motors diesels, 231 and 233, are painted in a minimalist silver, black and yellow livery. These are colloquially known in the enthusiast community as ‘raccoons’ (or ‘badgers’).
Engine number 233 has been shy lately and rarely seen out on the mainline.
RPSI stands for the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.
RPSI owns an historic set of Cravens-built passenger carriages.
These are stored/maintained at Irish Rail’s Inchicore works (repair shops), and when they are required for an excursion, Irish Rail makes a transfer run across Dublin to deliver them to Connolly station for boarding.
The graded three-track line from Islandbridge Junction to Inchicore runs through a cutting along Con Colbert Road known as ‘the Gullet’.
While I’ve covered most of this previously, I figure it doesn’t hurt to review the esoteric every so often to avoid confusion.
Tracking the Light is on Auto Pilot while Brian is Traveling.
—Some nocturnal views of Dublin suburban operations—
Working in the gloom of night has its challenges and benefits.
It’s especially challenging when the camera I intended to make film photos was suffering from a flat battery, again (so I thought).
One of my Nikon F3s was again showing signs of no electricity. Changing out the batteries on an railcar, I began to suspect something else . . .
Anyway, last week Paul Maguire, Jay Monaghan and I arrived at Pearse Station as a potential location to picture Irish Rail’s Sperry train that was making its run to Bray to inspect rail conditions.
We decided to try the next station down the line, and traveled on a DART electric train to Grand Canal Docks. With my Nikon dead in the water, I opted to work with my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm digital cameras instead. This changed my perspective as I’d hope to make black & white film photos.
As we waited on the platforms for the Sperry train. I made photos of the DART and suburban diesel railcars, which dominate operations on this route.
Diesel haulage is the attraction of the elusive Sperry train; and on this evening Irish Rail 086 did the honors.
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!
Oh yeah, about the F3T’s battery problem. Later, I discovered that the plastic cartridge that holds the batteries appeared to have developed a short. Luckily, I have a spare F3 and swapped out the cartridge solving this difficulty.
A little while ago I made this pair of photos at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
In a repeat of a few weeks back clouds were racing across the sky making for wild changes in the quality of light from moment to moment.
First up was today’s (14 March 2019) IWT Liner from Dublin’s North Wall to Ballina, County Mayo. This had 073 in retro orange. A few minutes later, Irish Rail 080 came around with an empty LWR (Long welded rail train).
The clouds foiled my first effort. But breaks in the cloud allowed for respectable telephoto view of the LWR. On the downside, my 50mm colour slide of same won’t be as impressive as the clouds quickly dampened the light again.
Such are the challenges of photographing moving trains in Ireland.
Here’s a few black & white views exposed last week on Kodak Tri-X of Irish Rail’s branch from Islandbridge Junction to the North Wall/Connolly.
Recently, Irish Rail has expanded service on the Grand Canal Docks—Hazel Hatch/Newbridge run and now trains run at least hourly throughout the day.
Following a Grand Canal Docks bound passenger train was the daily Up IWT Liner (Ballina to North Wall, Dublin).
Since these trains were coming out of the relatively harsh midday sun, I opted to work with black & white film, which makes the most of the contrast and allows me to control shadow and highlight detail to a greater degree than with my digital cameras, while giving the images a period look.
To maximize tonality and detail from the negatives I employed a ‘split process’ using two developers.
First I use a very weak solution of Kodak HC110 mixed 1 to 250 to water. To intensify the detail in shadows while avoiding over processing highlight areas, I keep the developer temperature comparatively high (73F) and allow it to work to exhaustion. My second developer is Ilford ID mixed 1-1 for 6 minutes 45 seconds with one minute agitation intervals. Then stop; fix 1, fix 2, rinse for 3 minutes, hypoclear, then a series of final washes. Dry and scan.
On Tuesday, 26 February 2019, working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto, I made these digital sunset views from the windows of the Irish Railway Record Society near Dublin’s Heuston Station.
This evening 28 February 2019 at 730pm at these same IRRS premises, I’ll be presenting my traditional slide program General Motors Diesels in North America. Visitors are welcome!
About a week ago an Irish Rail ICR rolled past me. These parade by at such regularity that I often pay them little notice. Nice to travel on, but common.
Hey, wait . . . did that one have purple doors? (Since delivery in 2007-2008, these have been forest green).
It did. And I failed to even lift the camera to make a photo.
Shame on me.
So, the other day in nice light when an ICR approached, I was ready. And this one too had the purple doors.
I wasn’t out for the ICR, but rather for the down IWT liner (container train to Ballina, County Mayo) that was running late. Actually, I was on my way to buy batteries for my Nikon F3, which had failed the day before. The stop at Islandbridge Junction was a sideshow.
In the summer of 1999, I was standing on the footbridge at Kildare station where I focused on Irish Rail 225 leading Mark3 carriages as it approached at speed.
My first Nikon N90S was loaded with Ilford HP5 and fitted with an old Tokina 400mm fixed focal length telephoto.
The train was common; my photograph was unusual. Working with extreme telephoto compression, I’ve framed the train in the arch of road-bridge, which has the effect of accentuating the pattern of the crossovers east of the bridge.
I recall the piercing Doppler squashed screech of 225’s horn as it neared the platforms, warning passengers to stand back.
The memory of that sound and the following rush of air as the train raced past puts me back in that place in time nearly 20 years gone. I know too well how I was feeling at the time. Strange how one photograph of a train can summon such memories and feelings.
Yesterday, 20 February 2019, Irish Rail operated two Ballina-Dublin IWT Liners—container trains.
The first, running as K801, had the 071 class leader in the as-built heritage-livery.
I photographed this train at Memorial road in Dublin.
The second, running about two hours behind the first, had freshly painted Irish Rail 074 (in the current gray and yellow). I caught this one from above the entrance to Dublin’s Phoenix Park Tunnel off the Conyngham Road.
In both instances, I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens.
The other evening I made a few handheld photos of Irish Rail class 201 diesel number 217 River Fleskat Dublin’s Heuston Station.
217 was working a Mark4 set on the 2100 schedule to Cork.
There are myriad approaches to night photography. In this instance, I worked with my Lumix LX7 without a tripod.
I’m fortunate because I have an unusually steady hand. The Lumix further aids my efforts because it has image stabilization.
I set the camera to ISO 200, and working in ‘A’ (aperture priority) I manually set the lens aperture to its widest opening, which in this case is f1.8. The wider the aperture, the more light passes through the lens to reach the sensor, so having a ‘fast’ lens (one with a small maximum aperture number, such as my f1.8 lens) is a huge benefit.
This set up allowed me work with a 1/10 of second shutter speed, which is adequate speed for a static photograph.
If I had been using my FujiFilm XT1 with the kit zoom lens, my widest aperture would have been about f4.5, which is nearly two full stops slower than f1.8, which means at ISO200, I’d require about ½ second exposure to obtain a comparable result, which is too slow for a sharp handheld image in most instances.
Another way of approaching this would be raise the ISO. So with the FujiFilm set up just described, I could increase the ISO setting to 800, which would boost the effective sensitivity of the sensor by two stops (bringing me back up to 1/10thof a second using f4.5). However, this would also boost the noise level and reduce sharpness.
Back in the old days, I would have used Kodachrome, and that would have required a tripod, and probably some filters to colour-correct for the artificial light. Today, digital cameras when set to ‘auto white balance’ do an admirable job of balancing the colour for fluorescent, sodium vapor and other forms of artificial light that tend to tint an image.
Normally for night work with the Lumix, I’d dial in a 1/3 over exposure compensation (+ 1/3 on the exposure compensation dial) however in this situation the relatively bright night sky where low cloud was illuminated by lots of artificial light combined with the silver body of the locomotive and bright platform lighting, obviated the need for boosting the exposure by 1/3 of a stop.
However, I did make some very subtle changes in post processing to help visually separate the roof of the locomotive from the sky.
Monday, 11 February 2019 was bright and sunny in Dublin.
Although I was only just back across the Atlantic, I made use of the morning when I’d heard that Irish Rail 073 in heritage orange paint was working the down IWT Liner (container train operated from Dublin’s North Wall to Ballina, Co. Mayo).
As this exited Dublin’s Phoenix Park Tunnel approaching Islandbridge Junction, an Irish Rail ICR working the Hazelhatch-Grand Canal Docks service came the other way.
I hadn’t anticipated a ‘rolling meet’, but as luck had it I got two trains for the price of one.
This sequence of photos was exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 27mm pancake lens.
Recently discussions of Irish Rail’s Sligo Timber have led me to ask, ‘When did this traffic end?’
Sometimes my memory offers a clear picture of the past, in other situations it is fuzzy and lacking desired detail. This is among the reasons I try to apply detailed labels and captions to my photographs near the time of exposure.
I recall the Sligo timber’s revival in Spring 2002, and my many opportunities to photograph timber trains on the Sligo Line and in around Dublin in the years that followed, but I’m unable to remember when the last train operated.
On guessing, I thought 2007 or 2008 was pretty close. So on reviewing my photo files, I was a bit surprised to find this photograph dated 21 May 2009.
I exposed this view on Fujichrome from my regular spot at Islandbridge Junction, which shows Irish Rail 232 in the modern green livery leading a timber out of the Phoenix Park Tunnel. The construction-progress of the apartments at left helps me confirm the date of the photo.
So, when was the final movement of timber by rail from Sligo? I must have been away.
It was a bright overcast afternoon on 26 May 2005, when I photographed Irish Rail 077 leading an empty bubble cement train from Conyngham Road in Dublin looking toward platform 10 at Heuston Station.
I made this photo on Fujichrome slide film using my Nikon F3 with 180mm Nikkor ‘prime’ telephoto lens.
The telephoto compression has the effect of making the distant mountains seem closer while foreshortening the appearance of the cement train, which makes the individual four-wheel cement wagons seem even shorter than they were.
Here’s a late 1990s view on Amiens Street in Dublin in front of Connolly Station.
The 1980s-era DART electric suburban train isn’t remarkable; except for a nominal change of paint and end lights, these cars look much the same today.
However, so much else has changed, which makes the photo look dated, and fascinating now.
I exposed this Fujichrome colour slide using my Nikon F3 with 135mm lens, probably in the Spring of 1998, and no later than Spring 1999. At the time of exposure, the scene seemed so unremarkable, I didn’t bother to put a date on the slide mount.
My penultimate post for 2018 that features Ireland’s 201-class diesels focuses on locomotive number 233—second to last in the series (201-234).
In recent times this has worn the minimalist ‘raccoon’ livery, while for a number of years it wore the older Enterprise scheme.
I exposed these views of 233 in the Dublin area over the last three years.
I’ve been featuring the Irish Rail 201 diesels as part of my 20 years in Ireland photography retrospective. I started with the class leader number 201, and have progressed sequentially. Take a wild guess as to which locomotive I’ll conclude the series! (This is not a trick question. You don’t need to consult a crystal ball or take a class in advanced mathematics.).