I made good use of the pass, traveling over several heavy rail routes to make photos.
One of the greatest features of this pass is the ability to get on and off trains without concern for cost, or trying to explain to the conductor where I’m are traveling to. This allows me to change my plan on the spot if I see an interesting location.
SEPTA offers regular interval service on most of its suburban lines, with extra trains in the evening rush hour.
These digital photos were made using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.
The other night, I used my Lumix LX7 to expose these views of SEPTA’s route 15 trolley on Girard Avenue in Philadelphia.
Working in ‘A’ mode (which allows me to select the aperture while the camera picks the shutter speed) I dialed in a 1/3 stop over exposure to allow for a more pleasing overall exposure to compensate for the dark sky and bright highlights.
I also made a couple of exposures using the Lumix’s built in ‘hand held night’ (one of the scene mode pre-selects, available by setting the top dial to SCN , pressing the menu button and scrolling through the options).
The hand-held night mode was recommended to me by Denis McCabe. This makes a blended composite image from a half-dozen or so exposures automatically exposed in a relatively rapid sequence. It’s not perfect, but allows for decent images of relatively static scenes if you hold the camera steady.
These are some roster views of equipment I’ve used over the years.
I say ‘roster’ to clarify, that these are not ‘builders’ photos of the equipment. Like decades old General Motors diesels, my cameras are battle-worn machines that show the effects from years of hard service.
While I’ve lit these images to show detail, I’ve not made any effort to disguise, clean or dress up these old cameras. You see them as they are.
In my youth I made most of my photos with various Leica 3s that were the better part of fifty years old at the time.
In the 1990s, my pal TSH exclaimed sarcastically that I’d missed my calling as a Nikon endurance tester.
I’ve typically chosen to work with durable equipment that featured excellent optics and rarely worried about acquiring the latest models or gadgetry. These are tools to an end and not jewelry.
Among the cameras missing from this selection of photos are several of my work-horse machines; my dad’s original Rolleiflex, my old Leica M2 rangefinder (that my brother occasionally still uses), various Nikon model F2/F3/F3T and N90s bodies (plus lenses) that I dragged all around the world between 1990-2006, a Nikkormat FT3 (with red leather), and my Canon EOS-3s, which I continued to carry around to exposed film. Also, my two newest machines, a Lumix LX7 (that exposed these images) and a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera).
Yesterday, I displayed an image of Dublin’s Heuston Station bathed in green light; today, I feature Connolly Station. These Dublin railway terminals are among the oldest big city stations in continuous use in the world.
Connolly Station features classic Italianate architecture typical of many large stations world-wide.
The greening of Connolly for St. Patrick’s Day is a more subtle treatment than on some of Dublin’s structures.
They are easy to use. It’s like stepping back in time. Sort of.
Panasonic’s new camera comes with a fantastic lens and sensor combination, but what if clarity seems too sterile? Perhaps, you want to get the effects (and defects) characteristic of old film cameras? No problem!
The LX100 has a button on top of the camera called ‘filters,’ which alters the color, contrast, exposure and sometimes the focus of digital files to emulate a variety of effects that were once characteristic of older camera-film combinations.
The advantage of the ‘filters’ feature is that the effects are done ‘in-camera’ without the need to fiddle around with photo-shop or other post-processing software. The button opens a menu and you simply select the desired filter. This shows you the treatment on screen and in the viewfinder.
In my early days of photography, I experimented with a variety of older cameras, and sampled various film types. My skills weren’t yet developed and my results were a bit random. The LX100’s filter mode allows me to step back to those early experimental times when any photographic result seemed like success.
The best part of filters is that you can easily switch from one mode to the next and back to normal again quickly. Below are some of the filter results. I’ve given these comparative names in ‘quotes’ that I felt were more appropriate than Panasonic’s, but put the camera-filter name in [brackets] for reference. Just so you know. Ok?
Do you have any favorites?
Funny, there didn’t seem to be a filter for ‘Kodachrome 25’.
It’s been nearly 20 years since New England Central assumed operations from Central Vermont.
In that time New England Central has had three owners. Originally a RailTex property, it was owned by RailAmerica for more than a dozen years and now is a Genesee & Wyoming railroad.
Despite that, a few of its original GP38s remain painted in the blue and yellow scheme introduced when the railroad began operations in February 1995.
NECR 3850 was working job 603 in Palmer and paused for a minute on the interchange track. Although I’ve photographed this old goat dozens of times in the last two decades, I opted to make a series of images with my Lumix LX7 to demonstrate the different color profiles (color ‘styles’) built into the camera.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the great compositional tools available with the Lumix LX7 (and other cameras too) is the ability to quickly change from one color profile to another (including black & white modes).
Although, it is easy enough to adjust and alter color in post processing, I find it is useful to be able to compose a scene on-site knowing how the camera will react to color and contrast.
Below are a sequence of similar images of 3850 using different built-in color profiles. I’ve adjusted the B&W ‘monochrome’ profile in-camera to better suit my personal taste.
Which of the photos do you like the best?
Of course every computer display has its own way of interpreting color and contrast. Compare these images on different screens and see how they change.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
April 9, 2010; a group of my Irish friends and I were on a week long trip to the Rhein and Mosel Valleys.
The Rhein is great place to experiment with equipment and technique. Busy double track mainlines occupy both sides of the river amid stunning scenery and historic architecture.
I was set up at the south end of the station platform at Kaub on the Right Bank. This is the busier freight line, with trains passing in fleets. Rarely ten minutes would pass without something clattering along.
My vantage point also gave me a good view of the Left Bank and the Pfalzgrafenstein—a colorful castle situated on an island in the middle of the river. Working with my Lumix LX3, I played with the camera’s aspect ratios as an exercise in composition.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
One of the strengths of the Lumix LX-series is the ability to make close-up and detail photos.
The camera’s optical system allows for great depth of field, while the ability to focus manually has allowed me unusual flexibility to make detailed photographs.
While experimenting with the LX7 at the Streamliners at Spencer event held by the North Carolina Transportation Museum, I made many detailed views. This was an idea time to get close, since there was a great variety of equipment on display with great pedestrian access.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
My first digital Camera was a Panasonic LX3 that I bought in late 2009 on suggestion of my digital photography advisor, Eric Rosenthal.
At the time, I’d planned to use the camera as a light meter, to make supplemental photos, and to photograph in social situations where having an email ready photo quickly was an advantage.
In the first few months, I occasionally used this camera for railway action photos, but for the most part I continued to rely on my Canon EOS-3s for important situations.
I gradually concluded that the LX3 was a fantastic image-making tool. For the next five years I carried this camera everywhere. I exposed more than 64,000 images with it. I’d still be using it, except it broke! (Some observers suggest that I wore it out) The digital display at the back of the camera stopped functioning reliably.
My father lent me his LX7 for a few weeks, and I quickly concluded that I needed one.
Overall it is a much better camera.
On the downside, it is nominally larger.
On the plus side:
1) It is easier to use.
2) When set up properly there’s virtually no delay in making an image from the time the shutter is released.
3) It cycles much faster.
4) It has a better lens, which lets more light in and has a longer telephoto setting.
5) It offers a variety of features that allow for more creative images, including: a built in neutral density filter; an automatic High Dynamic Range mode that rapid blends three images in a sophisticated manner.
6) It has a traditional aperture ring.
7) It has a built in level that can be displayed on the screen.
8) It has the option of an external digital viewfinder.
Over coming weeks, I’ll continue to discuss the virtues (and drawbacks) of these various cameras. Incidentally, recently Panasonic announced another new camera, the LX100, which looks to be even better than the LX7.
On the afternoon of February 6, 2010, Pat Yough, Chris Guss and I were photographing along the former Pennsylvania Railroad at Emporium, Pennsylvania. This route is operated by the Western New York & Pennsylvania, a short line famous for its late-era use of Alco Century diesels.
I was primarily photographing on Fujichrome using my pair of Canon EOS-3, however, I was experimenting with my relatively recently acquired Panasonic Lumix LX3.
Western New York & Pennsylvania’s westward Driftwood Turn (the ‘DFT’) was switching near a grade crossing in nice winter sun. This gave me ample opportunity to try various modes with the Lumix, so I varied the aspect ratio (the parameters of the frame) and sampled various built-in color profiles.
I was curious to see how the camera handled backlighting and flare, so I made a few cross-lit silhouettes to push the limits of exposure. These are a few of my results. The files are unaltered except for scaling for internet display. I haven’t adjusted color or exposure in post processing, nor have I cropped them.
As regular readers of Tracking the Light are aware, since that time, I’ve made great use of the LX3. I wore it out, and a few months ago I replaced it with a Panasonic Lumix LX7, which is an even better camera.
It was the morning of August 28, 2010. My father and I had arrived at Bellows Falls, on our way to St. Albans. It was quiet and nothing was moving on any of the three freight railroads that serve the town.
East of the passenger station there were a few old Budd RDCs stored on former Rutland Railroad sidings. I took a few minutes to made some photos with my Lumix LX3. My father has some nice Kodachrome slides of Boston & Maine and New York Central cars working in the 1960s. I remember riding them out of Boston in the 1970s.
One of the benefits of Budd’s Shotwelded stainless steel construction is that the cars won’t rust. Yet, the overgrowth makes for some interesting studies in decay. The cars still reflected the light nicely.
More than 30 years earlier we’d explored these same sidings. Back then there were decayed vestiges of wooden sided boxcars around the place, and considerably few trees.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
I visited Rotterdam for an afternoon and evening. This is considered The Netherland’s architechtural capital and certainly features a wide variety of unusual modern buildings.
Rotterdam had been left in ruins after the Second World War, and over the last seven decades has been rebuilt in a style unlike any place else I’ve even seen. For me, its next closest cousin is Toyko, and that’s a bit of a stretch.
The city has an excellent modern tram system, a stunning underground metro, and world-class railway connections.
The city revolves around the port, is one of the busiest in Europe, and a central focus of much of the water-front architecture.
I found it an intriguing place to make photographs. My regret was that my visit was so short. My three cameras were kept busy through my wanderings.
Tomorrow! Rotterdam Centraal—one of Europe’s newest stations.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Belgium’s Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges (Belgian National Railways or SNCB) operates a top-notch passenger network with interval frequencies on most routes. This works on a hub and spoke system, where planned changes allow passengers a great variety of destinations.
On an August 2014 evening, I arrived at Ottignies from Charleroi on my way to La Hulpe in the Brussels suburbs. My journey itinerary gave me 13 minutes to change from one train to another.
Ottignies is an old school station with traditional platforms and canopies. While this can’t last forever, I’ll take its situation as a blessing. Refurbished stations are fine for passenger utility, but offer less in the way visual character.
Since I’d changed here previously, I had a sense for where the light would be.
That’s right! I had precisely 13-minutes to make photographs, and I was prepared to make the most of it! (And yes, I exposed some colour slides too. You know, for the record.)
Sometimes I stumble into the past. Although I was keen to explore Charleroi by tram, I wasn’t expecting the vestige of roadside interurban operation on the long line to Anderlues.
Frequency on this line is only about every half hour, and I nearly gave up on this leg of my journey while waiting for a delayed outbound tram at the dark and dire brown-tile transfer station called Piges in western Charleroi.
Much of the route features modern construction on concrete elevated structures and subway, a creation of the Charleroi Metro. However, once beyond a turn-back station at the end of this infrastructure intensive right of way, trams operate on a vestige of the old Vicinal network (once the operator an extensive system of Belgium’s interurban tram lines).
This includes side-of-road operation with long sections of single track, passing sidings and brick-lined streets. I was astounded. I checked my calendar, and it confirmed that it really was August 2014, not sometime in the mid-twentieth century.
However, as is too often the case, I was on short-time and only had a few hours to explore this fascinating railway.
One of two functioning railway terminals in Manchester, United Kingdom. The third, Manchester Central Station has a vast balloon shed but neither tracks nor trains, and is a lot like Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal now.
I spent a few minutes at Manchester Piccadilly wandering around making photos. There’s a constant unceasing flow of passengers and trains. Many trains serve stub-end tracks below the shed, which a few serve through tracks on the west side of the station.
The contrast between the shed and its cast iron columns and the humming multicolored self-propelled trains below makes for interesting images. But what to focus on?
Part of the attraction of North Carolina Transportation Museum’s Streamliners at Spencer event was the pre-arranged night photograph sessions. Large industrial scale flood lamps were arranged to provide roughly even lighting on locomotives that had been arranged and spotted specifically for photography.
I’ve often worked on the darker side of photography, and this was no exception. While I took advantage of the ‘arranged’ lighting to make standard views of the equipment. I made a special effort to go beyond the obvious.
Here I worked in the shadows, using the lights in a more interpretive way. I sought out scenes of the shops and facilities that were part of the background.
The challenge was trying to stay out of the way of the photo lines to avoid the ire of those with a front-lit view.
On one of the evenings there was a thunderstorm, which made matters extra challenging!
At crew changes and other convenient points, Amtrak schedule’s ‘smoke breaks’ where passengers can get off the train, stretch their legs, enjoy the fresh air, and, in my case, make photos of the train.
I had about ten minutes at Raleigh, North Carolina this morning to make photos train 80, Carolinian during this momentary pause. By that time, I’d been on the train for more than 3 hours, with nearly another nine hours to go.
Rather than tow the whole camera kit, I just carried the Panasonic Lumix LX 7, which is light, easy to use, and is capable of making extremely sharp images.
Playing with the external Lumix Live View Finder, I adjusted this vertically, which allowed me to place the camera very close to the ground without the need for lying belly first on platform.
The low angle with a slightly telephoto view provides a clean dramatic perspective that minimizes unnecessary and visually distracting foreground.
Morning Views, May 28, 2014—North Carolina Transportation Museum.
With more than two dozen classic locomotives to photograph, and lots of other relics of interest, I exposed more than 300 image with the Lumix LX-7 in just three hours. In addition, I was also working with my Canons, one for film, one for pixels.
Here are just some of detailed views I exposed with the Lumix. These are macro images, as opposed to wide shots that take in the whole scene. (And, yes, I made plenty of those too.)
The light was mixed. Nice soft early sun soon gave way to a hazy flat bright light. I’m glad I brought my old Minolta IV light meter, this proved very useful.
The ease of use of the Lumix LX-7 made it an especially valuable too. Today I was working with the electronic view finder, instead of the rear screen display. I wonder if this altered my compositions?
I was very impressed by the paint on the Lackawanna F3’s, even if they were built for the Bangor & Aroostook, What are your favorite locomotives on display at Spencer?
More Spencer Streamliner photos to come over the next few days!
Tracking the Light posts new material every day, with special ‘Extra’ posts on the Streamliners at Spencer event this week!
Trenton Makes the World Takes—That’s what the sign says!
May 28, 2014. Three passenger railways, lots of trains and not much time.
I’m traveling with Pat Yough. We arrived at Trenton about 20 minutes before the arrival of Amtrak 79 Carolinian. [Posted from the train via Amtrak’s WiFi.]
I put the Panasonic LX-7 through its paces. Changing the ISO proved to be a bit different than I was used to with my old LX-3. One of the great advantages of digital photography is the ability to adjust the ISO (camera sensitivity) and color profile from frame to frame. Back when I was just shooting film, I’d routinely carry several camera bodies loaded with different film types.
It took me a while to figure out how to change the ISO, but it turns out that Panasonic had anticipated my need. Where the LX-3 required multi-tier menu navigation, the LX-7 has a special button labeled ‘ISO.’ This allows an easy change.
While at Trenton, I experimented with 400 and 80 ISO settings. The sensor on the LX-7 is much improved over the LX-3s.
With the LX-7, I found the 400 ISO setting to be very acceptable on the computer screen. While nominally less saturated and with more noise in the shadows than ISO 80, over all the result was really very good. I’d generally avoided using 400 ISO on the LX-3.
Today’s post is a follow up to both of yesterday’s posts, which covered my experiments with the Lumix LX-7 and the beginning of my adventure to Spencer.
As covered in yesterday’s Tracking the Light Special Post, I was traveling on Amtrak’s two-car shuttle, scheduled as train 475, which runs from Springfield, Massachusetts to New Haven, Connecticut to connect with Boston-Washington train 175. I sent my post from the train.
Amtrak 475 arrived early in New Haven, giving me about 15 minutes to wander around making photographs. I’m continuing to test my father’s Panasonic Lumix LX-7, and there was some nice low sun to work with.
I was keen to photograph the Shore Line East train which features a ‘GP40-2H’ locomotive in the classic New Haven Railroad McGinnis livery.
I also fished out my Canon EOS3, that was buried in the depths of my camera bag, and exposed a few frames of Fuji Velvia 100 of the New Haven painted commuter engine. My hand held Minolta IV light meter aided my exposure; f5.6 1/500th.
It will be a few weeks yet before I see the slides, so for now we can settle for the Lumix instant digital images (that’s what they are for, right?)
New Haven in the early evening is a busy place. In addition to Metro-North trains coming and going, an Acela bound for Boston was arriving on Track 4, just as Amtrak 175 approached Track 1.
I exposed a series of images of train 175, hauled by venerable Amtrak AEM7 number 943. How many millions of miles has this old electric have to its credit? Low sun and the angle of the curve made for a nice grab shot from the Boston-end of the passenger platform.
Certainly, I found that the Lumix LX-7 has its moments, although the differences in the controls (as compared with my old LX-3) befuddled me a couple of times. Traveling on 175 was comfortable, but the WiFi on the train wasn’t working. I arrived in Trenton at the last glow of daylight.
I’m just getting warmed up, so stay tuned! (or what ever the Internet equivalent is to that old radio term).
Last month (April 2104), my Panasonic Lumix LX-3 began performing erratically while I was photographing Irish Rail at Monasterevin.
Although annoying, this was only a minor setback of the day, because I had my Canon EOS 7D with me. I often travel with at least two cameras, just in case one develops problems.
The LX-3 suddenly suffered an electrical fault; specifically the rear display stopped working reliably. Sometimes it would flicker on, other times it was dark. I tried all the usual cures; I turned the camera off and then on, I removed the battery, I even tried the factory reset. No joy.
In the short term I found that if I pressed on the side of the camera body, the display would come on long enough to make adjustments. I continued to use the LX-3 for secondary services, while relying on the Canon EOS 7D and film cameras for more critical work.
I’ve had my LX-3 for almost five years and in that time I’ve carried it with me everywhere. It’s visited about a dozen countries, and more than a dozen US states. In addition to pictorial service, I’ve used it intensively to copy documents while in libraries. Using the in-camera file counter, I determined that I released the shutter more than 64,000 times.
Last November the camera took a very hard knock, which didn’t immediately affect its performance, but certainly didn’t do it any good. In April, the camera was subject to unusual dampness (it got wet) while I was making night shots in Porto, Portugal.
On May 24, 2014, my father lent me his Panasonic LX-7 to see if this newer Lumix model would offer a suitable replacement. This camera comes highly recommended to me by several people. Since it’s essentially the latest model kin to my LX-3, it may represent an ideal choice for my new ‘everywhere camera’.
I brought it to Palmer, Massachusetts where I exposed about 100 images in various conditions, both to get a feel for the cameras controls (which have several notable differences from the LX-3), and examine the quality of the images.
I found that the LX-7 had several positive points. In general it reacted quicker and cycled faster than the LX3. Its zoom lens has a wider range, and offers longer telephoto photo settings. The rear display seemed sharper and brighter.
On the downside, I was unfamiliar with the controls, so setting the camera proved challenging. Also, the camera is slightly larger.
In general I was happy with my results, and plan to experiment a bit more with the camera before I commit to buying one. There are a variety of excellent small cameras on the market these days, so I may wish to sample some of these too. More to come!
The other evening I made this opportunistic photo of Dublin’s Heuston Station. I was on my way to meet a friend for coffee, when I noticed that the station was seasonally bathed in coloured light. I made a couple of quick photos with my Lumix.
I set the over-exposure for +1/3 and allowed the camera to set the exposure using the ‘A’ (aperture-priority) setting (set for f2.0).
Unfortunately, the exposure was still too dark for my liking. While the front of the station is properly exposed, the rest of the scene was unacceptably dark.
I compensated with some post-processing contrast/exposure adjustment. Yet, I still feel this photo is too dark. But, since I’m walking distance from Heuston, I can return and try this again! As they say on the radio, ‘stay tuned!’
On October 20, 2013, I stopped by the Connecticut Trolley Museum near East Windsor and made a variety of photos. The day was perfect; warm and sunny with a cloudless clear sky. A bit of autumn color clung to the trees.
This was an opportunity to experiment with my cameras and I’ve displayed here three images of former a Boston Type 5 streetcar that was working the line.
I exposed the top image on Fuji Velvia 50 color slide film with my father’s Leica M4 fitted with a 35mm Summicron. The bottom images were simultaneous files made with my Lumix LX3 (which features a Leica Vario-Summicron lens).
The Lumix allows me to make both a camera RAW file and a JPG at the same time. The Lumix software has a variety of color profiles for the JPG files that alter the appearance of the image. Typically, I use the “Standard” profile such as displayed here.
Although I’ve scaled all of the files and processed them for internet display, I’ve not made major changes to contrast, exposure or content. The color slide required a nominal color balance adjustment to remove the inherent bias associated with this film.
I scanned the slide using my Epson V600 scanner.
My father has some nice views of Boston’s Type 5s in revenue service exposed on Kodachrome in the 1950s.
All things being equal, I wonder which photographs will survive the longest? The 50+ year old Kodachromes? My Velvia slides exposed in October? Or the digital files exposed the same day? All the digital files (including scans) are preserved on at least three hard drives. While the slides are stored in a dark, cool dry place.
I grew up seeing the Electroliner projected on our slide screen; my father had photographed these classic trains on several occasions between 1958 and 1963 on the North Shore, and later on Philadelphia’s Red Arrow Lines.
Many years ago, I saw an advertisement on the back cover of Trains Magazine asking for donations to help save one of the trains. I sent $15, which wasn’t much money, but it was every penny I had. I was only about 13 or 14 at the time.
Happily both streamlined sets have been preserved: one is at the Illinois Railway Museum at Union; the other at the Rockhilll Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania.
On June 19, 2010, Hank Koshollek, John Gruber and I traveled from Madison, Wisconsin to the Illinois Railway Museum. Among the trains on display was the Electroliner.
It was the first time I’d seen the train outdoors since catching a fleeting glimpse of it at SEPTA’s 69th street shops in the late 1970s.
I wanted to make a distinctive image of the train, so I used my Lumix LX3 to make a dramatic close up. I also made several more conventional views.
This is relevant because IRM is now hoping to restore the train to service. IRM’s Tom Sharratt contacted me via Tracking the Light, and detailed their plan along with a plea to get the word out:
IRM is pleased that we are finally working on completing the restoration of our [Electroliner] set (801-802), hopefully in time for its 75th Anniversary (Jan 2016.) All eight motors need to be removed and inspected and repaired as necessary, the air conditioning needs to be replaced, and the interior worked on (we have the fabric and a volunteer who is working on that now.) We only (!) need to raise $500K. We have right around $100K now, and need $150K before we drop the motors and take them to a contract shop. We have a Facebook page– http://www.facebook.com/Electroliner
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!