Tag Archives: Massachusetts

CSX on this day Five Years Ago-November 2, 2013.

Five years ago today, I made this view of a westward CSX autorack train on the old Boston & Albany near mp 67 from Route 148 in Brookfield, Massachusetts.

This was exposed digitally using my Canon EOS 7D with a fixed focal length 200mm ‘prime’ lens. This view is the camera produced JPG, scaled for internet presentation.

November 2, 2013.

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Palmer Station in Paranormal Poster

Palmer, Massachusetts’s Steaming Tender restaurant has featured my photo in a recent poster advertising a Paranormal Interactive Investigation to be held at the old Union Station building on February 5, 2019.

Steaming Tender’s advertising poster. My photo was reproduced with permission.

I made the original photo on Kodachrome in 1992 using my Nikon F3T with 105mm Nikkor lens mounted on a Bogen 3021 tripod.

This scan of the original color slide was used to promote my Silver & Steel photo exhibition.

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Three Years Ago Today: New England Central at Belchertown, Massachusetts

It was July 6, 2015, three years ago, that Paul Goewey and I photographed New England Central at Springfield Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

Our vantage point is from the old Central Massachusetts Railroad right of way—a line that was abandoned in the early 1930s, when Boston & Maine obtained trackage rights over the parallel Central Vermont (now New England Central) line.

On this Day, July 6, 2015, I caught Connecticut Southern 3771 leading the southward New England Central 611 at Springfield Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

I made this view using my FujiFilm X-T1.

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Memory and MBTA at Middleborough.

It had been a very long time since my last visit to Middleborough, Massachusetts— decades.

I made these views of an outbound MBTA from the Route 28 overpass south (west?) of the old New Haven Yard.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm telephoto.

Dull summer overcast lighting is just as I remembered it, but the scene is so much changed there was little else to correlate this view with that in my memory, except for the old New Haven Railroad freight house in the distance (upper left).

I wonder if that will be there next time?

This tighter view focuses on the MBTA train.

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Palmer’s Busy Bright Morning—four new photos.

The day dawned clear and bright. I spent an hour at CP83 in Palmer making good use of the light. The railroads cooperated and supplied a parade of eastward trains, and these favored the sun for classic views.

I’ve made countless thousands of photos at Palmer, Massachusetts, but it’s always nice to keep the files fresh.

CSX eastward intermodal—probably Q012—passes the signals at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm telephoto lens.
New England Central GP38 3845 works a local freight on the interchange track.
NECR 3845 shoves back.
Moments after New England Central’s local disappeared from view, CSX’s B740 arrived with cars for interchange. (exposed at f5.0 1/640 ISO 200)  It was about this time that things got interesting! Stay tuned for more.

Soon the scene is likely to change since CSX is installing new equipment for its positive train control signaling, and this will likely result in new signal hardware in place of the Conrail-era signals installed during single-tracking in 1986-1987.

Then something unexpected happened, and by shear luck I caught a rare move! Stay tuned for Part 2.

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East Deerfield New Bridge—June 2018 Up Date.

We called it the ‘waste too much film bridge’.

How many thousands of photographs have been exposed from the old bridge at the west end of Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard?

The new bridge is progressing. I made these photos a few days ago.

Old and new bridges at McClelland Farm Road, East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

As mentioned in an earlier post, a new pole-line has been erected to the east of the old bridge that threatens to ruin photographs. How will this ultimately affect views from the new bridge?

Suitable vantage points are key to making good photographs, so I’m curious to see what the new bridge offers. If it turns out to be of little use, I’ll need to find new vantage points.

South approach to the new bridge.
North abutment with Pan Am tracks in foreground.
Looking west from the old McClelland Farm Road bridge.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo -in-camera panoramic composite image.

What do you think?

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Winter at Bridge Street, Monson.

Over the years I’ve made many photos of southward trains ascending State Line Hill from Bridge Street in Monson, Massachusetts.

This one was exposed in January 2018, shortly before I left for Dublin.

Lightly falling snow and a red GP40-2L made for a Christmas card scene. This is New England Central job 608 on its return run on the old Central Vermont Railway line to Willimantic, Connecticut.

Compare this winter view with those made in Spring 2017, See: Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

Exposed digitally using a Lumix LX7.

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January 2018 Sunrise—The Day was Only Beginning.

Red sunrise means you’re going to have a good day. Right?

Or was that a red sunset?

Anticipating drop-under at Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.
Looking east on the old Boston & Albany. Tennyville, Palmer, Massachusetts, January 3, 2018.
And yes, it was cold.

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CSX near Washington Summit.

Western RailRoad of Massachusetts; Boston & Albany; New York Central System; Penn Central; Conrail; CSX.

CSX is the current operator of the Boston & Albany route.

I made this photo earlier this month of train Q263 westbound at Muddy Pond approaching Washington Summit .

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

In recent years CSX freight volumes over the B&A route have been declining.

Saturday (December 16, 2017), we learned that Hunter Harrison, CSX’s Chief Executive Officer passed away.

I can’t help but wonder what will become of the B&A, and how Hunter’s controversial strategies have affected this route in the few months he was at the reigns of CSX.

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Housatonic at Housatonic—Revisited!

In June 2016, I posted on Tracking the Light some views of the Housatonic Railroad at Housatonic, Massachusetts (located along the Housatonic River).

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2016/06/14/housatonic-railroad-at-housatonic-an-example-of-contrast-control/

In November 2017, I returned to this location in advance of the approaching northward Housatonic freight NX-12 that featured two early 1960s-era GP35s in the lead followed by 32 cars (28 loads, 4 empties) and another GP35 at the back.

I find the railroad setting here fascinating. The combination of the traditional line with wooden ties and jointed rail in a setting of old factories, freight house and passenger station makes for a rustic scene out of another era.

Working with a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens I made a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X. And, I also exposed a sequence of digital color photos using my FujiFilm X-T1.

Freight house at Housatonic, Massachusetts. Exposed on Tri-X with a Nikon F3 fitted with a 50mm Nikkor lens. Film processed in Kodak D76 1-1 with water for 7 minutes 20 seconds at 68F.
Freight house and factories, looking north from the westside of the tracks. In today’s railroad world, this scene is decidedly rustic. 
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to improve shadows and highlights.
Tri-X black & white photo of Housatonic Railroad freight NX-12 working northward.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. RAW File processed in Lightroom with contrast adjustment to lighten shadows and control highlights.
Tri-X photo with 50mm lens.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.
Digital color photo exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1. Fuji Velvia color profile; camera Jpg scaled for Internet.

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Sunburst on the Boston & Maine.

Alternatively, I could call this Tracking the Light post, ‘28N at Millers Falls.’

Whichever you like.

So what do you do in a situation where a train is coming directly out of the midday sun?

You could

1) give up.

2) go for a sandwich.

3) take up plane spotting.

4) all of the above.

Or you can try something different.

The other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts I exposed these views looking timetable west on the old Boston & Maine. Train 28N is an eastward autorack destined for Ayer, Massachusetts.

Using a super wide-angle 12mm Zeiss Touit, I set the aperture to the smallest setting (f22), which produces a sunburst effect. To make the most of this effect, I positioned an autumn branch between the camera and the sun.

12mm Zeiss Touit, ISO 800, f22 at 1/125th of a second.

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Pan Am Southern at Buckland—Pick the best of three Photographs.

Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.

The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.

The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.

Telephoto view made digitally with a FujiFilm XT.
Wide-angle view exposed on black & white film.
No locomotive in this black & white photo. Is it always important to feature the locomotives?

I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?

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Night and No Tripod, Improvise!

-There’s a long history among my friends to meet in Palmer, Massachusetts on Friday nights; first some dinner and then over to CP83 to watch trains.

A few weeks ago some of the gang met, and CSX rolled through a few long freights.

I had a Nikon F3 with 24mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X, so despite my lack of a tripod, I exposed a few photos.

My exposures ranged between 2 and 8 seconds at f2.8 hand-held.

I rested the camera on the short disconnected section of track used to display a Porter 0-6-0 steam locomotive by the Steaming Tender; thus my camera support became part of the photos.

Long exposures hand-held are not easy.

I processed the Tri-X in Ilford Perceptol 1:1 at 69F for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and following stop, first fix, second fix, extended rinse cycles, I then toned the negatives in a selenium solution for 8 minutes and repeated the wash sequence.

Negatives were scanned using an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner.

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Overcast Afternoon at East Deerfield—June 29, 2017.

This is the third in my series of farewell posts on the famed East Deerfield ‘Railfan’s Bridge.’

The McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard (near Greenfield, Massachusetts) has been a popular place to photograph trains since the steam era. Work has begun to replace this old span with a new bridge to be located about 40 feet further west.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve exposed a disproportionate number of photos here. Yet, it has remained a good place for railroad photography for several logical reasons:

It’s at a hub; because of the bridge’s location at the west-end of Pan Am Railway’s East Deerfield yard, there tends to be a lot of action and opportunities to witness trains here. While waiting along the line can become tiresome, if not tedious, but there’s often something about to happen at East Deerfield.

The location above crossovers at the throat to the yard, this combined with yard leads and engine house tracks, plus the junction with the Deerfield Loop (that connects with the Connecticut River Line) west of the bridge make for some fascinating track work.

Elevation is always a plus.

There’s ample parking nearby.

The light in early morning and late evening here can be excellent. I’ve made some wonderful fog photos here, as well countless morning and evening glint shots. How about blazing foggy glint? Yep done that here too. And about ten days ago I got a rainbow.

The afternoon of June 29, 2017 was dull and overcast. Mike Gardner and I had arrived in pursuit of Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight 28N (carrying autoracks and JB Hunt containers). We’d also heard that its counterpart 287 (empty autoracks from Ayer, Massachusetts) was on its way west.

As it happened the two trains met just east of the bridge.

I exposed a series of black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica IIIa with 21mm Super Angulon lens, while simultaneously working in digitally color with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm lens.

Photographer Mike Gardner on the famed ‘Railfans Bridge’ at East Deerfield.
Pan Am Southern’s symbol freight 28N with a Crescent Cab approaches East Deerfield Yard.
Auto racks roll under McClelland Farm Road at East Deerfield West.
Pan Am Southern 28N (left) meets its counterpart, symbol freight 287 at East Deerfield yard.
One of the attractions of the East Deerfield bridge is the action.

Too many photos here? Undoubtedly. But I bet they age well. Especially when the old vantage point has finally been demolished.

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CSX Q422 at Palmer, Massachusetts

These days most of CSX’s scheduled through car-load freights tend to traverse the east end of the old Boston & Albany during darkness.

True, there’s a couple of intermodal trains, and Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited during the day, but if you want to see an old-school freight train in daylight you’ll have a long wait.

Early in the morning of June 23, 2017, I went over to CP83 (control point 83 miles from South Station) on spec to see if I could catch some freight on the move.

I have a sixth sense or really good hearing (or both), because I stepped out of the car, and I could hear a distant freight with GE diesels laboring toward Palmer.

I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with my fast (f2.0) 90mm lens and walked up to the South Main Street bridge, where I’ve made hundreds of photos over the years.

As the train approached, I realized that it wasn’t an intermodal train, as I expected, but a carload freight. It was CSX’s Q422 (Selkirk, New York to Worcester, Massachusetts).

At 5:29am I made these photos with my camera set to ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld. The ability to raise the ISO to a faster (more sensitive) setting combined with my fast telephoto lens allows for photos like this one.

ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.
ISO 800, f2.2 1/250 second handheld.

In my old Kodachrome 25 days, my exposure with my Nikon F3 and f2.8 135mm lens (offering an equivalent focal length to the 90mm with the small sensor on the X-T1) would have been: f3.5 at ¼ second. The resulting image of this moving train would have been dramatically different.

 

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MBTA in the Summer; a Lesson in Midday High-Light.

For the discerning photographer, summer midday high-light presents difficulties with contrast and deep shadows.

In my Kodachrome days, I’d put the camera away from 10 am to after 2 pm during June-July. Kodachrome’s palate and contrast didn’t work with midday high-light and the slides would suffer from inky shadows, exceptionally harsh contrast, and bleached highlights.

Using digital photography and post processing, I can overcome some of the difficulties presented by summer high sun by adjusting color temperature and carefully controlling highlight and shadow detail.

Another tool is the external graduated neutral density filter. By attaching one of these filters to the front of the lens, I can darken the sky to better hold highlight detail and color saturation, while lightening the lower portions of the image area to make for a better balanced exposure and increasing the relative amount of data captured.

Final adjustment is still required in post processing to lighten shadows.

MBTA train 1403 from North Station, Boston passes Shirley, Massachusetts. I’ve lightened the shadows and controlled the highlights to make for a better balanced image. The lighting is still straight up, but the effect is less objectionable.
In both this view an the above image, I’ve used a graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail and color saturation.
In this view high clouds have slight softened the sun at MBTA’s Wachesett Station.
This scene would have been a nightmare with Kodachrome. Bright whites in the foreground, dark green trees at the sides and noon time sun! Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1.

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Smith’s Bridge, Monson, Massachusetts—May 31, 2017

Years ago I’d ride my ten-speed bicycle to the Stafford Hollow Road Bridge in Monson, Massachusetts. I’d wait for Central Vermont’s freight to New London.

If I was lucky, I’d catch CV working upgrade with GP9s/Alco RS-11 making a healthy roar as they approached Stateline Summit.

On the morning May 31, 2017, I was leaving the Monson Post Office (having just mailed a letter to Ireland) when I heard New England Central 608 (running south from Palmer to Willimantic) tackling the grade in town.

I was surprised to see a Providence & Worcester GP38-2 in the lead. I supposed since New England Central and P&W are now both in the Genesee & Wyoming family it makes sense that the locomotives of these two connecting lines would get a bit mixed up.

Regardless, I knew that this would make for an interesting photograph. Among the places I caught 608 was at my old Stafford Hollow Road location.

My late friend Bob Buck had photographed here since the 1940s and always called the location ‘Smith’s Bridge’. I know he would have been delighted to see these photos of a P&W GP38-2 leading the southward freight.

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Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017.

On May 6, 2017, I made a few rainy afternoon photos of Boston’s Green Line streetcars along Beacon Street.

These were exposed old school; a Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5, exposure calculated using a hand-held Minolta Mark IV light meter.

In these views, I’ve divided up my frame to account for the white sky and the effect of contrast and tonality. Do you think these photos would work in color?

Beacon Street, Boston MBTA’s Green Line, May 2017. Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).
Ilford HP5 processed in Perceptol (mixed 1-1) at 70 F for 13 and one half minutes plus 6 minutes in selenium toner (diluted 1 to 9 with water).

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South Station, Boston, Massachusetts—in B&W and Color.

I rarely travel with just one camera.

These days, I typically have at least one digital camera and a film camera loaded with either black & white or color slide film, plus a back-up instant photo capture/transmitter that subs as a portable telegraph, mobile map, music box, and portable phone.

On my May 6, 2017 visit to South Station with the New York Central System Historical Society, I made a variety of color photos using my Lumix LX7, and traditional black & white photos with an old Leica IIIa loaded with Ilford HP5.

So! Do you have any favorite photos from this selection? Which camera do you feel better captures Boston’s South Station?

Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Lumix LX7 photo.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.
Leica IIIa photo on Ilford HP5.

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This old PCC—memories of another time.

In October 2014, I photographed this old MBTA (Boston) PCC car at the Connecticut Trolley Museum at East Windsor, Connecticut.

Just a rusty old ruin; but the car and its Kenmore destination board, brought me back to the early 1970s when my family lived a few blocks from MBTA’s Riverside Line at Newton Centre.

This route had been the  Boston & Albany Highlands Branch, and was converted to a trolley line in 1960.

As young child, I was permitted freedom to wander around the neighborhood. My fascination with railways naturally brought me to the trolley line.

One afternoon, I’d been watching the PCC’s coming and going in front of the old B&A station. I’d often traveled on the cars with my parents, and I understood how the system worked.

Taking a chance, I quietly boarded one of the cars through the back door. I rode to Kenmore Square, where I boarded another car and returned to Newton Centre. I might have been five at the time. More than 40 years passed before I told anyone of this adventure. 🙂

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Mass-Central at Gilbertville—an example of digital photography.

I find one of the great benefits of digital photography is the ability to carry a high-quality imaging machine with me at all times. Also, other than the initial investment, the relative cost of individual photos is inconsequential.

As result, I’m unhindered by weight or cost in the seeing and making of photos.

Does this make for better images? Not necessarily, but it facilitates me to make a more complete record of my travels and capture ordinary scenes such as this view of the Mass-Central at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on a brilliant October 2014 afternoon.

Looking south on the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on October 14, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

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In the Dark: 30 Seconds, Five Years Ago.

On February 25, 2012, I exposed this 30-second exposure at New England Central’s yard in Palmer, Massachusetts.

I mounted my Lumix LX7 on heavy tripod, and actuated the shutter using the self-timer to minimize vibration. Note the effect of the clouds moving.

This is a scaled JPG made from the unaltered Lumix LX3 JPG file.
By adjusting exposure and contrast in the RAW file I was able to produce this improved version. Notice the detail in the shadow areas that was lost in the JPG.

Despite the long exposure, the resulting digital image was still too dark and required work in post-processing using Lightroom.

In addition to lightening shadow areas, I also lightened the entire exposure by about full-stop, while controlling highlights and softening overall contrast.

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Whose Railroad is this?

An old favorite photo location is the Connecticut River bridge at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, photographer Mike Gardner and I caught two freights crossing this traditional span within just a few minutes of each other.

The first was eastward autorack train symbol 28T operating to Ayer, Massachusetts with Norfolk Southern locomotives. A few minutes later, Pan Am freight POED (Portland to East Deerfield) worked west with recently acquired former CSX General Electric DASH8-40Cs.

Autorack (Norfolk Southern symbol 28T) works east across the Connecticut River. Exposed using a Lumix LX-7. RAW file modified for contrast and color using Lightroom.
Pan Am’s POED with former CSX DASH8-40C diesels. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Pan Am’s POED with former CSX DASH8-40C diesels. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Historically this was the Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg line; B&M was melded into the Guilford system in the 1980s and in the mid-2000s . Today, Pan Am and Norfolk Southern are partners in operating Boston & Maine lines west of Ayer as Pan Am Southern.

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CSX Rolling West after Sunrise.

Over the last 39 years I’ve exposed countless hundreds of photos of trains rolling through Palmer, Massachusetts. But that’s not stopped me from continuing the exercise.

Friday, December 23, 2016, I was at CP83 near the Steaming Tender restaurant, when the signals lit up: high green on the mainline for a westward move. That was my cue to get ready.

The previous day I’d gone fishing through the camera cabinet and found an old Nikkormat FT. Perfect! I loaded this up with some HP5 and set out making photos old school. It had been 20 years since I last worked with Nikkormat. I fitted it with a vintage Nikkor 24mm lens.

With this antique in hand I set up a shot by the old Palmer Union Station (Steaming Tender) using the building to partly shade the rising sun. I’d misplaced my handheld lightmeter, so I used my Lumix LX7 to help gauge the exposure.

This was a tricky, I wanted the sun light to be set apart from the skylight and normally this requires a bit of underexposure. But I didn’t want the front of the locomotives to become completely opaque. Ideally, I’d want there to be some detail in the shadows.

As the headlight of a westward freight appeared to east I was still dithering over my exposure. Ultimately I settled on f11 1/500th of a second.

CSX symbol freight Q427 rolls through Palmer on the morning of December 23, 2016. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikkormat FT and 24mm lens. Notice how I’m just letting the sun peak past the station building. A small aperture (f11) aids with the starburst lighting.
I’ve always like the glint effect, and so I made this view of the second locomotive as it rolled by at 30mph. I realize that photographing the second locomotive at speed is a non-standard approach, but it makes for a nice image, does it not?

The trick to bring up the shadow detail was more a result of my processing technique. I needed to retain enough detail in the negative to work with, but once that was established on site, the rest of the work was with the chemistry.

I’ve described this a few times in recent months, but I’ll mention it again:

Before the main process, I prepare a ‘pre-soak’. In this case, I used a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with continuously reversing agitation.

My ‘presoak’ bath consisted of about 200ml of water at 74 degrees F (pardon my mixing of measurement standards) with a drop of Kodak HC110 (about 2-3 ml of developer solution), plus some Kodak Photoflo.

I let film presoak for about 3-4 minutes. Long enough to let the emulsion swell and for the minimal quantity of developer to become completely exhausted. This has the effect giving the shadow areas proportional more development than the highlights, while getting the processing reaction going.

For my main developer, I used Kodak D76 mixed 1-1 with water at 69F for 9 minutes. (This is less than the recommended time of about 11 minutes).

Afterwards I scanned the film using an Epson V750 at 4800 dpi. The photos presented here are scaled in Lightroom from my hi-res files.

A cropped detailed view of the front of the leading locomotive. This view is intended to show that there is reasonable detail in the shadow areas. If I want to I can enhance the shadow contrast in post processing.

No good? Don’t like it? No problem, I can go back and try it all over again!

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Central Vermont at the Palmer Diamond—1977.

This was one of several photos I exposed with my father’s Leica 3C in Palmer, Massachusetts on Labor Day weekend 1977. I started 6th grade a couple of days later.

Significantly, it was the first time I made a photo from this location at the Palmer Diamond, where Central Vermont crossed Conrail’s former Boston & Albany line. From near this spot, I’ve since made many hundreds of photos—more than I dare to count.

Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail's former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super angulon.
Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super-Angulon.

Compare this 1977 view with my recent images of a CSX eastward intermodal train. (I posted these the other day, but have also included them below.)

csx_q012_palmer_p1550721
In November 2016 a CSX intermodal train crosses the Palmer Diamond. This view is made from a spot immediately to the east of my 1977 view.

csx_q012_palmer_p1550722Looking back, I wonder why it took me so long to decide to make photos here. But realistically, prior to summer 1977 my railway photographic efforts were infrequent events.

For my birthday that year, my dad gave me my own Leica, a model 3A, which I carried everywhere for the next seven years and with which I made thousands of images from the Maine coast to southern California, and from Quebec to Mexico.

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Black & White-Morning Light: CSX at Gardner, Massachusetts.

But wait, CSX doesn’t serve Gardner. True. However on this day in mid-November 2016, I photographed a pair of CSX GE Evolution-series diesels leading Pan Am Southern freight 287—an empty auto rack train from Ayer.

These days, passing locomotives don’t necessarily reflect either the owner or operator of the train they lead.

CSX diesels work Pan Am Southern at Gardner, Massachusetts.
CSX diesels work Pan Am Southern at Gardner, Massachusetts.

Dappled morning sun augmented the effects of a textured sky and late season foliage. I opted to make this image using my Leica 3A with 35mm Nikkor Lens loaded with Ilford Pan-F (ISO).

This film offers fine grain and broad tonality. I’m not yet expert at processing this emulsion. Previously I used Ilfosol with mixed results. This time I tried Kodak D76 mixed 1:1 (stock solution with water).

If my process was completely successful my negatives would scan perfectly without need of electronic post processing adjustments. This example provided a good starting point, but to make for the most pleasing image, still required local and global contrast control.

By the way, digital photographers may relax; I also exposed several frames with my FujiFilm X-T1–Just in case.

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The Lost Waterfall at Bernardston.

You never know what’s going to change.

Photo exposed using 120 size Ektachrome film. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell (light meter).
Photo exposed on 120 size Ektachrome film. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell (light meter).

I exposed this view twenty years ago using a Speed Graphic with 120 size roll film back that I’d borrowed from Doug More.

A decade earlier, fellow photographer Brandon Delaney had showed me this bridge at Bernardston, Massachusetts on the Boston & Maine’s Connecticut River Line.

The bridge survives much as pictured here;  today it serves as the route of Amtrak’s Vermonter. However the old mill dam with accompanying waterfall were destroyed sometime after I made this December 1996-view.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a contemporary angle of the bridge.

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25 October: 50 Photos to Mark the Day

All 50 photos were exposed on 25 October, albeit in different years.

Shamokin, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Shamokin, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Port Clinton, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Port Clinton, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
1985_cr-track-gang-palmer-10-25-85-solomon-photo-x1000280
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Newark, Delaware, October 25, 1991.
Newark, Delaware, October 25, 1991.
Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
D-Tower Grafton, West Virginia Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1992.
D-Tower Grafton, West Virginia, October 25, 1992.
East Grafton, West Virginia, October 25, 1992.
East Grafton, West Virginia, October 25, 1992.
Amtrak's Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
Amtrak's Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail west of Chester, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail west of Chester, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Vermont Rail System equipment on passenger special over New England Central near Stafford Springs, Connecticut, October 25, 1998.
Vermont Rail System equipment on passenger special over New England Central near Stafford Springs, Connecticut, October 25, 1998.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q168 at Charlton Depot, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q168 at Charlton Depot, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
Old Boston & Albany yard at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
Old Boston & Albany yard at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.

2014_mbta_matapan_ashmont_pcc_cedar_grove_vert_p1090897

MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.

2014_vert_w_fence_img_9484

Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.

And a final four exposed today, 25 October 2016:

Irish Rail 231 departs Heuston Station with the 0900 to Cork. 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail 231 departs Heuston Station with the 0900 to Cork. 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail 29000-seres train passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail 29000-seres train passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail training special passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail drivers training special with preserved Cravens passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
25 October 2016.
25 October 2016.

Tracking the Light is Daily.

 

CSX Intermodal catches the First Rays of Sunshine—Middlefield, Massachusetts.

Last May (2016), I made this view of an eastward CSX stack train descending the old Boston & Albany grade over Washington Hill.

I was just east of the old Middlefield Station (long defunct), where my late friend Bob Buck had exposed some classic images of B&A’s A1 Berkshires.

A hill behind me blocks the rising sun, until after 6:30am in May. I could hear the train descending as the first rays of sun tickled the iron. Morning clouds waft across the sky making for inky shadows.

Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light is on auto pilot.

Tracking the Light attempts to post daily! (even when plagued by technical faults, internet outages, and an ambitious travel schedule).

 

Ghost of the New England States; Budd-built Babbling Brook Blitzes Warren.

 

Yesterday’s (August 25, 2016) Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited carried an American classic: the streamlined Budd-built observation car Babbling Brook, a former New York Central car of the type that operated on the New England States (Boston-Chicago).

My dad and I made photos of Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited (train 448) by the recently restored Warren, Massachusetts railroad station.

New York Central Babbling Brook passes the old Warren, Massachusetts station on August 25, 2016. The New York Central System leased the Boston & Albany in 1900. Central’s Budd-built New England States Limited was B&A’s premier post-war passenger train and passed Warren daily. There were fewer line-side trees back then. This image was adjusted in post-processing using Light Room. I’ve tried to emulate the contrast and color palate of a late 1940s image.
New York Central Babbling Brook passes the old Warren, Massachusetts station on August 25, 2016. The New York Central System leased the Boston & Albany in 1900. Central’s Budd-built New England States was B&A’s premier post-war passenger train and passed Warren daily. There were fewer line-side trees back then. This image was adjusted in post-processing using Light Room. I’ve tried to emulate the contrast and color palate of a late 1940s image.
Telephoto view at Warren, Massachusetts.
Telephoto view at Warren, Massachusetts.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1. Pop exposed a Fujichrome color slide with his Leica M.

Brian Solomon’s

Tracking the Light posts every day.

 

 

Palmer, Massachusetts Then and Now; 1984-2016.

Conrail SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester at Worcester, Massachusetts) makes a drop at Palmer, Massachusetts on Ma7 6, 1984.
Conrail SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester at Worcester, Massachusetts) makes a drop at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 6, 1984.

I exposed these two views from almost the same angle on the South Main Street Bridge in Palmer, Massachusetts.

In 1984, Conrail operated the old Boston & Albany, and the main line was then a directional double track route under rule 251 (which allows trains to proceed in the current of traffic on signal indication).

SEPW has stopped on the mainline, while the headend has negotiated a set of crossovers to access the yard and interchange. That’s the head end off in the distance.

I made this 1984 view on Plus-X using a Leica fitted with a f2.8 90mm Elmarit lens.

The comparison view was exposed on July 25, 2016 using  a Lumix LX7 set at approximately the same focal length. Although similar, I wasn’t trying to precisely imitate the earlier view and was working from memory rather than having a print with me on site.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I used the ‘A’ mode and dialed in -1/3 to compensate for the bright sunlight and the dark side of the train. This image was extracted from the in-camera Jpeg and compressed for internet viewing, but I also made a RAW file of the same image. Both are to be archived on multiple hard drives.
Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I used the ‘A’ mode and dialed in -1/3 to compensate for the bright sunlight and the dark side of the train. This image was extracted from the in-camera Jpeg and compressed for internet viewing, but I also made a RAW file of the same image. Both are to be archived on multiple hard drives.

Tracking the Light posts Every Day!

The Happy Twinkle of Glint; CSX catches the Morning Light—June 2016

[Click the link to Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light for the full effect!]

The long days of June offer distinct lighting. In the morning the sun rises earlier and further north than the other times of the year, and this makes for photographic opportunity if you know where to look.

These days much of the Boston & Albany route east of Palmer is a tree tunnel, but West Warren has a nice vista with characteristic 19th century New England mill buildings complete with a mill-dam on the Quaboag River.

As long as I’ve been making photos on the old Boston & Albany mainline, there’s been a westward intermodal train that passes through the Quaboag Valley early in the morning.

In Conrail times it was symbol TV9 (TV=Trailvan; Boston to Chicago). With the transition to CSX operations this became Q119. Now with revised intermodal terminals and changes to train symbols, I think this morning train carries the Q019 symbol (which runs from Worcester, Massachusetts since the closure of Boston’s Beacon Park yard a few years ago).

Sunrise at West Warren, Massachusetts. CSX's Q-019 has just entered the scene. For me the mist on the river adds a delicious element. June 2016.
Sunrise at West Warren, Massachusetts. CSX’s Q-019 has just entered the scene. For me the mist on the river adds a delicious element. June 2016.

In the 1990s, I’d identified West Warren as a place to catch this train on the long days; where the sun rises on the north side of the tracks for about 10-20 minutes. This only occurs over a span of about three weeks, and provides the backlit glint effect that offers a distinct view at this classic location.

The other day, all the pieces came together. The weather was perfect; I was in place at my location with cameras at the ready at the moment the sun illuminated the north-side of the tracks; and CSX’s westward intermodal train passed at precisely the right moment.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens and graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens and graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail.

Tracking the Light posts daily.

Conrail-Looking Back; Anticipating Change.

I was on my way to New London, Connecticut in late 1996 when I first learned of the news that CSX was to make a bid for Conrail.

It was a big surprise to most observers. Ultimately CSX and Norfolk Southern divided Conrail.

Armed with the knowledge of Conrail’s pending split, I made many images to document the final months of Conrail operations.

Step back a decade: In the mid-1980s, I’d photographed  the end of traditional double track operations on Conrail’s Boston & Albany line.

Long rumored, the B&A’s conversion from directional double-track (251-territory) to a single-main track with Centralized Traffic Control-style dispatcher controlled signaling and cab signals began in late 1985. It was largely complete three years later.

A year or so before the work began, I was sitting in an engine cab and a Conrail crewman pointed out to me that the railroad had re-laid one main track with continuous welded rail while the other line remained jointed.

“See that jointed track, that’s the line they’re going rip up. Better get your pictures kid.”

Sound advice. And I took it to heart. By anticipating the coming changes, I made many prized photographs of the old order—before the work began.

I continued to photograph while the work was in progress, but that’s not my point.

Conrail's C30-7A and C32-8 diesels roll east with tonnage at milepost 84 in Monson, Massachusetts. In this view, I'm looking toward the Palmer diamond, and in the distance we can see Central Vermont cars for interchange. At this stage Conrail was still operating the B&A as a traditional directional-double track railroad, much the way it had been operated for decades. Yet, it was only a matter of weeks before the old westward main (seen here with jointed rail) would be removed from service. This was mid-1986. By anticipating the changes to the railroad, I could emphasize the elements soon to change; the westward jointed track and the code lines. However, other more subtle changes also resulted. Without the old signals, the code lines came down, and the bushes and trees grew in their place.
Conrail’s C30-7A and C32-8 diesels roll east with tonnage at milepost 84 in Monson, Massachusetts. In this view, I’m looking toward the Palmer diamond, and in the distance we can see Central Vermont cars for interchange. This was mid-1986. At this stage Conrail was still operating the B&A as a traditional directional-double track railroad, much the way it had been operated for decades. Yet, it was only a matter of weeks before the old westward main (seen here with jointed rail) would be removed from service. . By anticipating the changes to the railroad, I could emphasize the elements soon to change; the westward jointed track and the code lines. However, other more subtle changes also resulted. Without the old signals, the code lines came down, and the bushes and trees grew in their place.

Having observed New England railroading for the better part of four decades, I again have a sense that change is in the works for railways in the region.

Will today’s operators remain as they are for long? Will traffic soon find new paths and may some lines—now active—dry up? Will those antique locomotives, more than four decades on the roll soon be sent for scrap? Those are the questions we should think about. Take nothing for granted and keep a sharp eye for images.

While,  my crystal ball remains clouded, I’ve learned not to wait for the big announcement. I hate standing in lines to get my photos or realizing I missed an opportunity when the time was ripe. Act now and stay tuned.

Tracking the Light Offers Insight and Stories Daily.

 

Conrail versus CSX; West Warren on the Boston & Albany Then and Now.

Ok, how about then and when? (click on the link to Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light to see the modern view).

These photos were exposed 28 years apart from essentially the same place in West Warren, Massachusetts.

One view was made of an eastward Conrail freight in March of 1984; the other of an CSX freight at almost the same spot on November 15, 2012.

In both situations I opted to leave the train in the distance and take in the scene.

Conrail eastward freight grinds upgrade on a dull March 1984 morning. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summicron lens.
Conrail eastward freight grinds upgrade on a dull March 1984 morning. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
CSX Q264 (carrying auto racks for delivery in East Brookfield, Massachusetts). Exposed using a Lumix LX3 with Leica Vario-Summicron lens.
CSX Q264 (carrying auto racks for delivery in East Brookfield, Massachusetts). Exposed on the morning of November 15, 2012 using a Lumix LX3 with Leica Vario-Summicron lens.

Over the years I’ve worked this vantage point with a variety of lenses, but I’ve chosen to display these two images to show how the scene has changed over the years.

In the 1984 view notice the code lines (the ‘telegraph poles’) to the left of the train and the scruffy trees between the railroad and the road. Also in 1984, the line was 251-territory (directional double track).

Tracking the Light displays new images every day.

Conrail-Gauzy Visions from another era;—the Lost Photo File, Part 2.

 

Sometimes by getting it wrong, I got it right.

It was Spring 1984 when I made this black & white photo of Conrail’s SEBO-B climbing east through Warren, Massachusetts.

Until a couple of day’s ago, this negative was lost and unprinted, part of a group of Conrail negatives on the Boston & Albany.

When I first relocated these images after 32 years, I was puzzled.

What had happened and Why?

Then I remember the situation: I’d messed up the processing of the negatives at the time and I was disgusted with the results. And, so I’d put the negatives away in a general file, where they were mostly mixed in with similar outtakes from my High School yearbook collection (I was a sort of unofficial class photographer.)

In 1984, I’d typically use Kodak Microdol-X as my black & white developer, aiming to work with this solution at 68 degrees F.

To mix the solution from powdered form, I’d have to bring the temperature up to about 120 degrees F, then let it cool (often in glass bottles soaking in ice water).

I must have been in a hurry, and in this instance, I’d failed to allow the developer to cool properly. When I processed the negatives the solution was still over 80 degrees F. Worse, the rest of my chemistry was still at 68 degrees.

The result was that my photos were grossly over processed, but since the developer was highly active, it affected highlights and shadow areas differently. This provided much greater shadow detail to highlight detail than I’d normally expect.

Also, the shock to the emulsion when I dropped the hot film into relatively cool stop bath solution caused it to reticulate.

Reticulated emulsion results in grain clumping that lowers the sharpness, produces a ‘halo-effect’, and creates a speckled and uneven grain pattern that is most noticeable in even areas such as the sky.

Since the negatives received much greater development than usual, they are very dense, and back in my day printing photos in the family kitchen, were effectively unprintable.

This enlargement of the front of the engine shows the effects of reticulated grain structure. When processed as intended Kodak Tri-X can deliver a relatively fine and even grain structure. Here we have a mottled speckled structure caused by very hot developer and the shock of cool stop bath.
This enlargement of the front of the engine shows the effects of reticulated grain structure. When processed as intended Kodak Tri-X can deliver a relatively fine and even grain structure. Here we have a mottled speckled structure caused by shock from a  very hot developer followed by the cool stop bath.

With modern digital scanning and post processing techniques, I was able to overcome difficulties with the density and contrast.

In the Spring of 1984 (second week of May based on the freshly leafing trees) I made this early evening image of Conrail's SEBO-B working east through Warren, Massachusetts on the B&A route. (SEBO = Selkirk to Boston).
In the Spring of 1984 (second week of May based on the freshly leafing trees) I made this early evening image of Conrail’s SEBO-B working east through Warren, Massachusetts on the B&A route. (SEBO = Selkirk to Boston).

I find the end result pictorial. Perhaps, it’s not an accurate rendition of the scene, but pleasing to the eye none-the-less.

I’m just happy I didn’t throw these negatives away. After all, Conrail SD40-2s were common, and I had plenty of opportunities to photograph freights on the B&A.

Stay tuned for more!

Tracking the Light is Daily!