Modern LED information signs have become commo place on many passenger railroads as means of identifying trains.
The challenge for photographers is capturing the messages displayed by these signs.
Many LED do not produce continous light output and pulse or flicker. To the human eye the light souce seems continuous, but when photograhing at comparatively fast shutter speeds some or all of the LEDs are between pulses and appear dark in the photograph.
Where banks of LEDs are employed these may appear in images as meaningless arrangements of spots, or missing significant portions of the intended message.
One way to capture the lights is to work with a comparatively slow shutter speed, usually 1/60th of a second or less. The difficulty is that to stop a moving train, it is normally recommended to work with faster shutter speeds (often 1/250th of a second or faster).
Another consideration is the relatively low amount of light produced by LED that full daylight these often appear dim. Photographing LED signs in low light, on an overcast day or at dawn, dusk, or evening, allows the lights to appear brighter relative to ambient lighting conditions.
On a visit to Norfolk, Massachusetts with Kris in November, I made this sequence of images of MBTA Train 2706 at various shutter speeds to show how the lights in the sign appears at 1/640th, 1/250th, and 1/60th of a second.
Last Thursday evening, October 21, 2021 (10-21-2021), as we rode north on MBTA’s Orange Line I snapped digital photos from the window of the train looking down on MBTA’s former Boston & Maine lines radiating from Boston’s North Station.
We paced an outward commuter train for about a minute.
This reminded me of similar efforts photographing trains through the glass when I was a teenager.
Thursday, October 21, 2021, I had my first experience with MBTA’s new Orange Line subway cars built by Chinese firm CRRC in Springfield, Massachusetts.
It was odd for me because the ‘Old’ cars were delivered when I was in High School. I recall going on a Orange Line shop tour in 1983 with my old friend Dan Howard to see the ‘New Cars’ (now the ‘Old’ Cars). This had been organized by the Mystic Valley Railway Society.
Kris and I were on our way to Malden, Massachusetts so that I could give a talk on Tracking the Light to Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at the old Pearl Street Station.
I made these orange line images using my Nikon Z6 mirroless digital camera.
During our foray back from Cape Cod in April 2021, Kris & I paused for about an hour at Shirley, Massachusetts, located on the old Fitchburg Line west of Ayer.
I first made photos here on a chase back about 1985.
Working with my Canon EOS-3 with 100-400mm image stabilization zoom, I exposed these Ektachrome slides of an MBTA shuttle train.
Keolis, which is the designated operator of MBTA Commuter Rail was undertaking Positive Train Control installation in the Boston-area and shuttle trains were working back and forth on the west-end of the Fitchburg run.
As a follow up to yesterday’s Tracking the Light post, here’s a photograph at the same location exposed a few minutes later of a northward MBTA commuter train from Providence, Rhode Island, passing Mansfield, Massachusetts.
I exposed this photo with my FujiFilm XT1 moments after the train made its Mansfield Station stop. The HSP46 diesel-electric locomotive is at the back of the push-pull consist.