The other day I was going through a carton of slide boxes from the mid-1990s. I found a roll from a day out with photographer Mike Gardner to capture New England Central in Connecticut.
On Halloween day 1997, we followed southward freight 608 to New London, photographed a few Amtrak trains on the Shore Line, then followed 608 on its northward return trip to Palmer, Massachusetts.
At South Windham, Connecticut, I made a view on the old Fuji Provia 100 (RDP) using my first Nikon N90S with f2.8 80-200mm Nikon zoom lens.
The soft afternoon sun resulted in a somewhat under exposed slide that never made my final cut, and so remained in the green Fuji box for more than 25 years.
I scanned it with a Nikon LS-5000 slide scanner powered by VueScan 9.7.95 (recently updated from the earlier version of VueScan that I’d been using for a few years), and then imported the high-res TIF file (scanned at 4000 dpi in ‘Fine’ mode) into Adobe Lightroom for adjustment and scaling.
Below are JPGs from the unaltered scan and from my adjusted scan to improve the overall visual appeal of the time. Adjustments included warming the color temperature, adjusting sky denisty, lightening the overall exposure, and contrast control.
I’ve also included a photo of Mike, who is a regular Tracking the Light reader.
Yesterday I learned through social media that New England Central 3850 suffered a main generator fire while climbing State Line Hill (located in my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.)
Over the last 26 years, I’ve made countless photos of this antique EMD diesel-electric at work and at rest.
While I cannot predict the future, I know that often with older diesels, a main generator failure may represent the kiss of the scrapper.
When it came to New England Central in 1995, 3850 carried the number 9531, which is how I picture it in the December 1996 view below.
I made this photo at Palmer, Massachusetts using a mix of artificial lighting, including electronic strobe for fill flash, and my original Fujichrome slide is strongly tinted.
I scanned this slide using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner driven by Epson Scan 2 software. Working from a high-resolution TIF file, I initially scaled the photo without corrections.
Then, working with slider controls in Adobe Lightroom, I implemented a variety of color corrections, plus contrast and exposure adjustements to overcome flaws with color balance and exposure. Below are both results for point of comparison.
Tracking the Light is a Daily Photoblog focused on railroads.
I made this Fujichrome slide of the New England Central yard at Palmer, Massachusetts in January 1998—just a few weeks before embarking on my first trip to Ireland
The subtle duo-chromic hues and stark winter landscape make for a simple frame for what I find a visually complicated image.
Carefully observe the unorthodox use of selective focus.
Where a common solution for a focus point might have been on the nose of the locomotive, instead I aimed at the distant truss bridge at the south-end of the yard, while leaving the tracks in the foreground slightly blurred.
The use of lighting selective provides silhouettes.
Texture in the tracks, trees and sky, add complexity.
In 1990, I’d bought a second-hand F4 Nikkor ‘prime’ 200mm telephoto. For several years I made great use of this lens to photograph trains across the West.
Through the 1990s, my photography was telephoto heavy.
These days, I’ve shifted my focal length wide.
Most of my digital photos are made with focal lengths between 16-70mm (super wide to short telephoto).
But, when I tend toward the longer telephoto range, I still reach for my film cameras.
Partially because I have several excellent long telephotos for my Canons, but also because when I think ‘long’, I think film.
So when Kris Sabbatino and I visited the Junction at ‘East Northfield,’ Massachusetts on March 8th (2021), I made this long view on Ektachrome using my old Canon EOS-3 with f2.8 200mm lens. This winning camera-lens combo has served me well for nearly 15 years.
Perhaps, it helps that I’m photographing a classic train with 1960s-1970s vintage EMD diesels bracketed by searchlight signals.
Often I consider my Kodachrome slides among my finest photographs.
By not always.
In the mid-1990s, Kodachrome went through an unsettled phase and the film didn’t perform as well as it had in the late 1980s early 1990s. The reasons for these changes may be a discussion for another day.
On April 11, 1997, I joined photographers Mike Gardner and George Pitarys on a productive chase of New England Central’s southward freight, number 608.
At Willimantic, Connecticut, I made this photo along the river by some old thread mills (some since demolished).
April light can be challenging. Harsh contrast combined with a yellowish tint from air pollution makes for a raw ‘brassy’ quality that Kodachrome didn’t reproduce well.
I scanned this slide a little while ago and then imported the TIFF file into Adobe Lightroom, which I used to soften the contrast, lighten the shadows and correct the harsh color rendition. See adjusted version below
It isn’t perfect, but then again the lighting on the day wasn’t ideal.
I needed a topic for today’s Tracking the Light, so I reached in to a sorting file of un-scanned slides and found this photo: Surprise!
On October 13, 2004, photographer Mike Gardner and I chased New England Central Railroad’s 608 south from Palmer, through my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts.
This is a chase I’ve done countless times over the last 40 years, but just because you’ve done something before, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to find a new angle on it.
At Robbins Road in Monson, I made this dramatic trailing view of the train’s locomotives. Here we have a selection of NECR GP38s roaring away in ‘Run-8’—maximum throttle on the tooth of the grade.
The train was moving 10-12 mph, producing a rush of engine exhaust along with traction motors blowers blowing to keep the motors cool. (And prevent them from over heating) These blasts of hot air, combined with the wind from the train’s approach and passage, plus and sand from the sanders to maintain adhesion all helped stir up the ballast and fallen leaves.
It was a good chase and I wish I was there now!
I scanned the photo using a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 and VueScan software. My initial scan produced a 4000 dpi TIF file, which I then imported to Lightroom in order to scale it for presentation here.
June 2020 Trains Magazine features my 8-page article on New England Central.