Tag Archives: New England Central

New England Central at Hospital Road—Two Views.

Far and Near, which do you prefer?

Both views were exposed on a soft morning at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts of New England Central freight 608 on its northward run to Palmer.

Working with a 90mm fixed telephoto lens, I made a distant view that better shows the train in the curve, followed by a tight view focused on the locomotives.

Other features include the distant signal to the Palmer diamond and milepost 64 (measured from New London, Connecticut).

I set my exposure manually to avoid under exposure as a result of the camera meter reading the bright locomotive headlights.

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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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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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Connecticut River Composition.

Last week I made these views of New England Central’s northward 611 freight as it crossed the Connecticut River bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

The longer days feature the evening sun in a northerly position that allows for sunlight on the nose of the locomotive as it crosses the bridge.

Although I’ve often worked the south side of this span, this was the first time I’ve made successful photos of a train from the north side.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 and prime (not zoom) 90mm telephoto lens.
Several turbo-flutters later (about 8 digital ‘frames’ or exposures), also made with my FujiFilm X-T1 and prime (not zoom) 90mm telephoto lens. 

I was watching the light and the effect of reflections in the river as I composed my photos.

For these digital images I was working with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.

Lumix LX7 photo. The locomotives are more fully on the bridge, but here I’ve lost the effect of the nose reflection in the water.

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Pacing the New England Central.

We were trying to overtake the New England Central ballast train extra

(see: Extra train on New England Central. https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5yy).

I rolled down the passenger-side window of my friend’s Golf, and exposed a series of photos with my Lumix.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

I’ve described this technique previously; I adjusted the f-stop (aperture control) manually to its smallest opening (f8), my ISO was at its slowest setting (80), and I put the camera to aperture priority.

I intended this combination of settings to automatically select the appropriate shutter speed for ideal exposure, while using the slowest setting to allow for the effect of motion blur.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

I kept the camera aimed at the locomotive while allowing for ample foreground to blur by for the effect of speed.

This works especially well to show the large diesel working long-hood forward, which is not its usual position.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.
Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

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Extra! Extra train on New England Central.

We’d heard there was an extra move.

We didn’t know what it was.

I got a bit confused as to where the extra was in relation to the regular northward New England Central 611 (that runs weekdays from Brattleboro to Palmer and back).

After being out of position, and some quick driving to recover, we managed to get the extra on the move at Vernon, Vermont.

This consisted of the lone New England Central former Southern Pacific ‘tunnel motor’ (SD40T-2 number 3317) hauling some ballast cars.

This isn’t Donner Pass! Here’s a former SP tunnel motor working long-hood forward leading a ballast extra at Vernon, Vermont. In the background is the decommissioned Vermont Yankee Nuclear generating station.

Unusual to say the least!

The regular freight followed about an hour later.

Both photos were exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm Fujinon telephoto lens.

NECR 611 on its northward run from Palmer, Massachusetts at Vernon, Vermont.

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Still at Work after all these Years: New England Central GP38s.

New England Central began operations on the former Central Vermont Railway in Febraury 1995 using a dozen freshly painted secondhand GP38s.

More than 23 years later, and two changes of ownership, and New England Central still has a handful of these old GP38s working in the same paint scheme.

Last week, a matched pair of these engines was working the Willimantic-Palmer freight, job 608.

I made an effort to catch these venerable diesels on the roll.

New England Central 3857 leads the southward 608 at Stafford Spring, Connecticut. I was aiming to feature the blossoming tree at the right. Photo adjusted in post processing.
New England Central 608 approaches the Route 32 overbridge south of Stafford Springs, Connecticut in May 2018.

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Spring at Cushman: New England Central’s northward 611.

During the last few days everything’s gone green in central Massachusetts.

I was driving north and overtook New England Central’s 611 on its run from Palmer back to Brattleboro.

At Cushman in Amherst, Massachusetts the spring greenery and flowers combined with soft early afternoon light made for a pleasant setting.

After a wait of just 20 minutes, the NECR freight hit the crossing and I exposed a sequence of digital images using my FujiFilm X-T1. From there the chase was on!

Exposed at ISO 250 f6.4 1/500 18-135mm lens set at 18mm.

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East Northfield, Massachusetts: a Junction; a Tunnel Motor; A Searchlight and Three Quarter Light.

Years ago, the view from the road bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts was more open than it is today.

The trees have grown up making it more challenging to expose photos of trains at the junction between former Boston & Maine and former Central Vermont lines here.

At one time, a century or more ago, B&M’s Conn River route crossed the CV here. B&M’s line continued across the Connecticut River and rejoined the CV at Brattleboro.

Later, the two routes were melded in a paired track arrangement. However, by the time I started photographing here in the 1980s, the B&M route north of East Northfield was no longer functioning as a through line.

On the morning of April 27, 2018, I made this view of New England Central freight 608 led by a former Southern Pacific SD40T-2 ‘tunnel motor’ diesel.

New England Central 611 approaches the junction at East Northfield, Massachusetts. The lead locomotives have just crossed the Vermont-Massachusetts state line. The old Boston & Maine line once continued to the right of the present NECR alignment (and to the left of the dirt road), running northward across the Connecticut River and beyond via Dole Junction, New Hampshire toward Brattleboro.

The light was spot on for a series of three quarter views featuring a vintage GRS searchlight signal that protects the junction.

Perfect morning light makes for a calendar view from the road bridge at the junction.
NECR 611 continues south toward Palmer, Massachusetts on the old Central Vermont Railway, the old Boston & Maine route diverges to the left toward Greenfield and Springfield, Massachusetts.

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Glistening Water—New England Central on the move at Brattleboro, Vermont.

At 8:08 AM on April 27, 2018, New England Central 611 was on the move south from Brattleboro, Vermont.

Bright hazy sunshine made for excellent conditions for photography.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto, I exposed this view looking across the Connecticut River backwater south of Brattleboro yard.

By cropping the sky, featuring the locomotives in the top third of the frame, and allowing the natural patterns of glistening water to occupy most of the image, I create visual tension that keeps your eye scanning the photo. I chose a broadside view to feature the locomotives, each of which is of a different length; SD40T-2, SD40, and SD45 (three of my personal favorites).

To make the most of this contrasty scene, I imported the Fuji RAW file into Lightroom and made minor adjustments to highlight and shadows to improve the appearance of the image, then slightly boosted saturation to make for a more pleasing photograph.

NECR freight  611 was on the move toward Palmer, Massachusetts and a bright morning on hand, so the chase was on!

More photos to follow!

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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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Central Vermont Railway Ended 23 Years Ago Today (February 3, 2018)

On February 3, 1995, Canadian National Railway’s American affiliate Central Vermont Railway ended operations.

 

Shortly thereafter, the newly created RailTex short line called New England Central assumed operation of the former CV route. Since that time, New England Central became part of Rail America, which was then acquired by Genesee & Wyoming.

 

Despite these changes, a few of New England Central’s start-up era GP38s are still on the move in the classy blue and yellow livery.

Central Vermont GP9 4442 leads freight 562B upgrade at Maple Street in Monson, Massachusetts on December 23, 1986.
New England Central approaches its 23 anniversary. Another view at Maple Street in Monson.

Although exposed more than 30 years apart. This pair of ‘then and now’ photos at Maple Street in Monson, Massachusetts, helps delineate my appreciation for New England Central and Central Vermont.

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Frosty Morning Stafford Springs; White Balance.

I made these views of New England Central job 608 working timetable northward at Stafford Spring, Connecticut.

It was about 7:30am, and the sun was just tinting the eastern sky.

Rather than set my camera with ‘auto white balance’ (a typical default setting), I opted to fix the white balance with the ‘daylight’ setting.

Auto white balance arbitrarily selects a neutral color balance and adjusts the balance based on the conditions at hand. This is a useful feature in some situations, such as photography under incandescent lighting, or in situations with mixed lighting, such as in a museum or subway.

However, auto white balance settings have the unfortunate effect of minimizing the colorful effects of sunset and sunrise and so using the ‘daylight’ setting is in my opinion a better alternative.

But there’s really much a more complex problem; the way that digital cameras capture images is completely different to the ways the human eye and brain work in fixing visual stimuli. You could write a book on that!

Downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

 

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Is the closer view better?

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Difference of Seasons: July versus January—Two Views.

Here are two views of the same train: led by the same locomotive, at the same location, more or less at the same time of day, exposed using the same camera with the same lens.

Both photos show New Engand Central job 608 led by GP38 3845 working northward in the morning along Plains Road in Willington, Connecticut (south of Stafford Springs).

Photos were exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens. The slight difference in angle may be attributed to the inconvenience of a mushy snow bank along the road in winter view that was not a problem in the summer.

New England Central 3845 north on July 28, 2017.
New England Central 3845 north on January 9, 2018.

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Cross Lighting at State Line

Too often railway photographers seek ‘calendar lighting’, (over the shoulder three-quarter (morning or afternoon) sun, with a minimum of shadows, diffusion, or other natural lighting effects).

There’s nothing wrong with these classic conditions, but when applied repetitively in exclusion to other types of lighting it can result in a predictable body of work. Formulaic is a term that comes to mind.

Consider cross lighting; when the sun illuminates from an angle opposite the subject, yet not in the photo. This offers bright light on the front of the subject, but shadows on the side creating a more dramatic angle.

This effect can be tempered when the lighting is low, diffused (by clouds, mist or pollution) and/or when bright foreground (such as snow) reflects light into shadow areas.

Exposed digitally with a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss Touit.

I made this cross-lit view on the New England Central at Stateline Summit in late afternoon. Notice my use of foreground.

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New England Central in the Snow.

Sun and freshly fallen snow makes for a nice setting.

New England Central job 608 was making its way from Palmer back to Willimantic with about 20 cars of freight.

In the lead was one of the railroad’s original GP38s, still wearing the classic blue and yellow livery that was applied to these locomotives at the time of New England Central’s start-up in 1995.

I made this view at Plains Road south of Stafford, Connecticut.

Although much of the location was shadowed, a shaft of sun on the grade crossing made for photo opportunity with a telephoto lens. I stood back a bit to allow for slight compression effect owing to the longer focal length, and aimed to frame the leading locomotive between the crossing signals.

This distant view shows how the light was falling on the scene. I set my camera to ‘turbo flutter’ (motor drive at ‘continuous high’) and exposed a burst of images when the locomotive approached the window of sunlight on the crossing.

I set my focus point slightly off-center to hit the locomotive square in the nose.

FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 104mm (equivalent to a 156mm focal length on a traditional 35mm film camera). ISO 200, f7.1 1/500th of a second.

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NECR 3476: Orange Locomotive in Winter Light.

The combination of snow on the ground, very cold temperatures, and low light make for excellent photographic conditions, if you can bear to be outside.

I exposed this view of New England Central 3476 shortly after sunset in Palmer, Massachusetts.

NECR 3476 has a complicated history. Today it may be considered to be a SD40M-2. Originally an General Motors Electro Motive Division  SD45 built for Southern Pacific Lines affiliate Cotton Belt, it was remanufactured in the 1990 which transformed it from 3,600 hp machine (as powered by 20-cylinder 645-diesel) into a 3,000hp machine  (with 16-cylinder version of the EMD 645-diesel) while retaining the tapered (or ‘flared’) radiator intake vents at the back the of locomotive that were characteristic of EMD’s higher horsepower designs.

The snow reflects light from below, thus providing greater illumination of shadow areas that under ordinary conditions would be underexposed at this time of day.

Cold temperatures and clear overhead conditions result in a inversion effect, which traps particulates and other airborne impurities that acts as a light filter resulting in a scene with more red and magenta spectrum than normal.

This effect is intensified at sunset because the sunlight has to pass through much greater amounts of polluted atmosphere because of its relative angle to the ground.

To make the most of these lighting conditions, it helps to set the camera white balance to ‘daylight’, since ‘auto white balance’ while tend to cancel out the effect of the rosy lighting conditions.

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Haircut and an SD40-2 Trailing View.

So often I’ve heard the following lament, “I saw that once but I didn’t take a photo.”

The other day I was on my way to get a haircut when I passed under New England Central’s 611 departing Palmer, Massachusetts for Brattleboro, Vermont.

The weather was poor, the lighting bland and I had an agenda of things to attend to.

But I had my Lumix LX7 handy and I went after 611 anyway!

I made this trailing view using my Lumix LX7 handheld.

My head-on views were not worth describing here. Not today anyway. However, I like this trailing view at Barretts, Massachusetts of New England Central 721, still in Union Pacific paint (but with NECR lettering).

This captures some of the drama of the accelerating freight and makes reasonably good use of the lighting. Afterwards I resumed my mission to get a hair cut.

My point? Whenever possible, regardless of the weather and other things to do, I take the time to make photographs; of railroads and whatever else catches my interest.

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New England Central—Almost Winter.

I wanted to write, ‘why sometimes winter is better.’ Except this is a late autumn photo. (If you accept that the Winter Solstice is the defining date for the beginning of Winter.).

On December 6, 2017, Paul Goewey and I arrived at Depot Road in Leverett, Massachusetts several minutes ahead of the southward New England Central road freight, job 611 from Brattleboro.

I was interested in exploring this angle looking toward the rock cut immediately north of the old station location.

I’ve made a number of views from the old station area in summer, when the cutting tends to be obscured by brush and harshly shadowed.

And that’s why sometimes Winter (or late autumn) is better. The lack of foliage combined with diffused light opens up numerous photo possibilities that are impractical when the trees are leafed out and underbrush is thick.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with an 18-135mm lens.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

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Zoom Lens at Millers Falls.

A ‘zoom lens’ is a lens with adjustable focal length. Often the term is confused with a telephoto. Where a zoom lens may be a telephoto, it isn’t necessarily so.

In the case of my 18-135mm Fujinon lens, this is a wide-angle to medium telephoto range zoom.

I used this to good advantage the other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts to make a sequence of photos of New England Central’s southward road freight 611.

Both of these photos were exposed from the same vantage point. All I did was adjust the focal length of the zoom as the train approached.

Telephoto view; 18-135mm zoom lens set at 116mm (equivalent of 174mm on a 35mm film camera).
Wide angle view from the same vantage point. 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens set to 23.3mm (equivalent to a 35mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.) Incidentally; when making these comparisons it is crucial to distinguish between historic  film size and the focal length of the lenses. Both photos were exposed digitally.

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Big Orange & Black Diesel; When Color Works.

Since Genesee & Wyoming took over Rail America, gradually the fleets of diesels operated by the component railways have been repainted into G&W’s corporate livery of orange and black with yellow highlights.

This traditional paint scheme had been used by the original G&W short line railroad for decades.

 

Here I’ve put the brightly colored diesels in scene that makes the most of the scheme.

New England Central 611 is southbound at Northfield, Massachusetts with locomotive 3475 in the lead. A cloud has briefly diffused the morning sun.

To make the most of the lighting and the scene, I made this telephoto view looking down a road, visually placing the orange and black locomotive in front of a yellow house.

The dominance of orange and yellow for the primary subjects works well in the late autumnal scene, as these colors mimic the muted foliage and grasses associated with the season.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

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Connecticut River Crossing—Contrast Adjustment.

Last week I exposed this view of New England Central 611 (Brattleboro to Palmer) crossing the Connecticut River at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

New England Central 611 crosses the Connecticut River at East Northfields, Massachusetts. Exposed with a Fuji Film XT1.

To compensate for the back lit high-contrast scene, I made a few necessary adjustments in post processing.

Working with the Camera RAW file, I applied a digital graduated filter across the sky and locally lowered highlight density, while altering the contrast curve and boosting saturation.

I then made global adjustment to contrast and saturation across the entire image, while brightening the shadow areas. The intent was to better hold detail in the sky.

To make this possible, it was necessary to expose for the sky, and allow the train and bridge to become comparatively dark. I did this knowing I’d make adjustments after the exposure.

For more detail on this photographic technique see: Irish Rail 085 with Ballast Train at Sunset—lessons in exposure and contrast adjustment. 

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New England Central 611—Two Exposures.

Picking the best exposure is an important part of photography.

Today with modern metering, computer guided exposure aids (program modes) and automatic lenses, most photographers don’t spend a lot of time worrying about exposure details.

It might surprise some Tracking the Light readers that in most instances I set my exposures manually, and I only use camera metering in an advisory capacity (In other words I look at the camera meter but don’t necessarily accept its advice).

While I often use my Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode, I routinely over-ride the camera’s exposure advice using manual controls. With my FujiFilm XT1 and Canon digital cameras (and film cameras), I almost always set my exposure manually.

Last week, working with my FujiFilm XT1 I made these views of New England Central freight 611 working south of Brattleboro, Vermont. The stunning scenic setting of the Connecticut River backwater combined with dramatic morning cross-lighting and a dark background makes for an excellent illustration of a difficult lighting situation.

Here, many camera automatic modes might grossly overexpose the scene in a misguided attempt to compensate for the dark background.

I’ve metered manually and gauged exposure using the camera’s histogram (set up to show the distribution of pixels in regards to exposure.) I’ve offered two variations here, exposed 1 full stop apart.

A ‘stop’ is a standard increment of exposure. The amount of light reaching the sensor or film doubles/halves with each change of one stop. So going from an aperture setting of f4 to f5.6 (one stop) cuts the light by half. Likewise, a shutter speed change from 1/250 to 1/500 will also cut the amount of light by half.

The darker image was exposed at f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400; while the lighter image was exposed at f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400. (In other words the only the aperture setting was changed.)

FujiFilm XT-1 with 90mm lens set at: f5.6 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400
FujiFilm XT-1 with 90mm lens set at: f4 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 400

Both exposures are acceptable, but you may have a preference for one versus the other. The photos here have not been altered for density, color balance or color temperature  in post processing; both are scaled versions of the camera produced JPGs.

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Portrait of New England Central 3476.

Last week I made this digital portrait of New England Central 3476 using my FujiFilm XT1 with f2.0 90mm lens.

Soft cross lighting combined with a wide aperture made for pleasing photographic conditions to picture this engine against a backdrop of  Vermont colorful autumn trees and distant New Hampshire hills.

The locomotive was working New England Central’s Brattleboro (Vermont) to Palmer (Massachusetts) turn freight, job 611, and was among many images I exposed that day.

This old EMD-built locomotive has a long history, having worked for Southern Pacific and Union Pacific before coming east to New England. I wonder if I crossed paths with it up on Donner Pass, in the Tehachapis, or on former Rio Grande lines in Colorado and Utah?

Brattleboro, Vermont.

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Sunrise on the New England Central—Working with RAW.

A side-benefit for me of transatlantic jet lag is that I’m wide awake for sunrise.

The other day, I drove to Stafford Springs, Connecticut as the sun was rising.

Typically New England Central 608 passes the village between 7 and 730 am. On this day it appeared about 724 am.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 with 12mm Zeiss Tuoit lens, I made a series of images of the freight passing.

I carefully exposed my RAW files to retain some sky detail, intending to adjust exposure, contrast and color in post processing.

It would be fallacious to suggest that the RAW file represents reality. It doesn’t.

It is important to understand that the camera RAW file is an equivalent of a ‘negative’ in film photography. The RAW file simply represents the raw data as captured by the camera sensor. This data requires interpretation to produce an image that resembled what the human brain perceives.

I made a series of small adjustments to highlights, shadows, color temperature, and color balance, while working with masks in the sky to control detail and color.

My only regret is that my graduated neutral density filters were still packed away in my luggage, as these would have been useful in this situation by allowing for improved sky detail by effectively selective expanding the dynamic capture of the sensor.

I’ve included both the RAW file (scaled for internet) and my interpreted post-processed JPG. To give hints as to what I’ve done, I’ve also included screen shots of the Lightroom work windows.

This the uninterpreted image. It is a JPG because this necessary for internet presentation. My RAW file was about 33MB which is far too large for presentation here. Significant to my interpretation is that there is greater detail stored in the RAW file than immediately evident in its presentation on the computer screen. Specifically, there is more color and detail in the sky than displayed here.
This is a screen shot of the Lightroom work window of my RAW file. The red blotch in the sky indicates a loss of data in that area owing to over exposure.
This is my finished image following post processing in Lightroom.
Screen shot showing the alterations on the sliders in the Lightroom work window. Notice the relative placement of data in the histogram (graph at upper right).

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Orcuttville in the Fog, New England Central 608 on the Roll.

A thick layer of fog in Stafford, Connecticut made for an excellent environment for dramatic photos.

New England Central 608 (Willimantic – Palmer way freight) was on its northward leg, when I caught it approaching Connecticut Route 319 at Orcuttville.

A lone GP38 was at work this day with more than 20 cars in tow.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1. The tricky part of this photo was balancing the exposure of the headlight/ditchlights with ambient light. I prefer the overall exposure slightly on the darkside for greater drama. Compare with the Lumix LX7 image below.
New England Central 608 with GP38 3845 approaches the crossing at Orcuttville. Exposed using a Lumix LX7.

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Early Bird Gets the Worm or, as the case may be, the New England Central local freight!

During the long days of July, I made a point of being up and OUT as early as there was light in the sky.

Those trains that go bump in the night in Winter have a bit of light on them in July.

I made this view before 6 am of the New England Central local crossing the Palmer diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant is located in the old Palmer, Massachusetts Union Station station at left.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm lens.

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Close and Closer—Compositional Considerations: New England Central at Vernon, Vermont.

Mike Gardner and I had driven up from Palmer, Massachusetts with a plan to intercept New England Central’s morning freight 611 that runs south weekdays from Brattleboro, Vermont to Palmer and back.

As we crossed the Massachusetts-Vermont state line at East Northfield, we heard 611 approaching.

Having photographed trains here before, we opted to make our first set in a farmer’s field right off the road.

I exposed these two views with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm adjustable zoom lens.

On this morning I was delighted to find a unified orange locomotive consist.

Of these two images, one closer than the other, I’ve strategically positioned the orange locomotives in the frame.

Almost a ‘stardard view’. Compare the relative size of the barn with the train.
This wide-angle view alters the perspective on the locomotives a bit.

Considering the various elements—locomotives, barn, fields left and right and a pastel sky above—Which of these photos do you prefer?

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My Secret Revealed! Follow up on ‘Four views at Bridge Street Monson’.

Did you ever read Edgar Allen Poe’s detective story called ‘The Purloined Letter’? Essentially Poe reveals that sometimes the best place to hide something is in plain view.

Two days ago (Thursday June 22, 2017) in Tracking the Light I posted a subtle puzzle called:

Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

While on the surface this was a comparison between black & white and color images; in fact it was a more complex comparison between similar photographs.

One clue was the following, “I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film images?”

The other major clue was in the title, “Two Takes, Four Views.”

A little background. On May 16, 2017 I made the color photo of New England Central GP38 3809 leading train 608 upgrade. A few days later, I was following the same train with the same locomotive-consist and I had the opportunity to return to Bridge Street and make another image from the same location. Rather than repeat my efforts in color, I opted to make a black & white photograph with my Leica.

The secret: The fundamental difference between the images is that they were exposed on different days.

Thus there are subtle differences in the angle of the camera to the train, the lighting (higher in the B&W photo as a result of being exposed about an hour later), the locomotive exhaust is different (which several viewers commented on), the train consist itself is different (although the locomotives are the same), and in the elapsed days between images the leaves on the trees had grown to obscure more the track in the distance (which is why it is more difficult to see the freight cars in the black & white views).

Admittedly, by comparing color with black & white it was easy to steer many viewers from observing the other, and more subtle, differences between the black & white and color images. I further hid my secret by directing the observer to study variations in tonality between the three variations in the B&W images.

Would you have noticed more quickly if the leading locomotive had been a different engine in the color view?

Exposed on May 16, 2017.
My third of three black & white variations; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality.

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Oh, and by the way, I prefer the color view over the black & white, the light was much nicer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

New England Central’s grade over State Line Hill climbs through Monson, Massachusetts. When I’m in Monson—where I live for part of the year—I can hear the trains as they pass through town.

In recent posts, I’ve focused my cameras on New England Central’s weekday freight, job 608, that runs from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back.

In the long days, the present schedule for 608 finds it in a number of classic locations that are well-lit for photography.

I can go after the train on any given morning, as often as I choose, and this allows me the freedom to explore different angles, photographic techniques, and visit locations repeatedly to make more interesting images.

I like to work in black & white and I choose to use traditional film cameras with which I can craft images in the old school. I process the film myself using custom-tailored recipes, and then scan for presentation here.

Why black & white film? First of all it’s not simply monochrome. My black & white photography is the culmination of decades of experimentation. This shouldn’t imply that the photos are inherently better than simple digital snap shots, but infers that I’ve put more thought and energy into achieving my end result.

Here I’ve displayed three variations of a black & white image I exposed using a Leica IIIa with 35mm Nikkor lens at Bridge Street in Monson. I’ve adjusted the contrast and tonal range producing subtle differences in each interpretation. For comparison, I’ve also supplied a similar digital color view that I exposed with my Lumix LX7.

I wonder how many viewers will notice the fundamental difference between the digital photograph and the film image variations?

My first post-processed variation of New England Central’s 608 climbing at Bridge Street, Monson, Mass.
Here I’ve lowered the over-all contrast, which allows for greater shadow and highlight detail, but overall produces a softer tonality.
My third variation; I’ve made a global exposure change and adjusted shadow areas to produce a starker image with greater tonality and deeper blacks.
Is color better? Chime in with your opinion in the comments section.

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Orange Locomotives on the Roll—611 works North.

New England Central’s 611 works from Brattleboro to Palmer and return.

The other day, Paul Goewey and I intercepted this freight on its northward run.

A former Conrail SD40 was in the lead, and a recently painted Providence & Worcester DASH8-40B was trailing. Two out of three locomotives wore Genesee & Wyoming’s corporate livery.

Then the sun came out.

We drove to a preselected location north of Barretts, Massachusetts and I made these photos with my FujiFilm X-T1.

To make for a more interesting composition, I positioned my camera to include the overhanging branch. The juxtoposition of the branch, clouds and train make for a nice triangular arrangement that is more interesting to look at the than just a train crossing a field. But would this work if the locomotives were black or dark green?
611 is often a very long freight.

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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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400mm view at Stateline Summit.

Using my Canon 7D with a 100-400mm zoom lens, I exposed this view of New England Central 608 approaching Stateline Summit on the Connecticut-Massachusetts boundary.

I selected this perspective to illustrate the undulating grade profile of the former Central Vermont Railway approaching Stateline Summit. The train is crossing the ‘false summit’ while the top of the grade is the rise in tracks near the switch stand.

I’m standing north of the state line looking south; the train is in Connecticut.

Looking south toward the northward New England Central 608 at Stateline.

While this camera-lens combination doesn’t represent my sharpest equipment, it is useful for photos like this one.

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New England Central—Southward with 608 on May 17, 2017.

Earlier in the month I’ve highlighted various photographic adventures with New England Central 608 (freight that works from Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer and back). Today’s post focuses on the southward journey.

Over the years, I’ve photographed many trains climbing the former Central Vermont Railway grade over State Line Hill, and beyond into Connecticut, so this chase is old hat for me.

Yet, I’m always looking for a new angle, or to place today’s train in a classic setting that I may have captured years ago.

These views are all from the morning of May 17, 2017 and exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Do you have any favorites?

New England Central 608 at Bunyan Road in Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 from Academy Hill/Main Street Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central 608 at Stateline looking toward Monson, Massachusetts.
New England Central tracks at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
Tight telephoto view of NECR 608 at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
South of Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
New England Central 608 viewed from the Track 9 Diner in Willington, Connecticut.

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New England Central—Making the Most of a Sunny Morning.

Lately, New England Central’s (NECR) Willimantic-Palmer freight 608 has been running on favorable schedule for photography.

If you’ve been following Tracking the Light lately, you might have gleaned the mistaken impression that New England Central’s northward freight can only be photographed hard out of the sun at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

In fact  on its present schedule there are many nicely lit photographs of the northward run between Willington, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts, this time of year.

And, when the crew turns quickly at Palmer, there can be a host of very nicely lit locations in the southward direction.

It helps to know where and when to go. I’ve been at this a while. Back in Central Vermont Railway days (precursor to New England Central) and before I could drive, I’d chase this line on my bicycle. By the time I was 15 I knew all the best angles.

These views are from one productive morning a few weeks ago. More to come!

Leica view on black & white film—Ilford HP5 rated at 320 ISO, processed in Ilford Perceptol developer and toned with selenium. NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Plains Road Willington, Connecticut. FujiFIlm X-T1 digital photo using in-camera. Velvia color profile.
Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NECR 608 northbound at Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
NER 608 about to cross Rt319 north of Stafford Springs.
A few minutes later at Stateline (on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border). Note the passing siding. I’m standing on Route 32 looking southward.
Leica view at Stateline.
Washington Street in Monson, Massachusetts, near the site of the old Central Vermont Railway Monson Station (gone more than 60 years).
Leica view on HP5 at Washington Street.

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Making use of a dull Morning—Another Take of 608.

So, if I called this Stafford Springs, Connecticut Part 3, would you be interested.

In truth, this is less about Stafford and its morning freight train and more about lighting and technique.

In two previous posts [see: New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again, and Going Against the Grain  I’ve detailed my efforts at photographing New England Central 608 working through Stafford Springs in harsh morning sunlight. This post depicts the same train on a dull morning, but also in black & white (Sorry Dave Clinton, but it has to be done).

I’m using the same camera-lens combination; a Leica IIIa with a screw-mount f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens. This time loaded with Ilford HP5. My process is about the same as in my earlier post New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

This time, I processed it using Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for eight minutes, rewashed and scanned.

 One small change; in this instance, I gave the film a little more toning than previously, which should make for slightly more silvery highlights. This is a subtle change, and probably barely perceptible on internet presentation.

New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs at 7:20am on May 10, 2017 ; exposed using a Leica IIIa with f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens at f4.5/f5.6 1/200th second on HP5.
A slightly closer view of New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs. I’ve made this on at a slightly lower angle.

Compositionally, I’ve made an effort to include the village and not just focus on the locomotives.

I’m by no means done with this project, and I’ll continue to post with more photos and insights over the coming weeks. (Including some color views to please Dave and others morally opposed to black & white).

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