Tag Archives: night photography

Dublin at Night: Fomapan Classic 100.

Working with Czech-made Fomapan Classic in my Nikon F3, I’ve wandered the streets of Dublin seeking timeless images.

By careful chemical manipulation in the processing of the negatives, I aimed to extract exceptional shadow detail, maintain rich black tones and control highlight areas.

I’ve exposed these views over the last few weeks. In many instances, I’ve set my lenses to their widest apertures both to let greater amounts of light to reach the film, but also for the effects offered shallow depth of field.

Weather, including fog, added to the challenge and the atmosphere.

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Dublin by Night: 1000 shades of Dark.

I’d use ‘gray’ in place of ‘dark’, but apparently the phraseology has assumed new meanings.

I could just say ‘Dublin in Black & White’, but that isn’t really correct either.

Working with my Nikon F3 loaded with Foma Classic 100 black & white film, I made these photos during March 2018 wintery weather in Dublin.

To keep my camera steady for long exposures, I used various tripods, depending on the surface and circumstance.

Irish Rail’s Loop Line bridge over the River Liffey.

My exposures varied, but most were between 1 and 8 seconds. I calculated exposure manually using a Minolta IV Flash meter (in reflective mode).

I processed the Fomapan 100 film in Ilford ID-11 stock mixed 1-1 with water at 68F for 7 minutes 15 seconds, plus pre-soak with a token amount of Kodak HC110, then scanned negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.

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Nocturnal View—South Station on Atlantic Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts.

The other night I made this digital photograph of Boston’s South Station.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Touit, I set the ISO to 1600 and handheld the camera at ¼ sec.

I calculated exposure manually using the camera meter, and then intentionally increased the exposure by about ½ stop. (In otherwords I let in more light to the sensor than recommended by the meter).

In post processing, I adjusted contrast and exposure to control highlights and lighten the night sky in order to overcome two of the common failings of night photographs: blasted highlights and excessive inky blackness.

Boston’s South Station facing Atlantic Avenue.

Here’s a screen shot of my reduced Jpg with the EXIF data. This shows how the camera was set. Notice ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, and white balance fields.

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Kent Station, Cork—Three Evening views.

Irish Rail’s Kent Station in Cork City is a cool place to make photos. It’s unusual curved train shed, plus antique platform awnings and brick station buildings have a Victorian appearance that offer a contrast with the modern trains that now serve passengers here.

I exposed these views on 16 March 2017.

Digital image exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon.

Black & white film photograph exposed on Fuji Acros 100 with a Leica IIIa fitted with a screw-mount 35mm Nikkor wide angle lens.

2600 railcars bask under sodium vapour lamps at Kent Station Cork. Digital image exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon.

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Limerick Junction by Night.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon, I exposed this evening view at Limerick Junction.

At right is the down train from Dublin Heuston destined for Cork Kent Station, on the left is the shuttle train to/from Limerick .

FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon set at f3.2, 1/15th of a second, handheld, ISO 3200.

I imported the camera-RAW file into Lightroom, and made nominal adjustments to the contrast while lightening shadow areas. Significantly, I cooled the colour temperature to compensate for the harsh effects of sodium and fluorescent lights to make for a more natural appearing colour balance.

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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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SEPTA No.10 Trolley Emerges from the Subway.

Working with my Panasonic Lumix LX-7, the other night I made these handheld views of SEPTA’s number 10 Trolley at the subway entrance off 36th Street in West Philadelphia.

To keep the trolley sharp, I panned the final image is this sequence. Thus, I moved the camera to keep pace with the streetcar.

Exposed with the Lumix LX7 in ‘A’ mode; f1.9 at 1/13th of a second. ISO 200.

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Bavarian Twilight; Call this Photography in Mixed Lighting or Rabbits at Dusk.

Dusk is a great time to make captivating images, provided you get the exposure right.

I made this view at Buchloe, Germany in southwestern Bavaria. It was a little while after sunset, and the cool glow of a winter’s evening sky made for some interesting lighting. The platforms at the station were lit using common sodium vapor lamps, while a lamp in the yard on the left appears to be of the mercury vapor variety.

Among the advantages of twilight is the ability to find a good balance between natural and man made light. Once the glow in the sky fades, the black of night makes balanced exposures more difficult.

Here, I opted to use a Fujichrome emulsion (probably Provia 100F) that had filtration layers designed to minimize discoloration from the spectral spikes typical of man-made lighting, such as sodium and fluorescent sources. These spikes are largely invisible to the human eye, but can produce unnatural color casts on slide films.

A DB class 218 rests at Buchloe, Germany on 17 January 2007.

One of the features of this image is the old DB Class 218 diesel, a type known colloquially as a ‘Rabbit’ because of its rabbit-ear exhaust stacks.

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Springfield in the Dark of Night; From the Lost Negative File.

Sorry, not a vampyre story.

Back in the mid-1980s, I’d often visit Springfield Union Station (Springfield, Massachusetts) with Bob Buck .

We’d arrive in his green Ford van, typically after another event, such as a meeting of the West Springfield Train Watchers or a concert at the Springfield Symphony.

I’d come equipped with a tripod, Leica and large handheld Metz electronic flash unit (strobe). Often, I’d wrap the head of the strobe in a white garbage bag to diffuse the light (on the recommendation of Doug Moore). This eliminated the hard edge often associated with electronic flash.

[My old prewar Leicas predated electronic flash sync. However they do have a ‘T’ setting, and this allowed me to lock the shutter open indefinitely.]

I’d place the camera on the tripod, position it in a way as to minimize light falling the front element of the lens, open the shutter, then walk around using the Metz flash unit to illuminate shadowed areas of the scene as to even out the exposure. I’d keep the flash at relatively low power and make a series of bursts for the most effective results.

Typically I’d leave the shutter open for about 30 seconds.

Amtrak Budd-built SPV-2000 diesel railcars at Springfield Union Station in summer 1984. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 50mm lens. Film processed in Microdol-X.
Amtrak Budd-built SPV-2000 diesel railcars at Springfield Union Station in summer 1984. Exposed on Kodak Tri-X using a Leica 3A with 50mm lens. Film processed in Microdol-X. If you look carefully at the far left you’ll see a ghostly shadow. That’s me aiming the flash unit at the SPVs. I told you this wasn’t a vampyre story! (Just an electronic ghost tale.)

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Tram Noir—Olomouc, October 2016.

 

A brisk autumnal wind blew through cobblestone streets in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

I wandered with camera in hand, making images of trams grinding along in the dark of night.

These images were exposed on Fuji Neopan 400 using a Canon EOS-3.

I processed the film using Kodak HC-110 diluted 1-64 with water, with an extended pre-soak featuring an extremely dilute developer to help process shadow areas.

By design, my results are grainy and heavily textured to accentuate the effect of harsh lighting on the cobblestones and ancient buildings of the old Moravian capital.

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Praha Hlavani Nadrazi by Night

Last week, I made these photos at Prague’s Main Station using my Lumix LX7.

To make this view, I used one of the station shed supports to position my Lumix LX7 and hold it steady during the length of the exposure.
To make this view, I used one of the station shed supports to position my Lumix LX7 and hold it steady during the length of the exposure.

Among the station's architectural attractions are its arched entryway and domed waiting room. Since my visit in 2000 this dome has been restored to its former glory. Lumix LX7 view looking up.
Among the station’s architectural attractions are its arched entryway and domed waiting room. Since my visit in 2000 this dome has been restored to its former glory. Lumix LX7 view looking up.

A CD passenger train waits under the twin span arched train shed. This angle was made by placing the Lumix on the station platform to hold the camera steady during the relatively long exposure. To minimize camera shake I used the self timer (set to 2 seconds).
A CD passenger train waits under the twin span arched train shed. This angle was made by placing the Lumix on the station platform to hold the camera steady during the relatively long exposure. To minimize camera shake I used the self timer (set to 2 seconds).

A double-deck suburban electric multiple unit decorated to commemorate an anniversary of Czech Railways basks in the evening glow at the south end of Prague's Main Station. Lumix LX7 photo.
A double-deck suburban electric multiple unit decorated to commemorate an anniversary of Czech Railways basks in the evening glow at the south end of Prague’s Main Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

I featured : Praha Hlavani Nadrazi (Prague Main Station) in my recent book Depots, Stations & Terminals published by Voyageur Press.

See: https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9780760348901/Railway-Depots-Stations-Terminals.html

Here’s and excerpt of my text:

In 1919, Prague main station was renamed Wilsonova Nádrazi in honor of American president Woodrow Wilson. The name was dropped after German annexation and occupation during World War II, and appears to have been forgotten during the postwar period of Soviet influence that prevailed until the Czech Velvet Revolution in November 1989. The name change was the least of the station’s problems. During this dark period of Czech history, the station was allowed to deteriorate and by the mid-1990s was a dismal shadow of its former glory.

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Railway Night Photography: Autumn Style—Tips and Suggestions

A nearly full moon and foliage with rusty yellow hues can accentuate railway night photography.

The moon will lend a bluish tint to the sky, while illuminating clouds that makes for a more dramatic scene than inky black.

Streetlights, passing automobiles, and locomotive headlights help to brighten the foliage.

Rain makes for puddles that can add atmosphere and interesting reflections. Get low to the ground and use puddles as mirrors.

New England Central switches at Palmer, Massachusetts as a nearly full moon illuminates the late Autumn sky. Exposed in October 2015 using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera with a 27mm pancake lens.
New England Central switches at Palmer, Massachusetts as a nearly full moon illuminates the late Autumn sky. Exposed in October 2015 using a FujiFilm X-T1 mirrorless digital camera with a 27mm pancake lens. Contrast controlled in post processing using Lightroom.

Making a puddle work: earlier in the day it rained, but by evening the sky had cleared. By keeping the camera low to the water, I was able to capture some interesting reflections. It is import to keep the camera dry, so don't go overboard.
Making a puddle work: earlier in the day it rained, but by evening the sky had cleared. By keeping the camera low to the water, I was able to capture some interesting reflections. It is import to keep the camera dry, so don’t go overboard.

If a train pauses, use a tripod to make very long exposures. A common error with night photography is failing to leave the shutter open long enough to capture sky detail.

Use post processing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop to control contrast, and always expose RAW files to ensure sufficient data is captured.

If time allows, bracket and study exposures on site to see if you’ve caught what you were seeing. Or perhaps find something in the photograph that looks completely different than the scene itself.

Motion can improve or destroy a night photo. CSX Q012 blasts through CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts as New England Central pauses below the South Main Street Bridge. The moon helps illuminate the night sky. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Motion can improve or destroy a night photo. CSX Q012 blasts through CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts as New England Central pauses below the South Main Street Bridge. The moon helps illuminate the night sky. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.

A long pan with a steady hand. This was exposed for more than a second using a Lumix LX7.
A long pan with a steady hand. This was exposed for more than a second using a Lumix LX7.

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La Hulpe Station at Night, March 2015.

On an evening last week, using my Lumix LX-7, I exposed this time exposure of Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Belges’s (Belgian National Railways or SNCB) Gare de La Hulpe.

This railway line is being transformed from double track mainline line to a quad track line to facilitate an improved suburban service akin to the Paris RER.

Exposed using a Panasonic Lumix LX7 set at ISO 80 at f1.7 for 5 seconds.
Exposed using a Panasonic Lumix LX7 set at ISO 80 at f1.7 for 5 seconds.

To make this image, I rested the camera on the bridge railing, exposed a pair of trial exposures to gauge the lighting conditions, then set the camera (shutter speed and aperture) manually to allow for sufficient exposure of the sky and shadow areas.

As previously mentioned on Tracking the Light, to make successful night photos it is important to give the scene sufficient exposure (usually 2/3s of a stop more than allocated by many built-in camera meter settings), while keep the camera steady for the duration of the exposure. Keeping flare to a minimum is also helpful.

See related articles:

Charleroi to La Hulpe. 

Lumix LX-3—part 2: Existing Light Digital Night Shots.

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CSX Noir.

It was a dark and rainy night on January 2015. Pat Yough and I were watching the railroad roll. I made these views of CSX freights moving along the Trenton Line (former Reading) at Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania.

CSX crude oil train K138 glides through Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. ISO 4000 f2.8 1/10th of second.
CSX crude oil train K138 glides through Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 20mm lens. ISO 4000 f2.8 1/10th of second.

CSX Q438-10 approaches Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 4000 f2.8 1/10th of second.
CSX Q438-10 approaches Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 4000 f2.8 1/10th of second.

CSX Q438-10 approaches Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 4000 f2.8 1/10th of second.
CSX Q438-10 approaches Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 3200 f2.8 1/60th of second.

CSX Q438-10 passes Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 3200 f2.8 1//25th of second.
CSX Q438-10 passes Neshaminy Falls, Pennsylvania. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 3200 f2.8 1//25th of second.

SEPTA_station_sign_Neshaminy_Falls_PA_IMG_9863

I exposed these images handheld using my Canon EOS 7D set at high ISO for greater sensitivity in low light. The images have a gritty high-noise look to them. Let’s just say, it wasn’t Kodachrome weather. But then, there isn’t any Kodachrome anymore.

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Brian Solomon’s Night Photo Challenge-Part 1.

In response to my recent nomination by Phil Brahms and Blair Kooistra for the Facebook Night Photo challenge, I’ve selected five groups of photos that I feel might be interesting to review on Tracking the Light.

I have to admit, I’m not clear on the rules for this challenge. As a result, I’ll follow my standard policy and just wing it. Who needs rules anyway?

Among the difficulties in selecting photos for this challenge has been simply finding them. For the most part I’ve not organized images in regards to the time of day they were exposed. A related problem is the large number of night views that I’ve attempted over the years.

Lastly, what makes for a successful night photo?

Over the years, I’ve made hundreds of night photos at Palmer, Massachusetts. I exposed this image on an exceptionally foggy May 1985 evening. My subject was the old Palmer Union Station near the crossing of Conrail’s Boston & Albany line and the Central Vermont Railway. Today this old station has been restored and serves as the Steaming Tender restaurant. Tracking the Light viewers will find it a familiar subject, as I’ve often featured images in and around this building. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
Over the years, I’ve made hundreds of night photos at Palmer, Massachusetts. I exposed this image on an exceptionally foggy May 1985 evening. My subject was the old Palmer Union Station near the crossing of Conrail’s Boston & Albany line and the Central Vermont Railway. Today this old station has been restored and serves as the Steaming Tender restaurant. Tracking the Light viewers will find it a familiar subject, as I’ve often featured images in and around this building. Exposed on black & white film with a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.

More than 11 years later, I exposed this view at Palmer. Here I'm looking west with the station at my back. A southward New England Central freight is waiting to cross the diamonds. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100F. December 6, 1996.
More than 11 years later, I exposed this view at Palmer. Here I’m looking west with the station at my back. A southward New England Central freight is waiting north of the diamond. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm lens on Fujichrome Provia 100F. December 6, 1996. Color is an added complication for night work. Would this photo be more effective as a black & white image? Or would the effect of the red signal lights be lost?

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Stay tuned for more ‘Night Photo Challenge’ images . . .  

 

International Train Hotel-Entroncamento, Portugal

April 3, 2014.

Entroncamento Station, Portugal on the evening of April 3, 2014.
Entroncamento Station, Portugal on the evening of April 3, 2014.

Portugal shares the broad Iberian standard gauge with Spain: rails are five feet six inches apart. Despite this commonality, today there are relatively few international services between the two countries.

One of the few cross-border trains is the nightly combined Lusitania/Sud Expresso connecting Lisbon with Spanish cities. The Lusitania runs Lisbon-Madrid, while the Sud Expresso is a vestige of the old Wagon Lits luxury express that once connected Lisbon with Paris, but now only goes as far as Irun on the Spanish-French frontier.

The train operates with RENFE (Spanish Railways) TALGO train hotel equipment, which makes it anomalous compared with the majority of Portuguese passenger trains.

On April 3, 2014, I planned to photograph the eastward Lusitania/Sud Expresso (train 335/310) during its station stop at Entrocamento, Portugal.

This is a big station, adjacent to freight yards, shops, and Portugal’s National Railway Museum.

Portugal.
Entrocamento Station with the nightly Lisbon-Spain train hotel approaching in the distance. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 set at 80 ISO.

The train departed Lisbon Santa Apolónia at 9:18 pm, and arrived at Entroncamento a little more than an hour later. I had less than five minutes to make photographs.

I worked with three cameras. First exposing digital time exposures using my Lumix LX3 positioned on a mini Gitzo tripod. I made several images using my standard night photo technique (see: Lumix LX-3—part 2:  Existing Light Digital Night Shots).

Entrocamento Station with the nightly Lusitania/Sud Expresso paused for its station stop. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 set at 80 ISO. I used the self timer set at 2 seconds to minimize vibration.
Entrocamento Station with the nightly Lusitania/Sud Expresso paused for its station stop. Exposed with a Lumix LX3 set at 80 ISO. I used the self timer set at 2 seconds to minimize vibration.

Then I quickly swapped the Lumix for my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm lens loaded with Provia 100F, and made a three exposure bracket. With film, I find it difficult to gauge night exposures, so I aided my efforts with my handheld Minolta Mark IV light meter.

Provia 100F has a filtration layer that minimizes undesirable color spikes caused by fluorescent and sodium lighting.

In the middle of this time-exposure exercise, I also made several handheld images using my Canon EOS 7D set for a high ISO. I figured that covered most of the angles.

I exposed this view of the Lusitania/Sud Expresso using my Canon EOS 7D handheld with a 20mm lens; ISO 4000 f2.8 1/50th of a second. While not as critically sharp as the tripod mounted Lumix image, it has a nice feel to it. Also, for me it’s a fast and easy ‘safety’ shot, in case my more elaborate technique using the Lumix failed to work as hoped.
I exposed this view of the Lusitania/Sud Expresso using my Canon EOS 7D handheld with a 20mm lens; ISO 4000 f2.8 1/50th of a second. While not as critically sharp as the tripod mounted Lumix image, it has a nice feel to it. Also, for me it’s a fast and easy ‘safety’ shot, in case my more elaborate technique using the Lumix failed to work as hoped.

I was distracted during my efforts by the arrival of a Takargo Vossloh E4000 diesel (powered by an EMD 16-710 engine) hauling a container train.

As soon as the train hotel pulled away, I repositioned to photograph the diesel-hauled container train.

Takargo Vossloh E4000 diesel rumbles in the sodium vapor gloom of Entrocamento. Lumix LX3 photo.
Takargo Vossloh E4000 diesel rumbles in the sodium vapor gloom of Entrocamento. Lumix LX3 photo.

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DAILY POST: Exploring SEPTA

January 2014 Philadelphia Photo Exercise

SEPTA_Map_IMG_3911

For me, SEPTA is one of the most photogenic American big city transit systems. Sure, other cities have their charms, but Philadelphia has a lot going for it; variety, accessibility, interval services on most routes, real time displays at stations, visual cues to its heritage, interesting and varied equipment and etc.

On January 16, 2014, my brother Sean and I, spent an afternoon and evening wandering on SEPTA’s rail systems making photographs. I had a minor agenda to ride a few pieces of the network I’d not yet traveled on.

I worked with two cameras; Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D, but traveled relatively light (no film body or big telephotos)

Lumix LX3 photo.
Lumix LX3 photo.

SEPTA has a App that shows schedules, train times & etc. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA has a App that shows schedules, train times & etc. Lumix LX3 photo.

SEPTA Airport station
Philadelphia is one of the few North American cities with direct heavy rail airport connections. Trains run every half hour with stations at each terminal. Lumix LX3 photo.

SEPTA.
Afternoon sun catches an outbound Silverliner V at University City. A CSX freight rolls overhead on the Highline. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

All of the lines we traveled were well patronized (some at standing room only) and yet everything seem to run to time. SEPTA’s staff were friendly and helpful. (Especially when we were running for trains).

SEPTA
SEPTA SIlverliner V interior. Built by ROTEM. Lumix LX3 photo.

End of the line at Elwyn.
End of the line at Elwyn.

Silverliner V at Elwyn. The line used to continue to West Chester.
Silverliner V at Elwyn. The line used to continue to West Chester. Lumix LX3 photo.

SEPTA railroad station
Old Pennsylvania Railroad station at Clifton-Aldan.

End of the Sharon Hill trolley line. Lumix LX3 photo.
End of the Sharon Hill trolley line. Lumix LX3 photo.

69th Street terminal at Upper Darby. Outbound trolleys for Media and Sharon Hill. Lumix LX3 photo.
69th Street terminal at Upper Darby. Outbound Kawasaki trolleys for Media and Sharon Hill. Lumix LX3 photo.

Norristown High Speed Line at 69th Street. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown High Speed Line at 69th Street. Lumix LX3 photo. Contrast adjusted in post processing to improve the overall appearance of the image.

Norristown transportation center. The old Reading Company on the lower level. A Norfolk Southern freight rolled through as we boarded the train for Center City. Lumix LX3 photo.
Norristown transportation center. The old Reading Company on the lower level. A Norfolk Southern freight rolled through as we boarded the train for Center City. Lumix LX3 photo.

SEPTA Daypass; a bargain that cost just $12. We got good value with ours. SEPTA's conductor sold us the passes on the train. Lumix LX3 photo.
SEPTA Daypass; a bargain that cost just $12. We got good value with ours. SEPTA’s conductor sold us the passes on the train. Lumix LX3 photo.

Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.

SEPTA
Market East. Lumix LX3 photo.

Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Market East. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Overbrook station on the Main Line. Canon EOS 7D photo, with 40mm pancake lens.
Overbrook station on the Main Line. Canon EOS 7D photo, with 40mm pancake lens.

 

Click to see related posts: SEPTA Silverliners at Market EastSEPTA’s Number 15 StreetcarSEPTA Wanderings in Early January 2013; and SEPTA One Year Ago: June 29, 2012

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DAILY POST: New England Central at Night


November Moonlight.

Last Friday evening, November 16, 2013, I stopped by New England Central in Palmer, Massachusetts on my way to meet friends for dinner.

The moon was nearly full and a venerable GP38 was resting in the yard. Here was an opportunity for a photograph (or two)!

Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 30 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. Notice my shadow at far left.
Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 30 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. Notice my shadow at far left.

I’ve made numerous images of New England Central 3855, since this locomotive arrived with the creation of the railroad nearly 19 years ago. So why bother make more, especially on a chilly November evening?

My short answer: because it was there to photograph.

The long answer: the moon was out casting a surreal glow across the Palmer yard and the mix of moonlight and sodium vapor street lights inspired me to expose some long time exposures.

I positioned my Lumix LX3 on my large Bogen tripod and manually set the camera. I carefully avoided direct light by using tree branches and nearby buildings as natural lens shades. I also minimize the effect of street lamps in the photograph, while aiming skyward to catch the twinkle of evening stars. (On the full-sized un-scaled RAW file, the stars are very clear in the sky. Unfortunately the scaled and compressed images do not translate as well as I’d hoped.)

Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 15 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. The best part of this image is the tree shadow on the locomotive side.
Lumix LX-3 photograph: exposed for 15 seconds at f2.8 at ISO 80. The best part of this image is the tree shadow on the locomotive side.

Using long exposures require a very steady tripod. Also to minimize noise I selected the lowest ISO value. For more on my ambient light night photo technique see earlier posts including: Friday Night in Palmer, Massachusetts, July 12, 2013; and Lumix LX-3—part 2:  Existing Light Digital Night Shots

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Dublin’s LUAS at Heuston Station, October 14, 2013

Early Dawn on the Tram Line.

Heuston Station (known as King’s Bridge Station until its 1966 renaming) is a multimodal transport hub. In addition to being one of Irish Rail’s primary long distance and suburban stations, it’s also an important LUAS tram stop (one of only a few with a turn-back siding) and a terminal bus stop for 145 and 747 buses.

LUAS
Outbound LUAS tram pauses for passengers at Dublin’s Heuston Station.

I made this time exposure with my Lumix LX3 on Monday morning. Since I didn’t have a tripod, I set the camera on a waist-height railing and set the self timer for 2 seconds to minimize camera shake.

I had the camera set in its ‘Vivid’ color mode which enhances the blue effect of dawn while making red lights more prominent. To calculate exposure, I used the ‘A’ aperture priority setting with a +2/3 (2/3s of a stop over exposure to add light to the scene).

This override is a means of compensating for the dark background and dark sky combined with bright highlights from electric streetlight (which have a tendency to fool the camera meter).

See my post: Lumix LX-3—part 2:  Existing Light Digital Night Shots for more night photography technique.

I made a series of exposures, both to bracket exposure and keep the camera steady. I only had a few moments before the tram pulled away.

For more images of Dublin check Tracking the Light’s: Recent Images of Dublin, Ireland page.

Also see this link to LUAS Red Line Book Festival.

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Friday Night in Palmer, Massachusetts, July 12, 2013

 

Another Train Intensive Evening

Friday evening  July 12, 2013 represented my latest opportunity to watch and photography trains after sundown as this familiar location. In previous posts I’ve outlined my connections to Palmer (see: Palmer, Massachusetts, Friday Night, June 28, 2013, also Foggy Night in Palmer 28 Years Ago . . ., and Drowning the Light.

Freight cars at night.
A headlight illuminates freight cars at New England Central’s Palmer Yard on Friday July 12, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

Although Palmer is a relatively small town, it has long been the focus of railway activity. Today, it hosts yards for both New England Central and CSX, as well as nominal terminal facilities for Mass-Central.

CSX has a four-mile dispatchers controlled siding the runs from CP79 to CP83 (the numbers are based loosely interpret mileage from South Station, Boston). Just past the west switch at CP83 is the level crossing with New England Central—colloquially known as the Palmer Diamond. The popular Steaming Tender restaurant occupies the old Union Station between the two lines.

Palmer Diamond
New England Central home signal at the ‘Palmer Diamond’ on July 12, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

Palmer Diamond.
New England Central 606 heading north across CSX’s former Boston & Albany main line. Lumix LX3 photo.

After 10pm, trains converged on CP83. A CSX westbound on the main track met an eastward freight running via the controlled siding, as New England Central’s northward job 606 was looking to cross CSX to double its train together before heading toward Vermont.

The awkward nature of the former Central Vermont yard at Palmer complicates operations over the CSX diamond. Not only is the yard too short to hold long trains, but the yard was built on a grade which crests at the CSX (former Boston & Albany crossing).

Palmer, Massachusetts.
A CSX westward freight holds at CP83 as New England Central 606 heads north. The Steaming Tender is located in the old Palmer Union Station. Lumix LX3 photo.

Challenges for railroaders produce opportunities for photography, especially in the evening hours. As the railroads weaved their trains through Palmer, I made a series of photos.

However, time was catching me up: I’d had a long day and by 11pm, I needed a bit of that elusive commodity—sleep. As Bob Buck would have said, I was the ‘hero’, and departed as more trains were focused on Palmer. The approach lit signals at CP83 were still lit when I hit the road. The regular gang can report on what I missed!

 

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Foggy Night in Palmer 28 Years Ago . . .

 

Looking East at Palmer May 1985

Palmer at night
Palmer Union Station in the foggy gloom of a May 1985 evening. Exposed with a Leica 3A rangefinder on black & white film.

Yesterday (July 10, 2013), I posted night photos I made in Palmer on June 28, 2013. I mentioned that my night photography efforts were part of a long standing tradition. So I dug up this image of the Palmer station exposed nearly three decades earlier.

This was undoubtedly made on a Friday evening. A thick fog from the Quaboag River had enveloped the valley. In the station parking lot, and out of sight, Bob Buck is holding court.

That night I made several views of the Palmer station in silhouette. All were exposed with my old Leica 3A and a 50mm lens, probably a Canon screwmount which I favored at the time. I was using my father’s Linhof tripod to support the camera. Exposure was calculated strictly from experience, and was probably about 30 seconds at f2.8.

Interestingly, just the other day (July 9, 2013) I had the opportunity to interview Jim Shaughnessy about the night photography techniques he used to capture steam locomotives on film back in the 1950s. While similar to mine, his approach was very different and he perfected it more than three decades before my image was exposed.

Where I used 35mm film and strictly ambient light for this image, Jim tended to use a 4×5 camera and a skilled combination of ambient and artificial flash.

Of course, I was well acquainted with Jim’s work by the time I made this photo. There has been a copy of Donald Duke’s 1961 book Night Train on our shelf for as long as I can remember! This features Jim’s work among that of other well-established practitioners of the art of railway night photography.

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Palmer, Massachusetts, Friday Night, June 28, 2013

 

One Busy Evening.

I don’t remember making my first night photo in Palmer. But I do recall spending Friday evenings there in the 1980s with Bob Buck and company, watching and photographing Conrail and Central Vermont. See: Drowning the Light

Palmer Mass
New England 611 crawls southward across the Palmer diamond on June 28, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

New England 611 glides  into Palmer
New England 611 glides into Palmer on June 28, 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

The Friday evening tradition was maintained on June 28, 2013, when a group of us convened, as we have for many years, near the old station. A few weeks earlier, I posted some photos made on exceptionally wet Friday night. By contrast, June 28th was warm, dry and very pleasant. And busy too!

The variances of railway freight operations make it difficult to pin point precisely when trains will pass or arrive Palmer. Complicating matters on the week of June 28, was on-going undercutting on CSX’s B&A route (see: Ballast Train East Brookfield), and the after effects of a serious derailment on the Water Level route near Fonda, New York a few days earlier.

However, these events appear to have benefited us on the evening of the 28th. I arrived at CP83 (the dispatcher controlled signals and switch at west end of the controlled siding, 83 miles from Boston) just as CSX’s westward Q437 was rolling through.

New England Central freights
New England Central freights 604 and 606 at Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX photo.

New England Central freight.
New England Central 2680 on train 604 at Palmer. Lumix LX3 photo

New England Central had no less than three trains working in Palmer, jobs 604, 606, and 611, and these entertained us for the next couple of hours. In addition, we caught more action on CSX, including a very late train 448, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX3 and my father’s Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. Some of the exposures required the shutter to remain open for 25 seconds or longer.

CP 83 Palmer
Amtrak’s 448 Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited eastbound at CP 83 in Palmer. Lumix photo.

CP 83 Palmer.
Limited clear off the control siding at CP83.

 

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Chicago Medley, June 2013

 

Infrastructural Views Fresh From the Digital Cameras.

 

The other day, I landed at Midway where I was met by Chris Guss. We immediately set to work making images of America’s most railroad intensive city. It’s been nearly two years since I was last here; and nearly 30 years since my first visit. Time passes and much has changed, yet there are many vestiges of old railroads.

There’s always a wheel turning in Chicago, but these pictures are more about the railroad infrastructure than the trains themselves. There’s a book in this somewhere.

CTA train
Chicago Transit Authority Midway train catches the glint of the evening sun near Corwith. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Old tracks Chicago.
DIsused former Grand Trunk Western near Corwith, Illinois. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens.

Level crossing at Brighton Park
Former Gulf Mobile & Ohio line at Brighton Park, Chicago, Illinois. . Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

Old switch levers.
Vestiges of the old lever frame at Brighton Park. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Weeds along the tracks.
Weeds grow trackside at Brighton Park. . Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

Metra train with position light signals.
Metra Train rolls toward Union Station on the former Pennsylvania Railroad Panhandle route at Racine Avenue. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Chicago Metra
Metra Train glides through Racine Avenue, Chicago. Lumix LX-3 handheld.

Train on grade crossing.
Norfolk Southern GP38 working a local freight at Racine Avenue. Lumix LX3 panned at f2.8 1 second.

Chicago at night
Norfolk Southern local at Racine Avenue, Chicago. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens, exposed for 1.6 seconds at f2.8 ISO200; camera on mini Gitzo tripod.

These are just a sample from my Canon EOS 7D and Lumix LX-3 cameras. More to come!

 

 

 

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Palmer, Massachusetts, ‘CP83’ on Friday evening, May 31, 2013.

 

The “C” Light is Lit.

CP83 Palmer MA
This entire five image sequence was exposed with a Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

Going back to at least the 1980s, a group of us would convene in Palmer on Friday evenings. It used to be that after closing Tucker’s Hobbies on Fridays, Bob Buck would come down for dinner along with customers and friends from the store. Afterwards, we’d head over to ‘the station’ to watch the railroad.

I recall seeing Central Vermont’s old Alco RS-11s on sultry summer evenings, belching clouds of exhaust and sparks, while we waiting for the parade of westward Conrail trailvans (intermodal piggy-back trains); TV-5, TV-13, and etc. Back in the day, I’d make night shots with my Leica 3A. That seems like a long time ago.

This past Friday, a group of us convened at the usual spot; Doug and Janet Moore, Bill Keay, Rich Reed and myself. After a few trains, Doug and Janet were the ‘heroes’ as Bob would have called them; they headed home and a little while later the signals at CP83 lit up. To my astonishment, the ‘C’ light was flashing (the small lunar-white light between the main signal heads). I rushed for my cameras . . .

 Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

The signals at CP83 are approach-lit. So, when the signals light, it means that something (usually a train) has shunted the circuit.  Among other things, CSX’s CP83 governs the switch at the west end of a controlled siding that begins at CP79 (about four miles to the east). When the signals light with a high green, it means a westward train has been cleared to continue past CP83.

Conrail installed the present signaling system back in 1986 when it converted the Boston & Albany route from directional double track under Automatic Block Signal rule 251 ( ‘signal indication will be the authority for trains to operate with the current of traffic’) to a largely single main track system with controlled sidings and governed by Centralized Traffic Control-style signals with cab signaling.

As a result there are now only wayside signals at dispatcher control points such as CP83. CSX assumed operations from Conrail 14 years ago.

It’s rare, but occasionally a locomotive suffers a cab-signal failure, or a locomotive that isn’t cab signal equipped leads a train. There is a provision with the signal system using the ‘C’ light, to allow a dispatcher to authorize a train to proceed without operative cab signal.

Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

CSX rule CR-1280A names the ‘C’ light aspect as ‘Clear to Next Interlocking’. This gives the train permission to proceed the full distance to the next block ‘approaching next home signal prepared to stop’.

Why am I going into such specific operational details? Because, I’m fascinated by signals, but also in the 27 years since Conrail installed this signal system I’ve only witnessed a ‘C’ light lit, three times. And, I’d never before seen the C-light lit at CP83. I’ve been to CP83 more times that I can count, so for me, that is a really unusual event. (I saw a shooting star that night too, but those are common by comparison!)

Fortunately, I had cameras handy, and, perhaps more to the point, I had my dad’s Gitzo tripod, which made this sequence of images possible. (Other wise I would have trying to balance the camera with stacks of coins on the roof of my Golf, but, we’ll save that for another event . . .)

I just wish that Bob Buck could have been there with us to watch the train pass. He would have enjoyed that.

Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

All images exposed with a Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.
Lumix LX3 set manually at f2.8 for 15 seconds, ISO 80.

To learn more about railroad signals, check out my book Railroad Signaling  available from Voyageur Press.

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Brussels at Night; March 2013

 

When I was visiting Brussels last weekend, I made a series of nocturnal images of the city and its transport. Below are a few of my favorites.

Brussels Central Station
Brussels Central Station is largely below street level. Access to the platforms is via this modern ground level building. I exposed this image on the evening of March 22, 2013 using my Lumix LX3 set at ISO 80 in ‘A’ (aperture) mode with a +2/3 exposure over-ride (to compensate for the night sky and highlights from streetlights). The final exposure was f2.8 at 1 1/3 seconds.

Tram at night.
Sometimes it’s best to take an opportunistic approach to urban photography. I made this grab-shot with my Canon EOS 7D (fitted 28-135mm lens set at 5000 ISO) from the front seat of a Citroen Picasso paused at a set of traffic lights. Panning the tram using slow shutter speed minimizes the visual defects caused by shooting through a car window. The combination of twilight, streetlights, and motion make for a surrealistic image.

A Brussels PCC tram glides along at dusk on March 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 28-135mm, set at ISO 5000 f3.5 1/30 second.
A Brussels PCC tram glides along at dusk on March 24, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with 28-135mm, set at ISO 5000 f3.5 1/30 second.

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Budapest Keleti Station, August 2007

Budpest Keleti
A MAV InterCity Train basks under sodium and mercury vapor light at Budapest Keleti Station; exposed with a Nikon F3T and f.1.8 105mm lens on Fujichrome.

Following the Ghost of the old Hapsburg Empire

I selected this image of Budapest Keleti Station as part of a exhibition of more than twenty of my photographs titled Silver & Steel that made its debut in November 2008 at the GONe Studio. I exposed it at the beginning of an Eastern European rail adventure that ultimately brought me across Hungary, through Romania to Vlad Tepe’s birthplace, over the Carpathians and then into eastern Ukraine. Keleti or ‘Eastern’ Station is a principle Hungarian terminus for international rail travel; it’s a classic railway temple featuring a magnificent train shed that faces the city through an enormous fan-shaped window.

The trick to getting this dramatic angle was working my old Nikon F3T with its detachable prism. I focused manually, then removed the prism, and laid the camera on the platform, fine-tuning composition looking down on the mirror image while using a combination of Euro coins to prop up the lens. During exposure, I used my notebook to shade the front element from flare. To minimize vibration, I set the self-timer and stood back. My faithful Minolta IV light meter was key to calculating base exposure, but I then added a full stop to compensate for the cavernous quality of the train shed and the film’s reciprocity failure (owing to long exposure time). I made several exposures, most of which came out blurred because of nominal camera vibration. Ultimately, I locked up the F3T’s mirror for this final image.

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Toronto, February 8, 2010

Braving frigid temperatures to take advantage of incredible low-light; on this day, three years ago (February 8, 2010), Pat Yough, Chris Guss & I were in Toronto photographing in suitably arctic conditions. Cold but clear—there’s a fantastic, surreal quality of light in sub-zero temperatures which can lead to great images if you chose to endure the conditions. Not, only were we up early, but the night before we spent an hour or more making night shots from the Bathurst Street Bridge. It didn’t get any warmer by daybreak, which we photographed from the lake front west of the city center. On that morning, after setting up the tripod, my numb hands only managed to record in my note book, “0646 [6:46 am]—ugg. Twilight—cold.”

View from Bathurst Street, Toronto approaching Midnight on February 7, 2010. Lumix LX-3 time exposure.
View from Bathurst Street, Toronto approaching Midnight on February 7, 2010. Lumix LX-3 time exposure.

Sunrise on Lake Ontario, February 8, 2010. Lumix LX-3 on tripod.
Sunrise on Lake Ontario, February 8, 2010. Lumix LX-3 on tripod.

While we made an intense tour of Toronto area railroading, among the most memorable images were those exposed toward the end of daylight near Queensway & King Streets along the Canadian National quad-track line west of Union Station. This is one of the busiest lines in Canada, and hosts a flurry of trains at rush hour. For me the highlight was a pair of in-bound GO Transit trains with new MP40PHs running side-by-side as the sun hugged the horizon over lake Ontario. A few minutes later, I scored a VIA train gliding under a signal bridge in last glint of sunlight. At the time, I was still working primarily with film, and I kept both Canon EOS-3s busy. One was fitted with my 100-400 IS zoom, the other with a 24mm AF lens. The only digital camera I had was my Lumix LX-3, which I learned tends to chew through battery power in sub-zero conditions. By the end of the day, I’d drained three full batteries. The McDonalds on King Street made for a nice place to thaw hands on cups of hot chocolate while watching TTC’s trams glide by at dusk. On the way back we swung by Niagara Falls, my first visit to the famous waterfall, despite having photographed trains crossing the gorge on several occasions over the years.

GO Transit.
Eastward GO Transit trains near Sunnyside at sunset on February 8, 2010. Canon EOS-3 with 100-400 zoom; Fujichrome RVP-100, exposure not recorded.

GO Transit.
Eastward GO Transit trains near Sunnyside at sunset on February 8, 2010. Canon EOS-3 with 24mm lens; Fujichrome RVP-100, exposure not recorded.

VIA Rail at sunset.
Eastward VIA Rail train approaches Sunnyside at sunset on February 8, 2010. Canon EOS-3 with 100-400 zoom; Fujichrome RVP-100, exposure not recorded.

View of TTC streetcar on King Street from McDonalds on corner of Roncesvalles Avenue and Queen  at dusk on February 8, 2010. Lumix LX-3 ISO 80 at f2.8.
View of TTC streetcar on King Street from McDonalds on corner of Roncesvalles Avenue and Queen at dusk on February 8, 2010. Lumix LX-3 ISO 80 at f2.8.

TTC Streetcar Toronto.
TTC Streetcar at corner of King and Queen Streets, Sunnyside, Toronto, February 8, 2010.
Lumix LX-3 set at ISO 80.

Niagara Falls at night in winter.
Time exposure of Niagara Falls from the Ontario side. Exposed digitally with a Lumix LX-3 on a Bogan tripod.

 

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Old Boston & Maine Tower at East Deerfield

East Deerfield Yard during a snow squall on the evening of January 21, 2013. Photo exposed with a Canon 7D and 100mm f2.0 telephoto lens mounted on a Bogan tripod; ISO 200 set a f4.0 for 21 seconds.
East Deerfield Yard during a snow squall on the evening of January 21, 2013. Photo exposed with a Canon 7D and 100mm f2.0 telephoto lens mounted on a Bogan tripod; ISO 200 set a f4.0 for 21 seconds.

It’s been a long time since the old tower at the west-end of Pan Am Southern’s former Boston & Maine yard served as intended. Yet it survives as a landmark and lends to the heritage of the place. I’ve photographed this building many times over the years; by day, by night, by sun, and in the fog. This Monday evening (January 21, 2013), I exposed a few time exposures during a snow-squall. The lightly falling snow diffused the light from the yard making for an eerie glow—a quality of light well suited to night-photography. Finding a focus-point in the dark was a challenge, as was remaining out in the frosty evening while the camera exposed the photos.

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Dublin’s Harcourt Street at Dusk

Dublin's Harcourt Street
Harcourt Street looking north on a rainy March 1998 evening; Nikon F3T with 50mm Nikkor Lens, Fujichrome 64T slide film. Exposed manually with aid of a Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held light meter. This image appears on pages 184-185 of my book Dublin, published by Compendium in 2008.

There are very few places where I my memory predates the railway. However, Dublin‘s LUAS tram system (opened in 2004) offers one example. I made my first photos of Harcourt Street in March 1998. It was a rainy evening, and I was experimenting with some tungsten balanced Fujichrome to enhance the blue twilight glow.

LUAS on Harcourt St IMG_0887©Brian Solomon
On November 3, 2010, a LUAS Green Line Tram bound for St. Stephens Green navigates Dublin’s Harcourt Street. Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens set at 130mm, ISO 1250 1/40th sec f5.7.

Moving a dozen years forward, on November 3, 2010 I was interested in replicating the effect of my earlier efforts (without any attempt at precisely recreating the scene; my 1998 photo was made from the south-end of the street looking north, while the 2010 image was from the north-end, looking south). The image of the tram was made with my Canon 7D with the 28-135mm lens. Here, the tungsten color balance was accomplished in-camera using the ‘light bulb’ white balance setting. (See: Steam at Dusk, December 15, 2012) . This image was made during the final glow of daylight, and rather than neutralize the bluish light by using the auto white balance setting, I opted to enhance the effect while offering adequate compensation for the warm-balance street lamps. I was particularly drawn to reflections in the street and the repeating window frame patterns in the Georgian buildings above the tram. The pedestrian silhouettes seem apropos for the time of year; here past meets present.