On our brief visit to Havre de Grace, Maryland in mid-October, I made these views of Amtrak’s late-running train No., 120 gliding across its early Twentieth Century bridge over the Susquehanna River. Leading the train was ACS-64 No. 633.
This antique bridge fascinates me. It’s an old-school pin-connected deck truss. And it’s an impressive imposing structure for its size and length. Word to the wise: get your photos because it is soon to be replaced!
While nothing lasts forever, I’ll miss this old bridge when its gone.
I made these photos with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom.
Clear sky above, sun low to the horizon, off axis by about 20-25 degrees, and filtered by lots of particulates in the air make for excellent glint light conditions.
Strasburg Rail Road 89 had just arrived back at East Strasburg Station with the 6pm train (which recently replaced the 7pm train on the Friday and Saturday schedule).
I made this digital photo handheld with my Nikon Z6 fitted with a 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom, and with nominal adjustments to the NEF RAW files in post processing to correct color balance and contrast.
During our visit to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Kris lent me her FujiFilm XT4 with 16-55mm Fujinon Lens.
I had with me my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm Nikon Z-series zoom
I made a series of unfair comparisons of similar subjects using both cameras.
Since the Fuji had a crop-sensor and the Nikon a full-frame sensor, the two lenses provided equivalent focal length ranges. However, while I tried to make similar photos, I didn’t make perfect matches for angle and compositions so there might be slight variations that have little to do with the cameras. The may be minor differences in metering as well.
Why are they unfair? To obtain the maximum data, each of the cameras have different ways of exposing. The Nikon tends to make Jpgs that seem too dark (under exposed) but these can me easily lightened in post processing for a visually appealing image. By contrast (pun intended), the Fuji makes wonderful JPGs right out of the camera.
However, I’ve opted to show scaled versions of both camera’s RAW files.
For this unfair comparison, I have not implemented subtantive changes to adjust the appearance of either cameras files.
In June 2009, I made my first visit to the former Philadelphia & Reading arched bridge over the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg, Pa.
At that stage, I was still using film exclusively, and using my Canon EOS-3 loaded with Fujichrome, I made some photos of the bridge sans train.
Kris and I paid another visit to the bridge in March of 2022, Again, I made photos of the arches, but no luck catching anything on the move.
Toward the end of July, I made my third visit. This time fortune favored me. Not long after I parked on South Front Street, I heard a horn to the west and soon an eastward Norfolk Southern train came rolling across the arches.
I made these images using my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z6 cameras.
I had the Z6 set up with my 1980s-era Nikkor f2.8 180mm prime telephoto. While a very sharp lens, this is operated manually, which makes focusing a little tricky.
On our evening drive we nipped over to Leaman Place to roll-by a Philadelphia-bound Amtrak Keystone.
Last week I picked up two new pairs of glasses. One is a general pair of progressive tri-focals that I wear most of the time. The other pair are tinted, polarized sunglasses designed to correct my long range vision and intended as my driving glasses. They do little for my near vision, and are useless for anything close up.
As I waited a Leaman Place, having checked the ASM tracking app to check the progress of the train, I tried to make some adjustments to my Nikon Z6. However, I found to my frustration that between the polarized lenses and the lack of close-up lenses, I really couldn’t see what I was doing.
While I was mucking with the Nikon’s menus, the rails on the Harrisburg Line started to sing.
I’d hoped to take a burst of images with the camera in ‘H’ (Continuous High’ release mode. However with my driving glasses induced functional blindness, I’d set the camera to ‘S’ (single frame). An error I discovered as the train raced by at 100 mph with the locomotive at the rear
I made two frames; one chopped the trailing cab on the engine, the next frame is more distant than I would have liked. By the time I realized what went wrong the train was a half mile down the line.
You can’t win all the prizes. I’ll try again, using my normal glasses!
Monday’s Mountaineer Social was the first passenger excursion over Crawford Notch since November.
This famous view has been popular with photographers for generations.
I was standing on the side of Route 302 looking across the chasm toward ‘The Girders.’ Lighting here can be a challenge. Normally when the train reaches Crawford this bridge would be in shadow . On Monday, bright hazy light made for excellent conditions to capture a train in this stunning vista.
To give the passengers a good view of the scenery, Conway Scenic’s trains take easy when approaching the Gateway at Crawford Notch.
The train’s slow speed and a handy telephoto zoom lens allowed me to make several compositions of the train on the bridge by adjusting focal length and framing as the train climbed through the Notch.
Step back to September 28, 2020. I had just bought my Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera. The foliage was turning, and I hiked up to the famed Frankenstein Trestle to catch the Mountaineer on its ascent of Crawford Notch.
This photo is among my favorites from 2020. I have used it extensively to promote Conway Scenic Railroad. It has appeared in various magazines and newspapers. The railroad sells refrigerator magnets featuring this image in the North Conway Brass Whistle Gift Shop, and we had monochromatic hoodies made up as well.
Saturday, September 17, 2022, Conway Daily Sun featured the photo on the cover of the newspaper.
The photo was exposed with my Z-series 24-70mm zoom set at 26mm, aperture at f4; camera shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second. I made adjustments to shadows, highlights and color temperature and saturation using Adobe Lightroom.
Friday, September 2, 2022, former Maine Central GP38 252 led the Valley train on its return run from Conway.
I made this view from the roof of the North Conway Station using my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm Z-series zoom lens.
I set the camera Color Profile to ‘VI’ (Vivid), the white balance was at ‘Auto,’ and the exposure to ‘A’ (aperture priority). I selected f6.3, the camera metering selected 1/500th of a second. I had the lens full extended at 200mm. I was working with the NEF (RAW) file setting.
Adobe Lightroom enables me to apply the camera’s preset color profile to the NEF file while making adjustments to the file. Below are two versions. The top image is basically out of the camera and without modifications except for scaling, the bottom reflects minot adjustments to color temperature, shadow and highlight density, and a slight adjustment to the sky.
I’m not entirely satisfied with the image, so I’ll try it again sometime. Maybe with a slightly longer lens and different lighting.
A week ago Kris and I visited the crossing at Tarratine, west of Rockwood, Maine where we waited for the eastward Canadian Pacific freight number 132.
This remote crossing bisects the track in a sweeping curve in the forest. We waited here for quite some time. Finally, I heard the distant sound of laboring General Electric diesels. And then, finally, a distant whistle.
I set up with my Nikon Z6 fitted with a f2.8 70-200mm Z-series zoom. When the train came into view, I exposed a series of digital images and made a pair of color slides on Ektachrome.
The slides remain latent (unprocessed), but here are a few of my digital images.
Some my regular viewers on Tracking the Light have expressed interest in seeing more photos of the freight cars behind the locomotives. So I’ve included a few of those images too.
Later that night, Kris and I returned to this same crossing where we made a series of night photographs of the westward freight. Those will be featured in another posting.
Sunday, May 22, 2022, Conway Scenic Railroad’s Special Railfan Photographer’s Mountaineer, brought more than 100 guests up to Crawford Notch and enabled them to make photos at various places along the line.
In my capacity as Manager of Marketing & Events, I helped to organize the trip, and traveled on the head-end to work with the crew to select photo stops and spot the train.
A secondary condition of this role was that in several intances I was able to make uncommon views of the train, often in situations I needed to climb down from the lead locomotive ahead of final positioning or during other aspects of the operation.
Among the 400 photos I exposed that day were these views of recently restored Boston & Maine F7A 4268. All of these images were exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
I wrote about Pennsylvania Railroad’s Rockville Bridge in my book Railway Masterpieces published in 2002.
“The third bridge at Rockville was started in 1900, and opened to traffic in 1902. It is listed in the Guinness Book of Rail Facts and Figures, as ‘the world’s largest stone arch railway bridge over a river’. It consists of 48 stone arch spans.”
Last month Kris and I paid a visit to the Rockville Bridge. As we approached this magnificent viaduct a westward Norfolk Southern freight was crawling across, yet we had arrived too late to catch the head end of the train on the bridge.
We decided to wait a little while to see if another freight would come along.
Finally after about 45 minutes, I could hear a GE diesel chugging away on the far side of the Susquehanna. As the train started across the bridge, the evening sun emerged from the clouds, producing some very fine light to photograph the train.
I exposed these photos with my Nikon Z6 with 70-200mm lens firmly mounted on my mid-1990s vintage Bogen tripod.
Recently I bought a Nikkor f2.8 70-200mm Z-series lens for my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
After more than a year of experiementing with the Z6 by putting the camera through its paces, I decided I really needed a longer zoom to compliment the 24-70mm lens that I’d been using on the Z6.
The other day, I made this view of Conway Scenic Railroad’s Valley Train arriving at North Conway from Conway, New Hampshire using the new lens.
The lighting was strongly backlit, which helped illuminate the late-season autumn foliage, but made for some harsh shadows.
To compensate in the photo displayed here, I worked with the Nikon NEF RAW file in Adobe Light room to lighten the shadow areas and darken the highlights to help reduce the contrast in the over all image.
I also warmed the color balance and slightly increased the saturation, and made a very slight crop at the lower lef to remove a visual distraction.
Compare the modified photo above with the version below. The lower photo is from the same file but without modification (except for scaling necessary for internet presentation) so that you can see effect of my changes.
Yesterday at Conway Scenic we turned GP35 216 on the turntable.
Now the high short hood is facing south.
This directional change was performed for operational reasons, but has also opened up a variety of photographic possibilities, especially on the return run of Conway Scenic’s Mountaineer from Crawford Notch.
I made these views in the North Conway, NH yard using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
The railroads that once served Maine’s Rangely Lake region are long off the map.
At the end of July, Kris & I went for a day-long leisurely drive north from North Conway, New Hampshire to Rangeley where we made some evening photographs of the beautiful lakes there.
Although we inspected evidence of the narrow gauge and standard gauge lines that served this resort so long ago, there was little of interest to photograph on this visit. So instead I’m presenting my lake photos exposed using my Nikon Z6 mirror-less digital camera.
All the photos were adjusted using Adobe Lightroom. I’ve gradually been formulating color-contrast profiles to make the most of the camera’s NEF RAW files.
Last week I learned, much to my surprise, that the old Boston & Maine station at Berlin, NH is still standing. So yesterday (31 July 2021), Kris Sabbatino and I drove to the east side of this old New Hampshire milltown to investigate.
I made these photos from the street using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera.
I’ve seen stations in better shape than this one. Also, it has been without regular passenger service for about 60 years. The tracks have been lifted and its a long walk from the center of town. But it has a ‘For Sale’ sign out front! (If you are interested).
On Sunday evening (July 18, 2021), on our way back to New Hampshire from Massachusetts , Kris and I visited the old station at White River Junction, Vermont where we photographed three vintage General Motors diesels.
GM’s Electro-Motive Division was America’s premier locomotive builder from the late 1940s until the early 1980s.
The 1970s-era machines that we found at White RIver Junction are exmples of EMD’s locomotive zenith, when GM-EMD was synonymous with locomotive excellence.
Although it was a dull July evening, I made photos using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. Working with Adobe Lightroom, I made nominal adjustments to improve shadow detail, overall contrast, and color saturation.
Last night Conway Scenic Railroad operated its annual Firecracker Expresses to carry spectators from Conway to North Conway for a patriotic fireworks display.
Although it had been raining all afternoon, the sky cleared off at sunset, and the fireworks went ahead as scheduled, beginning just after 930pm.
As part of of my role as Conway Scenic’s Manager of Marketing & Events, I helped organize our special trains and their promotion. Several hundred people rode the trains which operated as advertised.
My Fiancé Kris Sabbatino and I traveled on the Firecracker Express to North Conway and made photos of the railroad’s iconic station and the explosive displays.
It was an excellent event.
Working with my Nikon Z6 Mirrorless digital camera mounted on my antique Bogen tripod, I made a variety of time-exposures.
Years ago I’d photographed fireworks using color slide film. I realized that I hadn’t done this in a long time and this was my first serious effort to capture a fireworks display digitally. I was a bit rusty at getting my timing right, but after missing a few of the loud bangs in the sky, I managed to refine my technique.
Working with the camera at ISO 200, my exposure times ranged from 4 seconds to 30 seconds, while I varied my f-stop between 4.0 and f11.
In general, I found I obtained my most satisfactory results at about 10 seconds at approximately f8.
After exposure, I imported the camera’s RAW NEF files into Adobe Lightroom for contrast and color adjustment. Through this technique I was able to improve the sky detail and balance the appearance of the images to reflect the scene more closely as I saw it. The benefit of the Nikon Z6 is its sensor’s exceptional dynamic range.
The long days of summer offer a rare opportunity to catch Genesee & Wyoming’s St. Lawrence & Atlantic through freights in daylight.
Last Friday, 25 June 2021, my fiancé Kris Sabbatino and I drove to Locke Miles, Maine, east of Bethel, where we set up along South Pond to wait for the westward freight, job 393.
The light was fading when we finally heard a distant whistle.
Our friend Andrew Dale had been keeping us updated as to the trains’s westward progress.
I made this image of the leading locomotives reflecting in South Pond using my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera. I set the ISO to 800, the aperture to f4.0 (my widest setting), and the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second.
After the train passed we pursued it West into the night.
Among the CP Rail freights we caught on the move on the Moosehead Sub, was this westbound rolling across the Kennebec East Outlet Bridge just after sunset.
Working with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera, I made this trailing view with the camera set at ISO 1600, shutter speed 1/50, aperture at f4.0, and the 24-70mm zoom adjusted to its widest (24mm) position.
Soon after the locomotives passed we were in hot pursuit of the train for nocturnal photos. More soon!
Last Friday evening (April 23, 2021), Kris Sabbatino & I made sunset photos at the Cape Cod Canal lift bridge.
Mass-Coastal’s freight was assembling its train at Canal Junction in Bourne, Massachusetts, giving us several opportunities for silhouettes of the train moving across the bridge.
Clear skies made for ideal sunset silhouette conditions.
Working with my Nikon Z6 digital camera with 24-70mm f4.0 lens I panned the train as it pulled north across the bridge. For this image, I had the ISO set to 100, aperture set to f4.0 (it’s widest setting), and the shutter at 3/5ths of a second to capture the motion.
Friday, April 9, 2021, Conway Scenic Railroad operated a Work Extra on its Conway Branch. The sky was clear and blue and the sun bright. This was a perfect opportunity to experiment with my Nikon Z6 digital camera.
Although I purchased this image making machine six months ago, I haven’t come close to mastering it.
The Z6 has an amazing ability to capture and store visual information.
However, to best translate the Nikon RAW (NEF) file requires a bit of study and interpretation, and it is in the interpretation that I am still learning.
Below are two images of the Work Extra, and two interpretations of each. The top in each sequence represents the camera-JPG output with built-in Vivid color profile (scaled but otherwise unadjusted in post processing). The bottom of each sequence is my interpretation of the NEF file using Lightroom, where I’ve made nominal changes to color temperature, shadow and highlights, and overall contrast.
Last Monday, March 8, 2021, Kris Sabbatino and I, followed New England Central’s southward 611 freight.
I drove us to my old standby location at East Northfield, where the NECR line toward Palmer, Massachusetts and New London, Connecticut diverges from the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River line (now operated by Pan Am Southern).
As the train approached I exposed a series of photos using my Nikon Z6.
I’ve displayed two variations of the same image.
The top image is a camera generated JPG with color set to Nikon’s Vivid profile.
The bottom image I created from the NEF RAW file in Adobe Lightroom by manipulating color, contrast, and saturation to emulate my FujiFilm XT1’s in-camera ‘Velvia’ mode.
My Nikon Z6 Mirrorless camera is an amazing tool for capturing images.
It has a tremendous ability to capture detail across a broad dynamic range.
Its RAW (NEF) files allow for a high degree of exposure latitude and post processing adjustment.
It’s unadjusted files are the closest to ‘true’ color of any camera that I have owned.
And yet, it is almost too much detail. But without the supersaturated punch that I’ve come to accept from my other digital cameras, notably my Fuji X-series.
On Monday, Kris Sabbatino and I photographed New England Central’s 611 arriving at Brattleboro, Vermont under a clear polarized blue dome. A near perfect morning, and yet contrasty with crusty snow on the ground and deep dark shadows cast along the sides of the locomotives.
I exposed for the snow to retain highlight detail with an expectation of making post processing adjustments to the NEF files with Adobe Lightroom.
My goal was to eye-up (estimate) the adjustment of my RAW files in order to emulate the richly saturated color profile automatically provided by my Fujifilm XT1 JPGs. This was an unscientific approximation without benefit from a detail study of the Nikon’s histogram in comparison with the Fuji’s.
I’ll plan on making a more critical project by working with these types of comparisons at a later date.
After photographing Pan Am Southern’s eastward ED8 passing searchlight signals at Lake Pleasant (See Monday’s Post), the chase was on!
Kris Sabbatino and I rolled eastward after the 106 car freight as it ascended the grade up the valley of the Millers River.
At Millers Falls, Massachusetts, we paused at the overhead bridge near the center of town that spans both former Boston & Maine and Central Vermont lines (now operated by Pan Am Southern and New England Central respectively) for a dramatic photo looking into the the afternoon sun.
Working with my Nikon Z6, I made a sequence of coming and going photos as the train roared by.
Later, I adjusted exposure, contrast and color using Adobe Lightroom to make for more pleasing images.
We continued after the train making more photos along the way!
I made my first photos of the railroad scene in Palmer, Massachusetts back in 1977 using a Leica 3C rangefinder on Black & White film.
I made my first Nikon Z6 digital photos of Palmer on Saturday. (January 23, 2021). Kris Sabbatino and I passed through this old haunt of mine during a visit to Monson, Massachusetts. Time was short, so we paused trackside for just a few minutes.
Although the railroads were quiet, and not a steel wheel turned, I made the opportunity to record the railroad scene with my latest camera. A pair of New England Central locomotives were in the yard, and made for subjects to capture digitally.
This morning, I processed these photos using Adobe Lightroom. For me this was an exercise in learning how I see in this long photographed place with my new camera, which I purchased in September 2020.
On Saturday, January 2, 2021, I limited my photo arsenal to just three cameras.
For this view of the Conway Scenic Railroad’s Winter Steam crossing the Saco River at ‘Second Iron,’ I was used my Nikon Z6.
I made some nominal modifications to the camera raw file (NEF) using Adobe Lightroom. Specifically, I lightened the shadow areas, brought down the highlights, while whitening the whites to help separate the steam from the sky and keep the snow looking clean and fresh. I also slightly increased saturation since the RAW capture appeared a bit dull.
Locomotive 7470 was reversing over the bridge after making its first run-by for the photographers on the trip.