Tag Archives: Pancake Lens

CSX on the Move at West Trenton, New Jersey.

A week ago, July 7, 2017, Pat Yough and I were photographing at West Trenton, New Jersey. I made this view with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm Pancake lens.

This is compact, lightweight lens designed for the Fuji X-series mirror-less digital cameras. With the sensor on my X-T1 the 27mm lens has the equivalent field of view offered by a 41mm lens on a traditional 35mm film camera.

In other words it offers a slightly wide-angle perspective that is comparable to the natural field of view of the human eye.

Here I’ve carefully positioned the cab of the leading locomotive between the gap in the trees to make for a clearer composition. Classic three-quarter lighting and camera angle combine for a traditional view with a nearly traditional angle of view.

I caught CSX symbol freight Q-301 rolling toward Philadelphia on the old Reading Company. My exposure was f4 1/1000th of a second at ISO200.


Tracking the Light Posts Daily

DAILY POST: West Warren, Massachusetts, October 2013.

Looking east at dawn on CSXT's former Boston & Albany mainline in West Warren, Massachusetts. Time exposure using a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens.
Looking east at dawn on CSXT’s former Boston & Albany mainline in West Warren, Massachusetts on October 22, 2013. Time exposure using a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 40mm pancake lens.

Early morning is a great time to make scenes with tracks. Here at West Warren a bit of mist off the Quaboag River adds atmosphere to a classic New England scene. Although I’ve made dozens of photographs from this location, I keep coming back to it.

Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.

Please spread the word and share Tracking the Light with anyone who may enjoy seeing it!



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State Line Tunnel, Canaan, New York July 9, 2013


Brand New General Electric Locomotives at a Classic Location.

CSX at State Line Tunnel
CSX eastward Q012 at State Line Tunnel on the morning of July 9, 2013. Despite its name, the tunnel is actually several miles west of the New York-Massachusetts border. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

On the morning of July 9, 2013, I visited State Line Tunnel on CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline. This is a favorite place to catch trains in action on the line.

The air was heavy with moisture and as a result sound carried exceptionally well. I arrived at my location at 6:48 am. At 6:54, I could hear an eastward train blowing for a crossing near Chatham, New York, approximately 10 miles to the west (as per the timetable). At 6:56, the train reported a ‘clear’ signal aspect over the scanner.

Since the only signal in the area is located at CP 171 (the control point east end of the siding at East Chatham) I knew the train was about to cross the New York State Thruway. I then could trace the progress of the train as it sounded for various crossings in Canaan. By 7:04 am, I could cleared hear the engines working upgrade.

A 7:08, CSX’s intermodal train Q012 came into view. In the lead were three factory-clean General Electric ‘Evolution-Series’ diesel-electrics in the 3100-series (model ES44AC). As modelers might say, ‘right out of the box.’ Nice!

CSX at State Line Tunnel
A motor drive has its advantages. I made a sequence of images as the Q012 roared eastward. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
New CSX GE-built ES44ACs.
This is my favorite of the three images. I like the foliage in the foreground which adds depth.

The train roared into the tunnel below me as I exposed a sequence of images with my Canon EOS 7D and 40mm pancake lens. I’d brought a tripod, but opted not to use it, as hand held gave me greater flexibility.


About 40 minutes later, I heard a westward train sounding for Stateline crossing. I relocated, and made images of CSX light engines exiting the west portal of the tunnel.

Until late-1988, this line had directional double track. Since then, just a single main track passes through the tunnel. The railroad uses the 1912-era bore, leaving the older 1840s-era bore void of track.

State Line Tunnel
Headlights gleam inside State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel.
State Line Tunnel is a relatively short bore. The twin tunnels were built decades apart, and at one time both bores had twin tracks in them.
New CSX ES44AC at State Line Tunnel.
The tighter view gives a better view of the new engine but obscures the older tunnel portal. Why make one photo when three will do?
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White Tram Prowls Dublin’s LUAS

LUAS tram
White tram at Bus Aras, Dublin. February 19, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.


White tram near Bus Aras, Dublin. February 19, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
White tram near Bus Aras, Dublin. February 19, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

The majority of trams on Dublin’s LUAS network are dressed in light silvery lavender with yellow safety strips around the body of the cars roughly at headlight level. The yellow stripe was added after the 2004 LUAS start up. Every so often, a single tram is decorated in an advertising livery. Last autumn (2012) there was an attractive blue tram advertising a cable television service. The other day, I noticed an all white tram advertising a phone service. This is like the one red jellybean in a bag of black ones. It’s something to watch out for and relieves the monotony of an otherwise uniform fleet. For photography it opens up opportunity to catch something a little different. After all, what can white do that silver cannot?

LUAS tram Dublin
Ordinary LUAS tram catches the glint at Bus Aras, Dublin. February 19, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
LUAS Tram, Dublin
White tram at Connolly Station, Dublin. February 19, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.


Tram in Dublin
White tram on Benburb Street Dublin. February 19, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

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Irish Rail at Clondalkin, February 21, 2013

Irish Rail passenger train
An Irish Rail six-piece Intercity Railcar works down road at milepost 4 1/4 near Clondalkin. Canon 7D with 100 f2.0 lens. ISO 200 1/500th second at f5.6.


This morning (February 21, 2013), Dublin dawned frosty and dull. On Thursdays, Irish Rail runs a pair of intermodal freight liners between Dublin port and Ballina, County Mayo for shipping company IWT (International Warehousing and Transport). Today, the first of the two IWT Liners (as the freights are generally known) departed the yards at the North Wall just after 9:31 am. As it was led by a common 201-class diesel and the weather remained especially dull outside, I opted to let it pass undocumented, as I’ve often photographed this train in nice light. The second train, however, was running with Irish Rail 074, one of the 1970s-era General Motors-built 071 class diesels, which is of greater interest to me. So this afternoon, my friend Colm O’Callaghan and I went to a favored spot near Clondalkin in the western suburbs at milepost 4 ¼ , where we waited patiently in Baltic conditions. While the temperature was a balmy 3 degrees Celsius (about 37 Fahrenheit), the biting wind and general dampness made it feel much colder. Just ten days ago I was out in much colder conditions at Palmer, Massachusetts (USA), where it was about -17 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit), and it hadn’t felt so bad. There’s nothing like a raw Irish day to cut through you.

IWT Liner
Irish Rail 074 leads the second Dublin-Ballina IWT liner near Clondalkin on February 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens; ISO 200 1/500th at f5.0.

Clondalkin is on the short stretch of quad-track mainline between Cherry Orchard (no cherries near the place!) and Hazelhatch that was expanded from the old double-line at the end of the Celtic Tiger-era boom years. The slight curve at the end of a long tangent in an area of industrial estates makes for an interesting setting to capture trains on the roll. However, it isn’t the nicest place to stand around exposed on a cold day. Complicating photography are high palisade fences and other fencing on the bridge that requires some creative solutions to overcome. While waiting for the down IWT liner, we witnessed the usual parade of passenger trains, all running to time, on the new Irish Rail time table.

The mildly overcast conditions encouraged us to make a cross-lit view of the liner from the north side of the line, rather than the more traditional three-quarter angle from the south side. I like the north side view on a dull day because it offers a better angle on the quad track and signaling.

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More Secrets on Pan Photos

LUAS Tram Dublin
A Dublin LUAS tram hums along Benburb Street heading toward Heuston Station. The Easter-like colors on the tram make for a cool comparison with those in the background on the Museum of Decorative Arts & History in the old Collins Barracks. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 200 f18 at 1/60th second. (Full frame without cropping or post processing adjustment except scaling for internet viewing.)

Practice panning. I’ve found this increases the ratio of success. Trams are good subjects for practicing. They come by a frequently and at regular intervals. They operate in urban environments with interesting backgrounds. If one set of pans isn’t satisfactory, no problem, there’ll be another tram along shortly. Also, trams tend to be double-ended, allowing opportunities for panning coming and going.

Dublin is blessed with a modern tram system. The LUAS is well suited (and aptly named— translated from the Irish roughly means ‘speed’) for panning. LUAS Citadis trams built are by Alstom, and are a standard European model. I find these reasonably photogenic, so far as trams go and they glide along smoothly. Over the years I’ve made a variety of LUAS pans. I exposed this pair of tram pans yesterday afternoon (February 18, 2013) along Dublin’s Benburb Street using my Canon 7D fitted with 40mm Pancake lens (which as result of the 7D’s smaller sensor size provides a 35mm film camera equivalent of about 60mm lens)

Here’s a few tips for making clean pan photos:

1) Use a 50mm lens or short telephoto. (Making pan photos with wide-angles and long telephotos is much more difficult)

2) Manually select a shutter speed between 1/15th and 1/60th of a second. (the longer the shutter is open, the greater the effect of blurring, but the harder it is to obtain a clean pan).

3) Make a series of experimental photos to practice the panning motion.

4) Pan by pivoting the entire body.

5) Pick a point in the frame to line up with the subject; try to hold the subject to that point during the entire pan.

6) Begin panning well before the subject is photographed and plan to continue panning until well after the shutter is released. Don’t stop suddenly.

7) If using an SLR/DSLR, plan on making a single frame and not a series of motor drive exposures. (The mirror flapping up and down is distracting and may simply result in a series of badly blurred images instead of a single sharp one).

8) Pay careful attention to the background and how it relates to your subject.

9) Repeat steps 1 to 8 as often as is practicable.


I’ll divulge a few more panning tricks in a later post.


A LUAS Tram passes the Millennium Bar on Benburb Street. This was the location of the well-publicized tram crash on September 10, 2012, that I featured in a post on that day. See: LUAS Tram Crash on Benburb, Street Dublin. Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 100 f18 at 1/15th second. (Full frame without cropping or post processing adjustment except scaling for internet viewing.)
A LUAS Tram passes the Millennium Bar on Benburb Street. This was the location of the well-publicized tram crash on September 10, 2012, that I featured in a post on that day. See: LUAS Tram Crash on Benburb, Street Dublin.
Canon 7D with 40mm pancake lens. ISO 100 f18 at 1/15th second. (Full frame without cropping or post processing adjustment except scaling for internet viewing.)







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New England Central January 10, 2013

New England Central GP38 3850
Southward New England Central freight along Plains Road, near Sweetheart Lake, south of Stafford, Connecticut shortly after sunrise on January 13, 2013. Canon 7D with 40mm ‘Pancake’ lens; ISO 200 f4.5 at 1.500th second—intentionally ‘underexposed’ and adjusted in post processing using Photoshop to maintain desired detail and balance in highlight and shadow areas.

One of the benefits of my visits to Monson, Massachusetts, is being within ear-shot of the former Central Vermont Railway, now operated by New England Central (NECR). Yesterday morning (January 10, 2013), I awoke to the sounds of a southward freight clawing its way up Stateline Hill (so-named because it crests near the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line). NECR freights take their time ascending the grade and on a clear day I can hear them climbing from about the time they depart the Palmer Yard. As a kid I’d count the crossings: CV’s GP9s whistling a sequence of mournful blasts for each one. Yesterday morning I dithered for a few minutes. Should I go after this train? Or, should I keep my nose to grindstone, writing? Clear skies forced the answer: GO!

My hesitation caused me to miss the opportunity for a photograph in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. This was blessing in disguise, since I’ve often caught the train here and then broke off the chase before getting deeper into Connecticut. Having missed Stafford Springs, I pursued further south, and caught the train four times at various points between Stafford and Willimantic. This a relatively easy chase, as Route 32 runs roughly parallel to the line.

Three elements made yesterday’s chase a satisfying exercise:

1) The train was operating at a suitable time of the morning for southward daylight photography (lately, NECR’s trains seem to have headed south either way too early or too late in the day for my photographic preferences—I’ve been photographing this line for more than 30 years, first chasing it with my Dad in the early 1980s, so I can be unusually choosy).

2) It was a ‘clear blue dome’—sunny, bright, and cloudless, always a great time to make morning photographs.

3) As it turned out, one of New England Central’s yellow and blue GP38s was leading. As I’ve mentioned previously, while this was once NECR’s standard locomotive, in recent years the type has become comparatively scarce on NECR, with many of the locomotives working the line wearing paint of former operators (Conrail, Union Pacific, Florida East Coast, and others).

I was also eager for a clear day to test some recently acquired equipment, especially my new Canon 40mm Pancake Lens, which arrived on Monday. I’ll make this lens the detailed topic of future posts.

New England Central GP38 3850.
New England Central’s southward freight approaches Mansfield Depot, Connecticut. Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO f5.6 at 1/1000 second, ‘Landscape’ ‘picture style’ (no adjustments except for scaling).

After abandoning NECR at Willimantic, I made a few photographs of the town, which still has some wonderful old mill buildings, then continued south to New London where I focused on Amtrak for a while.

Since New England Central is among properties recently acquired by Genesee & Wyoming, I’m anticipating change and wondering when I’ll photograph the first orange & black locomotives

See my recent published book North American Locomotives for more information on New England Central’s and Genesee & Wyoming locomotives.

Railroad at Willimantic Connecticut
New England Central at Willimantic Yard as viewed from the famous footbridge (must be famous, it has its own plaque). NECR shares this yard with Providence & Worcester with which it interchanges traffic. Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO f8 at 1/640 second, ‘Landscape’ ‘picture style’ (no adjustments except for scaling).
Willimantic, Connecticut.
Old thread mills at Willimantic, Connecticut. Exposed using Canon 7D with 40mm ‘Pancake’ lens; f9.0 at 1/500th second, no adjustments except for scaling.




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