Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Dusk on the Corridor—October 25, 1991

Twenty eight years ago on this day, my brother Sean and I made a survey of the former PRR electrified mainline south (timetable west) of Philadelphia.

Rather than literal interpretations, I was aiming for something more interpretive.

I’d bought a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 160 slide film. This featured a ‘tungsten balance’ designed to work with incandescent lamps and so featured a very cool color temperature, which accentuates the effect of dusk.

My notes from the day are nearly 4,000 miles away, so I can’t tell you which suburban platform on which we were standing when I made this time exposure of a rapidly approaching Amtrak train in the blue glow of the evening.

What I remember most from that evening was a sky filled with migratory birds, chirping, singing and squawking as they flew by.

Tracking the Light Posts Everyday, sometimes more than once!

Amtrak—30thStreet Station Philadelphia: Seven Lumix Views.

I had almost an hour at 30thStreet Station, Philadelphia while waiting for Amtrak 94 from Washington.

This magnificent former Pennsylvania Railroad Station offers a mix of classical and modern railroading.

Wandering with my ‘new’ Lumix LX7, I made this selection of hand-held digital photographs.

Of special interest was the old Solari board used to display arrival and departure information. This was under repair/adjustment. I’ve heard that it may be soon retired.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Philadelphia on Film

New Years Day I exposed two rolls of Ilford HP5 (400 ISO) using a Nikon F3 with f1.8 105mm lens.

In my wanders in Philadelphia to capture the festive splendor of the annual Mummers parade, I also made images of the city’s architecture and neighborhoods.

Philadelphia is a city of contrasts, and my aim was to produce stark and revealing photographs. Urban textures are enhanced by the silvery selenium enhanced highlight, inky black shadows.

By intent there’s a foreboding darkness to these images.

Granularity and shallow depth of field are characteristics my choice of lens and film and make for distinctive photos. These are distinctly different than digital images I made during the same outing.

My chemical process is non-standard: in addition to split processing the film (using two stage development), I selenium-toned my finished negatives to alter contrast.

I scanned the negatives using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner, then made very slight adjustments in post processing.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

SEPTA Sampler—January 2, 2019.

On Wednesday January 2, 2019, my brother and I made an adventure of exploring the SEPTA system.

We bought Independence Passes, which offer essentially unlimited travel on the SEPTA transportation system for a day, and we sampled a variety of modes and lines.

We began at Parkside Avenue by boarding the number 40 bus (GASP!), then to the Market-Frankford rapid transit. At Jefferson Station/Market East we picked up a heavy rail train to Norristown where we transferred to the  old Philadelphia & Western high-speed line to 69thStreet.

From there the Media trolley to its namesake (yes, there’s a town called Media, Pennsylvania, and it’s one of the last with a single track trolley right up the main street.) Reaching the end of the trolley line at Orange Street, we walked to the old PRR station, and boarded a train that ran through to West Trenton, New Jersey, although we alighted at Woodbourne, PA to meet our friend Pat Yough, who took us by road to a nearby pub.

Our return trip retraced our steps to Philadelphia’s suburban station, where after some trials and missteps, eventually found the appropriate bus (GASP!) and this brought us back to where we began.

The light was dreary, but I made photos anyway using with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm digital cameras.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Market-Frankford Line at 40th_Street. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Norristown. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Norristown High-Speed Line car interior. Lumix LX7 photo.
69th Street, Upper Darby. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.
Media, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

SEPTA Silverliner V at Woodbourne, PA. FujiFilm XT1.

The Vault brew pub in Yardley, Pennsylvania. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Our return train on the old Reading Company at Yardley. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Philadelphia City Hall. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Everyday.

Philadelphia—A Dozen Lumix Views from January 1, 2019.

In our wanders around Philadelphia on New Year’s Day, I made dozens of digital image with my new Lumix LX7.

For these photos I was using the external viewfinder, an attachment that connects via the top of camera hot shoe. This makes it easier to compose in bright daylight.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Photographing SEPTA’s Rarest Electric at Jefferson Station, Philadelphia

SEPTA has a small fleet of electric locomotives; seven are AEM-7s (kin to Amtrak’s now retired fleet), one is a similar model ALP44 built by ABB Traction in 1996.

This one SEPTA ALP44 carries the road number 2308. It is among the regional rail operator’s most elusive locomotives. NJ Transit also operated ALP44s, but these have been out of service for a number of years.

Last week (November 2017) I was in the right place at the right time and caught 2308 arriving at Temple University (station) with a train destined for Thorndale. I boarded and traveled to Jefferson Station (formerly called Market East), where I made these images using my Lumix LX7.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Soon SEPTA will be receiving a fleet of new Siemens-built electrics, so I would assume that old 2308 is on borrowed time.

Recognizing rare equipment is part of making interesting railway images.

Is SEPTA’s 2308 the modern-day equivalent of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s DD2 electric (a rarely photographed, one-of-a-kind machine that looked similar to PRR’s common GG1)?


Tracking the Light posts Daily.

Photography with an Independence Pass: A dozen new photos.

Last week, I bought my SEPTA Independence Day Pass at 1234 Market Street.

For a mere $13 this allows for unlimited travel on the SEPTA network (with a few minor restrictions). See SEPTA: www.septa.org/fares/pass/independence.html

I made good use of the pass, traveling over several heavy rail routes to make photos.

One of the greatest features of this pass is the ability to get on and off trains without concern for cost, or trying to explain to the conductor where I’m are traveling to. This allows me to change my plan on the spot if I see an interesting location.

SEPTA offers regular interval service on most of its suburban lines, with extra trains in the evening rush hour.

Lumix LX7 Photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo at Berwyn, Pa.

FujiFilm XT1 photo at Berwyn, Pa.

Lumix LX7 photo on the Main Line at Merion, PA.

Lumix LX7 photo at Glenside, PA.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo at Glenside.

Lumix LX7 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

SEPTA Silverliner IVs approach Temple. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Interior of a Bombardier coach. Lumix LX7 photo.

SEPTA Silverliner IV interior. Lumix LX7 photo.

SEPTA at 30th Street Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

These digital photos were made using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.


Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

Dusk at Cynwyd; SEPTA’s most obscure branch?

Dusk is a mystical time to photograph; highlights are subdued, shadows are deep, while the prevailing light is soft and cool. Window light is equivalent to the outdoors, and railroad signal light seems more intense.

The short SEPTA line to Cynwyd in the northwestern Philadelphia suburbs is a vestige of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Valley line that once reached northward into anthracite country.

Today Cynwyd is the end of the line.

Until last week, it was one of the last segments of SEPTA’s Regional Rail network left for me to travel.

I arrived at dusk, and in that ‘blue hour’ and I made these photographs using my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.

All things being equal I would have used a tripod, but I didn’t have one so with the XT1, I boosted the ISO to unusually high levels to compensate for the dim conditions.

FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm lens. ISO 1600.

FujiFilm XT1 with Zeiss 12mm lens. ISO 1600.

Lumix LX7 ISO 200.

FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens. ISO 1600.

FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens. ISO 3200.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!


CSX Freight Rolls on the Reading; Two cameras, Four photos.

I made these views of a CSX freight operating on the former Reading Company in Philadelphia. My vantage point was from the sidewalk on the road bridge near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge over the Schuylkill.

The day was bright, but partially overcast, which benefitted my photography since bright sun would have resulted in a difficult and unflattering high-contrast situation.

This northward freight was moving slowly, allowing me to work with two digital cameras and expose a series of images as it went by.

Exposed using a FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom lens.

A wider view from the same vantage point exposed with my Lumix LX7.

The lighting post provides a hint as to the location ‘City of Phila.’ Lumix LX7 photo.

Trailing telephoto view with the FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm zoom. This offers some interesting roof detail of the General Electric diesels hauling the train.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.




Seeking Streetcars on a Rainy November Night; 10 New Photos.

To the uninitiated a cold windy rainy night might not seem like a good time to make urban photographs.

In my eye this is a fantastic opportunity to make unconventional images.

My brother and I planned to ride SEPTA’s No. 15 streetcar along Girard Avenue to have burgers and beer at Johnny Brenda’s located on Girard near the crossing of the Market-Frankford rapid transit line.

I worked with my Lumix LX7 hand-held to expose this selection of images.

Some of the street views were exposed using the Lumix’s ‘night mode’ that exposes a burst of images in rapid succession and combines them in-camera as a composite.

As you can see it was really lashing down and the most difficult part of this exercise was keeping the lens dry.

A Lumix LX7 night-mode image composite exposed at Girard and 41st Street.

A Lumix LX7 night-mode image composite exposed at Girard and 41st Street.

On a route 15 PCC car.

The back of the PCC car near the end of the run.

PCC’s pass on Girard near the Market-Frankford line elevated. Exposed handheld in ‘A’ mode.

A Lumix LX7 night-mode image composite exposed at Girard Avenue and Frankford Street.

A PCC takes the corner from Girard onto Frankford.

This was made with a relatively long exposure for a handheld photo.

Johnny Brenda’s bar was a welcome refuge from the rain.

Beneath the old elevated railway crossing  Girard. Sorry no PCC’s, I wasn’t in the mood to get any more wet that necessary to get home!

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

SEPTA in the Subway; a brief tutorial on underground photography.

I made these views of SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Subway in Philadelphia using my Lumix LX7.

The ISO was set to 200; white balance to ‘Auto’, I adjusted the exposure using the aperture priority (‘A’ setting) and selected F stop manually.

I’ve included screen shots with detailed exposure/camera information.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Amtrak Crosses the Schuylkill River—November 2017.



On a warm Saturday afternoon I exposed a series of photos of Amtrak’s bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia using my Lumix LX7.

To boost contrast and color saturation, I imported the Lumix RAW files into Lightroom and made adjustments manually.

In 1914, the Pennsylvania Railroad built this massive arch over the Schuylkill River to replace it original 1867 double-track bridge constructed of stone arches and a metal truss span.

Although the bridge resembles the stone arches it replaced, this isn’t actually a stone arch bridge, but rather reinforced concrete arches faced with sandstone.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.


SEPTA local crosses the Schuylkill. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily


SEPTA Trolleys on 38th Street—Acting on Opportunity.

Two weeks ago on my visit to Philadelphia, I was on my way to the University of Pennsylvania for a brief tour before heading to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station to board the Vermonter for Connecticut, on the way there in an ‘Uber’ (taxi) I notice the trolleys on the street.

Apparently SEPTA had its Center City trolley subway closed (for maintenance?) and so the trolleys that normally went below ground were working rarely utilized street trackage on 38th street instead.

How long this diversion as to be employed was beyond my knowledge at the time, but since I knew that I won’t be back in Philadelphia for many months, I only had this brief window to photograph this unusual operation.

I had just a few minutes to make images as I need to accomplish my tour and reach the station in little over an hour.

View from an Uber on 38th Street Philadelphia.

Leaning out of the window of the Uber taxi, I made this improvised view on 38th street.

A SEPTA trolley pauses at a traffic light waiting to turn on to 38th street. I manually adjusted the Lumix to compensate for the white trolley to avoid overexposure.

View from the Locust bridge over 38th Street that connects portions of the University of Pennsylvania campus.

Light and shadow on 38th Street.

On my walk over to 30th Street, I followed 38th Street to make some views from the sidewalk.

These photos were exposed using my Lumix LX7 digital camera.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

Take A Ride on SEPTA—July 2017.

This is my variation of the old ‘Take a Ride on the Reading’, since SEPTA is part Reading. (That’s the old Reading Company.)

SEPTA’s also part Pennsy—the late great Pennsylvania Railroad.

Buy Independence Pass on the train, and ride transit all day to your heart’s content.

Most of these photos (but not all, see captions) were made using my Lumix LX-7 compact digital camera over the course of a few days wandering around Philadelphia last week.

I’ve found that this low-key image-making device is great for urban environments. It’s small & light, easy to use, flexible & versatile, features a very sharp Leica lens, makes a nice RAW file and a color profiled JPG at the same time, and, best of all: it’s reasonably inconspicuous and non-threatening.

Lumix LX7 photo at SEPTA’s Philadelphia Airport station. The train goes directly to the terminals, no mussing about with people movers or bus connections. Hooray for SEPTA!

Exposed at West Trenton with my Fuji Film X-T1 digital camera.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Suburban Station Center City Philadelphia. Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Chestnut Hill West, Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo

Lumix LX7 photo at Chestnut Hill East.

Buses work the 23 route, which at one time was America’s longest City Street Car line.

Lumix LX7 photo

Market-Frankford Subway. Lumix LX7 photo

Broad Street Subway at City Hall. Lumix LX7 photo

Tracking the Light posts daily!

Rare Bird on SEPTA—University City.

It was a rainy Tuesday last week when I made these photos near University City in Philadelphia.

Regional passenger operator SEPTA has two unusual road-switchers (nos. 60 and 61), model RL-1, built by Republic Locomotive.

As locomotives go, these are real rare-birds. Although I’ve seen these from the window of the train, I’d never before caught one on the line.

On this day, I saw engine 60 working SEPTA’s wire train.

I made several photos using my Lumix LX7, plus a film photo exposed on Foma Retropan 320 using a Nikon F3 with 50mm lens.

SEPTA 60 with a wire train.

Exposed with a Lumix LX7.

Here’s a similar view exposed on Foma Retropan 320 black & white film.

This Lumix LX7 view shows a Silverliner bound for Philadelphia 30th Street Station.

Needless to say it wasn’t a very bright day. But it always pays to capture unusual equipment regardless of atmospheric conditions.


Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.

Retro Pan—Viola Street, Philadelphia.

My brother Sean is restoring a Victorian row house on Viola Street in Philadelphia.

It is only a few blocks from SEPTA’s route 15 Streetcar on Girard Avenue, and within ear shot of old Reading Company and Pennsylvania Railroad routes.

I’ve been documenting his house for more than 15 years. Last week I exposed these views of Foma Retropan 320 in his kitchen using a Nikon F3 with f1.4 50mm lens.

This soft emulsion with its broad tonality works well with the subject matter.

Tracking the Light posts daily!

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.

Tracking the Light posts every day.


Retropan on the Rails; Experiments with My second Roll of Foma’s 320 ISO Black & White film.

This is a follow up to my Tracking the Light post of January 11, 2017, which displayed the results of my first roll of Foma Retropan.

For my second roll, I focused on a variety of railway subjects, aiming to see how this film would perform. This one was exposed using a Nikon F3 with various Nikkor lenses, exposure calculated manually with the aid of a handheld light meter.

I made these images in parallel with digital images exposed with my other cameras.

As with the first roll, I exposed the Retropan at ISO 320 and processed it more or less as recommended by Foma.

A view of Girard and Broad in Philadelphia, exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.

A retro streetcar as seen exposed on Retropan 320. Philadelphia’s Route 15 PCC glides along Girard Avenue. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens. 1/60th of a second.

Another view of a SEPTA PCC car on Girard Avenue, Philadelphia. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.

A pan with Retropan!

A SEPTA Silverliner IV approaches Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania on the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 24mm f2.8 wide-angle lens.

Hard glint at New Brunswick, New Jersey. A Washington DC-bound Acela train zips along at speed. Notice how the film reacts to the tremendous contrast between highlights and shadows. Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 135mm f2.8 telephoto lens.

Exposed using a Nikon F3 with 135mm f2.8 telephoto lens.

Again, for this roll I used the Retro Special Developer with shortened the processing time (I opted for 3 minutes 30 seconds plus a pre-soaked in a water bath with a drop of HC110.

Overall, I was pleased with the tonality and tight grain structure. The film has a softer look than other fast black & white films, such as Ilford’s HP5, and a broad tonal range that holds highlight and shadow detail very well.

I scanned the negatives with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner. These images are essentially unmodified scans, except for necessary scale reduction for internet presentation plus addition of my watermark. I did not alter contrast, exposure, tonality, or perform sharpening.

This test went so well, for my next experiment, I decided to significantly alter my processing of the film. Stay tuned for my bold experiment with Retropan Roll 3! (Sometimes changes produce unexpected consequences).

Tracking the Light explores photography daily.


Retropan 320—My First Experiment.

Czech film manufacturer Foma introduced a new black & white film in 2015 called Retropan Soft (ISO 320).

This is advertised as a panchromatic, special negative film with ‘fine grain, good resolution and contour sharpness’. Among its features are a ‘wide range of half tones and a wide exposure latitude.

I tried my first roll in early December 2016. I have to admit that I was curious, but skeptical. Could this new b&w film change the way I approach film photography? Might it offer something decidedly different than Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5?

Working with an old Nikon F3 and 50mm lens  I wandered around Philadelphia with my brother and exposed a variety of gritty urban images that I thought might benefit from the look advertised by ‘Retropan’.

Foma recommended using their specially formulated Retro Special Developer, so I ordered some from Freestyle Photographic Supplies .

I exposed my film at ISO 320, and processed it more or less as recommended using Retro Special Developer, with two small changes:

I shortened the processing time (as I generally find that manufacturer recommended times are too long and lead to excessively dense negatives); plus I pre-soaked the film in a water bath with a drop of HC110 (as described in previous posts).

The negatives scanned  well, and I was impressed with the tonality of the photographs. I’ve included a selection below.

Please note, that although I scaled the files and inserted a watermark, I have not cropped them or manipulated contrast, exposure or sharpness. These photos are essentially un-interpreted.

Philadelphia exposed on Foma Retropan Soft and processed in Foma Retro Special Developer.

Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia.

42nd Street, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia City Hall. Philadelphia exposed on Foma Retropan Soft and processed in Foma Retro Special Developer.

Evening view from the same street corner as the daylight photo.

Low angle view of an alley.

Buying SEPTA transit tokens.

Stay tuned for my next Retropan test!

Brian Solomon presents something new on Tracking the Light every day.



Philadelphia’s 2017 Mummers Parade.

On January 1, 2017, I exposed these photos along Philadelphia’s Broad Street of the annual Mummers parade.

Using my LX7, I set the camera in ‘A’-mode (aperture priority), which allows me to set the aperture while the camera adjusts the shutter speed.

I’ve found that to capture the spirit of a parade, using a slow shutter speed and panning puts the players in motion.

Panning also sets off the parade participants from the urban background and helps reduce the visual complexity of the environment to make for more dramatic images.

Below are a selection taken from some 500 digital images exposed on New Years Day.