In my quest to display transport and railway images while disseminating information on technique, location choice, lighting and how I use photographic equipment, I’ve aimed to cover a diverse range of railway subjects.
These include: freight and passenger; heavy rail and transit; views across North America, Ireland and many other nations; photos by day, by night and in dusk and in twilight; rural, urban and suburban settings; above ground and below; track gauges broad, standard and narrow; preserved railways and modern for-profit carriers; historic and contemporary subjects; film and digital; black & white and colour; wide angle and telephoto; model trains and prototype; views with scenery, with structures, with people; photos in all weather; sun over the shoulder, sun in the face, and sun behind the cloud. Signals, bridges, stations, sheds, and etc; Common places and obscure locations.
Also myriad associated forms of transport including canals, highways and in the skies; active lines and those lifted.
Some images represent a degree of perfection; most are works in progress; a few present examples of failure or missed opportunity.
When I see a thick fog rolling in during the fading light, I see photo opportunities everywhere.
Fog is one my favorite photographic conditions, and the thicker, the better!
The fine thick mist has many benefits. It acts as a diffuser, which spreads the light, reducing contrast between the brightest highlights and shadows. It also tends to allow for photography in every direction, which opens up numerous angles and perspectives that I may not consider on a bright day.
Most importantly fog adds depth and mystique to a scene, making even the most mundane places intriguing, while masking unsightly elements such as garbage, graffiti and wires.
The other evening a thick fog settled over Dublin and I made my way to Connolly Station. Below are a few views from my Lumix LX7.
On the evening of December 4, 2018, I panned CTrail train 4461 led by engine 6695 at the new Berlin, Connecticut station.
Berlin is brightly lit and makes for a good vantage point to watch and photograph passenger trains on the Hartford Line.
To make this pan photo, I set the shutter speed at 1/30thof second, fixed a point in my view finder and moved my camera and body in parallel with the train in a smooth unbroken motion as it arrived at the station.
Panning is a great means to show a train in motion.
In addition to digital photos, I made a select few film photographs.
For me there’s something fascinating and compelling about putting a relic of former times on film. It’s just more real.
Photos were exposed using a Canon EOS3 with 40mm pancake lens on Kodak Tri-X; and the film processed in Ilford ID11 stock developer mixed 1 to 1 with water for 7 minutes 30 seconds at 68F, then scanned with a V500 flatbed scanner and imported into Lightroom for final adjustment.
I made these trailing views of Cape Cod Central’s Dinner Train at Sagamore, Massachusetts in the final minutes of direct sun.
The broad open channel of the Cape Cod Canal adjacent to the railroad plus an open area with minimal shadowing caused by line-side brush and structures made for an ideal place to capture the low-evening sun reflected off the classic passenger cars.
I exposed a burst of photos with my Fujifilm XT1 digital camera with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom set at approximately 50mm.
Exposed at f22 1/125thsecond at ISO 200. Raw file adjusted in Lightroom to control contrast and maximize highlight detail with slight balancing/lightening of shadows.
NOTE: This post originally appeared on July 17, 2018, but owing to unknown technical faults the photos would not display properly. There should be four images displayed below with captions.
Tracking the Light is about process and not every photograph is a stunning success.
This post is part of my on going series of exercises photographing Amtrak’s Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited that is running with extra sleepers as result of the temporary suspension of the New York section owing to Penn-Station repair.
Last week, my father and I drove to West Warren, Massachusetts, this time to photograph the eastward train, Amtrak 448.
The benefit of West Warren is the relatively open view with identifiable features. As mentioned previously, summer photography on the Boston & Albany has been made difficult by prolific plant growth along the line that has obscured many locations.
In this instance, I worked with two cameras; my old Canon EOS-7D with 100-400mm zoom, and my FujiFilm X-T1 with f2.0 90mm fixed telephoto.
Admittedly, the Canon combination isn’t the sharpest set up, but it allows me to play around with a very long telephoto.
The X-T1 is very sharp, especially when working with the fixed (prime) lens.
Complicating matters was that it clouded over shortly before the train arrived, reduced the amount of available light. Details are in the captions.
I made these views of New England Central job 608 working timetable northward at Stafford Spring, Connecticut.
It was about 7:30am, and the sun was just tinting the eastern sky.
Rather than set my camera with ‘auto white balance’ (a typical default setting), I opted to fix the white balance with the ‘daylight’ setting.
Auto white balance arbitrarily selects a neutral color balance and adjusts the balance based on the conditions at hand. This is a useful feature in some situations, such as photography under incandescent lighting, or in situations with mixed lighting, such as in a museum or subway.
However, auto white balance settings have the unfortunate effect of minimizing the colorful effects of sunset and sunrise and so using the ‘daylight’ setting is in my opinion a better alternative.
But there’s really much a more complex problem; the way that digital cameras capture images is completely different to the ways the human eye and brain work in fixing visual stimuli. You could write a book on that!
Tracking the Light Posts Daily!
Tracking the Light Posts Different Photos Every Day!
Make it hard on yourself. Give yourself a handicap, but make it work.
Try this example: Limit yourself to one fixed lens.
Back story: Most camera systems these days give you a wide-range zoom that allows you to easily adjust the focal length from wide-angle to telephoto. This is convenient, too convenient. So how about forcing yourself to use just one fixed focal length lens, regardless of the circumstance.
Back in the day, many beginning photographers started with a camera and just one lens. Some photographers were happy to use one focal length for all their photos.
What do I mean by fixed lens? I mean a prime lens; in other words a lens with non-adjustable focal length, so not a ‘zoom lens’. Fill the frame as you see fit; you might need to walk around a bit to make your composition work.
So why not give it a try. Pick a lens, maybe a 50mm, but make it work.
In my examples, I was using a prime 90mm lens with my FujiFilm XT1.
The other morning at Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard I met up with Tim, a fellow photographer.
He asked, ‘Are you going to take that?’—meaning the sunrise over the yard.
‘Yeah, since we’re here. Why not?’
I’ve only made countless photos of this yard in the morning, but that’s never stopped me before.
For this image, I exposed Ilford Pan F black & white film (ISO 50) using a Leica IIIA with Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. With handheld meter to gauge the lighting, I exposed this frame at f3.5 1/60th of a second.
My aim was to capture detail in the sky and allow the tracks and yard to appear as a silhouette.
I processed my film as follows: Kodak D76 mixed 1 to 1 for 6 min 30 seconds at 68F, followed by stop bath, 1st fix, 2nd fix, 1st rinse, Permawash, 2nd rinse, then 9 min selenium toner mixed 1 to 9 (one part toner to nine parts water), 3rd rinse, permawash, 4th rinse.
After scanning the negative with an Epson V750 Pro flatbed scanner, I made a few nominal adjustments to contrast using Lightroom, while removing unwanted dust-specs.
I realize that today’s title might not catch everyone’s eye.
How about: ‘Clean GM Diesel on a Freight’?
Or, ‘Irish Rail at Rush Hour’ ?
Anyway, this post is about light.
I was waiting on the Up IWT liner (International Warehousing & Transport Ballina, County Mayo to Dublin Northwall container train)with recently painted Irish Rail 071 class diesel number 082.
Just ahead of this Dublin-bound freight was the Up-Galway passenger train with a common set of ICRs (InterCity Railcars).
I was photographing into the sun. My intent was to work the glint effect. (That’s when the sun reflects off the side of the train).
Usually, I find this is most effective when you shade the front element of the lens to minimize flare. Notice the two variations with the ICR.
By the time the freight reached me clouds had partly shaded the sun leaving only a hint of back-lighting.
All the photos were made using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm f2.0 lens. The camera RAW Files were all adjusted for colour balance, colour saturation and contrast using the same ratio of change. (In other words, although I’ve manipulated the final result, all the photos have received the same degree of alteration).
In yesterday’s post (Unexpected Surprise: Stumbling on to one of the Rarest Railway Operations) I wrote of how we found the Battenkill local freight at Eaglebridge, New York.
It was sunny at Eaglebridge, but ominous clouds were rolling in from the west.
On one level the clouds benefitted our photography, since we’d be fighting the sun on a northward chase.
I opted for something different. The sky was a textured tapestry of clouds and light. The technique I’m about to describe isn’t really bold, nature and architectural photographers use it all the time.
I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit (previously described) and a moveable Lee graduated neutral density filter (with a 2/3s of a stop range).
This arrangement allows me to better balance the exposure differential between the bright sky at the top of the frame and the inky dark shadows toward the bottom of the image. The Lee system allows me to rotate the filter and adjust it up and down.
You can make similar adjustments in post processing using a digital applied graduated filter, however by using the filter on-camera I’m allowing the camera sensor to capture greater amounts of data, thus expanding the dynamic range of the image.
Specifically, I can adjust the filter to expose for the sky to the point where highlight and shadow detail are adequately captured which allows me to lighten the shadow areas at the bottom of the photo.
In some situations, the image will not require any post processing. However I found it was still necessary to make some post processing adjustments to make the image appear better to the eye. I fine-tuned my exposure and contrast using Lightroom.
All four images in the sequence below were made using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Lens. (However, the introduction photo at the top of the post was made with a 18-135 lens, unfiltered.)