Tag Archives: photo technique

Conrail Local at Dunkirk: Kodachrome and Color-Correction.

Working with Kodachrome 25, I exposed this view of a Conrail local freight on the Water Level Route at Dunkirk, New York on March 10, 1989.

Although Kodachrome was among my favorite films, it was by no means perfect. The film tended to be unusually sensitive to aging and temperature which could affect its color balance and overall color bias.

When it was too fresh from the manufacturer the film tended toward a cyan (blue-green) bias; as it aged and/or endured storage in hot environments the film shifted toward a red/magenta bias.

This slide suffers from a cyan bias, so I made some nominal corrections using Lightroom to better balance the color for a daylight setting.

I’m not using a perfectly calibrated computer screen, so my adjustments are still less than perfect, but I feel these restore the scene to more or less how it looked to my eye on the day.

Since everyone viewing this image will see it on different screens and with different eyes, and because it is impossible to know how each screen is biased, I cannot know if my corrections will improve the image for the individual viewer or not. Such are the challenges with color photography! There is no one correct answer.

Slide scanned with a Nikon Super Coolscan5000 using VueScan software; color output settings set to Kodachrome K14, with color balance set for ‘White Balance’ which appear to offer the best overall balance at the time of the scan. No adjustments in post processing.

Working from the same slide scan, I made color adjustments in Lightroom aiming to achieve a more neutral overall balance, while retaining a rich blue sky. Additional adjustments were implemented to lower contrast and slight boost shadow areas while retaining a rich black in the deepest shadow areas..

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Tracking the Light: Diversity within a Niche.

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.

CN freight in the snow at Lomira, Wisconsin.

SNCB passenger trains at Ottignies, Belgium on a cloudy morning.

Amador Central backlit in the Sierra foothills in March 1997.

Broadstone Station with LUAS tram, Dublin.

SEPTA Silverliner IVs at Media, Pennsylvania at dusk.

Model train at speed at the Amherst Railway Society train show in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Portuguese Railways Alfa Pendolino near Santarem on a cloudy evening.

Black & white photo made on film at Bridgeport, Connecticut in December 1986.

Irish Rail IWT Liner at North Wall Yard, Dublin. Portrait view.

Irish Rail 29000 train interior.

Bessemer & Lake Erie at Wallace Junction on the evening of July 22, 1988, exposed with flash on Kodachrome using a Leica M2.

White River Junction, Vermont: Boston & Maine 4-4-0 494 on display.

Amiens Street, Dublin in the fog.

Bord na Mona rail section near Lanesborough, County Longford, Ireland.

Duplainville, Wisconsin.

Bord na Mona empties near Lanesborough, County Longford, Ireland.

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Magic Foggy Night.

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.

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CTrail 6695 on the Move.

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.

New Haven bound Trail 4461 arrives at Berlin, Connecticut on December 4, 2018.

Panning is a great means to show a train in motion.

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Borris Viaduct in Silver.

Last month, Ken Fox, Donncha Cronin and I explored the old Great Southern & Western Railway viaduct at Borris, County Carlow, see: Magnificent Vestige at Borris, County Carlow. [https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5Qe].

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.

Miles from Dublin.

View from the viaduct.

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.

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What to do about the Wires?

Sometimes wires can make a photo.

Other times these are a nuisance.

Here, a modern highway overpass near Marsh siding on Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line offers a pleasant vista.

Exposed digitally using a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.

Unfortunately, high voltage wires running parallel to the road complicate composition.

So do you pick someplace else, shoot through the wires, or try to pick an angle that minimizes the visual intrusion of the wires passing through the scene?

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New England Central at Hospital Road—Two Views.

Far and Near, which do you prefer?

Both views were exposed on a soft morning at Hospital Road in Monson, Massachusetts of New England Central freight 608 on its northward run to Palmer.

Working with a 90mm fixed telephoto lens, I made a distant view that better shows the train in the curve, followed by a tight view focused on the locomotives.

Other features include the distant signal to the Palmer diamond and milepost 64 (measured from New London, Connecticut).

I set my exposure manually to avoid under exposure as a result of the camera meter reading the bright locomotive headlights.

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High Light and Shadows on the Staten Island Railway.

Believe it or not, some of my railway trips are not centered around photography.

But I always have a camera.

Earlier this month, I revisited the old Staten Island Rapid Transit, today called New York Metropolitan Transport Authority’s Staten Island Railway.

Honer Travers and I had traveled on the famous Staten Island Ferry—the best free ride in New York?—and continued south to New Dorp on the train.

Working with my Lumix LX7, I made these photos during our trip, which was during the middle of the day, during the harshest midday summer light.

New Dorp, Staten Island.

New Dorp, Staten Island.

New Dorp, Staten Island.

St. George terminal, Staten Island.

To help minimize contrast and better hold detail in highlight and shadow areas, I worked with the Lumix RAW files to produce these internet-friendly (scaled) JPGs.

The RAW file captures greater amount of information than the camera produced JPG, but it takes some interpretation to make use of it.

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Cape Glint Captured Digitally!

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 1/125th second at ISO 200. Camera RAW file adjusted in Lightroom to control contrast and maximize highlight detail with slight balancing/lightening of shadows.

Next frame in the sequence. Exposed at f22 1/125th second at ISO 200. This is the camera produced JPG with Velvia color profile, and except for scaling for internet was without post-processing altering or adjustment.

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.

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Dusk and Telephoto: or Summer 2018 with Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited Part 3.

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.

Exposed at ISO 1250 f5.6 1/125th of a second using a Canon 7D with 100-400 images stabilization zoom lens set at 400mm.

This view shows the headend, and the collection of Viewliner sleepers and a diner at the rear of the train, plus B&A milepost 75, but I missed the focus, and overall it suffers from low depth of field and poor sharpness owing to a variety of factors including high ISO and motion blur. Not a calendar contender!

The X-T1 is very sharp, especially when working with the fixed (prime) lens.

Same train, same evening, same location; shorter, sharper and faster telephoto lens. But is this a better photo? The whole train is shown, but the image prominently features junk in the background. I’m not thrilled about this one either despite better technical quality.

Complicating matters was that it clouded over shortly before the train arrived, reduced the amount of available light. Details are in the captions.

Trailing view from the same overhead bridge at West Warren. Here a slightly shorter focal length lens may have better suited the scene. The biggest challenge is the overgrowth along the right of way that obscures the curve to the east and clutters the foreground limiting the view of the waterfall and river, etc. Over the last couple of years this location has really grown in.

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Frosty Morning Stafford Springs; White Balance.

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!

Downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut.


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Is the closer view better?

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Tracking the Light Photo Challenge Part 1.

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.

90mm Fujinon prime lens.

90mm Fujinon prime lens.

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East Deerfield October Sunrise—Ilford Pan F.

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.

East Deerfield Yard looking east at sunrise. October 2017.

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.

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Glint, Flare and Clouds; Evening in the Gullet.

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’ ?

‘Gullet Glint’?

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 shading the front element I’ve prevented the rays of the sun from directly hitting the front element of my lens, thus minimizing the effects of flare.

In this view, exposed moments after the photo above, I’ve allowed the sun to hit the front element to show the effects of flare. This small adjustment can produce very different results. Often I aim to control the amount of flare; a little bit lightens shadows and adds some colour to the scene but too much can result in unpleasant and unnatural looking light streaks or light fog.

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).

The clouds shaded the sun for me here.

In this image, I adjust the exposure on site to compensate for the clouds blocking the sun.

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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.

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Battenkill Railroad RS-3; Winter Sky and a Bold Technique.

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.)

Here's my scene unfiltered. I'm at a grade crossing south of Cambridge, New York. The clatter of Battenkill's RS-3 with 244 diesel can be heard in the distance. I've exposed for the foreground, which has the undesirable effect of losing most of the texture in the sky.
Here’s my scene unfiltered. I’m at a grade crossing south of Cambridge, New York. The clatter of Battenkill’s RS-3 with 244 diesel can be heard in the distance. I’ve exposed for the foreground, which has the undesirable effect of losing most of the texture in the sky.

With this image, I've attached the Lee graduated neutral density filter. This darkens the sky and features a tapered graduation which should appear virtually seamless. The result is that I can better hold detail in the sky and in the foreground.
With this image, I’ve attached the Lee graduated neutral density filter. This darkens the sky and features a tapered graduation which should appear virtually seamless. The result is that I can better hold detail in the sky and in the foreground.

Now the Battenkill has arrived. I've intentionally made my exposure a bit on the darkside, knowing I can locally lighten shadow areas in post processing. Again, by using the filter, I've been able to allow the sensor to capture a greater dynamic range. (a larger span of dark to light).
Now the Battenkill has arrived. This is the un-modified RAW file (except for scaling necessary for internet presentation).  I’ve intentionally made my exposure a bit on the darkside, knowing I can locally lighten shadow areas in post processing. Again, by using the filter, I’ve been able to allow the sensor to capture a greater dynamic range. (a larger span of dark to light). When I exposed this image I gauged exposure using the in-camera histogram to maximize the amount of data captured by the sensor and to minimize loss of detail in shadows and highlights.

Using Lightroom, I made some nominal post-processing adjustments to contrast and exposure, specifically focusing on the shadows and midtown areas of the locomotive. My intent was to better balance the image as it appears to the eye.
Using Lightroom, I made some nominal post-processing adjustments to contrast and exposure, specifically focusing on the shadows and midtone areas of the locomotive. My intent was to better balance the image as it appears to the eye. Obviously, depending on personal taste, it is possible to make a variety of adjustments to the final image. Here I tried to faithfully recreate a dramatic scene. Personally, the wavy rows of harvested corn make for some of the most interesting texture. Yet the primary subject remains the Alco RS-3 diesel.

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