Tag Archives: photography

Riding the Bangor Line on Cloudy Day

We thought about traveling to Derry, but it was a dreary day and we had evening plans, so instead I suggested we take the train toward Bangor.

And, no, we were not in Maine!

So, Kris and I traveled from Belfast Great Victoria Street Station aboard an NI Railways train, and got off the train at Cultra to visit the Ulster Transportation Museum.

The museum has some of the finest preserved railway exhibits in Ireland, (and these will be the subjects of a future post.)

Overcast lighting makes atmospheric images at Cultra easier than on a bright sunny day. Oh, wait, have I ever visited Cultra on a bright sunny day??!

I made these images near the NI Railways station at Cultra using my Lumix LX7 and Nikon Z7-II digital cameras.

Lumix LX-7.
The old railway station building at Cultra makes for a nice prop, but the building is no longer serves the railway and has no modern affiliation with NI Railways nor any connection to the trains that stop here.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.
Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom.

How I photographed yesterday’s Eclipse

Yesterday was a working day for me, so I didn’t have time to drive hours to reach the path of totality.

I didn’t buy any fancy special equipment. I didn’t use any external filters. I didn’t use a tripod. I didn’t have special glasses. I also didn’t look directly into the sun, and so I didn’t damage my vision. Conditions were partially cloudy, which I found greatly aided my photography and made for more dramatic images.

The following photos of the solar eclipse were made on our back patio in Lancaster, Pennsylvania using my Nikon Z7-II mirrorless digital camera fitted with a standard f2.8 70-200mm Z-series zoom lens. This is the same equipment that I regularly use to photograph trains and other terrestrial subjects.

The Z7-II has a flexible/adjustable rear diplay screen that allowed me to point the camera skyward while looking away from the sun. I set the focus manually to infinity (confirmed by the digital readout on my lens). Likewise, I manually set the ISO rating to the lowest possible setting (‘Low 1.0’) which effectively provides an ISO rating of 40, and set the exposure (shutter and aperature) manually.

By exposing a series of test photos, I determined the optimal aperature/shutter speed combination to preserve the eclipse digitally. I’ve included this data in the caption below each image. I tried a few exposures at both ISO 64 and then ISO 40 at f22 1/8000th of a second, and ultimately settled on between f10 and f22 at either 1/2000th or 1/4000th of a second.

Just for frame of reference; f22 at 1/4000th of a second at ISO 40 is about 8 and 1/2 stops down (darker) than my standard daylight exposure for photographing trains in full sunlight.

After making several rounds of celestial exposures, I’d download the card to my Apple laptop to inspect the images before making additional images.

Using Adobe Lightroom, I scaled photographs from 51.4MB NEF RAW files to manageable sized JPGs to display via the internet. I made no corrections/alterations to color, constast, exposure etc.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

NI Railways—Vistas from Downhill Demesne.

The weather was rapidly changing when we walked across the grassy plateau of the Downhill Demesne located west of Castlerock, Northern Ireland.

Although it was bright and sunny, we could see dark clouds over the Foyle estuary to the west.

NI Railways operates an hourly service between Belfast and Derry, and one of our objectives was to capture views of these trains running along the coast. For my money, some of the finest views of trains in Ireland can be made from this plateau. The fee is putting up with the weather.

We timed our arrival well. A Derry bound train passed just a few minutes after we found a suitable overlook. Minutes later dark clouds obscured the sun, the wind kicked up and soon we were pelted with hail and soaked with icy rain. Before the eastward train to Belfast came into view the sky started to clear.

This pattern repeated itself about an hour later. Such is the price of getting great scenic photos of NI Railways!

Nikon Z7-II photo from the Downhill Demesne.
Trailing view: Lumix LX7 photo of a Derry bound NI Railways train from the Downhill Demesne. You can see the rain coming!

Tuesday evening (April 9, 2024), I am presenting a program on our recent travels in Ireland and the UK to the Harrisburg Chapter NRHS. My program is scheduled to begin about 6:30pm at: Hoss’s Steak and Sea House, 61 Gettysburg Pike, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055.


The Elusive Timber Train

Irish rail freight is comparatively scarce today compared to my visits years ago.

While visiting county Mayo, I’d hoped to catch one of the several freights that still routinely grace the rails there.

On the advice of an old friend at Irish Rail, Kris and I paid our second visit to Manulla Junction on a rainy Monday March morning. After passage of the morning Dublin-Westport passenger train, we caught the once-per-week Ballina-Waterford timber train led by class 071 locomotive number 074.

I exposed these photos of the train as it squealed through the junction. It was like old times again! The sound of the turbocharged 12-645 roaring away brought me back many years.

Nikon Z7-II with 70-200mm Nikkor Z-series zoom.

Vestiges of a Railway Long Gone

Clifden is located on the western periphery of County Galway. Between 1895 and 1935, it was served by a lightly traveled branch of the old Midland Great Western route.

In mid-March, we stayed at the Clifden Station House Hotel. The hotel included the Signal Bar & Restaurant, located across the carpark in the old Clifden Railway Station. This was decorated with antique signaling equipment, photographs and vintage railway advertising posters.

Interestingly, on my first visit to Clifden in 1998, I interviewed the railway gate keepers who lived in a railway cottage near the station. This elderly couple had closed the gate after the passage of the last train in 1935.

I made these photos using my Lumix LX-series cameras.

The Signal Bar & Restaurant is an adaptive reuse of the old Midland Great Western Railway station in Clifden, Co. Galway.
It has been 89 years since the last train served this station. Today, it is a popular railway themed bar and restaurant. We enjoyed live music performed here.
An old distant signal fits the pub’s railway signal theme. This semaphore can only display yellow or green.
How many visitors will recognize this antique Harpers Block Instrument? I remember when these relics of the telegraphy era were still in use in Waterford and elsewhere on Irish railways.

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2006 & 2024-Changes at Manulla Junction

Irish Rail’s station at Manulla Junction exists to serve as a remote transfer point for passengers to/from the Ballina Branch.

Passengers are afforded a cross-platform connection between Dublin-Westport trains and the Ballina Branch local. There is no sanctioned public access from nearby roads.

In 2006, Dublin-Westport services were typically provided by Class-201 hauled Mark III sets,; while the branch saw antique GM diesels hauling steam heated Cravens carriages.

In 2008, Irish Rail completed the re-signaling of its Mayo lines, which eliminated the Manulla Junction cabin and resulted in a re-alignment of trackage and the connection with the Ballina Branch.

Today, Hyundai-Rotem built ICRs work through trains to Westport, while pairs of 2800-series railcars provide the connection with Ballina.

At left: Irish Rail’s Dublin-Westport train consisting of Mark 3 carriages; at right, an 071 leads a steam heated Cravens set for Ballina. Exposed on Fujichrome on 2 May 2006. At this time the junction with the Ballina Branch was via a switch locate east of the platform.

Westport, Co. Mayo-Then and Now.

Westport, Co. Mayo is at the western periphery of the Irish Rail network. I made my first visit to Westport station in February 1998. Over the years, I’ve called in to make photographs on many occasions.

On our visit to Westport earlier this month, we made a brief visit to the old station where I found an Irish Rail ICR waiting to head up to Dublin.

I’ve included a couple vintage photos of Westport station along with views from 14 March 2024.

Irish Rail class 201 number 216 at Westport, Co. Mayo on 23 February 1998. Exposed on Fuji Provia100 (RDP II) using a Nikon F3T with 50mm lens.
Irish Rail empty timber arriving at Westport on 10 June 2006. In 2024, Irish Rail still loads a weekly timber train at Westport.
Lumix LX7 photo at Westport on 14 March 2024.
The antique post box at Westport is a functional relic from another era. 14 March 2024, exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Lumix LX7 photo at Westport on 14 March 2024.

Greenfields, an Old Castle and a Passenger Train.

I could have titled this post as “Railcar passes Milepost 47 1/4”.

Years ago, when Irish Rail was rebuilding its line between Athenry and Ennis, I’d scoped this location in County Galway south of Ardrahan, near Labane. At the time antique General Motors diesels (classes 141/181) were being used for per-way trains carrying rail, sleepers and ballast.

During our explorations in the west of Ireland earlier this month, Kris and I re-visted the bridge at MP 47 1/4 in order to photograph a revenue train passing the old castle. We were pleased to find that the hedgerows had been recently trimmed.

I made this sequence using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series zoom. In post processing, I made some minor adjustments to enhance sky detail and provide more pleasing contrast.

Irish Rail to Mallow-Nine New Photos.

Earlier this month we traveled by train from Killarney to Mallow.

While I’ve made many rail journeys through Mallow over the years, more often than not this was just a place to change trains.

This trip we traveled specifically to Mallow. Kris wanted to visit Crystal Earth in the village, where she bought some decorative stones. We also enjoyed lunch and a coffee and caught up with friends at Irish Rail who gave us a driving tour of the town and of the railway station.

An unseasonable snowfall in the Dublin area had resulted in delays to InterCity trains to Cork and Kerry. As as result there was a parade of trains in the evening. While we waited for our return to Killarney to depart, I made a variety of photos of the passing trains.

Kris enjoyed the lush views of County Kerry as we traveled from Killarney toward Mallow aboard an Irish Rail ICR.
Mural at the Irish Rail station in Mallow, Co. Cork.
Irish Rail InterCity Railcar at Mallow.
Kent Station to Mallow suburban train arriving at Mallow. The 2600-series railcars are 30 years old this year.
Late-running Dublin-Cork train arriving at Mallow.
A second Dublin-Cork train approaching Mallow just a few minutes later.
Locomotive 234 is the highest numbered of the 201-class General Motors diesels.

A Short Trip on a ‘Really Old Train’

Earlier this month, while visiting Killarney, Co. Kerry, we stayed at the Great Southern Hotel, a grand old railway hotel across from Irish Rail’s station.

Years ago, I traveled from Killarney aboard Irish Rail’s Cravens carriages. These rolling antiques were heated with steam that wafted alongside the train as it sat in the station.

On our recent visit, Kris and I decided to take a short spin out the line to Tralee and bought day return tickets, which we used to travel on the evening train. As the train approached Killarney, a young man on the platform, who was speaking with a friend on his mobile phone, exclaimed ‘Like, there’s this really old train. One of the square ones.’

With visions of the Cravens in my head, initially I had difficulty understanding what this fellow was describing. As the 2600-series railcars rolled into Killarney, it occured to me that these were now antiques that had been on the move for thirty years!

In 1982, I would have viewed sets of Budd-RDCs built in the early 1950s as ‘old trains,’ and those cars were just as old to me, as Irish Rail’s 2600s were to the young man at Killarney.

So Kris and I Traveled out and back on the old 2600s. Not quite the experience of traveling on Cravens, but we still enjoyed our trip!

Old 2600s at Killarney.

Photos exposed using my Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm Z-series Zoom.

Night photography in Cork City.

Working with my Nikon NZ-II mounted on a compact Gitzo tripod, I made a variety of photos around Cork City.

The tripod allowed me use a lower ISO, which required a slower shutter speed but captures a greater amount of data with minimal loss.

Working with Lightroom, I adjusted shadows and highlights to reduce contrast and make for better balanced images despite the prevailing darkness punctuated by harsh artificial light.

Bridge over the River Lee.
Kent Station, Cork.

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Cobh Junction—Glounthaune, Cork.

Over the years I’ve made numerous visits to Irish Rail’s Glounthaune station in County Cork. But only rarely, I have I made night photos here.

This was one of several photos exposed on the down platform using my Nikon Z7-II mounted on my old mini-Gitzo tripod during our brief visit to Glounthaune a couple of weeks ago.

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High ISO at Woodhill, Cork.

During our week-long visit to County Cork, we took many photos and became re-acquainted with the area’s railways.

I made these views at Woodhill on the Cobh Branch of Irish Rail’s 830pm train from Cobh to Kent Station. To minimize the motion of the passing train, I set the ISO on my Nikon Z7-II to 25600.

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Charing Cross Vignettes

We spent nearly a week at the Clermont Hotel that is physically part of London’s historic Charing Cross Station.

In our wanders around the neighborhood, I made these photos of the railway station and its environs.

Photos were exposed digitally using my Nikon and Lumix cameras.

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Paddington Station at Dusk

London’s Paddington Station offers the extreme contrast of very modern trains in a Victorian setting.

I highlighted Paddington Station in my book Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, published by Kalmbach Media in 2018:

Kris and I paid several visits to this grand theatre of British Railways during our February 2024 trip. The most visually impressive was on the return from Oxford on a Saturday evening, when the blue glow of dusk fascilitated added charm. Recent restorations of the train shed included some stunning lighting of the iron work, which is made most impressive during the transition from day to night.

I made these photos with my Nikon Z7-II.

Circle/District Line at Embankment

At peak times, London Underground trains on the Circle/District Line run about every two minutes. We were waiting for an anti-clockwise (counter-clockwise) Circle Line train.

With a roar and a blast of musty air trains entered the station.

Using my Lumix LX7, I made these photos at Embankment in the heart of central London. One of the benefits of working with digital photography in the Underground is the ablity to get good white balance.

DART at Connolly Station

Dublin Area Rapid Transit is an electrified suburban service focused on Dublin’s Connolly Station. This shares routes with diesel powered trains and provides a regular interval passenger service.

The oldest of its cars are the German built 8100, 8300 series units that date to beginning of the service in the early 1980s. I first photographed the DART in 1998.

I made these photos on Satruday using a Lumix LX3. Kris and I were on our way to Malahide, which is the northern extremity of the DART service.

Following its recent re-introduction to my camera arsenal, I’m continuing to experiment with a Lumix LX3, after nearly a decade since my original LX3 failed following more than 65,000 exposures. The LX3 was my first digital camera.

Central Vermont Alco RS-11

Forty-two years ago I regularly listened to the radio program Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy adapted from the books by Douglas Adams and presented by BBC.

My father had bought a Grundig portable radio that received shortwave among other frequencies. In the wee-hours, this allowed me to tune in this exotic program from across the pond.

One of the themes of Hitchhikers was the number 42, which was the answer to the ultimate question of the Life, the universe, and everything.

During this same time, I took a photography class at the Wilbraham & Monson Academy taught by Mark Bistline. Among other things, Mark introduced me to Ilford HP5 black & white film. Until that time, I’d largely only used Kodak films.

My father drove me to the Central Vermont Railway yard in Palmer, Massachusetts. I exposed my roll of HP5 with my Leica 3A rangefinder, making a series of images of CV’s Alco RS-11 number #3614 that was idling there.

I also made a recording of the locomotive. I don’t know what became of the recording, but the HP5 negatives still remain in my collection 42 years later.

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Twilight Glow at Reinholds

A week ago and a world away, wintery dusk settled over Reinholds Station, Pennsylvania.

The blue hour was golden.

Next to the old Reading station rested former New York, Susquehanna & Western GP18 1802.

This quaint setting is rare in 21st century railroading and befitting of a model railroad.

Photos were made with a Nikon Z7-II with 24-70mm mounted on a Bogen tripod to allow for long exposure. NEF RAW files adjusted using Adobe Lightroom.

Energy Train on Chrome

For my birthday, my father had given me a roll of Fujichrome Provia 100F.

More than 40 years earlier, he would often provide a roll of Kodachrome (with Kodak mailer) on my special day. I still have many of those slides in my collection, most of subjects long since gone.

While visiting Cape Cod, I finished the Ektachrome that had been in my Nikon for months and loaded up the lone roll of Fujichrome Provia.

Among the film photos I made on the trip was this view of Mass-Coastal’s ‘Energy Train’ passing the harbor at Buzzards Bay on its return from Rochester, Massachusetts.

I received this processed film back from the lab last week. I was delighted! Almost every color slide was a winner!

Yard Office at Pittston

Back on November 17, 2023, Kris and I had paused at Reading & Northern’s Pittston Junction yard.

It had been months since the last time I exposed a color slide.

I had my Nikon F3 with me because we were on our way to Cape Cod, and I anticipated wanting to make a few slides of our trip.

So after making a variety of photos with my digital cameras, I dusted off the F3 and made two Ektachrome slides of Reading & Northern 2535, in what appeared as a classic railroad scene.

Why just two slides? Well, this was because after I exposed the second photo the battery in the camera died. That is one of the dangers of infrequent camera use.

When we final got to the Cape, I replaced the battery and finished off my roll of film.

Exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 100 using a Nikon F3 with 35-70mm Nikkor zoom. Slide scanned using a Nikon LS5000 slide scanner.

Ektachrome of the Snow

I don’t expose very much slide film any more.

The high cost of the film and processing, combined with the burden of carrying extra camera equipment, has limited my film usage to just a few rolls per year.

Last week, I received several processed rolls back from the lab, which accounted for the majority of the film photos I made during 2023.

Among these were a few photos I made on January 24, 2023 during a trip with Conway Scenic’s Snow Plow Extra that cleared to Mountain Junction and then east on the Redstone Branch in North Conway, New Hampshire.

These were exposed on Kodak Ektachrome 100 using a Nikon F3.

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Correcting a Camel Crossing the Connecticut

At 11:35am on August 18, 1988, I photographed Conrail C32-8 6616 leading MBSE (Middleboro to Selkirk, otherwise known as ‘The Queen’) across the former Boston & Albany bridge over the Connecticut River.

The C32-8s were among the GE’s known as ‘Camels’ because of their humpback appearance.

These were called ‘Classics’ by the folks at GE to distinguish them from the more Spartan DASH-8s produced later.

I’d parked my Dodge Dart in the riverside lot off Route 5, and made my way down to water level, where I exposed this Professional Kodachrome 25 slides.

However, in trying to get as close to the water as possible (without falling in), I managed to lose my sense of level, and the resulting image was several degrees off-axis.

For many years this slide was relegated to binder of my ‘seconds’.

The other night I scanned the slide, corrected the level and improved the color balance. (Professional Kodachrome had a tendency to shift toward the red).

Lumix LX3—Reading Sunset

The tracks of the former Reading Company’s Lancaster & Columbia line through Lititz, Pa, were trimmed back a few blocks in recent months.

The rails were lifted where they crossed North Water Street, near the Appalachian Brewing Company.

I made these photos while experiementing with a vintage-2008 Lumix LX3. A decade ago, I’d made a lot of great photos with this compact camera model.

While I ultimately replaced my original LX3 with the more versatile LX7, I again have an LX3 in my repertoire of photographic equipment. This camera’s f2.8 Leica Vario-Summicron lens yields excellent results.

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Conrail Evolution Surprise!

I was surprised to hear a whistle to the west, when we were exploring the Shikellamy State Park along the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, Pa.

Then when the train came into view on the far side of the river, I had vivid sense of Conrail-blue deja vu.

The last time, I’d visited this bridge, photographer Mike Gardner and I had caught the eastward Norfolk Southern freight symbol 13W led by a former Conrail GE C40-8 still in the classic Conrail paint, and then a little while later, we photographed the westward NS 41T with Canadian National locomotives. But that was back in November 2001!

From my slide archives: Norfolk Southern 13W led by a former Conrail DASH8-40C. November 2, 2001.

Fast forward: Conrail’s days as an independant Class I carrier are now a quarter century behind us, so what was this modern GE in blue paint Kris and I saw last week?

As the unit coal train (NS 632) rolled across the multiple-span truss bridge, I realized what I was looking at:

Norfolk Southern’s specially painted Conrail heritage locomotive! This is a General Electric ES44AC, engine number 8098, an Evolution-series 4,400 hp low-emissions diesel-electric.

Conrail never owned anything quite so advanced.

I made my photos and then Kris and I decided to follow the train back down NS’s Buffalo Line. This was a rare find! It was our lucky day! Lucky!

I had a couple of prime locations in mind, if we could only stay ahead of the train!

Retro Digital—1st Test

My first digital camera was a Panasonic Lumix LX3. I bought it on the recommendation of Eric Rosenthal in October 2009.

I made tens of thousands of photographs with that wee camera. It finally gave up the ghost in June 2014. I replaced it with my first Lumix LX7.

By that time I had bought a Canon EOS-7D, which I was relying upon for much of my heavy photography. However, I carried the Lumix with me everywhere. As I’ve explained previously, the camera you use is the one in your hand. So, while I often have with me a BIG camera, a Lumix is typically at the ready in my pocket.

I later bought a Fuji XT1, which largely supplanted the Canon. In 2020, I bought my first Nikon Z, which largely supplanted the XT1. By that stage, I was on my third Lumix LX7. In 2022, our friend Bill Keay gave Kris and me a brand new Lumix LX3. Still in the box, this camera had been his father’s and he wanted us to have it.

Although I’ve been using an LX7 for almost 10 years, on reflection I’ve often felt that I had made better photos with the old LX3, despite the more modern camera (LX7) with its faster lens, longer zoom range, and better operating software.

The other day I finally unboxed the 2008-vintage LX3, charged its battery and set it up to shoot JPG and RAW at its highest resolution.

Kris and I drove over to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylania, where I made a series of comparison views. The files below are all RAW and unaltered in post processing except for scaling. Each is identified by the camera used.

LX3 photo.

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Revisiting Norfolk Southern’s Buffalo Line

The former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Northern Central route north of Harrisburg toward Northumberland, Pa., (and beyond) is operated by Norfolk Southern as its Buffalo Line.

In the late-1990s, toward the end of the Conrail-era, photographer Mike Gardner and I began exploring this route, and continued our photography along the line ifor several years after Norfolk Southern assumed operations. However, it had been more than twenty years since I had taken a serious look of the railroad north of the Harrisburg area.

A few days ago, we had a rare sunny day, so Kris and I made an adventure of following the east bank of the Susquehanna River compass north toward Sunbury.

We stopped at few locations. At Sunbury, I was curious get re-acquaited with the railroad and its connections. On the north side of town, we visited the Shikellamy State Park, where Mike and I had caught NS freight 41T back in November 2001. At that time NS was still operating the line as a through freight route all the way to Buffalo, NY.