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!
Yesterday, the final day of August 2019, I joined fellow photographer Paul Maguire in photographing Belmond’s Grand Hibernian on its run from Heuston Station over the Branch to Connolly (before it continued on to Belfast).
We selected a vantage point on Dublin’s Blackhorse Avenue and timed visit to minimize the waiting.
In short order flange-squeal emanating from the Phoenix Park Tunnel announced the approach of Belmond’s train before it came into sight.
I opted to use a FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens in order to include the castle-like McKee Barracks on the west side of the line.
Bright sun made for a contrasty scene.
I mitigated the visually distracting effects of excessive contrast, I adjusted the camera RAW files using Lightroom. Simply by using the program’s ‘sliders’, I lightened shadows, tempered highlights, and locally adjusted exposure in the sky to allow for better detail in the clouds. I also warmed the colour-balance, while making a slight increases in overall saturation. The adjustments took less than a minute of my time.
The light was rapidly changing and shortly after the train passed a cloud eclipsed the sun. I’ve included an unadjusted image of the clouded scene to show the difference in light levels.
The other evening, I made these panned views of a streetcar in New Orleans at night.
I set my FujiFilm XT1 at ISO 3200, the shutter speed dial to ‘A’ and the exposure compensation dial to +1/3 (to compensate for the dark sky). The camera auto-selected my shutter speed based on available light, which was about 1/12thof a second.
To keep the trolley sharp, I panned car as it passed me. I was careful to maintain my pan for the full duration of each exposure and avoid speeding up or stopping as I released the shutter.
I had the shutter release set for ‘CH’ (Continuous High) so the camera continued to expose images as I panned.
I’ve selected the most effective of my burst of images.
Monday July 9, 2018, my father and I wandered to East Brookfield, Massachusetts to photograph Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited.
Working on Fujichrome slide film, I first exposed a sequence of photos of the train coming through the switch at CP64 using my old Canon EOS3 with 400mm lens. Those slides remain latent (unprocessed) because I haven’t finished the roll yet.
Then at the last moment I decided to make this image using my FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm lens
The difficulty is the extreme exposure difference between backlit sun on tracks at CP64 and the inky shadows on the line immediately to the east. Since my exposure was set for the sunlit sections, the shadow areas were underexposed.
The alternative was to expose for the shadows and let the highlights blow out (lose data), which would make for a lighter train, but less data captured.
In post processing, I worked with the Fuji RAW image, lightening the shadows, while adjusting color temperature and contrast. I’ve presented three images.
The darkest photo (above) is a JPG made without adjustment; the lighter two represent variations in post-processing adjustment.
If nothing else, these photos demonstrate the great dynamic range possible with the Fuji X-T1 digital camera.
Personally, I’m curious to see how my slides turn out!
A short, curious, and heavily traveled part of the New York City subway system, is the two-stop Grand Central—Times Square Shuttle that runs solely between its namesake points.
Last week, Honer Travers and I made the journey on this relic.
Historically, two of my big challenges for color subway photography were exposure and color balance/color temperature.
Today, the Grand Central—Times Square Shuttle stations are brightly lit. I set my Lumix LX7 color temperature control to ‘auto white balance,’ which obviates most unwanted color temperature spikes caused by artificial light.
Other than scaling for internet presentation, I didn’t modify these images post processing for color temperature/color balance, contrast or exposure.
My goal was to stop Amtrak’s Acela Expressat speed.
I wanted to use the fastest shutter speed, so I dialed in a wide aperture on my Lumix LX-7.
However, I was using the aperture priority ‘A’ setting, and when I ‘opened up’, I inadvertently overexposed, because the maximum shutter speed possibly on this camera is 1/2000thof a second, and the correct shutter speed/f-stop combination for my wide aperture was probably closer to 1/4000thof a second.
The result is an overexposed digital RAW file.
That means I let in toomuch light. Not only is the tonality too bright, but I’ve suffered data loss in the highlight areas.
Working with the RAW file in Lightroom, I was able to adjust my exposure, and recover some of the highlight detail lost in the in-camera Jpg.
The result is pretty good.
So why bother getting the exposure right if you can adjust the photo after the fact?
Ideally, when a photo is exposed properly the RAW file should capture the maximum amount of information. When a photo, such as this one, is overexposed it suffers from data loss. Although the correction looks presentable, the bottom line is that the file has less data than if it had been correctly exposed.
So while you can ‘fix it’ after the fact, it pays to get right on site—when you can.
I’d heard complaints about this. You’ll find my solutions are the very end of this blog text.
Pan Am Railway’s 7552, a former CSX General Electric-built DASH8-40C (sometimes simplified as ‘C40-8’), features modern white light-emitting diode (LED) headlights.
The problem is that these white LEDs viewed head-on are much brighter than ordinary incandescent-bulb headlights. Unnaturally bright headlights may have some advantages; they undoubtedly offer better illumination and can be spotted from greater distance.
However they tend to be mesmerizing, which may have something less than the desired effect from a safety point of view.
I first encountered these headlights about 10 years ago photographing an electric locomotive in Munich, Germany.
For photography bright LED headlights pose a couple of problems. They can confuse both auto exposure and auto focusing systems, and as a result may contribute to under exposed and/or out of focus digital photos.
Also, many digital cameras only have a limited ability to handle extreme contrasts, resulting in an unappealing effect that I’ll call ‘light-bleed’, when bright light appears to spill over to adjacent areas of the image. A similar problem is a ghosting effect caused by reflections from external filters or inner elements on some lenses.
So what do you do?
I found that these LEDs are only unacceptably bright when viewed head-on, so by moving off axis, you can greatly reduce the unpleasant visual effects of these bright lights. That’s one solution, anyway.
Another way to suppress headlight bleed is to select a smaller aperture (larger f-number). I work my cameras manually, so this is easy enough to accomplish. If you are using automatic modes, you’ll need to select an aperture priority setting that allows you to control the aperture. Just mind your shutter speed or you might suffer from motion blur.