Sometime, long ago, back in film days someone concluded that three-quarter sun made for the most desirable lighting conditions for locomotive photos.
While its true that in many instances low, three-quarter sun will yield a pleasing result, this is but one lighting solution, and not always the most effective for every setting.
Whoa! WAS that blasphemy?
In September, we hiked into a vineyard south of Sankt Goarshausen, Germany. Blue skies and high thin clouds gave us soft directional lighting with an elevated view of the Right Bank line on the Rhein. In the distance a castle loomed above the river-side Sankt Goarshausen village.
Opting for the dark side presented better contrast that helps visually distinguish the train from the landscape. In this situation because the setting is so visually complex and compelling it helps to make the train stand out, since the train was intended as our subject.
Sure, we could have visited this place earlier in the day, but would that have yielded more effective images?
Perched high in a 13thcentury stone tower on the Oberwesel city wall, I made this photograph of a container boat navigating up river on the Rhein as a northward freight of GATX tank cars rolls by behind a Bombardier Traxx electric.
The combination of two very busy railways, a busy water way and a medieval town set in a supremely picturesque setting make Oberwesel, Germany among my favorite places to photograph trains.
On this visit the pesky fluffy clouds tended to stay out of the way of the sun, which had been an annoyance on previous visits.
In the course of just a few hours, I exposed weeks worth of photographs. Although this view minimizes the wall itself, I made plenty of photographs of Oberwesel and its architecture.
It’s a comparatively unusual occurrence to find an RPSI steam excursion side by side with an Irish Rail freight.
In fact, over the last two decades, I’ve only had a handful of opportunities to photograph steam excursions and freight together.
Last Wednesday September 11, 2019, was one of those opportunities.
Locomotive number 4 on its way from Galway to Dublin with the Steam Dreams trip was paused to take water at Athlone, when the up-IWT liner from Ballina arrived to change crews. In the lead was locomotive 234.
I made a few photographs, then the sun emerged from the clouds, so I made a few more photos!
Here are examples from both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 digital cameras.
I have a zillion photographs in Palmer, Massachusetts.
‘Zillion’ inferring an undetermined non-specific large quantity.
So why chase CSX’s Q263 down the Valley?
We arrived at the site of the old Boston & Albany freight house at the west end of Palmer yard just in time to catch Q263 (empty autorack train from East Brookfield) passing Mass-Central’s local freight.
Years ago among the treats of Friday freight operations in Ireland were the extra moves. One of my favorites was Friday’s Dublin-Waterford Norfolk liner, which tended to get unusual locomotives and operated down-road midday.
On this day, the train had been held in Kildare during a spell of bright sunshine, but when it finally got the signal to proceed down-road clouds dimmed the scene.
Working with a Nikon N90s and a borrowed 300mm lens I exposed this Fujichrome Sensia II (100 ISO) slide of Irish Rail 129 leading the Norfolk liner through the crossovers west of Kildare station. This was way back in May 2001—18 years ago!
It was raining in Dublin, but clear and bright in Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford on 13 December 2003 when we visited to observe Irish Rail’s sugar beet operations.
Working with a Rollei Model T that I’d bought in San Francisco a few weeks earlier, I exposed a sequence of 120-size black & white photos on Kodak Tri-X of NI Railways 112 (on long-term loan to Irish Rail) that was shunting four-wheel sugar beet wagons for loading.
To obtain greater shadow detail and superior overall tonality, I rate the film at ISO 200 (one stop slower than the advertised 400 ISO) and processed it in a dilute bath of Ilfotec HC high-contrast developer.
For presentation here, I scanned the negatives last week using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and then scaled/sized the TIFs for internet viewing.
You could make wall-size prints from the original negatives.
Thursday, April 25, 2019, photographer Mike Gardner and I convened at Palmer’s Steaming Tender for lunch. Afterwards we drove northward in search of New England Central’s road freight, 611.
New England Central’s clean locomotives in parent company Genesee & Wyoming’s orange, yellow and black paint, make for handsome subjects, and a welcome change to the days when patched faded liveries of the locomotive’s various former owners predominated.
Anticipating catching 611’s northward run from Palmer, we paused at Three Rivers to check some photo locations and were surprised to hear a southward train approaching.
Lo and behold! It was 611 on its southward run.
After photographing the southward move, we continued our drive north to inspect locations . . . Stay tuned for more!
Photos exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.
It was a damp day back in 2005, when I made this 400mm view using my recently acquired Canon EOS-3 with a rented 100-400mm Canon image stabilizer zoom l.ens
In the lead was Irish Rail 185 (known in some circles as ‘Super Bo-Bo’ which delighted observers because it was missing the cowling around the exhaust and produced more sound than others of its class).
Sugar beet was loaded at Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford and transported by rail via Waterford and Limerick Junction to a processing plant in Mallow, County Cork.
In this view, exposed west of Kilsheelan, County Tipperary, by using a long telephoto lens, I compressed the train of very short four-wheel beet wagons into a virtual snake of rolling beet.
Looking at this Conrail photo makes me feel that March 23, 1989 wasn’t that long ago.
I’d left my apartment in Scottsville, New York before dawn and headed west on Rt33 in my white Toyota Corolla.
I knew I had a westbound climbing Batavia Hill—the nominal rise of the Water Level Route that ascended the Niagara Escarpment on the way toward Buffalo.
My Leica M2 was loaded with Kodachrome 200 ‘Fast Kodachrome’ (three stops faster than K25, which was my normal film in 1989).
I parked the car west of Batavia near CP406 (where New York Central’s 1950s track re-alignment to avoid downtown Batavia rejoined the historic railroad route). With time running short, I hike east beneath the code lines and set up my Leica with a 200mm Leitz Telyt telephoto on my Bogen 3021 tripod.
I could hear the slow moving westbound as the sun glimmered above the horizon. But then behind me fast moving eastward stack train blasted for Donahue Road. . .
The headlight of the westbound appeared and over the next few seconds I captured a running meet between the two Conrail trains. K200’s warm color balance and grain structure made for the perfect combination to distill the moment.
I’ve run this photo in various publications and it’s one of my favorite Water Level Route views.
I spent the rest of the day photographing along the former Erie Railroad, which was alive with trains. I remember it all as if it was yesterday.
Recently discussions of Irish Rail’s Sligo Timber have led me to ask, ‘When did this traffic end?’
Sometimes my memory offers a clear picture of the past, in other situations it is fuzzy and lacking desired detail. This is among the reasons I try to apply detailed labels and captions to my photographs near the time of exposure.
I recall the Sligo timber’s revival in Spring 2002, and my many opportunities to photograph timber trains on the Sligo Line and in around Dublin in the years that followed, but I’m unable to remember when the last train operated.
On guessing, I thought 2007 or 2008 was pretty close. So on reviewing my photo files, I was a bit surprised to find this photograph dated 21 May 2009.
I exposed this view on Fujichrome from my regular spot at Islandbridge Junction, which shows Irish Rail 232 in the modern green livery leading a timber out of the Phoenix Park Tunnel. The construction-progress of the apartments at left helps me confirm the date of the photo.
So, when was the final movement of timber by rail from Sligo? I must have been away.
With some pavement passing beneath us in spirited run on the ascent to Byron, Brian Schmidt and I arrived at the Highway F overpass near the summit of Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line over Byron Hill in time to record the passage of a northward double stack train meeting a southward freight.
I’ve featured both trains previously on Tracking the Light:
Byron Hill, Lost Arrow Road—Old location Revisited in January 2019.
For this post: as the northward train glided below me, I was watching for the DPU (the locomotive working as a ‘distributed power unit’, 1990s-speak for a ‘radio controlled remotely operated helper). I timed my exposure to document its passage as the uphill train approached.
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.
Earlier this month, I exposed these three views of Pan Am Southern’s autorack train 287 working westward at Buckland, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg route.
The color view is a digital photo made with my FujiFilm XT1. This is Jpg using the in-camera Velvia color profile, which I scaled for presentation here, but otherwise left it unmodified in regards to color, contrast, saturation etc.
The black & white photographs are film images, exposed with a Leica IIIA fitted with a 1940s-vintage Nikkor screw mount 35mm lens. I used Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) processed in D76 (1 to 1 with water) and toned in selenium for improved highlights.
I like to work with multiple cameras. I have my favorite of the three photos. Do you have your favorites?
Last week, Mike Gardner and I positioned ourselves at Keets Road south of Greenfield, Massachusetts on the old Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line.
Pan Am Railway’s symbol freight EDPL (East Deerfield Yard to Plainville, Connecticut) had departed East Deerfield and was idling on the Deerfield Loop track waiting to head south.
Finally, the train received the signal to proceed and began its southward trek. In the lead was GP40 352, one of several Pan Am diesels equipped with cab-signal equipment for operation over Amtrak south of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Once on the Connecticut River mainline the engineer opened the throttle to accelerate and his locomotives erupted with an dramatic display of noise and effluence.
Here are two of the views I exposed; a color view made digitally using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 90mm f2.0 fixed telephoto lens, and a black & white view exposed with a Leica on Kodak Tri-X.
At the end of April, Denis McCabe and I were on our way to the Basel Airport on the airport bus (image omitted). On the way, we spotted an over bridge on the double-track line that connects Basel with France.
Arriving at the airport, we concluded that we were too early to check in for our flight, so rather than waste time milling around the airport, we doubled back to the bridge, a mere 10 minutes away.
Among the photos I made in the interval at the bridge was this trailing view of an SNCF freight heading to France from Switzerland.
An FS (Italian State Railway) articulated electric locomotive leads a northward freight at Framura on Italy’s Mediterranean coast.
Using my Lumix LX7, I made this photo in the minutes before sunset in early April 2017. To make the most of the camera’s RAW file, I adjusted contrast and exposure in post processing using Lightroom and outputted this as a JPG sized for internet presentation.
Tracking the Light is posting automatically while Brian is traveling.
Often when I seek places to photograph, variety is a goal. In other words, I’m not just looking for a steady parade, but also lots of different kinds of trains.
Railways in Czech Republic offer great variety. One of my favorite lines is the route that connects Děčín (in the northern part of the country near the German frontier) with Kolin (an important junction 60 kilometers east of Prague).
This secondary route bypasses the Czech capital and serves as a reasonably busy freight corridor. I’d photographed this line at various locations in 2009 using color slide film
On 14 October 2016, Denis McCabe and I re-visited the line and spent an hour and half at the rural station in Stará Boleslav, located in the Labe River Vallay across from Brandys nab Labem.
The building was a tired but classic structure with lots of character. In addition to mainline action we were entertained by a man unloading some coal wagons for local delivery.
We arrived by local passenger train and departed with the next scheduled eastward local.
Below is a selection of images I exposed digitally with my FujiFilm X-T1 and processed with Lightroom to improve contrast, color balance and color saturation.
My last view. (Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and Google Plus viewers may need to click on Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light to see the big picture).
This former Boston & Albany freight yard was the site of some my earliest photographic efforts.
Several years ago, in a deal with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, CSX agreed to close its Boston yard to open the property for redevelopment. As a result, its intermodal yard at Worcester was expanded to accommodate the lost capacity.
The result is that Boston now has virtually no through rail-freight service. The trickle of remaining CSX rail-freight traffic is handled by a local from Framingham, Massachusetts. Container (and piggyback) traffic is accommodated by road.
Many years ago, Boston was a major freight hub, and Beacon Park was a very busy place—those days have long since passed.
For the last few years, the tracks at Beacon Park have sat disused and rusted.
Presently, track gangs are salvaging what remains of the old yard.
Someone, somewhere will declare ‘progress’.
Ironically, I exposed this view from a bus on the Mass-Turnpike Extension, the highway that more than 50 years ago assumed operation on considerable chunks of former Boston & Albany right of way.
A week ago, I traveled with John Gruber and Scott Lothes for a day’s photography on the Wisconsin & Southern,
A couple of days previously, John and I had made some photographs exploring the line to Reedsburg (see previous posts). So armed with that experience plus good information on operations, we set out with Scott for another run.
Among the three of us we have a bit of photographic experience and a lot of railway knowledge, so we were in good position to make the most of the day. I always like learning from fellow photographers as everyone has their own way of seeing.
I have to admit that the old Chicago & North Western line between Madison and Reedsburg isn’t my strongest field of interest. When I lived in Wisconsin this line (then still operated by C&NW) was largely nocturnal. However in more recent times, John and I have made daylight photos.
Until a few months ago the route still featured some vintage wig-wag grade crossing signals, and these had been the focus of my earlier efforts on the line. Since these are gone, we were able to take a more diverse approach.
The Reedsburg line is now but a branch on the sprawling Wisconsin & Southern freight gathering network, but historically the line was a key Chicago & North Western mainline between Chicago, Madison and the Twin Cities. For me this legacy makes the line more interesting.
We picked up the train at Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison Yard, and over the next few hours intercepted it more than a dozen times.
Sunny weather plus a single clean SD40-2 running short-hood first put us in a good position to make satisfactory images. On the previous run John and I needed to make do with the engine running long-hood first, which is a more challenging subject to photograph.
Here are a few digital photos from our second chase. Any favorites?
Posted live from Dublin Bus. I’m on the 747 bus on the way to the airport. The Wednesday-only second IWT liner (Ballina to Dublin Port) just crossed the road. I had a perfect vantage point from my seat on the top deck.
I using my Lumix LX7, I exposed these views.
What fantastic luck!
Tracking the Light Posts Daily (but rarely from a bus)
Pairs of red electrics leading more or less uniform consists of coal cars make for great subjects as they wind their way along the supremely scenic Rhein Valley.
Most locomotive-hauled trains traversing Germany’s Rhein Valley work with just a single locomotive, and an ever-greater number of passenger trains use electric multiple units.
By comparison to continual parade of these more common trains, dual-red electrics on coal trains/and empties are relatively rare, and only make an appearance every few hours (often just after you move to change locations).
Here I display two empty trains train, both exposed on 10 September 2015. The first is a morning view on the Left Bank with a pair of DB class 185 electrics, the second is in the evening on the Right Bank across from Oberwesel.