On the evening of September 13, 2013, I made this digital photograph of a southward Crossrail intermodal freight working the right bank of the Rhein near Kamp-Bornhofen. The train is powered by a Bombardier TRAXX electric locomotive, among the most common types of modern motive power working German rails.
The sinuous Rhein Valley offers countless views of the electrified mainlines on both sides of the river. This view was made from the left bank of the river south of Boppard, where I aimed across the water to capture the fading window of sun that lit the tracks later than other nearby locations.
I was traveling with photographer Denis McCabe on a weeklong trip in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, on which I exposed hundreds of digital and film photos of trains on the move (among other subjects).
Canon EOS-7 fitted with 18-135mm Canon zoom set at 117mm, camera-JPG scaled in Adobe Lightroom.
Tracking the Light Posts Everyday — (even during electrical ‘outrages’ or ‘outages’).
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?
Friday, 21 September 2018, I knew that Irish Rail 071 would be working the up IWT Liner. This bright orange locomotive would allow me to make a dramatic photo in a situation where a grey or silver locomotive wouldn’t be as effective.
Selecting my vantage point from the Old Cabra Road in Dublin, I faced an unusually contrasty situation. Dramatic fluffly clouds were racing across the sky, rapidly alternating between bright backlit sun and a relatively dark scene with a distant bright sky.
To make the most of this, I used my Lumix LX7 to make a couple of test photos. Then opted to under expose my final photo by about 1/3 of stop. This would allow me to retain a bit of detail in the sky, which I could then adjust in post processing.
The final photos required several steps of adjustment to the RAW file.
1) I applied a digital graduated neutral density filter to bring in the sky highlights
2) I warmed up the overall colour temperature to counter act the prevalent blue light as result of the heavy shadows.
3) Contrast was softened.
4) Shadows lightened
5) A radial filter was applied to the front of the engine to lighten it slightly.
6) I increased the overall colour saturation slightly to counter the effects of dull lighting in the cutting.
Monday on Tracking the Light, I posted my foiled attempts at picturing Irish Rail’s heritage painted 071 on Belmond’s Grand Hibernian.
Persistence pays off. Well, that coupled with a bit of luck.
A few minutes ago (12 September 2018), I returned on spec to my oft-photographed location at Islandbridge Junction for the down International Warehousing & Transport container train (Irish Rail’s IWT Liner that runs Dublin to Ballina, Co. Mayo).
I expected locomotive 234, which has been working this run for a while. Instead, I was rewarded with 071 in glossy orange paint. The clear sunny morning was an added bonus.
Here are two versions. One is the in-camera JPG using the FujiFilm ‘Velvia’ colour profile. The other is an adjusted file from the camera RAW, where I’ve lightened shadows and adjusted saturation and contrast. You can like one or both.
If these don’t work for you, I also made a Fujichrome Provia 35mm colour slide using at 40mm lens that takes in the whole scene.
There’s little left to remind you of the historic building that once served passengers at Berlin, Connecticut.
In December 2016, during construction of the modern building, the historic New Haven Railroad station was suspiciously destroyed in a fire.
Last weekend was my first visit to the new station. This features some impressive looking architecture, elevators and a high glass enclosed footbridge.
However, it seems to be notably lacking a proper waiting room where passengers can get out of the elements, and features only a ‘portapot’ in place of proper toilets.
In place of our friendly ticket agent, there’s a modern CT rail ticket machine to dispense tickets. You can buy your Amtrak ticket on-line, over the phone, or using an App on your smart-phone.
Also on the ‘plus side’ the station is well suited to photography and will make for a nice place to board and photograph trains. Also, with the expanded Amtrak service and new CT rail Hartford Line trains, there’s more service than there has been in many years.
Irish Rail 215. Is this my least favorite of the 201 class locomotives?
It’s probably my most photographed.
My first recognition of the 215-effect was on a trip to Galway many years ago. Friends were visiting from America and we were traveling on the Mark3 International set.
Soon after departing Dublin Heuston, it was evident that the train was in trouble. We weren’t making track speed. When we got to Hazelhatch, our train took the loop. Old 215 had failed. We waited there for about 40 minutes until 203 was summoned for a rescue.
Some months later, I returned from Boston to Dublin, and on the front page of the papers was 215 at Heuston Station—on its side! It had derailed.
And which loco worked the very first publically scheduled Mark IV set from Dublin to Cork?
Out for the down train, take a guess which loco I’m most likely to catch!
Uh! There it is again. Damn thing is a like a shadow.
It was a lucky shot. I was changing trains at the Köln Hauptbahnhof in 1999, when I made this photo from the platforms at the east side of the station.
A DB Class 120 electric had been specially painted by or for Märklin model trains to commemorate the 70thanniversary of Disney’s Mickey Mouse.
One of the great things about exploring German railways is a tremendous variety of trains complete with unexpected surprises in the form of specially painted locomotives, antiques on the roll, and special trains.
I rolled down the passenger-side window of my friend’s Golf, and exposed a series of photos with my Lumix.
I’ve described this technique previously; I adjusted the f-stop (aperture control) manually to its smallest opening (f8), my ISO was at its slowest setting (80), and I put the camera to aperture priority.
I intended this combination of settings to automatically select the appropriate shutter speed for ideal exposure, while using the slowest setting to allow for the effect of motion blur.
I kept the camera aimed at the locomotive while allowing for ample foreground to blur by for the effect of speed.
This works especially well to show the large diesel working long-hood forward, which is not its usual position.
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.
1) Use your foreground. Unless you’re a ballast enthusiast, avoid emphasizing the ballast. Too many railroad photographs suffer from excessive foreground clutter and other distracting elements, so when you’re composing an image pay attention to the bottom of your frame.
2) Watch your focus. Although most modern cameras have auto focus systems, too many use center-weighted auto-focusing sensors. These produce an unfortunate side-effect of encouraging novice photographers to center their subject, which tends towards bland and ineffective composition. More advanced cameras have tools such as variable focus points and focus locks that help you get around the centering problem.
3) Avoid Flare. One of the reasons traditional photography technique stressed over the shoulder lighting was to avoid the unpleasant effects of lens flare. This is caused when the primary light source hits the front element of your lens and cause streaks and patterns across your image while lowering overall contrast. You can make successful backlit photographs by finding ways to minimize direct sun or other primary light sources; stand in the shadow of a tree, building or other object; no shadows available? Make your own with a flat piece of cardboard, book, or spare copy of TRAINS magazine. One last point: while you should avoid flare, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should eliminate it entirely. In certain circumstances, a little flare can improve a photo. Watch the way Hollywood uses flare for dramatic effect.
After intercepting Amtrak’s southward Vermonter on the Connecticut River Line, I drove to Pan Am’s East Deerfield yard(near Greenfield, Massachusetts) to see if anything was moving.
Fortuity and patience combined enabled me to make photos of Pan Am Railways POED crossing the Connecticut River Bridge (immediately east of the yard).
In the lead was 7552, one of two (soon to be three) former CSX DASH8-40Cs wearing Pan Am Railways paint, plus one of the railroad’s last remaining 600-series six motor EMDs (619, that began its career as a Southern Pacific SD45) still in traffic.
Catching this pair of locomotives together is a coup. I’ve always found transition periods make for interesting photographs; during the last year, these second-hand GE’s have sidelined many of Pan Am’s older locomotives.
Will this be the last time I catch one of the 1980s era GEs working together with a 1960s era six-motor EMDs in Pan Am blue paint?