Tag Archives: #railroadphotography

Irish Rail 071 in Retro Orange and Lessons in Exposing for RAW Adjustment

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.

My first test shot. This is a Jpg made without contrast, colour, or other image adjustment taken directly from the Camera RAW file.
My second test shot; from the camera Jpg without post processing.
This is the unmodified camera Jpg. Notice the relative darkness of the cutting compared with the sky.

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.

Screen shot of the Lightroom work window for my first adjusted version of the RAW image.
My first attempt at modifying the RAW image.
My second modified RAW file. This one is warmer and involved a second graduated neutral density filter to enhance the sky.

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Today, 12 September 2018, Irish Rail 071 worked the down IWT Liner.

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.

Irish Rail 071 at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin with Wellington Testimonial. Camera JPG featuring Fuji Velvia colour profile. Scaled for internet.
Camera RAW file, exported to Lightroom and modified for contrast and colour saturation to improve overall appearance. (Specifically to better balance the shadow areas, especially on the front of the locomotive.)

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.

For more about IWT see: http://www.iwt-irl.com

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Irish Rail 223 Then and Now.

1998 and 2018

As it happens, Irish Rail 223 was one of the first Irish locomotives I put on film.

I made this view at Tralee back in February 1998. Expose with a Nikon F3T on Fujichrome slide film.

Additional views of 223 were exposed digitally in recent weeks.

Irish Rail 223 leads the up IWT liner from Ballina at Islandbridge in Dublin on a August 2018 evening.
The next day, 223 works the down IWT liner at Islandbridge Junction. One a locomotive is assigned to the IWT liner it often works if for several days in a row.

Comparatively little rolling stock in service back in 1998 remain active on Irish Rail today.

Who could have guessed that I’d be making photos of Irish Rail 223 more than 20 years after I caught it at Tralee on that cloudy Febraury morning!

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Union Pacific on the old Chicago & North Western at Rochelle, Illinois on June 28, 2010.

Exposed with a Canon EOS7D at Rochelle, Illinois on June 28, 2010.

I was traveling with John Gruber on this day eight years ago, when we stopped at the famous Rochelle, Illinois diamonds to photograph this Union Pacific eastward freight.

I opted for a classic view with short telephoto perspective, over the shoulder light, and locomotives framed under the signal bridge.

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June 26, 2010—Eight Years Ago Today at Steward, Illinois.

Sunset on BNSF’s old C&I Sub at Steward, Illinois June 26, 2010.

I exposed this sunset view using my Canon EOS7D eight years ago today (June 26, 2010).

To allow for more visible detail in highlight and shadow areas I adjusted the camera RAW file using Lightroom and scaled the output for internet presentation.

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TEN photos: All-New Berlin Station—Connecticut, that is!

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.

An artist vision of the proposed integration of the old station with the modern structures. It was not to be.

Last weekend was my first visit to the new station. This features some impressive looking architecture, elevators and a high glass enclosed footbridge.

Morning light on the impressive entrance to the new station. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss lens.

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.

Any thoughts?

The east-side platform looking south toward New Haven, Connecticut at 8am. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss lens.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss lens.

CT rail 6400 making its stop at Berlin, bound for Springfield, Massachusetts. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss lens.
Amtrak 405 to New Haven. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 12mm Zeiss lens.
Amtrak 461 heading toward New Haven at midday is about to depart Berlin. All aboard! Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

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More New England Central GP38s-Four Photos!

For the last month, New England Central’s 608 (Willimantic, Connecticut to Palmer, Massachusetts and back) has continued to run with a  pair of GP38s.

(I missed the day when 608 ran with three!)

What’s so special about this?

These locomotives began with New England Central when it commenced operations in February 1995, and have continued to work the railroad in the same paint (if not the same numbers) ever since.

A classic view of 608 running northward near Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.
A classic view of 608 running northward near Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 27mm pancake lens.

Originally there were a dozen, but the ranks have thinned.

New England Central has changed owners twice since 1995; it was originally a RailTex property, then RailAmerica, today Genesee & Wyoming.

NECR has acquired or borrowed many other diesels over the years.

Yet for me the few surviving blue and yellow GP38s offer a sense of continuity, and also represent a throw-back to when EMD’s 645 diesels were dominant on American railroads.

How much longer will New England Central continue this vintage railroading?

A view of 608 running northward passing Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 and 90mm telephoto lens.

Will these GP38s see G&W corporate colors? Will they be reassigned elsewhere on the expansive G&W railroad family? Will newer locomotives assume their duties?

Never take anything on the railroad for granted; eventually everything changes.

Change makes old photos more interesting.

A 12mm view with my Zeiss Tuoit lens fitted to the FujiFilm X-T1.

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Connecticut River Composition.

Last week I made these views of New England Central’s northward 611 freight as it crossed the Connecticut River bridge at East Northfield, Massachusetts.

The longer days feature the evening sun in a northerly position that allows for sunlight on the nose of the locomotive as it crosses the bridge.

Although I’ve often worked the south side of this span, this was the first time I’ve made successful photos of a train from the north side.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 and prime (not zoom) 90mm telephoto lens.
Several turbo-flutters later (about 8 digital ‘frames’ or exposures), also made with my FujiFilm X-T1 and prime (not zoom) 90mm telephoto lens. 

I was watching the light and the effect of reflections in the river as I composed my photos.

For these digital images I was working with both my Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1.

Lumix LX7 photo. The locomotives are more fully on the bridge, but here I’ve lost the effect of the nose reflection in the water.

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Oh No, Not the Dreaded 215! Again . . . 

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.

15April2006 Irish Rail 215 works the Galway train passing Attymon. Fujichrome slide.
Possibly one of my first photos of 215, working the Mark3 push-pull at Westland Row in Dublin, April 1998. Fujichrome exposed with a Nikon F3T and 135mm lens.
Old 215 in orange paint at Pearse Station in 1998.

And which loco worked the very first publically scheduled Mark IV set from Dublin to Cork?

215 with a patch! Islandbridge Junction in September 2006. Not its first trip on the Mark4 set, nor its last!

Out for the down train, take a guess which loco I’m most likely to catch!

Here’s a Mark4 trial in April 2006. Revenue working began a couple of weeks later. Top of Ballybrophy bank on the Dublin-Cork mainline.

Uh! There it is again. Damn thing is a like a shadow.

Near Newbridge on 14 April 2009. Back when film was all I had.
Irish Rail 215 in clean paint with the up-road IWT liner passing Fonthill.

Good ol’ 215.

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Märklin’s Mickey Mouse at Köln!

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.

I wasn’t expecting this locomotive, but as it went by I made a few choice photographs on Fujichrome Sensia using my Nikon N90S and a 105mm lens.

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.

Germany is one of my favorite countries to visit and among the places profiled in my new book: Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe, now available from the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01304

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Pacing the New England Central.

We were trying to overtake the New England Central ballast train extra

(see: Extra train on New England Central. https://wp.me/p2BVuC-5yy).

I rolled down the passenger-side window of my friend’s Golf, and exposed a series of photos with my Lumix.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

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.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

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.

Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.
Lumix LX7 RAW file adjusted for color, contrast, and exposure in post processing.

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Headlights too Bright? Now What?

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 sun went in, so I ‘opened up’ the aperture to f5.6. This exacerbated the effect of LED headlight bleed.

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.

With the sun out slightly, I used a smaller aperture and also was nominally  off-axis, two things that help minimize the effects of light bleed.

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.

Here I’m significantly off axis, which virtually eliminates the bleed problems.

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.

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Four New Photos: New England Central Six-Motor EMDs in Orange.

After years of operating its fleet of second-hand EMD diesels in a rainbow of ragtag paint liveries, today most of New England Central’s locomotives wear clean Genesee &  Wyoming corporate colors.

A few of the 1995 painted blue and yellow GP38s survive, lately working the Palmer area and south into Connecticut.

New England Central at East Northfield; Boston & Maine Connecticut River Line at the right (operated by Pan Am).

Fear not, I have no shortage of images from New England Central’s patch-work paint era.

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera, I made these photos last week, of freight 611 on its northward run to Brattleboro, Vermont from Palmer, Massachusetts.

Soft afternoon sun and a matched set of 1960s-era six-motor EMD diesels in clean orange paint makes for a nice subject.

A ‘grade crossing wedgie’ (tight view of locomotive crossing a road) in South Vernon, Vermont.
A crossing view in Vernon featuring the road.
New England Central 611 approaching Brattleboro, Vermont on a causeway across a Connecticut River backwater.

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Three Tips for Making Better Railroad Photos

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.

Although an imperfect image, take notice the focus: A center weighted autofocus system may have resulted in the front of the locomotive appearing soft, while the hoppers at the center of the image being  tack sharp. Alternatively, I  may have had to alter the composition to suit the failings of the auto focus system, which would have produced a compromised photo.

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.

To make this backlit shot work, I used a 28mm wide-angle lens and shaded the front element with my left hand to avoid unwanted lens flare. Notice how the clouds and foreground elements frame the primary subject, adding interest and balance without becoming overly distracting. Also, would a dark colored locomotive have produced an equally effective photo? The effect of slight backlighting on a silver train can result in a dramatic effect.

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East Deerfield New Bridge—June 2018 Up Date.

We called it the ‘waste too much film bridge’.

How many thousands of photographs have been exposed from the old bridge at the west end of Boston & Maine’s East Deerfield Yard?

The new bridge is progressing. I made these photos a few days ago.

Old and new bridges at McClelland Farm Road, East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

As mentioned in an earlier post, a new pole-line has been erected to the east of the old bridge that threatens to ruin photographs. How will this ultimately affect views from the new bridge?

Suitable vantage points are key to making good photographs, so I’m curious to see what the new bridge offers. If it turns out to be of little use, I’ll need to find new vantage points.

South approach to the new bridge.
North abutment with Pan Am tracks in foreground.
Looking west from the old McClelland Farm Road bridge.
FujiFilm X-T1 photo -in-camera panoramic composite image.

What do you think?

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Pan Am Railways crosses the Connecticut; Old and Older and both Blue.

I had a late start the other day.

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.

Exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens.

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?

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