On October 20, 2013, I stopped by the Connecticut Trolley Museum near East Windsor and made a variety of photos. The day was perfect; warm and sunny with a cloudless clear sky. A bit of autumn color clung to the trees.
This was an opportunity to experiment with my cameras and I’ve displayed here three images of former a Boston Type 5 streetcar that was working the line.
I exposed the top image on Fuji Velvia 50 color slide film with my father’s Leica M4 fitted with a 35mm Summicron. The bottom images were simultaneous files made with my Lumix LX3 (which features a Leica Vario-Summicron lens).
The Lumix allows me to make both a camera RAW file and a JPG at the same time. The Lumix software has a variety of color profiles for the JPG files that alter the appearance of the image. Typically, I use the “Standard” profile such as displayed here.
Although I’ve scaled all of the files and processed them for internet display, I’ve not made major changes to contrast, exposure or content. The color slide required a nominal color balance adjustment to remove the inherent bias associated with this film.
I scanned the slide using my Epson V600 scanner.
My father has some nice views of Boston’s Type 5s in revenue service exposed on Kodachrome in the 1950s.
All things being equal, I wonder which photographs will survive the longest? The 50+ year old Kodachromes? My Velvia slides exposed in October? Or the digital files exposed the same day? All the digital files (including scans) are preserved on at least three hard drives. While the slides are stored in a dark, cool dry place.
I’ve long been intrigued by the short section of the former Southern Pacific Bayshore Cutoff at the old Potrero Wye, where the railroad runs beneath I-280.
This location offers a graphic contrast; the immensity of the highway shadowing the railroad both literally and metaphorically.
The location also poses a photographic challenge. During high light, the tracks are completely within shadow, so I’ve found the best time to photograph is early in the morning or late in the day, when sunlight is below the bridge.
Yet, low sun also poses a problem, as calculating exposure is neither intuitive nor can a camera meter be relied upon. The overwhelming highway structure will tend to result in overexposure as a camera meter tries to compensate for the darkness, yet the side of the train reflects the full brightness of the sun (which to further complicate matters, may be less than sun at midday).
I made this photograph of an inbound Cal-Train ‘Baby Bullet’ in April 2008, using my Canon EOS 3 with a 50mm lens on Fujichrome slide film. I used my Minolta Mark IV handheld meter in reflective mode to sample the exposure on the side of a gray highway support column, and preset my camera accordingly. (I didn’t make note of the exposure, but it was about f5.6 1/500th of second.)
The resulting color slide looks just about perfect, but my exposure/contrast problem was repeated when I went to scan the image.
Here, I found the scanner software’s auto exposure had the reverse problem of my in-camera meter and tended to underexpose the scan. The result was not only too dark, but unacceptably contrasty.
I switched off the auto exposure, and instead used the software’s exposure histogram to set exposure manually as to better balance the highlight and shadow areas. Using this setting, I made a another scan. Afterwards, I fine-tuned the improved scan using Photoshop to make for a more pleasing image by adjusting both contrast and color balance.
This image is an exception; most of the time I’m satisfied with my first scan. Incidentally, the pictures reproduced here are scaled Jpgs from very large Tiff scans. The file size of the Jpgs is just a fraction of the original scan size, which is adequate for small-size internet viewing.
Arctic Conditions in Central Europe Made for Great Light and Cold Fingers.
It was my last full day of a week-long visit to Austria in winter 2006. I was changing trains at Wörgl, having spent the better part of the day making photos in the snow. Using my last roll of Fujichrome 400F, I exposed a series of sunset photos from the platform.
Wörgl is a busy place where lines converge on their way west through the Inn valley towards Innsbruck. Every few minutes something would pass over the mainline, and there was an electric switcher working the yard.
Thinking about the photography: working in low winter light the 400 ISO slide film had two advantages. Its faster film speed made it easier to work hand held and helped stop the action. While the warmer color balance favored the snowy sunset scene by accentuating the reds and yellows in the sky.
It was painful to be outside, and as the sun set it got even colder. But soon, I was gliding eastward on an InterCity train to Salzburg ensconced in the warm dining car. I’d enjoyed a hot ‘scheinsbratten mit sauerkraut’ and a tall glass of Schneiderweiss for dinner. The frosty landscape fading from blue to black as the train rolled into the night.