One September 2019 morning on Germany’s Rhein, clear skies were obscured by a thick mist hugging the river. As the warm rays of the rising sun graced the tops of the nearby hills, the mist cleared, which made for some cosmic lighting.
I exposed these photographs digitally using my FujFilm XT1. But I also exposed a few colour slides using a Nikon F3 with 105mm lens.
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?
Gliding along the terraced vineyards near Boppard, Germany rolls EC109 running from Hamburg to Interlaken, Switzerland.
Maybe not as fast as the ICE, but probably among the nicest types of day trains in regular service that you can travel upon. This isn’t a cruise train, but simply a scheduled stopping express, and that’s my point.
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.
Last night (Wednesday, 18 Sept 2019), we waited in anticipation along the Rhein at Oberwesel as the sun was about to disappear from view behind a hillside.
The right bank of the Rhein has a busy double track railway, which all day long had been flowing with freight trains and the occasional Stadler railcar in local passenger service.
At times the freights rolled on each other’s blocks, passing every three to four minutes.
However as the final rays of sun tickled the cliffs and ships glided up and down the river, we wondered if a train might exit the Ross Stein tunnel allowing us to make use of the low and fading sun. We were near nearly ready to depart, when this freight burst into view.
I had my Lumix LX7 at the ready and exposed these photos.
It is aimed at people looking to travel around Europe by train.
I hoped for a cover image that showed a modern passenger train in a classic setting. Also, while the book covers a wide geographical span, I thought it would be best for the cover to focus on central Europe.
Kalmbach books narrowed my selection about 8 photos; while the choice was ultimately theirs, the image of a DB Regional Express passing a medieval tower at Oberwesel made my final cut.
This photo was exposed in nice soft sunlight; it offers a pleasant scenic summer setting with a simple, yet striking composition showing a river, a castle and a decidedly modern European passenger train. The train’s paint scheme makes it easy to distinguished it from the surrounding landscape and it appears relatively high in the image area (if it appeared too low, it might not work well to sell the book). Also, there’s ample space for the book title and other writing.
I made the cover image while on a visit to the Rhein valley with Gerry Conmy, Stephen Hirsch and Denis McCabe. We spent the afternoon of 8 September 2015 photographing a parade of trains on the Rhein’s ‘left bank’ line.
The cover image was selected from a burst of 4 photos. I’ve included a variety of the other photos I made during the same afternoon.
All of these images were exposed over the course of less than an hour using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe should be available at the end of May.
Another example of some photos that didn’t make the final cut for my book on European Railway Travel.
You might think that catching a train with medieval castles in the background is pretty neat.
But I have many photos at this curve at Oberwesel on the busy Rhein left bank route. I’ve selected several potential candidates from this excellent German location and these two just didn’t seem book worthy.
As mentioned last week, I’m in the final lap of assembling a book on European Railway travel.
This image is among my ‘outtakes’ from the section on Germany.
I have hundreds of photos along the Rhein. I like this one because it shows the twin tunnels on the right bank opposite Oberwesel, but the wires in the sky annoy me, as does the clutter in the river at right and shrub on the left.
In early September, my friends and I witnessed the passage of this old German class 140 electric in classic green paint.
Every day in late morning or early afternoon it would work south along the Rhein’s Right Bank (east side) with a freight.
On this day we hiked out to the Loreley statue on a peninsula near the famous Loreley Rock at bend in the river. I made these photos with my FujiFilm X-T1. As the freight drew closer, I opted to pan, which helps set apart the green locomotive from the hillside beyond.
MittlerheinBahn operates modern Siemens-built electric multiple units on all-stops local trains on the picturesque Left Bank route between Köln and Mainz, Germany.
Trains operate on an hourly basis throughout the day, with more frequent services at peak times.
The service is affordable, comfortable and the scenery provides an unending tapestry of wonder.
These trains come at such regular intervals, it would be easy enough to let their passage go undocumented while waiting for more unusual movements, such as freights with colourful engines. But I always try to make the most of all trains.
Over the course of a week I exposed dozens of images of MittlerheinBahn’s trains, often using them as a catalyst for complex scenic compositions. Would these views work if there were no trains in them?
I have no doubt that punchy delicious colours and heavily altered contrast can grab the attention of viewers. I saw Fantasia, I look at Facebook.
It’s not a matter of right or wrong, or right or left. With modern software, tweaking colour and contrast has never been easier.
Below are three versions of an image I exposed digitally in the Rhein Valley. Not necessarily in order: One image is RAW (straight out of the camera, only reduced in size for internet), the other two have been altered.
Of these latter two images, one is my interpretation of how the scene appeared at the time I exposed the photo, the other is pure fantasy.
I’ll let you sort out which is which. Of the three, which do you like the most?
There’re some locations that just jump out at you. This view of the Rhein’s Right Bank is one of them. The combination of the river with vineyards rising above punctuated by the ruins of a medieval castle make for a postcard view.
The railway is an added bonus. Red Die Bahn locomotives are a nice touch. It helps to have bright afternoon sun.
Exposed near Rudesheim, Germany using my FujiFilm X-T1
Right Bank passenger services are largely provided by Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbahn. Trains are operated by VIAS Gmbh as Stadt-Expresses use Stadler Flirt electric multiple units and make local stops between the Koblenz Hbf (on the Left Bank) and the Frankfurt area.
Every hour all day long (with half hourly intervals at peak times) these modern Flirts glide along the supremely scenic Rhein Valley, working between the seemingly continuous parade of freights on the same line.
The cars stand out nicely against lush back drops and make for interesting photographic subjects. The tricky part is selecting the correct exposure to avoid over-exposing the lightly coloured trains.
The Right Bank of the Rhein is a busy freight corridor. Trains run in waves, and often follow each other several minutes apart on their north-south journey across Germany.
Kaub station sits wedged into a hillside with a castle above, and a sweeping curve to the south. In the afternoon, the sun swings around, which makes it a great place to photograph trains on the move.
Bombardier’s TRAXX locomotives family includes several classes of electrics. While the DB red class 185s may seen repetitive, open access operations make for a bit of variety. It seems that there’s always another freight working its way up or down the Rhein Valley. And this provides an opportunity to refine photographic angles and technique.
I made this selection using my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Yesterday (September 10, 2015) was an exceptionally clear and bright day in the Rhein Valley.
The conditions were ideal for photographing across the river, which opened up numerous photo locations.
Gerry Conmy, Dennis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I selected this view near St. Goarhausen. Behind us is the double track west bank (or ‘Left Bank’) line.
In addition to DB (Deutsche Bahn—Germany Railways), there a great variety of private and open access operators on the Rhein Valley lines.
I used my Lumix LX7 to capture a southward freight led by a Siemens Taurus electric against an impressive cliff-face as intermodal ships pass in the river. There’s always something interesting to watch alone the Rhein. This was just one of dozens of trains we photographed yesterday.
The six track railway bridge over the Rhein at Koln offers a continuous parade of trains.
In just a few minutes I made many interesting photos.
In this image, on of DB’s Class 120 electrics whirrs over the massive bridge. This electric was among the earliest commercially-built locomotives using a modern three-phase traction system. It was among the more unusual trains I photographed on the evening of September 2, 2015.
Germany’s Rhein valley is one of my favorite places to make railway photographs. The combination of great scenery, a fantastic variety of locations, the historic architecture, and a continuous parade of freight and passenger trains on both sides of the river make it hard to beat.
And, at the end of the day (in the most literal use of the cliché), the beer is great!
April 9, 2010; a group of my Irish friends and I were on a week long trip to the Rhein and Mosel Valleys.
The Rhein is great place to experiment with equipment and technique. Busy double track mainlines occupy both sides of the river amid stunning scenery and historic architecture.
I was set up at the south end of the station platform at Kaub on the Right Bank. This is the busier freight line, with trains passing in fleets. Rarely ten minutes would pass without something clattering along.
My vantage point also gave me a good view of the Left Bank and the Pfalzgrafenstein—a colorful castle situated on an island in the middle of the river. Working with my Lumix LX3, I played with the camera’s aspect ratios as an exercise in composition.
Tracking the Light posts new material every morning.
Along the Rhein at Festung Ehrenbreitstein, May 1996.
I made this view from the massive fortress above the Rhein opposite Koblenz. My father and I had traveled by train from Köln.
The train pictured was a local train gliding in for a station stop.
The fortress is a popular attraction and offers magnificent views of the confluence of Rhein and Mosel Rivers, while also providing some nice elevated angles on the railway along the ‘right bank.’
Trains are plentiful on this line, and every few minutes freights would rumble along the river. To view the river and railway from the massive stone walls is an experience. We arrived by cable car, and departed by a Mercedes Taxi. What a cool place!
Views from the East Side of the Rhein—September 2013.
For me the Right Bank (east side) of the Rhein has always been more challenging and more intriguing. This side has more freight, but the vistas are more difficult to access. Certainly getting the viewpoints that I envision take a little more work.
On this trip, with the help of maps and some advice from local photographers, I found several satisfactory spots to work from.
Where the Left Bank (west side) remains dominated by passenger traffic (with the occasional freight slotted in), the Right Bank is primarily a freight route, with the requisite hourly (half-hourly at peak times) stopping passenger train.
Since my last visit to the Right Bank in 2010, the passenger service has been upgraded with modern Stadler three and four piece Flirt-model railcars. The tide of freight ebbs and flows, but its not difficult to get four or five freights at one location in a relatively short span of time.
It seems that no sooner than one train has clattered out of sight when the next is on its way. If action on the east side ebbs too much, there are plenty of boats and barges on the Rhein as well as trains on the left side. Regardless of what happens, I find it easy to expose lots of images.
Oberwesel is south of Boppard and also on an elbow-bend in the river. It’s spectacularly set along the river and against steeply rising hills while featuring castles and a medieval city wall.
The old city wall is set up as a tourist attraction and can be easily used as a platform for photography. Not only does this provide great views of the line on the Left Bank, but gives superb angles of the dual tunnels on the line serving the Right Bank.
I visited Oberwesel in April 2010, but the light was a bit dull, so I’ve been aching for another try at it on a clear day.
While there are some good angles in the morning, I found the best light angles were obtained after about 2 pm. September is a great time to photograph because the light is good throughout the day and it’s past the peak tourist season. Jostling elbows with the masses while trying to focus on a IC train might be challenging.
The parade of trains is unceasing. If one side of the river starts to lag, the other will seem to make up the difference. It was only during the lunch that traffic seemed to lull. Certainly the passenger trains kept coming, but the freights must of all paused for a snack.
Not far from the south edge of city wall in Oberwesel, we found a suitable restaurant with outdoor seating, a choice of beer, and a view of the tracks
A few hours at Oberwesel gave me more great images than I knew what to do with. I could make this a multi-installment post. Will you still be there for Oberwesel Left Bank Northward Views Part 12? Hmm?
The Left Bank at Boppard and Vicinity—September 2013.
Germany’s Rhein offers one of the World’s great railway experiences. Here busy double track railways occupy both sides of the river, largely in sight of one another. This narrow picturesque valley is dotted with old villages, castles, churches and blanketed with vineyards which adds to its charm and make for more interesting photographs.
For the all the challenges of wandering down lightly travel rural branch lines, or seeking out unusual, peculiar and elusive railway operations, sometimes it’s nice to get ‘a fix’ and go to a place where you will see a great volume and variety of trains in a comfortable setting.
The Rhein in early September hit the spot. The weather was perfect; a mix of sun and mist made for great lighting conditions, while temperatures were comfortable. No rain, no heavy wind. And best of all every few minutes a train comes rolling up or down the river.
Historically, the line on the west side of the river, the ‘Left Bank,’ was almost exclusively a passenger line and featured a continuous parade of Regional, IC, EC, and ICE trains, while the ‘Right Bank’ carried freight and an hourly local service.
Today, there are fewer IC/EC/ICE trains on the Rhein as many through services run on the high-speed line between Köln and Frankfurt. While IC/EC/ICE trains still operate about once an hour in each direction (plus local stopping services) now there are more paths for freights on the Left Bank which makes the line more interesting and more varied.
Boppard is located south of Koblenz on a elbow bend and allows for a variety of angles as the sun swings around. I’ve found from previous trips that Boppard is best in the morning. These photos are a selection from three days of photography based around Boppard.
I worked with three cameras; a Lumix LX3, Canon EOS 7D and Canon EOS 3 with Provia 100F film. Only the digital results are displayed here.