On Satuday 24 March 2018, I shared Dublin’s Claude Road foot-bridge with Paul Maguire and Ciarán Cooney, as we waited for the RPSI Cravens to run from Inchicore to Connolly for a scheduled inspection of the equipment.
It had been completely sunny, but as the time for the train approached, clouds began to dapple the morning sky.
I exposed this view using a Nikon N90S with 180mm Nikkor telephoto lens on Fujichrome Provia100F slide film.
The light was in flux when I released the shutter. Was the train in sun?
I had to wait more than three weeks to find out, since I’ve just received my slides back from the lab.
I made some nominal adjustments to contrast and colour balance after scanning.
Tracking the Light Posts Every Day.
I feature Irish Rail and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in my new Railway Guide to Europe, which is now available from Kalmbach Books.
Dublin’s Loop Line is a difficult bridge to picture trains upon owing to a high degree of foreground and background clutter, complex lattice girder construction, and brightly coloured graffiti.
Tank locomotive number 4 is an awkward mass and largely painted black that makes for a hard subject to picture satisfactorily, even on a good bright day.
It wasn’t a bright day; the lighting conditions were flat (low contrast) and bland.
Further complicating matters, there wasn’t more than a few seconds warning before the train entered the scene, so I needed to be poised.
Friends on board assisted my timing by keeping me up to date as to the location of the train.
I made my views from the Rosie Hackett Bridge (opened in 2014) looking down river toward Dublin Port.
Rather than work with a zoom, I opted for my fixed focal length 90mm telephoto on my FujiFilm X-T1. This gave me a wider aperture, allowed for shallow depth of field to help distinguish the train from its background, and is a very sharp lens corner to corner.
As the train clattered across the bridge I made several exposures, trying to minimize the distractions of bridge infrastructure and background clutter.
Although these are nice attempts, I’m not 100 percent satisfied, but without better light and an elevated view, I’m not sure how I could have made substantially better photos.
As a follow-up to my black & white posts: On Sunday, 18 March 2018, I also worked with my two digital cameras to expose a few choice photographs of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s The Midlander on its run from Connolly Station Dublin to Maynooth.
All were exposed using Kodak Tri-X black & white film, which I processed in Ilford ID-11 (1-1 at 68 degrees F for 7 minutes 45 seconds, plus extended presoak with very dilute HC110 to pre-activate development.)
I scanned the negatives using an Epson V500 flatbed scanner.
Saturday 14 October was a great day out; Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operated its Munster Double Railtour from Connolly Station in Dublin to Cork and Tralee.
The attraction of this trip was the highly unusual multiple-unit operation of two class 071 diesels together. Both of Irish Rail’s 071s in heritage paint were selected for the trip, which was an added bonus for photographers.
Honer Travers and I joined the trip at Connolly Station and during the course of the day I made dozens of digital images. Below is just a small section.
Tomorrow I’ll focus on the passengers and people participating in operations.
Working in low light, exposed these photos on Fomapan 100 Classic using my battle worn Nikon F3 with an old non-AI f1.4 50mm lens.
My exposure times ranged from 1/30th to 1/8th of a second, and all photos were made handheld. I processed the film in Ilford Perceptol stock solution for 5 minutes 45 seconds at 71 degrees F.
By using the lens wide open, I was working with shallow depth of field and a comparatively soft overall view. While the slow shutter speed allowed for motion blur. These are not conditions conductive to making razor sharp images. So I had no intentions of doing so.
Sometimes making softer, more interpretive images better conveys the spirit of the scene than clinically sharp images with over the shoulder light.
Lisburn is a surviving gem among old Great Northern Railway stations in Northern Ireland.
RPSI’s steam crew apologized for the weather, but there was no need. Steam locomotives make for excellent subjects when photographed at dusk in the rain.
This was my reunion with Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s engine 85, a Great Northern compound 4-4-0.
Honer Travers arranged my visit to Lisburn to witness the arrival of the scheduled Steam & Jazz special from Belfast, and introduced me to members of the crew (some of whom I’d met on previous occasions).
Working with three cameras, I made dozens of atmospheric images in the course of about 15 minutes. These photos were made digitally with my FujiFilm XT1 and Panasonic Lumic LX7. In addition, I exposed a handful of black & white photos using a Nikon loaded with Fomapan Classic.
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland is naturally historically minded, obviously. But in this situation I’ve used a vintage 1930s Leica IIIa with period Nikkor 35mm lens to expose traditional black & white film.
All of these photos were made on RPSI’s diesel tour to Galway and Kilkenny on 8 April 2017.
For some images I used Kodak Tri-X processed in Iford ID11 and toned with selenium, for others I worked with Ilford FP4 (ISO 125) which I processed in Agfa Rodinal Special.
Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Trip to Galway and Kilkenny—Part 2.
More photos from my Lumix exposed Saturday 8 April 2017, on the RPSI’s The Marble Tribesman Diesel Tour that ran from Dublin Connolly Station to Galway via Portarlington and Athlone then to Kilkenny via Kildare.
Yesterday, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) operated a pair of excursions from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Greystones, County Wicklow and return using former Dublin & South Eastern 2-6-0 461.
The trains were well patronized, which demonstrates a continued interest in Irish steam trains.
Dull weather prevailed, while cool temperatures made lots of steam condensation.
Sometimes I find that dull days makes for better steam photos.
Here’s a sample of digital images I made with my FujiFilm X-T1.
Most required contrast and saturation adjustment in post-processing.
On the day, steam locomotive 461 had done the honors for the paying passengers.
After the train arrived back at Connolly, freshly painted Irish Rail 071 (class leader) tied onto the empty carriages to bring them across to Inchicore.
I exposed this view at the end of the day using my Nikon F3 with 24mm lens. Using my perfected chemical recipe, I processed the Fuji Acros 100 film in Kodak HC110 then toned the negatives with selenium solution. Finally, I scanned them and made minor adjustments in Lightroom (mostly to remove dust spots).
Why black & white? Why film?
I’ve always exposed film, and while digital photography tends to dominate my image making, I still expose the occasional roll of B&W or color slide film.
A decade ago, David Hegarty and I made a project of photographing Irish Rail’s South Wexford line between Rosslare Strand and Waterford.
Sugar Beet traffic ended in January 2006, and regular passenger services were withdrawn five years ago in September 2010.
Yesterday, RailTours Ireland’s Emerald Isle Express (operated in cooperation with the Railway Preservation Society Ireland and Irish Rail) ran as a train of empty carriages across the line. This was probably the first train in months to use the scenic route.
Maximum speed was 15 mph.
Mark Healy and I were among the photographers on site to witness this very unusual move.
In addition to these digital photos, I exposed a handful of colour slides, you know, for posterity.
I’m honored to have been included in the new Southern Steam 2016 Calendar put together by Ken Fox and Kevin Meany. My photo is August 2016. Buy the calendar and check it out (proceeds for charity).
Rather than spoil it for you, I’ve posted one of my outakes, an image I made in 2006 at Farranfore, Co. Kerry, rather than show you the image used in the calendar.
The calendar for 2016 features photographs of Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s steam operations in the Munster region. The Price is advertised as €10.00 plus €3.00 for shipping. Please contact Ken Fox (email@example.com) or Kevin Meany (firstname.lastname@example.org) to order the calendar.
Proceeds from the calendar benefit the charity Pieta House (www.pieta.ie).
At 10:54 am this morning (Sunday August 23, 2015) Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Marble City (Dublin Connolly to Kilkenny) led by engine number 4 made an impressive display working up the Gullet from Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
Shortly before the arrival of the special, an Irish Rail ICR eased up to the bridge of signals. While this wasn’t what I anticipated, it makes for an interesting contrast in equipment.
Déjà vu? I think so.
Kudo’s to the RPSI and Irish Rail for running the train. I hope everyone on board has an enjoyable trip!
With a few of the distant exposures, I found the camera struggled to pick an accurate focus point. However, by using the ‘continuous high’ setting I was able to make up for the problem by making a lot of photos in short bursts as the camera focused in-and-out. Steam can often fool autofocus (especially on dull days) and its important to be ready this degree of uncertainty when making photographs.
I kept the cameras busy yesterday. I’ve altered the way I process my files. Rather than work from camera-shaped Jpgs, instead I’ve presented camera RAW files. With a few I applied a bit of contrast/exposure adjustment, but the others have just been scaled for internet presentation.
I exposed more than 500 images and haven’t, as of yet, had adequate time to digest this photographically intense experience.
Today, Sunday 9 August 2015, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in cooperation with Irish Rail operated a steam special from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Drogheda and Dundalk with locomotive number 4.
This was my first opportunity to photograph this classic locomotive in more than four years. Special thanks to everyone at the RPSI and Irish Rail who made today’s trips a success.
This year, I opted to take the DART to Bray and hike the cliff-walk around the head to make these views.
Despite clear skies and warm spring weather, wafting sea fog made for a challenging photographic conditions.
I made a point of photographing DART electric trains and Irish Rail’s intercity diesel railcars while in position for the steam special.
Shortly before locomotive 461 emerged from the tunnels near Brandy Hole, a cloud of fog rose to add a bit of atmosphere.
In addition to these digital photographs, I exposed a series of 35mm colour slides on Provia 100F using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens. The mix of stunning scenery, wafting fog and bright sun made for a spectacular backdrop for the annual special.
Sunday Morning, March 22, 2015: I waited patiently at the Con Colbert Road near the top of the Gullet—the cutting west of Islandbridge Junction in Dublin.
In the distance I could see the smoke from the locomotive; it was blocked outside of Heuston Station waiting for a path.
Up and down regular passenger trains gave me an opportunity to check my focus and exposures.
Past experience photographing steam locomotives in contrasty light has taught me that auto focus systems can easily get confused by wafting steam and smoke. The last thing I need is for the camera to be ‘hunting for focus’ during the moment of peak drama.
I switched my Fuji X-T1 to manual focus and pre-selected a focus point. The beauty of a digital camera is the ability to inspect results on site.
If I planned this correctly, dappled light and direct backlighting would help illuminate the smoke.
Finally, the bark of the locomotive and a volcanic display of exhaust. The camera was set in ‘turbo flutter’ (continuous high) and as 461 worked its way up the Gullet I exposed several strategically timed bursts of images.
A clear bright day and an excellent crowd made for a great day out with locomotive 461 and the preserved Cravens carriages.
The train boarded at Dublin’s Connolly Station and ran directly to Wicklow with stunning views of Dublin bay from Killiney and Bray Head.
At Wicklow, the special was overtaken by a holiday ‘relief’ special to Gorey that operated with the freshly painted candy apple green 29000 set.
A short trip was run from Wicklow to Greystones and return, with some spirited running along the beaches south of Greystones.
Engine 461 is a former Dublin & South Eastern 2-6-0 goods engine, so it was working on old home rails. The locomotive was steaming well and made for a great performance.
Reported difficulties with the points at Wicklow resulted in minor delays on the return trip, but clear signals up to Dublin and excellent running by the steam crew found us back at Connolly only a few minutes behind the advertised.
I traveled on the train, and used opportunities at station stops to make photos of the crew.
These are some of my digital results. I also used my old Nikon F3 with a 24mm lens to exposed some Fuji Acros 100 black & white film. Somehow steam and B&W seems like an appropriate combination! Those images remain latent, and perhaps will be a topic for a future post!
In its heyday, Mullingar was an important station on the old Midland Great Western Railway. Here, the large signal cabin controlled the junction between Sligo and Galway routes. There were goods yards and locomotive sheds. It was a busy place.
Today, it’s little more than a big station serving Irish Rail’s Sligo Line. Yet, vestiges of its former glory remain. While the double line junction at the Dublin-end of the station was removed in 2003, and the signal cabin ceased to function as a block post on the Sligo line in 2005, the cabin remains. So do the platforms for the old Galway Road.
The Galway road continues toward Athlone, but vanishes into the weeds after it leaves the station. It has been more than a decade since the last train traveled the line, and that was only the annual weed-spraying run.
Semaphores and other antique infrastructure dot the plant.
The arrival of locomotive 461 allowed me opportunity to photograph the signal cabin and the old Galway side of Mulligar Station.
For me this was a flashback. Not to the glory days of the Midland Great Western, but to the late 1990s early 2000s, when I first visited Mullingar. So much had changed since then, yet so much more remains at Mullingar than many other places on Irish Rail.
Here’s just a few photos from the many images I exposed on Sunday, March 23, 2014.
Excursions are a great opportunity to make detailed photos of railway equipment. In addition to the traditional angles, I like to get close and focus on characteristic elements of locomotives and railway cars.
Locomotive 461 is an old favorite. I’ve been photographing it for more than 15 years, and I think it’s safe to say that I have a fair few photos of it. But that’s never caused me pause; I keep looking for new ways and new angles on this old machine.
Here’s just a few from The Marble City trip on August 25, 2013.