January 7, 2023, Conway Scenic Railroad hosted Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthuasiast’s Covered Wagons in the Snow photo charter.
I helped arrange and organize this uncommon trip and spent countless hours working with Mass Bay RRE’s Dave Brown, members of the 470 Club (which owns the two former Boston & Maine F7As that were the stars of the day) and the Conway Scenic staff to refine the details.
Mother nature cooperated and provided several inches of fresh powdery snow the night before the trip.
The morning of the trip, I conducted a safety briefing with Mass Bay’s people, and Kris and I made photos of the F-units in the North Conway, NH yard.
We traveled on the train and during the course of the trip we made hundreds of winter F-unit inspired images.
Friday, February 11, 2022, New Hampshire’s Conway Scenic operated its vintage Russell snow plow with former Maine Central Railroad GP38 255 pushing it west toward Attitash.
I followed the plow by road and made a few select digital photos with my Nikon Z6 fitted with 70-200mm lens.
To get a good snow exposure I dialed in ‘+3’ to the expose compensation, which helps keep the snow white. I metered manually with the in-camera ‘matrix meter’, then set both shutter speed and aperture manually.
Although I set the camera’s focas point, I let the Nikon’s autofocus system work as intended.
In a few instances, I hiked into locations to get the best angle where the snow was the deepest. On more than one occasion I found myself up to my hips in snow.
Yesterday, Saturday March 6, 2021, Kris Sabbatino and I visited White River Junction, Vermont.
Hard crusty snow covered the ground under a bright polarized sky. Visually appealing conditions, but contrast and difficult to capture.
Key to making successful snow photos is exposing for the snow correctly.
If the snow is overexposed (too light), detail is lost and it becomes an amorphous white blob. If it is underexposed, then the snow will be rendered gray and other elements of the scene appear too dark.
Most automatic camera metering does not recognize snow and has a inherent bias to render it as gray instead of white, which if left unattended at the time of exposure will result in an underexposed file.
For this photo, I exposed manually. I gauged my exposure from experience, and allow the meter to read 2/3s of a stop over exposure. This still renders texture in the snow, but allows for easy corrections for the rest of scene in post production.
Below I display two versions of the camera RAW file exposed with my Nikon Z6 (NEF format). The top is the scaled but unmodified file. The bottom has been adjusted to make the most of the data recorded and lighten shadow areas while correcting color balance.
Yesterday—January 2, 2021—I traveled on Conway Scenic’s Water Train, ‘Work Extra 573,’ that cleared the line of snow and carried the tank car filled with 5,000 gallons of water to refill the tender of steam locomotive 7470.
This was the support train for the main event. Winter Steam was Conway Scenic’s first steam excursion of the new year. Locomotive 7470, the railroad’s former Grand Trunk Railway 0-6-0, followed the Water Train by about an hour, running to from North Conway, New Hampshire to Sawyers and back.
Sawyers is the siding on the old Maine Central Mountain Division located immediately timetable west of 4th Iron, where the railroad crosses Sawyer River.
I made all of these photos using my FujiFilm XT1 with 27mm pancake lens.
Friday, February 7, 2020, Conway Scenic dispatched former Maine Central GP7 573 as a work extra to clear the line to Attitash (near Bartlett, NH).
Icy rain and sleet had been falling throughout the day and it was beginning to turn to snow. Temperatures were expected to drop and by morning the snow would be like cement. Clearing the line while the snow was still slushy was imperative or this relatively small task could become an epic one.
Conway Scenic normally shuts its lines from early January until April. This year the railroad is planning a series of special trips during the last two weeks of February beginning with Cupid’s Express Valentines Day trains on February 14th, followed by Snow Trains that will run from North Conway to Attitash on a 90 minute interval beginning at 7:30 am.
The interval was my idea and I’ve planned a timetable for the event.
I traveled with the engine crew on 573 to document the day’s events and make notes. Near Mountain Junction (where the former Boston & Maine Conway Branch connects with the old Maine Central Mountain Division) 573 paused for the crew to clear a crossing. I made these photos using my FujiFilm XT1.
Friday, January 17, 2020, I joined the Conway Scenic train crew of a light engine sent west on the old Mountain Division to inspect the line and clear snow and as far as Rogers Crossing east of Bartlett, New Hampshire.
It was clear, cold afternoon, which made for some magnificent views along the Saco River and looking toward Mount Washington.
My primary intent was to document the move and gather some video footage of the railroad operating in the snow.
using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm lens, I made these views at milepost 62 west of Intervale.