Tag Archives: snow

CONRAIL EXTRA APRIL 1, 1989

For me Conrail was always interesting to watch; I never knew what might show up next.

On April 1, 1989, Conrail was 13, having begun operations on that date in 1976.

I awoke to find heavy snow blanketing the fields and trees of western New York. I met up with Doug Eisele and we drove out into the late season snow seeking trains.

The coolest thing we photographed that day was this Conrail HAZ extra running east from Niagara Falls over the Southern Tier route.

I was always keen on the former Erie Railroad, so that made this comparatively unusual move of great interest to me.

Today, I’m keeping my mind focused on completing my Conrail book. If it’s not Conrail, I’m not paying attention, which has complicated breakfast options. (That’s a Big Blue joke).

Tracking the Light is Conrail Focused Today.

Turbo Blasted!


Is this a bad photo? It isn’t what I hoped to get.
 
On January 9, 1986, I braved arctic conditions at Conrail’s Dewitt Yard in East Syracuse, New York to make photos in the snow.
 
In addition to Conrail views, I exposed two black & white photos of an Amtrak turbo train running from Niagara Falls to Grand Central Terminal.
 
The head on view is a bit distant, and my trailing exposure was exposed prematurely.
 
My only excuse is that my hands were numb with cold.
 
Worse! I seem to have misplaced my detailed notes from the day, so all I have is abbreviated notes on my negative sleeve and a few print captions to work from.
Poor show, me.
 
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White River Junction in the Snow!


Last week, Pat Yough and I drove to White River Junction, Vermont, seeking photographs of Buffalo & Pittsburgh 3000, a classic EMD-built GP40 that works the New England Central (NECR) local freight based there.

We found the engine, and shortly after we arrived a snow squall allowed us to exposed some very wintery images.

It had been several years since my last visit to White River Junction, which historically was among the busiest freight locations in Vermont.

Why is a Buffalo & Pittsburgh engine on the New England Central? My short answer: since both B&P and NECR are Genesee & Wyoming railroads it seems logical that engines from one railroad might be loaned or conveyed to another. However, the detailed particulars of the B&P 3000 arrangement are beyond my knowledge at this time.

Finding B&P in White River was only the beginning of our day photographing NECR operations; Stay tuned for more!

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Canadian National Kicks Up Snow at Ackerville.


Sometimes a cloudy day gives you more options.

If the sun had been out, Hillside Road in Ackerville, Wisconsin may not have been the preferred mid-morning location to catch this northward Canadian National double-stack train.

Brian Schmidt and I caught three trains here on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

I made this view using my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with an 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

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DART in the Snow.

On the 18th of March, snow fell in Dublin, again.

I made these views at Connolly Station of a southward DART suburban train using my FujiFilm XT1.

The trick is not underexposing the snow.

Falling snow can make for a great sense of depth.

Connolly Station, Dublin.

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Snow! Steam! Action!

It was cold and snowy at Dublin’s Connolly Station last Sunday.

While snow complicated Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s planned trips to Maynooth, it made for ideal conditions to expose black & white photos.

Using my Nikon F3 with 35mm and 135mm lens, I made these images on platform 3.

My new book ‘Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe features RPSI trains in its section on Ireland.

It is due out in May 2018 and may pre-order the book from Kalmbach Books: https://kalmbachhobbystore.com

For details on  RPSI and passenger excursions see: https://www.steamtrainsireland.com

RPSI No 4.

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.

RPSI No 4.

More snowy steam images images to follow!

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Tracking the Light Extra: Views from today’s 1320 Enterprise to Belfast.

I’d booked on the 1120 to Belfast, but the first Dublin-Belfast Enterprise to depart Dublin Connolly since Thursday was today’s 1320 (that’s 1:20 pm)

Ground transport was still non-functional when I left Islandbridge, so I made my way through the slush to Connolly on foot, mostly following the rusted over LUAS tracks.

There was a big crowd for the train at Connolly. We were slow on the DART route to Malahide, then nominally delayed at Drogheda when a disruptive passenger fought with Irish Rail staff.

All and all it was an interesting trip! I’m posting from an NI Railways CAF on its way to Great Victoria Street.

I made these views using Lumix LX7.

On my walk to Connolly I passed this scene on Abbey Street.

Connolly was frosty.

I was happy to see the Enterprise ready on Platform 2.

It was nice to be welcomed, but a little information would have been nice. Reminds me of a story my late friend Bob Buck used to tell about a woman passenger inquiring of the Boston & Albany Station agent at Framingham. ‘I asked you for information but all you give me is bullshit!’

Passengers were anxious to get on the train.

Finally a friendly member of staff came along and opened the doors.

Hmm, snow on the platforms!

I’m checking the level of snow on the DART and lines from the North Wall.

NI Railways CAF Railcars at Portadown a few minutes ago. LX7 photo.

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Tracking the Light EXTRA! A Dozen photos: Irish Transport at a Standstill.

Heavy Snow Shuts Irish Rail, LUAS and Bus Services.

Today, 2 March 2018, public transport was suspended across the Republic of Ireland. Irish Rail stopped operating trains yesterday afternoon.

Earlier today I made a cursory inspection of Dublin’s Heuston Station.

Drifts covered the line at Islandbridge Junction; trains were idle at the Heuston yards; the LUAS tram tracks were completely covered, and buses were idle at the Conyngham Road bus garage.

Snow covers Irish Rail tracks at Islandbridge Junction in Dublin. 2 March 2018.

Irish Rail’s Liffey Bridge at Islandbridge, Dublin on 2 March 2018.

Irish Rail trains idled at the Heuston Station yards. 2 March 2018.

Irish Rail trains idled at the Heuston Station yards. 2 March 2018.

Irish Rail trains idled at the Heuston Station yards. 2 March 2018.

Snow covers the normally busy LUAS tram tracks at Heuston Station. Irish Rail’s terminal is shut.

LUAS display at Heuston.

LUAS tracks lay beneath a blanket of snow on Steevens Lane.

All is quiet at Heuston Station. 2 March 2018.

Dublin Bus stop at Parkgate Street. 2 March 2018.

Dublin Bus stop at Parkgate Street. 2 March 2018.

Idle buses at Conynham Road Garage. 2 March 2018.

I’ve heard that there’s greater amounts of snow inland. In many places roads are impassible. Air travel has been grounded.

Reports from Northern Ireland indicate that NI Railways continues to provide service, possibly with some delays.

My photos were exposed digitally using Lumix LX7 and FujiFilm XT1 cameras.

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Eight Digital Snow Scenes from Dublin.

Here’s another selection of snow scenes from Dublin exposed during the freeze of 27-28 February.

Today (1 March 2018) the snow continues to fall and a blizzard is expected for later in the day.

Irish Rail is reported to be shutting down from 2 pm.

LUAS approaching Heuston Station in a snow squall. Lumix LX7 photo.

Heuston Station at dusk. Lumix LX7 photo.

Lumix LX7 photo.

Heuston Station. Lumix LX7 photo.

1125 Cork-Dublin arriving at Heuston about 18 minutes late. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Snow in the Gullet: 1500 Dublin to Cork at Memorial Road in Dublin. FujiFilm XT1 photo.

FujiFilm XT1 photo.

Snow in the gullet. Lumix LX7 photo. 

 

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Irish Rail in the Snow in Dublin—Today, 28 February 2018.

Snow is a real rarity in Dublin. After a little more than an inch, a ‘red warning’ was issued.

Irish Rail kept its passenger trains on the move, although some were running a little behind schedule.

I braved the arctic conditions and hoofed it up to my usual spot. If all goes well, I may head out again later on.

Photos exposed this morning using my FujiFilm XT1.

A Grand Canal Docks ICR features one of the recently introduced yellow coupler covers designed to keep snow off the coupler.

ICR’s pass at Islandbridge Junction.

Irish Rail 231 in the ‘raccoon’ livery works the up-cork on its final leg to Dublin Heuston Station.

Irish Rail snow removal team.

Snow falling at Islandbridge Junction.

Irish Rail 221 light engine.

ICR’s pass at Islandbridge Junction.

CSX in the Snow.

Just an ordinary winter’s day at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts last month.

I made this view of CSX’s B740 using my Lumix LX7 .

Exposing for snow can be tricky. Remember the camera doesn’t know what’s supposed to be white.

One of the advantages of digital photography is the ability to check the exposure on-site. Although this scene had a tricky exposure, I was able to gauge my result at the time of exposure.

Consider the dynamic range of exposure in the this image: note the headlights on the locomotive (which appear brighter than the snow on the ground) and the sky (which is slightly darker than the snow).

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Winter at Bridge Street, Monson.

Over the years I’ve made many photos of southward trains ascending State Line Hill from Bridge Street in Monson, Massachusetts.

This one was exposed in January 2018, shortly before I left for Dublin.

Lightly falling snow and a red GP40-2L made for a Christmas card scene. This is New England Central job 608 on its return run on the old Central Vermont Railway line to Willimantic, Connecticut.

Compare this winter view with those made in Spring 2017, See: Bridge Street Monson—Two Takes, Four Views.

Exposed digitally using a Lumix LX7.

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Frosty Morning Stafford Springs; White Balance.

I made these views of New England Central job 608 working timetable northward at Stafford Spring, Connecticut.

It was about 7:30am, and the sun was just tinting the eastern sky.

Rather than set my camera with ‘auto white balance’ (a typical default setting), I opted to fix the white balance with the ‘daylight’ setting.

Auto white balance arbitrarily selects a neutral color balance and adjusts the balance based on the conditions at hand. This is a useful feature in some situations, such as photography under incandescent lighting, or in situations with mixed lighting, such as in a museum or subway.

However, auto white balance settings have the unfortunate effect of minimizing the colorful effects of sunset and sunrise and so using the ‘daylight’ setting is in my opinion a better alternative.

But there’s really much a more complex problem; the way that digital cameras capture images is completely different to the ways the human eye and brain work in fixing visual stimuli. You could write a book on that!

Downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

 

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Is the closer view better?

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Icy Morning with CSX Q022—Variations on a Location

It was a bitterly cold morning just after sunrise when I made these views looking across a field off Route 67 east of Palmer, Massachusetts (near CP79, the control point 79 miles west of South Station, Boston, that controls the switch at the east-end of the control siding at Palmer.)

All were made from the same vantage point.

I was working with two cameras. My FujiFilm XT1 with 90mm telephoto, and my Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake.

The exposure, color profiles and color temperature of the cameras were set up differently, which explains the slight difference in overall density and tint.

Do you have a favorite? And why?

Digitally exposed with a FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 90mm telephoto.

Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

Digitally exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

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New England Central in the Snow.

Sun and freshly fallen snow makes for a nice setting.

New England Central job 608 was making its way from Palmer back to Willimantic with about 20 cars of freight.

In the lead was one of the railroad’s original GP38s, still wearing the classic blue and yellow livery that was applied to these locomotives at the time of New England Central’s start-up in 1995.

I made this view at Plains Road south of Stafford, Connecticut.

Although much of the location was shadowed, a shaft of sun on the grade crossing made for photo opportunity with a telephoto lens. I stood back a bit to allow for slight compression effect owing to the longer focal length, and aimed to frame the leading locomotive between the crossing signals.

This distant view shows how the light was falling on the scene. I set my camera to ‘turbo flutter’ (motor drive at ‘continuous high’) and exposed a burst of images when the locomotive approached the window of sunlight on the crossing.

I set my focus point slightly off-center to hit the locomotive square in the nose.

FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens set at 104mm (equivalent to a 156mm focal length on a traditional 35mm film camera). ISO 200, f7.1 1/500th of a second.

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CSX Monday Traffic: Snow, Cold and Being There—a Dozen New Photos.

 

Back to the old,  ‘f5.6 and be there’. (While paying close attention to the signals and scanner).

Lately CSX’s freight operations on the old Boston & Albany have been largely nocturnal.

Mondays on the other hand can prove busy in the morning.

February 8, 2016: I wasn’t out for the day, but rather running some errands. As always, I had my Lumix at the ready. Snow was forecast and it was beginning to flurry.

On my way through East Brookfield, I took the time to check the signals at CP64.

These were lit: “Limited Clear” westbound. I knew a train must be close.

Soon I could hear the clatter of cars descending Charlton Hill. Then affirmation on the radio, ‘Q427 clear signal main to main CP60’.

CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.
CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.

I made my photographs. But a few minutes later I heard that Q427 had stopped west of milepost 72 owing to difficulties with the locomotives.

That’s Warren, 72 miles west of South Station, Boston.

I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.
I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.

 

Q427 had to meet two eastward trains at CP83 (Palmer).

I continued to follow west, while making photographs along the way. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.
Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.

My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.
My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.

The old Palmer freight house location.
The old Palmer freight house location.

It's been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.
It’s been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.

 

I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.
I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.

I made a few photos of the first meet, then opted to head back up the Quaboag Valley rather than stay put.

CSX_Q427_meet_w_eb_CSX_stacks_Palmer_Ma_tight_P1370806

Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.
Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.

The snow was now getting heavy and it wasn’t getting any warmer.

At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).
At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).

This was a heavy train. And despite the snow, it was easy enough to follow up the grade to Warren.

The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.
The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.

It was just 18 degrees at the Warren station.

That’s good enough for my morning errands!

All photos nominally adjusted for contrast and saturation in post processing.

CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.
CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.

This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?
This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?

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Snow and Old EMD Diesels: Stafford Springs February 1985.

It was a great day for black & white photography.

Fluffy snow had been falling all morning. Central Vermont’s freight arrived in Palmer and quickly organized to continue south.

I followed the train’s steady progress over State Line Hill, then set up in downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut where I made these photos on Ilford FP4 black & white negative film using my Leica 3A with 50mm lens.

Central Vermont southward freight at Stafford Springs, Connecticut on February 2, 1985.
Central Vermont southward freight at Stafford Springs, Connecticut on February 2, 1985.

Trailing view of the same train crossing Route 32 in Stafford Springs.
Trailing view of the same train crossing Route 32 in Stafford Springs.

For me this pair of images does a great job of exemplifying my experience with Central Vermont in the mid-1980s when three, four, five, six, and sometimes seven vintage GP9s would work tonnage freights. The sounds of those old diesels still resonates in my memory.

Would these images have be improved by modern color digital photography? Would they survive for 31 years with virtually no attention from me? For that matter, where will these old negatives or the scans be in another 31 years?

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State Line Tunnel by the Light of the Moon.

It was an even zero degrees Fahrenheit (that’s about -18 Celsius) when I arrived at the top of State Line Tunnel. A heavy blanket of snow covered the ground and I could hear a heavy CSX eastward train climbing.

The twin-bore State Line Tunnel is the only true tunnel on the old Boston & Albany. The older of the two bores was abandoned in late 1988 when Conrail single-tracked the line.

Driving east on the New York State Thruway, I’d noted the eastward freight crossing ‘Bottleneck Bridge’ east of the interchange with Taconic State Parkway. I knew then, that if I didn’t dally, I could get to the top of State Line in time to roll the train by.

I recalled a chase many years ago with Bob Buck in the twilight hour. When we arrived at this favorite location, I insisted on making black & white photos with my old Leica and ignored Bob’s advice to, ‘Save your film for a sunny day.’

Back to the present. Despite the cold, I set up my Bogen tripod and attached my Lumix LX7. The train whistled for the grade crossing west of the tunnel. Not much time. I made a test shot at 8 seconds. Too dark. Switching to manual mode, I set the camera for 20 seconds. I made an exposure just as the headlights were illuminating the curve.

Lumix LX7 test photo; exposed at f2.2 for 8 seconds. This was too dark for my liking, so I tripled the amount of time the shutter was open.
Lumix LX7 test photo; exposed at f2.2 for 8 seconds. This was too dark for my liking, so I increased the amount of time the shutter was open to 20 seconds.

The lights of the eastward freight have begun to illuminate the curve. Lumix LX7 at f2.2 for 20 seconds.
The lights of the eastward freight have begun to illuminate the curve. Lumix LX7 at f2.2 for 20 seconds.

The view of the train in the photo with the Lumix was blasted by the headlights and isn’t very effective.

However, I had my brand new Fuji X-T1, but I hadn’t the time to figure out how to set it for long time exposures, I did make a few hand-held views at ISO 1250.

My first railway photos with my new Fuji X-T1 mirror-less camera were made of the approaching train at State Line Tunnel. I exposed for the snow and made the photos hand held.
My first railway photos with my new Fuji X-T1 mirror-less camera were made of the approaching train at State Line Tunnel. I exposed for the snow and made the photos hand held. Too dark for my liking, but it catches the drama of the moment.

Then I exposed a view with the Lumix of the freight cars rolling below me.

CSX's east ward freight passes below me. The quality of light offered by the full moon mimics the characteristics of sunlight, albeit at a substantially lower luminosity.
CSX’s east ward freight passes below me. The quality of light offered by the full moon mimics the characteristics of sunlight, albeit at a substantially lower luminosity.

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Daily Post: Snow Exposure Quandry

Pan Am 310 East of Shelburne Falls

I exposed this image of Pan Am Railways GP40 310 leading MOED on the afternoon of February 17, 2014. By any measure this scene posed a difficult exposure.

Canon 7D in-camera Jpg of Pan Am Railways 310 east of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. To my eye, this image appears too bright. Had it been a color slide I'd say it was about a half stop 'over exposed.' This Jpg was created using the Canon's picture style profile called 'landscape' (one of several built in Jpg picture styles).
Canon 7D in-camera Jpg of Pan Am Railways 310 east of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. To my eye, this image appears too bright. Had it been a color slide I’d say it was about a half stop ‘over exposed.’ This Jpg was created using the Canon’s picture style profile called ‘landscape’ (one of several built in Jpg picture styles).

The locomotive is a dark blue, while the scene posed a full range of tones from bright white snow to deep shadows. The train was moving, and there was little time for exposure bracketing.

Using the camera’s histogram, I’d made a test exposure before the train came into the scene, and then made a series of images focused on the composition.

Working with my Canon EOS 7D, I always expose simultaneous Jps and Camera RAW files. Most of the time the in Camera hi-res Jpg proves acceptable, and simply archive the RAW files for the future.

However, in this instance when I got home, I found that the in-camera Jpg appears to bright to my eye. I re-checked the camera’s histogram for that file and confirmed that the image was exposed correctly.

Histogram.
This is the information displayed at the back of the camera. The histogram is just about ideal. The bulk of the exposure is at the center of the graph and there is virtually no clipping of shadow or highlight areas. (See my earlier post on snow exposure for graph interpretation.)

In previous posts I’ve explained that with modern digital imaging old-school film-based assessments of ‘under’ (too dark) and ‘over’ (too light) exposure do not allow for the most accurate way of selecting exposure. (see: Snow Exposure—Part 1)

Instead of using the image at the back of the camera, or even the photo on my home computer screen, to judge exposure, I use the histogram. This graph allows me to select an exposure that maximizes the amount of information captured by the camera on-site.

In this case, although the Camera processed Jpeg seemed too bright (over exposed), the camera RAW file was perfect.  Since the problem was in the camera’s translation of the RAW to Jpeg, the solution was simple:

I converted the RAW to a Jpeg manually, which produced a result that matched the scene. This retained excellent highlight detail in the snow, produced a pleasing exposure for the side of the locomotive and hills beyond, while retaining good shadow detail in the tree at the left.

Here's the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established 'picture style'. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words its was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, on with my perception of how the 'landscape' style Jpg had interpreted the image.
Here’s the camera RAW file. This has not been interpreted by in-camera processing to conform to a pre-established ‘picture style’. The result is perfectly exposed. I simply converted the file to a Jpg manually and scaled it for display here. I did not adjust exposure, contrast, or color. In other words it was an easy fix: there was never really a problem with the file, only with my perception of how the ‘landscape’ style Jpg had interpreted the image.

I did not manipulate or adjust the file except to scale the image and convert it to a Jpg for presentation. (the RAW file is far too large to up-load effectively).

For more on snow exposure see:

Photo Tips: Snow Exposure—Part 1

Photo Tips: Snow Exposure–Part 2 Histograms

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20th Anniversary Post

Amtrak’s California Zephyr on Donner Pass on this Day 1994.

Just a few minutes ago I was scanning some slides when I noticed that this image was exposed exactly 20 years ago—February 19, 1994.

Amtrak's California Zephyr ascends Donner Pass near shed 47 on February 19, 1994. Exposed on Fujichrome, scanned with a Epson V600 scanner on February 19, 2014.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr ascends Donner Pass near shed 47 on February 19, 1994. Exposed on Fujichrome, scanned with a Epson V600 scanner on February 19, 2014.

I was driving west on I-80, and pulled into the rest area west of Truckee, California opposite Shed 47 on Donner’s east slope.

I made this photograph on Fujichrome using my Nikormatt FT3 with a Tokina 400mm lens. While not my typical camera and lens combination, it did the job for this photo. This image appeared in TRAINS Magazine a while back.

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DAILY POST: Sunset at Worgl.

Arctic Conditions in Central Europe Made for Great Light and Cold Fingers.

A Westward EuroCity train with Italian carriages accelerates away from Wörgl, Austria on February 1, 2006. Exposed on Fuji 400F slide film using a Canon EOS 3 fitted with 75-300 image stabilizing zoom lens.
A Westward EuroCity train with Italian carriages accelerates away from Wörgl, Austria on February 1, 2006. Exposed on Fuji 400F slide film using a Canon EOS 3 fitted with 75-300 image stabilizing zoom lens.

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.

 

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SPECIAL POST: SEPTA in the Snow

Afternoon and evening, January 21, 2014.

SEPTA in snow
SEPTA local arrives at Overbrook on the way to Thorndale. Canon EOS 7D photo.

This morning dawned with a blood-red sunrise. Something about a red sky in the morning?

What I’d call ‘winter’ has been given all sorts of new fancy names. Probably the most absurd is the ‘polar vortex.’ Next up is the term handed to today’s precipitation: ‘bombogensis.’

Call it what you like. By about 2:30 pm today 6 inches of snow was improving photography all over Philadelphia, and by 5 pm there was 8-10 inches was making for interesting images.

My brother Sean and I spent the afternoon in Philadelphia making photos of SEPTA and snow accumulation while running errands. Falling and drifting snow made for some dramatic photography opportunities.

SEPTA in the snow
Inbound SEPTA multiple unit approaches Overbrook Station. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Late-running Amtrak Keystone service crosses over at Overbrook. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Late-running Amtrak Keystone service crosses over at Overbrook. Canon EOS 7D photo.

SEPTA number 10 trolley takes the corner at Lansdowne Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.
SEPTA number 10 trolley takes the corner at Lansdowne Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.

SEPTA trolley
SEPTA number 10 glides along in the snow on the afternoon of January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.

PCC trolley
A vintage PCC in Route 15 service ambles along snow-covered Girard Avenue. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Trailing view of a SEPTA PCC on Girard Avenue, on January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Trailing view of a SEPTA PCC on Girard Avenue, on January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Snow exposure I always tricky. My basic rule of thumb is to use the camera meter to set a gauging point, then open up (over expose) by 2/3s to a full stop above the camera meter. Using the histogram on the back of the camera, I then fine tune my exposure depending on the setting.

I detailed how to interpret the histogram for snow exposures in an earlier post. Click to see: Photo Tips: Snow Exposure–Part 2 Histograms

Cleaning the sidewalks on Viola Street at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Cleaning the sidewalks on Viola Street at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signal shows a 'stop' aspect. January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad position light signal shows a ‘stop’ aspect. January 21, 2014. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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SEPTA train.
An inbound SEPTA MU arrives at Overbrook on the evening of January 21, 2014. Despite the snow, this service was on schedule. Canon EOS 7D photo.

PRR main line.
Former Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line looking east at dusk. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

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See related posts:  Exploring SEPTATake a Ride on the ReadingPhiladelphia’s Reading Terminal Revisited

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DAILY POST: Railroad Abstract.

And I don’t Mean Summery Statistics.

Tracks in snow.
Fitchburgh, Massachusetts; exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens, f10 1/500th of second, ISO 200, auto white balance.

Heavy snow covered Pan Am’s Fitchburg Yard. I made this simple photograph of a disused yard lead under the blanket of settled snow.

Tree shadows add for contrast and texture to a monochromatic scene.

I intentionally included the old switch stands near the top of the frame as a point of reference and for context.

Perhaps the image would be too abstract without them? I don’t know?

Maybe this would be better titled “Railroad Minimalism”?

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Photo Tips: Snow Exposure–Part 2 Histograms

 

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For years, friends have asked my advice on camera exposure, typically on-site with a train bearing down on us. Politely, I’ll offer suggestions—based on conditions, but such advice can be deceiving since conditions change quickly. For my photography, I often refine exposure as the scene unfolds. A train entering a scene may alter my anticipated exposure, which requires subtle adjustments at the last moment.

OVEREXPOSED HIGHLIGHTS
Ideal histogram.

Using the camera’s histogram to judge exposure is part of my latest technique for refining exposure and making optimum use of the digital camera sensor. A histogram reflects exposure information collected by the sensor. This is displayed as a graph that offers exposure quantification: it shows the range of data recorded by the sensor and alludes to data lost. The histogram allows me to gauge when the scene is over- or under-exposed. It solves much of the guesswork previously necessary when shooting film, while providing real information by which to adjust future exposures. What it doesn’t tell me, is as important to what is displayed on the graph.

Using film, ‘over-exposure’ inferred that too much light reached the emulsion and resulted in an image that appears too bright, while ‘under exposure’ inferred that too little light, thus and a dark image. It was never as simple as that, but that’s good enough for the moment.

The advent of digital imaging combined with the ease of post-processing using digital technology has changed the definitions of exposure, so far as I’m concerned. I can now use information from camera sensor on-site to help capture the greatest amount of information.

Histogram Underexposed Snow1_1

This is not much different than my traditional approach to black & white photography. The new tools offered by modern digital cameras have altered my means for calculating exposure.  More to the point; the need for obtaining desired visual balance between light and dark in-camera isn’t part of my exposure technique because the appearance of the exposed image in the thumbnail on the camera display doesn’t accurately reflect data collected, while the final image may be best refined after exposure.

Here’s a difference between film and digital: Film sensitivity is less definitive than with digital sensors; simply, the data accumulated during a digital exposure fits between definite parameters, while with film significantly more information may be retained than is readily visible to the naked eye. Beyond these limits with digital, data isn’t recorded (to the best of my understanding). Thus to obtain the greatest amount of visual information a digital exposure must be calculated to be carefully placed between the image’s deepest shadows and brightest highlights. The tool needed to gauge this decision is the camera’s histogram.

Histogram_Overexposed1A histogram displays a series of lines progressing from dark to light. These lines reflect the number of pixels exposed in the various gradations. How this data is collected isn’t important for this exercise. Crucial, is the assessment of the histogram in order to make future exposures that don’t lose critical information in extreme highlight or shadow areas.

Real life situation; Palmer, Massachusetts February 10, 2012.
Palmer, Massachusetts February 10, 2013.

When I make snow photos, I expose in a manner to place the bulk of information toward the center of the graph. I pay close attention to highlight falloff. Losing detail in the brightest parts of distant clouds, or at the center of locomotive headlights isn’t a problem, but losing detail in snowy foreground is undesirable. Ideally, the graph will taper gently into the extremes, indicating the smallest degree of loss in the deepest shadows and brightest highlights.

The histogram is extremely useful when exposing bright snow scenes, because most camera automatic settings are not tuned to expose for large fields of white and tend to grossly misjudge a brightly lit and largely white scene. This typically results in under exposure which renders snow gray rather than white and, risks opaque shadows (a substantial loss of information). It renders many elements too dark (such as the train passing through the scene). However, a few modern digital cameras have ‘snow settings’ that should overcome these difficulties.

 

Stopped down by one 1/3 stop seem to have made the difference between 'art' and garbage.

Before making my desired image sequence, I’ll make a series of test exposures to check the effect of camera settings. Based on information displayed by these graphs I’ll make exposure adjustments to place highlights and shadows appropriately. As my subject approaches, I’ll further refine my exposure by making adjustments in 1/3-stop increments. I’ll continue to compensate for exposure changes caused by the train entering the scene (including variations caused by locomotive headlights and ditch lights).

Displayed here are both hypothetical graphs to show how I read histograms, and images of the real graphs from my Canon 7D exposed in snowy scenes last Sunday, February 10, 2013. Both types of images are intended to illustrate how I’ve selected exposures.

I use the histogram feature all the time, but find it most useful in extreme situations. It has proved its value by eliminating uncertainties previously caused by the extremes of snow photography.

Some advice for the graph-adverse photographer working in snow: use the camera meter to gauge base exposure then override the meter by opening up by 2/3 of a stop (for example open  from f11 to f9).

 

CSX light engines roll through CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts on February 10, 2013.
CSX light engines roll through CP83 at Palmer, Massachusetts on February 10, 2013.

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Red Locomotives in the Snow; Mt Holly, Vermont

Vermont Rail System freight 263 led by former Texas Mexican GP60 381 works on Green Mountain Railroad’s former Rutland grade near Mt Holly, Vermont on February 18, 2002. Fresh powder, a clear blue dome combined with red locomotives and tonnage make for an irresistible combination. Cross-lighting the scene adds a bit of contrast and drama. Yet the snow minimizes the effect of deep shadows. Exposing in snow takes a bit of practice. Most metering systems will tend to render the snow too dark resulting in an underexposed image. A good rule of thumb: close down one full stop from normal sunlit daylight exposure. With 100 speed slide film as used here; instead of f6.3 1/500th, I’d recommend about f9 1/500th. An advantage of working with a digital camera in snow is the ability to check exposure on site, and not have to wait until after the action has passed to find out that the photos are exposed incorrectly.

Vermont Railway GP60 at Mount Holly

Nikon F3hp with Nikkor f2.8 180mm lens, Fujichrome Provia 100F.

Photographs from my day following Vermont Railway GP60 381 in the snow have appeared in a variety of publications. I used this image on page 35 of my 2003 book TRAINS—A Photographic Tour of American Railways, published by Gramercy. The book’s cover features a broadside view of this locomotive near Chester, Vermont.

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