Tag Archives: Sunset

Metrolink Pacific Sunset.

Last Friday, November 16, 2018, as the sun dropped near the horizon and a layer of cloud and haze filtered the light, I repositioned myself from San Clemente Pier, northward to the Metrolink Station at San Clemente, California.

I selected my location in order to make photos of a southward, Oceanside-bound suburban train with the sun setting over the Pacific.

Working with my FujiFilm XT1 fitted with a 12mm Zeiss Touit lens, I exposed several sunset silhouettes as the train arrived onto the station platform.

To make the most of the sunset lighting, I exposed manually for the sky, allowing the locomotive and cars and other terrestrial objects to appear dark.

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Do you see a Sunset?

Over the last few days many viewers (myself included) have experienced problems with Tracking the Light posts.

The reasons for these difficulties were both beyond my understanding and my control.

I’m sorry if this has caused you a problem.

As of this morning, the difficulty appears to have been resolved.

As a test, below I’ve inserted two versions of photo . If both do not appear on your screen/device there is still a problem.

So, do you see a sunset? If not, there remains a serious fault in the system I’ve used to present Tracking the Light.
Smaller and unmodified version of the above image.

I’m reminded that the internet is still a work in progress and doesn’t always perform as hoped. Thanks to Eric Rosenthal, Richard Solomon, and everyone who offered assistance yesterday.

Tracking the Light

June 26, 2010—Eight Years Ago Today at Steward, Illinois.

Sunset on BNSF’s old C&I Sub at Steward, Illinois June 26, 2010.

I exposed this sunset view using my Canon EOS7D eight years ago today (June 26, 2010).

To allow for more visible detail in highlight and shadow areas I adjusted the camera RAW file using Lightroom and scaled the output for internet presentation.

Tracking the Light is on AUTO PILOT Today.

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GO sunset—Sunnyside, Toronto.

Bitterly cold with a clear sky; that was Toronto on the evening of February 8, 2010.

I exposed this photo of a GO Transit train using my Lumix LX3. While this was a great little camera, it suffered from poor battery life. On this cold day, I rapidly worked my way through all three of my rechargeable batteries and had to take time midday to recharge one.

Exposed using a Panasonic Lumix LX3; f2.8 1/320 second ISO 80. Set manually. Vivid color profile.

By the time I made this frame, the last battery was flashing red, yet I had enough juice left for a few more photos.

My LX7 is a better camera and the batteries are much improved. Word to the wise: always carry a spare battery.

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New Brunswick in the Razor Shaft of Glint.

Over the shoulder light is easy to work with but doesn’t always make for the most dramatic images. When possible, I like to find dramatic lighting and to see what I can make of it.

So here we have an unusual, captivating and difficult lighting situation.

Looking down the New Brunswick, New Jersey station, fellow photographer Pat Yough and I found this brief shaft of light made by the setting winter sun.

Luckily during the few minutes where sun penetrated New Jersey’s concrete canyons we had a flurry of trains to catch the glint.

NJ Transit train 7004 has an electric at the back of the consist. I like the way a bit of reflected light catches the front of the engine.
The old Pennsylvania Railroad station at New Brunswick, New Jersey seems out of place with the modern buildings that now surround it. This view focuses on the classic architecture.
NJ Transit 3856 is bound for New York City.
Boxy double deck coaches make for an interesting composition. The stainless-steel sides catch the glint nicely.
Amtrak train 186 races eastward through New Brunswick as NJ Transist 3937 departs the outbound platform.

I made these images with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Lee 0.9 graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail. I made nominal adjustments to shadow and highlight contrast to improve the overall appearance of the images.

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Southern Pacific Tracks at Sunset—May 17, 1991.

It was more than 25 years ago that I made this evening view at Pinole, California using my Leica looking west across San Pablo Bay toward Mt. Tamalpias.

Fog rolls in from the Pacific; and the SP was still the SP.

Exposed with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on Kodak Tri-X processed in Agfa Rodinal.
Exposed with a Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron on Kodak Tri-X processed in Agfa Rodinal.

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Acela Sunset: Miracles of Digital by working with a RAW File.

The long days make for photographic opportunity. While modern digital cameras have the ability to capture scenes previously out of reach with film. Yet, sometimes there’s still work to be done after the fact.

The other day, Pat Yough and I were exploring locations along Amtrak’s former New Haven Shoreline at Madison, Connecticut.

 

“Headlight!”

“It’s the Acela.”

Working with my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a 27mm pancake lens, I had very little time to prepare for my image.

However, the colors of the evening sky attracted my attention and I knew I needed to use a relatively fast shutter speed to stop the action. I set the ISO to 6400, which allowed me to use a 1/500th of second shutter speed at f3.2.

(I set my camera manually.)

While the front of the Acela was exposed more or less as I’d hoped, the sky detail was washed out.

Later, using Lightroom for post processing, I was quickly able to produce three variations of the original image that brought back sky detail.

Admittedly the original file isn’t the sharpest image. But, I find one the great benefits of the digital medium is the ability to go back to the camera RAW file and adjust color and contrast sliders to make for a more pleasing final photograph.

Which of the four photos is your favorite?

This image was made from the unmodified RAW file. RAW represents the data captured by the camera. However, often there is greater detail in the file than is immediately evident.
This image was made from the unmodified RAW file. RAW represents the data captured by the camera. However, often there is greater detail in the file than is immediately evident.
First adjust variation. Using Lightroom, I inserted a digital graduated filter to bring in sky detail and improve color saturation, while making over all adjustments to contrast. I also cropped the image slightly to minimize the intrusive visual elements on the left.
First adjusted variation. Using Lightroom, I inserted a digital graduated filter to bring in sky detail and improve color saturation, while making over all adjustments to contrast. I also cropped the image slightly to minimize the intrusive visual elements on the left.
Second adjusted variation: My overall work was similar to the first adjusted image (above) except I lightened the shadow areas. This is an interesting example of an illustration, but really doesn't convey how the scene appeared to me, as the trees to the left of the Acela were really pretty dark. In other words I've over compensated. This does show the level of information captured by the camera.
Second adjusted variation: My overall work was similar to the first adjusted image (above) except I lightened the shadow areas. This is an interesting example of an illustration, but doesn’t really  convey how the scene appeared to me at the time of exposure:  the trees to the right of the Acela were  pretty dark. In other words I’ve over compensated in my interpretation. It  does show the level of information captured by the camera.
Third adjusted variation. Instead of using a graduated filter, as with the first two adjusted images, I made all my changes globally (in other words equally to the whole image area). I brought down the highlights, darkened the overall exposure, while nominally lightening the shadow regions to keep them from becoming too dark. I ever slo slightly boosted the saturation. While a little darker than the other images, this was is closest to what I saw at the scene. (Also, notice I've run this image full frame without cropping).
Third adjusted variation. Instead of using a graduated filter, as with the first two adjusted images, I made all my changes globally (in other words equally to the whole image area). I brought down the highlights, darkened the overall exposure, while nominally lightened the shadow regions to keep them from becoming too dark. I ever so slightly boosted the saturation. While a little darker than the other images, this was is closest to what I saw at the scene. (Also, notice that  I’ve run this image full frame without cropping).

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Sunset on the Sunset Route-Classic Kodachrome

The other day I was scouring the files for a photo Amtrak’s Sunset Limited as an illustration for an article I was writing.

Instead, I found this slide; one of hundreds of images I made along SP’s Sunset Route in southern California during the early-mid 1990s.

A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.
A Cotton Belt GP60 leads an eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Hill near Cabazon, California on the evening of January 29, 1994. Kodachrome 25 slide scanned with an Epson V750 Pro and processed using Lightroom.

I’d been following this eastward Southern Pacific freight over Beaumont Pass and I exposed this view near Cabazon on the east slope. The setting sun was enhanced by the effects of Los Angeles-area smog that acted as a red filter (an effect of heavy particulates).

I was working with my Nikon F3T and Kodachrome 25 slide film. Always a favorite combination for image making on Southern Pacific Lines.

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Tracking the Light New Year’s Eve Post: Black River & Western; reflections and sunset.

Of these two photos, which do you like best? (only see one photo? click on Tracking the Light for the full post).

As the years ends, I’ve drawn on two clichés; reflection and  sunset.

A couple of weeks ago, I exposed both of these  images using my Lumix LX7 on the Black River & Western.

Reflect back over the last year? Did you make memorable photographs?

Steam locomotive number 60 reflects in the windows of doodlebug M-55 at Ringoes, New Jersey. Lumix LX7 photo.
Steam locomotive number 60 reflects in the windows of doodlebug M-55 at Ringoes, New Jersey. Lumix LX7 photo.
Sunset symbolizes the end of the day, but also the beginning of night. It is when light is in transition.
Sunset symbolizes the end of the day, but also the beginning of night. It is when light is in transition.

For my sunset image of Black River & Western 2-8-0 number 60, I show a dual transition; the fading light of day is one; the other is the conceptual juxtaposition of the antique world of the steam locomotive with the modern world of tarmac roads, uninspired modern architecture and a proliferation of wires.

Happy New Year’s Eve from Tracking the Light!

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Classic Chrome File: CSX on the former Water Level Route with Storm Clouds.

In September 2000 a thunderstorm was brewing over Lake Ontario when I exposed this silhouette of an eastward CSX freight descending Byron Hill at South Byron, New York.

The wonders of film! Could I have made this image digitally? Would it have captured the texture in the sky? Maybe with a lot of work in post processing. Back then it didn't matter, all I had was film and I was happy for it.
The wonders of film! Could I have made this image digitally? Would it have captured the texture in the sky? Maybe with a lot of work in post processing. Back then it didn’t matter, all I had was film and I was happy for it.

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Hooray for Volcanic Ash!

Not really. In 2010, the massive eruptions of a volcano in Iceland brought havoc to air-travel across Europe. Personally, I was seriously inconvenienced on several occasions.

But the ash did make for some stunning sunsets!

Stockholm_Metro_at_Dusk_P1170083

I made this view of the Stockholm Metro on May 6, 2010 using my Lumix LX3.

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Making Better Photographs—Learning the Light: Four Phases of Sunset

The other day my brother sent some brilliant sunset images from Philadelphia. I commented, ‘nice drop-under’, and this led to a conversation about sunset light.

‘You should make a post about that’. And so here we are.

I’ve quantified sunset into four phases. There may be more. And in fact, sunset isn’t really so-divided, but rather one continuous changing of light. But recognizing these four phases can allow you to be in position to make better photographs (and that’s really what I’m trying to convey).

Too often, I’ve been traveling and just before the light reaches its optimum, I’ve found myself out of position.

As the sun sets, the quality of light is altered by clouds, air-pollution, and the horizon. Sometimes a lack-luster sunset in one of the early phases wll blossom during a later phase. Or vice versa.

Watch the sun and clouds and be patient.

My four phases of sunset are:

  • 1) Sun above the clouds
  • 2) Sun behind the clouds
  • 3) Drop-under (sun below the clouds)
  • 4) Afterglow (sun just beyond the horizon)
Phase 1. As pictured with an eastward Conrail doublestack train at Elkhart, Indiana.
Phase 1. As pictured with an eastward Conrail doublestack train at Elkhart, Indiana.
Phase 2: As seen with an Irish Rail overflow cement train at The Curragh, County Kildare just after 10pm  back in 1998.
Phase 2: As seen with an Irish Rail overflow cement train at The Curragh, County Kildare just after 10pm back in 1998.
Phase 3: 'Drop-under' as seen with Shiprock in northern New Mexico in August 1991.
Phase 3: ‘Drop-under’ as seen with Shiprock in northern New Mexico in August 1991.
Phase 4: Looking west on 18th Street in San Francisco.
Phase 4: Looking west on 18th Street in San Francisco.

Phase three, drop under is the often the best, yet most fleeting and unpredictable element of a sunset. This often occurs on an otherwise cloudy evening, when for a moment the sun as it nears the horizon will illuminate clouds from below.

The drop-under effect is accentuated when there is a thick layer of air-pollution as the combination of particulates and gases in the atmosphere bend the light toward the red-end of the spectrum.

The bottom line: if you want to make better sunset photos, don’t abandon your photography too soon. Find a suitable location and wait for the light.

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Extra Post: Sunset near Bergen op Zoom

A visit to the Netherlands this evening (29 March 2015) yielded this silhouette of an NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) train at sunset west of Bergen op Zoom.

NS_train_at_sunset_near_Bergen_op_Zoom_P1180584
Lumix LX7 view: Sunset on March 29, 2015 a few miles southwest of Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands. I made a similar image on Fujichrome using my Canon EOS 3 with 40mm lens.

 

Tracking the Light Wishes You a Happy New Year!

A Chicago, South Shore & South Bend electric races east away from the setting sun in October 1994. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikkormat FTN with 28mm lens.
A Chicago, South Shore & South Bend electric races east away from the setting sun in October 1994. Exposed on Fujichrome using a Nikkormat FTN with 28mm lens.

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DAILY POST: MBTA Boston October 27, 2013—Part 2


Sunday Afternoon and Evening.

MBTA
At Tower 1, MBTA 1123 shoves toward Boston‘s North Station. MBTA diesel fleet will soon be transformed by 40 new locomotives built by MPI using General Electric components. As is often the case with fleet upgrading, older locomotives may be withdrawn as newer ones come on line. Lumix LX3 photo modified in post processing to improve contrast and color balance.

Boston gets some great light and evening can be one of the best times to make photographs.

Sunday October 27th was clear in the morning, but clouded up a bit during midday. Towards evening the clouds melted away and a rich golden light prevailed.

MBTA
MBTA 1034 crosses the drawbridges near North Station as it shoves its train toward the terminal station. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA
MBTA F40PH 1025 departs Boston’s North Station on Sunday afternoon. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Boston
Boston Duck Boat. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA Orange Line.
Orange Line rapid transit cars in the early evening light. Canon EOS 7D.
Boston skyline. Lumix LX3 photo.
Boston skyline. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA
Orange Line trains meet north of Boston on October 27, 2013. Little remains of the old Orange Line elevated route that I remember from my earliest days. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

Tim Doherty and I photographed operations out of North Station as well as the north end of the Orange Line rapid transit, then went toward Boston College, where the Commonwealth Avenue branch of the Green Line crosses over the former Boston & Albany mainline.

The fading light of evening made for a dramatic skyline. I didn’t have my tripod with me, so instead racked up the ISO on my digital cameras. With my 7D I can work with a 4000 ISO rating and still get some very presentable images.

My memories of the Commonwealth Avenue line extend back more than 40 years, and my photography of the line nearly that long.

In the late-1970s, I made a point of exposed Kodachrome slides of the PCC’s that were then waning on that route. I never could have guessed than in 2013 some PCC’s would survive in daily service on the Mattapan-Ashmont line.

See yesterday’s post for more Boston images: MBTA Sunday October 27, 2013—Part 1

MBTA
An inbound Commonwealth Avenue line streetcar makes for a modern silhouette. Lumix LX3 photo.
MBTA Boston.
Green Line streetcars meet on the Commonwealth Avenue Line. Boston’s iconic Prudential building looms large above the city. Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. Exposed at f2.8 1/125th of a second at ISO 3200, photo file adjusted in post processing to improve contrast and color balance.
MBTA
Commonwealth Avenue at sunset.Canon EOS 7D with f2.0 100mm lens. Exposed at f2.8 1/60th of a second at ISO 4000-hand held.

See my new book North American Railroad Family Trees for discussion of the evolution MBTA and other commuter rail networks.

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Irish Rail at Stucumny Bridge, November 2009

Trains Pass At Sunset on the Quad Track.

In November 2009, I was at Stucumny Bridge near Hazelhatch (west of Dublin on the Cork line) to take a look at the recently opened quad track. It was a clear evening and the sun was an orange ball hanging in the western sky.

Shortly before sunset, up and down Mark 4 trains (Dublin-Cork) passed each other making for a nice illustration of the relatively busy line. I’ve always like glint photos where trains reflect low sunlight but these are hard to execute in Ireland for a variety of reasons.

Sunset of trains passing.
An unmodified view; Irish Rail Mark 4 trains pass on the quad track at Hazelhatch in November 2009, exposed on Fujichrome Velvia 100 slide film
using a Canon EOS 3 and f2.8 200mm telephoto .

I exposed this with my Canon EOS 3 and f2.8 200mm telephoto on Fujichrome Velvia 100 slide film. (Velvia has a super-saturated color palate that tends to enhance the sunset glow).

I calculated the exposure based on the sky rather than taking an overall reading that would tend to over expose the image. Here a bit of experience working with low sun really helps.

For me the real problem with the photo is the difficult wire cutting across the middle of the frame. There may have been an angle to avoid this altogether, but with the two trains moving, I had only a few moments to release the shutter. The electrical pylons and high voltage wires in the distance don’t bother me, these are part of the scene.

Irish rail at sunset.
Here’s the same scan of Mark 4 trains at Hazelhatch, but modified using Photoshop to effectively erase the cable cutting across the middle of the frame. This image is an experiment, and by far the exception to the rule. I very rarely alter the content of my images.

I’ve taken the liberty of making an adjusted version of the photo by using Photoshop to extract the wire. I enlarged the scan of the slide and using the ‘Healing Brush’ and ‘Clone’ tools, I effectively blended the offending wire out of the image.

This is not something I normally do. Typically, I don’t apply visual surgery to alter my photos. However, with modern tools and a sense for retouching this is not especially difficult. It’s taken me twice as long to write up this post than it took to erase the wire. You can be the judge.

 

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METRA Sunset at Highlands, Illinois

Metra train at Sunset
Highlands, Illinois on February 25,1995

On February 25,1995, I made this atmospheric image of an inbound Metra train on the ‘Burlington Triple Track’ at Highlands, Illinois (Today a BNSF mainline). A mix of thin high clouds and smog has tinted the winter sun. A cropped version appeared on the cover of Passenger Train Journal issue 217. At the time, I was employed as an Associate Editor at Pentrex Publishing, including PTJ, and often contributed photograph to the Pentrex magazines.

Also see: yesterday’s post on Metra’s F40Cs.

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Sunset at Bonn, Germany, August 1998

Deutche Bahn InterCity train 522 Berchtesgadener Land (Berchtesgaden—Hamburg) catches the glint of the setting sun at Bonn, Germany. Compare this view with that of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited catches the glint at Palmer, May 28, 1986 (posted December 7, 2012). Exposed on Fuji Sensia II (ISO 100) slide film using a Nikon F3T fitted with f2.8 135mm lens. Exposure calculated manually with a handheld Sekonic Studio deluxe light meter (approximately f8 1/500 sec).

In August 1998, I was visiting a friend in Bonn, Germany. I’d wandered down the Rhein by train with a promise to return by dinner at 8 in the evening. At Mainz, I bought a ticket for an IC (Intercity) train that scheduled to arrive in Bonn that would have just barely got me back in time. However, EC (Euro City) train 8 Tiziano (Milano Centrale—Hannover) arrived on the platform six minutes ahead of the IC train. I boarded this instead (and was required to pay a 7 DM supplement for the privilege) and after being whisked up the Rhein’s left bank arrived at Bonn with a few minutes spare. I was immediately distracted by the amazing red sunset that illuminated trains heading out of the station toward Köln. I decided to wait on the IC train that I would have taken.  Working with my Nikon F3T and Fuji Sensia II (100 ISO) I made a sequence of glint photos from the platforms and I over stayed my time at the railway station and so arrived a few minutes late. Not a problem: Understanding too well my predilection for low-light photography my host had anticipated my delay; she smiled, “Oh, when I saw the nice light, I assumed you’d be late.”