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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?
Tracking the Lightdisplays new imageseachand every day!
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.
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.
Tracking the Light presents new material every day!
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”