As far as transit is concerned, Lisbon is the San Francisco of Europe.
Ok, you can nitpick about the methods of propulsion, cables versus juice, but with steep hills, outstanding urban panoramas and quirky twisting trackage in narrow streets and fully functional antique cars, Lisbon’s tram system has lots in common with San Francisco’s famous cable cars.
These cities have lots of parallels too, certainly in layout and appearance, and weather.
I made these photos in the Portuguese capital on a brilliant day in April.
There’s seemingly endless opportunity for photographs. But do you work with the shadows or in the shadows?
For the tourist, Lisbon’s trams are both transport and an attraction.
Over the last few years I’ve posted a variety of photos showing Dublin’s LUAS Cross City tram line under construction and trial/training runs.
In December 2017, this new LUAS service commenced from St. Stephens Green (at the north end of the original Green Line service) to Broombridge on Dublin’s Northside. But, at that time, I was elsewhere.
So last Friday (26 January 2018), Mark Healy and I went for a spin out to Broombridge and back. I made digital photos with my Lumix LX7 and colour slides with my Nikon N90S.
Back in April (2017), on the advice of Stephen Hirsch I visited the tram junction at Porta Maggiore in Rome, and those photos appeared in an earlier Tracking the Light post.
On my recent trip to Rome with Honer Travers in September we revisited this interesting location where several tram routes cross against the backdrop of a 3rd century Roman Wall and the Porta Maggiore city gate.
For added interest, the approach to Rome Termini runs on the east side of the wall and there’s a constant parade of Trenitalia passenger trains.
I like to use the Roman Wall as a frame.
I made these photos using my Lumix LX7 digital camera, but also exposed a few colour sldies.
The tram junction sits in the middle of a roundabout (traffic circle) with some of the most irrational driving I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the road chaos, we were able to nip across the street for a gelato (ice cream).
It was a clear blue dome and working with my Lumix LX7, I made these photos of trams working the streets of Zürich, Switzerland.
Zürich continues to paint its trams in its classic sky-blue and creamy white livery. This photographs well when the sun is out, but can be challenging on dull days.
The Lumix LX7 when used with the add-on external viewfinder is an excellent tool for urban street photography. I like the LX7 because it allows me to make both Jpg and RAW digital files simultaneously. The RAWs were especially useful here as I could more easily adjust contrast in post processing.
You know you’re having a photographically productive trip when you have a week’s worth of keepers after the first evening out.
Prague, Czech Republic is among the world’s great tram cities.
It’s hard to beat for its variety of cars and paint liveries, combined with stunning urban scenery, a large of number of routes and extensive route mileage (kilometerage?), plus intensive frequency of operation.
I’ve visited before, but I’m still stunned by observing the incredible number of trams gliding through the streets. This is among the most interesting urban railways, anywhere.
Here’s just a few photos from my Lumix LX7 exposed on a rainy evening in Prague.
Here’s another contemporary black & white view on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.
In the window of Ulster Bank is a view from 1916 showing the ruins of Dublin’s General Post Office, destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising. Old trams grind along near the old terminus at Nelson’s Pillar.
A child looks at us across the void of time.
Modern pedestrians are a focused on their phones or the ATM at the side of the bank.
Today, tracks are being re-built on O’Connell Street, and after a long absence tram service is expected to resume in 2017.
Illustration versus documentation: Often I set out to document a scene. My process and techniques are focused toward making images that preserve the way a scene or equipment appear. Often, but not today.
Creation of an illustration may not be intended as documentation. An illustration is created to convey a message; perhaps that needed for advertising, art, or publicity.
While photographing in Bordeaux, I found that the juxtaposition of the modern trams against both modern and historic architectural backdrops looked remarkably like artist’s/architect’s impressional drawings.
So, as an exercise in illustration, I’ve intentionally manipulated the camera RAW files to make them appear more like the artist’s impressional drawings, such as those often displayed as visions of the future.
Specifically, I altered the contrast and de-saturated the color palate to mimic a water-color tinted image. I did not destroy the original files, and so I have the benefit of documentation and illustration with the same photos.
Have I done anything fundamentally different here than with images created (augmented) by the manipulation of digital files to produce super-saturated colors, plus intensely contrast adjusted effects that result in dream-like sky-scapes?
Is a posed railway publicity photo that was heavily re-touched by air-brushing or similar alteration to be considered documentation?
In a later post, I’ll explore Bordeaux’s tram network in fully saturated color.
It was a week before September 11, 2001. I’d taken the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. During my first couple of days I rode around on the tram exploring the city.
In short 2001 was a very intensive year photographically. A week after ‘9-11’, I’d headed off to Spain in search of General Motors diesels and TALGO trains.
When my Estonian slides came back from the processing labs, I’d quickly picked out key images and the rest were filed away, largely unedited along with a host of other trips from the same year.
For years, I wondered what had happened to the Tallinn tram photos. I recalled riding the trams, but the slides were not mixed in with my other Estonian photos.
Complicating matters, I returned to Estonia a year later for an even more extensive trip and many of my photos of railway operations around Tallinn were exposed in 2002.
Last week, I found these images along with the photos I made in Spain, Finland, and Ireland, plus those along New York’s Southern Tier, northern and central Pennsylvania, the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Charlottesville, Virginia and Vermont, all of which were exposed over an 8 week span.
I’m glad I kept notes to sort it all out!
Tracking the Light Takes Many Angles on Photography!
Light makes all the difference. The current livery used by Brussels trams is silver and bronze. This tends to look sedate on dull days, and makes photographing the trams challenging, as they too readily blend in with the city’s architecture.
However, this silvery livery catches the sun nicely, especially when slightly backlit.
Exposure isn’t exactly intuitive.
Are you better to overexpose (allow more light) to capture detail in the deepest shadows and risk blowing out the silvery highlights? Or, instead, underexpose slight to retain highlight detail and let the shadows go dark.
I’ve chosen the latter course. With the caveat, that from the moment of exposure I intended to work the digital files in post-processing using Lightroom to control contrast for final presentation.
I’ve treated each of the files slightly differently, but in general, I’ve reduced the highlight exposure and boosted the shadow areas to allow for a more pleasing rendition.
I’ve passed through Charleroi, Belgium at various occasions over the years. For me it is a place similar to Newark, New Jersey.
Like Newark: Charleroi offers connections between transportation modes and is the location of an important secondary airport and has a light rail-subway that blends an historic network with modern construction.
Also, both city’s environments are characterized by post-industrial backdrops.
On Thursday, October 1st, a change of trains at Charleroi afforded me a 40-minute window to make photos. Rich polarized sun at the end of the day made for some nice lighting to capture the city’s trams and SNCB trains.
Low sun offers contrast and rich lighting that is well suited to making dramatic railway images.
Porto is an ancient and attractive city built along the River Douro. It was urbanized in Roman times, so relatively modern features such as electric trams, are really just a contemporary gloss on a place with a long history.
I think it’s important to put the timeline in perspective. There’s old, and there’s ancient! Car 131 is a one hundred year old Brill. While car 218 dates from the World War II era. Both add to the city’s charm.
There are three historic routes in service. Two wind through steep and narrow streets in the city center. The third works the river-front. The sound of the clanging bells is a thread to another era.
While riding one of the cars, I overheard an elderly British woman explaining that her great grand-parents lived in Napoleonic times. Napoleon was routed from Porto by the British Duke of Wellington.
Wellington was born in Ireland (although he famously disparaged his birthplace) and in the Dublin’s Phoenix Park, across the river from my apartment, stands the Wellington Testimonial (that celebrates his military victories). I can view this giant obelisk from my window. So there you go!
In my last post I covered the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). Today, I’m focused on the London Tramlink (an network centered on Croydon and previously known as the Croydon Tramlink). Here the terminology can get a bit confusing because while ‘Light Rail’ and ‘Trams’ are sometimes used to describe the same type of service, in London these services are distinctly different.
The DLR is an automated grade-separated rapid-transit type of service, but features stations that very close together while taking advantage of very tight curvature. By contrast, London Tramlink features street running and is largely a ground-level operation, with drivers on each car.
Where the DLR uses trains consisting of ‘light rail vehicles’ adapted on modern streetcar design, Tramlink uses trams or ‘streetcars’ and generally runs these singly, with a driver (or operator, if you prefer) on each car.
However, while the styles of operation vary, both systems provide intensive localized rapid transit that is fully integrated with the London transport network. Both systems also have lines on former ‘heavy rail’ rights of way.
I first experienced the Tramlink in January 2006. On a particularly bleak winter day, I rode most of the existing network and made a few color slides. The lighting was flat and very dull, so my photos from that effort have remained in the processing boxes.
Last week, I had few hours to spare between appointments, and since it was sunny and bright, I opted to revisited the Croydon tram lines with the specific goal of making photos.
I was surprised to learn that the paint livery had changed. In my 2006 visit the trams were red and white, last week they were largely green and white, although there were a few running around in advertising colors. Also, there were some newer trams augmenting the older cars, which added to the variety.
I made photos with both my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D. All of these images were exposed in just a couple of hours. Thankfully, the trams operate on a close headway allowing for plenty of photo opportunities.