Like most people with a camera, I am tempted from time to time to take pictures of flowers. There are lots of flowers around, they are all beautiful and it is easy to take a good picture of them. One might say that it is hard to take a bad flower picture. Even technically flawed photos of flowers—out of focus or motion blurred—often work in an abstract sort of way. What I learned though, is that it is very difficult to take a really outstanding photograph of a flower. Trains are like flowers in that respect. It is relatively easy to take a good train picture, much more difficult to take a truly great one.
So the question becomes, "What else?" Read more
That “killer” image that we all look for is sometimes not enough. To tell a story, go deeper into a subject or come to terms with an idea or emotion that cannot be expressed in a single image, we may need to undertake a multiple image project.
Sometimes projects come together after the fact when we find among our images relationships that we didn’t see at the time we made the shot. Sometimes projects are very intentional, involving research, shot lists, perhaps even a storyboard. Last month I mentioned David duChemin and his concept of using the camera as a tool of exploration, and I recommend his current video podcasts where he expands this idea in relation to personal projects. Simply put, David’s advice is to get an idea that interests you and is not too broad, and begin exploring that concept visually with a camera. Read more
Recently, I have been thinking about the role of photography in documenting the railroad landscape. Photography and the railroad grew up together. Both were born in the early years of the 19th century and photography has provided a valuable documentary record of the industry that helped power the industrial revolution and the creation of the modern world.
Like so many of us, my interest in railroading led to a parallel interest in photography. Not only did I have the pleasure of planning the photo, but later the images evoked powerful memories of people, places, and events I had encountered as I learned more about this fascinating industry.
At its very core, railroading is and always has been about connecting people. Whether it’s the conveyance of travelers from point A to point B or commercial goods from seller to buyer, serving people is the common link in all of railroading. It’s easy to spend time trackside and witness the locomotives, rolling stock, tracks, signals, buildings, etc., but when distilled down to its very essence, railroading is a very human subject to photograph.
Lull on CN’s Rivers Sub west of Portage la Prairie, 1984
I brought my camera, look at me,
While trackside, not a train I see.
Does that deter me? No, not I,
What’s that, grey ballast that I spy?
A groundhog brown, geese flying by?
Images to my camera card now fly.
When I get home, downcast and sad,
My NoTrophy photos don’t look half-bad!
NoTrophy, (a short form of NoTRain photOgraPHY) is a recognized trackside syndrome characterized by train photography completely unfettered by trains. Don't worry, it happens to everyone at some point. If it lasts more than four hours, don't consult your doctor. Just go home and come back tomorrow.
I have decided to present some of my best NoTrophy photography (or if you prefer, my worst railfanning photography) with poetry. I'm proud of the photos, I'm just not proud I had to take them...oh, the bleak and desperate futility of NoTrophy!