Over the years I’ve traveled with dozens of railway photographers with whom I’ve learned elements of railway photography.
Among the most important lessons I’ve learned, one has has very little to do with specific railways, locomotives, signals, or old stations. It doesn’t specifically relate to different types of equipment and isn’t really about cameras, types of film, or the definitive virtues of one media versus another.
Normally, I avoid philosophical preaching and I remain reluctant to instruct people how to conduct their affairs.
However, I think this tip may help some photographers—this is if they choose to accept it and react to it.
So, what is it?’
When you’re out making photographs avoid your invisible barriers— those things in your head that discourage you from being in position to make great photographs.
In other words try to avoid letting your arbitrary personal opinions, feelings or established prejudices from materially interfering with your focus on photography.
By ‘invisible barriers’ I mean things you can control and not personal obligations, physical limitations or other real impediments. The invisible barriers are what some people call ‘foibles’.
‘I don’t like to get up early.’
‘I like to eat a full breakfast before making photos.’
‘I don’t like cloudy days.’
‘I don’t like engines that are running long hood forward.’
‘I don’t like traveling more than 45 minutes from home.’
‘I don’t like driving in rush hour traffic.’
‘I don’t like locations that are too close to rivers.’
‘I hate the cold/heat/wind/dry air/rain/snow/dust storms/tornados.’
‘I only like passenger trains/freight trains/short lines/mainlines/Alco diesels.’
‘I don’t like tree branches.’
‘I only like trains climbing grades with a defined row of hills in the distance.’
‘I like bright sunny days.’
Any or all of these things may be true for you. However, when any of these things get between you and a photographic opportunity, your photography may suffer.
If you want to push your boundaries consider reconciling those arbitrary foibles that may be preventing you from being in place to get the best possible images.
Being in-place is key. If you are not there, you can’t a make photo. All the excuses in the world are no substitute for being there: so, Be There.
Push your limits. Get over the small things that are your invisible barriers. Work out what may be keeping you from your optimum photographic potential.
Not a good tip? Here’s a question:
When documenting a scene what’s the benefit of allowing invisible barriers to shape your photograph or prevent it? Answer that for yourself, not for me. I’m just giving tips.