Tracking the Light Leap Day Special: Secret Photo Tip (the one you want to read, but don’t want to hear about).

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’.

Some examples:

‘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.

Not the dreaded single diesel long hood forward!
Not the dreaded single diesel long-hood forward!
In 1994, I spent three rainy days in the Oregon Cascades. It wasn't comfortable, but I was offered a host of incredible photographic opportunities. For me the results were worth the trials.
In 1994, I spent three rainy days in the Oregon Cascades. It wasn’t comfortable, but I was offered a host of incredible photographic opportunities. For me the results were worth the trials.

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.

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6 thoughts on “Tracking the Light Leap Day Special: Secret Photo Tip (the one you want to read, but don’t want to hear about).”

  1. That Cascades photo is fabulous! Location, please. I’ve never been out there but I want to check out that location & RR virtually. Also, it’s really getting painful to see so many of your photos too small. Please get somebody to help in displaying a larger version upon clicking a photo. I would volunteer if I could help, but I don’t know anything about WordPress.

  2. ‘I like to eat a full breakfast before making photos’. I wonder who you are thinking about here!!!

    1. I recall a trip up to Andover on Donner, some 23 years ago, when I encouraged an ‘unreasonably early’ start; the result was that we scored a cosmic light photo of a westward freight ascending the grade with low morning sun sweeping up Cold Stream Canyon below a layer of thick mist. I’m sure you still hold the early start against me, but it was worth it! BS

  3. Great Points.. I want to get out more. I never get out. Dealing with the rail industry daily, weekends, nights, days, mornings, evenings, Holidays, has made me want to stay in when in reality, I like being trackside.. We’ll have to get out when you return and are back in the saddle.. etc.. If figured with this above and thoughts that actually, being trackside has nothing to do with my daily job.. hence, saying to myself, “Get out more”

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