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Old 02-18-2015, 04:48 AM   #10
Noct Foamer
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 571

Originally Posted by Mgoldman View Post
And then, let's say you find a way. How do you find a way while you are vacationing in a new territory? How do you get access to even ask, let alone get permission to flash an engineer of a freight train?

I'm not trying to aggressively retort your statements, Kent - I'm genuinely curious.

The thing I love most about forums are the discussions. I learn a lot about the world as well as photography. (Actual discussions, not flame wars.) Anyway, over the years most train crews in my area already know me. The ones on the BNSF call me the "Flash Foamer" for crying out loud. A few months ago I started taking shots of the RCPE out in the western half of South Dakota for the first time. I have a radio and know where trains are waiting, and simply drive there, get out, and talk to them. This is entirely "within bounds" here. I chat and let them know what's coming up. They usually give me their emails so I can send copies (and I can later get future train line ups too. ) I also had the crews I do know further east pass the word along in advance.

It's not always possible for me to catch crews, of course. MOST of the time what I do is stand in a spot where I can be clearly seen, and wear a BNSF safety vest. (Traded to a trainmaster for a framed photo.) I have my camera on a tripod. I'm almost always at least 30 ft. if not 50 ft. off the rail. Trains clearly see me in their headlights, and by the time I pop the flash they have it figured out. (Foamer!) I really have no hesitation going anywhere in the Midwest and getting some shots. I have run into a few small town cops and local deputies, but they are simply curious. One in Minnesota didn't care about the flash, but was getting "excited" by the automatic rifle on my backseat. I put it back into a case to make him happy. The funniest incident was when one deputy spotted one of my flash up in the air, winking its little LED lights on the back. I was sitting out in the snow about 200 ft. away. He got out of his car and walked up to the flash. When he reached for it, I popped the trigger! The guy jumped back. I shined my flashlight to show him where I was, and I filled him in when he came over. Turned out he was a fellow foamer!

I have never photo'd trains east of Chicago/St. Louis, and in fact rarely go East at all. Mostly we go west, north or international for our vacations. I do get the feeling that "back East" is much more crowded, with people aggressively defending their turf. Don't really have that here, and Gary Knapp doesn't seem to either. I rarely ask permission to be somewhere to photo trains, unless it's a "sensitive" spot such as ethanol refinery, large grain complex, etc. I've never been turned down. My state only has about 800,000 people and it's all small towns with two small cities. It's been easy for me to get to know the owners of railroads, trainmasters, general managers, road masters, etc. I simply go to their offices and chat. The fact I know so many of their peers makes it much easier. In small towns, the usual way people get to know each other is to say something like, "Howdy, I'm Lars Olafson from Watertown SD." The usual response will be something like, "Oh, Watertown eh? Do you know Ole Siguerson? He's my wife's cousin." And so on. Almost always you'll come up with someone you mutually know, and once that's done you've just become a "local." Not sure if things are so much different Northern Plains vs. Back East, might be more of a rural vs. urban deal. You might be amazed at the places I've been given permission to photo from, just by asking in the right way.

Kent in SD
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