Old 01-07-2013, 03:34 PM   #1
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Default I know what a train looks like

[This is sort of an open letter to rail photographers in general. I'd appreciate any who would give this some amount of thought, etc. I also realize many people who will read this may simply be a railfan with a camera and that's not bad. But for those really looking to photograph today's railroads, here's something to consider.]

I know what a train looks like.

Many will know who I've talked with lately when I say this, but it's true. In fact, there probably will hardly be a soul who reads this post that hasn't seen hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of trains. We all know what a train looks like. In rail photography, though, we have the opportunity to capture the photographic subject we enjoy, as well as the people that run it and its surroundings, whether those be quaint towns, bustling cities, trying terrain, or extreme weather.

The bulk of the RR images on here center on the train itself, mostly with the locomotives as the key element in framing. As a genre, we have been influenced greatly by those who merely want to see another train picture. There's a lot of great talent in the hobby and I would like to encourage all of you to broaden your photo horizons some, both in RR subject and whatever else you might find of interest. Finally, I'll venture to postulate that the greatest compliments for your RR photography will come from those who are neither railfans, friends or relatives. When someone who knows nothing about railroads tells you he or she remembers your images, you've struck gold.

Disclaimer: Some on here are also way ahead of me when it comes to this. I have much to learn myself.

Adapted from a Mel Patrick comment.

P.S. I just realized how ObsCaresque this post is.
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Originally Posted by A Friend
everytime i see non-train photos of yours i think, "so much talent. wasted on trains."

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Old 01-07-2013, 05:17 PM   #2
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Each of us should shoot how we want to.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:11 PM   #3
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I agree with it to an extent, but what I dont get is what is the obsession with trying to turn the main subject of the photo, the train, into an amorphous feature, a streak, a blob of light coming out of a tunnel, these kind of photos generally do very little for me. For me the train should not be the only part of the photo, but it should be part of the photo.

Why does everyone like the Danneman's photos? Because they know how to balance the train and its surroundings (Also because we all want to take a trip to Montana)
Image © Mike Danneman
PhotoID: 411064
Photograph © Mike Danneman


Anyone can appreciate a photo like that, from the nut and bolts railfans foaming over the F45's (me) to someone who knows nothing about trains amazed at the scenery. Course it would be easier if we all lived in Montana.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:17 PM   #4
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I agree with it to an extent, but what I dont get is what is the obsession with trying to turn the main subject of the photo, the train, into an amorphous feature, a streak, a blob of light coming out of a tunnel..
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Originally Posted by crazytiger View Post
I know what a train looks like.
You'd be amazed at how great those blob and streak shots sell..

Not to mention that the perfect photograph that suits everyone at the same time has yet to be taken.

so it goes!

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Old 01-07-2013, 06:44 PM   #5
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You'd be amazed at how great those blob and streak shots sell..
I'm sure they do. Just like Justin Beiber albums.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:59 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by nikos1 View Post
I agree with it to an extent, but what I dont get is what is the obsession with trying to turn the main subject of the photo, the train, into an amorphous feature, a streak, a blob of light coming out of a tunnel, these kind of photos generally do very little for me. For me the train should not be the only part of the photo, but it should be part of the photo.

Why does everyone like the Danneman's photos? Because they know how to balance the train and its surroundings (Also because we all want to take a trip to Montana)
Image © Mike Danneman
PhotoID: 411064
Photograph © Mike Danneman


Anyone can appreciate a photo like that, from the nut and bolts railfans foaming over the F45's (me) to someone who knows nothing about trains amazed at the scenery. Course it would be easier if we all lived in Montana.
To each his/her own. I've received many nice comments on my night "streak" shots but it is also how you adapt to a scene.
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Old 01-07-2013, 07:27 PM   #7
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I agree with it to an extent, but what I dont get is what is the obsession with trying to turn the main subject of the photo, the train, into an amorphous feature, a streak, a blob of light coming out of a tunnel, these kind of photos generally do very little for me.
Can you post some examples of these amorphous train shots? I just want to be completely clear I understand what it is that you don't care for before I respond to your thoughts.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:12 AM   #8
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Each of us should shoot how we want to.
Some of the best advice I've ever seen.
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Old 01-09-2013, 03:51 PM   #9
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Can you post some examples of these amorphous train shots? I just want to be completely clear I understand what it is that you don't care for before I respond to your thoughts.
Here are a dozen:

Image © John Puda
PhotoID: 417960
Photograph © John Puda

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©

Image © Chase Gunnoe
PhotoID: 386103
Photograph © Chase Gunnoe

Image © Chase J Smith
PhotoID: 360379
Photograph © Chase J Smith

Image © Chase Gunnoe
PhotoID: 338862
Photograph © Chase Gunnoe

Image © Robert Butler
PhotoID: 331043
Photograph © Robert Butler

Image © Chase Gunnoe
PhotoID: 330927
Photograph © Chase Gunnoe

Image © Peter Reading
PhotoID: 324880
Photograph © Peter Reading

Image © Jon Clark
PhotoID: 309681
Photograph © Jon Clark

Image © J.B. Lockard
PhotoID: 275245
Photograph © J.B. Lockard

Image © Rob Schreiner
PhotoID: 261206
Photograph © Rob Schreiner
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:57 PM   #10
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Here are a dozen:
Yes, I knew what he meant.
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:08 PM   #11
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Yes, I knew what he meant.
So you were being pointlessly combative/challenging/nitpicky?
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Old 01-09-2013, 06:00 PM   #12
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I agree with it to an extent, but what I dont get is what is the obsession with trying to turn the main subject of the photo, the train, into an amorphous feature, a streak, a blob of light coming out of a tunnel . . .
You're assuming that the train itself is (or has to be) the main subject of the photo. Therein lies your problem.

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Old 01-09-2013, 07:13 PM   #13
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You're assuming that the train itself is (or has to be) the main subject of the photo. Therein lies your problem.

Jon
That the train has to be the main subject of the photo at RP.net is not what I would call a far fetched assumption....
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Old 01-09-2013, 07:45 PM   #14
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That the train has to be the main subject of the photo at RP.net is not what I would call a far fetched assumption....
I believe you're thinking "train as main subject" when in streak shots, the train is usually not the main subject, but there is a railroad interest there. In the same way that someone can upload a train-less depot shot, there are many ways one can upload a shot to this web site where the train is not the main subject.

Although I return to my previous position: Each of us should shoot how we want to.
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:45 PM   #15
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I believe you're thinking "train as main subject" when in streak shots, the train is usually not the main subject, but there is a railroad interest there. In the same way that someone can upload a train-less depot shot, there are many ways one can upload a shot to this web site where the train is not the main subject.

Although I return to my previous position: Each of us should shoot how we want to.
Agreed. Valid point. Especially that last part.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:33 PM   #16
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That the train has to be the main subject of the photo at RP.net is not what I would call a far fetched assumption....
I agree that it's not far-fetched, but that doesn't necessarily make it accurate. You know what happens when you assume . . . As Joe noted, there are plenty of railroad-related subjects that can be the main subject of a photo besides a train. The photos in the post above are some good examples. In particular, I would point out Chase's photo:

Image © Chase Gunnoe
PhotoID: 386103
Photograph © Chase Gunnoe


I would argue that in this case the landscape and the railroad's relationship to it are the main focus. The streak serves to highlight that in a way that a similar photograph showing the train clearly wouldn't do. The result was good enough to garner a PCA and the following relevant comments.

"Interesting to see the mountainous terrain of WV from above where all the peaks seem to level out into a broad desert plain. Initially, not my idea of a railroad(y) shot but upon second viewing there's definitely a story being told here. Great timing catching two trains working the route and thanks for sparing us the more common streak shot." - Mitch Goldman

"Wow. That's amazing Chase. I don't know what to say..." - Mr. Pick



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Old 01-10-2013, 12:16 AM   #17
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You'd be amazed at how great those blob and streak shots sell..
Seriously? I 'grew out' of that phase years ago. Are you telling me I should get back into it?
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Old 01-10-2013, 01:00 AM   #18
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Seriously? I 'grew out' of that phase years ago. Are you telling me I should get back into it?
Nothing says justification to me like a complete stranger giving me money for one of my prints.

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Old 01-10-2013, 02:49 AM   #19
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Nevermind.

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Old 01-10-2013, 03:33 AM   #20
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Here's the thing... my hobby is... wait for it... trains. Photography is a part of how I enjoy... what was that again... trains.

Now, while it may be in vogue to lessen the trains in your train photography... there is an end point when that stops being railfanning and starts being scenery photography.

I will railfan as I like, whether you like it or not. I will take the photos that I want to take, whether you like it or not. I will share them and post them on line, whether you like it or not. I will do these things, NOT because I am right and you are wrong (opinions on a topic like this are neither right nor wrong - they are simply opinions). I will do these things because this is what I enjoy and I will not follow someone else's rules on my avocation. I already do that in my vocation.

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Old 01-10-2013, 02:45 PM   #21
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Even though it's not directly related to the current discussion of "I know what a train looks like," when I saw this shot in the database

Image © Markus Gmür
PhotoID: 420804
Photograph © Markus Gmür


I couldn't help but to think, That don't look like no train I've ever seen.



I love this shot and the others of the Wuppertal Suspension Railway WSW, but it signifies the very problem of trying to define what a railroad picture is. For every "rule" some guys want to lay on us (and sometimes they want the rules to be stricter and sometimes they want them looser) there is always going to be a shot that pushes the boundaries. We should want that. Sometimes it's "three points of light" but other times it's an upside down train.

Which is another way of saying
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Old 01-10-2013, 07:50 PM   #22
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So you were being pointlessly combative/challenging/nitpicky?
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Old 01-10-2013, 08:08 PM   #23
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I'm firmly in the we should all shoot what we want camp. I am, however, interested in the way the "debate" here has developed. I would observe that, as much as all of us here shoot train photos, we are not all pursuing the same interests in the process of creating the photos we post here. Charles, as he mentioned in his post, likes trains and is setting out to capture trains. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Chase, though he has not participated in this particular thread, seems to be as interested in the infrastructure of the railroad when it comes to subjects of photography as he is in the trains that run on the railroad. In my case, I happen to like railroads and be interested in photography - so I shoot railroad photographs and submit them here in part because I've found that doing so helps me to improve my skills as a photographer. None of those is "wrong. But what seems to be happening in the course of the debate here is conflating "railroad photography" with "train photography". Naturally, the two overlap significantly, but they aren't the same thing. Note that the site's name is RailPictures.net and not TrainPictures.net. It claims "the best railroad photos on the net" and not "the best train photos on the net". The railroad is bigger than just the trains that move over the rails. I guess that's why I wouldn't assume that a railroad photograph has to have a train in it at all, much less a prominent feature. That doesn't mean that I'm telling anyone that they are wrong if they prefer images of trains to images of infrastructure - I just can't agree that that makes the latter any less of a "railroad picture".

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Old 01-10-2013, 08:34 PM   #24
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I've learned from the best!
Jim, one of your specialties is to pick on incomplete or weak writing and to challenge, even when the meaning is pretty clear. You seem at times to enjoy picking on less than pristine writing.
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Old 01-10-2013, 11:08 PM   #25
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Jim, one of your specialties is to pick on incomplete or weak writing and to challenge, even when the meaning is pretty clear. You seem at times to enjoy picking on less than pristine writing.
Hey, someone has to!
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