Railroad Track Photos

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by mark_harrington|1, Jan 20, 2015.

  1. Rangefinder magazine (WPPI) published an article featuring a high school senior session on a railroad track. This article resulted in a
    public outcry from the photography community due to the inherent dangers and potential criminal prosecution of both photographer and
    clients. I'm including a link to the response from Rangefinder's editor Jacqueline Tobin, in hopes that any photographer considering a
    shoot on RR tracks decide against it. And if to really hammer the point home just one day after reciept of the issue, a popular fitness
    actor was killed filming on tracks.
    Be safe and protect your clients.


  2. Yikes!
    As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I think the editor of Rangefinder did the right thing by posting the "don't do this!" letter you linked to. But I wouldn't blame her too much for failing to prevent the publication of the original photos by the train tracks. We are inundated by still images and video/movie images of people taking absurd risks. The actor who was killed apparently thought the images he was trying to get were going to be cool and he doesn't sound like a dummy.
    It's not even obvious to me that it was reckless for the photographer to shoot seniors on or near the tracks. Illegal, maybe — but I wasn't aware of that, and besides, practically everything you do these days is illegal if somebody cares to make an issue of it. (My daughter, the criminal lawyer, asked me recently if I was aware that in Texas, the law requires that you activate your turn signal something like 100 ft before the intersection where you intend to turn. Cops use this law daily to stop cars that they consider suspicious for some other reason.) If you are just trying to get the tracks into the image — not the train — if you're shooting on tracks with lots of visibility both ways and if you've got somebody acting as an early-warning spotter, well, photographing on a train track isn't an OBVIOUSLY foolish thing to do. At least it ain't obvious to me. I cross train tracks in my car half a dozen times every day. I'm careful. I never stop my vehicle on the tracks, ever. I always look both ways. But, by exercising a little common sense caution, I eliminate the risk.

    The story I haven't been able to get out of my head is the story about the bride (up in Canada, I think) that was washed away by the current in the river where she was standing for a trash-the-dress photo shoot. Tragedy for bride and her family — and for the photographer. Don't know what the exact situation there was: Maybe the photographer and the bride did something reckless, maybe it was just awful luck.
    I think some photographers do stupid things to get the shot. The book "Death in the Grand Canyon" has an entire chapter devoted to falling deaths caused by photographs. ("Back up just another foot or two, honey!")
    But life is dangerous.
    My advice: Be careful, use common sense, try not to break the law, make your insurance payments on time, say your prayers daily — and hope for the best.
  3. Indeed, there are risks. However, some of the tracks are totally inactive, but one has to know where they are and have plenty of visibility...just in case.
    Not sure I'd advocate a shoot on tracks, but I grew up walking next to them (school) on daily basis....and they don't scare me. The dynamics and the layout here (vs Europe) is somewhat different.
    Don't want to comment on the fitness guy, since I don't feel I have enough info as to what took place.
  4. Any time is train time!
  5. I wouldn't advocate shooting on the tracks mainly because of the trespassing issue.
    Certainly it's tragic when someone is killed or injured by a train, and I imagine it leaves horrible psychological scars on the train crew. But in all seriousness, it's pretty difficult to get hit by a train, at least accidentally.
    The attached photo may seem terribly dangerous, but it wasn't, in my opinion. Because the people there KNOW that trains are passing by, and that they should stay clear of the tracks in use. I would say it was about as dangerous as walking on a sidewalk next to the street. As long as your mother taught you to look both ways before crossing the street you're probably ok.
  6. I didn't know about the trespassing issue, otherwise I share the same sentiments as William (Porter). I think just like the urban shoots in the middle of the city with requisite traffic, one ought always to be cautious about the surroundings when shooting.
  7. This hoopla is a little ridiculous. Supposedly the fitness actor tripped and fell into the path of the train. In other videos he does calisthenics as trains pass right behind him. in others he uses the tracks as props for exercises. I mean are we really upset by this? really? It's not like he was demonstrating any self preserving behavior, or any common sense. The only people who really suffered from his passing are his family and friends (and the train crew), but they knew what he did, what his temperament was, and they must have expected a phone call like this for years. I can't feel too upset, nor would I allow his poor judgement to affect my behavior when I am shooting on and around train tracks - other than as an object lesson of exactly how NOT to behave.
    Frankly, you or your clients are 10 times + as likely to be killed shooting beside a road. Rangefinder didn't make an issue of that? Yet their pages frequently include this vastly more risky behavior.
    If you do use train tracks for pete's sake be careful! make sure everyone is aware of the environment Have a spotter. Be safe, and have a good shoot. Then put your seat belt on when you get back into your car - cause NOW you've just entered the real danger zone!
    And, while technically it is usually a misdemeanor, you know, like trespassing in old buildings, We are constantly doing that to get shots. I can't think of a single pro photographer (including most likely every single poster here - although I admit, I could be wrong!) I know who hasn't at one time or another trespassed on private property without authorization with their clients to use some fancy backdrop, or crumbling building, or overlook, or whatever. Sorry, but if one is 'wrong', both are.
  8. Apart from it being illegal and ridiculously stupid, it's also overused and stale.

    Why risk your clients' life and your own for an overused backdrop?
  9. it


    I stay out of the way myself.
  10. I've worked for 25 years for a transit company and had a job that takes me near tracks frequently. We have to receive annual safety training and have a mantra drilled into us " expect a train on any track in any direction at any time". Another fun fact - 32 pounds - the combined weight of the recoverable body parts when hit by a high speed train. Particularly with electric trains, they are silent and you can't hear them coming. Finally, in our organization it is often the experienced workers who get complacent who get killed. Be afraid and stay alive around tracks.
  11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_Rider_%28film%29

    On February 20, 2014, while shooting a scene on an active railroad trestle bridge, high over the Altamaha River in Wayne County, Georgia, second camera assistant Sarah Jones was struck and killed by a passing CSX freight train, and seven others were injured.[3][4] Production was suspended the following week[5] and multiple investigations into the incident are currently under way. Miller, Savin, executive producer Jay Sedrish, and first assistant director Hillary Schwartz were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass[6] as well as being cited by OSHA for "serious" and "willfull" safety violations.[7][8]
  12. I am with Marcus!

Share This Page