Ok, lets talk train tracks. In every intro to art class you will take I can almost guarantee you will be shown a picture of train tracks when learning about leading lines. And with good reason, too. Train tracks are literally the perfect example of leading your eyes around the image - they do everything that they are supposed to do - visually speaking. But we need to talk about photographing on train tracks - you need to stop it. Let me tell you why.
Before I dive in, I would just like to thank my younger brother for inspiring this post. He is currently serving an LDS mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Originally he was called to the Oaxaca, Mexico mission, but until Covid cools it’s jets, he has been reassigned to North Carolina. On at least two separate occasions my dumb dumb of a brother has sent home pictures of himself on a set of train tracks that are near his apartment. Every time I see one of those picture I launch into big sis mode and tell him how dangerous it is to photograph on tracks. Every time, without fail, he tells me that he can hear a train coming and move out of the way in time.... and then I’m met with another train track picture a few weeks later in my emails. -_-
So lets unpack this, shall we -
REASON NUMBER ONE: it’s ILLEGAL - they are private property and prohibit trespassing. this should be all the reason you need, but I’ll go a bit deeper.
Per the internet, roughly 1,000 people die a year from train related accidents. According to the Law Tog around 600 of those deaths have been from people trespassing on railroad property. - All of whom, I’m sure, thought they could hear the train coming and get out of the way in time. Just to clarify and bring that home, 600 people were not in their cars and instead walking, standing, sitting, doing whatever, on the railroad tracks and were killed.
The way sound travels when you’re on the direct path of the train is way different than hearing it off in the distance. You cannot gauge how close a train is to you when you are on it’s path, add that with how fast a train travels and it doesn’t tun out well.
But what about train tracks that are inactive? If you know with 100% assurance that the train tracks are inactive and you have permission to shoot there, I still would discourage it. What if you post that picture online and someone sees it, thinks it’s a cool shot and goes out to the tracks to get a picture - not knowing that yours were inactive? It’s a dangerous, influencing situation.
I get it - I even shot on train tracks in high school when it was “cool” to do so. But here’s the thing, I didn’t know it was dangerous and illegal. The second I learned, I stopped doing it. This post is meant to inform and educate - and hopefully nip the bud of any location requests any of my fellow photographers and I get.
And on a lesser, not intense at all level, it's tacky. Not to make light of the situation, but railroad tracks in the photo world are full of cringe. Think of how you did your hair in the 7th grade - for me that was my awkward year of switching from middle to side part and growing out my bangs in one fell swoop without the use or knowledge of a hair straightener. Not cute. Railroad track pictures are very 00's and are akin to selective color and sepia tone. Add in a leather jacket and your "blue steel" look and whoa buddy - welcome back to 2003!
We can joke about bad trends all we want, the most important takeaway I want you to absorb is this: Stop photographing on train tracks! It's super dangerous, super illegal, and your picture won't even look cool - I promise you, I will be able to come up with a much cooler shot.
Your family and future will thank me <3
(Inactive tracks in Draper)