Archive for November 2015

What is Real?

One of the most common questions I hear or read about regarding a railroad photograph is “did it look that way in real life?”. The implication is that the photographer hasn’t accurately represented what was there.

In this way, railroad photography shares many of the same expectations that landscape photography has on it in that we need to accurately represent what was supposedly there and be representational. Both genres are bound by the generalized belief that a photographer has to use the found site aesthetics in light, environment, and contextual conditions and that creative interpretation of it is suspect.


It’s rare when you can easily identify a breakthrough in your artistic growth, especially soon after it happens.

In 2013, The Center for Railroad Photography and Art asked a question that really intrigued me…what is a creative railroad photograph? They posed this question in a call for entries to their annual photography award program, but they did not define creative. Creativity means something different to almost anyone you would ask, so how would I interpret creativity in terms of railroad photography?

Having looked at tens’s of thousands of railroad images in print and on the web over the years, I couldn’t define what made a creative image in the genre of railroad photography.

Images of railroads have been taken since the first steam powered locomotive was built which happened to coincided with the early development of the camera.  The camera is a mechanical device and its owner often pointed the lens towards the other celebrated mechanical device of the day, the railroad.

The mechanical equipment of a railroad to this day remains the focus of most railroad photography, whether it’s a roster shot, a standard ¾ angle wedgie or a calendar shot. I would guess that easily over 95% of all railroad photography is covered by these standard shots and there are now millions of these images and more taken each day. But the reality is that most of these shots are taken by railfans with varying degrees of camera and artistic skills and very few of these images are creative.
I have a decent collection of railroad subject and photography books and went through them to see if I could find an answer that would satisfy me as to what makes for a creative railroad photograph. Most photography in the genre is representational and not meant to be creative, which I suppose is fine as not all photographs are meant to serve the same purpose.

Welcome to My Blog about Railroad Photography

I’m a Designer, Creative director, Photographer, and a Father. Each of these titles has a relationship to the other that effects my evolving vision as well as how I divide my time. My formal training is in industrial design, I make my living as a creative director, my passion is fine art photography, and my kids have shown me how to open my heart.

While each of these roles consume most of time and creativity, this blog will be about my photographic vision and growth and evolution as an artist.

After a long absence from photography, I picked up a new digital SLR about 7 years ago and started taking pictures again. Over time, I evolved to make pictures with intent and hopefully with meaning. Making a meaningful image is a great creative challenge and striving to get it is helps push me further as an artist.