You know, I was NEVER going to take the above photo.  Seriously.  One of my top 3 photographs that I've taken that I personally enjoy seeing every time I present it, publish it, show it off, etc and etc I was never going to take.  Which actually is pretty odd for me, because like a lot of other photographers out there I plan out shots most of the time and let luck take the wheel the rest of the time ;-).  But in all seriousness, I do like to plan out my shots.  For landscape photos, if I have to wait months for the right season I will.  If the sun isn't rising or setting at a particular point in the horizon I'll wait for another day.  I'll check weather forecasts for those perfect weather conditions that fit my style before I head out with the camera bag.  I love it, to be honest.  I love that part of it, "working the shot" as portrait photographers like to call it.  Which actually means get as many photos out of a portrait shoot for one particular pose or lighting scene.  The key word is "work" here, I like putting in the effort and work.  I feel very accomplished, and more often than not frustrated because 99% of the shots you don't see aren't keepers.  But that, my friends, leads me to confess something. 

I broke that rule.

I completely broke that rule for the shot above.  The setting; Nickel Plate Road 765 on the point of the Joliet Rocket in Chicago, IL.   An excursion passenger train lead by a steam engine, NKP 765.  The train rain between Joliet (hence Joliet Rocket) and LaSalle Street station in Chicago, Illinois.  The event was absolutely spectacular, a feat put on by the very well run, organized and more importantly PROUD group of members of The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (links are posted below).  Without the crew, members and volunteers, stuff like this just won't happen.  It's the facts, folks.  As stated, more information can be found in the links below.  

So, let's go back to the photo above just for a moment.  YES, I broke one of my own rules I set for myself.  If you read my first blog, you'll know I was complete mess with my photographer when I was a beginner.  Link below

The Light

I picked up a book by a very talented professional photographer Bryan Peterson titled Understanding Exposure.  I think there's since been a couple updated versions including an all digital photography version as the original version was written when digital was a "new" technology.  I still have that book, by the way, and although it's written towards very new shooters, experienced and even professional photographers can use a refresh once in a while.  You should pick it up and read it if you want to get into photography, it's very easy to comprehend and very informational. 

What I learned from this book was simply this : JUST KEEP SHOOTING.  No matter what, just keep shooting.  Shoot whatever you see, that's the basis of photography right?  You shoot what you see.  You can be like me and preplan your shots and do all your research and make sure all the conditions are right for the look you are seeking, but you won't achieve it if you don't shoot.  Like I said above, the 99% of the shots you don't see from me are scenes that might not be technically right or what I was looking for, but I just kept shooting!

So how did I break this rule?  How did I lose my mantra for the entire time I was on the train platform?  I don't know, to be honest.  I wasn't on my game.  A group of friends and I took a vacation out to the Midwest to photograph old signals and odd little railroads across Illinois, reaching into Iowa briefly at couple points.  A couple of those friends were actually volunteers for The Joliet Rocket even.  We split up a day before then and it was just me and my good friend Paul.  The 2 friends working the train needed some belongings so Paul and I went to LaSalle Street station to deliver said belongings.  All around us were the passengers dressed in vintage early to mid 1900's fashion.  There was an old timey swing band playing.  All next to the NKP 765.  Not to mention the vintage cars being pulled by the steam engine.  It was amazing, it was great, it was unbelievable.  But I never took out my camera.  And I swear I'm a reincarnation of the early to mid 1900's because I love listening to swing and big band music (I used to be in a big band playing that era's music), I love the fashion of that era, it's just something that I really enjoy.  

I lied, besides this shot, I took a plain looking photo at the other end of the platform as they were doing a couple runbys for the passengers.  But, to me, that doesn't really count.  Just a shot to say I was there.  

There were so many shots around me that I was just blind to.  That's not like me to do that.  I love doing street photography and this was basically street photography, except elevated a million times.  Like....a billion million times.  It was like I was dropped in the 1940's in Chicago.  Man what a time that was, although a short time.  We had some lunch and were ready to head on out.  Walking slowly past the vintage cars and eventually NKP 765.  There's stairs at the end of the platform to the exit.  And I don't know what told me to turn around, but I just glanced back.  And Holy.  Crap.  The above scene was before my eyes.  I think I literally told Paul "I probably should take this photo" out loud.  *Click of the shutter* and that's that.  It was done.  And a photograph that'll remain in my personal top 3 and a very memorable one was taken.  It wasn't planned, it wasn't researched, I momentarily followed my rule of just keep shooting.  

If you're a photographer, and this is totally optional, follow my advice and do the same.  Looking back I wish I would have had my camera out just documenting the entire event.  It was such an awesome event and now all I have is just a memory of what it was like seeing everyone dressed the way they were in the historic city of Chicago all mingering about a restored vintage steam locomotive and vintage cars.  

BUT, I am very pleased and excited to announce I'll be volunteering as an event photographer, bringing my street/journalistic style to the forefront and present images to FWRHS to use.  So luckily I got a second chance to experience this once more, this time, with a camera or two strapped around my neck at all times!  

In today's world of digital photography, there's no excuse to not keep shooting.  I find files of images every day that I took that I forgot about and are actually sometimes pretty cool photos.  I love going through my archives and editing old shots and presenting them.  And I'm not the only one, there's a plethora of folks from the older generation that shot film that have slides from decades and decades ago that I just get awestruck over.  So maybe one day that'll be you.  One day decades down the road folks will look at the photographs you took (and no, it doesn't have to be trains) and will experience that same awestruck feeling.  But it will only happen if...


Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society

FWRHS Facebook

Information about the 2018 Joliet Rocket         

  • No Comments