Shot from the Train
I’m posting things a bit out-of-order, but just pretend I’m not.
If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m working my way across the South and up the East Coast, mostly by rail.
It’s my favorite way to travel. When I have gear to carry I drive, when I need to be somewhere quickly (or I’m crossing an ocean) I’ll fly. Otherwise, the train is the best way to go.
On the longer stretches, I’ll set up a whole mobile office at my seat — or spread out in the snack car — and be more productive than I could be at any static location. If I’m California, I often get distracted by social obligations (although calling them “obligations” would be lying as I get sick of working on the computer pretty quickly when there is stuff happening outside). If I’m in a foreign city, I want to explore, not sit on my computer.
Consequently, if I’m on a train for a whole day, or two, I have zero distractions other than making smalltalk with other passengers. More often than not in the rural South or Texas wilderness, I can’t even get cell phone service or internet access. I can usually blow through a 4-day editing backlog in a single day. After a few days of walking around a city, sitting at my computer on a train and doing the “boring stuff” on the way to the next spot is downright physically and mentally relaxing.
I also like watching the country roll by. Unlike a freeway, there usually isn’t a wall to block your view out the window. The photos I shoot from the window have a unique quality, due to the windows being tinted, filthy, and not being made of optical-quality glass. Most of the time the photos are horrible at best from a technical standpoint — and thus frequently useless commercially — but I’ve had several “from the train” photos do well in the stock libraries.
But that certain lo-fi retro quality they have… I like it.
Sometimes a crew member will turn a blind eye while I hang my camera out of one of the few windows that open, but I try not to push my luck.
Of course, shooting from the back window offers the second most interesting view on the whole train (the first being from the locomotive), so when I’m not working at the computer I can often be found watching the view from the last car, camera firmly in hand.