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Shot from the Train

21 Sep

I’m posting things a bit out-of-order, but just pretend I’m not.

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If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m working my way across the South and up the East Coast, mostly by rail.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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