Regular readers will recall a post a few months ago about the rather strange (to me) but widespread custom of photographers posing portrait subjects on railroad tracks. That post was called "Union Pacific to Photographers: Cut It Out" and it inspired a lot of discussion here. Many readers were skeptical that the practice could be dangerous, and a few flat-out refused to believe that someone could be surprised by a loud, large train that anyone could see coming from a long distance away.
It's unfortunate to have to get this kind of confirmation for any argument, but just a couple of weeks ago, on January 18th, in Auburn, Washington State, a 42-year-old Las Vegas man was struck and killed by an Amtrak Cascades passenger train traveling from Portland to Seattle. What was he doing on the tracks? You guessed it—posing for his girlfriend, who was taking pictures of him.
TOP says (again)—venture there yourself if you want to risk your own life—photographers do take foolish risks to get photographs—but keep your clients, friends and models off train tracks. Using train tracks as a setting for photographs is an illegal, unethical, and unsafe practice.
(Thanks to Jeffrey Goggin)
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Featured Comments from:
Nate: "For my commute into Auburn, I'm quite familiar with with BNSF/Amtrak rail that passes through. The freight moves noisily through town around 40mph, but the Cascades line practically flies by silently at 60mph. You really don't hear it until it's too late."
John Hall: "As a photographer and rail fan: Thank you for using your position (as a blogger who can reach many) to remind all of us of such an important message."
T Bannor: "If you stand on one of Chicago's Metra platforms as an express highballs through, you'll discover that you don't hear it until it's right on you. In open country, the engineer might not see you in time to sound his horn. There are a lot of videos on Youtube of Amtrak trains at 110+ mph that illustrate the point as well."
John Krill: "You don't even want to stand to close to the tracks as the train passes by. The wind turbulence can suck you into the passing train. This happened to an Orange County Sheriff a few years back."
Soeren Engelbrecht: "Some 15–20 years ago, I taught basic acoustics at the Technical University of Denmark. I remember using trains as a real-world example of a 'line source,' one characteristic of which is that it doesn't emit sound along its own axis—only perpendicularly. In the case of a train, this means that it is actually not as easy to hear as one would expect."