1000 Words: Why I Don’t Pursue Perfection

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As much as I hate to say this, but one thing that I’ve learned about railfans is just how anal they can be…. Forget about the common trackside discourtesies, I’m talking more about the photography end.

Every railroad photographer has their own style and that’s what makes us all unique. But (IMHO) when it gets to the point that one doesn’t want to shoot because the weather isn’t perfect or the lighting isn’t perfect or the setting isn’t perfect or they don’t like what that billboard in the background says or whatever, then you miss the point of railfanning altogether…. But then again, I guess that’s a matter of opinion, too….

One of the first things that my mentor taught me about train photography is that regardless of what you do, in one way or another, your final image quality will be compromised. For this reason, I’ve never pursued photographic perfection. Instead I like to focus (no pun intended) on getting a great shot.

I bring this to mind because today was dreary and rainy but an unusual train was coming through the area…. Train 906 (Norfolk Southern‘s Geometry Car a.k.a. the “Tech Train“).

In case you’re not familiar with it, these “Geometry trains” use many sensors to record a digital profile of the track within the car. The data collected is used for planning future maintenance and upgrades to the track. No. 34 is rebuilt from a retired SD35.

This was the second time that I’ve seen this train, the first time was Saturday, September 5, 2015…. For those of who who are good with the local rail history, you’ll recall that was day that the NKP 765 made its first excursion run to Delaware Water Gap, Pa. and back.

But getting back to today, I must admit that at first I was a very agitated with the gloomy weather, but I was going to record this train regardless. So I bumped up the ISO to 800 (knowing it would give me a grainy image) and waited for the show to commence.

At about 2:40 p.m., less than an hour after a disabled 14R elbowed its way out of the city, the tech train made its way up the hill. And underneath the pall of gloom and doom and the darkness of the overpass I composed, focused and fired.

The result (IMHO)…. Awesome.

The darkness of the day made it possible to see something rarely seen in photographs of these trains…. Their true purpose. Notice the beams of light coming from truck of #34. That’s the sensors digitally reading the track.

If today had been a bright and sunny day (as most rail photographers prefer) then it’s likely that these beams would’ve been washed out by the sunlight. But today was gray, somber overcast, a very imperfect day that (IMHO) made for a truly one-of-kind image.

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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