On Photography: I Made the Long Trip Because Making Photographs is What Photographers Do

I was talking with a fellow member of the Akron Railroad Club a while back about my chase of Nickel Plate Road No. 765 as it steamed from Ashtabula to Youngstown.

He noted that I had driven 150 miles and only photographed the 765 in three locations.

In his mind that didn’t make the trip worthwhile. The distance involved was a major reason, he said, for why he had not chased the Berkshire locomotive when it pulled a pair of public excursions in Northeast Ohio in late July.

Distance is a factor when I plan my photo outings, too. There is only so far I am willing to travel.

But in the case of the excursion of the 765 on the Youngstown Line, the distance involved was never an issue. Anywhere within Northeast Ohio is not too far for me to travel.

Steam locomotives don’t operate on mainline railroad tracks all that often in Northeast Ohio or, for that matter, many other places. So I viewed this as a rare opportunity.

Another ARRC member also downplayed chasing the 765, calling the Youngstown Line a “bland” piece of railroad.

He acknowledged the rarity of getting a steam locomotive in action, but he just doesn’t care that much for steam locomotives.

When guys start explaining why they don’t want to do something, there usually is an underlying reason they are not revealing for why they don’t want to so something. We must make our own decisions as to how to spend our time and resources.

I tend to have wide interests in photography subjects. That is not true of everyone. Some guys have narrow interests and all manner of rules for when and what they will or will not photograph.

One of my regular railfan travel friends once refused to go to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad to photograph trains during the winter, telling me to do that on my own.

So I dropped him off at his house and did just that. I came away with some of the best winter images I’ve ever made on the CVSR.

I had a similar experience in chasing the 765 on the Youngstown Line. One of my photo locations was near the summit of Carson hill coming out of Ashtabula.

I made what turned out to be one of my best images of all time of the 765 in action.

There have been times when I, too, stayed at home because I didn’t feel like getting out with my camera. Sometimes circumstances beyond your control keep you at home or elsewhere. You just can’t get away to make pictures.

But that is not always the case. Sometimes staying at home just seems more appealing.

Not every outing yields a memorable image and sometimes things just don’t work out as you had hoped. It happens to all of us.

But worse than an average to mediocre outing is what might have been that wasn’t. I know that feeling all too well and it continues to motivate me to get out with my camera.

Had I viewed chasing the 765 as driving too many miles for too few images, I would have missed out on that dramatic photo on Carson hill that is my second favorite image I’ve ever made of the 765.

Interestingly, a guy saw that image on my Flickr feed and tried to replicate it the next day. Unfortunately for him, the 765 wasn’t putting on quite the smoke and steam show that it did the day before. Having luck on your side remains a significant factor in making striking images.

Yes, it was a long drive to the Youngstown Line and back. It would have been worth it had I gone home after photographing the 765 at my first photo location.

Even if I had not gotten that compelling image of the 765 attacking Carson Hill, I still would have thought that the effort had been worth it.

I am a photographer and getting out to make photographs is what photographers do. It’s that simple.

And that is why I was willing to drive 150 miles for a handful of images of a working steam locomotive that doesn’t come around all that often.

Commentary by Craig Sanders

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One Response to “On Photography: I Made the Long Trip Because Making Photographs is What Photographers Do”

  1. James L.Leasure Says:

    Love it Craig,
    I drove to Indiana to get one photo of the 765.
    A long the way I got some other nice photos and was invited up
    in the cab of a freight train on my way to Monticello, IL.
    I put that photo at Monticello on my facebook!
    It took about about 24hrs. and 900 miles and was back in Cleveland
    working at the Midwest Museum.
    It was worth it!

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