How Many Photographs of Something Are Enough?

An Ohio Central train heads south of Warwick on Oct. 19, 2008. It is one of the few images I made here when the OC still used this line.

Every so often you’ll hear someone say “get your photos now” about something that is in danger of vanishing in the not so distant future.

In showing his golden oldie photographs at Akron Railroad Club programs a photographer I know was fond of saying, “It will always be there, right?”

Well, no it won’t be.

Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna and Conrail were once everyday fixtures on the railroad scene of Northeast Ohio.

But that was decades ago. Some routes these companies once operated in the region have been abandoned.

I don’t disagree with the “get ‘em now” advice yet the contrarian in me is almost screaming to get a word in on the matter.

How much is enough?

There is a difference between getting something you don’t have and making one more image of something you’ve photographed before, perhaps many times.

I have a long list of those “I never . . . instances”

I never photographed a Conrail train in Olmsted Falls even though I spent many a day just 10 to 15 minutes or so away in Berea watching and photographing Conrail there.

I never photographed a Norfolk Southern train with New York, Susquehanna & Western motive power enough it was a regular during my eary years living in Cleveland.

I never photographed Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian anywhere in Northeast Ohio other than Berea and once at the Cleveland Amtrak station and once in Alliance.

And the list goes on.

I would later atone for my sins by making hundreds or photographs of NS trains in Olmsted Falls and getting other Amtrak trains in various places in Northeast Ohio.

But I never caught the Susie Q here and in fact the only photographs I have of Susequehanna motive power was made during the 1995 National Railway Historical Society Convention’s outing to Steamtown National Historic Site.

How many photographs does any photographer need to make of a given railroad at a given location? How much is enough?

I have a small collection of photographs of Ohio Central and R.J. Corman trains operating between Warwick and Massillon.

But Ohio Central stopped using this former Baltimore & Ohio branch several years ago in favor of interchanging with CSX in Columbus rather than Warwick.

For a short time in the waning days of OC’s use of the Warwick-Massillon line, I made a few trips on Sunday afternoons to chase and photograph Ohio Central trains.

I even managed to get a few photographs of Corman trains on this line.

But is it enough? No. But will it do? It will have to.

There are many photo opportunities that are beyond your reach because you can’t get out with your camera due to work obligations or other commitments.

Photographs need to think about how active they want to be. How much time and money do you want to invest in your hobby?

People who are highly obsessed with something seldom ask “how much is enough?” Whatever they have is never enough.

But I wonder sometimes what has been sacrificed to chase every last possible opportunity.

Most photographers I know are not that single minded. I admire the work of those who are, particularly if they have excellent photography skills.

The answer for most photographers is a matter of degree. I try to regularly get out and create photographs but recognize I’m never going to have the body of work of someone who makes it a quasi career.

The question we need to periodically ask ourselves is whether we are doing as much as we could with what we have. How did you spend that sunny afternoon yesterday? Making photographs or watching a baseball game on TV?

Life is not always either or. I’ve enjoyed watching games on TV and I’ve also made it a point to sacrifice watching a game to get out with my camera.

Perhaps the answer to the question of “how much is enough?” is this: Enough to say that you recorded it even if just one time.

You don’t need everything that is or was out there. You just need enough to gain a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment from your hobby.

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