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Railfan Trip Reports > Railfanning Without A Camera

Date: 10/23/07 03:39
Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: Narr8rdanny

I was planning to go railfanning on Sunday after doing some errands but the weather was icky and I realized I didn't have my camera with me anyway.

Then it occurred to me: Do I HAVE to have my camera to enjoy railfanning? What happened to the days when I would go sit by the tracks with nothing but a radio and a coke and just enjoy the sensation of the trains, the outdoors and the solitude? In my early trainwatching career I had many, many camera-less outings just exploring and watching.

I wonder how many of us, me included, started bringing a camera along to "legitimize" an otherwise strange and unusual hobby?

"You mean you're just standing here waiting for a train to come by?"
"Why, no sir!. I'm a RAIL PHOTOGRAPHER!"

As if there's something wrong in doing the same exact thing as someone who brings a blanket to the beach, spreads it out on the sand, sits on it and stares out at the sunset, then leaves when it's over.

I agree that a camera really is a good thing to have along at all times, just in case "ole 618" or some such slips up on me by surprise. But must I be "A Photographer" to be a true railfan? I have spent countless weekends at Folkston when I never pulled the camera out of the Expedition. The radio, a lawnchair and an icebox my only railfanning tools.

I think I'm going to try this again soon. And if by chance "Ole 618" does come by, you'll just have to take my word for it. I'm enjoying the sensation of real trainwatching.

Danny Harmon

Date: 10/23/07 11:00
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: NormSchultze

Railfanning without a camera is, to me, like hunting without a camera. Its the hunt. The capture. Thats the fun of it. I also "hunt" B-17s. Only one flyer has eluded me and my lens. One day I'll get the shot.

Date: 10/23/07 12:05
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: mebuscher

After I got my big fancy camera I couldn't imagine railfanning without it. That same question pondered me one evening when I went out. What did I do before I started taking pictures of everything? Remember them? What a novel idea, remembering something!

It is different when you just watch trains as opposed to recording them. Now when I go out, I never ever forget the camera. My theory; and probably others too, if I don't bring my camera, something is going to pass by that is a once in a lifetime oppurtunity to photograph. But once the light starts to fade and it's too dark to shoot anything, I turn off the camera and just plain enjoy it 100%... like I used too.

Date: 10/23/07 18:32
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: edbac333

I couldn't agree more! Since I was old enough to crawl I always loved trains for the sights,sounds,smells,rumble in the chest,and raw thunderous power.I started taking pictues a few years ago but have mostly sidelined that because picture taking distracts me from just enjoying trains.You are right,somehow picture taking and railfanning have become synonomous.
Hey! Any (legal) way to enjoy trains is good!!!!

Date: 10/23/07 20:27
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera

How was your railfanning trip? I won't know till I get the pictures back! (in the days of film)

Date: 10/24/07 10:36
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: SOU3301

Conversely, and I'm just asking, why would the fact that I have my camera with me indicate that I'm not participating in "real trainwatching"? I personally don't think the presence of a camera, or lack thereof, adds to, or detracts from the trainwatching or railfanning experience. I do find it interesting, at the end of a railfanning day, to go home and look at the photos I've taken and observe the details of the locomotive consist that was leading that speeding intermodal train. I will agree that those who do not trainwatch, say, because it's dark and they can't get photos, are doing themselves a disservice. Much of the rail traffic through my neck of the woods is nocturnal, and I would certainly miss a lot if the inability to take photos kept me from trackside.

Date: 10/25/07 07:58
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: milwrdfan

I have found that when I have a camera or video recorder with me when trainwatching, I tend to focus too much on the images I'm trying to capture, and not enough on the rush of wind, the pounding of the rails, the rumble of the engines, exhaust smells, etc. I usually get decent pictures, but have missed the train itself and all of the sensory feelings of it.

If it's a special event or something unique I'll try and get a video or images. But, if I'm just out enjoying the day and watching trains with no specific target engine or consist in mind, that I get a lot more enjoyment out of just experiencing the trains going by, rather than being so focused on getting the picture that I loose the essence of why I enjoy watching trains - the power, the noise, and the excitement of the moment. I used to take video and still images a lot - not any more, and I enjoy the experiences more because of it.

But that's just me.

Date: 10/31/07 13:24
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: NscaleMike

I bring my camera...just in case...(in case of what, I don't know ;-) )..I was recently down in Kingman Canyon, AZ. Part of BNSF's transcon route...something like 100 trains per day average etc pass through there...

This was my third visit. Of the 30 trains I saw on Sunday...I only photographed about 10 of them...just being content to sit in my jeep and watch them negotiate the canyon.
During my formative railfan years (in the early eighties) in Glendale, Ca...I would visit that depot at night with a host of other railfans...me with my scanner only to listen...it was a nice social gathering.

Date: 11/03/07 17:32
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: railtrekker

There are times when I feel absolutly lost without a scanner much less a camera! Then I sit trackside and pull out my lawn chair and a magazine or two and just enjoy the sun on the back of my neck, a nice cold Coke in my hand and listening to the birds and crickets instead of the crackle of the scanner. Waiting for it to be broken by the horn off in the distant then the rumbling of a 21,000 ton coal train in run 8 giving it everything it has to assault Kirkwood Hill at a whole 5 MPH as the flanges meet the inside of the rail with the piercing screech of metal on metal. Ah yes the days of old when we would all just sit trackside and wonder what was next!

Date: 11/03/07 22:28
Re: Railfanning Without A Camera
Author: F40PHR231

One time I went with the Gal down the Columbia Gorge to do some waterfall sightseeing. She asked if I wanted to bring my camera, I said nah lets enjoy it without a camera. Of course, that had to been the day UP DDA40X 6936 came down the Gorge in perfect weather and sun!

From my experience, anytime I don't bring the camera something rare comes by or a wreck happens, so I always have it within reach anywhere I go.

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