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The Southwest Railfan - FAQ

What dispatching job do you work?

I wish I had a hundred bucks for every time someone asked me that one...

It's Thursday, August 23, 2007 as I write this, and I currently work 2nd shift on the Avard desk (Avard Sub from Tulsa to Enid to Avard, OK).

My days off are Sunday and Monday.


Why doesn't this site have a "News" section?

What do I look like -- CNN? No, seriously, that's too much work. I'm lazy. Anyway, this isn't meant to be a "News" site... the primary emphasis here is on the photos. So about the only news that would even be appropriate would be when I add a new photo page. And you're smart enough to figure out when a new page has been added.... aren't you?


So, why do you take pictures of trains, anyway?

Short answer:
Because I don't fish or play golf.

Long answer:
I began photographing trains when I was about 12. It was a means of preserving the interesting cars and locomotives I saw. At that age, I just thought trains were cool, and I hardly ever saw them, so if I took pictures, at least I could look at those when I couldn't be around any real trains. Over time, I began to appreciate photography for its documentary capabilities. As I saw the railroads and trains around me begin to change, I realized that by taking photographs, I could document those changes, and preserve (in pictures, at least) the way things used to be.

I still shoot "documentary"-style photos today, but I also shoot:

* "News" photos -- to submit to railroad-themed magazines as news items;
* and "themed" photos -- which become part of collections grouped by specific category (photos of certain locations or specific rail lines in a defined geographic area, "seasonal" themes such as "Autumn" or "Winter", "people" shots, passenger trains, time exposures, artistic views, etc.) Often, I'll shoot "themed" images in response to an idea I've had to write a magazine (or web-page) article or photo essay. Whether or not the project I had in mind ever actually comes to fruition, I usually end up learning something about a particular rail line or location, and (hopefully) capturing some unique, interesting, and memorable images with my camera.

Regardless of what my objective is at any given time on any given day, I always challenge myself to create an image with good technical quality (i.e., sharply focused, properly exposed) and interesting composition. I guess I enjoy that challenge. That's a big part of why I enjoy railroad photography.

I also enjoy challenging myself to seek out un-documented or under-documented rail operations and locations. That's why I spent a lot of time in 1999, 2000, and 2001 hunting down obscure shortlines and industrial operations. There are the so-called "sacred places" of railroading -- the Cajons and Tehachapis and Sand Patches and Horseshoe Curves -- that everybody and their brother goes to and takes photographs. But what about places like Brownwood, Texas or Snyder, Oklahoma? What about lines like the former ATSF between El Paso and Belen, or the former SP "Sunset Route" between Sanderson and Del Rio? I've made it one of my goals to seek out and document such places -- in part, to show that they're just as deserving of attention as the so-called "sacred places" -- and in part because so few others are looking at them or documenting them.

When I feel I've made a successful photograph, I will sometimes submit it for publication to a railroad-themed magazine, such as Trains or CTC Board Railroads Illustrated, or occasionally to one of several other publishers who produce railroad-themed books and / or calendars. I always get a few "jollies" seeing my photos and credit line appear in print, and in knowing that I've shared some of the things I've documented with others.

Plus -- and this is the "foamer" in me talking -- I just enjoy being around railroads and trains.


What kind of camera do you use?

My primary camera is a Canon EOS 20D. I use a Canon EOS digital Rebel as a backup. My two main lenses are a Canon EF 28-70mm f-2.8 and an EF 70-200 mm f-2.8. I also have an EFS 10-22mm. I have a 1.4x extender that I can add to the 70-200 lens to boost its length to 280 mm, with a loss of one f-stop.

Many of the photos on this site were taken with my film cameras (either Nikon N4004S, Canon EOS-Elan, or Canon EOS-3.) For a majority of my film shooting, I used either Kodachrome 64 or Fujichrome Provia 100. I have also used Fuji's Sensia and Astia, Kodachrome 200, and some of the Ektrachrome films.


Lots of railfans (and railroad employees) are also into model trains. Do you do any modeling?

Oh, you bet. Here's a picture of a layout I've been working on: Click here to see my model train layout!

It's a long story. Click here to find out...


Can you help me get a job with the railroad?

No.

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