In Skagway Alaska, we caught a sightseeing train from the sea up into White Pass. I took this just after we reversed directions to head back down.
The whole trip I hung out between the cars where I could get pictures of the landscape. On the way up we were in the first car behind the engine. Then the train pulled into a siding and the locomotive connected to the other end and, as you can see, we were at the back.
It was pretty high up, and the weather dropped about forty-degrees. Skagway used to be a mining town, and in the Klondike days before the train, miners would traverse the pass on foot or mule. That would be a hard slog indeed, so I was glad to be on a train with its trusty breaks all the way back down.
This is a spot I like to photograph. There are a lot of reasons but the main one is that the tracks form a leading line across the river. We are drawn to leading lines because they provide a sense of movement and direction. For some reason that’s important to us at an instinctual level.
Maybe the rules of photography are based on some primal desire for survival. If that’s true it’s an interesting idea and, all the more reason to break the rules once in a while. That might mean considering compositions that will not lead us back to safety.
I know I’m drawing a long bow, but writing about photos as I do forces me to think about these things. Let’s just say I do more than my fair share of introspection. In the end, I would really prefer to just get out and take pictures and worry about the intellectual stuff later. Or, not worry at all.
Manipulating scenes like this is a departure from normal, it’s not real so our minds are free to play a little; we each read into it something different.
When in Vancouver I will often pass through this station. I can never get enough photos in and around trains. Among other things they are studies in leading lines.
I sat at the end so I could look back as we pulled away.
I’ve created a mirror effect, which for me is a metaphor for a choice between two paths, one direction or the other. When we are children we have so much in common; as we mature we diverge in different ways depending on a million things.
We choose one path or another every single day, and often we spend time wondering if we made the right choice. Sometimes we make difficult choices and then wonder about them later. Life is setup in a way that forces us to make decisions; we have no choice but to make choices. Not choosing is still a choice. Maybe the lesson is not so much the decision but how we deal with it after the fact.
This image brings all that to mind, probably because I spend more time than I should thinking about decisions I’ve made. This is my metaphor for rushing through life’s stations, making choices, looking back yet trying not to look back.
I took this on a train to Anchorage Alaska as I stood on the platform of a rail car just behind the engine. It is fair to say I got a good dose of diesel fumes that day, especially in the tunnels. But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, it was an awesome experience. The more I ride trains the more pictures I have of coming through tunnels. It invariable evokes the metaphors of pulling through and the light at the end. These are things we all experience and it’s natural to find corollaries in the world to represent our inner thoughts.
As such I wax philosophical about images because sometimes I find it more interesting that what my camera settings were or what I was doing at the time. I’m interesting in interpretation and how we relate to images.
I prefer to find a hopeful meaning in an image. For me it’s important to be open to the possibility of good things. I think good things are not by chance, rather a state of mind; that’s what optimism is.
This is on the White Pass and Yukon Route railway outside Skagway. If you ever get a chance to visit this part of Alaska I recommend an excursion on the White Pass. It winds its way up a mountain range from the sea with spectacular scenery at every turn.
The best part for me is that each car has an outside platform where I could stand and take photos. I hardly sat in my seat the entire three hours. On the way up we were in the first car behind the engine. When reached the pass at the top of the mountain we pulled onto a siding where the engine relocated to the other end of the train. Now heading down the mountain I had an unobstructed view out the back of the train. This was one of a couple of tunnels high up the mountain.
There’s nothing quite like traveling through a tunnel on a train. This one is near the top of the mountain so when you come out the other end there are amazing vistas. As we were on the last car I shot this looking back as the entrance receded into darkness. In the next moment we came out along a high slope where we could see dozens of miles out to the sea below. Put this one on your list of things you must do.
These tracks cross the Manatee River between Bradenton and Palmetto. A lot of people like to stop here and take pictures, for some reason it seems to be a popular spot for prom photos. I suppose it’s an iconic location in this small blue collar town. Every morning and evening we hear the train blowing its horn as it crosses the river on the way to the plant.
I know I’m repeating myself, I’ve taken this image before. But every now and then I’ll do that, go back to a place where I’ve taken an image and do it again. Each time it’s a little different, I approach it with slightly newer eyes. Regardless, I think this shot always ends up being a little gritty, full on urban, no sunsets or beaches.
The bridge here is almost a mile long. In the middle is a section that lifts to let the boats pass. I’ve seen fishermen walk out on this although there are signs all over warning people to stay off. The river itself is fairly shallow except in the center. Just the other day I saw a couple of fishermen walk under these tracks in about two feet of water about a quarter mile out from the other side. Big rivers being what they are I find that a little extreme, you won’t find me doing that any time soon.