Bury the Railroad Track Shots

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The railroad track shot is uncool and dead. I challenge you to bury it.

It wasn’t very long after the first rail was hammered into the earth, when a photographer spotted the metaphor. Since then, tracks have been dramatized in billions of photos, artwork, commercials, and movies. Add the popularity and ease of entry into photography, over-posting to social media, and less creativity; railroad track shots have become a worn-out cliche’.

In the United States, it is ILLEGAL to shoot on them and near them. You are guilty of TRESPASSING on private property. When you snap a photo, you’re providing the evidence. Law enforcement thanks you.

Hold on. This is where those who don’t get it will react. It will be rapid revolt, denial of facts or simple apathy. I’m okay if you stop reading because I won’t change your mind anyway. To the others, please continue.

I am a professional Location Scout for commercials, movies, and commercial photography. I worked on a movie which involved a scene on the track and on a national commercial for a railroad company. On both of the projects, proper protocol was in play (permission asked and granted, safety meetings held, railroad company personnel were present while shooting, proper PPE worn, etc.). These steps are a professional, legal, and safe process.

Shooting on private property without permission is called “stealing a shot.”

Often, I am asked – “Do we need permission to shoot at location X versus shoot without asking?” I simply reply:  Would you be okay if a photo or film crew shot on your property (front lawn, backyard, dining room, or any of the land you own) or perhaps your place of business – without asking?

SAFETY.  You can get hit by a train easier then you think but most human beings are injured (almost daily) by being around tracks. They slip off the rail (which you should NEVER EVER be on) or fall against the steel or loose it off a bridge or are hurt in many other ways. Some of those people die.

Photo galleries of your local hobbyist-turned-photographer are cringeworthy! Teens, families, and babies are draped across active railroad tracks. By the way, does child protection services know about these people?

And if you are a Liker who thinks it’s ‘cute’ or ‘awesome’ – you’re an enabler.

After seeing local shooter’s websites, I reached out politely to inform them that it’s illegal and unsafe. Their reactions were negative: “I am offended you would accuse me of…”, “Oh that was when I first started” (but I’m not taking the photos down), “Who do you think you are?”, and I got at least one “F you.”

By the way, it doesn’t matter if the line is “dead” or that you’re shooting from the break in the track. The viewer of the photo doesn’t know that… It is the PERCEPTION – you are promoting it as okay.  Ironically, it’s still illegal.

If you are a model or subject or you hired a Photographer to take photos of you or your family, why would you agree to be led into a dangerous situation? I am baffled at parents that say OK to a photographer who says, “Let’s put your baby on the railroad tracks.”

Honestly, I too have taken railroad photographs. But a few years ago, when more photographers began to appear (including way too many amateurs) a change in thinking came to me. I began to feel odd, guilty, and trite when looking at the railroad shot. I began to say NO to clients that asked.

Then Sarah was killed.

Sarah Jones was a young camera assistant and an indirect colleague, ordered to follow trespassers – to “steal a shot.”  After I cried, with everybody else who cared, I grew angry at how standard procedures were not followed. I was embarrassed at the black mark the horrible tragedy placed on true professionals in the industry that get it and are safe – all the time.

If you call yourself a professional filmmaker or photographer, I challenge you to bury the railroad track shot. STOP putting people in unsafe and illegal positions. Think harder. Find an alternative location.

To those who don’t care about breaking the law or putting themselves and their subjects in harm’s way, I am pleading to you – to STOP.  If you’re a hobbyist or enjoy posting the next photo to social media – PLEASE DON’T.

Be smart. Be safe. Have fun and live.

Want more information or prefer to get involved with Railroad Safety?  Engage with Operation Lifesaver.

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See offenders?  Report them to local law enforcement or the railroad police (yes, there’s such a thing).

Are you at the early stages of your film or photo career?  Read my Open Letter to you about being safe and not being afraid to say NO.

Content COPYRIGHT Jamie Vesay    ANY USE requires permission.

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Fauna’s Dance

August 1, 2016   EXCERPT from the book Fauna’s Thread by Jamie Vesay.

All three Piels were at Katherine’s Collectibles. Since Fron had become obsessed with repairing vintage devices, he had set up a workbench in the back corner of the store. Katherine and Fauna were standing beside him as he tinkered with a 1960’s record player. After he tightened a last screw, he removed an album from a sleeve, placed it on the platter, and slid the switch to Start.

“All right,” he announced. “Watch and listen.”

Fauna was intrigued as the turntable spun. The arm swung over and the needle touched the record. Music! Her eyes grew in fascination.

“Awesome,” she declared.

Fron explained, “This is how we used to play songs. Back when you could see the music playing.”

Fauna watched as the needle drifted in the grooves of the album, trying hard to read the label in the middle as it spun. She leaned her ear to the attached speaker, bobbed her head, and started to dance.

Fron was proud of his repair. Katherine leaned over to him. “She and I need to go. I have a delivery on our way to dropping her at the sanctuary. I’ll pop over to the auction in Hastings and we’ll swing back around later.”

“Wait,” Fron said. “Let her enjoy the song.”

Fauna danced the length of the store and weaved in and out of the narrow aisles. The floor creaked and a few small items shook on the shelves.

Katherine consented. “It does sound great. I could make space up front. I bet it would sell right away.”

Fron suggested, “Or we could take it home.”

Fauna whirled and waltzed toward the back of the store. As she wound herself down, her momentum caused her to bump into Fron’s workbench. The needle scratched and the music stopped.

“Oops,” Fauna claimed. “Sorry. What’d I do?”

Fron’s eyes widened. He put the player’s arm on the rest.

Katherine warned, “It’s okay, but you have to be careful with this kind of music player.”

Fron kidded, “Don’t you all need to get going?”

 

COPYRIGHT  Fauna’s Thread, Jamie Vesay 2016

The Sandhill Crane Migration

Every year in central Nebraska USA, from late February to early April, a spectacle of nature occurs. Earthlings are graced by the presence of four hundred thousand Sandhill cranes, as they pause their migration and stop there on their way north. It is nothing short of magical.

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For me, the trip is a retreat. All devices are turned off, and soon the time seems to slow. The vast open sky gifts you an aerial canvas of panoramic clouds, top-ten sunsets and sunrises, and cool, crisp breathable air.

Certainly if you have the slightest interest in birds, do add this trip to your bucket list. You have no excuse for being too far away. People come from other countries to experience this, yet sadly there are many Nebraskans who have never been…

Time between sunrise and sunset is spent traveling along the country roads. Pull over to a safe place away from traffic (stay in your car!) and enjoy them as they gather in cut-corn fields, eating and socializing, and flying from field to field. Watch for the crane dance, when they jump and frolic and call.

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If you find a road off the beaten path and less traveled, you might see them hanging out – ON the road. And more dancing!

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At sunrise or sunset, be in a crane watch blind on the river. The cranes return to the shallow waters of the Platte River near sunset and roost there over night. They begin a new day by leaving the river at dawn to return to the fields – and the process cycles one more time.

th_Faunas Thread ONE SHEET Crane sunset 1 32415 Jamie Vesay RAW LBLD WM2x IMG_6804 - Version 2Many of you know, beyond my personal retreat to see the cranes, I have been developing a screenplay that is set in this place during this time. The latest is I am turning it all into a book, since it is so freakin’ visual – and the script format has limited my story-telling. Ironically, upon completion of the book, a few first readers will be filmmakers who have expressed interest. There is great hope of making a movie about it one day.

For now, you should plan a visit. Just go. Read my book when it comes out. Then go again. Breathe, see, embrace – enjoy.

Content Copyright Jamie Vesay