Is the risk worth the shot: A photographer’s take on shooting near the tracks

There is a disturbing trend of more and more photos being shot on railway tracks and property by amateur and professional photographers. This life-threatening trend illustrates the need to make sure professional (and amateur) photographers, and their clients, make rail safety a priority. We sat down with Georgetown, Halton Hills, Ontario-area professional photographer, Allison Clark, from Allison Clark Photography, to get her take on the attraction of train track photos, best practices as a photographer, how to meet a client’s needs without compromising their safety, and the level of awareness pertaining to rail safety and photography. When shooting with your clients, have you had a specific request to shoot on the tracks? I’ve gotten the odd request, but no one who was insistent. Most of my clients trust me to scout a good location so I have a fair bit of influence over that. I do participate in several photographer forums and there are regular posts with photographers asking for good locations (with tracks) to shoot at so it must still be a common request. Clearly there needs to be more education about shooting near the tracks, or there are simply people willing to take the risk regardless. Have you ever shot on the tracks? I have a couple times in the past on a short set of tracks that are abandoned going through Mill Pond Trails in Milton. I even had some of my own family photos that I still love on tracks years ago, but this was before I honestly knew better. So I can’t be hypocritical of people that do it because I have, but it’s one of those things I know better than to shoot on tracks now. What do you think is the attraction to shooting near or on train tracks?   I’ll admit that as a visual person I look at everything as interesting to photograph – especially anything with leading lines, and I have seen a lot of compelling work done on tracks. But shooting on active tracks is not something I would choose to shoot with subjects or if I were shooting scenery would make sure I am a safe distance away. Did you know it’s illegal and considered trespassing?   I didn’t know it was illegal until maybe about a year ago. There was a lot of chatter in forums about shooting on train tracks when a young girl had been killed taking pictures with a friend – there were some pretty lively debates going on, but for me it instantly changed my opinion. There’s no shot I’m willing to trade someone’s safety for. What piece of advice would you give to other professional photographers in regards to scouting the tracks as a possible location? I would let them know it’s illegal–I’m honestly not sure a lot of people know this –and encourage them to find something else. Is the reward really worth the risk? How would you turn down a client’s request for a shot on the tracks? I would simply talk about safety first (I actually say that very phrase probably a half dozen times during a shoot in my best teacher voice!) and let them know it’s illegal so I don’t shoot on train tracks. It’s like any other policy that I have developed until now; I have learned it is critical to know your business model and values, what is right for you and to hold firm on that.   Rail safety starts with all of us. If you’re a photographer, please make rail safety a priority. Here are some tips to keep you and your clients safe around the tracks. Please share this post with your friends, family, peers and co-workers so they know the importance of rail safety. For more information about rail safety, check out our extensive and free resources library. Be sure to bookmark to stay up to date on all things rail safety. Be rail safe out there, friends! Always remember: Look! Listen! Live!