Part 2: Is the risk worth the shot: A photographer’s take on shooting near the tracks

With the ever-popular and disturbing trend of photos being shot on railway tracks and property by amateur and professional photographers, we wanted to offer up not just one, but two, photographer perspectives about shooting near/on the tracks. This life-threatening trend illustrates the need to make sure professional (and amateur) photographers, and their clients, increase their knowledge about rail safety and make it a priority at work and at play. For this week’s post, we sat down with Saskatoon, Sask., lifestyle and action sports photographer, Owen Woytowich, owner of Colour Photography, who offered up a candid response about the attraction of train track photos, how to meet a client’s needs without compromising their safety, and the challenges photographers face to capture the “perfect” shot. How long have you been a professional photographer? I’ve been shooting photos professionally for about 10 years. When shooting with your clients, have you had a specific request to shoot on the tracks? Yes, although not often. Do you prefer to shoot on the tracks? No, definitely not. After having done one or two shots on or near the tracks in the past, they start to look pretty generic. I mean, how many times can you have the lines lead to or away from the couple? It doesn’t seem very creative. I would prefer to shoot an image with a strong composition that captures who and what the couple are all about, and in an uncommon location. Did you know that taking photos on railway tracks is illegal and considered trespassing? I didn’t really think about it, because I never knew before. I’ve never even thought to find out if shooting on the tracks was illegal. Although, now that you’ve told me, it does make sense considering the railways own them. What piece of advice would you give to other professional photographers, in regards to scouting the tracks as a possible location? Look outside the popular and typical spots - that definitely includes railway tracks. I think a lot of it comes down not just to you being creative, but also having a solid consultation with your clients and knowing as much about them as possible: what their style is, what their hobbies are, what kind of lifestyle they have. Let that dictate your location - there's really no reason to consider the tracks as an option. The more personable you are and the better the relationship you develop, the more unique and meaningful photos and locations will come through. And you won't have to sacrifice anyone's safety. How would you turn down a client’s request for a shot on the tracks? I would deter them by having something else prepared which would capture an image I think the couple or subject would be happy with. You have to remember that there is always something new and unique ready to be captured behind the lens, and it’s up to you to convey that to your client.   Please remember that rail safety starts with all of us. If you’re a photographer, check out some of the free Operation Lifesaver resources available to you, including these 6 lifesaving rail safety tips for photographers. Share them with your clients—it will help give you some additional context to support the reasons as to why you won't shoot on the tracks when or if your client brings it up. Share this post with your friends, family, peers and co-workers so they know the importance of rail safety and how it pertains to shooting photos near the tracks. And 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!