Professional photographer warns: stay off the tracks!

There’s been a lot of attention recently in regards to photography on and near train tracks. Operation Lifesaver has done its best to educate about the subject through a variety of social media and blog posts. In particular we want professional photographers to know about the danger of trespassing on railway property to take photos. One such post struck a chord with professional photographer Michael Hartrick, from Elmvale, Ontario. His comment on our Facebook page sparked a conversation we wanted to capture for our larger audience in the hopes that his message will help persuade other professional photographers to stay off the tracks! [caption id="attachment_8892" align="alignright" width="239"]Michael Hartrick Michael Hartrick[/caption] Here’s what he had to say:

Why do you think taking photos on train tracks is such a popular trend?

I think there is a romantic aspect about trains and tracks, and how they link us to the past. We immediately associate them with travel, and they are often surrounded by open space and nature, which can make for an easy backdrop.

Why do you think photographers continue to shoot on the tracks even though they know there is risk to it?

I have asked this question many times in various forums - the ones who shoot on tracks believe there is little risk. They assume they will hear the trains or the signals and will have plenty of time to move.

What do you think needs to be done in order to break this practice?

I think the most important thing is education. Second, there needs to be a stigma attached to it, much like the campaign against smoking. We need stop glorifying the tracks, and start shaming the people that do. Word of mouth is very important to a photographer’s business, no photographer wants to be known as the one who puts people in danger.

How would you turn down a client’s request for a shot on the tracks?

I would simply say “no.” I would offer up alternatives that can give the same romantic feel: foot bridges, parks, and train stations can all be used without putting someone in harm’s way.

You're a passionate supporter of rail safety. Why are you so committed to keeping your fellow photographers safe?

Sadly, a friend I went to high school with was struck and killed by a train. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided. Now, as a father, I couldn’t imagine dealing with that sort of loss. I’ve read stories in the news about kids getting struck by trains, photographers getting struck by trains—it’s senseless and could have been avoided by staying away from the tracks.

What piece of advice would you give to other professional photographers, scouting new locations, in regards to scoping the tracks as a possible location?

Stay off the tracks! It’s been done to death (no pun intended). Be original, get out there and look around; there are endless possibilities.

What do you want photographers to know about rail safety? What's one thing you'd like them to remember the next time they're tempted to shoot on train tracks?

There is no safe way to shoot on tracks. Every time you are on the tracks you are in serious danger and breaking the law.

Why do you support Operation Lifesaver?

Education is the key to keeping people of the tracks. I like this program because it’s primary objective is to educate the public about how dangerous tracks are.   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. Remember to ALWAYS: Look! Listen! Live!