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Another Photographer Killed During Photo Shoot On Train Tracks

By Hanssie on July 24th 2015

Photographers, stop doing photo shoots on train tracks! 

You might be tired of hearing us reporting on fatalities during photo shoots on train tracks and frankly, we are sickened every time we hear about another preventable railroad track tragedy. Last month, Union Pacific launched a campaign – #TracksAreForTrains – to remind the public to stay off the railroad tracks and last night, another person was struck and killed by a train during a photo shoot.

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A 25-year-old male photographer was photographing a model on some railroad tracks in Downtown Fresno when he was struck and killed instantly by a northbound train. As reported by the Fresno Bee, the pair was trying to capture the southbound train in the background and didn’t notice the other train coming. Neither the model nor passengers were injured in the accident. Our thoughts go out to the family of the photographer and those affected by this senseless tragedy.

A common misconception people have is that you should be able to hear a train coming in time to jump off the tracks. Time and time again that has been proven wrong, as evidenced in our numerous posts about deaths on railroad tracks. Plus, the railroad track trend has long been overdone. So, photographers, we implore you, for the safety of you and your clients, please, please, please stay off the tracks!

Further articles on the danger of shooting on train tracks:

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com. Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Donna Smith

    The only train tracks I mess with are the ones that are shut down. In Colombia there is a whole hike along old train tracks, and in my current town there is a whole park built around old train tracks with an old train on them. I stay clear of the ones that get used regularly!

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  2. Dave Zerbe

    It is very unfortunate that you find photographer getting killed over something that could very well be prevented. I am from a railroad city (Reading, PA, the Reading Railroad on the monopoly board) and I take plenty of railrood images, on abandoned tracks. There are plenty of those around and if you look hard enough you can find them. Matter of fact they make better images since there usually are old railroad buildings nearby. May he rest in peace, it is very sad.

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  3. Kevin Calumpit

    No train tracks shoots, do more shoots at train stations! There are better places to shoot and other opportunities for incorporating vanishings lines other than railroads. Very unfortunate loss. :|

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  4. Samuel Sandoval

    Geez, was he able to hear the train coming or too busy taking pics?

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  5. Hugh Wolfe

    Many years ago I worked as a trainman, that’s a brakeman in old school terms. One of the very first things we were taught is to not walk between the rails no mater what direction. Trains can be surprisingly quiet thus you may not hear them because of the background noise or simply not paying attention to your surroundings. Either way it’s just common sense to not walk down the middle of the tracks nor balance on the rails. Yes I know it’s portrayed all the time in the movies… nobody ever said hollywood movies were good educational tools.

    I’m sorry we lost another photographer but at the same time I’m really tired of hearing about these persons lack of common sense. And to be wearing headphones while wandering the tracks, thats just plain stupid! Would you walk the lines between freeway lanes? Not if you have any common sense… so why walk the rails?

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  6. Geoffrey Ward

    Let’s also not forget that high speed trains are gaining popularity. So the time between seeing a train and getting hit is getting increasingly shorter.

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  7. Keith Thurman

    Folks, you cannot hear a train coming if you are on the tracks. If you are going to do a shoot on the tracks take a spotter with you to keep their eyes open for approaching trains!

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    • Kelvin Spacey

      Seriously? Like these photographers who were shooting either with other shooters or models but somehow still got smooshed?
      Better advice: Stay off the damned tracks! What is so hard about that?

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  8. hugh mobley

    there are plenty of abandoned RR tracks around, if someone must shoot around them.

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  9. Jim Tiroch

    I am a railroad photographer, and I have a page on Facebook that is trying to educate as many in the photography business as possible. Even if we save one life, we call it a success.

    As a railroad buff and someone who loves taking pictures of trains, everytime I come across someone who takes these kinds of “cliche” pictures, I always get the persons name, city and state and report them to Operation Lifesaver, a national program aimed and educating the public about railroad safety. I encourage anyone here to do the same.

    https://www.facebook.com/stoprailroadtrackportraits

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    • Ralph Hightower

      Is the Quaker Oats switching track in Cedar Rapids, IA safe to use? I don’t know if it’s been decommissioned. I haven’t lived in Cedar Rapids since 1994. But I have seen the train with a top speed of less than walking speed.

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  10. Adrian Nyaoi

    Isn’t it illegal in the first place

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    • Hugh Wolfe

      Yes it’s illegal, https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0617 Railroads don’t even like you taking photos of their facilities for security/terrorists reasons. It’s a changing world out there and we all have to adapt. Find a tourist railway to photograph… their more than willing to accommodate your photography needs especially if it benefits them with free advertising.

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  11. Michael Burnham

    Between the idea that “It can’t happen to me” and the belief that we are still living in the 1950s when all trains were either diesel or coal powered and noisy so they can be heard a long way away we are seeing more and more of these tragic incidences. I don’t use the term “accidents” any more because it’s the photographers choice to be in harms way. Let me just clearly that MOST METRO TRAINS ARE ELECTRIC AND AND EVEN THOSE THAT ARE NOT RUN MUCH QUIETER THAN MOST PEOPLE EXPECT. When they are “coasting” on smooth rails their approach can be nearly silent or especially difficult to hear when there is a lot ambient noise from traffic on roads or other places near the tracks. Those trains are majority that are involved in these incidences. Just stay off the tracks.

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  12. Tim Caisley

    Unfortunately this trend is unlikely to disappear until the Rail Operators start prosecuting the offenders.

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    • Eric Mazzone

      I only know of one time an offender was prosecuted, and it wasn’t the offender they went after, it was his family after they sued the railroad for killing him. The railroad countersued for the costs associated with cleaning his carcass from their property. IMHO that was the perfect response.

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    • Eric Mazzone

      A local photographer is a tad annoyed with me and another one for harping about this. I really don’t care, because so long as he doesn’t do this and get himself or anyone else killed it’s worth annoying him.

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    • Hugh Wolfe

      Unfortunately it’s physically impossible to monitor all the railroads right of way for persons trespassing. There are still somewhere in the neighborhood of 100K miles of right of way in the US, it’s kinda like trying to patrol the US/Mexican border.

      https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch3en/conc3en/usrail18402003.html

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  13. Eric Sharpe

    I’ve read enough of these articles that I have no desire to mess around on train tracks. Not worth it.

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    • Ralph Hightower

      In 1994, I lived in Cedar Rapids, IA working for a temporary job. Quaker Oats operated a switching train which crossed a city street and pedestrian paths; the top speed of the train was less than walking speed. Now, I wouldn’t be so stupid to walk in front of the train inches from me, but I did stand on the tracks with the train a few feet from me to take a photo with a disposable film camera.

      Later that year, the contractors had to attend an offsite meeting. The train blocked our path back to work. I mentioned to my friend, “We can jump the train!” He asked “How?” and I pointed over to the skywalk. We were booed by MCI employees.

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  14. Scott Mosley

    Very sad, the photographer, Chris, usually worked with headphones on (not sure if had them on last night). Didn’t really know him very well, but seemed like a really nice kid.

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    • Barry Chapman

      It is sad. I doubt the headphones would have made a difference, as he would probably have still mistaken the sound of the train behind him as the one he was trying to capture behind the model even without them.

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    • Ben Bee

      With headphones? Doubly stupid because they would have removed any sense of direction to the sounds aroubd him, and contributed to his lack of situational awareness.

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  15. Tanya Goodall Smith

    So, so sad! Please stay off the tracks, guys!

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