Sometimes, It’s Better To Be Lucky Than Good

A BNSF freight train headed east into the Mojave from Yermo, CA.

A BNSF freight train headed east into the Mojave from Yermo, CA.

I didn’t get out of the car expecting to take this picture. My intended subject was a billboard on the other side of the railroad berm. (The Duck in It’s All About Timing on 10/23.) I’d walked perhaps 15 yards from the truck to this spot when I saw the train headlight in the distance. It wasn’t moving fast, but it was obviously coming my way, and what with how much bigger it was than me, it seemed a good idea to wait for it to pass before attempting to scramble up the berm, cross two sets of tracks, and then shimmy down the other side with an armload of camera gear in the dark.

When the locomotive turned a minor bend in the tracks I saw the possibility for this shot. There wasn’t much time to compose, and no time at all for a test shot, so I hastily dialed in my default settings, looked quickly through the eyepiece, and opened the shutter, hoping for the best. As the train rumbled by, I stared transfixed at the scale and the power of the big iron beast. When I heard the shutter close, I previewed the results to see what I got–much like a kid looking in his Halloween bag after leaving the first door of the night. And like that kid, when I saw the unexpectedly generous treat in the bag, I vowed to continue my quest all night long. It was another one of those moments when it was better to be lucky than good.

Tech Notes

93 seconds @ f/8; ISO 200; 35mm; moonlight only


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  1. Tim October 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    We don’t have many train lines out here. Certainly nothing with a long and straight stretch of track like this. Nice shot.

  2. Ron October 30, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Thanks! I think we have enough out here we could spare a couple for you.

  3. Tim November 1, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    Yeah, that’s one of the things I loved about shooting at Pauls was the sound of the randomly passing train every few hours.

  4. Elaine November 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    I would have loved to be there to experience the ground rumbling from the strength of the train. I am fascinated with their power and size. Being 2 blocks from our tracks here, I can feel the house shake when the heavy freight trains go by. Love the rumblings~

    • Ron November 5, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      Ditto on the fascination with their power and size. I’m forever 5 years old when a train goes by. (And a brooding adolescent most of the rest of the time.)

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