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2019 Photography Project
One year is a convenient block of time. I can’t get anything done in a day. The same can be said for a week. Months are all different lengths and I can’t handle that. But a year…that works.
So 2019 will be all about my new photography project, the California Zephyr, the passenger train running between Chicago and San Francisco.
Why do a photography project on the railroad?
Time for an admission: I was a railroad nerd for some time. Granted, it was years ago, before I even started high school. I spent lots of time and lots of my parents’ money building model layouts. It was an escape and an exercise for the imagination.
I still do feel that way about rail – a romantic, old-fashioned way of exploring faraway lands in an era of high-speed, high-tech travel.
I was brainstorming projects I’d like to do in 2019 and something with the railroad was on my list. I live not too far from Truckee, home of the historic Donner Pass Tunnels, so access is easy.
Once the broad idea of “rail” was decided on, I finally narrowed it down to a specific project on the California Zephyr.
Description of the California Zephyr
Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs daily between San Francisco and Chicago. The route is just shy of 2,500 miles and over 51 hours of travel time.
The route passes through some of America’s most scenic landscapes, and the timing is planned so that you’ll pass through these areas during daylight. Highlights include the Colorado Rockies, along the Colorado River to the eastern Utah desert near Moab, and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The western half of the route follows the historic 19th-century transcontinental railroad that opened up a mass migration to the west coast.
A typical train consists of two engines, a couple of sleeper cars, a couple of coaches, a dining car, observation car, and baggage car.
What I’ll be documenting
There are so many aspects of the route worth documenting, but I’ve gotta stay focused in order to…stay focused. This could quickly spiral out of control if I just took pictures of everything. So here’s what I think would tell the story of the California Zephyr:
- The people who ride it
- Those who keep it running
- The scenery it passes through
The plan (for now)
I plan on taking the entire route once a season…so, four times throughout 2019.
In between, I’ll be doing shorter segments. Living close to a station is nice. But these could be single-day rides or shorter overnight rides. Most of the time I’ll spend a day or two in these stops to photograph the scenery the train passes through from an outside perspective.
There are some technical considerations to get through, photographing moving people on a bouncing, dimly-lit train 24 hours a day. I did an eight-hour “research run” this week to make sure I considered everything, and I did learn a few things.
Is there a book at the end of this? I don’t know. That’s not what I’m shooting for, but it will be considered as I get close to the end.
Do any of you have any exciting projects planned for 2019? I’d love to hear them below!