Old 10-09-2007, 05:18 AM   #1
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Default Dropped ditchlight question

Recently I was railfanning and photographing a train while about five other railfans were also shooting the same train. Most of us had just met moments before.

As the train came close enough to shoot, he dropped his ditch lights. I thought, "what a nice guy... those ditch lights always screw up my meter."

Someone else believed he did it to mess up the picture, so it wouldn't look like a moving train... and to mess with us.

I'm just curious what others on this list think. I still liked the shot I got, and because it was back lit, it won't be posted anywhere anyway. Just really curious, was this anonymous engineer being nice or being nasty?
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Old 10-09-2007, 05:28 AM   #2
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If I am correct (and I am not an engineer or a railroad employee so please do correct me if I am wrong) the ditch lights are usually turned on after the horn is sounded and remain on for about 60 secs or so. So could it have been possible they just shut off automatically as he approached?

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Old 10-09-2007, 06:01 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mustang11
If I am correct (and I am not an engineer or a railroad employee so please do correct me if I am wrong) the ditch lights are usually turned on after the horn is sounded and remain on for about 60 secs or so. So could it have been possible they just shut off automatically as he approached?
I've never heard of that happening. At night the engineer will often dim the headlights when they are meeting another train.

My bet is that the engineer did it to piss you FRNs off.
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustang11
If I am correct (and I am not an engineer or a railroad employee so please do correct me if I am wrong) the ditch lights are usually turned on after the horn is sounded and remain on for about 60 secs or so. So could it have been possible they just shut off automatically as he approached?
The ditch lights are required by law to be on any time the locomotive is moving forward. They will often flash when the horn is sounded, and reset after a certain period of time, but will never automatically shut off completely.

My guess is that the engineer was just being an ass. For every 20 crews out there who give a friendly wave and a blast of the horn, there's one that'll flip you off or do anything else they can to mess up "the shot." Like everyone else though, they're human -- they have bad days, life stresses outside of work, and everything else just like the rest of us. If it makes them feel better to be generally unpleasant, it's no skin off my back!
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:31 AM   #5
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I tend to look at this as a positive situation. Kinda like dimming your high beams when you're driving your car...
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:36 AM   #6
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To be honest with you. My images turn out much better when the dim their lights. Some guys are nice enough to dim the lights for you. I guess everyone has their own opinions but I think he was doing it to be nice.
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:56 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by NSFan14
My images turn out much better when the dim their lights.
Explain that please.
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Old 10-09-2007, 10:33 AM   #8
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Well turning off your ditch lights, except for a few exceptions like an on coming train, is a rule violation. There is a whole series of rules regarding headlights and ditch lights, like were they need to be on, dimmed off etc. Or what to go if they are not working. Lastnight a BNSF train ahead of my train had its ditch lights go out, so they were limited to 25mph over all grade crossings. Now if they had one ditch light working they could have proceeded at track speed.
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Old 10-09-2007, 01:41 PM   #9
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I know as many guys that will turn their dim their headlights and turn off the ditchlights out of respect for the photographer, as I do that would do so to "screw-up" the photo.

Yeah, there are guys out there that will do almost everything in their power to mess up someone's photo, and there are others who will get into their motor at notch 8 for a few seconds to throw up some smoke and maybe flames. Just depends if it's a crew who likes buffs or maybe are buffs themselves, or just don't give a shit one way or another. But there ARE guys that truly HATE foamers, and everything they represent. Don't know why, but they exist.

Reminds me of a funny story:

I was riding with a buddy about a year ago on a FXE GEVO, a friend of mine called to tell me a specific person we didn't care for was at a control point. As we neared the CP, I went down and opened the nose door and waved at him as we passed. The following day the message board he frequented was rather, active, especially from this individual after he saw how many people had "unblemished" photos of the same train.
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Old 10-09-2007, 04:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Kilroy
The ditch lights are required by law to be on any time the locomotive is moving forward. They will often flash when the horn is sounded, and reset after a certain period of time, but will never automatically shut off completely.

My guess is that the engineer was just being an ass. For every 20 crews out there who give a friendly wave and a blast of the horn, there's one that'll flip you off or do anything else they can to mess up "the shot." Like everyone else though, they're human -- they have bad days, life stresses outside of work, and everything else just like the rest of us. If it makes them feel better to be generally unpleasant, it's no skin off my back!
Thanks, Chris... and everyone. Two things came up for me in reading all these responses.

1) Since I've moved to DSLR I have a window into the cab of so many more trains than I ever did before. The range of expressions on the engineers as their trains are being photographed is wide indeed. Never realized how many waved at me before, and never realized how many gave me dirty looks.

2) Staying very ambiguous so as not to escalate or exacerbate a fight that is on-going in a certain railfan community that I am aware of, the reason this was brought up when I took the picture was that some local engineers who were also railfan photographers were apparently known for turning the lights off when they saw railfans other than their own personal friends shooting trains that they were running. When told this, I honestly thought it was a fabrication... why would anyone act that way, especially a fellow fan. Whole thing is very odd to me.
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Old 10-09-2007, 05:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoydie
But there ARE guys that truly HATE foamers, and everything they represent. Don't know why, but they exist.
Maybe you could figure out the why if you understand why you acted like this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoydie
a friend of mine called to tell me a specific person we didn't care for was at a control point. As we neared the CP, I went down and opened the nose door and waved at him as we passed. The following day the message board he frequented was rather, active, especially from this individual after he saw how many people had "unblemished" photos of the same train.
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Old 10-09-2007, 05:57 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Ween
Maybe you could figure out the why if you understand why you acted like this:
That was nothing to do with hating foamers, that was having everything to do with disliking that particular individual. If I was out to get all the railfans, I'd have left the door open, left engine doors open, etc.

So your attempt is noted, but in vain.
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:03 PM   #13
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hoy;

Why call them foamers? Also, this guy was railfanning, was he not? So while you say you don't hate railfans, you evidently hate this one railfan. And something tells me your name is getting around on that message group, but perhaps not in a good way.

I'm just a guy with a camera. I like to take railroad pictures. I don't care and sometimes don't notice if ditch lights are on or off. I'd love to get a hearty wave from a crew member, but if they don't want to, fine. I don't really care. I've had crew on the ground come and ask me not to take their picture and I oblige. I've had crew ask me to send them pictures and I'll do that to.

It's a hobby. If I wanted to see a group of people acting like spoiled children, I'd go to a playground.


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Old 10-09-2007, 06:36 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freericks
As the train came close enough to shoot, he dropped his ditch lights. I thought, "what a nice guy... those ditch lights always screw up my meter."

Someone else believed he did it to mess up the picture, so it wouldn't look like a moving train... and to mess with us.
Do people really care if ditch lights are on or off in a picture, at least to the extent that they think it messes up their picture? That's really odd.
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:39 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe the Photog
hoy;

Why call them foamers? Also, this guy was railfanning, was he not? So while you say you don't hate railfans, you evidently hate this one railfan.

Joe
I don't dislike him BECAUSE he's a railfan, think ya'll are missing the point, I dislike the guy for something completely unrelated to railroading. I just saw this as a great opportunity to screw him over, and believe me, he gives as good as he gets.
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:04 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoydie17
I don't dislike him BECAUSE he's a railfan, think ya'll are missing the point, I dislike the guy for something completely unrelated to railroading. I just saw this as a great opportunity to screw him over, and believe me, he gives as good as he gets.
Dislike is dislike, regardless of the reason. Some hoggers hate railfans and take actions to mess with their hobby...you hate this individual and took actions to mess with his enjoyment of the hobby.

The reasons don't matter because the end result is the same...
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:06 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
Dislike is dislike, regardless of the reason. Some hoggers hate railfans and take actions to mess with their hobby...you hate this individual and took actions to mess with his enjoyment of the hobby.

The reasons don't matter because the end result is the same...

The only thing an engineer or conductor can do to mess up one of my shots is to stop the train before it gets to me and go the other direction.
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:06 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias
Do people really care if ditch lights are on or off in a picture, at least to the extent that they think it messes up their picture? That's really odd.
I care.

890
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:07 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike B.
I care.

890
Please explain. Also, what is 890?

So is this an example of something that would piss some photographers off?



It doesn't bother me one bit that the door was open when I got that. But I get the impression that some people might think something like that "ruined" their shot.

Last edited by JimThias; 10-09-2007 at 07:14 PM.
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:20 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias
Please explain. Also, what is 890?
Like Chris said, by rule trains are required to have the ditchlights on. So, when the ditchlights are off, it's not right and can make someone wonder if the train was moving.
It doesn't ruin the shot, I'll still take it but sure isn't helping. The time it has the biggest effect is with a zoom shot like this one: http://www1.webng.com/tcwr/photos/DSC_15150006.jpg - This photo has bigger problems than the ditchlights being off, but it was the first that came to mind.
When I notice that the ditchlights are off I wonder why they aren't on and it creates a distraction.

890 is just the last three characters I needed to reach the required ten.

EDIT: Doors being open can and often does ruin a shot. If your example was mine, I'd consider it ruined because the door was open. Another reason to love standard cab engines!

Last edited by Mike B.; 10-09-2007 at 07:24 PM.
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:24 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike B.
Like Chris said, by rule trains are required to have the ditchlights on. So, when the ditchlights are off, it's not right and can make someone wonder if the train was moving.
It doesn't ruin the shot, I'll still take it but sure isn't helping. The time it has the biggest effect is with a zoom shot like this one: http://www1.webng.com/tcwr/photos/DSC_15150006.jpg - This photo has bigger problems than the ditchlights being off, but it was the first that came to mind.
When I notice that the ditchlights are off I wonder why they aren't on and it creates a distraction.
hmmm...doesn't distract me. I guess I'm different. I couldn't care less if the ditchlights are on or off. If the rest of the picture is good, then it shouldn't matter. And there are other ways to determine if the train is moving or not if the ditch lights are off. And if someone doesn't like your picture because the ditch lights are off, screw them. And I just started the last two sentences with the word "and." And now make that three...no, four...
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:44 PM   #22
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Jim,

There's some contests that I've entered that have pretty specific rules on what will disqualify a photo for entry.

A recent one I entered was for fall colors, but the guidelines are basically the same from contest to contest. Some get added depending on the scope of the contest.

1) No light engine moves. Must be able to see at least one freight car attached in some manner to the train.

2) Leading two locomotives (if two or more) cannot have any obstructions, including grass, sign posts, signals, fences, etc. (Exception granted for exiting tunnels or yard tracks on a case by case basis)

3) Headlights and ditchlights must be illuminated, or marker lights as appropriate.

4) Locomotive door must be closed.

5) Distracting shadows on leading two locomotives (if two or more) are grounds for immediate disqualification.

6) Photo taken where the photographer is clearly trespassing are immediately disqualified.

7). . . . .

There are a bunch of others, but most of them have to deal with the technical aspects of the photo more than the composition and style, such as sizes, formats, etc.

This particular group is a tough crowd to please, I've had many otherwise great images disqualified for some of the things above. Including one last year that had a bird in the foreground flying in front of the lead engine! Talk about nitpickers!

I'd probably say the judges at some of these little contests make the screeners here at RP look fairly lax. And there's often no money or prizes involved! Just bragging rights, how's that for challenge?
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Old 10-09-2007, 07:51 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoydie17
But there ARE guys (RR employees) that truly HATE foamers, and everything they represent. Don't know why, but they exist.
How can they distinguish whether or not you are a "Foamer" from several hundred feet away? Wouldn't any railfan with a camera standing trackside be considered a foamer then? I think we're giving them too much credit. My guess is 99% of crews could care less if you are a foamer or if you're even there, as long as you're not getting in their way.

As far as a cab door being open or ditch lights being on or off, who really cares? A door being open gives the picture some character and makes it stand out from the rest of the 200,000 boring common power, well-lit wedges with the doors closed. Same thing with the lights.

As far as lights messing up your shot; well, welcome to the train photography club. Get used to it and adapt.
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Old 10-09-2007, 09:02 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoydie17
I'd probably say the judges at some of these little contests make the screeners here at RP look fairly lax. And there's often no money or prizes involved! Just bragging rights, how's that for challenge?
I don't think I would WANT to have the bragging rights with respect to that group!

But to each their own; they, RP, and anyone else can choose their criteria, and I choose whether or not to participate.
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Old 10-09-2007, 10:08 PM   #25
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I don't think I would WANT to have the bragging rights with respect to that group!
I've learned more from some of the people in these groups than I have anywhere else with respect to railroad photography.

It has certainly made me look at my photographs with alot more discrimination than when I first embarked on this hobby.
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