Old 09-30-2010, 07:47 PM   #1
coborn35
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Default Strobes at Night; Dangerous?

Interesting thread...
http://cs.trains.com/TRCCS/forums/t/180466.aspx
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I personally have had a problem with those trying to tell us to turn railroad photography into an "art form." It's fine for them to do so, I welcome it in fact, but what I do have a problem with is that the practitioners of the more "arty" shots, I have found, tend to look down their nose's at others who are shooting more "mundane" shots.
Railroad photography is what you make of it, but one way is not "better" than another, IMHO. Unless you have a pole right thought the nose of the engine! -SG
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Old 09-30-2010, 08:34 PM   #2
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Neat read! Thanks for sharing!

I wouldn't think it'd be much different than looking straight into the sun or with the sun shining directly on the signal. Both situations can make it difficult to see the aspect.

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Old 09-30-2010, 09:10 PM   #3
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Wow.
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Just imagine how you would think or react if someone fired off a flash in your face whilst driving your car along the road.
Obviously, the author has never had this happen to him because IMO its the equivalent of someone turning on a light in the adjacent room as you look at it. You notice it but its not going to blind you.

I've been to three concerts in the past 2 weeks where there are tons of people taking pictures of themselves, their friends and the performs on all sides and from all distances with the flash going off constantly. Yes, the ones closer than 15 feet are annoying but if I'm not looking right at it, it won't blind me. How is that not the same thing? The train crew may glance at the photographer and then back ahead of them and don't know there is flash equipment setup. If they are watching the rails ahead and not staring into one of the lights, which I highly doubt they can focus on depending on speed, are less then 15 feet from where they are sitting, or are in the middle of the rails, then there shouldn't be an effect.

Of course, the lighting at the location also plays a role but I still don't think it would be "highly irresponsible and place the train crew in danger."
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Old 09-30-2010, 10:48 PM   #4
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Steve Barry has an interesting column in the latest R&R about this. He fires off a "warning" before the train gets too close to let the crew know someone is out there. I can accept it might be irritating for the crews if they don't know it's coming, but not that it puts them in danger.

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Old 09-30-2010, 10:51 PM   #5
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Next time I'll follow the link before commenting. Maybe, anyway.
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Old 09-30-2010, 11:01 PM   #6
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"consider the practice of setting off a powerful flash at an approaching train"

Key word "Powerful Flash". They are not talking about a speed light.

Out here is Phoenix they (first it was Scottsdale then the State took them over) have "Photo-Radar" on the state and inter-state highways. They are about 15 feet off the road but when it goes off at night time it will blind you for a few seconds. I never received a ticket by one but if you are traveling down the road and some one in one of the lanes next to you is going 11 over the limit you get "flashed" along with the other 3 or 4 lanes of traffic. When you do, you think that lighting just stuck next to you. Where I-10 passes in front of Sky Harbor Int. Airport they actually had to go out and place red filters over the strobe lights. The pilots were confusing the lights for the beginning of the runway.
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Old 09-30-2010, 11:55 PM   #7
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Good read. Thanks for posting this.
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Old 10-01-2010, 12:53 AM   #8
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I have done night shoot with models. It will be 2 - 5 flashes within feet right at them. No issues. Yes, they know the flashes are there and they also have to keep their eyes open as they stare into them. Speedlights fire at 1/2000th of a second. I don't see an issue. Longer duration bright light sources can be an issue.
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Old 10-01-2010, 02:28 AM   #9
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Out here is Phoenix they (first it was Scottsdale then the State took them over) have "Photo-Radar" on the state and inter-state highways.
Wow - thanks for the heads up. Remind me to take the back roads while I'm in FL and keep your children off the street! Funny thing is when I rented a car in London those flashes followed me everywhere - I couldn't figure out what they were. Fortunately they didn't follow me home.

As for flash photography for trains at night - I would imagine it's like flash photography at a concert or night club. Distracting, not typically dangerous and just a part of the job. It would be safer if it was outlawed. It would also be safer if camera flashes were illegal and after dark curfews were in effect in the US. That means my own personal opinion is that it should not be illegal but perhaps frowned upon without permission in advance. Regarding permission in advance - aside from Gary Knapp who has BECOME known in his locale, I truly doubt everyone is getting permission. First, who do you ask and more to the point, how often would anyone in the US, maybe even the world at this point, accept a liability that they do not have to outside of your local and friendly neighborhood shortline?

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Old 10-01-2010, 03:40 AM   #10
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Mitch, out here it is like "Big Brother" is watching. Red light running cameras too. Enough people pissed and moaned about the speed cameras so they turned them off. (only fixed units) The 30+ mobile units are still out and about, to which if you have a radar detector it will warn you. the fixed ones work like a traffic sensor. The only warning (for all)is 2 signs, 1 1/2 mile ahead the other 300' ahead of the unit. A lot of the cities have deployed these mobile units. Ticket is $289 and change I believe.
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Old 10-01-2010, 03:42 AM   #11
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There's at least one speed camera in Washington DC. on Connecticut Avenue... it's the oddest experience... everyone's sailing along at 40 to 50 MPH, then they reach the camera zone and slow down to 25 MPH. Once through it, everyone hits the gas again.
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Old 10-01-2010, 03:51 AM   #12
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Most of the photos (on RP and elsewhere) of moving trains at night were taken with multiple low-power speedlights and a digital camera with ISO at 1600 or more.The speedlights are not a "Powerful flash" and in fact are frequently set to only a fraction of the output capability (25-50%).
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Old 10-01-2010, 03:52 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khalucha View Post
"consider the practice of setting off a powerful flash at an approaching train"

Key word "Powerful Flash". They are not talking about a speed light.

Out here is Phoenix they (first it was Scottsdale then the State took them over) have "Photo-Radar" on the state and inter-state highways. They are about 15 feet off the road but when it goes off at night time it will blind you for a few seconds. I never received a ticket by one but if you are traveling down the road and some one in one of the lanes next to you is going 11 over the limit you get "flashed" along with the other 3 or 4 lanes of traffic. When you do, you think that lighting just stuck next to you. Where I-10 passes in front of Sky Harbor Int. Airport they actually had to go out and place red filters over the strobe lights. The pilots were confusing the lights for the beginning of the runway.
Yes, but that is in the name of safety, so it's ok. Setting off flashes at a train is dangerous since the engineer has to steer the train, but it's safe to blind a motorist... especially one that is speeding.

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Old 10-01-2010, 04:33 AM   #14
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I have been through Phoenix on I-10 and had a guy pass me right before a fixed photo-radar spot and the flash on those things is bright. The first thing I said to the person next to me is that it could be dangerous. I wouldnt be surprised if someone wrecked getting blinded by one of those things.
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Old 10-01-2010, 03:35 PM   #15
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I greatly appreciate Steve Barry's reasoned, well-thought out stands regarding flash and the right of photographers to take pictures.

I believe him to be our best defense spokesman against the forces that would inhibit our harmless photography.
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Old 10-01-2010, 11:55 PM   #16
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"Just imagine how you would think or react if someone fired off a flash in your face whilst driving your car along the road."

My two cents: What we have to consider here, is that as a locmotive engineer we don't have to steer (By the way, kids at my school ask me all the time if they have to steer a train, lol), so it is almost incomparable with firing off a strobe at a moving car, or a walking person.


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Old 10-04-2010, 04:07 PM   #17
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There's at least one speed camera in Washington DC. on Connecticut Avenue... it's the oddest experience... everyone's sailing along at 40 to 50 MPH, then they reach the camera zone and slow down to 25 MPH. Once through it, everyone hits the gas again.
No different really than old fashioned speed traps. There's one in Cleveland on I71 where everyone's cruising out of town and suddenly slows down quite a bit and then a mile later speeds right back up because one little 'burb decided to make the highway an important revenue generator for themselves.

Here in Toledo they installed "red light" cameras and then later made them speed enabled also. I've heard (but haven't seen the data to back it up) that while they do cut down on more severe accidents (T-bones from running red lights) they increase the number of less severe accidents (rear-enders from changed behavior at the intersection like slamming on brakes, etc. to avoid speeding or blowing the light).

Back on topic, ask a dozen RR crews and you'll probably get a dozen different answers ranging from "I hate it, it's a problem, don't do it" to "who cares, it's not an issue". It's uncommon enough that from what I've seen posted online by crews the lean is more towards the "who cares" side but I bet that'd change if they were getting blasted with flashes all the time. To that extent the cost and difficulty will probably keep most of the average "foamers" from taking up night photography though. Even for me, while I like seeing the results I'm not real keen on spending all the money, time & effort to go do it myself at this point.

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