A Shortcut Through the Back Way

railroad tracks and tunnel
A shortcut along railroad tracks.

It’s kind of a tradition: I drop off my car for inspection, then walk back to my house by exploring my chosen path with my camera. Often this includes a natural or overgrown area, a few back streets, views of Chartiers Creek, and just about always some railroad tracks, in current use or defunct, and the resident flora and fauna and a few interesting found objects. Even though railway lines are technically private property and walking them can be very dangerous, I’ve walked these rail lines since I could walk, and as a child and young teen regularly walked the tracks for a quiet place to walk and an easy shortcut from one community to another. I am always aware of the typical train schedules and listen for oncoming trains, and know that they are required to reduce their speed to between five and 15 MPH so I have time to get to safety if I need to, and always walk alongside the tracks, only stepping on them to cross them or to capture a few shots.

This past Monday was no different. I went to a different service station this year but I’ve walked and photographed portions of this path and rails on other walks in the past. But there’s always something new to see, or new ways to see familiar places and things in this space of about a mile. The day was sunny and quite warm for February. The light overcast lent a slight 1970s warm contrasty vintage finish to many photos, a desaturated almost sepia effect to others. Scroll down to see a video slideshow of my walk.

A shortcut on foot is the best way to see things

So I took a shortcut along a rail line adjacent to the service station, through a short railroad tunnel with really talented grafitti under a road with a crazy intersection I didn’t want to deal with on foot, and continued along the tracks. I explored the small older neighborhoods on either side, thinking about living with a train running through your back yard in the days with multiple tracks and trains that ran full speed through small towns. Surprisingly yellow winter aconite, so fresh and perfect I thought they were silk flowers, blooming in the flattened and soggy gray and brown mess of fallen branches and last year’s overgrowth knocked down by snow. An empty lot that still had concrete steps leading to the long overgrown grass, a small old Methodist church I’ve photographed other times, long unused but purchased and lovingly restored into a vacation rental by a neighboring family. The back yards of everyday people awakening to warm sunny spring days. A set of steep community steps, so common when most people walked, and an eternal locust fence post that once held the railing, still standing gnarled, weathered and mossy. An older truss-style passenger bridge, one I’ve walked across for decades and seen it regularly renewed, repainted, repaved, its trusses arched, painted yellow, casting interesting shadows on the pavement in the mid-afternoon spring light, the nuts and bolts creating patterns with dabs of sunlight, just a few hundred feet along the creek from a flat-top railroad truss bridge which I’ve also walked after climbing over a series of barriers. A committed urban hiker will not be deterred on a Sunday morning when no one is around, my traditional walking and hiking time, the bridge fascinating on black and white film. Then a section of my walk that I’ve actually walked in the past two weeks* and just enjoyed knowing I wasn’t going to catch anything too different from what I already had. Then home, and my crocuses, and my cats.

My telephoto lens, which I knew needed a cleaning, just quit focusing about three-quarters of the way home so I missed out on a few photos I may have taken but found plenty of compositions suitable to my 18-70mm lens. In fact, I took over 250 photos. I nearly always take multiple shots of just about everything. In some cases I’m exploring it, trying to find my idea and inspiration and a suitable composition within the struts on a bridge or the reflection on water or the patterns in weeds. Other times the light is changing on a subject because of moving clouds or branches or a garden flag over a statue.

A video slideshow of the images

What I’d normally do when I get home with these photos is download them to my computer and go for the shot that stands out in my mind and share that one first on this site or create a gallery of the ones I like best, then over a period of days share more photos from this walk. Over time I find little gems that I hadn’t noticed before and share those too.

But sometimes I don’t even have the time to look them over and I don’t share them for weeks or months, and sometimes I never share them but I find them years later and remember that day. *In fact, I have one from just a couple of weeks ago that I’ve wanted to work with, and others from last year that I never found the time for.

What I’ve always wanted to do, though, is make a slideshow of all the low-res unedited photos and leave the hi-res raw photos to work with later, just sharing the experience of my walk. I know that with each of these photos I’ll open the raw file, crop, edit, adjust, make notes on possibly revisiting it with different camera settings or just to explore it more, and especially when it was clear my telephoto had an issue before it stopped focusing. So this time I decided to do that—though I couldn’t use all the low-res photos because I wanted to keep this presentation to maybe five minutes at the most, and even presenting each image for three seconds it still went to six minutes without even using half the photos. So I culled the ones in each area that were most different from each other and made a video slideshow.

It was a little dull watching it with no sound though. At first I wanted music, and I have a few clips friends have sent me. But remembering the walk, though it was a back way with plenty of overgrown areas, I was never far from a road or street and often was on one, and there were plenty of people around. I decided to go outdoors and record about six minutes of ambient sounds in my back yard, similar enough to the places I walked, and captured birds, the wind, dogs, children, planes, trains and automobiles.

I hope you enjoy! Give it a try yourself. Just be careful and respectful of others’ privacy.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, visit my galleries of Photography on Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “Custom Prints” for availability and terms. I'll be more than happy to make a print for you.

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