Look, Listen and Live!

Look, Listen and Live –

As a photographer, we are here to create lasting images that our clients will love forever. In today’s world though it seems we have forgotten about keeping them safe in some circumstances. I will be the first to admit I will go to almost any lengths to get the precious shot my clients want.
Though a recent horrific event for one photographer has been a reminder for most to stay away from active railroad lines. Per CNN on March 16 a young aspiring model was struck and died from passing by train (full story) in Texas. Occurrences such as this happen more than I would ever like to admit.  Tragic events like this seems to make the news at least once a year and it runs the same, a model or photographer were killed by a passing train while photographing on the tracks. Also, through online messages boards or magazine stories, close calls happen way more frequently than most people know about.

I grew up around railroad yards in Central Wisconsin and as a kid we played around the railroads which was a big no no. As I got older, I learned that our normal waitress at a place called the Little Pink Restaurant had lost her leg while playing around the trains as a teenager. Also, there were several incidents in the early 90’s where trucks would go through the railroad grade crossings and get taken out by a locomotive from the Green Bay and Western or the Chicago and Northwestern and later on the Wisconsin Central.

Having grown up around events like this has made me appreciate the fact that we as photographer should offer something different to our clients. Yes, it is easy to go to a set of steel rails polished by hundreds of trains a week or to a trestle with a scenic view where you don’t know the schedule of the intermittent trains but it’s not safe and it is a major risk we take. As big as those giant work horses of industry are, they are fairly quiet and can sneak up on you quickly. At first one hears a light humming in the distance and then the next before one knows it right there and you might be left without a place to run to, too get out of the way.

In 2016 according to Operation Lifesaver and the FRA, in Wisconsin, we had 46 vehicle vs train collisions resulting in two deaths and 15 injuries as reported. Which raked Wisconsin in the top 15 in the US, while this isn’t a lot but it is significant but it is down overall. Granted we were lucky and didn’t have any people vs trains due to trespassing in our state in 2016 in Illinois they had 22 person vs train related deaths due to trespassing on the rails. But here is some food for thought for photographers from 2015 to 2016 there was increase in trespassing on the rails by 14.5%, deaths were up by 12.8% and overall injuries by 16.4%. Also, the fines are not cheap fines according to Wisconsin statute 192.32 starts at $100 a person but can vary by county/municipality and go up from there. So, if it’s you, a model and assistant the fine can be as little as $300 in total fines. Also in some locations in Milwaukee and some other major cities you could end up in jail plus a fine.

For that photographer in Texas I feel so sorry for them because it something they have to live with and I hope like hell it never happens again to any photographer.
As events like these become more prevalent why don’t we as a community say, hey we’re not going to work in those locations anymore? Is it worth it?

Pelican 1450 Review

In today’s blog we discuss carrying your equipment in the Pelican 1450.

Recently I was invited to a weekend in the U.P. to ride snowmobiles with friends through the beautiful back country of “Pure Michigan” (I always thought that was a great slogan). Of course, I jumped at the chance to be out in the back country with an opportunity to photograph some hard to access areas and to get away from the hustle and bustle of living just outside of Milwaukee.

After some planning and trying to come up with how to transport my camera gear one Nikon D-800, a 24-70 F2.8 and a 70-200 F2.8 Nikon lenses and two Lume Cubes, I concluded that placing them in my NatGeo camera backpack or my shoulder bag was not the best equipment to do the job and I risked serious damage if anything happened. After some research, it was decided that buying a hard case was the best option for this trip.

I invested in a Pelican 1450 medium case which was just large enough for the gear I was taking (if you live in the Greater Milwaukee area I recommend Mike Crivello’s Cameras). It cost me around 150-160 dollars but safely protecting your gear is worth the cost.

1450 it comes with pluck foam, which is great you can pull out what you need to fit your camera and lenses so they will fit nice and snug without any movement inside the case.

It’s also water proof which was perfect for what I was doing because being attached to the back of the snowmobile meant it was bombarded by snow and ice flying up from the track of the snowmobile and other passing ones. I can say that after 350 miles of riding over the weekend there was no moisture inside the case.

The case is also made of a think hard plastic which makes it a little bit on the heavier side but it is worth every bit of the extra protection it provides as I can attest to.
In addition to buying the case for the trip I figured I would build a rack for the case so the travel bags could still be attached beneath my seat. The rack worked great, it held the case and kept it right where it was supposed to be until about mile 75, then though vibration and metal fatigue (note Aluminum is not the best to bend without reinforcing) causing the case to fall off with the rack and bounce down the trail and into an encounter with a trailing snowmobile. After fearing the worst, we recovered the case unlocked it and to my surprise everything was still where I left it and in great working condition like nothing had ever happened. It then got strapped with a 5-dollar ratchet strap to the back of my sled and stayed there the rest of the 200 miles we rode the first day.

After some serious hard testing of the Pelican 1450, I can say the case/brand is something a photographer should consider investing in. The ability to securely hold your gear, to be locked shut and the fact that it is water proof are all great pluses. The only downside is the weight, it’s about 7 LBS with the foam and no camera gear. Once I added my camera gear it weighed around 12-14 LBS but the weight does come because of the thickness off the plastic which keeps your gear safe.
The case measures about 16.5″ x 13.00″ x 7” which it not all that large, it will fit under the seat of an airplane if you are traveling it also fits quite nicely under the seat of a truck or larger SUV so it can be hidden from sight of would be robbers. I cannot say if it will fit under a car seat seeing as I do not have access to a small car.
Pelican say it will float with about 30 LBS of gear in it but I am going to take Pelicans word on seeing as I don’t wish to put 30 LBS of weight in it to test it out.
The case also comes in an array of colors I went with the standard black, but it also comes in gray, yellow orange, green and tan.

If you’re planning a trip to the back country where it might be  bouncy, dirty or wet and a backpack or satchel bag won’t cover it consider investing in a hard case. You make look like you’re carrying the nuclear launch codes (as my friends said on the trip while stopping in a pub) but at least your gear is as safe as those codes are.