When folks hear about my railroad photography, they often ask “how and why?”. How did you start out in photography and why do you take photos of railroads? If I am being completely honest, I often ask myself the same questions.
I believe it all started as a young kid growing up in Davis, California. Like many kids, I had a passion for sports, firefighting and railroads. My days were filled with playing baseball, visiting the local fire house and watching trains. As time went on, I never lost these passions.
Many nights as a kid, my dad and I would watch “The 8:30’s”. Right around 8:30pm every night, there would be two Capitol Corridor passenger trains coming through Davis, usually accompanied by a freight train. It was an easy way to watch trains and burn off some of the energy before bed. At one point, my dad gave me a disposable camera so I could take pictures of the trains we saw. A new passion for railroad photography was born. While my dad was never uniquely interested in trains, I credit him with starting my lifelong passion for railroad photography.
My photography started modestly. Many of my shots were blurry or backlit as I struggled to learn the relationship between the Big 3: Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. I also struggled with being in the right place at the right time. Some folks believe taking compelling images is as simple as a click of a button; but that could not be further from the truth. The reality is that the work to create a compelling photograph starts days, months and sometimes years before you press the shutter button. Vast knowledge of the subject (in my case railroad operations), environment, weather, composition and settings are all required in order to create an image. Even with the requisite knowledge, you sometimes need a little luck as well.
I have been capturing railroad photographs for over a decade. While I reside in Chico, California, railroad photography has allowed me to travel all over the Western United States. From my favorite locations deep in the Rocky Mountains to the classic desert scenes of the Southwest and the incredible canyons and coasts here in California; I have been fortunate to witness and capture some incredible examples of American Railroading.
Railroads are innately tied into the fabric of this great country. From their storied history bringing prosperity to the American West to the state of the art operations seen today, railroads have helped propel the American economy to incredible prosperity. Telling the story of these railroads is my photographic mission.
So that brings me back to the question we started with, “Why”? The answer-quite simply, it is my passion. Passion for railroads. Passion for photography. Passion for adventure and storytelling. They are what drive me to wake up before dawn, drive for hours and hike for miles. It is what I love to do.
When I am not on a photography adventure, I am probably at work. One of my other passions in life is firefighting. After graduating from the Chico State University with a B.S. in Business Administration, I attended the Butte College Fire Academy. I currently work as a municipal firefighter in Northern California. For my current assignment, I am fortunate to work on a 100′ aerial ladder truck as a tillerman firefighter. During the summer months, I can be deployed to major wildfires anywhere in the State of California. In 2021, I was assigned to the Dixie Fire which started in the Feather River Canyon. During that deployment, my engine company was assigned to the Highway 70 corridor, fighting fire along Union Pacific’s Canyon Subdivision. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve both my community and State of California.
Thank you so much for checking out my website. I hope you enjoy my photographs. Please feel free to email me using the “Contact Jake” tab.