One Police Experiment, Four Trains, Seven Parishes

by Jim on 2012/07/01

[Jimbaux is experiencing a train of consequences.]

This Needs To End

Actually, I’m as sick of typing these long blog posts on the subject of threats to photography as you are of reading them.  I finally told the January story of Reed St. Pierre’s judgments, lies, and threats, and the story of the police encounter in March in Mississippi because of an incident that happened on Friday 1 June, which we will see here.

Anyway, yes, these posts have been long, but the reason for that is that I’m anticipating various criticisms and essentially arguing against them before they are even posted.  Then again, despite all of that, people still make those judgments and those unwarranted assumptions when I just explained it all.  A friend who commented on the length of the St. Pierre cane burning post said this:

Obviously there are still plenty of people that don’t get it.  I guess no matter how well you explain it, plenty of the general public – including some of your readers – are too stupid to get it.  That is part of your “problem” – and not just with this article.  Most people are too stupid to get what you are saying, or at the very least (tying in with your taking the world literally) many people are assumers and it’s easier and lazier to assume, and lump things to together, or jump to conclusions – just like how you “should have” translated his ‘who you wit’ question.

I guess so, and, since posting that, I’ve gotten an e-mail from a young Louisiana railroad photographer who said that he recently got the “who are you with?” question from a police officer even as he was standing alone near the track.  I’m hoping that he’ll tell his story in the comments section here.

Please keep in mind, also, that I write what I write here as a guide for others, because, as most of you know, other photographers have faced the same kind of harassment that I have faced, and we can persevere through support.

Anyway, my friend who made the above quoted comment told me on the phone that he had to get up a few times from reading the St. Pierre cane burning post because it was so long, though he knew the reasons for its length (the aforementioned explanation of several arguments against criticisms that would come), but was then appalled when he read the comments section to see that people still didn’t understand.  Since he’s been through some of the same harassment and false judgment that I have experienced, he understands.

Now You’re Just Somebody That I Used To Know

On those notes, speaking of both the tendency of people to make unwarranted assumptions and of feedback from friends, according to what is written in the comments section of the previous post, I’ve lost a reader who was a friend – and someone of whom I knew before I met him – for challenging his onslaught of unwarranted assumptions and his suggestions to bow to intimidation.  For some reason, he decided to do this publicly rather than privately, and I do not at all like to censor comments.  (You have to read all of the comments, two from him, at least three from me mostly in response to him, and compare his comments to much more sober and rational comments, even if they are critical of my actions, from Tom Beckett.  It’s a real eye-opener.)  Then again, in situations such as these, one would think that he wasn’t much of a friend in the first place, and, even among railroad enthusiasts, I generally don’t associate myself with people who chose to spread around jokes (via those mass e-mail forwards that could go anywhere after you send them out to dozens of people) implying that the current First Lady “knows what the inside of a whorehouse smells like” and who see protesters on a Saturday morning and think that they probably don’t have jobs.  (Again, see the comments on the previous post to see what I mean.)

Have you read those comments?  Isn’t that nuts?  You might wonder why I even care.  This Facebook post explains why.  Here’s what’s funny too; a week after he told me to stop sending him the links to the blog posts as I do with several friends, I get a “forward” e-mail in my inbox from him!  Irony, in addition to variety, is the spice of life.

Some also would wonder why I would approve comments such as his on my site.  Ultimately, his comments say far more about him than they do about me.

No, Sire

I believe it was Napoleon who once observed that “celebrated people” lose their dignity upon a closer view, and so it is true here with the New Orleans area man who is old enough to have a son older than I am (because he indeed does have a son older than I am.)  As a youngster who had yet to meet anyone else who liked trains, I would see Sires’s photo credit in Trains magazine on pictures taken locally.  To my impressionable mind at that time, that alone made him somewhat virtuous – or at least “cool” – in my mind.

That “cool” veneer wears off quite quickly after unwarranted assumption after unwarranted assumption and unwarranted assumption, and after misstatement of fact (in some cases, a gentle way of saying a “lie”) after misstatement of fact after misstatement of fact; oh, and after mass e-mail forward after mass e-mail forward after mass e-mail forward about xenophobic stuff and the one Michelle Obama being a whore (stuff I’d be highly ashamed to have my name at the top of the e-mail, especially when it’s essentially public due to it being a mass-email forward.)  Of course, he’s not the only one, even if you judge only by the comments section of this stie.  As my friend remarked above, it’s just easier for people to assume, even if it’s the wrong and dangerous and unfair thing to do.

It’s a bit like your dog barking at every single person who passes in front of your house.  He just assumes that they’re all threats because he doesn’t know any better and because he’s a freakin’ dog; so, he just barks at all of them.  I guess, unfortunately, plenty of human beings are the same way; am I foolish to expect better of people who act foolish?

Inter-Parish Photographic Man Of Mystery

Moving right along, before we get to the story of the police encounter that caused me to make the previous two posts about incidents that happened months before, we do indeed have an interesting set of images for you today, taken mostly on June 1.  I present photographs taken in six Louisiana parishes on that afternoon, and, to complete the circuit, a few taken in Orleans Parish on the Saturday.

We start our day just after dawn in the swamps of northern Terrebonne Parish near the village of Chacahoula.

Before we get to our police encounter de jour (not really, as it only happens once in a great while), let me remind you of something that I told you in December.

I’m definitely not anti-military at all, and I was even honored and humbled to greet a friend returning from Afghanistan the night after Thanksgiving, but when we say that our military is “fighting for our freedom,” while that might in a few regards be true (they’re really protecting our security far more than our freedom), we seem to forget that the Bill of Rights exists to protect us from government, and what are the enforcers of government other than police and military? It is from this misunderstanding that too many Americans fall into the pernicious trap of thinking that allegiance to military and police constitutes patriotism, when, sadly, in some cases, it constitutes submission to terrorism and becoming a terrorist oneself, the seemingly innocuous opposite of true patriotism!

Nor am I anti-law-enforcement.  I respect greatly most of those officers, as their jobs are often thankless, and I actually have far more police encounters than those about which I write because most of them just stop to check on me to see if I’m okay or ask what I am doing, and there’s no reason to write a thousand words about that, but that doesn’t mean that their actions are always beyond reproach, which means that just because you draw the attention of the police doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong or that you even deserve it.

The “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing of which to worry from the police” mentality to which I myself once subscribed is very dangerous.  Sometimes, it takes being on the receiving end of such abuse for a person to fully realize the fallacy of that mentality.  Honestly, I might not have ever realized it had I never been on the receiving end of such abuse, which means maybe it’s true that the critics will never be convinced otherwise.

A friend recently opined to me that the people who criticize me for nearly finding myself in these confrontations through no fault of my own “should not be allowed to look at pictures.”  That’s an interesting observation, and he went on to say that some of these same people who criticize me for being in these confrontations probably very often search the internet for pictures of various subjects with essentially complete ignorance of the risks in obtaining them.  This brings us back to my earlier point that Freedom Of The Press is for everyone, not just professional journalists, and not even just anyone who takes pictures, since if a private citizen (i.e., you) is threatened because of taking pictures, then all of us lose.

Ponder that as you gaze upon this swampy scene from Gibson.

Getting back to the “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry from the police” mentality, which is the negation of the pernicious “if you get attention from the police, you must have deserved it and done something wrong” mentality, remember that for many years, I really didn’t talk much about these incidents.  There were those elements of “shame” and even “guilt” and surely “embarrassment” in having attention from the police.  I didn’t want people to know that I had gotten police attention!  This is probably what Sires meant when he wrote in the comment section last time, “You are a legit freelance photographer and then write about all your encounters with the law.”  Umm, yeah, and???  What I gather from that (and he’s not talking to me anymore, and I therefore can’t ask) is that he thinks it is somehow unbecoming for me to publicize my experiences with the law.  That’s a common mentality, but I’ve never done anything wrong nor have I ever been charged with any crime, so why the guilt, shame, and embarrassment?

Part of why I write all of this stuff is so that it will hopefully inspire others in similar situations to stand up for themselves, or to even get out and take pictures at all, as I know several people who no longer take pictures because of fear of unwanted attention; I just wish that they realize that they’re hurting us all by cowing to the fear like that.  It’s possible that the youngster who wrote to me this weekend about his police encounter might not have written to me at all – because of those “guilt” and “shame” and “embarrassment” reasons – had he not read what I have written here over the last year.

Appallingly, someone on one of the forums said that I seem to carry a hip on my shoulder, and that that leads to harassment.  First, just like I don’t want other people to assume things about me when seeing me taking pictures, I don’t assume things about them.  How did a chip on my shoulder cause me to suddenly be angrily accosted by overzealous undercover officers who jumped to conclusions upon seeing a loudly dressed person standing on a bridge taking pictures of something plainly visible to the public in April 2008 when I wasn’t even looking at the road from which the police snuck up on me?  and how did a chip on my shoulder lead a trainman to tell me that what I was doing was “illegal” when I was standing in a public street (on the side, where people park) in October 2011 in an area where I had photographed without incident for five years?  and how did a chip on my shoulder cause a farmer to yell at, accost, lie to, and try to intimidate me when I was photographing something plainly visible to the hundreds of people passing on the federal highway on which I was standing when I wasn’t even trying to engage him? and why do I not have problems most other times when I’m out taking pictures in various places?

I’ll Probably Be Heavily Criticized For This

Here we go.  It was mid-day Friday.  I was in Morgan City.  I stopped at the Quizno’s for lunch, and I looked to the north and noticed several officers-of-the-law under the US Highway 90 overpass.  One of them looked to be pointing a radar gun down the street.  There’s no problem with that there as that is part of their job, keeping the streets safe, and speeding, for all of the ‘benefits’ that it may have, is unsafe, hence illegal.

Let’s Do An Experiment

Where I’m parked at the Quizno’s, I’m at least 100’ away from these officers.  I thought that this might be a good chance to do an experiment, but I had to prepare myself for whatever unfair consequences would befall me.  I wondered what would happen if I photographed them in a manner that was both conspicuous but that was non-interfering because I was so far away.

However, the reason why I am here is to eat, and, also, if I do take their pictures, I’d like to at least know if they go to look at my truck, which I won’t be able to know if I’m inside and eating.  So, inside I went and ordered my sandwich.  About 20 or so minutes later, after I had finished my meal, I went back outside, and the police were still there.  Since I was already here and since this would take almost no effort, I decided to pull out the camera, take some pictures, and see what happened.

For those of you who have accused me of going out and looking for confrontations, a foolish charge that I steadfastly deny up to this point, well, yes, this actually is the first time I ever take a picture in which the making of the image was less important than seeing what happened as a result.  So, for all of you critics who have been waiting to catch me in such a moment, I play right into your hands (well, only a little bit) and give you this:

Now, does anyone find anything wrong – like, literally, “wrong” – with the contents of this picture?  Here we see police officers doing their job, doing what police officers do, and I don’t see anything wrong here.  What I can tell you, though, is that I stood in such places for such time (a few minutes) taking pictures so that there was no way that at least one of them could have not seen me.

Remember, again, especially you critics, that this was foremost an experiment.  Being confronted by the police was not the “desired result,” as some of you probably think.  The “desired result” was anything that could have happened.  Even had nothing happened as a result, the experiment would have been a success, as I would have learned something.  An experiment cannot “fail” if you learn from the results regardless of what they are.

Why This Matters

Now, an interesting confrontation did take place, and I will tell you about it shortly, but first let me remind you (more than I already have) why this matters.

They are out in public.  They are public employees.  They have the power of arrest, and it is a power that can be – and sometimes is – abused.

Rodney King certainly deserved to be punished.  There’s no doubt about that.  He was speeding and drinking and driving while on probation.  There’s no question in my mind right there that he deserved to go back to jail for that.  He did not deserve, however, to be beaten nearly to death, and had someone not had a camera at the right time, we may never have known of the abuse that he received.  If that isn’t enough for you, what about this incident in Rhode Island?

There is some hope.  I recently read about a police department somewhere in Virginia (maybe Norfolk or Richmond) where the chief there now tells his deputies not only that they should not harass anyone with a camera, but that they should actually always expect to be photographed.  I tried to search Google for the article but could not find it.  If someone finds it, please send it to me.

There are indeed threats to photography from law enforcement, as seen here.

Then, there’s the person facing 10 years in prison after recording the arrest of another, but read what I have to say here about how it might be a problem.

In my case, I was plenty far enough away from these deputies of the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Before I go on, some of you have criticized the way that I responded to inquisitors, as if I was somehow showing what my legal rights are while “being an ass” toward the inquisitors.  Actually, not only is that not true, but if it was, I’d actually say nothing at all (and I’ve seen video of some photographers doing this just because they could), since the Fifth Amendment protects all of us from self-incrimination by securing for us the right to remain silent.

Thomas Jefferson once said that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.”

That’s all good and true, but isn’t it better – aren’t we all better off – if the blood can be merely metaphorical?  Such is what we have here.  After I finished shooting, I went to my truck and stood there.  I was actually taken by surprise when I heard from behind, “What’s up?”

It was one of the officers in the picture.  He came over and wanted to know why I was taking pictures of the “students.”

Here, again, we have the expectation that I know something that I can’t really know from the distance.  All I could tell – and all that I think that I could be expected to tell – from that distance was that I was photographing police.  Did he think that I was somehow supposed to know that some of them were students?  Or was that just merely the way that he phrased his question?

Jimbaux’s Response

“Interesting subject matter,” I said to him as I shrugged my shoulders, and I may have mentioned something about already being stopped there for lunch anyway.

The officer extended his hand to me, told me his name, and shook hands with me as I told him my name.  It was the next thing that emerged from his mouth that was surprising, and it’s really the reason why this experiment is more of a success than it was in just seeing what would happen.

“Just wanted to make sure you don’t work for the newspaper,” he said.

Whoah.  That’s weird on plenty of levels.

First, like some of you probably have experienced yourselves when taking pictures, I’ve been told many times, usually implied more than told, that unless I actually work for a newspaper, I don’t have a “legitimate” reason to be photographing whatever I’m photographing.  In fact, Reed St. Pierre condescending “who you wit’?” question is just such an example.  So, it’s ironic and somewhat funny to be told that it was okay so long as I do not work for the newspaper.

Second, I actually do work for the newspaper (sometimes), but I was at that location on my own time using my own equipment out of my own desire (in other words, a self-assignment.)  He didn’t outright ask me if I did or did not work for the newspaper anyway.

Third, as one of the reporters at the newspaper said when I told this story, why would he want to make sure I didn’t work for the newspaper?  What does he not want the newspaper to know?  To see?  And what does that really matter when in this modern digital and internet era that any picture that anyone like me takes can be posted online for the whole world – including anyone who works at a newspaper – to see?

Why Does It Matter If I Work For The Newspaper Or Not?

That is what I asked him.  He didn’t have an answer for this, and his response seemed to suggest a “don’t worry about it, never mind, it’s okay” feeling to it.  Perhaps he realized that it really didn’t matter, that it shouldn’t matter.  In this case, I have to give him plenty of benefit of the doubt, and that’s why I am not publishing his name here.  (I definitely would have had his actions constituted “harassment,” and I may have even called his boss.)  Not only did he not really do anything wrong, but he may have realized on-the-spot the questionable nature of his response.  I’m a believer in redemption, and in this case, I don’t want to cause a shred of grief for someone who was just doing his job, and, remember, merely questioning you is their job.  Those who do not retract from and apologize for their own harassment are the worst of all, and I’ll do everything I can to expose their actions; such is not the case here.

The deputy walked away, perhaps with a harmless and refreshing reminder that he and his fellow deputies could be photographed any time – and that their actions should therefore be beyond reproach.  I walked away too, and then I drove away.  Since then, through my professional work, I’ve communicated with his boss about matters unrelated to this, including off-the-record information.  That’s all irrelevant, though, since any of YOU have the right to photograph them too, but it’s a reminder of the delicacies of these things.  Don’t wait to affirm this right until some tense situation happens.  Rather, exercise that right now, so that a tense situation later will not have to be so tense.  Don’t wait until your rights are under assault to stand up for them.

Still, despite all of the factors I’ve gone through great lengths explaining, I know that plenty of you will have some not-so-good things to say about my actions.  Go ahead and comment.  You don’t realize it, but you’re part of the problem.  It would be nice if you would prove it to the rest of us.  Thanks.

Eastbound To Whoadieville

Finally, it’s time to head east back to Whoadieville.  It’s Friday, afterall, the day in which I’m usually in multiple Louisiana parishes.  You’ve already seen pictures in two parishes, and now it’s time to cross over into a third.  After we cross Bayou Boeuf into Assumption Parish, but before we shoot the train, let’s get some more swamp pictures!

I’m not that great of a swamp photographer.  There are better Louisiana swamp photographers out there.

A New Shot

Here’s a Jimbaux original, one I had never done before, and one that would have looked far better about an hour after this image was taken.  Here’s the Union Pacific’s MCXEW at Boeuf, which is in Assumption Parish.  (Are you keeping score?)

It’s better than a decade ago when UP had such an abundance of filthy locomotives.  Anyway, let’s keep going east and see what we find.

Friday Afternoon Happy Hour In Raceland!

That’s right, young lads and ladies!  It’s Friday afternoon at Kraemer Road in Raceland, and you know what that means!  You get two trains for the price of one!  That’s right, just park your truck on the side of the road between the sugarcane fields, and for that price, you’ll actually get two trains!

Here we are waiting for the westbound, the view from the top of the truck, right about the time some passers-by stopped their car to ask if I was okay.

Ah, life is good, isn’t it?  Does it get any better than this?  Why, as a matter of fact, it does:

Ah, the sweetness of the sugarcane with a westbound BNSF train passing on these former Southern Pacific Railway rails.

This westbound train was to meet an eastbound at the siding which begins a mile west of here; so, I just pointed myself and the camera in the other direction, waited, and popped off a shot like so:

There was a block of new CSX coil cars on this train.  By the way, we’re now in Lafourche Parish for these pictures, which is parish #4 for the day for pictures, in case you are keeping score.

That’s enough of that, as it’s essentially sunset now.  Now it’s time to get out of here, but maybe I can get ahead of him and get one more shot?  But where?

Another Jimbaux Original

Wow!  Two new shots in one day?  I’m getting good!  Just when I think I know the eastern end of the Lafayette Subdivision so well that I find it boring, I find a new shot at a location where the Cajun Porkchop has expressed his talent.

That’s not great, but it’s not terrible either.  We’re in St. Charles Parish, in case you’re keeping score.

That train had to go into the siding at Salix, which I presumed was due to a westbound on its way out of Avondale.  Once again, just like at Raceland, I was pretty sure the day was done photographically, but I wondered if I could get a shot of this phantom westbound.

Almost Another New Shot

I went to Live Oak Junction, which is in Jefferson Parish, by the way, the sixth parish of the day, in case you are keeping score; I was looking for a place to shoot this non-existent westbound train, but I looked to the west and saw the headlights of an eastbound train.  What’s this?

Wow!  What a way to end the day, right?  That’s the eastbound Sunset Limited, which apparently scooped the M-DYTCSX that you’ve already seen at Salix.

I actually have done that shot once before, back in March if you look at the archives, but not lit like that!

That really is the end of the day, but since we haven’t seen any Orleans Parish pictures (the sun obviously set before I could get there), let’s take a brief look at what happened the next day to round out our Fridayly seven-parish tour!

Saturday With Saint Jude

I got together for lunch with Saint Jude on Saturday, and we went grab a burger on St. Charles Avenue.  Here’s the eastbound view down Prytania Street, a place where I spent plenty of time working a little bit more than five years ago.

That’s cool.  Here we are waiting on our burgers while we commiserate.

And now, my friends, it’s burger time.

Well, as is stated at the end of some French film, fin, and it’s about damned time too, don’t you think?  Since this trilogy of police encounters and threats to photography is now concluded, we’ll resume our regularly scheduled foamy stupidity soon.



{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bill Knotts July 2, 2012 at 00:59

I wanted to click the “like” icon but can’t find one, too much facebook maybe?


2 Howard Bingham July 2, 2012 at 01:31

Best not to push luck taking photo’s of the long arm of the law doing their thing, several citizens in Houston have tried photographing officers with their i-Phone & ended up with a citation for “Interfering with a police investigation.” leading to a citation & mention on the 6 P.M. news.. (Leave the photographing PD officers to media types at TV stations, their employers have high paid lawyers & if regularly assigned to the police beat, have PRESS credentials to keep them out of trouble..

Why not concentrate on getting more of your train pictures, possibly one with an alligator sunning himself next to the tracks, that would be much safer & not attract the boys in blue.. 😉

Better finish the vittles, the last 2 pict’s in this group are making me hungry & it’s already 1:30 A.M. monday morning….

Howard in SW Houston at mp 372 of the UP Houston Terminal (Quiet zone) Sub 🙂


3 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 2, 2012 at 20:30

I appreciate the thought behind your suggestion.

As for those citizens in Houston with iPhones, it seems to me that it would be hard to get a shot of some police work with such a device unless you were really close to the subject matter. So, it seems like the issue there isn’t so much that they were photographing but that they were, in the process of taking their photos, too close to the action. See what I wrote here about it:

Now, assuming people ARE staying out of the way, I think that the ‘solution’ to this problem is for people to en masse photograph police (while, again, staying the heck out of their ways), since it would reaffirm the right to do so.

I don’t think that your alligator-train picture suggestion would work very well. Alligators, snakes, turtles, and other creatures of the swamp are repulsed by noise. About the only kind of train that I could realistically ever expect to photograph with such creatures near it would be one that is parked with the engines off. Such things are rare, but not as rare as swamp creatures getting close to the track.

The reason why I don’t have pictures of such creatures is not because I don’t see them but because to actually see them out-and-about, I’d have to hide and wait somewhere for a long time for them to come out. I tried to photograph some turtles a couple of weeks ago, but even with a telephoto lens from a distance, my presence scared them into the water.


4 Rusty Wright July 2, 2012 at 07:07

If they don’t wan’tpictyres taken they have ways of ”closing” off the view. If there is also no intrusion of thier work or thier way yo get in or out, I say fair game. You were standing away from them no what in any way to sell, or intrude on any matters of thier doing. Like it be a free worls as long as it is self held information. Here and I am sure there,
people were using them for ikkegel use tto listen to police actinity against them so they could hide. It hurt all of us who carried them just to know what was happenning.
One time I tried to tell an officer after an alarm call went off, being across the block, before they came I told him of a truck that left and all he sais was ”what and why are you carring a scaner?”. Rusty


5 Nathan Kaufman July 2, 2012 at 14:38

odd question from the police officer, i wonder what they were hiding. oh well, as you say, speculation and assumptions just causes even more trouble.

you quote “‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry from the police’ mentality, which is the negation of the pernicious ‘if you get attention from the police, you must have deserved it and done something wrong’ mentality” and i don’t quite agree with that, but then again that’s why you allow comments and respond. not that i look to meet cops every time i’m out taking pictures, if one stops (especially out in the middle of nowhere) while i am pulled over on the side of the road (or sometimes in the median) and checks on me, it’s actually kind of comforting after-the-fact (see below). it shows they are vigilant and active enough in their community to notice any situation that might be out of the ordinary, even if it’s to just make sure the situation is under control.

i do admit, it is kind of embarrassing when an officer stops and checks in on me. my first thought is that i actually am trespassing somewhere (unless i’m a paved median), in which case i’ve just been respectfully asked to leave. but i don’t have anything to hide, so i’ll explain and show what i’m doing to a point. if they want to see pictures, i’ll show them some until they request i delete them. you’ve actually educated me a lot through your posts and chats, and while i’ve known photography is not a crime, probably the most helpful thing you’ve taught is how to stand up for myself (different from standing my ground), because shying away and complying with every request is one of the worst things to do.

i guess i don’t have many law enforcement experiences to share though, even though i’m a freelance photographer. maybe it’s a louisiana thing, because i’ve only talked to police in hearne, tx before about my activities, then talked about night photography for a minute or two before they (two cars checking me out) were called away. they only stopped too because one had driven by earlier and i was probably parked too close to the corner waiting for my train, but they didn’t hassle me or give me a ticket. the only other one i can remember is when i was unknowingly tresspassing on union pacific property and was asked politely to move (this was in san antonio, tx).

i’ll see if i can catch up in police encounters, i found a great deal on a nikon d3000 and plan on getting good use out of it. wow, i’m all over the place with my comment.

anyway, how do i subscribe for email updates? i feel like i’m missing out on stuff.


6 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 2, 2012 at 17:32

Perhaps you misinterpreted what I said. I also don’t agree with the “‘if you get attention from the police, you must have deserved it and done something wrong’ mentality.” That was exactly the point, that it was a dangerous idea.
Yes, I’ve been visited many times by police who just check to make sure that I was okay, that I wasn’t in need of help or something. I am grateful for that.

Yes, you get the embarrassment thing, don’t you?

As for location, I think it’s a southern (and Northeast) thing. I thought about it, and all of my serious incidents with threats to photography have been south of I-20. That’s where most of my pictures have been taken, but I have taken plenty of pictures throughout the Great Plains into Canada and into the mountainous western Canada, not to mention Mexico too.

As for the e-mail list, see the instructions here for how to join:

Also, did you see the incident on the Facebook fan page with the backhoe operator who attacked a videographer?


7 Tom Beckett July 2, 2012 at 15:05

Hmm….that encounter turned out well. My guess is, they’ve been stung by the media before-which you would have no way of knowing. Makes the skittishness understandable.

Too bad about Jerry, and that he has not learned what happens when you assume!!! I agree with your comments about the nonsense he was sending around about both the president, and Mrs Obama. I expect a certain amount of idiocy directed at any politician, regardless of party. It comes with the territory. Some of it is flat our wrong and mean spirited, but, politics ain’t beanbag. But to start in with some of the crap he did about Mrs Obama is just off limits and unacceptable. Judging by public discourse, there are not many who have learned that.

Like the train shots, especially the UP. You’d know the territory better than anyone, so would be a better judge of the light there, but I thought the low sun was just perfect, and really lit up the UP yellow, which can look pretty good when it’s clean. Don’t forget, it was not THAT many years ago when SP seemingly didn’t have a clean unit in the fleet.


8 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 2, 2012 at 20:35

The angle of the sunlight in relation to the horizon was fine. The problem was the angle of the sunlight in relation to the train. The light was too head-on. Look at the shadow cast by the train on the track, indicating that the sun is almost directly above the right-of-way. A half hour later, the sun would have been swun around further, and you’d see no shadows there.

As for the crazy e-mail forwards, they seem to have a more “conservative” and “Tea Party” lean to them, but I grew up in southern Louisiana. Had I grown up in Washington (the state or the city), Oregon, Minneapolis, eastern Massachusetts, or NY-NJ, I’d probably get a lot of Occupy Wall Street and Republicans-are-backwards-morons e-mails too.

Yes, I looked up to Sires when I was a kid, but I know now that having a photo credit in TRAINS doesn’t mean that one is a good person or doesn’t make repeated unwarranted assumptions, etc.


9 Tom Beckett July 3, 2012 at 10:05

I’ll give you that on the shadows with the UP shot, but the photo angle is kinda head on, too-there’s not a lot of side angle there. In the northeast we called that the “tunnel of trees”, thought it’s often tighter in many places. But, you gotta take the shot when the train shows. Can’t always pick and choose your lighting and sun angle, unless you are on a really busy line-and that’s why you go back to the same place over and over(I’ve been asked why I do that), because at different times of day, different times of year, it’s a little(sometimes A LOT) different. Still, a nice shot with good color saturation.

The lean on the emails on forwards is not always related to where you are, more to who’s in power. I get a batch of those periodically from some folks I know in upstate NY-which is actually more right leaning that most people realize. The cities, NY especially, but also Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, tend more left, but the rest of the state is pretty solidly red. There are just not enough of them to overcome the overwhelming blue-ness of the NY metro area, even with Long Island(approx 4 million in Nassau and Suffolk counties) generally trending right in my lifetime. I kid people that when I was born(in Manhattan) along with my birth certificate, I also got my registration card for the Democratic party. All that said, the stuff I get tends to be overwhelmingly anti Obama, everything from cheap shots about his wife, to the birther stuff, to “Obama is making us all socialists” , to the “Obama is a foreign born Muslim” nonsense. But when W was president, I used to see a lot of things about a “village missing their idiot” and the like, sometimes from the same people. One guy I know posts all that anti Obama stuff, then will turn around and post something just as vehement about Romney being a “RINO” and too moderate to be true conservative. I guess some people won’t be happy til we dig up James Madison and put him back in office.

The unfortunate part is that the polarization seems to be getting more deeply entrenched. There’s always been disagreement, but it was not that long ago that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill could disagree with each other on fundamental approaches to government, but at the end of the day they not only were able to come to a workable compromise plan on how to get things done, but also could stay on friendly terms. Now it seems like everything is a pitched battle. My congressman, Steve Womack in the Arkansas 3rd district, sends out a weekly email to constituents, which is titled “From the Front” as if he were in some kind of combat. While that title may be innocuous, it does convey an overtone of conflict. Even that has an anti Obama tone to it, but he’s a Republican, so I suppose a certain amount of that is to be expected. For what it’s worth, I’m not defending the president-I think he had some chances to do better than he has, and not taken full advantage of them, so in some ways has been a disappointment-but he does not deserve the bashing he gets, and does not get credit for what he’s done right. That said, I doubt it matters much who gets elected. If you’re not part of the 1%, you’ll get screwed either way.

Too bad about Sires. You’re right-having a photo credit in TRAINS is no guarantee that someone is an angel. There are a lot of guys who are good photographers who are AH’s. Back in the 90’s when I was more active in the northeast scene, I could tell you who was helpful and who to avoid-there were some fans there for whom everything was a competition to see who could be the Most Important Railfan. You could never tell them it was not a contest. I never got into other issues-politics, etc-it was not worth the hassle; if their take on other issues was like their railfanning, that was a discussion I was not interested in having!!


10 Donovan July 2, 2012 at 19:42

On June 28, me, my girlfriend, and my friend Raymond were doing a planned trip across the state. We were coming from Lafayette and making our way to Lake Charles where we would stay the night before heading north. I heard the BNSF dispatcher give out a warrant for an eastbound train from Iowa Jct. to Roanoke. We stopped in Welsh were we would catch him. In case the train would have been going track speed, i walked over to the main street crossing and stood on the side walk looking down the tracks until i would see him. It would have been better than standing practically on the tracks in the middle of town. Not long after, a Welsh police officer pulled up and asked “Who you with?”. I replied with “What you mean who i’m with?”. He continued to reply with “who you with” a few more times then asked “who you work for?” Since i figured he meant some type of media company i replied with “i work for no one”. He then asked for my ID which i gave him but before telling him that it would be safer to pull ahead a little and off the tracks in which he was parked on this whole time. He replied “I know what i’m doing”.

I doubt he did…

He did his check up on me and asked what i was doing. I told him exactly what i was doing and then he asked what vehicle i was in. I pointed to the parking lot and started walking knowing he was coming bother us some more. He did his thing and ran my girlfriends ID as well. Just before driving off he sees Raymond in the back seat and then asks for his ID also. Raymond did not have is ID with him. He had left it at home before the trip and told the officer this. The officer then gets down and Raymond gets out to talk to him. This is were my respect for this officer fell through the floor. He says that in the state of Louisiana you must have your ID with you AT ALL TIMES and that he could arrest Raymond right there for not having it on him. I knew this was complete BS and quickly got on my phone to find out a little info before i acted on my plan to confront this guy. I found that you only need your ID with you if you are doing something that requires it. Driving, buying and drinking alcohol, and gambling are examples.

He then told us that the land we were on (the parking lot) was city property but didn’t say anything about us being there. I don’t know how that would of worked but i do know this. The parking lot we were in had only one sign and it said “Public Parking”. It did not say reserved parking for a specific company, how long you could park there, and why. I left that detail alone.

Now i need to think, what was i gonna do about this incident? I never stood up to a cop before and this old timer seemed like he wasn’t looking to play games. So, i walked up to his car just before he leaves and asked for his name kindly. He replies with “Billie David”. As he drives away, we get in the car and drive away also but not before we see out train just down the tracks! What perfect timing, aye?

Before i continue, here is the train we were waiting on:

After the train, i headed for the police station so that i could talk to someone about this. I walk inside and talk to a really nice lady who i explained everything to. See looked rather surprised when i told her that officer Billie David told my friend that he could arrest him were he stood for not having his ID on him (a made up law). She then called him and asked him about it and told me that he said if Raymond would have refused to show his ID to officer Billie David that he could of been arrested. I also think that is somewhat BS but didn’t say anything about it as that was not what i was there for. This is were i think i made a mistake. I took that information she gave me and just accepted it but didn’t tell her that he did not say anything like that to Raymond!

I guess i still need to get used to this and be more open minded. She did say i could have called the chief the following day and ask him any questions i had about all of this. I never did, but, i think that i could of handled that conversation a little better and maybe even call out officer Billie David on his remark he had made to my friend. I think it is time i started to take into consideration that fully understanding a lot of the laws we live by might be quite helpful in the future. Also, “‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry from the police”. Yeah, right…


11 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 2, 2012 at 20:11


Thanks so much for sharing this story.

In general, I think that you did very well here, perhaps better than I would have done at your age.

You said that your respect for the officer went through the floor when you witnessed how he dealt with Raymond, but there’s something that happened earlier that should have warned you that something really stupid like that was coming. By that, I mean his response to you when you alerted to him that he was parked on the track. Did you know that it’s a violation of state law to park on the track? That’s what makes the Raymond thing so damned stupid; he’s not only making up a law with Raymond, but he callously violated one when talking to you earler! Does he therefore care at all about the actual law? That’s why I say the thing with Raymond should not have been a surprise.

Actually, wait! The way that he initiated the conversation with his “who are you with?” question should have been a sign of bad things to come, since had apparently already decided on his own that you were sent there by someone else. That alone is unfair to you (and to human individuality in general), and it, too, should have been a sign of things to come.

The “no ID” stuff is indeed wrong, but I suspect that the officer was thinking of it being a “resisting an officer” thing, which seems to be a catch all. That might have only applied if Raymond actually had his ID on him but refused to show it, but I actually think that it still might not matter since he wasn’t, as you say, engaging in the activities for which you need an ID.

Didn’t the “who are you with?” question make you feel like he thought you weren’t ‘adult’ enough to be doing that on your own? That you can’t decide for yourself to be out there? He’s being unfair to you from the outset. “Why are you taking pictures?” or, better yet, “what are you doing?” would be far more appropriate questions in this case.
See my comparison to how some people can’t fathom why a woman would go alone to a restaurant:
It’s the same feeling.

About the only thing I may have done differently was answer “who are you with?” by pointing to the car with my entourage, since you actually were there “with” two other people! Still, you did well (and quite mature) to simply ask him what he meant by that. Then, though, the “whom do you work for?” question is a bit weird. I had that question asked to me in the April 2008 incident with the NOPD, and I was even asked to give my supervisor’s name and telephone number, which, to my great regret, I did! They don’t need to know all of that. More specifically, the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the government from infringing on your right to not give out such information.

Also, do the stories that I’ve shared about my own experiences like these seem more believable now that this has happened to you? Plenty of people criticize me and my actions, even saying that I must in some kind of way provoke these actions and therefore deserve them, but I guess that either they’ve never experienced something like this, or, worse, they did, and they just bowed to the officers wishes. The ironic truth is that when I was your age, if I would have read some of the very stuff that I’m writing now, I would think that whoever wrote it would be some sort of troublemaking jerk!


12 Tom Beckett July 3, 2012 at 17:23

God save us from cops with nothing to do…….

You probably handled this event as well as you could. It’s really annoying to be standing somewhere, minding your own business, only to have to play 20 questions with a nosy cop when you are not doing anything illegal, or even suspicious, though I suppose suspicion is in the eye of the beholder. Cops, because of the nature of their jobs, are suspicious, though it’s a good bet some are that way naturally. Incidents like this are why I tend not to stay in one place very long. Not that I have anything to hide, or that I’m doing anything illegal, I just don’t want the hassle. Most times, like other posters, it’s reasonably innocuous. I’ve had some pleasant encounters, and even got along with a couple of cops a lot of fans HATED-most notably the CP cop in Binghamton NY, but he knew who I was, and that I was not going to be a problem; CP had a real issue with a lot of fans trespassing in the early years, since the NYSW and D&H had pretty much let the fans have run of the property. But there’s always the possibility the cop has an agenda for whatever reason, maybe nothing more than you’re not from there, and it can get ugly. Note the whole ID thing with Raymond. Total crap. A lot of times, they screw with you just because they can.

The ID issue is interesting. I don’t know how many of you looking at this read Railfan magazine. There was an incident related by their editor, Steve Barry, a couple of years ago, where he was asked for ID on a NY subway train. He gave them name/address/phone, etc, but refused to provide a government issued ID. He was subsequently detained. The charges were dropped, and he and his companion that day sued the city. The outcome is still pending on the civil suit-not uncommon for them to take this long in NY-and I have not seen an update in the magazine.

Requirements to ID yourself to law enforcement vary from state to state, but in NY it’s become common practice for NYPD(and various other police agencies, NY has a ton of them) to stop and ID people on the street. It smacks to me of “where are your papers??” I’m not sure what it says about us that we are now allowing ourselves to be subjected to this on a regular basis.


13 Fotaugrafee July 5, 2012 at 10:26

Donovan, do not take this too personal, but the worst thing you could have done is give him your ID. Make up a half-ass business card & give that to him next time. Unless your travels & the officers detention involve your vehicle, in MOST states, you need not present a government ID for such detention (if indeed he legally detained you, which it does not sound like he did). Next time, get his name & badge ID, then post it here so every knows he is a stooge completely unaware of the law. Giving in to the cops illegal demands means you forfeit your right to complain later on, IMO.


14 Fotaugrafee July 5, 2012 at 10:31

In addition, this is only from Wikipedia, but it is a good start for Stop & Identify statutes. Louisiana is on there, but all that means is that you have to identify yourself. Most states will do NOT require the presentation of a government ID or drivers license. Lots of legal mumbo-jumbo in here that may be tough to understand, just know that requirement to identify does not mean the officer is privy to ANYONES actual driver license. It means you only need to identify yourself as Donovan Reed of ______, LA, born on ____, 19__.


15 Ryan S July 3, 2012 at 05:31

Good story Donovan (well, it isn’t good that it happened, but good on you for sharing), and well done! You handled the situation better than most people would have.

Keep up the good work (and the good photographs).


16 Ryan S July 3, 2012 at 10:58

If you guys keep it up, you may find your way onto a “Wanted” Poster.

I suggest you keep it up. 🙂


17 W Bain July 3, 2012 at 14:16


I travel daily to work via the VRE (Virginia Rail Express) and DC Metro (subway) and the Metro stations usually lots of police officers watching. I walk on through never looking at them, eyes straight ahead. So far no problem. I’ve taken some pictures of the VRE trains leaving the station, the light is good in the morning, or watching a CSX freight go northbound, the light is good, all in view of the security cameras. I’m waiting for ‘the day’. Reading your jourmal is educational. The TSA has even shown up on some trains, they give me the creeps. One local policeman was at the station one morning. I don’t mind that, he’s local. I mentioned to the conductor about the TSA and how they give me the creeps. He said they get a lot of threats on YouTube. I had to laugh. YouTube! What’s this world coming to. As I mentioned on Facebook, I may be off the Canada, this place is making me nervous. I’m beginnoing the feel like a Christian Scientist with appenicitise. Good luck. Btw, I posted a request on Va. Gov. McDonnell’s Facebook if he can get the TSA off our trains. We’ll see.


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