Inspiration… Waiting for Your Train

Creativity is sometimes fleeting.  The more you want to create something, in my case an image, the harder it is to even come up with an idea.  Such was the case recently.  You put pressure on yourself.  You look at other artist’s work (which is sometimes the worst thing you can do… they’re all so GOOD!).  Why can’t I make something good?  You start to doubt yourself.  You start to feel like you will never create another good image again.  Every artistic endeavor eventually experiences “writer’s block.”

I found myself near a favorite location in Belmar, camera in hand, and zero inspiration.  It’s a semi-industrial area, not necessarily “picturesque,” but certainly not devoid of image-making potential either.  There’s a marina full of boats, a river, a bridge, roads, train tracks.  I often shoot sunsets here where water meets land.  I walked under the bridge.  A train went by.

Ding!  That’s it!  It can happen just like that.  When you least suspect it.  When you’re not even trying.  (Actually, that’s always when it happens.)

If I could get the sun setting, under the bridge, when a train goes by, that would be really cool.

So, how to coordinate all this?  It actually took quite a bit of technology!!  The first step was to find out if I could stand somewhere and see the setting sun under the bridge.  I have software called The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) which provides you with just about any piece of data related to sun/moon rise/set times, the angle and height of the sun and moon at any moment on any day.  And it superimposes this on Google Maps.  It’s almost cheating.  So a few clicks and drags later, and I had a pretty good idea that around 8:05 PM the sun would be “under” the bridge if I stood on the corner, just off the railroad crossing.  Perfect.

Then off to my weather app.  A line of thunderstorms had moved through the area.  Would they be out of Belmar before sunset?  The weather radar says yes, it looks like they would… clearing skies behind the storms would give me my sunset.  Maybe even some nice colors.

Next, I needed a train.  I popped open my NJ Transit train app.  Yup.  The 7:56 PM train from Asbury Park to Bay Head would be in the area.  That’s the best I could do.  I had no idea if the train would be crossing that exact spot at precisely 8:05 PM.

Well, I’m here to tell you…. It does.


Sunset Crossing

Sunset Crossing – The sun sets under the Rt. 35 bridge while a NJ Transit train rolls by.


The other unknown, of course, was the condos in the distance.  The sun had to be above the roofs of the condos, but below the bridge.  It turns out there’s just enough room!

I had one shot at this picture.  Not only did the timing have to be right, but there’s no other train until well after the sun is gone.  So I mounted the camera on my tripod and waited.  As the sun dipped below the bridge and the colors in the sky began to turn, I could hear the familiar chime of the railroad crossing several blocks away… it was gonna be close!

Finally, the gates on the 7th Ave. railroad crossing came down and #2313 came rolling through!

Photo details: Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 27mm, 1/5 sec. @ f/8, ISO 100.  Post processing in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC.  (Click on the image for full size.)

When inspiration is at zero, and creativity isn’t happening, just clear your mind, have faith… and wait for your train.

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