I've tried to discover unique locations that are off the beaten path. Map reading, researching the history of an area, and studying the work of nineteenth century railroad and landscape photographers, such as William Henry Jackson and A.J. Russell, have assisted me in identifying potential views. Once in an area, slowly driving along worn-out double-tracks, followed by a good bit of footwork while sizing up a location's prospects, has been essential for identifying the potentially ideal spot.
Even when I've found a worthy spot, the finished image is uncertain, as it is often difficult to estimate exactly how the different elements will work together - the angle and amount of natural light, the shadows, the foreground and background aspects, as well as the size, speed, and composition of the train itself within that particular setting - until the train finally rumbles through.
As a result, while some locations have yielded a gratifying photo after only a single visit, others have required many more visits. Still other locations have been visited more than a half-dozen times, but with inadequate results. Hundreds of "composition tests" fill my archives, attesting to the challenge of certain locations. These test shots form the basis of study for finally getting it right someday.
Regardless of the uncertainties, I've tried to use the best mix of natural light and composition to present a picturesque landscape, as well as to take optimal advantage of the form and shape afforded by the train's engines, its mix of rail cars, and the stationary rails over which they run.