Passion for trains pays off for photographer

February 16, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Issaquah photographer David Honan visits the Train Depot to take more photos of his favorite subject - trains. By Greg Farrar

Trains aren’t just David Honan’s business. They’re his passion.

At 28, Honan is the winner of this year’s Trains Magazine photography contest.

“He’s just a wonderful and a very nice person,” said Bobbie Olin, an Issaquah resident who rides the bus to work with him each day. “This is definitely an honor to get selected for this as the grand prize winner.

By day, Honan works as a civil engineer for HDR Engineers in Bellevue, where he primarily designs railroads and infrastructure related to railroad operations.

“It’s been very rewarding to work on a number of local passenger rail projects, which, when complete, will benefit transit users in the region for years to come,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Honan grew up in New York, but graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana.

His interest in trains developed long before working with trains when he moved here four years ago, as he explained in an e-mail interview.

Q: When did you first have an interest in trains?

A: I’ve liked railroads for, literally, as long as I can remember. As best as anyone in my family can recall, it was my paternal grandfather who exposed me to trains and helped develop my interest. I have fond memories of him taking me to both the local railroad yard and airport to watch trains and planes; obviously the former made more of an impact upon me.

Q: How did you get involved in train photography?

His photo ‘Bridging the Gap’ won first place in a Trains Magazine contest.

A: I come from a family of mostly artists, so the desire to document what I see is naturally ingrained. I determined long ago that the illustration gene wasn’t passed down, and eventually, I started taking photos as a means to preserve memories of what I saw and share those memories with others.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your photography?

A: Photography gives me the desire to explore new locales and, by extension, allows me to meet new people. I would not have seen many amazing places nor befriended numerous wonderful folks if not for my enthusiasm for traveling and experiencing sights yet unseen.

Q: What is special about the locomotive and train industry, that speaks to you as an artist?

A: I’m impressed that there are always inherent challenges to constructing any railroad line. Much of my work does not showcase merely a train, but instead places the subject within the greater context of its surroundings.

Q: What do you hope others gain from your photos?

A: I would hope that viewers of my work experience the same sense of awe I feel when seeing a beautiful scene.

Q: Do any other types of photography interest you?

A: I enjoy taking advantage of unusual lighting conditions to create unique images; perfect sunlight is absolutely not a requirement for making interesting photos, and working outside that supposed requirement is always a delightful challenge.

Q: What does the honor in Trains Magazine mean to you?

A: Trains Magazine has been publishing the work of the best railroad photographers — Richard Steinheimer, Ted Benson, O. Winston Link — for seven decades, and to have my photo featured on the same pages as those legends is an incredible honor. This is without a doubt my greatest achievement as a photographer.

Q: How and where can other people see your work?

A: The March 2010 issue of Trains Magazine featuring the photo contest winners is currently on newsstands.

Honan also maintains a portfolio featuring his work on Flickr and contributes photos with a railroad in them to

The award-winning photograph, “Bridging the Gap,” was taken at 9:30 p.m. in March as an example of how engineering can create a solution to overcome an obstacle, Honan said in the description in Trains Magazine. In this case, Honan captured a train crossing the Foss River Bridge, which connects the railway over a valley in Skykomish. It was a challenging piece of engineering, because it had to keep the trains moving at a steady grade, he said of the photo.

For his photograph, Honan won a Canon EOS 50D digital SLR camera with an EF 28-135 millimeter lens. He will also attend the 32nd Winterail Railroad Photography and Railroadiana exhibition show in Stockton, Calif., on March 13. While in California, he’ll spend a day railfanning with Brian Matsumoto, from Cannon U.S.A., and Kathi Kube, managing editor of Trains Magazine.

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Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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