Freedom at Her Fingertips

Freedom at Her Fingertips

Instagram photographer extraordinaire Jessica Zollman (or @jayzombie) set out on a great Amtrak adventure on the Left Coast. She rode on our Coast Starlight then hopped on the Cascades, learning a thing or two about photographing moving landscapes and even her own ancestry along the way!

Jessica served as the Community Evangelist for Instagram for nearly two years and now does photography full-time, but traveling by train was a new experience for her. “I learned quickly that capturing photos of any views from the side of the train while it was going extremely fast, though a fun challenge, was unlikely to result in a great photo,” she says. Instead, she focused her attention and iPhone toward the back of the train, capturing breathtaking shots like this one. 


Not all of Jessica’s time was spent behind a cell phone, though. She says she also enjoyed spending time in the train’s Observation Car. “It’s easy to put electronics in front of your face to escape, but sometimes I liked to challenge myself and just take in the sights and sounds without a technology buffer.”

When she did, she learned a thing or two about herself. In fact, after striking up a conversation with Ken, a conductor on the Cascades, her mom told her that her great grandfather had also been a life-long conductor.

“It was great that just by getting to know Ken and sharing a photo of him, I was able to learn a little bit more about my family’s ties to train travel,” she says.

Amtrak Conductor

The biggest surprise about Jessica’s trip? “I was also surprised by how much I loved sleeping on the train,” she says. “It sounds completely cheesy, but seeing the tree tops go by and spotting different constellations through my window was, unexpectedly, another favorite part of long-distance train travel.”