In April 2002, I was on my way from Zagan, Poland to Dresden, Germany with John Gruber and some other friends. Shortly after sunrise, we changed trains at Chojnów, where rich low sun allowed for some dramatic images of PKP (Polish National Railways) trains. PKP was operating a variety of interesting locomotives, and I’m partial to the distinctive shape of the SU45 diesel.
My journal entry at Chojnów made at 6:34 am on that day includes this observation: “We awoke at 3:30 am to catch the 4:49 am [train] from Zagan—beautiful morning light [at Chojnów], but the station is decayed and graffiti covered.”
After I made this photo, we boarded a train destined for Gorlitz (and Dresden). Breakfast in the WARS dining car was memorable: “The girl at the counter cooked us scrambled eggs in a frying pan—class act!”
Exposed with my Nikon F3T fitted with Nikkor 24mm lens on Fujichrome slide film.
I selected this image of Budapest Keleti Station as part of a exhibition of more than twenty of my photographs titled Silver & Steel that made its debut in November 2008 at the GONe Studio. I exposed it at the beginning of an Eastern European rail adventure that ultimately brought me across Hungary, through Romania to Vlad Tepe’s birthplace, over the Carpathians and then into eastern Ukraine. Keleti or ‘Eastern’ Station is a principle Hungarian terminus for international rail travel; it’s a classic railway temple featuring a magnificent train shed that faces the city through an enormous fan-shaped window.
The trick to getting this dramatic angle was working my old Nikon F3T with its detachable prism. I focused manually, then removed the prism, and laid the camera on the platform, fine-tuning composition looking down on the mirror image while using a combination of Euro coins to prop up the lens. During exposure, I used my notebook to shade the front element from flare. To minimize vibration, I set the self-timer and stood back. My faithful Minolta IV light meter was key to calculating base exposure, but I then added a full stop to compensate for the cavernous quality of the train shed and the film’s reciprocity failure (owing to long exposure time). I made several exposures, most of which came out blurred because of nominal camera vibration. Ultimately, I locked up the F3T’s mirror for this final image.