The morning of 20 August 2003 was a warm one, and the day would gradually turn into a scorcher. It had been that way for a week.
Western Hungary reminded me of eastern Nebraska: flat, open, and agricultural with scruffy trees here and there, and a busy double track railway running through a broad river valley.
Where Nebraska’s double track railways are heavy diesel-hauled freight lines; in Hungary these lines are largely electrified and carry a mix of freight and passenger trains.
Denis McCabe and I were set up just east of the country station at Nagyszent-Janos to make the most of this warm morning.
For me the catenary masts are a crucial part of the scene both operationally and compositionally. Imagine the scene without the masts; how might I have composed the photo? Would it have worked considering the back lit conditions?
In response to Otto Vondrak’s “black and white challenge” on Facebook, I decided to post this black & white image via my blog Tracking the Light (http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/).
I exposed the image on black & white film using my Rolleiflex Model T and processed it chemically in my sink on Synge Street in Dublin.
I admit, I’m neither clear on the details nor the purpose of the Facebook ‘black & white challenge’, but with more than four decades of black & white negatives in my file, I figured ‘why not’. Suggestions are welcome!
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.