You know you’re having a photographically productive trip when you have a week’s worth of keepers after the first evening out.
Prague, Czech Republic is among the world’s great tram cities.
It’s hard to beat for its variety of cars and paint liveries, combined with stunning urban scenery, a large of number of routes and extensive route mileage (kilometerage?), plus intensive frequency of operation.
I’ve visited before, but I’m still stunned by observing the incredible number of trams gliding through the streets. This is among the most interesting urban railways, anywhere.
Here’s just a few photos from my Lumix LX7 exposed on a rainy evening in Prague.
A visit to Prague in May 2000 fulfilled my desire to make gritty urban images. Using my Rolleiflex Model T and Nikon F3T, I exposed dozens of photographs of eclectic Bohemian architecture and electric railed vehicles.
This image of Tatra T3 working westbound on Prague’s number 9 route is typical of my photography from that trip.
Prague is one of those great cities that seems to beckon a photo at every turn. Or certainly that was my impression.
I’m presenting two versions of the image: the first is tightly cropped view made possible by the camera’s excellent optics and careful processing of the film (also for some adjustments for contrast in digital post-processing); the second is a pure, un-cropped image. Take your pick!
In January 2009, Tim Doherty, Denis McCabe and I made photos at a suburban branch station called Praha-Ruzyne, situated west of Prague’s historic center and near the Vaclav Havel (international) Airport. A wire operated semaphore caught my interest.
This scene presents a lesson in composition. It was a visually interesting but stark environment to make photographs.
The Czech capital is a fascinating city with some of Europe’s finest architecture. Unfortunately, none of this is present at Praha-Ruzyne, which is characterized by urban development stemming from the country’s austere period of Soviet-influence.
I opted to work in silhouette and exposed this color slide for the highlight areas of the sky while allowing shadow areas to go black and be virtually free from distracting detail.
My challenge was placing the semaphore mast and blade in a position that makes it most prominent. I’ve balanced the composition by putting this signal diagonally opposite from the diesel railcar at lower right. The red lights on the back of the railcar immediately attract the eye, while the semaphore draws it back again.
In the middle is a lone figure crossing the line which both adds a prominent human element that offers a sense of scale, while imposing a poetic element of; ‘man versus his environment’.
The trackage arrangement makes for a complex pattern that reflects the light of the morning sky . On the hill above the train is a large building that hints at the greater urbanity of the scene. Without it, the image might be mistaken for a photo of a rural village.
Two specially difficulties were the array of vertical lighting masts which distract from the semaphore, and the railing along the line that visually interferes with the trackage, but adds a layer of depth.
The trees in the distance beyond the tracks are slightly diffused by morning haze and contribute to sense of depth—an especially important element in this silhouetted view, which would otherwise be flattened by the minimalism imposed by my choice of exposure.
How might this image compare with one at the same location exposed on a bright summer afternoon?
I spent several days exploring Prague in Spring 2000. Unlike many cities in Western Europe, Prague escaped widespread damage during World War II and much of the historic city center has retained its classic architecture.
Prague also has an extensive public transport network, including an underground metro, suburban and long distance heavy rail services, and one of Europe’s largest tram systems.
The combination of great architecture in a scenic setting along the Vlatva River and well-maintained Tatra trams allowed for many photographic opportunities. The trams also afforded me convenient transport.
I quickly discovered that although beer in the city center was cheap by western standards, it could be obtained for about a third the price and in greater varieties in the suburbs. I also found the Czech’s very personable and so spent several great days wandering around in good company.
I exposed these images with my Nikon F3T on Fujichrome Sensia. I calculated exposure manually using my Sekonic Studio Deluxe hand-held photo cell.