For me, a casual visit Ukraine in July 2007 was a great opportunity to ride and photograph former Soviet Railways.
Although the weather was scorching, the sun remained out for days and the quality of light was fantastic.
My favorite place was L’viv, a former Hapsburg provincial capital (previously known as Lemberg), and one of the great un-sung European cities. I found the railways here accessible and very easy to photograph. The city itself was completely fascinating: dusty cobble stone streets with trams everywhere. The beer was cheap and the vodka cheaper.
L’viv’s railways were some of the busiest I’ve ever seen. Here heavily built double track electric lines were saturated with a mix of local electric multiple units, very long intercity passenger trains, and an unceasing parade of heavy freights. In addition to electrics, occasionally a matched pair of 2M62 diesels would chortle by.
Still photographs cannot convey the traffic density; no sooner than one train was out of sight, and the next could be heard grinding along.
Among the wonderful things about Ukrainian railways; lots of carload traffic and virtually no graffiti!
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.