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Thread: Meeting Mura* at sunrise

  1. #1
    misko Guest

    Default Meeting Mura* at sunrise

    * Short for Mura Express, named after Mura River

  2. #2
    misko Guest


    Last Friday some family event lead me from Ljubljana, where I live, to Prekmurje, a tiny piece of flatland squeezed between Mura River and two borders - Austrian and Hungarian in the utter northeast part of the country. The event had to happen late in the afternoon, but having time and desire to make most out of the voyage I decided to go early, in fact very early. Being photographer with passion for railroad photography, I wanted to catch some train at the sunrise and that meant that I had to be on my way two hours earlier.

    Sunrises on the open land, without mountains obstructing the view when the sun is biggest, are for me always magnificent and fascinating. Golden light which spills over the land in the short period from the moment when the top of the fiery disk pops out of horizon and before its color changes from deep red to blinding white, turns everything into fairytale scene and the yellow-red morning mist hanging low above the ground and veiling everything into dreamy softness just intensifies that magic illusion.

    Of course, to capture that bewitching splendor one has to be there, on the open land with camera precisely at that short-lasting moment, and the sky should be more or less clear, otherwise great expectation turns into gray early-morning disappointment, making you yearn for those few lost hours of sweet sleep. But for a successful railroad sunrise photo another element, while not vital but certainly enhancing one, is the train coming down the gleaming tracks. Since they don't come that often, and almost certainly they don't come when we want them, one must be either very lucky, or he must do some advance planning to have all elements together precisely at the right moment.

    While it is easy to find out at which moment and in which direction the sun will appear at certain place, with trains it is totally different ball game. Freight trains usually don't run by timetable, at least not strict one, and even if they do, they are usually late by hours. Relying on them is like predicting someone's death - it comes when it comes, always unexpectedly, the only difference is that contrary to trains its arrival is always premature. Thus the only solution are passenger trains, if and where they run; if the line is freight only, one can only hope for the luck which is typically as rare as the water in the desert.

    Fortunately, the line I had in my mind is not of that kind; quite opposite. Some 30 passenger runs in both directions are scheduled during the day, few of them, being commuter runs, early in the morning. Less fortunate is the fact that almost all of them are RDC runs which, unlike to locomotive hauled trains, are quite boring to photograph to me. However, luckily for me there is one such locomotive hauled train running at most appropriate time for the better part of the year, except in summertime, as its journey starts at 5.40 am at Murska Sobota and terminates at 7.00 am at Pragersko. It is IC517 Mura Express, whose three cars are coupled there to another express, IC503 Pohorje from Maribor, for their common journey to the seaport town of Koper at the opposite side of the country.
    Last edited by Bob; 10-20-2005 at 02:04 AM.

  3. #3
    misko Guest


    Thus one day before my trip I opened the map of the area and put together data of time and angle from east at which sun rises these days, and those from IC517's timetable, to find out where both will be on horizon and within the view range of my lens. The result showed me this should occurr when the train will be leaving Ptuj, a quite unhappy coincidence not only because this short stretch of track leading across Drava River and through the Ptuj yard is the only one out of exact east-west axis of a 25 miles long, straight as crow flies tangent connecting Pragersko with Ormoz, but also because whole perimeter of Ptuj is cluttered with unattractive industries, houses, power lines and other manmade junk, spoiling the virgin beauty of the nature in one of its most glorious moments. I don't mind the telegraph poles, signals, interlocking towers with remote control wires, and other railroad belonging paraphernalia which only add to pristine railroad atmosphere, but I certainly don't find any charm in corrugated aluminum paneled boxes housing today's industry or in newly-built suburban dwellings.

    To avoid this ugly urban mess I rather opted for lesser evil - not having rising sun in sight and waiting for the train eight minutes of its ride further down the line in an environment as classic as one can find nowadays. Kidricevo, a simple but lovely small yard with fitting small, one floor station, four siding tracks guarded by dwarf but cute interlocking towers and old German-type semaphores, and with through track running straight into horizon, splitting it and the grove before in two, would be the place. Since it was still a week ahead of autumn equinox I knew the sun will not rise in the axis of the east-running line anyway, and so the train will not be coming directly out of it. Therefore I took sacrificing sun as minor handicap in exchange for gaining unspoiled railroad photo.
    Last edited by misko; 10-13-2005 at 11:36 PM.

  4. #4
    misko Guest


    On Friday morning, two hours and two horse-killing espressos after I deserted the coziness of my bed, I was standing in a deep, dew-soaked grass some 100 yards further from the west yard throat, with 70-200 f2.8 zoom and matching 2x tele-extender mounted on my Canon 10D and supported by monopod. I was standing there and watching the sun how it raises, piercing with its red rays beech tree grove to the left of the tracks, just where and when I predicted it will. It was raising fast, much faster than I'd like to. Two minutes later it was already above the grove, and yet it was still five long minutes before the train was due. I was feeling like caught in a strange world where sun races around it while time stands still. My eyes flipped anxiously form speeding sun to the empty vanishing point of the track and back - not even slight sign of a train there. Of course, how could it appear 3 minutes before time just four miles after the last stop, but force your mind to behave rational when glorious light fades away more and more by seconds...

  5. #5
    misko Guest


    In spite of all my attempts to keep my mind cool and reasoning sensible, emotions and anxiety started to prevail. What if the train is late? Was all effort in vain? Did I sacrifice my already too short, precious sleep for nothing? Was I pumping up my already too high blood pressure with coffee for nada? I knew the train will come eventually, but - will I get the photo I envisioned at home? I quit smoking 10 years ago, never ever lighting another smoke again or having desire to, but if someone would offer me one then, I'm not sure if I'd resolutely say no.

    Eight minutes later, right on advertised, a bright star appeared at the end of the track. It brilliance grew stronger every moment and soon the silhouette of the engine, softened by morning fog and headlight flare, roughed out. Few seconds later the staccato growl of the 645E prime mover running in eight became distinct and started to change rapidly from piano to fortissimo.

  6. #6
    misko Guest


    It was awesome sight, watching silhouette of a brutish diesel growing and storming out of red-gold mist right on me, tiny and vulnerable human standing almost in the line of his progress. While I was frenetically readjusting the focus which the powerful headlights and the haze of the sun, shining almost directly onto front glass of my lens, send berserk already several times, the concentration of adrenalin in my blood rapidly grew, not surprisingly at all as I was standing barely 4 feet from the rail. This dangerous proximity of mine didn't escape engineer who from the distance couldn't see the camera and, presumably taking me for just another nut considering suicide, decided to persuade me to back off with several long blows from his Leslie horn. Or, on the other hand, he was just one of those many engineers I rode in cab with them and recognizing me he was sending me greetings... Who knows, in those few seconds while gazing through the long lens into gold haze I couldn't see his face, nor he is recognizable on the photo.

  7. #7
    misko Guest


    Black silhouette with three piercing eyes bulked in my viewfinder with tremendous speed, 645's growl burst into roar, and in the next moment, with black mass completely filling my eyepiece, I was almost blown away into thick growth of goldenrod framing the right of way. Holding camera with one hand and my cap, almost torn from my head, with another I watched short consist of three coaches as it rattled past me blurred with speed and immediacy. Culmination of the whole event lasted less than a second; in the next one, with brains flooded by dopamine and blood thick of adrenaline and still excitedly grasping for the oxygen from the gale trailing last coach, I turned to watch the train sinking back into thin morning mist. Viewed in direction away from the sun it was no more fiery red but just unattractive gray matter rapidly gobbling the train like a huge alien monster.

    As the air filled the vacuum following the train, gale turned into breeze and then to a standstill, goldenrods' stems settled into their upright position, and the silence crept back to the scene, allowing rooster from the nearby farm to be heard again. Usual calmness, so drastically interrupted with the passage of a train, regained its cozy country morning image.

    I, likewise slowly regaining my normal calm condition, waited for a moment till camera buffer managed to write captured images into memory card. After short eternity red led finally ceased to glow and I was able to check the catch by summoning it on display. When I saw I got the series of thrilling shots, sharp and properly exposed in spite of extreme shooting conditions, I was excited. Early morning rise, night travel, drowsiness trying to beat me while driving, dew soaked sneakers and trouser legs, all was instantly irrelevant and forgotten. Not minding my hypertension and the pills I forgot to take that morning I turned toward the station coffee bar for another espresso. It was long time since one tasted so darn good...

  8. #8


    Reviewer comments

    I couldn't have asked for a better example of what I'm trying to do in this forum. This is what a photo essay should be!

    As usual, Misko has included a title graphic, which presents a nice glimpse of what the story will be. Then he sets the stage by telling us what he's trying to accomplish and how he'll do it.

    Knowing many of us are not familiar with the area, he's included a map and timetable. They are both nice touches.

    As usual, Misko's photos are top notch. The intense colors really capture the feeling of sunrise, and the mists only adds to the mood.

    What really makes the essay shine is the extensive text. He doesn't just show us some nice photos, he also tells us the background of the story. By the time he's done, you almost feel like you know how he felt.

    An excellent job, and a fine example of what I hope to accomplish with this new forum. More than just nice photos of trains, I'm looking for a way to really convey the whole story. Misko has done an excellent job of it.

  9. #9
    FoamersNW Guest


    Well, Im not sure where I fit into here, but Id like to share some of my thoughts on his photo essay;

    First and foremost, I feel that the writing is some of the best that I have seen on alot of sights. Misko not only very elegantly puts into words his feelings, but does so to allow the reader to imagine themselves standing right next to him. I find some of his context and syntax causes me to re-read a sentence once or twice, but it isnt too distracting due to the message being conveyed.

    As for the photos, I feel that he excels at his b&w photos that he has shared in the past. The photos here are a nice touch, and like Bob says, the map, timetable, and "cover shot" are well done. If I were to pick only one real issue with the entire spread, is the final photo which to me seems redundant, eventhough Im sure Misko is trying to convey the urgency of the train, and his relationship to its passage. Not anything that breaks the layout by any means.

    Im sure ANY of his previous material would also fit very well into this forum. His profession of being a photojournalist shows and is a great benefit to all that view his work.
    Last edited by FoamersNW; 10-13-2005 at 04:24 AM.

  10. #10
    ahockley Guest


    Here's my reviewer comments:
    As stated already, a resounding thumbs up... (can thumbs resound?)

    The text provides a great framework for the photos and helps to tell the story, not just of what the images depict, but the surrounding environment and photographer's mindset. I enjoyed the text and Misko's use of a wide vocabulary which helps convey the feeling and mood. There were a few sentences that seemed a bit "bumpy" but the meaning could be understood; this is most likely a language issue.

    The photos accurately reflect the moods and tones set in the text. The technical aspects of the photos look good, with my only unrest being the composition/crop of the final photo... I would probably have enjoyed it a bit more with either more, or less, of the lead locomotive's nose in the frame.

    All in all, an excellent work.

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