Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On stepping off an ICE at Frankfurt…

...from a photographer's notebook

                                                                                                                                           ©2010/2012 Steve Ember

The journey started on an October morning in 2010, and even by fast trains – SBB ICN “tilting-train” from Chur to Zürich and Deutsche-Bahn ICE from there to Hamburg – it would be an all day trip, lasting about ten hours, to northern Germany.

And even with the comfort of a First Class compartment on the speedy ICE, one longs to stretch one’s legs and get the occasional shot of fresh air and autumn sunshine along the way.

Such an opportunity beckoned at Frankfurt, about two-thirds along the route from Zürich to Hamburg. The ICE must change direction at Frankfurt, so the stop there allows a bit of time to shoot in the grand, cavernous train shed, as the late afternoon sunshine filters through the cathedral-like glass and steel arch-work. Add the busy bustle of travelers and the train activity on parallel tracks reflecting in the large windows of the ICE, and there is much to keep the eye - and the cameras - busy.

Whether looking along the platform toward the station concourse or in the opposite outward direction, the classic architectural patterns are striking. My favorite view is in the latter direction, where the traditional Germanic lettering for the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper adorns the steel framework rising to the soaring arch.

Beyond it, the world on ribbons of steel.

Unless one is the most jaded commuter, just standing here, looking up and out, evokes the magic – and romance – of train travel, to places far, near, or intermediate. One can sense the glamour of times past that enlivens the great railway novels…even take in, through one’s “olfactory memory,” the aroma of coal smoke that once swirled through this cavernous structure when thundering steam locomotives called here, mixing with exotic perfumes worn by women of mysterious mien…

Ah, but wasn’t that the ICE conductor’s whistle as the train is about to glide out of this cavern of steel and glass?

Well the reverie lasted but five minutes, the length of our stop at Frankfurt Hbf, but will live on in my photos…and, of course, in my vivid visual memory.

But it did zoom back into focus late one night this week, as I took a little journey through some as yet unedited images from my 2010 visit to Europe.

The original image                                                                                                                                   ©2010/2012 Steve Ember

As the light from outside the train shed was so strong and I was not using any sort of fill flash, the original image was fairly stark and contrasty, although I did like the strong patterns, both in the arching steel and the brilliant reflections along my ICE.

But somehow I thought there was more “hiding” in that composition, especially in terms of my inveterate romantic disposition toward European rail travel, including the allure of the "night train."  So, at about 3 AM, I figured it was time to summon my “Digital Genie” out of her bottle and give expression to my Muse.

My latest Dreamscape, “Bahnhof bei Nacht No.2” was the result. Hope you like.

It will be available in large archival giclée gallery prints and as a custom printed Photo Note Card, as will the original (for train devotees predisposed to the more "literal").

If you’d like a higher definition look, please follow this link to its page on Foto-Community. While there, you may also wish to have a look at another European train station impression, from an image taken upon arrival that evening at the equally magnificent Hamburg main station. If you’d like to sample other images of mine, please scroll down the column on the right to “More from this photographer.”


©2012 Steve Ember

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