Riding With The Locals in India
This is one of my favourite photos from our time in India and like many of my photos from there, it was simply a product of the country’s chaos. After an enjoyable time in Agra we departed our guest house for the bus station, bound for Delhi. Upon arrival at the bus station we realized our transport had been cancelled and apparently there was no other bus departing for the city of 31 million. Our rickshaw driver was friendly enough to have walked us to the correct bus stand and upon learning that our bus was cancelled he promptly took us back to our guest house and did something I did not think was possible in India, got us a refund. We then headed to the train station where we eventually found our way to a ticket counter and paid not much more than a dollar for a train bound to Delhi.
After a lot of confusion we arrived on what we believed was the correct platform and patiently waited for the train to arrive. As we stood there with our bulky bags on our backs we saw the train slowly approaching us so we moved to the edge of the platform to wait for a free compartment. It wasn’t until the train pulled up next to us and then continued moving past us, along with a crowd of locals scrambling past each other to jump onto the still moving train, that it became apparent that this train was not stopping. We stood there somewhat stunned for a moment before wondering what we were supposed to do now, had we just missed our second chance to get to Delhi? Our confusion must have been evident as a friendly local walked over grinning and explained that the train would not stop for us, only slow down, and we would need to find a free spot, jostle with the the other locals and jump on board with only a few minute window either side. He told us to wait and get ready as another train would be by in about 15 minutes. Normally this wouldn’t have been too much of a problem however we were hauling around quite a bit of luggage, only wearing thongs and were a bit concerned we wouldn’t both make it on the train together.
Finding the situation entirely ridiculous and amusing we made the snap decision that Alice would jump first and if successful hopefully I would make it on after. Failing that we planned to rendezvous at the Delhi station. As we saw the next train rolling into the station we prepared ourselves to make the leap. Just as it approached the platform our friendly local from before came running over and shouted at us that the train which was stopped on the other side of the platform was also bound for Delhi. We had mere moments to run over and get on before it left. We quickly sprinted (as fast as one can with backpacks and luggage hanging off of you everywhere) over to the other train and began trying to squeeze into any free compartment we could; however, all were crammed full already. We had run all the way to the very first compartment which we noticed had a sign for women/children and disabled people and it was the only one with any space however we noticed there were young fit men in there as well and someone motioned for us to get in, so in we got.
It filled up fast behind us and as we shuffled in unsure of where to stand, a man passed us both a sheet of newspaper each and motioned for us to sit on the floor. We pushed our bags into a corner and curled up on the paper on the ground as our space got smaller and smaller, as more and more people crammed into our already full compartment. As the train took off everyone squirmed there way into the most comfortable position they could find with many people hanging out the door way holding on to the railing, others shoulder to shoulder on the ground, and somehow amongst it all managed to score myself a window seat. A man shuffled over and allowed me to sit next to him with our legs hanging out of a doorway. As the train sped up to full speed I felt the need to hang on tightly as there were men pushed up close behind me not allowing a lot of room for error if I slipped. As the train chugged along I began to feel more comfortable that I wasn’t going to lose my legs and realised it was a great opportunity to take out my camera. It was a bit unnerving looking down the viewfinder with my head dangling out the door of the train not knowing what was coming down the track, so I tried to watch what people around me were doing so I wouldn’t lose a limb or worse, my head.
Getting the Shot:
After several test shots I decided that I really wanted to capture the speed at which we were travelling so I slowed my shutter speed down to get some motion blur. I changed my camera into the ‘shutter priority’ mode and slowly dropped my shutter speed until I settled on 1/40th of a second. I was shooting between 24-50mm with an image stabilize lens so I was pushing the limits in terms of image sharpness and in the end compromised it a bit since the ride was less than smooth. Thankfully 1/40th of a second turned out to be just slow enough to get the desired effect. This particular shot came together when the man in the train car behind me decided to take out his lunch just as an oncoming train thundered by.
[Below: Another image from the same ride. ISO 100 24mm F8 1/40th]