On the roof of a train, picking up speed
Every year, millions of residents in Dhaka travel to their hometown from the Bangladeshi capital to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Thousands use public transportation. I was determined to travel with them to experience this hectic mode of transport. I went to a local train station opposite the national airport in Dhaka on September 20, the last day before Eid.
I reached the station early in the morning and found thousands of people waiting on the platform. There were trains arriving but they were fully packed with people. There was not even space on the rooftop of the trains. In spite of this, people were crawling on top and inside the carriages like ants, sometimes even fighting with each other. Twice I failed to get onto the train. Finally, I managed to get on with the help of a young woman. The woman struggled to get on the train with her 4-year old child. I was just behind her, and as soon as she got on she pulled me up.
While sitting amongst the crowd, I started taking pictures with my 5D camera and a 16-35mm lens. After a few shots I tried using a slow shutter speed, but as the train was jerking it was difficult to capture a sharp frame. Then I tried different shutter speeds, changing the f-stops from 11 to 22. Suddenly, I spotted a woman in the middle of the two carriages. At first I framed the shot with the woman at the top. I managed to maneuver my way among the crowd and lay down to keep my hand steady. I composed the picture with the men’s feet and played with changing the f-stop and shutter speed on alternative exposures. I kept my ISO at 100 as I knew that a fast ISO would not achieve the blurred effect. The f-stop was narrow as I tried using slow shutter speeds. I was getting a huge depth-of-field to keep my subject in focus. I shot several exposures on different f-stops from 1/4 to 1/60. The train was jerking so much that half of my shots were blurred. I was continuously trying to find the right shutter speed on the right moment. Finally I found it. A shutter speed of 1/6 at f/16 was the best among the few perfect exposures.
Click here to view a larger version of the frame.