Sava River Gorge Part 1  by  Misko Kranjec
Sava River Gorge In the Rain

The weather last Friday's afternoon was plain awful. The rain, sometimes just drizzle and sometimes proper downpour, was coming and passing in the waves and the gray, low lingering clouds were creeping across the sky, driven by the warm southwest wind, bringing along the loads of water from the still warm Adriatic Sea (65F at present), pumping up the humidity, and shrouding the surrounding hills with the patches of fog.
Working at home on some boring project and watching this scene through the window whole morning long, at the end I couldn't resist this challenge anymore. With the sharp and resolute move I pushed the mouse aside, switched off the monitor, grabbed the rucksack with my camera gear, checked the batteries and the memory cards, and fetched the anorak and the steel toe shoes from the closet. It was already 1 p.m. and I knew there wasn't much daylight left for me, yet I decided to go and reach at least the beginning of the Sava River gorge before the dark. Of course I could go no further than to the outskirts of the town, perhaps just to the Ljubljana - Zalog freight yard, and shoot the trains on the open against the cloudy sky, but I wanted more - to add a bit of more dynamic scenery to enhance the somber mood created by the weather.

My goal was Zagorje (pron.  Za-gor-yeh), the first station inside the gorge, where I could stay well into the darker rest of the day. I certainly wasn't enthusiastic to climb up the steep and slippery slopes above the tracks in the dark and/or thread through the thick and wet shrubbery, and even less to walk the twisting tracks with the little clearance into the dark and desolate canyon. Besides, in the case of a heavy rain the station or the adjacent bar would offer me the place to shelter and dry my gear between the trains, as well as some liquid, 40% strong medicine to keep any cold at bay.

In no time I was on my way, fortunately way ahead of the Friday afternoon rush hour when I would need at least an hour and half to get out of the town (Mind you, Ljubljana is a small town, counting barely 250,000 souls, not a million, but every working day over 120,000 cars rides in and out of the city with the commuters from the surrounding places, and the streets are jam packed with the creeping cars). However, before I reached Zagorje, driving along the road paralleling the tracks, I was stopped three times by the blinking red lights and the automatic gates, lowering just in front of my car, and three times the same scene repeated - I quickly pulled off the road, hastily grabbed camera from the rear seat, jumped off the car, and rushed toward the tracks, leaving the motorists behind me wondering what kind of nut I am. 30 seconds between the moment when the gates start to go down and the moment when the train passes by don't give you much time to find the proper position and set the camera, and much less to worry what the folks seating in dry inside of their cars think about you.

When I finally reached Zagorje I found there a nice and very helpful station master, Bogdan Pesko, who kept me informed all the time about the train movements, and the number of them was not small - 18 trains in less than 3 hours. OK, I missed few of them, standing on the road overpass and waiting for the train from one direction, while another train came from the opposite side, and I just couldn't cross the road with the dense traffic. Anyhow, I managed to get some of the trains while it was still light enough to capture the surrounding hills with those desired fog patches crawling along their slopes, but this didn't last long. Already low clouds were closing the valley, the night was approaching fast, and soon I had to retreat into the realm of the station lights if I wanted to continue shooting.

Of course, with the shutter speeds set between 1/20 and 1/8 sec even at ISO 3,200, one cannot count on much success photographing the moving trains, even if passing by at the restricted speed of 45 mph. Fortunately some of them stop there, and even if these are foremost the ubiquitous Siemens Desiros running up and down the line almost in the light-rail manner (and about that much interesting), they gave me the opportunity for few additional shots. Of course, there were also the passengers, the stationmaster, the bar, and the details, all giving me chance and the reason to lengthen my stay somewhat.

However, after departure of the express train IC502 Pohorje, with the stop to short to reach the head end of the 10 coaches-long train and get the photo of the whole train together with the engine, what remained to photograph were few more Desiros, not attractive enough to keep me there. Everything else, the expresses and the freights, were just dashing through. Still, if it wouldn't start to rain heavily again, and if at home it wouldn't wait for me the pushed aside, far from finished project with the fast approaching deadline, I would set my camera on the tripod and get some photos with those light streaks past the depot (Do I hear my alter ego shouting in my ear: "No, not that cliché!"...). Thus I decided rather to leave this for another wet but less rainy evening, dried the camera and the lenses as much as I could, threw the wet parka and the cap into the trunk, and drove home.
Go To Part 2