Saigon Railway Station, Ho Chi Minh City

The atmosphere had escalated in intensity since the near-desolation in Saigon’s train station a few hours ago.

Stammering motorbikes, like working bees returning to the hive, zipped by in their swarms offloading volumes of cargo, some precariously balanced on vehicles that were actually smaller in size.

In comparison, the movement of people were more ant-like; the shuffles, occasional knock-about’s and shoves, to-and-fro lacking sense of order as man pressed man and man’s possessions past the two door and onto the platform.

I ordered an espresso at the station café. No rush, I reckoned, preferred to scrutinise than join the fray. By quarter to seven, the action had subsided – time to make a move myself.

Finding my carriage and compartment was a little tricky, but I did eventually decipher the train ticket with the timely aids of condescension – ticket inspector, conductor, occupants of spaces I wrongly stumbled into, all took a jab at ‘educating’ the tourist.

Dropping my bags off in the correct room and bunk, I couldn’t resist catching a shot of the platform and train ticking towards departure time.

Amidst the air of inevitability, uniforms animated in flickers of inspecting tickets and wristwatches; farewell bidders loitered behind the yellow line, mouthing words in Vietnamese I may only assume as final words, parting instructions. There were smiles, laughter, occasional tears, the static exchange whereupon one party would lose parallelity in shared timeline and gain forward momentum, as with the vessel and its passengers.

Conductors retracted upon the blow of whistles. Faces beyond the train windows began to shift, as do sights catching last glimpses of loved ones – until the waving hands, and eventually the platform itself, was within the train’s line of vision no more.

Behind the lens

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Saigon Railway Station, Ho Chi Minh CityAh, low light. How so very often do you work against my favour? And no, I couldn’t offset your dimness with camera stabilising tool, since I wasn’t travelling around Southeast Asia with my tripod – and in departure time-pressed constraint, I left my GorillaPod in the scurry.

Three ways to counter this particular dilemma: small f-stop value, slowed shutter speed, and extensive post-capture editing. This particular image required f/2, 1/50th of a second, and toddling of settings on Lightroom to achieve the final result.