Budapest: A Photo Tour / by Michael Zwack

Welcome to part 3 of my Eurotrip16 photo-adventure!  I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the Zwack history and National Hungarian drink, Unicum in the last post. It was nice to share a little personal history, but there weren't many professional photo opportunities so this week will be about Budapest the city and how I ended up with some of the best photos of my career.  Both compositionally engaging and architecturally rich, it took a lot of city hiking and early mornings to capture the following shots...well worth the sacrifice. 

Although extremely happy with the outcome of the photos, I'm quickly realizing however the shortcomings of shooting video with a phone.  Not having shot to great lengths with the new phone prior to the trip, upon arrival I could't help but notice the slow focus , rolling shutter, and poor low light/dynamic range capabilities...all which added up to a frustrating time and choppy vlogs.   

The phone and expandable memory slot was perfect for saving all the video without the worry of running out of space; It was more a problem going through all the footage upon my return, yet I still have begun searching for a suitable replacement.  In the long run, I would like to lessen my weight burden when traveling and therefore have been looking into a mirrorless system that can handle all my vloggling and photography needs in one versatile camera.  Right now choices are slim; Deciding whether to give up 4k video for a cheaper option that utilizes my Canon lenses or choose a 4k option and sell off all my gear and jump the Canon ship. The decision rests heavily upon my shoulders, but feeling confident whichever route I choose will be an improved system.  

In the meantime my system works, and not badly either.  Video aside, it'll be tough to give up the superb imagery of canon L series glass...after all it did allow me to capture the following images.    

Having now visited Budapest on multiple occasions, I feel comfortable with sharing what I believe to be some of the best shooting locations in the picturesque city.  Whether shooting day or night, Budapest is home to many architectural delights.  As any photographer knows, the best time to shoot is early morning and evening.  Golden hour light rising and settling over the Danube allows for a beautiful glow to the city, and great photo opportunities.  

Day 1:  Begin with an early evening visit to the Hungarian Parliament building.  Construction on this massive architectural endeavor began in 1885 and wasn't fully completed until 1904.  Created in a Gothic Revival style, it's now the home of the National Assembly of Hungary.  Comprising of 10 courtyards, 29 staircases, 691 rooms, and 242 sculptures, it's truly one of the most beautiful buildings in the world...and perfect for architectural photography.  

Hungarian Parliament: 1/640 @ f/7.1  ISO 500  35mm [Silver Efex Pro B/W render]

After perusing the grounds of Parliament, be sure to also take in the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, located across the street.  Walking to the front facade of the Parliament building will bring you along the East bank of the Danube River.  Before long numerous iron shoe sculptures catch the attention of passersby. Created by artists Can Togay and Gyula Pauer, the sculptures are a remembrance memorial dedicated to preserving the memory of the 3,500 people shot and dumped into the river between 1944-1945 by the fascist Arrow Cross Militiamen during World War II.  A somber experience to say the least, yet vital in understanding the many atrocities citizens of Hungary faced during the fascist regime.   

Shoes on the Danube:  0.8 sec @ f/13  ISO 100  20mm

By this time, what began as an early evening stroll has likely turned to a vibrantly lit night-scape.  Budapest is truly at its best during the night; alive and bustling with activity, it's essential in capturing the city's energy.  I capitalized on this opportunity by shooting a photo 2 years in the planning...the Szechenyi Chain Bridge. 

Spanning the Danube River, and connecting the Buda, West bank  & Pest, East bank, the bridge was designed by English Engineer William Tierney Clark and opened in 1849 as the first bridge across the Danube.

The following image embodies the lively and enduring spirit of the Hungarian people, while paying homage to a historically rich culture.  Taking well over an hour to get enough steady shots, the photo is a combination of 3 separate exposures blended together; resulting in a final motion blur image which I couldn't be more proud of. 

Photo Tip:  Bring a sturdy tripod.  It's very difficult to get a sharp motion blur when you combine a long exposure with cars and wind shaking the camera.  I could've saved lots of time by packing a more story tripod.  

Szechenyi Chain Bridge  3.2 sec @ f/10  ISO 100  58mm

Be sure to snap a few photos of the bridge while crossing to the Buda side of the city.  Once across hike the West bank down until finding yourself looking upon the Parliament building once again, this time brightly lit against the dark night sky.  

Hungarian Parliament: Night  10 sec. @ f/14  ISO 100  67mm

Day 2:  With a successful night of shooting, the second day entails photographing the Buda Castle District, Matthias Church, and St. Stephen's Basilica; All photographed from the Buda side of Budapest.  Not for the faint of heart, reaching Buda Castle requires a long steep hike to the top of Buda Hill, but rewarded with breathtaking views of the Danube and Pest side of the city along the way. 

Photo Tip:  Arrive early to beat the crowds and take full advantage of the early morning light.  Once 9:00 am hits, busloads of tourists arrive, leaving little chance for unobstructed shots. 

Both Matthias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion are located atop the Buda Castle district and in close proximity to each other.  Matthias Church was originally founded in a Romanesque style in 1015 AD, but little remains due to extensive reconstruction efforts over the centuries.  The current building houses the Ecclesiastical Art Museum and is fashioned in a Late Gothic style.  

The Fisherman's Bastion is constructed in a mix of neo-Gothic/Romanesque style; constructed between 1895-1902 the terrace's 7 towers are representative of the tribes which settled the area in 896 AD.  The name derives from the fisherman dedicated to defending the walls during the middle ages.  Both buildings are architectural wonders, perfect for photographers and history buffs.  

Matthias Church:  

Parliament Breakfast:  

Fisherman's Bastion:  

While walking atop Buda Hill, be sure to snap a few early morning photos with a zoom lens of St. Stephen's Basilica in the far distance across the Danube on the Pest, West bank.  Another one of my favorite images from the trip.  The early morning haze and soft light adds a remarkable depth to the photo.  With that I hiked back toward my rental, shooting additional photos of the Chain Bridge, Parliament, and St. Stephen's Basilica along the way.  With the tightly packed schedule of my visit, I'm grateful for the photos I was able to capture, but couldn't help wish I had more time to explore such a fascinating city.  

St. Stephen's Basilica  1/80 @ f/13  ISO 160  105mm [Silver Efex Pro B/W render]

This article of course merely represents a fraction of the plethora of photographic opportunities which await visitors to Budapest.  In all actuality, one could spend a month in the city and never run out of captivating subject matter to shoot.  If interested in additional shooting locations, I recommend: Heroe's Square, Gellert Hill, Hungarian Opera House, National Library, and any number of bath houses which Hungary is known for.  The list goes on and on, but one thing remains...if you never leave your comfort zone, you'll never reach your full photographic potential.  So in 2017, plan a trip, get out shooting, and be the change!

If looking to dig deeper into Hungarian history/travel, the following links will get you started:

http://budapestpodcast.com
http://amzn.to/2gpODOg
http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/hungary/budapest/