I’m currently writing another post in which I try to explain. . .er. . .well, I basically whine about my gear. It’s a bit more productive than that, I promise, but it does include a lot of my current frustrations with my camera body, lenses, flash, etc. (On the bright side, I’m mostly okay with my tripod!) So, before I get around to sharing that post, I though that it might be nice to share some shots that were taken right before I purchased my current camera.
I studied abroad at Central European University in Budapest during the 2008-2009 school year. As I mentioned in my overly-long introductory post, I was frustrated that I couldn’t easily create any large scale paintings or drawings. Finding supplies in a foreign city was a bit difficult, and transporting completed pieces home would have been a nightmare. Since I’d always had at least a passing interest in photography, I decided that I would take the opportunity to improve my photography skills. By January or so I was an addict. I started to shoot fairly seriously, despite the setback of a stolen camera, and decided that I would upgrade to a DSLR as soon as I could.
“As soon as I could” ended up being in March 2009. The photos in this post were taken on February 7, about a month before I bought my Nikon D80. This was my last serious attempt to create good images with the Canon Powershot a590 that a friend had kindly given me after my previous point-and-shoot had been stolen. I have a few more casual shots that were taken after this set, but this represents my last trip true photo-hunting (sunrise-hunting, in this case) trip with a non-DSLR; I knew what images I wanted to get, so I set out to get them.
I ended up with several shots taken during blue hour. At the time, I had an acceptable sense of composition, so the shots were theoretically acceptable; unfortunately, as fantastic as the a590 is, it just couldn’t produce satisfactory results in these lighting conditions. However, the image below perfectly captures the importance of these early-morning photo walks; I frequently suffer from mind-twisting insomnia, so my solution became to go for walks sunrise walks. In Budapest, the blue glow before the sun rose was so eerie, and so strangely reflective of the calm desperation that grips my mind after several nights of no sleep, that I felt incredibly comfortable wandering around in the gloaming. So poor image-quality or not, this shot is one of my favorites.
The Chain Bridge is probably one of the most photographed locations in Budapest, and with good reason; it’s absolutely gorgeous, and there are many unique and interesting ways to approach it. In this case, I simply liked the verticals, and the absurdity of a utilitarian, modern stack of road signs almost overpowering the stately 19th Century bridge.
This photo walk occurred during an interesting stage in my progression as a photographer. While I was definitely paying attentions to composition, light, and other important factors, I was also shooting largely on instinct; luckily, my instinct often allowed me to capture the thoughts and emotions I had set out to find in the first place. This shot is an example of that type of shooting. As I shot, I knew that I liked it, and that it felt right, but at the time it was my subconscious driving me to press the shutter. Looking back, it was clearly the light seeping into the background that compelled me to take the shot, especially since it represents the other part of sunrise hunting that was a remedy to my insomniac’s listlessness: the soft light that poured through the streets was, as cliche as it is, rejuvenating. Not joyous, or full of hope, or some other overly optimistic sentiment. Just rejuvenating. After watching a long, black night, I welcomed the sun with melancholy, but also with the knowledge that it would allow me to drag through the day as well. It was something good, so I sought it out.
I captured this image for much the same reason as the last; the golden light spilling onto the building is lovely. During other times of the day this building would seem lackluster, but the morning light transforms it into something much more interesting.
When I shot this I was still wandering along the Buda side of the Danube. My morning wanderings had a tendency to be rather random, and I would frequently get lost. This, however, was a location I knew well, but had never gotten a successful shot of. The lovely sunrise finally allowed me to produce an image I was happy with.
The Elisabeth Bridge was one of my favorite locations in the city. It is, in my opinion, the least charming of the city’s major bridges, but I loved its height; once reaching the center there was a constant, strong breeze, even when the it was unnoticeable everywhere else in the city. Like the sunlight flooding the city, this breeze always helped me feel a bit more alive during my insomnia-plagued wanderings.
Although a little of the morning sun managed to sneak into this image, it is far from the focus. This is another shot that I took on instinct, with no particular thought involved. However, I think I was stuck by how the symmetry of the stairs and the balance of the composition made such a mundane scene a little interesting.
And, finally, I got lost.
Many of these images are quite nice, despite the fact that they were taken with a “bad” camera. I admit that a lot of my shots with this same point-and-shoot are not as successful – so what makes these different? First, I set out with the intent of taking good photos. Although instinct helps, at least some thought had to go into what you’re shooting. And, more importantly, I connected with my subject matter – the slowly waking city – on a fundamental level. Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I was expressing my insomnia-tormented feelings via my photography. This isn’t always necessary for good shots, of course, but in this case it provided me with the motivation to go out and shoot, and allowed me to imbue my work with some emotion. So, despite the mediocre image quality, I still like these shots; they’re my last endeavor with a point-and-shoot, and also my only series that captures my feelings as an insomniac in such a clear manner; thought and emotion can – with a little creativity and persistance – overcome your gear’s perceived limitations. This is something that I definitely need to remember.
That said, my rant will still be appearing shortly. Whiners will always be whiners.