These days my photography seems to exclusively consist of outdoors and travel photos, focusing on landscapes and a few portraits in between. But it wasn’t always so! Take a trip down memory lane with me to a time when I was really into black and white street photography.
In 2015, I moved to England to study in the University of Cambridge (fancy, right?). Before that I was very much into shooting portraits, doing a ton of sessions with models in Budapest. That was very easy to organize, since it’s a big city and there are many Facebook groups to facilitate that. But once I had arrived to Cambridge, things got a bit busy and the same kind of groups weren’t available. I could have organized shoots through the London TFP group, but instead I looked for a new kind of challenge. I wanted to explore the city and push myself creatively. I continued shooting portraits frequently in the long breaks when I was back in Budapest.
That’s how the “Streets of Cambridge” project was born. I started wandering around the city, looking for interesting moments, good light-and-shadow play, neat old cars, weird people and really anything that caught my eye. I wanted to see parts of Cambridge that most people would never go to and if I was in the touristy bits, I went for shots that are unconventional in some sense – like instead of taking a picture of King’s College, which has been done a million times, I’d take a pic of someone cutting the lawn of the iconic college, and so on.
In the term of university, I was out walking around town probably every other day, trying to find good stories to tell. In the end, I slowed down somewhat, but I was also travelling a bit to London, so I did a bunch of street photography there, some which are probably my favorites. I called that series “Streets of London”, but really the two series are pretty much one and the same.
The whole experiment really lasted for about a year. In the summer of 2016 I went on a big trip through Spain on a university grant to do a photography project and that meant a return to color photography, because the places I visited really called for it. In the second year of university, I joined the Hillwalking Club and started dabbling with landscapes and my style really developed into what it is today. While I didn’t stick with street photography for a long time, I learned some very valuable lessons and it was hugely influential for my development as a photographer.
First of all, learning how to quickly compose and shoot fleeting moments has been huge for me. Previously I was mostly doing a lot of ‘set-up’ shots. I was usually in control of what was going on in the frame, directing the model, deciding what props are used, etc. Now that was all gone, and I had to be able to change the settings on the camera in a split second without looking at it, compose a shot and capture it.
I was mostly shooting with the 35mm lens and I quickly became very well acquainted with all my gear. Even before lifting the viewfinder to my eye, I knew what to expect and I could change all key settings without looking at the camera. While I was pretty good at using my camera before, during this year it truly became second nature and that has been unbelievably useful for all the photography work I’ve done since – whether that’s shooting a wedding, events, or landscapes with a quick-moving hiking group.
The other thing that it really brought to my photography was consistency: I was not waiting for inspiration to come, but I went out shooting and magically, inspiration was always there. I believe in this very deeply – if you start creating consistently, things will just flow naturally. I’ve found that this applies to my photography, just as it applies to writing this blog. Lately, I’ve been doing weekly posts and BAM! suddenly I have ideas weekly, instead of sporadically posting something once every one or two months. If you wait for inspiration, you will never get far – you have to go out and search for it!
The final thing I have to highlight was the improved confidence as a photographer. I wasn’t exactly the type of street photographer who’d push the camera into someone’s face, but I was still often taking photos with people in it. If someone asked, I had to explain what I was doing and obviously not everyone is happy to have their photo taken – which I was always trying to be respective of. This became very important with events, where I really had to own the fact that I’m the photographer, moving into the right spots, capturing the right moments and so on. I think this quick decision-making and confidence remains very important.
So, do I miss running around the street, shooting tons of B&W photos? Not really! These days I run around mountains, capturing the beauty of nature in full color or I’m trying to distill my travels into a series of photos. My street photography project was great fun and a very formative learning experience, and I still do something similar in color – although it’s mainly just taking photos of cool cars – while I travel. But since I made a surprise, last-minute visit to Cambridge last weekend to help out with the Future: Hungary conference, I thought it would be fun to have a little throwback to the time I still used to live there!
PS: It’s very funny looking back at these photos 3 years later, seeing how many of them have really crooked horizons!