Martin Foot

Budapest and Athens With the FM2N

Until recently I had never been to either Hungary or Greece, so I was quite excited to go on a short trip spending 5 days in Budapest and then 4 days in Athens. I brought along my Nikon FM2N that I acquired from last year’s Photographica Fair in London as well as two Nikon Series E lenses (the 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/2.5) and some Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Superia 200. Below is a selection of photos from the trip with some short descriptions.

Heroes’ Square is at the end of a long road leading away from the river on the Pest side of the city in City Park. It’s a huge landmark and was filled with tourists, myself included.

Tourists at Heroes' Square, Budapest

It’s a good idea to check Heroes’ Square out at night as well, possibly after spending a relaxing evening at the nearby Széchenyi public baths. The picture below shows a restaurant on the edge of the lake in City Park in the evening.

Night time near Széchenyi thermal bath

I would also recommend the tour of the Hungarian State Opera House which can be found on the road leading up to Heroes’ Square. It felt rather rushed but was lots of fun and the building itself is filled with ornate detail.

Inside the Hungarian State Opera House

Budapest is split in two by the river into Buda (historical buildings, generally more expensive) and Pest (cultural, food and drink, fast growing). I spent a while on each side but have many more photos of Buda. I would recommend getting the Budapest Card if you’re visiting because among other things there’s a walking tour around the whole area of Buda Castle that is very interesting. My tour met at Trinity Square near Buda Castle.

A tour group at Trinity Square, Budapest

There’s an interesting church called the Matthias Church at Trinity Square with some interesting patterns in the roof tiles.

Matthias Church, Trinity Square, Budapest

The tour gives a good view and description of the area and talks about the history and the different cultures that you can find. There’s a great little café called Ruszwurm with an incredible collection of cakes that I highly recommend nearby, and there’s a restaurant called Pest-Buda on the hill also if you’re after something more substantial.

Ruszwurm, near Budapest Castle

Not too far away is a statue of a horseman dedicated to the 3rd Hussar Regiment.

Statue of András Hadik

It is said that touching the brass testicles of the horse you will have good fortune - a tradition started by university students before exams and continued by tourists and locals alike. You can imagine how much good luck has been provided by this statue by checking out how incredibly smooth and shiny the testicles are compared to the rest of the statue.

András Hadik's shiny balls

It’s interesting to note that there are many equestrian statues like this around Budapest and throughout Europe. The position of the hooves of the horse is said to indicate how the rider of the horse died. If both hooves are in the air, the rider died in battle. If only one hoof is in the air it means the rider died from battle related injuries after the battle, and if all four hooves are on the floor it means that the rider did not die in battle.

On the hill also is Budapest’s Presidential Palace which has a big square in front of it. There is a changing of the guards ceremony on the hour between certain times (check their website for times).

Changing of the guard at Budapest Presidential Palace

Also on the hill is the Budapest History Museum whose entrance square was undergoing somewhat of a dramatic makeover when I walked through. There was building material everywhere and construction was under way of some additional structures around the courtyard. It wasn’t typical repair-work however. This was construction out of wood and polystyrene for a film set.

Film set construction, Budapest History Museum

There were people constructing the set, people beating it up with hammers to knock out holes to create a bullet or explosion damage effect, people painting the polystyrene to fit in with the surrounding buildings (with damage colours added) and people painting huge polystyrene statues.

Film set construction, Budapest History Museum

This entire section of building is fake. The actual courtyard wall is flat.

Film set construction, Budapest History Museum

On the Pest side of the river is where you’ll find the night life, many more places to eat, ruin bars, shopping centers, and most of the accommodation. It also has many museums and interesting pieces of architecture including the Hungarian Parliament building.

Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest

The next set of photos are from Athens, Greece. Athens was much more of a party and hospitality city. There were many more restaurants and bistro-style cafés. Music wafted down the streets from bars and people were selling things on the streets both inside and outside of markets. The weather was much warmer and there was a clear blue sky for almost the whole trip. While Budapest was jumper weather, Athens was definitely T-shirt weather.

Bistro, Athens

There were a lot of vintage and antique markets near the Acropolis. I spent a long time wandering around looking for old cameras and bits and bobs.

Antiques market, Athens

It was also much more tourist-oriented than Budapest. There were rows upon rows of tourist shops and the Athens Happy Train which seemed to take riders around a large circuit around the Acropolis area.

Athens Happy Train

There is a lot of history that’s been preserved in Athens. Unlike Budapest where the settlement is much more recent and there isn’t a huge amount of religious monuments, Athens has been a center of trade since ~1,000BC and has had continuous settlement for 7,000 years. Most of the architecture has not stood the test of time intact however, such as this section of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

In fact so many pieces of historical monuments, walls, and pillars were damaged, rebuilt into other things (such as the Roman wall by the Ancient Agora), and/or stolen that while a lot of work seems to be being put into re-arranging and re-constructing artefacts, there is a huge amount of rubble and stone just lying around waiting for attention.

Do Not Enter - pile of rubble, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

The Acropolis itself is astounding. A large number of the tourist attractions are ticketed but there is a single 12 euro ticket that covers entry to each of them (once each). For what you get I thought the price was fantastic, especially as I visited everything that the ticket provided entrance to. I’d also really recommend the Acropolis Museum, it’s a really nicely designed building with a great exhibition.

The Acropolis itself is under constant restoration at the moment. The whole front is shrouded in scaffolding but that didn’t stop the hundreds of tourists pouring through. It’s essentially a one direction circuit around several sights and monuments and then back down the other side of the hill.

Scaffolding on the front of the Acropolis

Tourists at the Acropolis

There are several large hills in the area of the Acropolis which is where I spent most of my time - circling it several times on foot during my stay - and this vista shows the style of architecture in Athens with the Ancient Agora in the foreground.

Ancient Agora, Athens

View of the city, Athens

While the architecture is a huge tourist attraction, it’s deservedly so. Conjuring up images of what it must have been like to live in such a time, the monuments are beautiful both day and night.

Temple of Hephaestus

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

Here’s a view of the Acropolis with two people sitting and drawing from Filopappou Hill - well worth the hike up.

View of the Acropolis

One thing I wasn’t expecting to see was tortoises. There was quite a few of them actually, often seen after hearing a strange rustling sound in the leaf litter on the floor.

Tortoise, Athens

One thing that wasn’t included in the monument ticket was the Panathenaic Stadium. This isn’t expensive to get into and the ticket includes an audio guide.

Panathenaic Stadium, Athens

Overall both Athens and Budapest were excellent. I had some delicious meals in Budapest (the Pork Mangalica is delicious) and I really enjoyed walking around as the architecture is so different from London. Athens had more old historical ruins but Budapest had many more museums. They’re two very different places but both had their charms. You’ll have to see which ones you prefer yourself!

On Holiday With the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II

I recently bought a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. This is a large, bulky 6x7 film camera built for studio photography from 1995. Due to its size and weight the camera isn’t the most portable, but I took it with me on holiday to Belgium along with a heavy tripod. The camera is modular camera and as such pretty much every part of it can be swapped out and replaced depending on the situation and personal preference. I took with me a spare 120 film back, a Sekor Z 180mm f4.5 W-N and a Sekor Z 65mm f4 W. I brought several rolls of Portra 400, Ektar 100, and Tri-X 400. The camera is too heavy in my opinion to carry round on a shoulder bag for any period of time, so I carried it in a Lowepro Orion Trekker II. This backpack has a compartment with removable foam pads that normally holds a DSLR, two or three lenses, and any small accessories. With the separators removed the RZ67 perfectly occupies the entire space with the 65mm lens attached (with the 180 attached it does not fit).

The changeable back is something I’ve never experienced before. I’ve used plenty of 35mm film cameras and a couple of medium format TLRs but I’ve never been able to change film to suit the situation without having to rewind a roll and write how many exposures I’d taken with a sharpie on the canister. With the Mamiya you can simply swap to a different film as the light changes, and this is incredibly useful. You can even swap from colour to black and white film as you desire.

One thing I noticed using the RZ67 is that due to being target towards professionals it has a huge amount of safety features - it’s very difficult to accidentally make an exposure or to accidentally expose the film to light while changing backs. This is especially important when you only get 10 shots on a roll of 6x7.

Visiting Brussels

The Eurostar train from London arrives at Brussels Midi station. I was heading to Ghent to stay with some friends but I had most of a day to spare so I had time to look around. The station has plenty of lockers so I could keep my bags there for the day for a few euros. Sightseeing with luggage would not be fun.

Brussels is a mix of old and new. I took the exit out of the station that headed away from the city accidentally and ended up walking a long loop around some of the poorer parts of the city back North to the center. There’s a large contrast between the well maintained streets lined with terraced houses and the rundown poorer areas with bits falling off of the buildings and beaten up old cars lining the roads. Required tools

Brussels has a rich history, with the square called Grand Place with it’s gothic style middle ages town hall being a popular attraction. Required tools

Other than Grand Place and the Orangerie du Parc d’Egmon, Brussels seemed almost void of people. I saw very few people walking around all day - that is, until I rounded the corner and arrived at the Manneken Pis. There were people everywhere, all coming to visit the water fountain with a statue of a small naked boy peeing. I learned afterwards that there was a lot of history around that little boy. The Wikipedia page describes how it has been repeatedly stolen, destroyed, reclaimed, and rebuilt over the ages. The meaning of the statue is shrouded in legend, but there is a large amount of national pride surrounding it. They even dress it up in appropriate clothes for different special occasions. Required tools

Visiting Ghent

Getting to Ghent was really easy. There’s a really good train line between Brussels and Ghent, and the same line goes to Bruges as well, making my trip for the next day really easy.

The center of Ghent is really beautiful. There’s a lot of old buildings and several wide open cobbled squares lined with bistros. A river passes through the centre and there are several ornate bridges crossing it. Required tools

There are several companies offering boat trips to tourists who provide some background and history for those who want it. It’s an enjoyable experience and a fun way to learn more about the city. It’s not expensive so I’d recommend people give it a go. Make sure to visit STAM afterwards for a well-collated history. Required tools

Ghent has a castle with a museum inside, with possibly the most interesting part - if you don’t mind the macabre - being a museum of torture. There’s also a good view of the city from the top. Required tools

I’d recommend bringing a tripod - it’s also beautiful at night. Required tools

One of the best things about Ghent was the public transport system. The city is very pedestrian friendly and the trams are excellent. It’s cheap to travel around and if you board another tram within an hour of the previous one you don’t pay anything. It’s both a fun and a convenient way of getting round the city, and a much better experience than the London Underground!

Visiting Bruges

When I arrived in Bruges it was grey and raining. Unfortunately, the story did not change for the whole day. Bruges is very touristy and the damp weather did not deter the crowd. Umbrellas were out in force and the horse and carriage rides for tourists were operating throughout the day. The main square is pretty and is lined with restaurants. The medieval Belfry building contains a bell that chimes regularly throughout the day, and at night there was a bell concert with multiple different bells. The square was lit up and with the rain and the bells together it was quite a magical experience. Despite being touristy I really enjoyed Bruges. A day is definitely enough time to see the main sites, but not enough to experience all the restaurants and cafes.

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Here’s another shot of the Belfry on Tri-X. You can see the horse and cart with some tourists inside and get an idea of the architecture of the buildings and the style of the streets.

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There is an interesting water feature / statue near the bus station. It’s in the middle of a huge cobbled square and seemed rather lonely on its own in the rain.

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I walked past some people doing an ALS ice bucket challenge. Required tools

Too many things to carry! Required tools

Inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is ornately decorated and I’d recommend everybody to go and see it. Required tools

Both Bruges and Ghent are very easy to get to from Brussels Midi. The trains run regularly and are not expensive. If you’re planning on visiting Belgium/Flanders then these two cities should be on your list. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit Antwerp, but I’ll be sure to come back to Ghent when I do!

The RZ67 survived the rain and being carried around for several days, but it’s definitely not the easiest way to take photos on holiday. It’s also a very slow camera to shoot with, but I was on my own and could take all the time I needed. I’m impressed with the quality of the negatives - my only real experience with medium format before was from a plastic-lensed Holga and a Yashica 635. The lenses are on a whole different level. I’ll definitely be taking it with me on new adventures in the future.

Easy Double Exposures

I’ve always loved multiple exposure silhouettes, but haven’t yet found a time when friends are available and it’s sunny to take any silhouette photos. This got me wondering - is it possible to make these photos at home?

I trawled through Flickr and Google image search for some silhouettes and background images. I turned off all the lights in the room, put the background image on my screen in full screen mode, then took a photo. After that I swapped to the silhouette image and took a photo of that without winding on the film. As it turns out, the experiment was successful. It’s really easy to take multiple exposure photos using your screen - even if it’s not the purest way of doing it!

All shots were on a Nikon FM2N Series E 50mm for 1/15th of a second at f/2. I used black and white film (Kodak Plus-X) simply because I could develop it quickly at home to reduce the cycle time. It was developed in Rodinal R09 for about 8 minutes. Levels adjustment in Lightroom.

For the image below I used the silhouette here:

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