The opportunity to dive into the heart of Hortobágy National Park, Hungary, with my camera was a no-brainer. As a wildlife photographer, the idea of capturing the park's wild inhabitants while hanging out with my friends was simply too tempting to turn down. This five-day adventure came with its own highs and lows, but every moment was worth it. The accommodation and food were exceptional, the hospitality was superb, and our hosts were remarkably congenial. Here is my story of this unforgettable photography expedition.
Day One - June 20, 2023
The journey began with a near-accident on the way to Rinas airport in Albania, adding an unexpected twist right off the bat. However, soon enough, after two flights, my team and I settled into a charming lodge in Hortobágy. The warm welcome from our host Tibor and an impromptu photo session with a white stork set a fantastic tone for our stay. Our guides, Josef and Daniel, further fueled our excitement with the plans they had in store for us.
Day Two - June 21, 2023
Day two was a bit slow in terms of photographic opportunities, but patience paid off. Our hide, which, in my opinion, was more geared towards bird watching than photography - the background trees were way too close to the subjects we were photographing, lacking the desired backdrop - transformed into a comfortable, spacious waiting area with AC and charging outlets. By sunset, we had managed to capture some lovely shots of red-footed falcons and kestrels. It seemed as though our hide was not only a spot for capturing nice shots, but also a lovely retreat.
Day Three - June 22, 2023
On day three, things took a turn for the better. A European roller graced us with its presence, providing some fantastic photo opportunities. Later, we found ourselves in another hide, this time waiting for the elusive hoopoe. After an hour of nail-biting suspense, just as I was about to lose hope, the hoopoe showed up. It paid us eight visits in total, marking an unforgettable afternoon and the highlight of our trip.
Day Four - June 23, 2023
I hoped for a bird frenzy at the bee eater hide on the fourth day, but the early hours were disappointingly quiet. The arrangement of the twigs made mid-flight shots tricky, which was a bit of a letdown. However, I did manage to bag a few noteworthy captures. The day ended on a somber note, with a long, fruitless four-hour wait for a Little Owl, reminding us that nature works on its own timetable.
Day Five - June 24, 2023
The final day started early, with a quick breakfast and warm goodbyes to our hosts, Tibor and his wife. Tibor jokingly said, "If you run into Liam Neeson, remind him that not all Albanians are bad." Then, we hit the road for Budapest Airport. After a long layover in Frankfurt, I finally landed at Rinas Airport, exhausted but fulfilled with a sense of the experience and joy I had shared with my friends on this unforgettable wildlife photography expedition.
This journey through Hortobágy National Park was an emotional roller coaster filled with anticipation, excitement, patience, and a dash of disappointment. But the thrill of wildlife photography kept us going. Although I didn't manage to photograph every species I had set my sights on, the images I did capture made the trip worthwhile. It was a humbling experience that underlined the basic rules of wildlife photography - patience, persistence, and respect for nature's unpredictability.
So, to all my fellow photographers out there, pack your gear, tie up your boots, and get ready to explore Hortobágy National Park, Hungary. Keep an open mind, be ready to adapt, and be prepared for the unexpected gems nature might reveal. The thrill of wildlife photography lies in the unpredictable, the patience it demands, and the relentless persistence it teaches you.