It has been almost a month now since I first walked past the front door of the hotel. Each time until two weeks ago, I had always found myself wondering what it was like inside and if I’d be able to take a panorama of the lobby perhaps, if only for my portfolio. I have come to assume that most of the nicer hotels have already retained the services of someone like myself, but on this assumption I would be dead *%$)#*$. ( I have trouble with that five letter word which begins with “w”) One day two weeks ago, I decided that I would try my luck and see if I could “sneek” a panorama if you will. I walked into the lobby with my camera bag and tripod discreetly tucked under my arm and only my small digital camera in hand. “Excuse me, could I please take a photo of the lobby” I asked the young girl at the reception desk. Perhaps not knowing if I was a guest or local, she probably saw now harm in such a request. Little did she know that in 5 minutes I’d have my flash and tripod attached to the same camera and I’d be standing in the center of the stunning lobby with a carpeted staircase leading up to probably the nicest ballroom in all of Hungary. Directly overhead where windows which were allowing the sunlight to enter the same lobby in which I stood.
I surprisingly found myself being so nervous that my hands were shaking as I attempted to take each of the 14 pictures that would comprise the panorama. Nervous only in that I wanted this panorama so badly that I was afraid I would be asked to stop what I was doing as soon as someone from the staff spotted me. I was able to finish the panorama and the excitement of doing so lead me to open my laptop to see if it had turned out or if I’d need to re-shoot it. I hoped not. As I began the process of stitching the images together in my computer, two well dressed men sitting in the lobby nearby asked what I was doing. I told them that I was taking a panoramic image and when they asked if it was my job, I replied that it was only my hobby. For to say it was my job, if they were connected with the hotel, might of led to my being asked to leave the hotel, so “hobby” seemed harmless enough. Anyway, after being told that they were Hungarian realtors, I decided to share the panorama process with them in hopes that they may be interested in having some panoramas done for them.
It was when I was finished sharing the process with them and was beginning to shut down my computer that they asked me if I could stay for a moment or two. Upon asking why, I was told they’d be meeting with the CFO of the hotel and perhaps he would be interested in seeing them. Acting as if time was of the essence, I told them that perhaps I could stay for a bit longer. Within moments, two very distinguished men approached the three of us and there I stood, with sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt, surrounded by four men of varying ages, all dressed in suits. Needless to say, the men were two very important men in this very elegant hotel. One of the two men from the hotel, whose name I would learn to be Stephen Kerkow, requested of me that I shoot the ballroom upstairs as well as a suite so he could show his superiors. Once again, acting as if time was of the essence, I told him I had about half an hour and would see what I could do. Well, that is the beginning of this story you might say, for here I sit in the café of the same hotel two weeks later having shot more images/panoramas than I could have ever imagined. Ironically, many of the staff has only come to see what the suites upstairs look like through the images of the same they see on my laptop.
It was two days after that initial shoot that I was doing some panoramas for a nice folk-art store on Vaci Utca. when upon checking my email on the office computer, there was a request from Mr. Kerkow to call him at the Grand Hotel Royal. The man in charge of the web site was visiting from Malta Italy and was interested in meeting me and discussing my process of taking panoramas. Needless to say, I told him I’d be there within the hour and within the hour I was. I had to call my girlfriend and tell her that I would not be able to meet her and her cousin at noon at the station where her cousin was to drive us to Kecskemet where we would spend the weekend. I told her I’d catch a train later that day and we could meet that evening. Perhaps realizing the opportunity that was presenting itself, she told me it would not be a problem. Her grandmother had passed away the previous week and she needed to go to her hometown of Kesckemet for the funeral that weekend.
Shortly after arriving at the Grand Royal Hotel, I was greeted by a Mr. Frankie Spiteri and his associate Vanessa Coleiro who is the manager of marketing for Corinthia Hotels International. Frankie I would come to understand is in charge of the company’s web services and thus the reason for meeting him. They were both from Malta Italy and were only in Budapest for a very short time. Needless to say, as quickly as my world seems to be spinning these days, our conversation turned very technical. It was very refreshing for me to talk to someone about such things as aperture and speed settings, adjustments of hues and saturations, and image manipulations but for Vanessa, it was all Greek to her and she excused herself leaving Frankie and I alone. Our discussion transitioned from that of photography to that of web design and programming. Next thing I knew, we were in front of a computer and Frankie was giving me a tour of the company web site and I was interjecting an occasional comment or suggestion. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of me. This Corinthia Group was big, REALLY BIG! At one point, our conversation turned to that of my travels and I decided to show him my Europe web site. Within the gallery, I took him to some shots a past sailing trip on the North Sea with my friends Auke and Teatske Ann of Holland. He seemed so excited at seeing my photos as not only is he and avid sailor, but he had visited many of the same places I was showing him and it was bringing back many memories for him he said. I should mention that Frankie is a man in close proximity to my age of 39. Anyway, we wrapped up our meeting with an understanding that I would take some panoramas of the hotel of the next few days and post them on the internet for him to present to his superiors in Malta. If things went well he said, I could possibly be visiting him in Malta for a “shoot” there!
Well, for the sake of time, here I sit two weeks later in the hotel’s café and I am being considered by Corinthia Hotels International for a position to do panoramas for many of their 5-Star hotels all over Europe. I must admit I have my eye on two in particular, those being Malta and St. Petersburg Russia. I have taken a plethora of panoramas for their review and have posted them on the internet for those who care to see them, you may do so at www.tmhdesign.com/corinthia One little fly-in-the-ointment is that Frankie is familiar with a technology for panoramas which allows complete vertical and horizontal scrolling, unlike mine which has limited vertical viewing. I told him I would attempt to figure out how it was done and see if I could produce the same for him. (on the panorama page, check out the atrium and ballroom to see my first attempts) Over the past few days, I have been in touch with James Riggs of www.panoguide.comas well as the creators of the panorama software he put me in touch with. I’m confident that having been given one more week before a final decision, I will master this technology/process.
In closing this journal entry, it is my desire to share just a few other tidbits with you regarding my life here in Budapest. Often times, events in my life seem to be happening faster than the world is spinning. (that’s about 1,000 mph by the way….) I have settled in here and to be very honest, it has come to feel like home for me. Having met my girlfriend has made all the difference in the world to me. I could not have scripted meeting a better woman than she. I could write volumes about her, and perhaps one day I will, but for now I will limit her exposure within my journal. I choose to do so perhaps out of respect for her privacy, but also so as not to make her appear as “just another entry” in this long list of stories about my travels. As I told her last night when we were falling asleep, she has become my world and my home in not necessarily the San Francisco Bay area, nor Cleveland or Budapest for that matter, but by her side…