Last week I decided to hike in the neighbourhood of Tubbergen, a small village in the eastern part of the Netherlands. On this hiking website for the region Twente I found a nice hike, called Schultenwolde; a little bit more than 10 kilometers.
Before leaving home I downloaded the GPX file and uploaded it to my Komoot website. I always use the Komoot app to get directions, to record my GPS track, and to match the pictures I take with my iPhone with my hike. The Komoot app on my iPhone gives me spoken directions in English and the directions are also visible on my Apple Watch. So, it is next to impossible to get lost.
The first part of the hike took me along a small creek, called Markgraven.
The weather was perfect, not too hot, a bit windy, and nice big white clouds posted against a deep blue sky. The nice thing about the hike is that the part along the creek is not on paved roads, the Komoot app calls it off grid.
On the way back I walked through the fields around Tubbergen. As you can see it has been an extremely dry summer. On the horizon you can see a small part of the tower of the Saint Pancratius Basilica in Tubbergen.
While entering the village I took the picture at the top of this post. Being back in the village I decided to take some pictures of the basilica. The upper part of the tower of the Saint Pancratius Basilica was renovated about 40 years ago (the bricks are a bit lighter).
With a group of 4 we left the Noorderhaven in Harlingen a quarter past 6 in the morning heading for Terschelling. Actually we had to leave two hours after high tide to take full advantage of the pulling effect of the water when the water leaves the Waddenzee. Above you see the 31 footer and a short video of the beautiful colours of the sunrise: Sunrise Noorderhaven
The Waddenzee is a unique part of the North Sea. During high tide it just looks like a regular sea, during low tide many sandbanks pop up. The Dutch part is surrounded by the northern mainland of the Netherlands and a number of smaller islands. During this trip we visited Terschelling and Vlieland. With a sailboat with a keel of 1.5 meters we had to stick to the groove from Harlingen to the islands. Below you see that we could not go directly form Harlingen to Terschelling. We used an app of Navionics on our iPhones to see where the sandbanks are.
During the first two days there was sometimes insufficient wind to sail against the tide. So we had to use the engine. You can actually see that during cross sailing the tide pushed us back to where we had been before. It took us 10 hours to reach Terschelling.
The next day we went to Vlieland. To enter the harbour of Vlieland we had to go further north to the North Sea which starts between the two islands. We could immediately feel the slow swell of the waves, in contrast to the shorter waves of the Waddenzee. On the way we saw many seals.
The third day we had a nice northern wind which took us all the way to Harlingen. Again we had to cross the groove a couple of times. As you can see in the pictures we had to be aware of ferry boats going back and forth between the mainland and the island. They go very fast so we continuously had to check our speed and course.
Although I have been to Vlieland by ferry boat several times, making the trip by sailboat made me aware of the uniqueness of the Waddenzee.
As portrait photographer I learned quite a lot from photoshoot sessions where I was the subject, the model.
As a CS professor I was asked for quite a few nation- or university-wide roles: chairman of a board, figurehead of an ICT initiative, director or dean. Everytime there was an interview and an executive head-shoulders photoshoot with a professional photographer, each handling their subject in a different manner.
One time the journalist and the photographer were the same person. We met in a tiny restaurant near Central Station The Hague. After the interview he asked me to join him to the parking garage downstairs. The setup was one flash off-camera and a kind of white background behind me, just sufficient for a head-shoulder picture. In the magazine it looked perfect. Only the photographer and I knew the picture was taken while I was standing between parked cars. The lesson I learned was that you need very little to make good portrait pictures.
Another time I was attending a meeting in the Trippenhuis of the Royal Academy of Art and Sciences in Amsterdam. I was called away from this meeting and to my surprise there were two photographers, one just put me somewhere in a corner with an off-camera flash. He was done in 10 minutes. The other one told me that he never used flashes, so he was looking for a window with the right kind of light. At one point we had to wait 5 minutes for a cloud to cover the sun. As you can imagine, the pictures of the latter photographer were much better. The message I took away from this was: take your time to find the light that fits the ambience of the photoshoot.
Another photographer had made his setup in the staircase of the building where I chaired a board meeting. So, I thought business as usual. However, when he was about to take a picture he started to ask me difficult questions: for example, my favorite female scientist. By doing so, he distracted me and pulled me away from the whole photoshoot. This distraction turned my facial expression in a more relaxed one. During another photoshoot the same photographer asked me to take off my glasses. I did not like the pictures he took, apparently I was not used to see myself like that. Now, many years later I have contact lenses! It is important to make your model feel comfortable. Try to take pictures when they think you are done.
Some of the other photographers put a lot of emphasis on the background. On campus, the photographer and I stroll around a bit, outside looking at the architecture of the buildings, indoors looking at stairs, balconies, ceilings to find a background that fits the message of the picture. If you want to be a portrait photographer, know what type of background you are looking for to take meaningful pictures.
Please note, although I remember the stories about the photoshoots I do not have all the corresponding pictures and names of the photographers. So, the stories and the pictures are most of the time not related.
This post was inspired by the Youtube video of Sean Tucker about the role of empathy in portrait photography.
What I like about Sean Tucker is that he is an excellent photographer and at the same time honest about his doubts.
Fortress De Roovere is part of the Dutch Water Line. It is an earth fortress dating back to as early as the 17th century. It is close to Bergen op Zoom, where my parents were born, and Halsteren. The Dutch Water Line was a series of water-based defenses conceived by Maurice of Nassau. In case of an attack it turned Holland into a well-protected island.
Recently Fortress De Roovere has been renovated with the help of the Friends of Fort de Roovere, which includes the removal of undergrowth and deepening the moat. Early this year I visited this fortress with some family members who are tourist guides in Bergen op Zoom. Besides being a nice historical place, it also has some interesting architectural art constructs: the Moses bridge and the Pompejus Tower.
The Moses bridge lets you cross the moat below the water level: the top of the flanks of the bridge are at the water level of the moat. In a way it is a “reversed” bridge.
The Pompejus Tower was constructed only recently, named after Pompejus de Roovere. It is a tilted tower, which means that when you are at the top you are right above the moat. It is not just a tower from which you have a nice overview of the surrounding woods and meadows, it is also an open-air theater.
I recommend you to visit this fortress in combination with visiting Bergen op Zoom, which has a well-preserved center.
During our stay in Alicante we visited some surrounding cities, one of them was Elx or Elche. Via Santa Pola we took the bus to Elx.
Without a specific plan we walked to a major park close by. It turned out to be the Municipal Park, where I found the amphitheater, and in the rear a pigeon tower.
After that we took a tour through the city by tourism miniature train. During this tour we found out what Elx is famous for: palm trees. During the Arabic reign of Spain these palm trees were imported. It is estimated that currently there are 200,000 to 300,000 palm trees in the area of Elx. It is really unique in Europe to have so many palm trees together. In November 2000, Elx was elected the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site.
Then we decided to continue our discovery of Elx by going to the botanic garden called Huerto del Cura (garden of the priest), located in the older parts of Elx. It is a relative small orchard, however, packed with many exclusive palm trees, cactus, and other plants. I took quite a few pictures there, which you can find below and here. Some of these pictures were taken in Manual mode, like the one below, because there was not enough light to work with Aperture mode, resulting in a slightly higher ISO.
During a break I also managed to take a picture of the Basilica of Elx. Although it was not the right time of the day because of the very bright sun coming from the right. I wanted to take a picture standing more on the left of the church, however, this was impossible because of the overwhelming sun behind the tower. So, I had to settle for this one.
Late in the afternoon we had an excellent lunch in an Italian restaurant called Ristorante Gourmet. Looking back, Elx gave us a lot more than we expected. It is definitely worthwhile to visit.
Alicante is a nice Mediterranean port on the east coast of Spain. From The Santa Barbara Castle you have a nice view of the harbour and the city. Walking down from the castle you end up in a mesh of very narrow streets and squares, going up and down stairs. It is a beautiful part of the old city.
It is a very colourful neighbourhood with lots of red, blue, and yellow. And, of course, many plants.
It is wonderful to stroll through these colourful streets of Alicante and taste the history and the Arab influences (the palmtree is just an example). Enjoy the pictures of the streets of Alicante.
My wife told me to put Fallas in Valencia on my bucket list. So, this year we decided to participate in this festivity. The origin of the Fallas is the commemoration of Saint Joseph. The word Fallas both refers to the event and to the structures they build. The event is really a community festivity for the whole family.
Every day during Fallas at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento there is La Mascletà (video of La Mascletà). For five minutes there is an explosion of very loud sound; you can physically feel the vibrations going through your body. To be close to the fireworks you have to be on time (at least one and a half hour in advance).
Every neighbourhood builds it own Falla. So, walking through the city you will find many Fallas, which mostly consist of one main “doll” surrounded by many smaller ones, often expressing national or international political issues, for example, sources of fake news.
At the top of this post the Falla that had a very prominent position at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Below one that received a lot of prizes.
Another activity is the parade of Valencians dressed in folkloric costumes to take flowers to the Virgin Mary (video L’Ofrena de flors) at Plaza de la Reina. On the way going there we met this beautifully dressed lady being very proud to wear her folkloric costume.
After sunset the streets near the Fallas are beautifully lighted, often with live music, places to have a drink or take a bite.
After midnight the day ends with a spectacular fireworks. Fallas in Valencia is another check on my bucket list. Many more pictures and videos were taken with my iPhone X, except for the top one, this was taken with my Nikon D800.
To celebrate my retirement as full professor at the university we decided to visit Alicante and Valencia. In this post I will focus on the view from Mount Benacantil and in the next ones on other parts of Alicante and its surrounding cities and on Valencia (Fallas!). Although not intended as a photography trip I selected 21 pictures which are all accepted by Dreamstime.
The first thing we did was to visit the Santa Barbara Castle. Originally founded by the Arabs, it was conquered by the Spanish on the feast of Saint Barbara. Explaining the name of the castle. It stands on the Mount Benacantil (166m) and from there you have a nice overview of Alicante and the beach. Above you see the colourful buildings in downtown Alicante in the neighbourhood of the Co-cathedral of Saint Nicolas of Bari (100mm).
Above a much wider view of the center of Alicante and its harbour and Cape de l’Horta on the north side of Alicante.
In an old fortress it is always nice to play with shapes. Here an example of a perspective of Cape de l’Horta through a small gate. It took some time before all tourists were out of sight.
All pictures were taken with a Nikon D800 and the general-purpose zoomlens (28-300mm). Here you will find all 21 pictures of my Alicante trip accepted by Dreamstime. In processing the pictures I added quite a bit of vibrance and saturation. Because of the slightly clouded weather the pictures looked kind of bleak.
A couple of years ago somebody showed me some pictures of macro photography. They looked interesting, however, it did not resonate with me. Now, many years later, I read the book Praktijkboek Macrofotografie (in Dutch) and looked at videos on Youtube. It turns out that macro photography is a lot more than taking pictures of plants and insects and laying on the ground. So, there was a growing interest.
After realising that my regular lenses would not suffice, I looked at possible cheap adjustments:
close-up filters are put on a regular lens and they magnify. The disadvantage is the you add more glass between the subject and the sensor, thereby reducing the quality of the picture substantially;
extension tubes are put between your regular lens and the body of the camera. They are used to reduce the focal distance and thereby increase the magnification. The disadvantage is that it mainly helps up to roughly 50mm, beyond that the reduction of the focal distance is not substantial anymore.
So I decided to look for a macro lens (Nikon calls it a micro lens). They are expensive. The Nikon 200mm micro lens costs something like €1500. Beyond my budget for a hobby. So I settled for a secondhand Nikon 105mm. And I am very pleased with it. Very sharp pictures.
My first experiments with macro photography immediately showed that getting the subject in focus is quite a challenge. Even more than I expected. For example, at a distance of 40cm the 105mm lens at f/8 has a Depth of Field (DoF) of only 0.5cm. Handheld this is not going to work. Even by breathing you move more than 0.5cm. So, you need a tripod. Although I am not very fond of a tripod for macro photography it is an essential tool.
Like I said, with f/8 the DoF is only 0.5cm. In some cases this is fine, however, if you take a picture of a flower, maybe you want a larger DoF, like 1.5cm. In this case the aperture should be f/22. This means that if you are indoors, you need to use flashes. Below you see my set up in the garage. It consists of two flashes and a camera, all three on a tripod. I had set the shutter speed at 1/100th of a second, and the camera in Command Mode using TTL and a -1 compensation for both flashes. The subject are roses I gave to my wife for our 35 year wedding anniversary. I used them just before they were thrown away.
The next step is to get the right part of the roses in focus. I set the aperture to f/3.8 to get enough light in the camera. Autofocus does not always work, so I use Live View to visually focus. You can even magnify the screen to better focus. After that I set the aperture back to f/22 and take a picture.
At the top and below you see two of my first pictures. I am satisfied with the quality of the picture, however, I still need to learn more about composition in macro photography.
Last week my daughter asked me to take some pictures of crocheting she makes and sells via her Etsy webshop, DC crochet Design. She was facing some shortcomings of smartphones to do product photography. So, yesterday I grabbed my equipment and turned one of our bedrooms into a small photo studio. I have done something similar before so the first steps were easy.
To put all the focus on the crocheting I used white paper as a background. I used the same equipment as for model shooting, only I used a more narrow roll of paper.
To avoid sharp shadows I used two compact flashes flashing from two different sides through white umbrellas (TTL-mode).
To avoid incoming daylight I set the Exposure Time to 1/160th of a second.
This is the way it looked like.
As a camera I used my Nikon D800 and the Nikkor 28-300mm as a lens. I set the Commander Mode such that the two compact flashes on the side flashed and that the built-in flash did not.
During the shoot my daughter and I checked the pictures to make sure that things were working out the way we wanted it. Here are some of the challenges I was facing:
The white background is not white at all Compact flashes are of course not as powerful as studio flashes. I have only one studio flash, so I decided to use two almost identical compact flashes. In Lightroom it is very simple with the adjustment brush to increase the exposure to make sure that the white background is really white.
Not the whole embroidery is sharp In most of the pictures the whole crocheting had the same distance from the camera. In this case f/8 suffices. However, I did not realise that the Depth of Field was pretty small. Afterwards, I calculated that at 115 mm and with f/8 or f/10 the DoF is only a few centimeters. Too small as you can see here. The bottom of the iPhone is not sharp.
From this I learned that I have to shoot a bit further away, with a wider angle than 115mm (for example, 50mm, and crop later), and at least f/16 or f/22 (all increase DoF).
Colours are not identical to original I fiddled around a bit with the temperature to match the colours of the original.