Malaga: more than Costa del Sol

Malaga: Alcazaba, Cathedral, and Museum of Malaga

Before reading about the region in preparation for our trip to Andalusia, I thought that Malaga was mainly known for its beaches (Costa del Sol). I realize now that Malaga has to offer quite a bit more than that, like the Cathedral, Alcazaba, and Gibralfaro. Also, just wandering through the streets of Malaga is a real treat. Around every corner there is a church, a square, a park, an alley that needs exploring. Here some pictures of parks and plants. In the area around the Alcazaba Roman, Arabic, and Renaissance architecture meet each other. Very inspirational. Furthermore, the early darkness of the warm evenings invites for late dining outside. The food is excellent.

Roman Theatre
Discovered only in 1951 the Roman Theatre is now one of the important tourist attractions of Malaga. It was built in the 1st century and is still used for special types of shows. On the square in front of the Roman Theatre there is always live music attracting a lot of people. Very nice atmosphere.

Roman Theater by night

Alcazaba
The Alcazaba fortress palace was built in the 11th century by the Moors, partly with material from the Roman Theatre right next to it. It is situated against the Gibralfaro mountain and was later surrounded by the defence walls of Gibralfaro Castle.

Alcazaba and Roman Theatre

Gibralfaro Castle
The Gibralfaro Castle is named after the mountain it is built on. It dates back as far as the 14th century. From the walls you have spectacular views over the city, the harbour, and the sea. It was quite a climb to take this picture.

Malaga from Gibralfaro

Here some pictures of the Roman Theatre, Alcazaba, and Gibralfaro.

Cathedral of Malaga
The Cathedral was built in Renaissance style within the limits of old Moorish walls. It was suppose to have two towers. However, after the first tower was finished there was no money left to build the second tower. Here some pictures of the cathedral on the outside accepted by Dreamstime.

 

Here some pictures of other churches as well.

We really enjoyed Malaga. Of course we went to one of the beaches (El Palo) to take a swim. However, most of the time we spent on exploring the city beyond the obvious tourist attractions. What struck us most, was that around every corner there is a church and that every hour of the day somebody gets married. Malaga is definitely more than just Costa del Sol.

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Preparing for trip to Andalusia

My wife visited Andalusia, together with members of the family, several times. When she came back from her last visit, she told me that she had decided that we should go together so I could take the pictures she had in mind, but could not take. So, we decided to make a roundtrip: Malaga – Sevilla – Cordoba – Granada – Nerja – Malaga. In total, almost three weeks, so we had sufficient time to visit all the tourist attractions in that area.

 

We spent two days deciding on the dates, booking the hotels/apartments, and making reservations for important attractions, such as Alhambra. I used Sygic Travel, both app and webservice, to schedule everything, including our daily trips. To register the GPS locations while taking pictures I will use Komoot. Furthermore, we decided to take the Alsa busses from city to city. Very convenient. Within the cities we would either walk or take a taxi.

In the meantime, I started to read more about the region and about the Moresque influences in Spain in general and in Andalusia in particular. I first read a book about a Moor that copied important books in Cordoba (De Kopiist by Hanny Alders, in Dutch), followed by The Hand of Fatima by Ildefonso Falcones. Both books give a good impression of the ruling of the Arabs in Spain, and the influences on culture and architecture, and the fights between the Roman Catholic and Islam religions.

From a photography perspective I had to decide what to take. Because we traveled by airplane and busses, it means we have to travel light. The topic of my pictures would be buildings, both indoor and outdoor, details, like tiles or plants, aerial view of cities, night shots.

So I decided to take:

  • Nikon D800 and iPhone (!) as cameras (iPhone X is doing a pretty good job and weights almost nothing)
  • Nikon 18-300 mm lens, general-purpose lens
  • Nikon 16-35 mm lens, for architectural pictures
  • A small tripod, for night shots
  • Colorspace UDMA 2, to store pictures
  • Peak Design Capture, to carry the D800 on the strap of my backpack
  • Peak Design Field pouch, to carry smaller stuff like a polaroid filter
  • Peak Design Range pouch, to carry an extra lens on my belt in case I am not allowed to take my backpack inside a tourist attraction (like Alhambra)
  • Peak Design straps, to carry my camera or Range pouch
  • Arsenal, the smart camera assistant, to help me with difficult pictures
  • Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L, to carry all of the above.

In the upcoming posts I will keep you up-to-date about my photography trip to Andalusia.

Reflecting on first corporate photoshoot

Highstreet team

In my previous post on this topic I discussed the preparation of my first corporate photoshoot. Now, a couple of days after the photoshoot, I want to reflect on it.

When I arrived we discussed again the pictures they had in mind. Right after that the team had a discussion about the status of a new product. I took some pictures to capture the atmosphere: commitment, involvement, teamwork.

Later we took a small tour outside in the park to decide about the group picture and the picture of the owners. We decided to take the group picture on a metal bridge in the park (28-300mm lens). So, it would be the group, some bushes, and the bridge, expressing a man-made industrial product in a natural environment. 

For the owners of Highstreet Mobile, we decided to shoot them in front of red bricks of an old building (their company is located in this building), standing informally on a slope with a handrail, expressing “joyful climbing to the top through innovation”.

Back in the office I set up the three lighting stands and decided about the location in the office to take the head-shoulders pictures (70-200mm lens). In the background you could see the office as it is, expressing an informal setup of the office of a startup.

Photographer in action

Looking  back, for me there were two main challenges:

  • Lightening of office First, the team members often used blinds to avoid outside light on their computer screens, so I had to use flashes to get high quality pictures. Second,  the ceiling was low which made it difficult to use it as reflector; you could see the white spots of the flashes in the pictures (14-35mm lens). I was not able to get enough diffuse light in the whole area where the group was sitting. I have not found a solution for that.
  • Getting the right atmosphere The atmosphere I encountered was one of serious commitment to their new products and one of team effort to address challenges. My pictures express that. The question is whether these pictures help in recruiting new people. I have learnt from this photoshoot that my style of photography, especially for a group of people, comes closer to capturing the atmosphere and not of creating one. 

I also enjoyed the postprocessing to further improve the high quality pictures that came out of my camera (D800). It took a bit more effort than usual, because there was a feedback loop to select the right pictures and to crop them for the intended usage.

On the whole, I can say that it was quite a challenge for me, and I enjoyed it. Especially, the interaction with the youngsters that never experienced a photoshoot before. 

Preparing for first corporate photoshoot at Highstreet Mobile

Already some years ago my oldest son together with his business partner started a software company. They are a SaaS company and their product focuses on fashion brands. Fashion brands will get a mobile shopping app that works both on iOS and Android. They focus heavily on making the consumer experience great. The shopping app is fully branded, integrated with existing e-commerce systems and it gets better all the time. Their initial focus was on the iPad, however, now the apps also work for the iPhone and for Android devices. The company is called Highstreet Mobile, and is located in Utrecht.

A month ago he asked me whether I could do a photoshoot for his company: team members, the office etc. I am quite honoured to do this, at the same time it will be the first time that I will do this type of photoshoot, so it is also a challenge. First, the three of us (my son, his business partner, and I) had a telco to make sure what kind of pictures were required. Basically it comes down to: head-shoulder pictures of each team member, a group picture (likely to be taken outside in a nearby park), pictures of group activities, and pictures of the office environment. Themes that characterise the company are: innovative, informal, and passion.

Based on this I decided that I needed three flashes for the head-shoulder pictures: one from the left, one from the right and one from the top (using a snoot). In the past I bought three PocketWizard FlexTT5, one was used as transmitter on the camera, and the other two for two flashes (receivers). Now I needed three receivers, so I decided to buy a second-hand PocketWizard MiniTT1, which is a transmitter, to put on my camera. I also had a look at a good tutorial about the Zone Controller PocketWizard AC3 to make sure I knew how everything worked. Another advantage of having three flashes, and having full controle over them, is the easy way of lightening the office.

So, besides the flashes and the PocketWizards I need two umbrellas, one snoot, and three light stands with brackets. Furthermore, I had to make sure that all the batteries were fully charged. Besides the general-purpose lens 28-300mm I will take the 70-200mm for the head-shoulder pictures, and the 16-35mm for the office pictures. I will also take the battery grip. It makes taking the portrait pictures (vertical) easier. 

The day before I went to Foto Konijnenberg to clean the sensor and to buy the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L. In the evening I went through my checklist and packed everything.

Fully packed

[to be continued]

“Het Oerd” on Ameland

Beach near lighthouse

It seems that this year the islands in the Waddenzee are my favourite holiday destination. After Vlieland (twice) and Terschelling, we visited Ameland together with friends. After arrival we picked up our bikes (regular bikes). It turned out that our friends had hired e-bikes, so after the first day —we took a ride through the hilly dunes—we changed our regular bikes for e-bikes as well. Ameland with its magnificent dunes is hilly and it is of course always windy. A good reason to hire e-bikes. 

The second day we explored by bike the western part of Ameland: the dunes along the North Sea, the beach near the lighthouse (some of us went swimming), the village Hollum, and the tidal mud flat (“Het Wad”) on the southern side. 

The tidal mud flat, called “Het Wad”

The third day we walked along the North Sea beach, where we enjoyed the cloudy scenery: ranging from white to dark grey clouds with a deep blue sky. Really beautiful. After the hike we took the bike to the village Buren to have lunch.

Clouds above the North Sea

The last day we went to an area called “Het Oerd”, which is on the eastern side of the island. We biked all the way to the “Oerdblinkert”, which is the highest dune (+24 meters). Below are all the pictures I took at Ameland that are accepted by Dreamstime.

 

Our dinner highlight was Het Witte Paard in Nes, a cousy restaurant that serves excellent food.

Before going to the islands I thought they would all be more or less the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. After this week, Ameland has become one of my favourite islands. 

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Hiking and Churches

Today I hiked again in the neighbourhood of a village called Geesteren. This time I took a route north of Geesteren. It goes mainly through farmland. However, the main reason for going again to Geesteren is the fact that I wanted to take pictures of the church, called the Saint Pancratius Church. Last time a car was parked right in front of the church. So, I decided to come back another time, and so I did.

As you can see here it was an easy 7 kilometer hike, partly off grid. This was the first time I took my Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L with me. I took my D800 with the 28-300mm lens attached and the 14-35mm, just in case. I also took two small bottles of water. So, not a heavy load. I was already positive about my Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L, and I now am even more. I walked for a little bit more than one and a half hour, including some short stops. The bag carried quite comfortably. I also carried the camera on the left strap using Peak Design Capture. I really love to carry my camera that way. I can immediatly grap it when I see something worth shooting. I also noticed that my back was less sweaty with this new backpack. 

It was a perfect hiking and photography day. I had two other churches in the neighbourhood on my list that I wanted to shoot with blue sky. I had two specific locations in mind from which I wanted to shoot the churches, one in Tubbergen and one in Ootmarsum. Below you see some of the pictures. I  submitted the first two of them to Dreamstime.

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My Farewell Gift: a Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L

Fully load Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L

When I retired from the university I got a voucher from my own research group to buy photo equipment at Foto Konijnenberg in Den Ham. I took some time because I wanted to buy something special. Something, that reminded me of the very innovative environment I used to work.

After getting acquainted with Capture from Peak Design in San Francisco, I had a closer look at their products. The backpack I had in mind was a compact one with space for a full frame camera with the 28-300mm or 70-200mm attached and separately the 14-35mm lens. And besides that some room for a water bottle, a compact rain jacket, and a lunch. Looking at the website of Peak Design, I found the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L. I deliberately choose the 20L one, instead of the 30L, because I wanted a compact backpack for photography during a hike in the woods or a stroll through a city. It is compact: without extending it is only 12L. 

The main characteristics of the Everyday Backpack are:

  • innovative way of packing: while attached the dividers can easily be shifted left or right; the outer parts of the dividers can be flipped left or right or both (split); the dividers can also be left out;
  • easy access of equipment:  with a simple pull on one strap, the backpack can be swung in front of you like a slingbag; the camera with attached lens or other lenses can then easily be accessed form the side of the backpack (both sides); 
  • easily extended: the top compartment can be kept small, however, if you want to put more in it, it can easily be extended (another 8L) and still locked solidly; also, there are smaller straps to attach something on the outside, like a tripod, a yoga mat, or sleeping bag.
  • sufficient space: a 15″ MacBook and an iPad Pro easily fits; and a small compartment for an iPhone;
  • many small innovations: carrying the bag from the top or from the side;  carrying on top of rolling luggage; straps can rotate to adjust to different body sizes; locking the zippers; tuck-away waist straps,  horizontal strap that can be operated with one hand to keep the main straps in place; etc.

My first use of the backpack was for a photoshoot. So, the backpack was fully loaded as you can see below.

 
Until now, I used it only once, so it is still too early to tell whether I like the bag, however, I am impressed with the comfortable way I carried a fully loaded bag and am I also impressed with the many innovations that make it comfortable to use. And note, it is NOT just for photography. It is really a multi-purpose bag.

So again, thanks to my research group for giving me this gift. It will definitely always remind me of my research group!

 

Hiking experience with Peak Design Capture

Since my retirement I am hiking a lot in the neighbourhood of my home town carrying the Lowepro Transit 350 AW with the D800 plus 28-200mm lens attached and 16-35mm lens, together with two bottles of water, some food and a rain jacket. I noticed that when I saw something interesting to shoot I was a bit reluctant to get my camera out of my backpack. It was too much effort for small things. In the past I used a belt and hand-grip of B-grip to carry the camera on my belt, ready to shoot. However, after some time I was less satisfied with it, for two reasons:

  • the part on the belt that carried the D800 plus 28-300mm lens attached was pressing my leg too much (which is inconvenient for long hikes), and
  • the plate under the camera was made of out of plastic, which was not stable enough in the tripod head for macro-photography.

So I looked on the internet for something new. I found Capture Camera Clip of Peak Design. I put Capture on the left strap of my backpack, however, it can also be put on a belt, on a strap of a bag etc. Below some picture of me carrying the Capture first without and then with the camera plus a 28-300mm lens attached. Apologies for the bad quality of the pictures.

 
In the beginning I thought it looked a bit weird to carry the camera high on my chest. However, in practice, it is very convenient. Also the plate under the camera is made out of metal, so it is stable in the tripod head. On the picture in the link above it shows Version 3. I decided to buy Version 2 because it better fits wider straps. The other advantage is that the plate, with additional “wings”, fits perfectly in the Manfrotto RC2 tripod head.

Replacing the plate also meant that I had to get another hand-grip. Peak Design also has a nice solution for that: Clutch Camera Hand Strap. It, of course, uses the same plate as Capture.

During the hike south of Geesteren I used Capture for the first time. Right from the start I carried the D800 and 28-300mm lens in Capture mounted on the left strap of my backpack. 


 
I noticed that I could immediately grap the camera and start shooting when I saw something interesting. Here are some pictures I took on the way. 

 
Looking back at my first experience with Capture, I can say that I am very satisfied with it. I have the camera ready whenever I need it. Taking the camera out of the clip is very easy, just press the red button. Putting it back is also easy, however, to make sure that I do not drop the camera I always look whether it slides in correctly and listen to the click. Something, definitely worth buying. Also the Clutch is very convenient, it is easy adjustable and it fits like a glove.

Hiking around Tubbergen

Tubbergen

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.

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 the upper part of the tower of the Saint Pancratius Basilica in Tubbergen.

Fields around Tubbergen, the Netherlands,
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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). 

Saint Pancratius Basilica in Tubbergen, the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here two more pictures of the church at Dreamstime: Pancratius from the front left and Pancratius from the front right.

Thumbs up for this hike and this village.

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Sailing trip Waddenzee

31 foot sailboat

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.

Tracks of three days: Harlingen to Terschelling red; Terschelling to Vlieland white; Vlieland to Harlingen yellow

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. 

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