“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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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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Moses Bridge and Tower Pompejus at Fortress De Roovere

 

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.

Moses Bridge at Fortress De Roovere
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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.

Tower Pompejus at Fortress De Roovere
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I recommend you to visit this fortress in combination with visiting Bergen op Zoom, which has a well-preserved center.

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Visiting Elx and discovering palm trees

 

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.

Municipal Park 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.

Amphitheater and Pigeon Tower in Elx
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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.

Botanic garden Huerto del Cura in Elx
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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.

Cactus in Huerto del Cura

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.

Basilica Saint Mary in Elx
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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.

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Strolling through the streets of Alicante

Harbour of Alicante in Spain
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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.

Calle San Rafael in Alicante
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It is a very colourful neighbourhood with lots of red, blue, and yellow. And, of course,  many plants. 

Blue in the streets of Alicante

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.

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Fallas in Valencia

Fallas Valencia 2018
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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.

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. 

Prize winning Falla

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.

Fallera

After sunset the streets near the Fallas are beautifully lighted, often with live music, places to have a drink or take a bite. 

Lights in the evening

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.

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Santa Barbara Castle in Alicante

Downtown Alicante
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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).
Center of Alicante
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View on Cape de l`Horta in Alicante
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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. 
View on Cape de l`Horta in Alicante
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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. 
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