Hiking in Andorra

Andorra is a small country in the Pyrenees, a mountain range between France and Spain. It is a paradise for both skiers and hikers.
One hike took us to the north-western side of Andorra (Arcalis). Before starting I turned on the Komoot app on my iPhone to register my hike. I do this also to keep track of the the location where I took my pictures (see below). First we took a ski lift to take us all the way to the border between France and Andorra (the straight line on the map below).
[
www.komoot.de/tour/19808217 ]

After getting of the ski lift the first thing you see is this small lake, called Étang de Caraussans, surrounded by mountains in France. 

Lake on border Andorra-France
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

From there we walked to the highest point of our hike: 2690 meters. There you could see three lakes, called Estany de Més Amunt, in Andorra. As you can see, all very impressive. 

Lakes in Andorra
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

After taking some more pictures I walked all the way down to the starting point of the ski lift at 2220 meter. To be honest, I was glad I had taken the ski lift to get up.
Back at home I ingest my pictures in Photo Mechanic, I first throw away the bad pictures. Using the trail information from Komoot, Photo Mechanic figures out where I took the pictures (synchronisation is done based on time). Then I make a backup of the NEF-pictures on my NAS.  
The next step is to open the pictures in Lightroom to process them. Although it was sunny, I really had to add quite a bit of  liveliness and contrast to the pictures.
After saving them as DNG-pictures, I decide which pictures I will upload to Dreamstime. Within a couple of days I heard that all of my pictures were accepted. To give the buyers the opportunity to buy a DNG format of the picture, I also upload these. Furthermore, I do a bit of advertisement on Facebook. 

Here you see all of the pictures I took during several hikes in Andorra (made with jAlbum). Enjoy!

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Rotterdam Central Station

The Dutch Railways realises that railway stations form an important part of the center of cities. I guess that is one of the reasons that the architecture of the railway stations is regarded as extremely important. Rotterdam Central Station is no exception. It was officially opened in March 2014. A year later I took this picture.

Central Station Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It is one of my best selling pictures, especially in 2015. The most recent sales was this week. Below the original picture, it was taken with my Nikkor 16-35mm lens (settings: 16mm, f/4, 1/400sec, ISO 100). Especially, the wide-angle setting gives the pointy shape of the building special attention. 
Rotterdam Central Station: original picture

As you can see, I did quite a bit of post-processing:

  • The diagonal roof line is an essential characteristic of the building, so I cropped the picture to map the roof line close to the diagonal line of the picture. It makes the picture a lot stronger. The additional advantage was that I got rid of the glass building on the right (it distracts).
  • As you can imagine, I took a lot of pictures of this building. In the end, I chose the one with the person in front. It gives depth and it leads your eyes to switch between the shape of the station and him.
  • Last, I made the picture more lively: blue sky and yellow in the building. Especially the diagonal roof lost its color because of various shadows. 

Also inside it is a nice building, definitely worthwhile to pay a visit.

Central Station Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Rotterdam is famous for its architectural innovations. Here you will find more pictures of Rotterdam and here a post about it. Enjoy!
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Sunset at Noordwijk aan Zee

The colourful sky is one of the most fascinating scenes to take a picture of. Quite often people start to shoot too early, resulting in a very dominating orange ball called the sun. I prefer to start when the sun is almost disappearing behind the horizon. Then the sky and the sun are in balance and the clouds in the sky get an orange backlight.

Sunset North Sea, the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The above picture was taken at roughly 22:00 hours at the end of May along the coast of Noordwijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. Right at the time of the sunset. Just a few minutes later the sun had completely disappeared. 
What makes this picture special is of course the shape of the clouds and the way they are lighted. Some are dark and others are orange backlighted. Also the texture of the clouds adds to the special atmosphere of the evening. Furthermore, there is a subtle orange glow on the water. 
The picture was taken with the zoomlens set at 28mm, shutter speed 1/80th of a second, aperture f/5, and ISO 100. Below you see the unprocessed NEF version. It is not very appealing.

NEF version of sunset

In Adobe Lightroom 6 I did the following:

  • Lightroom automatically set the  temperature to 4900 (I did not change it)
  • set the correction profile for the lens I used (Nikkor 28-300mm)
  • set liveliness to +68
  • set saturation to +2
  • set the horizon straight
  • decreased locally the highlight caused by the sun.

The rest remained the same. This makes the picture much more appealing without overdoing is. It is important to only make subtle changes.
Here you will find more of my photo albums. If you are interested in having this picture on canvas, please click here.
The picture got accepted by Dreamstime within 2 days. 
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Tripod or not? Learnt my lessons!

Basically I am not very fond of tripods. On rare occasions you need one and still you have to carry them around all the time. Another reason for not liking them is the lack of flexibility in positioning the camera (for example, horizontal or vertical, or the position I want to take). So, I never take a tripod with me.
Coming back from Xi’an in China I noticed that in the hall of the Terracotta Army quite a few pictures had an ISO value of 6400 or close to it. And that the Shutter Speed I choose was not fast enough to compensate for the zoom of the lens to avoid shaken pictures. For that reason, a couple of pictures were rightfully not accepted by Dreamstime.  When you blow up the picture (100%) you can see the errors.

Terracotta Army in Xian, China (image is shaken)

Let us have a closer look at the contradicting circumstances and requirements in the hall of the Terracotta Army:

  • In the hall there is not enough light, maybe this has something to do with the preservation of the terracotta sculptures.
  • I wanted a large DoF (Depth of Field) to have several ranks of soldiers in focus.
  • The sculptures are a bit away from where I could stand, so to get enough detail I had to zoom in. Otherwise I would get only overview pictures with no detail.

If there is not enough light, there are four options: use a flash, slower Shutter Speed, wider Aperture, or increase the ISO. Remember, the last three determine the Photographic Triangle. See my post on this to understand the relationship between them: if you change one it at least affects one of the others to get a correct exposure. 
Let us have a look at these four options:

  • Use a flash This was no serious option because the sculptures were a bit too far away to evenly light the two or three ranks of soldiers I wanted to capture. And maybe I was not even allowed to flash.
  • Slower Shutter Speed Because of the low light conditions, the Shutter Speed was already pretty low, even further lowering would produce shaken pictures. Furthermore, there is this rule that if you zoom to for example 200mm, the Shutter Speed should be no higher than 1/200th of a second.
  • Wider Aperture Because I wanted several ranks of the soldiers in focus this was no option.
  • Increase ISO Given the above three, ISO was already in the 5000+ range. Going beyond 6400 (the limit of my Nikon D800) produces only darker pictures with a high noise ratio.

To handle this conflicting situation, I took a slightly slower Shutter Speed. As to be expected, this resulted in slightly shaken pictures. As long as the pictures are small, like in this post, you can hardly see it. However, to sell the picture commercially, the picture has to be perfect, even at 100%.

Terracotta Army in Xian, China (image is shaken)

So, what is the solution? Use a tripod. Because the sculptures don’t move using a slower Shutter Speed is no problem. You can take an arbitray long exposure time to get the right DoF and, at the same time, a low ISO to avoid noise.
So, I have learnt my lessons. Next time I take a small tripod (Traveller Mini Pro) that can be attached to the outside of my photography backpack (Lowepro Transit Backpack 350 AW).
Lowepro backpack with small tripod

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Sightseeing Xi'an (2)

If you want to know more about my first day in Xi’an, click here.

Breakfast Crowne Plaza in Xi’an

After a good breakfast, the second day we strolled on the Xi’an City Wall. The original fortification was built in the 14th century. It is one of the oldest city walls in China. As a tourist you have to pay a small fee to get access to the wall, for the inhabitants of Xi’an it is free, once a month. The wall is in excellent condition; it is even possible to take a bike ride on it.
Biking on City Wall Xian
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The parks and streets next to the wall are actively used for gymnastic exercises, playing music, and singing. Also, there was a colorful market (as you can see in the album). 
Gym in park next to City Wall Xian
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Just before lunch we visited the Muslim Quarter. The streets are full of shops and tiny restaurants. You can get a wide variety of  delicious small snacks. It is a colorful and lively quarter. Next time I need to spend more time in this quarter to visit the mosque as well.
Beiyuanmen Muslim Market in Xian, China
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

After lunch at the famous Hai Di Lao Hot Pot Restaurant, I went off to the airport to fly to Beijing to visit Tsinghua University. Xi’an is defintely worth paying a visit.
Here are the pictures of Xian that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used my general-purpose Nikkor lens: 28-300mm.
And here the street photography pictures I took in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an.
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Sightseeing Xi’an (1)

During my recent visit to China I visited four universities. One of them was NPU, where NPU and the University of Twente signed an agreement about student exchange. Below the official ceremony.

Signing Ceremony NPU

After this ceremony I was lucky to do some sightseeing in Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province with two Chinese friends. During the Zhou dynasty it was the capital of China. First, we visited the Terracotta Army, some 50 km outside the city. It is incredible to imagine that these terracotta soldiers date back to roughly 200 BC, and were only discovered as recent as 1974. These soldiers and animals were buried with the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to protect him. The Terracotta army is a kind of funerary art.

Terracotta Army in Xian
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Later on in the afternoon we visited the Buddhist Da Ci’en Temple and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The Buddhist temple is popular; quite a few people burn incense sticks.

 

Buddhist Da Ci’en Temple
Burning incense

 

 
 
 
 

My youngest friend persuaded me to climb the seven story high pagoda. Well, I made it, and took some nice pictures of Xi’an. The first version of the pagoda was built in 652.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

At night it is very nicely lit and close by every evening there is a nice fountain performance with music. The squares in the neighbourhood are crowded with groups performing dances.

Xi’an at night
Dancing in Xi’an

This concludes the first day of my visit to Xi’an. After a good diner at Xi Bei You Mian Cun Restaurant with my friends I went back to my hotel.

Xi Bei You Mian Cun

Look here if you are interested in my second day visiting Xi’an.
Here are the pictures of Xian that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used my general-purpose Nikkor lens: 28-300mm.
And here are my album of the pictures I took of the Terracotta Army.

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Enjoying The Hague

Political center the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Normally I visit The Hague for business reasons, for example to visit the ministeries. This time it was a short holiday with the family. We stayed in a very nice, spacious apartment of Stayci near the Grote Markt. Every morning we had a luxurious breakfast with Anne&Max near the Saint Jacob Church. It was a real treat. 
It just happened that we walked by an Escher exhibition in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma in The Hague. M.C. Escher is a famous Dutch graphic artist. Besides his earlier work on sketches of buildings, towns, and landscape when he was in Spain and Italy, he is most famous for his “impossible figures”, like the one below. 

Belvedere

One evening we had a wonderful diner in Restaurant La Passione (Italian cuisine). The food was really exquisite. We will definitely visit this restaurant again. Below you will see the owner preparing my dorade with sea salt crust.

Restaurant La Passione

One museum that is always worthwhile a visit is the Mauritshuis (see bottom, yellow building). They have paintings of, among others, the famous Dutch painters Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Jan Steen. One of their pearls is of course the Girl with a pearl earring of Johannes Vermeer.

Girl with a pearl earring

Strolling through The Hague was really enjoyable. The variety in  architecture gave us the feeling that we were abroad. However, the main reason for going was to show our youngest son the political center of the Netherlands: het Binnenhof, with het Torentje (office of the prime minister; see below), and de Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights, see top).

Political center the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here are the pictures of The Hague that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used two Nikkor lenses: 28-300mm and 16-35mm.
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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is an icon of the Inca culture. It was built around 1450 for one of the Inca emperors and abandoned a century later during the Spanish Conquest. Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911. The place was so secluded that only local people knew about it. And now it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
In 1982 it was the first time I visited Machu Picchu. Since then I have been there 4 or 5 times. Last time was the summer of 2015. It is a remarkable site that is worth visiting over and over again. Walking around, is like walking through a village where different sections have different functions. 
Taking pictures is not easy. First of all, there are quite a few tourists visiting the site the whole day through. So, taking pictures without tourists is next to impossible. Also, you have to be lucky with the weather. Friends of mine were unlucky: fog and quite a bit of rain. As you can see I was pretty lucky: blue sky and partly cloudy, the same as the first time I was there.
The site is really impressive: the way it was built (look at the bricks), the irrigation system to water the terraces, the storage of the food, the calendar, and the housing. The site itself is at roughly 2400 meters. As you can see it is surrounded by high mountains. So, it is not surprising it took quite a while before it was discovered again. Now it is a world famous tourist attraction, definitely worth visiting.
Here you can see my album of pictures on Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Sunset at Domburg

Domburg is a tiny village along the coast in the province Zeeland in the Netherlands. I had been there when I was young. My family decided to pay this touristic village a visit again. It was very nice weather. So, we had ample opportunity to have long hikes on the beach. 
To make sure that the sand of the beach does not disappear they have built breakers.  These are two rows of wooden poles from the coast into the sea, covering the area between high and low tide. These are fascinating objects to take pictures of, because of the water curling around the poles and the seagulls taking a rest.

Breakers at Domburg
Breakers at Domburg
Breakers at Domburg
Breakers at Domburg

Around 7 pm it was high tide; around the same time we also enjoyed a beautiful sunset. The interaction between the remaining light of the sun, its reflection on the water,  and the incoming waves of the upcoming tide were really magnificent.

Sunset at Domburg
Sunset at Domburg

 I had taken my regular lens: Nikkor 28 – 300mm lens. To make sure that I had full control over the exposure I shot in manual mode: shutter speed 1/320th of a second (to avoid a tripod and fix the waves) and aperture f/9. The under-exposure was compensated by an automatic increase of the ISO. Looking back now an aperture of f/11 would have been better (larger depth of field).
Here are some more pictures of the beautiful sunset in Domburg. Enjoy!
 

Picturesque Ootmarsum

Saint Simon and Judas Church, Ootmarsum
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ootmarsum is a picturesque village in the Netherlands near the German border. Besides being a nice village that preserves its history that goes back to 770 quite well, it is also famous for its art/history-related organisations: galeries, museums, and shops. 
My family had friends coming over from abroad. So, we decided to pay a visit to Ootmarsum. We started with the Educatorium; it is a schoolmuseum. It gives a wonderful insight in how classes, teachers,  learning material, books looked like in the early 1900s. On the one hand, quite a lot of things changed, on the other hand, quite a few things are still the same. 
After that we visited the art gallery of Annemiek Punt. She puts layers of coloured pieces of glass on top each other, which in the oven melt, producing a nice colourful composition. She is one of our favourite artists.
From there, we walked to the Gallery of Ton Schulten, a famous Bocage painter. He has produced many colourful pictures of the shapes of the woods and meadows sceneries in Twente. We actually met him with his dog enjoying coffee in a nearby coffee house. 
In the centre of the village there is the Simon and Judas Church, with its nice front gable (see top). At the bottom there is a nice picture of the tower. Here are some more pictures of lovely Ootmarsum. Our friends really enjoyed it.

Saint Simon and Judas Church, Ootmarsum
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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