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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My photo book project: The Story

Rio Paria in Huaraz
Rio Paria in Huaraz

This blog brings all the pieces that were discussed in previous blogs on this topic together. First, I discussed the photo book platform Blurb, followed by a discussion about the role of (Graphical) Design and Storytelling with pictures. Now, I show you how I implemented these ideas in Blurb using Lightroom.
Based on what I learned about telling a story with pictures I decided to have another look at the pictures I took. Just looking at the ones that were accepted by Dreamstime would lead to a boring story. I decided to focus on a stroll my family made along Rio Paria in Huaraz in Peru. The pictures I took during this walk were of the type Street Photography. They show the river and the people around it doing their regular activities, telling the story of daily rural life in Peru.
The story with pictures takes you along various activities nearby the river. They are representative for many rural areas. These activities consist of:

  • Transport Peru is an enormous country with few airports and railway station because  of the Andes, so most transportation is done by bus or truck.
  • Construction Most buildings are continuously under construction. So, everywhere you find places where they make clay bricks.
  • Playing Children play everywhere, both in playgrounds and on dirt roads.
  • Gardening Peruvians are very fond of flowers and green grass, even though in the desert climate along the coast this requires a lot of effort.
  • Washing clothes Clothes need to be washed even if you don’t have running water at home.

In the two PDFs at the bottom you see the resulting Blurb photo book: the first one is the cover (front and rear) and the second one is the content of the photo book. As you can see, I chose a simple graphical design: white background, all pictures white framed, few pictures per page. Hope you enjoy it. Please let me know whether you enjoyed My photo book project. 
For me this is just a first step to create a photo book of my last trip to Peru. The walk along Rio Paria will be just a  section in the chapter Huaraz, which will also include my Dreamstime pictures.
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After finishing this blog, I will continue working on my photo book of Peru. Here you may find the latest version.

My photo book project: Storytelling with Pictures

Little boy in Huaraz
Little boy in Huaraz

This is a continuation of previous blogs on My photo book project. After discussing the Blurb platform to create and publish a photobook, I realized that I needed more knowledge of (graphical) design to make an attractive album. This resulted in the following challenge:

How to translate the emotions that are attached to the story I want to tell into a graphical form such as an album. 

Based on that I decided to look at Storytelling to bring across the emotions I experienced.
In the past, when I told a story it tended to be abstract. In my professional life as a scientist I have learnt that by making a story personal and concrete it is easier to bring the message across and easier for my audience to repeat the essence of the story to others.
By making it more personal it becomes authentic and by making it concrete it simplifies the story. By showing emotion, for example happiness or sadness, people feel connected and are open to receive the message behind the story.
The next step is Storytelling with Pictures. Like every story it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is also nice to introduce one or more characters. So, if you want to tell a story about a family trip:

  • first show some pictures while your family is preparing for the trip to a nearby river,
  • then some pictures of the essence of the trip, including specific details, like faces of your children enjoying swimming in the river, and
  • end with some pictures showing how your children felt after returning from the trip.

Learning all this, I realize now that I have to rethink the selection of pictures I had in mind for the album. My starting point was to take the pictures of Peru that had been accepted by Dreamstime. They are of high quality, however, they together do not tell a story. In a next blog I will tell you about finding the right pictures for the story I want to tell.
Above a picture that would never be accepted by Dreamstime (insufficient quality and lack of model release). It was taken while walking along Rio Paria (tributary of Rio Santa) in Huaraz in Peru. It will be part of the story about Huaraz.

My photo book project: Blurb

Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu

As a computer scientist I have published quite a bit in journals and conference proceedings, however, I never published a book that was completely written by myself, except for my PhD thesis, of course.  Probably unconsciously I am still looking for a way to publish a book.
Looking back at the trip to Peru, I realize that there is a lot of material waiting for an audience. Out of the more than 600 pictures I took, I selected 50 to submit to Dreamstime, all of which were accepted. By now, quite a few were sold.
Also, I wrote 10+ photoblogs about the places we visited in Peru and about the photographical aspects. On the whole, there is a lot of material available. So, the question is what are the steps to create a photo book.
The first step is to find out what I want to achieve. I would like:

  • to share the things that make me enthusiastic about Peru
  • to share my creativity and the techniques I use for making pictures
  • to reach both an audience that likes traditional photo books as well as an audience that prefers digital versions
  • to gain experience in making both a real photo book and an ebook for an iPad

Because I already have the raw material, pictures and photoblogs, my first step is to find the right platform to produce the photo book. After looking for some time on the internet I found this interesting website; it describes eight of these platforms: Artifact Uprising, Shutterfly, Blurb, Lulu, Mpix, Photobucket, Picaboo, and Snapfish.
Although not based on serious research I choose Blurb because it allows me to make both a hardcopy and a digital version of the book, it has a bookstore based on on-demand printing, and Blurb software is integrated in Adobe Lightroom (see this YouTube tutorial). Furthermore, a friend of mine has positive experiences with Blurb.
In the upcoming blogs I keep you informed about the progession of my photo book projects and the experiences I have with Blurb.
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A peaceful Huascarán during sunset

Snow-capped Huascaran during sunset
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

At the end of the day, while making a tour north of Huaraz (Peru), we visited Yungay. In 1970 a major earthquake took place there. It is know as the Great Peruvian earthquake. It caused an enormous landslide with roughly 70000 casualties.  The people were trapped and did not know where to go: the noise of the landslide reflected against the surrounding mountains giving the impression that the landslide was coming from everywhere.
While trying to grasp the size of the landslide, the Huascarán, one of the highest mountains of Peru, started to glow. Due to the sunset the light was getting warmer, making the snow-capped mountain glow.
Huscarán during sunset
Huscarán during sunset

As a photographer this immediately attracted my attention. Also knowing that the sunset in Peru lasts less than in the Netherlands. Every minute the light and the clouds were different. So, I continued making pictures with different compositions with the warm glowing Huascarán in the background.
Church built on top of landslide
Church built on top of remains of landslide

Then suddenly, like somebody switched off the light, all the warm colors were gone. The only thing that remains is a harsh looking, grayish mountain from where the landslide came. Suddenly, I realized the enormous impact the landslide had.
Here you can see more pictures of the Huascarán. One of my colleague-contributor of Dreamstime added me as his/her favorite photographer based on the top picture.
Huascaran after sunset
Huascarán after sunset

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Market at Chinchero, sacred valley of the Incas
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Almost 34 years ago I visited the tiny village Chinchero, near Cuzco in Peru. I remember that we had a quick visit to the village and that we were surrounded by small children. The indians in the village were wearing black clothes and that we gave ball pens to the children.
Last summer we had a lot more time to visit the village and the old market square. I spent a lot of time to walk around to look at the white buildings from various angles. The picture on top is one of my favorite ones:

  • the white buildings with the horizontal and vertical shapes,
  • the blue sky and the white clouds,
  • the two diagonal lines of grass to shape the market square.

All this together challenges our eyes to wonder around. I am about to buy a large canvas for my office. Here you see more pictures of Chinchero accepted by Dreamstime.
The Chinchero site is now much bigger than 34 years ago. As you can see here. There are:

  • markets professionally run by a consortium of families,
  • recently revealed Inca terraces,
  • Inca walls, like in Sacsayhuamán,
  • children being taught to be proud of the Inca culture.

A place worth a visit.
Below you see another thing Peru is famous for: potatoes.

Women drying and sorting potatoes
Women drying and sorting potatoes

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Large canvas

Laguna Querococha
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Some time ago a colleague of mine asked me why I did not display my pictures in my office. Good question. So, I decided to print a large canvas of Laguna Querococha (near Huaraz in Peru). Normally I print 60 by 90 cm², now I went for 80 by 120 cm². With the 36,3 megapixels of the D800 this is no problem. All the details are visible and the colors are very vivid.
A couple of years ago I started to print a canvas at Profotonet in the Netherlands. They do an excellent job: very high quality print and material, and the logistics is also very good. They deliver in 1 or 2 days. Once my daughter was not satisfied with the colors, they had a look at it, and a new canvas was sent to her right away. For free, of course.
Below you see the picture in my office. Please do not look at the mess on my desk. I get a lot of compliments of people visiting my office on the scenery, the composition, the sharpness, and the quality of the canvas. Most of them start to realize that I also have a life after office hours. Together with my secretary I am looking for another picture to balance this one.

Please have a look at my albums. Let me know if you are interested in buying one for a canvas.
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Turn of the year 2015/2016: sales and plans

Laguna Querococha
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

At the turn of the year I thought it was a nice idea to look at my sales at  my two shops: Dreamstime and Werk aan de Muur (a Dutch website).
Currently, I have 478 pictures online at Dreamstime, and a total sales, since 2009, of roughly 300 pictures. The last couple of years there is a substantial increase. I guess that has a lot to do with my trips abroad.
Looking at the sales figures I wanted to know how these sales are distributed over the various categories. The obvious categories are landscape, cityscape, and portrait, however, I have the impression that buyers were more interested in the location they were taken. So, I just made up my own categories.
Below you see that my pictures of major European cities (mainly Budapest and Paris) and some Dutch cities (Maastricht and Rotterdam) are leading. Directly followed by pictures of my two visits to China (Beijing, Wuhan, Yangtze River, and Yellow Mountain). Also, the portraits I made of my two models are doing quite well. The holidays in the Alps with the many hikes produced many sellable pictures. The same is true for the sailing holidays near Corfu and in the Netherlands.

Cityscape 25%
China 21%
Portrait 17%
Alps 14%
Boats 7%
Animals 6%
Peru 4%
Concept 3%
Nature 1%
Coast 1%

Since this year I have more than 50 pictures at Werk aan de Muur, although this figure does not mean much. I can easily add or drop pictures. Two of these pictures belong to their Collection: the Dom Tower in Utrecht and Machu Picchu in Peru. The first one has been a couple of times, this is also the total sales at Werk aan de Muur.
The upcoming year my plans are:

  • Gaining more experience in low key studio lighting
  • Capturing more of the character of historical cities both in the Netherlands and abroad
  • Capturing more of the atmosphere of landscapes
  • Overcoming my fear to do street photography.

So, there are quite a few challenges ahead of me! At the top and the bottom of this blog you will find two of my favorite 2015 pictures.

Market at Chinchero, sacred valley of the Incas
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Dreamstime: 25 sales in one month

Yellow Mountain - Huangshan, China
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

On the average I sell 6 licenses per month via Dreamstime. Last month something spectaluar happened. One buyer bought 14 licenses of pictures of Peru and, probably, another one bought 8 licenses of Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) in China. In total 25 licenses were sold in November. I never sold so many before.
I celebrated this via two blogs on Dreamstime and got many positive reactions from colleague-contributors. Four of them decided to follow me. I regard that as a big compliment.
My trip to Yellow Mountain was actually the start of this photoblog in which I want to share my knowledge of photography and to show the pictures I take. Here are the pictures of Yellow Mountain. Dreamstime accepted 13  pictures.
The trip to Peru was more recent. I wrote quite a few blogs on it, starting with the preparation and ending with processing them. Here are the pictures of Peru. Of these 50 were accepted by Dreamstime.
For me the common theme between these two big sales is that they are about places you really have to put some effort in to reach them in combination with a small number of pictures available. I noticed that especially about Peru. The buyer did not buy Machu Picchu, however, he did buy pictures of Chavin de Huantar (first 8 hours by bus from Lima to Huaraz and then another 3 hours to Chavin de Huantar). The same is true for Yellow Mountain, first you have to fly to Hefei, China (via Beijing or Shanghai), flooded by 4 hours by bus, and then the final climb starts.
Enjoy the pictures and realize the effort that was required to take them  🙂
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Street photography in Barranco

Peru 2015

During my trip to Peru we stayed some time in Lima, to be more precise in Miraflores. However, Barranco, a neighboring district, is my favorite. It is famous for its romantic and Bohemian character. A lot of artists live in this district. Both during the day and in the evening it is nice to stroll around. We mainly walked around in the area between the two churches (Iglesia La Santísima Cruz and Iglesia La Ermita) and the Pacific Ocean.
Here you can see my pictures that were taken during daytime. All of them were taken in Aperture priority mode. There was more than sufficient light to choose the Aperture I wanted  and still have a fast Shutter speed. As you can see the dominate colors are red and yellow ochre. You can also see that enjoying live has a high priority.
In the evening, as you can see here, the place is even more crowded, and on every square you will find live street music. All pictures were taken in Manual mode. I choose the Aperture and Shutter speed I needed and the rest was handled by the automatic increase of the ISO. Although all of them ended up at ISO 6400 the pictures still look very good. During post-processing it is important to keep the dark areas dark. For daytime pictures it is nice to open up the shadows to show more detail. You should avoid doing that for night pictures. Keep the dark areas close to black by increasing the Blacks.

Iglesia La Santísima Cruz