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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Tips from professional portrait photographers

© Paul Remmelts

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.

© Bart van Overbeeke

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.

© Paul Remmelts

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.

© Harry Klunder

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.

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
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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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