Overwhelming Granada

After Cordoba our next stop during our trip through Andalusia was Granada. Our hotel was in Albaycin, known as the Muslim quarter, and just as Alhambra on the list of World Heritage of UNESCO. It still has its original narrow and winding streets going all the way up to the top of San Nicolas. The taxi that took us to our hotel barely fitted the narrow streets.

The first thing we did was walk down to the Rio Darro passing through Albaycin to enjoy the view of the magnificent Alhambra.

Nasrid Palaces and Alcazaba, Alhambra and Albaicin, Granada
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It is really impressive to see the Nasrid Palace, the Palace of Charles V, and Alcazaba, the fortress of Alhambra, being the oldest part of Alhambra.

Get your tickets via Internet as soon as possible. If you try to arrange it on the spot, it may happen that only awkward times are available. Our timeslot was a couple of days ahead at the end of the day. So, we first visited the Museum of Sacromonte Caves. It exhibits the way people lived in caves and also discusses the link with flamenco.

Museum Sacromonte Caves

Here are some pictures of Albaycin we took during our strolls through the narrow, winding streets going from one church to the next mirador.

Our next visit was the part of Alhambra for which no tickets are needed, for example the Palace of Charles V.  It is a very dominant, square building which stands right in front of the entrance of the Nasrid Palace. On the outside it looks like a solid cubic building filled with a lot of rooms. To our surprise the middle is a huge open circular space.

Circular patio in Palace Charles V

One evening I tried to take a nightspot of Alhambra. So, we went to Mirador San Nicolas. I was not the only one. Even using the tripod was not enough. The exposure times were long and there were a lot of people walking around me. The picture taken was my iPhone X came out slightly better.

Alhambra by night

The next day we visited Generalife, Alcazaba, and Nasrid Palace. Generalife is a kind of summer palace with beautiful gardens, patios, terraces, and fountains. A real joy to just walk around and enjoy the beauty.

Patio of the irrigation ditch of Generalife, Alhambra
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Alcazaba forms the oldest part of Alhambra and is a two-towered fortress. It was used to defend the region.

Alcazaba, fortress of Alhambra, Granada
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Standing in line to visit the Nasrid Palace, I realised that we were about to enter something special. So many people, specific time slots for entering, and very strict guardians, especially regarding backpacks. 

Entrance Nasrid Palace

Although you get the feeling that you are entering the palace from the rear door, you immediately get overwhelmed by the beauty of the walls, the ceilings, the patios, the Lion fountain. Everywhere you look you see impressive art work showing a very high level of knowledge of science and technology. The beauty really overwhelms you. Here are some really beautiful pictures of the Nasrid Palace.

The last attraction in Granada we visited was the Cathedral. Below a view of the Cathedral and the city from Alcazaba.

Aerial view of Granada Cathedral and city of Granada
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It is an impressive cathedral with huge pillars and beautiful ceilings. In the pictures I mainly concentrated on the lines of the pillars and the curves of the ceiling.

Granada — staying in Albayzin, visiting Alhambra, strolling around in the city — really overwhelmed us. It is definitely a place to visit over and over again.

Here are all the pictures of Alhambra accepted by Dreamstime at Flickr.

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Impressive Cordoba

After Sevilla our next stop during our trip through Andalusia was Cordoba. Our apartment was right across the river Guadalquivir close by Mezquita. So, everyday we crossed the Roman Bridge and enjoyed live music almost all hours of the day.

Mezquita and Roman bridge in Cordoba
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The winding streets in the quarter behind the Mezquita are nice to wander around, do some touristic shopping, having a delicious lunch, ending up in tea houses, like Salon de Té, or having an excellent diner at Gourmet Iberico.

Of course, the Mezquita is one of the most important tourist attractions in Cordoba. We had arranged a guided tour to know more about the history of the Mezquita. It is fascinating to see the co-existence of an Islamic mosque and a Roman Catholic church: there is actually a large cathedral in the middle of the mosque. Inside it is already impressive, however, seeing it from the top of the bell tower makes you realize the sheer size of it.

Roof of Mezquita in Cordoba
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

One day we went beyond the winding streets and walked to Plaza de las Tendillas, a nice square with fountains and a statue of El Gran Capitan.

Plaza de las Tendillas

From there we walked to Palacio de Viana, a nice palace with many courtyards. Here are the pictures that were taken on the way.

Talking about courtyards, we also took a tour along a number of private patios. Of course, in September it is not as colorful as in June, however, it was nice to listen to the proud owners of these patios explaining all kinds of details and how they water the plants. Here are some pictures of these patios on Flickr.

Cordoba, being the last Islamic capital in Spain, really impressed us. We really enjoyed crossing the Roman Bridge everyday and being immersed in the mystique mixture of Islamic and Christian culture.

Photographic tips:

  • for daytime I use my camera and the general-purpose lens (28-300mm)
  • in the evening I add to this my tripod (Roman Bridge and Mezquita)
  • indoors I use my camera and the wide-angle lens (16-35mm)
  • for street photography, panoramic and live pictures, and when I travel light, I use my iPhone X, the pictures are of amazing quality, even when it is dark.

Here are all the pictures of the Mezquita accepted by Dreamstime at Flickr.

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Admiring Sevilla

Plaza de España in Sevilla

Our next stop during our trip through Andalusia is Sevilla. While arriving there we could immediately feel the respectability of an important city, a center of government, a center of power. Also, the taxi driver, showing his proudness for his city, showed us the pavilions of the various South America countries participating in the World Exhibition of 1929. During our stay we visited the pavilion of Peru which is now a Museum of Science. Here are some unprocessed (iPhone) pictures of the city.

Plaza de España
The Plaza de España was also built for the World Exhibition of 1929. With its large, half circle architecture with the two towers at both ends, the canal with rowing tourists, with the colourful bridges, and the enormous square with the fountain in the middle, it is a very attractive place to be, both during the day and in the evening. We visited it several times to take pictures with different lighting and also in the evening when the buildings are nicely lit. Here are some (iPhone) pictures of Plaza de España.

Plaza de España, Sevilla

Alcazar
The Royal Alcazar is a palace. It was built by Christians on the location of a Muslim fortress and is a nice example of Mudéjar architecture, influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship. It is really beautiful. And the gardens are really overwhelming. Here are some (iPhone) pictures of Alcazar.

Patio Royal Alcazar of Sevilla

Cathedral and La Giralda
The Sevilla Cathedral is one of the largest churches in Europe. It is a very impressive Gothic church. I took a lot of pictures of the ceiling. Next to the cathedral is the bell tower, La Giralda. The amazing thing is that it has no stairs. The idea was that you could climb the tower by horse! However,when we were there, there was no horse. Here are some (iPhone) pictures of the Cathedral.

La Geralda in Sevilla

Besides the three attractions mentioned above we went to a flamenco performance in the Flamenco Museum (very nice), we strolled through the Park of Maria Luisa, and we visited the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (very interesting). The days in Sevilla were really enjoyable.

Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, Sevilla

We really admired Sevilla because of its beautiful attractions. However, although it was late September, the temperature was around 37 degrees Celsius. So, we frequently used the swimming pool of the hotel. Sevilla is definitely a city we will visit again.

Photographic tips:

  • for daytime I use my camera and the general-purpose lens (28-300mm)
  • in the evening I add to this my tripod (Plaza de España)
  • indoors I use my camera and the wide-angle lens (16-35mm)
  • for street photography, panoramic and live pictures, and when I travel light, I use my iPhone X, the pictures are of amazing quality, even when it is dark
  • in the evening at Plaza de España I tried to use Arsenal, however, I could only use it after first performing a firmware update over 3G; so, back in the bag again.

Here you can see the pictures of Sevilla accepted by Dreamstime.

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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 Theatre 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 Malaga 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.

Photographic tips:

  • for daytime I use my camera and the general-purpose lens (28-300mm)
  • in the evening I normally add to this my tripod (for Roman Theatre, however, I used ISO 64000 and hand held, good quality, already sold at Dreamstime)
  • indoors I use my camera and the wide-angle lens (16-35mm)
  • for street photography, panoramic and live pictures, and when I travel light, I use my iPhone X.

Here you can see all the pictures of Malaga accepted by Dreamstime.

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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: MalagaSevillaCordobaGranada – 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!