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 a small 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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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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Yellow Mountain: 7 times additional format in one day

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

As you know, I sell pictures via Dreamstime. Over the years, I sell, on the average, seven pictures per month. So, selling seven pictures in one day is quite an exception.
Last week, somebody bought seven pictures of Yellow Mountain at once. Here is my first blog on my trip to Yellow Mountain. Going there was quite a challenge, however, I have very good memories and the pictures are very popular. Some of them have been sold five times.
Dreamstime sells pictures in various formats ranging from Extra Small (480 pixels) to Highest Size (over 12MP; MP stands for Mega Pixels and refers to the number of pixels in the sensor). Because I shoot NEF, I also provide the RAW version to Dreamstime (36.6MP). This RAW version is called Additional Format. Providing the  Additional Format basically doubles the price I get for a picture, except for subscriptions.
In this case, the buyer had a subscription, so hardly any income, however, it is nice to realize that the buyer was looking for pictures of the highest technical quality: Nikon D800 camera with the Nikon 16-35/4.0 G AF-S ED VR wide angle lens. Quite a superb combination giving very sharp pictures.
Selling seven pictures in one day gives a rewarding feeling!
Yellow Mountain - Huangshan, China
© 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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Sacsayhuamán puzzles me

Sacsayhuaman, archeological Inca site
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Despite the advice to take a rest when arriving at Cuzco by airplane because of the altitude (3400 meter), we immediatly went to Sacsayhuamán. It is an impressive archeological Inca site, a little bit above Cuzco. Although I have been there several times, the big carved stone walls remain a puzzle. How were these stones transported, how were they carved (they have many dimensions and there is no space to stick something between them), and how did they survive earthquakes?
While being puzzled I was thinking about taking pictures of a site that has been photographed so often. Here are some of the challenges. At this altitude the sun is really burning also in winter. Wearing a hat to keep your head cool is essential. Also take a lot of water. Walking around on these sites with heavy equipment in a burning sun takes a lot of energy. Furthermore, taking pictures during a tour with family and friends surrounded by other tourists limits the opportunities to extensively explore the sites. And, finally, at 18:00 hours the light goes out rather abruptly. At the same time, all these limitations stimulate creativity.
I was happy I had taken my 28-300mm zoomlens. Without changing lenses (I do not like to change lenses because of the dust in Peru), I could easily change from wide-angle to telezoom. During most of the time there was more than enough light to have a large depth of field without sacrificing the ISO.
Back home, while processing the pictures, I realized that the burning sun made the pictures look a bit bleak. With Lightroom I had to bring the colors I remembered back by adding some contrast,  vibrance, and saturation. Here are the results.

Looking back at trip to Peru

imageThe trip was a combination of visiting important places in Peru and visiting family. For both aspects it has been a great success. For several reasons I did not visit Peru for over 15 years. Many things have changed. Tourism has been given high priority resulting in a very good logistics infrastructure. Also, almost everything can be arranged via internet, flights, hotels, trains, busses, tours etc. Economically the country is doing pretty well, although the difference in income is still substantial.
Looking back at the choices I made I am pretty satisfied:

  • I only used one lens (28-300mm). Because of the desert climate along the coast the air in this part of the country is dusty. I am happy that I did not change lenses to reduce the possibility of dust on the sensor.
  • It turns out that I hardly used my compact camera. In the cases that I did not take my D800 with me, I used my iPhone. The advantage is that I could immediatly share the pictures with my family.
  • The choice for the Lowepro Transit Backpack was also perfect. We did quite a bit of climbing in the regions of Cuzco and Huaraz, and I prefer to carry the load of the camera and the lens on my back. Also having a waterbottle in a pouch attached to the bag works perfectly.
  • Every evening, before going to bed, I made a backup of all the pictures taken that day to my HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA2. So, every day I had the opportunity to take 400 pictures. It turns out I never did, however, I never had to worry about being limited by the memory card.
  • About taking a flash I doubted a long time. It is kind of heavy and I figured I would never use it for nature pictures. I decide to take it any way, and for several reasons I am happy about that: the sun sets at 6 pm and during our summer it is winter in Peru. So, almost all pictures of the family were taken indoors. Furthermore, one of my nieces asked me to do an indoor photoshoot.
  • I decided not to take a tripod. Also a good idea. Participating in tourist tours means that there is hardly any time to take pictures, let alone setting up a tripod. In cases I needed the extra depth of field, I just increased the ISO a bit.

In the upcoming blogs I will discuss the various places I visited.

Preparing trip to Peru (2)

IMG_0886The next step in the preparation is to get acquainted with the places we will visit. Let us take Cuzco as an example. First, get a good travel guide. For Peru I use Peru Travel Guide of Lonely Planet. The city itself, which is the Inca capital, has two faces: Inca and Spanish, and is situated in the Sacred Valley. Within its city limits it has already a lot of interesting places to visit: Plaza de Armas with La Catedral, Qorikancha, and Saksaywaman. Other nice places to visit in the Sacred Valley are of course Machu Picchu, the market in Pisac, and the salt mines in Maras.  I use Evernote to make lists of places I want to visit.
As far as equipment is concerned, although tele lenses are very good in isolating a subject, quite often a wide-angle lens gives the viewer a better feeling of being part of the scene. However, to achieve that, you have to get closer! I already decided to take my 28-300mm lens, it gives me the flexibility I expect to need. The main reason for not taking separate tele and wide-angle lenses is that I am afraid of getting dust in my camera if I change lenses.
For the places we are going to visit I look on the internet for pictures to get inspired. I use the same Evernote to make lists of the kind of pictures I want to take, like a colorful Inca indian with a llama. I notice myself that I should not get overwhelmed by the many high quality pictures I see on the internet. I try to keep in mind that on location I find the right kind of combination of subject, perspective, lines, colors, and light to capture the essence of the atmosphere there. The latter makes the difference. My creativity and intuition will help me.

Preparing trip to Peru (1)

800px-LocationPeru.svgGNU Free Documentation License
Inspired by the ebook of David duChemin about traveling (See The World) I want to share with you my preparations for my trip to Peru. Partly we will be visiting family in Lima, and, from a photographic point of view, we will visit some world-class places like Lima, Cuzco (historical capital of Inca Empire), Machu Picchu, and get close to the high mountains near Huaraz.
From previous times I remember that I really have to get in shape because of the altitude. Most people don’t realize that Lima is at sea level and that most places we will visit are well above 3500 meters. Getting in good shape is just a start. Taking coca tea (mate de coca) is essential to avoid altitude illness.
Currently, I am still at sea level and I have to decide what to take. After my heavy climbs in the Alps I have decided to travel light. It also reminds me of my trip to Yellow Mountain, where I was told to leave my large travel bag at a local restaurant (we just had lunch there), and that I could only take my pyjamas, toothbrush, and my camera. There was no time to debate this. This makes life very easy.
I am preparing myself to take this decision at home: just a DSLR camera and two lenses: 28-300mm for flexibility and 50mm (f/1.4) for darker places. Although I have better lenses for particular shoots, I am afraid it is too heavy and it is not a good idea to find out in the end that I did not use them. Of course, I will also take a small compact camera, just in case.