My own shop @ Werk aan de Muur

Erasmus Bridge Rotterdam
Last week I openend my own shop at Werk aan de Muur to sell my pictures. They sell pictures from various photographers or artists, each having their own shop, and print them on different materials, such as canvas, aluminium, Xpozer, or even wood, in a number of sizes. Or just image prints to frame yourself.
It looks like an interesting concept because they bring photographers and artists closer to the public because they sell what the audience wants: art on the wall and freedom to choose.
The other interesting concept is that the photographer may decide himself how much he wants to earn for his image as a percentage of the material it is put on. A small percentage may increase the sales, a high percentage may show exclusivity. I will have to find out how it works.
They really strive for quality, for example, the pictures should have at least 9M pixels, to make sure that they can be blown up quite a bit. This means that I cannot submit some of nice pictures taken with my older cameras. Furthermore, they select some of the pictures to be part of their collection, which are presented first to potential buyers.
Until now I put 20 pictures in my shop to see how the traffic to My Shop @ Werk aan de Muur picks up. In a later blog I hope to inform you of my first sales.

Which lens to use?

IMG_0814Almost for every focal length or range of focal lengths there seems to be a lens available. Too many to buy or to walk around with.
General-purpose lens
My general-purpose lens is the Nikkor 28-300mm lens. I use it if I just want to take one lens and if I do not know what to expect. For most shoots it is the almost perfect solution, however, it is not very light sensitive. In case I really have to travel light weight I just take my Nikkor 50mm lens.
Wide-angle lens
For land- and cityscape I usually take the Nikkor 16-35mm lens, a wide-angle zoom lens, with which you can take very sharp pictures. Normally people buy a wide-angle lens to fit more into the picture (“I need a wide-angle lens otherwise it doesn’t fit!”). If you are not close to your subject, wide-angle lenses tend to but in a lot of irrelevant objects in your picture, which does not make it more interesting.
So, using a wide-angle lens means that you have to get closer. To fit more in a picture a wide-angle lens puts everything further away and you also get some distortion. I started to enjoy the lens when I realized I really had to get close, really close.
Telelens
As telelens I use the Nikkor 70-200mm lens. Very sharp pictures. I use it for architectural details in cities and details in nature. I also enjoy taking close-up pictures of individuals being active in a group. This gives very natural poses. Furthermore, I use it for studio photography (a white background). By the way, it is quite a heavy lens.
For portrait photography outdoors I use the Nikkor 135mm DC. Its bokeh is perfect, it really gives the most perfect background you can imagine.
On the Web
On the website of Ken Rockwell you will find more about the Nikkor Dream Team of full frame lenses.

Flow in your picture

Have you ever observed what your eyes are doing while looking at a picture? Do you observe a difference between looking at interesting and boring pictures?
A picture is nothing more than a flat representation of the 3D world in which no objects exist. It is pure colors, textures, shapes, and lines. So, the question is “what is a good composition that makes a picture attractive?” There is of course no simple answer, otherwise everybody would shoot perfect pictures all the time.
Bruce Percy wrote a nice book about that: Simplifying Composition, in which he explains how the eyes flow over a picture. Most people when they look at a picture they start between the bottom and the middle left and  then explore the rest of the picture. It turns out that lines in the pictures may lead the eyes to different parts of the picture. Have a look at the picture below.
Museum road through rebuilt RoombeekWhat in reality is a road is in the picture a line which takes my eyes from bottom left along the diagonal line to the middle right of the pictures; after that my eyes come back via the repetitive vertical lines (the trees on the left of the road) to the contrasting colors. Finally, my eyes travel again along the repetition of the vertical lines (the trees on the right of the road). This may repeat itself a couple of time, every time discovering more details. This makes a picture interesting.
Lines can be as simple a road, a horizon, a cloud formation, however, they can also be imaginary lines between areas with similar shapes or similar color, or a repetition in texture or shape. Of course, most of the time the lines are not straight, they are curves in various shapes. S-curves cause a strong pull. Think of an S-curve of a river.
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Next time before taking a picture have a look at how your eyes flow over  the scene to see how interesting it is. Maybe a different position or angle will improve it.

Settings: in which mode to shoot?

IMG_0810In this blog I will discuss the right mode to shoot: Aperture-Priority Mode, Shutter Speed-Priority Mode, or Manual Mode.
In Automatic Mode (A or P) it is the camera that decides what kind of picture is taken instead of you. So, the first step is to step away from Automatic Mode. The second step is to decide what is more important:

  • Large or small depth of field (Aperture Priority: Shutter Speed is computed automatically).
  • Frozen movements or not (Shutter Speed Priority: Aperture is computed automatically).

Aperture-Priority Mode (A)
Most of the time I use Aperture-Priority to have control over the depth of field. Wide open aperture to have a small depth of field to get the subject in focus and the background completely out of focus. This draws the eyes to the subject. Or, and almost closed aperture to get a large depth of field which is handy in for example landscape and cityscape. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions. While closing the aperture, the shutter speed goes up (longer time). If it is longer than 1/60th or 1/30th of a second, you should use a tripod. An alternative is to increase the ISO to keep a fast shutter speed.
Shutter Speed-Priority Mode (S)
When shooting activities with fast movements, it is best to use Shutter Speed-Priority so you can decide yourself if you want to freeze movements or not. Keep in mind that fast moving objects close by require a much faster shutter speed than when they are far away. Normally 1/60th of a second is enough, however, if you use a long telelens, for example mm, then you should us a faster Shutter Speed than 1/th of a second. This is to make sure that you do not need a tripod.
Manual Mode (M)
In Manual Mode you can set the Aperture and Shutter Speed yourself to get the lighting you want. I mainly use that in two cases:

  • when using flash, so I can decide the Aperture and Shutter Speed I want; longer Shutter Speeds give more ambient light and more saturated colors.
  • when there is not enough light I want to make sure that I have the right Shutter Speed; if there is not enough light the ISO is increased automatically.

In one of the next blogs I will discuss the use of lenses.

Update: I am a great fan of Sean Tucker. Here a YouTube video of him advocating manual mode.

Roombeek: rebuilt after fireworks explosion

Houses in rebuilt RoombeekOn Saturday May 13, 2000 we saw from our garden very dark smoke coming from the direction of Enschede. Later it turned out to be caused by an enormous fireworks explosion, turning the Roombeek district of Enschede in total chaos and ruins.
Recently my research group had a guided tour through Roombeek. It is now completely rebuilt. Many new houses mixed with some of the old buildings. Quite a variety of architectural designs giving a dynamic and modern character to the district. At the same time the map of the streets remained the same, giving the district the same structure, and a feeling of familiarity.
Roombeek is now the lively home of the creative industry with several museums and many smaller exposition spaces for architects and artists. It is a pleasure to be there. Below you see the restaurant bij Rozendaal and the museum TwentseWelle.

Museum and restaurant in rebuilt Roombeek
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here are some more pictures I took of Roombeek.
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Settings: before shooting

IMG_0801Especially the more advanced digital cameras have many buttons. In this blog I discuss the settings before shooting.
Before you start shooting pictures check your settings! Sometimes your camera still has the settings of your previous photoshoot. Also check your batteries, both of your camera and your external flash, if you are going to use one.
RAW – JPG
RAW has the advantage that you can adjust exposure, white balance etc  afterwards before making a jpg file. Using the JPG setting this is not possible. The advantage of jpg is that the conversion of RAW to jpg is done fully automatic in the camera resulting in smaller files: faster transfer, easier to share with others and on the web. The disadvantage is that the automatic conversion may not result in the picture you had in mind. Using RAW gives you full control. Because of that I always use RAW.
Color space
Adobe RGB is a bigger color space than sRGB. The advantage of Adobe RGB is that the colors can be more saturated (which is nice for printing). The disadvantage is that not all browsers support Adobe RGB resulting most of the time in dull colors. I normally shoot using Adobe RGB and convert it to sRGB for pictures on the web (although I am a bit sloppy). For Dreamstime I do not know where the pictures will be used (print or web), so I leave it to Adobe RGB.
ISO
In principle I leave the ISO on 100. During daytime, it gives the best quality picture you can imagine. However, if there is not enough light, I use the following setting: if, for a particular combination of Aperture – Shutter Speed, there is not enough light the ISO is increased automatically. Most advanced cameras still do very well for very high ISO values. Capturing the moment is most of the time more important than the quality of the final picture. And using a flash would ruin the ambiance completely. Leave the ISO, however, on low values during a night shoot if you want the night to be black.
White Balance
Most of the time I leave the White Balance on automatic. In combination with shooting RAW this is no problem. It can be adjusted during post processing. Some say you should set the White Balance right during the shoot to get a better view of the colors. Wearing reading glasses I prefer to see the pictures on my iMAC afterwards  instead of the screen of a camera.
Next time I will discuss the settings during the photoshoot.

Rotterdam: harbor and architecture

Although I have been to Rotterdam on several occaisons I never had the time to stroll around the center. There is a two-hour tour “Rondje Rotterdam” that takes you along many new buildings with exotic architecture and parts of the old harbor.
Rotterdam is of course famous for its large harbor. You can still find reminiscences of the old port in the center. However, Rotterdam is also famous for its architecture and art. During World War II Rotterdam was bombed heavily leaving many open spaces. This gave the city the opportunity to experiment with the architecture of new buildings.

Central Station Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Central Station is an example of that. The hall is very spaceous and gives a feeling of freedom which connects very well with being a traveller. Also, the Market Hall, a place for international food, combines shops and restaurants in a tunnel-shaped appartement building with colorful decorations on the inside of the tunnel.
Food Market Hall Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

At the same time there are many old houses and buildings which nicely contrast the modern high-rise executive offices. Quite a few like to neglect gravity by shifting the upper part of the building, thereby getting rid of the static nature of regular buildings.
Rotterdam has many bridges, the most famous one is of course the Erasmus Bridge with its one-leg construction. A beauty to take pictures of.
Erasmus Bridge Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here you will find a selection of the pictures I took during my stroll. I used my 16-35mm lens to create some drama.
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Ansel Adams: environmental activist and photographer

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Books of Ansel Adams

Recently I stepped down as chairman of a national research funding organization. As a farewell present I got books of Ansel Adams. So, now I have  An Autobiography, The Making of 40 Photographs, and 400 Photographs. He was both an environmental activist and a photographer. He made beautiful black and white pictures of Yosemite National Park over a long period of time, so you could see the environmental changes. The picture that made him famous is Monolith, the Face of Half Dome.
In the seventies and eighties I spend in total one and a half year in California working for UC Santa Cruz and Stanford University. During these days I visited Yosemite National Park several times, hiked a lot in the valley and the upper park. It is a very beautiful area.
Imagine in the days of Ansel Adems he had to carry all the heavy stuff up the mountains. He could only take a limted number of photographic plates (pictures), so, he really had to make sure the picture would work out. Because of that he invented the zone-system to match the dynamic range of the subject he wanted to photograph and the limitations of the camera. The zone-system goes in 10 steps from pure black via different shades of gray to pure white. Nowadays the digital camera and the software handle the dynamic range quite well, although in some cases certain parts are completely white without any detail (or black). In that case the dynamic range of the camera is not sufficient for that particular situation. Again Ansel Adams could see that even before taking the picture.
Yosemite Park is still waiting for me 🙂

Valencia: old and new together

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Valencia is one of the bigger cities of Spain. We stayed in Las Arenas Balneario Resort, a hotel along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. A really nice hotel with a beautiful view of the beach and the sea.
The old city (founded 138 BC) is nice to stroll through and to enjoy the food and the view. The cultural influences of the various occupiers on the architecture and the food is visible everywhere. We walked from Porta de Serrans to Estacio del Nord. We really enjoyed Plaça de l’Ajuntament, there are a lot of nice places to eat.

Typical streets of Valencia
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Another interesting part is the dried-up river Turia. Part of it is turned into a public garden with play grounds and cultural centers. Going through it by bike really gives a special sensation, seeing the high walls of the old river going more then ten meters up, and knowing that there used to run a lot of water between these walls.
Near the end of this old river it turns into an Art and Science park with many extraordinary buildings: Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Hemisfèric, Museum of Sciences, and Agora. The contrast with the old center is enormous.
Hemesferic and Palace of the Arts, Valencia
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Valencia is of course also famous for its fallas. Visiting them is high on my photography list. Here are my Valencia pictures on Dreamstime and here are some others.
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Portrait photography: quite a challenge

27170474As far as photomodels is concerned I am in a lucky position that I work with two young ladies that enjoy photoshoots and that bear with me while I am experimenting. Portrait photography is quite a challenge, besides learning the techniques for studio photography, it also requires interacting with the model.

Brunette with long hair making phone call
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

For a photoshoot at home I have a large white background made of paper that goes all the way down and on the floor where the model stands. This gives a nice uniform background. The advantage of white is that it is easy to manipulate the color of the background, for example, by using a color flash directed only on the background.
The model stands a couple of meter before the background to make sure there are no cast shadows. I use a large softbox and an umbrella to light the model on two sides. Sometimes I use a backlight to light the model from the rear to create a kind of halo. Via my D800 I manipulate the strength of the various flashes. It is nicer to have a strong flash on one side and a weak flash on the other side to create shadows. This gives a more three dimensional impression.
The camera I put on Manual Mode, Shutter Speed on 1/60sec – 1/80sec, and Aperture on f/3.5 – f/6.3 (the only Depth-of-Field required is max 20cm). So far the technique. Via the builtin flash the various flashes are instructed what is expected from them.
The two models I have are natural photo models, so I have to tell them very little about poses. I have some books about poses, so before starting we talk about the clothes they brought, the poses they and I have in mind, and the story behind the pictures. The latter is the most difficult.
Below an example of Stephanie working for her graduation project in the design lab.
Student working on maquette
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

And here a picture of Adnela reading her email from an iPad.
Teenager reading her email
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here you will find my portrait pictures on Dreamstime.
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