Madonna del Sasso, Locarno

Madonna del Sasso and Locarno
Madonna del Sasso and Locarno

Madonna del Sasso is a sanctuary above Locarno. To go there, you need to take a very old, however, well maintained funicular from the city center to the pilgrimage site of Madonna del Sasso. In a short while it takes you a little less than 200 meters higher. From there it is an easy walk to the church.
The church Madonna del Sasso was founded in 1502 on the site where brother Bartolomeo d’Ivrea had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1480. Because of that it is regarded a pilgrimage site. The church is a nice and quite place to visit. It has some nice spaces at different levels. Also the view of Locarno and of Lago Maggiore is magnificent.

View of Locarno
View of Locarno

I had taken only my general-purpose Nikkor 28-300 mm lens. It gives me the flexibility I need in unexpected situations. Most of the time if I go somewhere where I haven’t been before, and I want to travel light, and I also know there is enough light, I take this lens. Maybe it is not the best lens, however, in combination with my D800 it never let me down. For example, the picture in the church was taken with ISO 5600 and it still looks good.
Here are some of the pictures I have taken. Some of them are also on Dreamstime. Hope you enjoy.
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London through a wide-angle lens

Hatchhards Bookstore
Hatchhards Bookstore

A couple of months ago I visited London for business reasons. I had to go to the Academy of Engineering. Walking through Regent Street I realized I had not been to London since ages. So, my family decided it was time to visit London for a long weekend. I had taken only one lens: my wide-angle lens (16-35mm).
The first day we spent in Westminster: London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, House of Parliament, and via St Jam’s Park to Buckingham Palace. Here are the pictures of the first day.
The second day we past the area of the Horse Guards Parade on to Travalgar Square. From there via Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. There we visited many nice shops, among which Hatchards Bookstore. This was a real treat. Although I am a man of digital gadgets it was really nice to visit a real bookstore.  After that we had high tea in Fortnum & Mason. In the evening we strolled along the Thames. Here are the pictures of the second day.
The third day started at the Tower of London. We crossed the Tower Bridge and went through the area where the old warehouses for tea for example are renovated into apartments. From there we walked along the Thames all the way to Tate Modern. After paying it a visit we ended at St Paul’s Cathedral. Here are the pictures of the third day.
The whole weekend we had perfect weather. Actually, the last day was a bit warm so we visited Hyde Park.
I submitted seven pictures to Dreamstime, all were accepted.
High Tea at Fortnum & Mason
High Tea at Fortnum & Mason

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Berlin: from Reichstag to Museumsinsel

Dom Church
Dom Church

Last week I spent with my family a weekend in Berlin. The first time I went there was somewhere around 1985. In those days West Berlin was still an enclave in East Germany. Of course, nowadays East and West Germany are united, as is Berlin. Although you can still see the remains of the Wall.
I have taken some pictures along our walk with the only lens I had taken: Nikon 16-35mm. Please open them in a separate window, so you can read the blog and see the pictures at the same time.
We started our walk near the Reichstag, the German Parliament (2). From there, you can also see where the Bundeskanzler resides (1). A nice modern building. Right next to the Reichstag is the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma (3).
From there on we went to the Brandenburger Tor (4-6), a well-known landmark in Germany. It is meant to be a sign of peace. It was situated right next to the Wall, and was prominently visible while the wall was teared down.
The next stop was the Memorial to the Jews murdered in Europe (7-9). The site is covered with 2711 concrete slabs of varying height.
On the way to Potsdamer Platz we saw this interesting building (10). Potsdamer Platz is nowadays a very modern center (11-12). To contrast this there are still remains of the original Wall (13).
On the way to Checkpoint Charlie (17-18; the former pass through between East and West Berlin) we passed the indoor and outdoor exhibition called the Topography of Terror (14-16).
Then we went on to the Gendarmenmarkt with two almost identical churches and the Concert Hall in the middle (19-22).
Via Unter den Linden we walked to the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) with the Lustgarten in front of it (23-26). After a walk around the Museumsinsel we ended up at the Alte Nationalgalerie (27-30).
Berlin is certainly worthwhile a visit.
Here are the six pictures I submitted to Dreamstime and that were accepted.
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Chinchero

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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Architectural photography

My enthusiasm for sharing pictures started when I submitted my pictures of Maastricht, a city along the Meuse river, to Dreamstime. They were the first two. Both still have a top ranking as far as sales is concerned.

Maastricht at night
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Maastricht along the river
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Whenever I visit a city I always want to take pictures of both the old and the new buildings. I enjoy the tension between them. Architectural photography has become my thing. For that reason I love to go to Barcelona (see this blog) and Valencia (see this blog) and take pictures. In Valencia they did something spectacular. In a dry river they built some manificent, artistic buildings (Hemesferic and Agora, see below).

Hemesferic and Agora, Valencia
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Also Rotterdam is famous for its new architecture. For me Rotterdam Central Station and the Food Market Hall are the winners. Buyers particularly like the train station. It has already been sold nine times.
Central Station Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Dom Tower in Utrecht is popular at Werk aan de Muur.
Dom Tower Utrecht
Dom Tower Utrecht

Roombeek in Enschede is the rebuilt quarter after the fireworks explosion of May 2000. Here are my two favorite pictures.

Museum and restaurant in rebuilt Roombeek
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Symbol of fireworks explosion Roombeek
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Enjoy the architectural pictures of the various cities I visited and if possible visit the places yourself!
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Monastery hike and Komoot

Near my home town there is a small village called Zenderen. It has a rich history of monasteries and churches. So, I decided to take the Monastery hike. Without actually noticing, I took the 9 km hike instead of the 13 km one.
On occasions like this I take my GPS with me for two reasons:

  • to know where I took my pictures
  • to create a gpx file, so I can share it with others

I normally take my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx, a very versatile and accurate gps, and download the track to my iMac using Garmin BaseCamp. Then I make some corrections (I often forget to switch it off when getting back to my car), and export a gpx-file. This can easily be imported in Photo Mechanics to assign the GPS-coordinates to the individual pictures.
Recently, I discovered Komoot, an iPhone app (also available for Android). It is mainly intended to plan routes for hiking or biking, and share it with others. However, it also allows me to record a hike, to store it in the cloud, to share it with the Komoot community, and to export a gpx-file. It has many nice features, among which giving directions on my Apple Watch. So, there is no need to take my iPhone out of my pocket to find out where I should go. Check it out, I am really impressed.
To come back to my Monastery hike, here are my pictures. The hike took me along De Zwanenhof, Karmelietenklooster, Carmelitessenklooster, Het Seminar, and the Mariakapel. Nice buildings to see. Enjoy hiking and shooting pictures.

Ancient sites, act quickly

One day my family and I made a day-long trip through the Sacred Valley of the Incas starting from and ending in Cuzco. We visited many nice places: Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, and Pisac. All three have impressive archeological sites of the Inca culture. The last decades Peru has put a lot of effort in making these sites available for the broad public. Making Peru even more attractive to visit.
As amateur photographer traveling with a familiy and other tourists means that there is little time to extensively explore the locations we visit. This means that I had to act quickly and that I had little time to listen to the guides explaining interesting details about the various sites. Luckily there is Wikipedia nowadays.
The various scenes I had to deal with are (with some examples with the camera settings):

  • Distant landscape, everything at more or less the same distant (sufficient light).
    This means Wide angle; Aperture-priority, with moderate Aperture, gives sufficient depth-of-field.
    Laguna Querococha
    © Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos
    40mm, Aperture-priority, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter Speed 1/160sec, ISO 100
  • Distant landscapes with interesting stuff in the foreground (sufficient light).
    This means Wide angle; Aperture-priority, with a higher f-number to get sufficient depth-of-field to get the foreground in focus as well; you have to keep the Shutter Speed in mind because it might become too slow in which you need a tripod.
    Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
    © Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos
    32mm, A-priority, Aperture f/13, Shutter Speed 1/60sec, ISO 100
  • Distant specific topic (sufficient light)
    This means Telephoto; Aperture-priority with a lower f-number highlights the specific topic. As an exception, in the picture below I took a higher f-number to get more depth-of-field because of the houses behind the main building.
    La Compania and Cathedral at Plaza de Armas in Cuzco
    © Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos
    170mm, A-priority, Aperture f/9.0, Shutter Speed 1/200sec, ISO 125
  • Slightly insufficient light
    Change to Manual, and set Aperture and Shutter speed manually. Keep in mind that the Shutter Speed should be faster than 1/focal length to get sharp pictures. As long as the ISO is above 100 there is no problem of overexposure.
    La Compania at Plaza de Armas, Cuzco
    © Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos
    44mm, Manual, Aperture f/6.3, Shutter Speed 1/60sec, ISO 125

These type of scenes appeared at all locations we visited in a very short time span. So, although I was at ancient sites, which will be there forever, I had to act quickly to fit in the time schedule of the driver or the guide.
Here are the ones that are already accepted by Dreamstime. Enjoy!
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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.

Walking through the streets of Zwolle

Several boats in city canal in Zwolle
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

My interest in taking pictures of cities is growing. Architecture of various cities, of various buildings is fascinating. Zwolle has medieval roots and some of the buildings go back a long time. The centre is surrounded by a kind of city canal and the larger Zwolle area is surrounded by four rivers. So, this gives a nice setting with old buildings, water, and boats. Some of the characteristic buildings like the Sassenpoort (one of the old city gates) and the church tower Pepperbox (Peperbus) are charateristic for the skyline of Zwolle.
For this occassion I took my general-purpose lens, 28-300mm, which is very convenient for architectural shots. Only for the Pepperbox I needed my wide-angle zoon lens. To make sure I would see everything, I downloaded a city tour which took me along all the old buildings.
Although Zwolle may not be on the list of most tourists it is really worthwhile a visit. Even more if you enjoy excellent food. De Librije, a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars, is definitely worthwhile a visit. During my tour I took a picture of the former location of this famous restaurant (Broerenkerk). Keep in mind that you have to make reservations far ahead.
Here you will find some of my pictures of Zwolle. I submitted almost all of them to Dreamstime, one has already been accepted (editorials have priority), the others are still pending.

Maastricht by night with a monopod

Some years ago I visited Maastricht with my family. It is the most southern city of the Netherlands. It is a wonderful city along the river the Maas (Meuse), which goes back all the way to the period that the Romans occupied the southern part of the Netherlands. In the basement of quite a few buildings you can see the remains of Roman buildings.
The houses along the river are very nicely lit when it is dark. The picture above was taken with a Shutter Speed of 5sec, Aperture of 9, and an ISO of 200. So, this is way too long for a handheld shot.
Although I am not a great fan of carrying a tripod with me, for this occasion I had put my monopod in my car. It is a Manfrotto Self Standing Monopod. It is small, however, not leight, and you have to keep in mind that it is not very stable if it is windy. Keeping this in mind it does a good job.
That evening I took of course several pictures, experimenting with the Aperture and the Shutter Speed. When the Shutter Speed is getting long you have to take moving objects into account. Although persons are far away on the other side of the river, I had to take into account boats passing by. Despite, it was late in the evening quite a few boats were passing by.
Here you will find my Dreamstime pictures of Maastricht. These are my first four pictures of Dreamstime, of which for the first two licenses have been sold.
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