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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Normally I visit The Hague for business reasons, for example to visit the ministeries. This time it was a short holiday with the family. We stayed in a very nice, spacious apartment of Stayci near the Grote Markt. Every morning we had a luxurious breakfast with Anne&Max near the Saint Jacob Church. It was a real treat.
It just happened that we walked by an Escher exhibition in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma in The Hague. M.C. Escher is a famous Dutch graphic artist. Besides his earlier work on sketches of buildings, towns, and landscape when he was in Spain and Italy, he is most famous for his “impossible figures”, like the one below.
One evening we had a wonderful diner in Restaurant La Passione (Italian cuisine). The food was really exquisite. We will definitely visit this restaurant again. Below you will see the owner preparing my dorade with sea salt crust.
One museum that is always worthwhile a visit is the Mauritshuis (see bottom, yellow building). They have paintings of, among others, the famous Dutch painters Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Jan Steen. One of their pearls is of course the Girl with a pearl earring of Johannes Vermeer.
Strolling through The Hague was really enjoyable. The variety in architecture gave us the feeling that we were abroad. However, the main reason for going was to show our youngest son the political center of the Netherlands: het Binnenhof, with het Torentje (office of the prime minister; see below), and de Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights, see top).
Here are the pictures of The Hague that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used two Nikkor lenses: 28-300mm and 16-35mm.
Ootmarsum is a picturesque village in the Netherlands near the German border. Besides being a nice village that preserves its history that goes back to 770 quite well, it is also famous for its art/history-related organisations: galeries, museums, and shops.
My family had friends coming over from abroad. So, we decided to pay a visit to Ootmarsum. We started with the Educatorium; it is a schoolmuseum. It gives a wonderful insight in how classes, teachers, learning material, books looked like in the early 1900s. On the one hand, quite a lot of things changed, on the other hand, quite a few things are still the same.
After that we visited the art gallery of Annemiek Punt. She puts layers of coloured pieces of glass on top each other, which in the oven melt, producing a nice colourful composition. She is one of our favourite artists.
From there, we walked to the Gallery of Ton Schulten, a famous Bocage painter. He has produced many colourful pictures of the shapes of the woods and meadows sceneries in Twente. We actually met him with his dog enjoying coffee in a nearby coffee house.
In the centre of the village there is the Simon and Judas Church, with its nice front gable (see top). At the bottom there is a nice picture of the tower. Here are some more pictures of lovely Ootmarsum. Our friends really enjoyed it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During my trip to Peru we stayed some time in Lima, to be more precise in Miraflores. However, Barranco, a neighboring district, is my favorite. It is famous for its romantic and Bohemian character. A lot of artists live in this district. Both during the day and in the evening it is nice to stroll around. We mainly walked around in the area between the two churches (Iglesia La Santísima Cruz and Iglesia La Ermita) and the Pacific Ocean. Here you can see my pictures that were taken during daytime. All of them were taken in Aperture priority mode. There was more than sufficient light to choose the Aperture I wanted and still have a fast Shutter speed. As you can see the dominate colors are red and yellow ochre. You can also see that enjoying live has a high priority.
In the evening, as you can see here, the place is even more crowded, and on every square you will find live street music. All pictures were taken in Manual mode. I choose the Aperture and Shutter speed I needed and the rest was handled by the automatic increase of the ISO. Although all of them ended up at ISO 6400 the pictures still look very good. During post-processing it is important to keep the dark areas dark. For daytime pictures it is nice to open up the shadows to show more detail. You should avoid doing that for night pictures. Keep the dark areas close to black by increasing the Blacks.
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.
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.
This week I was in Paris with my family. We went to the obvious places. It was nice to see them after so many years. It is also good to see that France is maintaining its cultural heritage quite well. Some of the buildings looked much better than before.
The places we visited were: L’église de la Madeleine (near our hotel), Place de la Concorde with the Obélisque de Louxor, Av des Champs-Élysées, Jardin des Tuileries, area around the Louvre Museum, Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Panthéon, Jardin de Luxembourg, Tour Eiffel, Montmartre with the Sacré Cœur, and of course Château de Versailles and its gardens.
I decided to limit myself to my 16-35mm zoom lens. It has the “advantage” that everything fits which is nice with all these large buildings. At the same that it is quite a challenge to keep the pictures interesting. Wide-angle lenses tend to put everything far away to make it fit, so:
try to get closer,
try to get an interesting object close-by,
try to include clouds (they get more dramatic with a wide-angle lens),
try to include a bit of the surroundings to get a storytelling picture, etc.
Please experiment a bit with it. Here are some of my pictures of Paris, and here the ones that are accepted by Dreamstime.