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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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]

My first macro pictures

Withered roses

A couple of years ago somebody showed me some pictures of macro photography. They looked interesting, however, it did not resonate with me. Now, many years later, I read the book Praktijkboek Macrofotografie (in Dutch) and looked at videos on Youtube. It turns out that macro photography is a lot more than taking pictures of plants and insects and laying on the ground. So, there was a growing interest.
After realising that my regular lenses would not suffice, I looked at possible cheap adjustments:

  • close-up filters are put on a regular lens and they magnify. The disadvantage is the you add more glass between the subject and the sensor, thereby reducing the quality of the picture substantially;
  • extension tubes are put between your regular lens and the body of the camera. They are used to reduce the focal distance and thereby increase the magnification. The disadvantage is that it mainly helps up to roughly 50mm, beyond that the reduction of the focal distance is not substantial anymore.

So I decided to look for a macro lens (Nikon calls it a micro lens). They are expensive. The Nikon 200mm micro lens costs something like €1500. Beyond my budget for a hobby. So I settled for a secondhand Nikon 105mm. And I am very pleased with it. Very sharp pictures.
My first experiments with macro photography immediately showed that getting the subject in focus is quite a challenge. Even more than I expected. For example, at a distance of 40cm the 105mm lens at f/8 has a Depth of Field (DoF) of only 0.5cm. Handheld this is not going to work. Even by breathing you move more than 0.5cm. So, you need a tripod. Although I am not very fond of a tripod for macro photography it is an essential tool.

Macro photography in action

Like I said, with f/8 the DoF is only 0.5cm. In some cases this is fine,  however, if you take a picture of a flower, maybe you want a larger DoF, like 1.5cm. In this case the aperture should be f/22. This means that if you are indoors, you need to use flashes. Below you see my set up in the garage. It consists of two flashes and a camera, all three on a tripod. I had set the shutter speed at 1/100th of a second, and the camera in Command Mode using TTL and a -1 compensation for both flashes. The subject are roses I gave to my wife for our 35 year wedding anniversary. I used them just before they were thrown away.
The next step is to get the right part of the roses in focus. I set the aperture to f/3.8 to get enough light in the camera. Autofocus does not always work, so I use Live View to visually focus. You can even magnify the screen to better focus. After that I set the aperture back to  f/22 and take a picture.
At the top and below you see two of my first pictures. I am satisfied with the quality of the picture, however, I still need to learn more about composition in macro photography.
Withered roses

Enjoying The Hague

Political center the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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. 

Belvedere

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.

Restaurant La Passione

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.

Girl with a pearl earring

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).

Political center the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here are the pictures of The Hague that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used two Nikkor lenses: 28-300mm and 16-35mm.
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Doorwerth Castle

Doorwerth Castle
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Last week my family and I had a hike in the Estate Duno nearby the Doorwerth Castle. So, we decided to pay a visit to the castle. The origin of the castle goes back to 1260. The last restoration —to restore the 18th century state—lasted until 1983.
As most of the time I was carrying my general-purpose lens Nikkor 28-300mm. It was a partly cloudy day with the sun going down. There was already some warmth in the light as you can see in the two pictures. To make sure that most of the relevant parts of the castle were sharp I decided to us an aperture of f/11 and a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second. To get sufficient light my D800 decided to use an ISO of 110 for the picture at the bottom and 160 for the one at the top. Resulting in excellent pictures.
Both pictures were accepted by Dreamstime. Here you can see some more pictures I took on the real estate of the castle.
Doorwerth Castle
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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From fisheye to macro

My children know that I love photography. So, last week I got four lenses: a fisheye, a wide-angle, a macro, and a super macro. So, you can imagine I was quite pleased with this present.
Currently, I have wide-angle (min 16mm) and telelenses (max 300mm), however, a fisheye is completely new to me. Also, macro-photography intrigues me, however, I have no experience at all in this field.
I guess I forgot to mention that these four lenses are a clip-on of Olloclip for my iPhone. One of the nicest things is that they do not weight anything. So, it is easy to take them with me all the time.
Here are the results of my experiments with the wide angles:

Normal iPhone lens
Regular iPhone lens

Olloclip wide-angle
Olloclip wide-angle

Olloclip Fisheye
Olloclip Fisheye

The first picture is just the regular iPhone lens, the second one is with the Olloclip wide-angle, and the third is the Olloclip fisheye. Really impressive and so easy to use.
Now we will have a look ate the macro lenses. To use them, I have to unscrew the wide-angle and fisheye lenses. Under the wide-angle there is the macro 10 times and under the fisheye is the macro 15 times. Below are the experiments with the macro lenses:
Regular iPhone lens
Regular iPhone lens

Olloclip macro 10 times
Olloclip macro 10 times

Olloclip macro 15 times
Olloclip macro 15 times

Again the first one is a regular iPhone lens, the second one is the Olloclip macro 10 times, and the third one is the Olloclip macro 15 times. As you can see, which is true for macro photography in general, it is difficult to get the right focus with a handheld camera.

This was just my first experience with these lenses. They are great fun, so I will continue my experiments with these lenses, which is quite easy because I carry them with me everywhere. Great present!