maandag 30 april 2012

a ferry tale
a tribute to James the ferry-man

It's early in the morning and James is starting his day with firing up the ferry's engine, sending wafts of smoke across the water

He crosses the river Zijl to prepare the jetty on the other side.

As soon as he has moored, he climbs his ladder to fasten and hoist his flags.

The knots are tied very carefully and extensively.

And then it is time to get the flags up in the air..... Today they are orange, with red, white and blue boats, because it is Queen's Day... He has manufactured the flags himself!

When all is done and checked, it is time to cross to the other side again and wait for his first fare.

Within minutes, the passengers are flocking to the jetty, patiently waiting for James to take them aboard.

The ferry is already arriving, carrying passengers from the other bank.

James moors the ferry, opens the gate and the passengers get off and on board, continuing their journey.

He collects the fare, tosses the ropes and takes off again, with his new cargo....

Back to the other bank, knowing he will probably repeat this trip numerous times today, since it is a holiday and the weather is fine

maandag 23 april 2012

the accidental tourist
the importance of preparation
This afternoon i was sitting down at my table, having lunch, when one of my dogs started barking and howling, jumping up and down in front of the french doors to the garden. 
I stood up to check what was going on and came eye-to-eye with this blue heron.....

It just stood there, giving me the once over, totally unimpressed by my presence, then looked away, to the neighbor's garden, where - how on earth did it know this? - there is a small koi-filled pond.

It suddenly flew up and landed on top of the hedge, where it had a perfect vantage point to check out the pond's offerings.

I moved closer to the door and was able to get a good look at (and a good shot of) it's legs, breast and beak.

It decided to really get a proper sense of the place and stalked over the foliage to view the pond from another angle.

It probably concluded that the net over the pond was too much of a problem, because it flew up and off and disappeared from sight.....

I was almost perfectly prepared for this to happen: i always have my Olympus lying around, with the 40-150mm tele zoom attached, set to aperture priority, the largest lens-opening (f/4.0 to 5.6, depending on the focal length), bright or cloudy WB, ISO between 200-400, which provides a relatively shallow DoF and makes movement visible, instead of freezing it, because of the longer shutter speed. 
I usually charge the battery overnight and insert it as soon as i get down in the morning. When i extract my memory card to upload shots to my computer, i immediately put a 'fresh' on in and erase or format it. 
While shooting the heron i noticed that my battery was running empty. I had forgotten to reload it the night before..... I was very lucky the power held out until the heron flew away, although the autofocus was already giving me problems :-() I will not make this mistake again!

zaterdag 21 april 2012

including context
stepping out of my comfort zone
this week i have been really challenged by Kat Sloma's 'a sense of place'.... trying to put more 'context' in my images. i tend to zoom in a lot and focus on the details of my subject matter, coaxing them out of their context to emphasize what interests or amazes me. on a photo walk through the city of Leiden i experimented with a different approach....

Here are two shots of a famous historical monument, the Koornbrug, a bridge across the Nieuwe Rijn, right in the middle of the city center. On both sides of the bridge are huge roofs with columns, originally built to protect the merchant's corn from the rain and wind. In the first shot i zoomed in on the ornaments, showing Leiden's city emblem and the date this part of the bridge was built.
The second shot was taken from a different angle, showing some of the roof tiles and parapets, a dark triangle of the other roof-ceiling (which i was standing under taking the shot) and part of the city-hall tower in the background. 

While walking around i also took some shots of people. The one on the left focuses completely on the woman with the torn jeans holding her smartphone, the only contextual information is provided by the pavement, the tiny bit of red bike, the tree and the iron fence around it that she's seated on. Just enough to understand that this is an urban setting.
The second shot focuses more on the giant ice-cream and the green bordered blackboard leaning against it than on the people sitting behind it. Because of the narrow DoF the background is a bit blurry and does not add much context.

These two shots provide a lot more context. The one on the left now shows that the woman is not completely alone in a silent city, there are more people around and they are moving, while she is sitting still, contemplating her phone. There even is a pigeon at her feet!
In the other shot there is also a lot more to discover. The background is sharper and you can see a street with a car driving by and people walking about. The frame now includes a scooter and a bike and some clearly readable shop signs.

Here's another set of people shots. The left one focuses on the facial expressions and interaction of the girls and the color of their clothes. The only context is the water, a small bit of bike and an iron ring implying that you can moor a boat here. 
The other shot is more about the red bike, with the girls in the background. It is obviously a street scene, showing just enough water to imply the street is along a canal.

Here are two shots with hardly any context. I zoomed in on the detail, leaving out most of the visual information that could lead to a 'sense of place'. The first shot contains wooden planks, metal frames and a  worn and torn piece of cloth. It is almost abstract, monochrome,  and deals mainly with lines, shapes, light and shadow. The second shot has a bit more context in the blurry background: stacks of chairs, bicycles, a  canal, a street, a car and some shops. But the dominant feature is a bit of a riddle: a statue of a person, male or female? young or old? holding what exactly? This image is also about lines and shapes and about the texture of the statue.

Here are both places again, this time with context. The planks and frames in the first shot clearly belong to a row of (still?) empty market stalls, and the theme here is the repetition of lines and subject matter. The statue is of a cloth merchant and stands in the middle of a street with shops and bicycles, and the theme is the contrast between texture, color and material: the solid charcoal of the cloth merchant against the bright colored box on the bicycle at his feet.

These last two shots have the same subject: bicycles, but the (lack of) context tells a completely different story. Above shows the way people in Leiden park their bicycles, preferably against trees, and it conveys that some of our bicycles have wonderfully bright colors. It also shows the very Dutch 'habit' of throwing out the bucket of cleaning water after you've mopped the floor of your shop lol, but only people who know about this would notice it.
The second shot also shows how people in Leiden park their bicycles, not only against trees and lampposts but against anything that will support a bicycle, like a bridge railing..... It also shows more colored bicycles. By zooming out and allowing more context into the frame, this image becomes more effective.

vrijdag 20 april 2012

sheep and goat stories
a collection for Els, who loves sheep

These sheep and goats live in the meadows and on the dikes behind my house

They always flock together and are very friendly and relaxed

There are a couple of wooden barns in the meadows and on the dikes where the can find shelter from the sun and rain

These two young goats are always together

dinsdag 17 april 2012

gull story   
enjoying the comforts of city life....

While visiting my dad in Den Haag i spotted this gull standing in the middle of the shallow pool around a huge office building. He was splashing around, flapping his wings, sprinkling himself with water, rubbing his feathers, diving, almost swooning with joy on this beautiful warm spring day.

I just grabbed my camera and shot away for minutes, trying to capture his exuberance and the beauty of his movements in and on the brightly glittering water of the pool