Of paths and greens

June 14, 2020

Going into the woods, in the middle of summer, with a digital camera, is a recipe for disappointment. Photographing woods is always so much more difficult than I think it is (especially Dutch woods I’m sorry to say), the middle of summer is problematic pretty much wherever one goes, and a digital camera is just not a good match with either of the two. That being said, I’m not unhappy with these. Thanks, obviously, to the even light and calm skies. And I know I’ve been belittleling the Dutch landscape on more than one occassion, but I really enjoyed the scenery in this area, and how blissfully quiet it was. The recurrent, classic/cliché perspective of a road disappearing into the distance is a bit lame perhaps, but I like paths, and I allowed myself to use them as a compositional crutch. I even appreciate it as a repetitive element throughout this little series.

Veluwe, The Netherlands. A forest-rich area of appr. 1000 km2 in the province of Gelderland, the Veluwe features many different landscapes, including woodland, heath, some small lakes and Europe's largest sand drifts.

Garden village

May 12, 2020

I might want to follow up on this. This, being a small garden village, a neighborhood really, in the South of Rotterdam. Built in 1949 to address the most immediate post war need for homes. The small, one storey houses were designed for a lifespan of some 25 years, but they are still standing today, be it worn out and facing demolition. Part of it is gone already, leaving a gap in the middle of the neighborhood, a wasteland with only a few lampposts left. Part is still inhabited, part is deserted, sealed off, their small gardens overgrown. Painted curtains in the windows to make it look less grim. On the internet, I read that there has been a dispute going on for years now on how to rebuild the neighborhood. How to preserve the original lay out, or not. How to ensure that the current population will be able to return if the housing prices go up. Who has a say in what. Not much seems to be happening now. I’d like to return in a few months time, to see what hasn’t happend and what has. And again in another few months. If only to see the seasons change.

Garden village Wielewaal, Charlois, Rotterdam.

Making a photograph

May 03, 2020

Do photographers look or see? Do we take a picture, or make a picture? I find these (recurring) debates on the internet rather self-indulgent to be honest. And yet, yesterday’s editing session felt exactly like that: making photographs. The raw material being badly taken, uninteresting pictures of a gym. I can hardly blame myself for their less than acceptable quality (but I do anyway): I took them during one of those annual social events from work, two years ago in Amsterdam, which included a visit to two former school buildings by architect Ingwersen, both transformed into a sort of creative hubs. There were several workshops, and I was supposed to spend some time in the gym. And I considered myself lucky, not because I fancied a work out with collegues, but I like gyms, as interiors, and based on the design of the bulding, I had expectations. So I rushed into this space before anyone else did, to take some pictures. If I look at them now, I can see how there wasn’t much time to absorb the place and really ‘see’ it. Not enough to decide what I wanted from it. I liked the windows, but the light situation was difficult, I liked the objects, but their arrangement was awkward, I liked the colours, the structure of the partly painted brick walls and the lines on the floor. Too much to like, too little time. (Which pretty much sums up what photography is for me, mostly, but then, the opposite is also true). It’s enormously satisfying, magical even, seeing a failed picture transform into something that I like, into a completely different image, not by endlessly tweaking and fine-tuning, but by a few simple, well chosen editing operations.

J.B. Ingwersen. Former LTS, Jan van Breemenstraat, Amsterdam, built in 1967. Now: De School: club, bar, restaurant, gym, workshops. The colour picture has some 60% of an M2 colour profile, and the black and white is based on a BW 8 profile. Both cropped to squares (obviously).

Photographer without a landscape

March 20, 2020

Not going anywhere for some time. Getting out of the house every now and then though, for a short bicycle ride or walk into town. Entertaining myself with a camera and some unexpected quiet little corners in areas that I’m used to passing without noticing much. Spectacularly unspectacular, but I enjoy these strolls, and I’m always curious about the back side of things, buildings and streets in particular.

Downtown Rotterdam. Pictures taken with the Nikon Z6.

Something going through the trouble of happening

March 15, 2020
A classic ‘pull over the car-picture’. One of the nicest I’ve ever taken in this category, and also one of the worst. I like it enormously for the landscape it portrays. I can’t blame myself for going through the trouble of taking it. But I never enjoyed this landscape. I never experienced it. Well, I did experience it, but in a way that leaves no mark on the photograph.

It looks calm, quiet, peaceful and inviting. Fact is though, that I never set foot in this landscape, it’s a view from an intersection of highways. Busy and noisy. Impossible to pull over, there were no parking spaces or even passing places. We stopped the car at the side of the road for me to get out, and I hurried to find a place to take the picture while P. drove off to pick me up shortly after. Honking cars and common sense were telling me I had to be as quick as possible. But I couldn’t find the right spot on the decending road. My position was either too low, or I didn’t have a view at all, blocked by a hill or compromised by a secondary road below me. I clinged to the crash barrier on both sides, to avoid being blown away by traffic or to keep away from the edge. An electricity cable was running through my frame (and not in a good way) no matter where I went. I started to doubt if what I had seen from the car even existed. Fragments of a landscape that I had mentally composed into something worthwhile before I even actually saw it.

I returned to the car empty handed. 

By removing the electricity cable I erased what most obviously demonstrated this reality, in favour of another: the mental image that preceded it. This is what I thought I saw from behind the side window, not what I was looking at when I clicked the shutter from behind the crash barrier.

Lofoten, Norway, 2019. Taken with the Nikon D750.