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Bruges: The People

I love photographing people, obviously, or else I wouldn’t be doing photoshoots as often as I do! Even greater still is the candid shot of a person, of a couple, of a group of friends…doing whatever it is they are doing. Yesterday I posted a slideshow focused solely on Bruges: The City…but today I’m showing you the other pictures I took…the pictures of the people.

They may not be people who live there, although some are, but they are just people walking down those medieval streets, gazing in windows, snapping their own photos, taking a break by sitting down in a giant courtyard…whatever. I love those kinds of candid shots, but I have to say…toss in a backdrop like Bruges…and oh my…I could take pictures for days.

What I liked a lot about some of the shots later in the slideshow is that the streets were a lot more empty than what we started, which really allowed you to focus on just a few people, but fill up the rest of the frame with Bruges.

Like I said in my previous post…opening up a portrait photography business in Bruges would be unbelievable.

I hope you enjoy this little glimpse of Bruges and the people who wander her streets.

Hotel de Colse Hoeve

When I was in Holland recently for work, we stayed at the Hotel de Colse Hoeve. The rooms were a little sketchy…the hotel is built on old farm land, with farms on either side, so there are numerous bugs around, in the hallways and in the first room I was assigned to. I eventually moved and the next one was perfect. But as a stuck-up, pompous, city dude, fighting the bugs wasn’t my idea of a fun time at a hotel.

However, everything else was awesome. The staff was amazing, the restaurant right out of Top Chef and the location beautiful. The hotel itself was renovated from a very old farm house from 100+ years before (I believe) and was absolutely beautiful. This is a view of the long walk from the parking lot to the lobby entrance.

I’ll definitely never forgot my time in Holland (and Belgium) and still have quite a few photos I haven’t even shown yet on this blog. I plan on more down the road.

A little ode to the beach

We’re headed to San Diego tomorrow for a nice four-day weekend with friends in a giant vacation house that sits a couple hundred feet from the beach. It’s going to be awesome and it’s unbelievable to think I actually have to work today when all I want to do is get in the car and start driving.

In honor of the sand, surf and relaxation, I figured I would post a few shots from a beach near Den Haag in Holland. We were headed back to Amsterdam to leave the next day for the States, and decided to swing by the ocean to just take a look. We hadn’t been there yet and we needed to check it out.

The day was beautifully overcast, there were spots of darker clouds and rain, not to mention wind, and it all helped create some of my favorite photos from the trip.  The above image is my favorite of all of these…I felt so lucky to catch a sideview of that sail from the distance I was at. The dark crescent just stood out from the muted scene behind it.

I also like the one just below…like I said, the wind was blowing fairly good and the cloudy, wavy lines you see running along the beach are actually blowing sand.

Something about this beach cried out black-and-white to me, except for the surf board which just HAD to stay in color. Hope you enjoy!

A canal near Damme, Belgium

Just as Bryan was responsible for my photo from yesterday, a goofy GPS in our car we rented in Holland may have been responsible for this photo.

We were headed to Bruges, Belgium and the route was fairly direct, but somehow we found ourselves down a small farm road in the middle of nowhere and had at some point veered off towards the north. The GPS was leading us down some winding road for no apparent reason. Perhaps our driver turned right when he should have gone straight, but regardless, we were pretty happy where we ended up.

As we crossed this bridge over one of the many canals in the region, we just had to pull over. The scene before us was breathtaking. Lining these canals (not just here, but most canals we saw) was an endless line of very, very tall trees all spaced evenly, and perfectly, apart.

The sheer scope of a project that required trees to all be planted at the same time, the same distance apart and then to be trimmed and maintained to look mostly uniform was mind-boggling.  Only in very rare spots did you find a tree missing to break up the continuity.

Not only this, but on each side of the canal, just on the other side of the first line of trees, were pathways, and then MORE trees lining those. I have a shot of one of these sidewalks as well that I’ll post at another time.

This shot was difficult to process for some reason. The sun was overhead and bright, the wind was strong and the sky kind of intense. I’d love to find this spot again someday around dusk or dawn and see what I could do again.

It was was a magnificent place…I could have sat on the railing of that bridge for hours and hours.

(More shots from Holland: My Holland Trip)

The Beguinage Convent in Bruges, Belgium

This is the Beguinage Convent located in the middle of Bruges, Belgium. We saw this place on the little tourist map we grabbed and figured it would be an interesting contrast to the cobblestone streets and alleyways we had seen so far.

The first thing you see before entering is that no commercial photography was allowed and no tripods. Which would mean this photo of mine is not for sale. The convent is actually still functioning, which we kind of discovered when we entered into the old church that was on the grounds here.

The nuns inside were all praying aloud, in a sort of musical unison…it was amazing. It definitely caused me to lower my camera, place it behind my back and just listen to the beautiful melody they were creating.

Upon leaving, I felt so moved by this place…these nuns still serving God, allowing us tourists to visit this place, that I ended up feeling protective about it you might say. There were signs about the photography yes, but also about keeping off the grass. The trees are very old poplars, the grass well maintained…I mean, the whole place has buildings dating back to the 13th century. They wanted to keep it from being trampled to death by people.

So I come out of the church, look up and four tourists, all with gigantic Nikon cameras, are trouncing all over the grass, posing for portraits, shooting up into the trees, etc. Now, I don’t care what language you speak: the sign to stay off the grass was universal. Not to mention, as a photographer, I would rather not have idiots giving us a bad name.

I let out a big “Psssst!” (it was incredibly quiet there), and they looked at me, and I motioned them to get off the grass. They got a guilty look and quickly shuffled out onto the sidewalks. They knew they shouldn’t have been there. Tsk tsk.

My buddies I was with kind of laughed at me, but I felt good about helping these sweet old nuns out. I may return and apply for a job as the Beguinage Convent Bouncer. Pretty sure I saw a sign for that job opening somewhere…

Oh yeah, the photo…some dude on Twitter once said they “abhorred” HDR because it sucks all the life out of shadows. Well…okie dokie.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and I absolutely loved the way the shadows played on the grass and the path in front of me. The old buildings in the background give it some nice depth as well. And I kind of dig that you can’t see the tops of these huge trees…it definitely adds some scope and height to the photo.

(More photos from my Holland trip)

The Red Light Bar Coffee Shop in Amsterdam

Wandering the streets of Amsterdam early in the morning really allowed for picture taking without thousands of people in the frame.

I loved this scene because of all the different colors there were to capture. From the orange flags for supporting the Dutch soccer team, to the neon signs, the Heineken sign, the graffiti in the alleyway, the red bricks, the awnings, the dirty black stairs…they just played so well together to create an explosion of color in an old town.

The door was closed to the coffee shop, but if it was anything like the other ones I passed with open doors…I’m sure there was some good smoking going on inside!

(More photos from my trip overseas: Holland Trip)

A few moments captured in Amsterdam

Sometimes you can get too attached to one kind of shot, one kind of lens and you forget that the world can be seen in a wide variety of ways. My first instinct when I landed in Holland was to capture EVERYTHING, hence my 17-35mm was the lens of choice. I wanted architecture, wide plazas, canals, cars, anything and everything…but in a wide scope.

For the first half of the trip, my 50mm 1.4 sat in the bag. But while I was in Bruges, I switched about halfway through and was thrilled at the shots I was getting. Tight shots, taking more time to compose and see what I wanted to get in the frame and mostly, the ability to get some great candid shots with my favorite lens.

There is no doubt…I can try to take candid shots with the wide angle, and sometimes they may work, but the 50mm feels like a weapon in my hands. How I love thee!

These are just a few random candid shots from Amsterdam on our last night there. Nothing earth-shattering, but I love these little peaks into the life of the city.

I read once that sometimes “travel photography” is more about capturing the people and moments, and not necessarily every famous structure or object. Everyone has seen the EiffelTower, but perhaps people haven’t seen a hard-working waitress at a little cafe down a quiet street.

It all depends on what you like. I happen to enjoy all of it.

(You can see more of my Holland pictures here: Holland Trip)

The Harley Davidson in Bruges, Belgium

You may find after I eventually post most of my Holland-Belgium photos, that I have a serious love of cool alleyways. Everytime I walked past one on this trip, I was craning my neck and peering down them to see if it was interesting enough to shoot.

I loved this one in particular. Cobblestone, brick walls, the blur doors, the archway at the end…plus a Harley Davidson parked in the foreground and a sports car out in the distance. I actually love the balance the car creates, even if it was part of the “Smart Car” family.

This is a standard 3-bracket HDR shot, but I used one of my favorite plugins, Topaz Adjust, to give it some extra flavor. I normally go for realism in coloring and style when it comes to HDR, but every now and then a photograph cries out for some a little “above and beyond” work. I like the faded, older look this has now and it really fit the town it was shot in. The filter also seems to bring out a little bit more of the color in the doorways and the cobblestones.

Have I mentioned how much I loved Bruges? I can’t even begin to describe all the photo opps in that town…it was endless. Seriously. Endless.

(More photos from Holland-Belgium)

A windmill near Buitenkaag, Holland

On my bucket list of things to shoot whilst in Holland was a nice looking windmill. Actually, come to think of it, that was probably the only thing I really wanted to come back with. Ironically, it wasn’t until about 24 hours before I had to get on a plane home that I finally was in position to snap a few photographs of these beautiful structures.

Even more lucky is that we just turned off the freeway to look for a place to eat in a small town and ended up next to a place with about 30 windmills scattered over miles. If we hadn’t of turned, I never would have gotten a shot.

You may ask, “Why didn’t you just make an effort to find some?” I dunno really…sometimes I like things to happen more organically. Like I’ve said before…most of the shots that end up being my favorites are those I don’t plan. They just happen.

This windmill was at the end of a long, skinny road that ran for about 1/4 mile. People still live here and operate the thing.  The skies were great this day, lots of puffy, billowing clouds with rain falling in random places.  You can see the grass blowing from left to right in the photo.

Yet another beautiful place in a very beautiful country.

(See more of my Holland photos: Holland Trip)

Postcard from Bruges, Belgium

By far…by far the place I loved the most on my trip over to the Netherlands, was the drive we took to see Bruges (or Brugge), Belgium. I had heard about it from the movie “In Bruges”, a fantastic, funny, dark comedy that came out a few years ago…and then had some friends tell me I needed to see it if I went there.

The town is old and has medieval architecture. The canals twist around, little bridges go here and there and old trees, paths and stone can be seen everywhere.

This particular shot was taken around 9pm as we were getting ready to leave. The sunsets in this area of the world tend to drag out a long time, so it was nice to have time to see the city in a lovely dusk color.

I was struck by the reflection of the buildings in the water, the details on the left canal wall, the color of the roofs on the right and the simpleness of the few clouds in the sky. I wasn’t carrying my tripod, so this was propped on the railing of another stone bridge to get. Three bracket HDR.

Definitely one of my favorite shots of the trip…because it will always remind me of Bruges. A quiet, peaceful, ancient and awe-inspiring town.

(More shots from Holland: My Holland Trip)