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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!

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)

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)

The train tracks in Nuenen

The day I took this photo was kind of frustrating for me because I left the hotel without my spare camera batteries and instead of just going out to dinner, we went on a little tour of Nuenen. Of course right then my battery decided to die quickly and so I missed the first windmill I saw in Holland and a few other juicy items.

So when we got back, I ran inside, grabbed my stuff, a fresh battery and basically stormed back out, annoyed at myself and determined to get a shot before the sun went down. I had seen these tracks on the way to the hotel and it was just a quick 1/4 mile walk to get to them.

Trains FLY on these tracks and I was kind of nervous standing out there. In fact, if you look at the large version by clicking on the photo, you can see three little lights way off as the tracks disappear. I moved off the tracks pretty fast after this shot and within 30-40 seconds, that thing flew by going at least 80mph. The wind almost knocked me over *grin*

Just a sampling of the kind of railroads you see over here in the Netherlands.

(More shots from Holland: Holland Trip)

Insane thunderstorm over Nuenen

So at the facility we’re working at today, I asked this crazy, funny, Dutch guy around noon, “So what, no rain today? Looks pretty nice out!” He responds, “Oh no, bad storm coming, will be here between 5-6pm.” Alright, we’ll see!

Photo above taken at 5:42pm.

Umm, wow, this was probably the coolest looking storm I’ve ever seen. Well, maybe I’m just excited, but as you can see from the photo, there was some serious nastiness headed right for me. The clouds were churning, I saw a small funnel up high in the clouds (probably just a “cold air funnel”, barely anything, but I saw it!), the lightning was all over and then once the storm hit, there was 70mph winds and debris from trees all over the place.

We went out to dinner later and there were some flattened cornfields, a few uprooted trees and broken branches littering the small town of Nuenen.

This shot is a “shakily” held merge of two 3-bracket HDR images. CS5 worked some magic for me here which I may talk about at a later date, but no time for it now.

Suffice to say…it’s hard to believe I was worried about missing the monsoon in Arizona when stuff like this was waiting for me.

I have some more nasty photos I may post later on…but this one took some time and I had to get it out there.

(More Holland photos here: Holland Trip)

De Collse Watermolen

The taxi drivers in Holland are absolutely insane. They drive 60mph down two-lane highways the size of a one-lane highway with bike riders only inches away from losing their lives. Somehow, someway, I spotted the water mill in the photo as we flew past it Sunday night on our way to Eindhoven to watch the big soccer match.

Last night was beautiful after two separate rain storms, so we took a nice walk, passed some cool old houses, horses, cornfields and of course, found the mill.  This is the “Collse Watermolen”, a thirteenth century mill that was used for oil pressing and as a cornmill. You can read a lot more of its history by clicking here.

The biggest “claim to fame” this mill has is that Vincent van Gogh painted it back in the year 1884 when he lived in Nuenen, the town I’m staying in while in Holland.  You can see it at the bottom of this post.

One of the cooler things I’ve seen so far in Holland, I also took some very up-close shots of the wheels themselves and will process those later on.

(You can see all the pictures so far from my Holland trip by visiting this tag: Holland Trip)

The Mercedes Benz of Amsterdam

I loved this old Mercedes Benz as I was walking the streets of Amsterdam and just had to take a few pictures of it. I have another view that contrasts the bike, but this one is something a little different than my normal HDR processing.

I processed the photo as a normal black and white, and then did a single-image HDR out of the color version of the RAW photo and then masked that into the B&W to come up with something a little more interesting to me personally.

I’m calling it an HDR Blend and would like to think up a better name for it, but jet lag has a hold on me and I’m a little bit sleepy *grin*

Anyways, give me some old buildings, cobblestones, bricks, and some nice sports cars and I could be taking pictures all day.

Welcome to Amsterdam

I was walking through what appeared to be a craft sale/art show/garage sale in the middle of Amsterdam when I stopped, looked right and saw these lovely ladies laughing at me. Then I noticed one of them wasn’t entirely decent.

Immediately upon seeing these girls, I thought “Welcome to Amsterdam, Mike!”  Hope you enjoy *grin*

(more photos from Holland by clicking on this link: Holland Trip)

Amsterdam – Bikes and Bikes

One thing about Amsterdam (and maybe a lot of other places in Europe, I can’t honestly speak truthfully since this is my first time overseas) is that there are a ton of people riding bikes. And even more than that are the number of bikes just chained up all over the city. Chained here, chained there, chained everywhere.

This is a little alleyway between two other “larger” roads going through Amsterdam Centraal.  I almost passed it, then looked at all the bikes and knew I needed a picture.

A few other photogs I follow would probably have loved to use their Tilt-Shift lenses on this scene, but since I don’t have one, I tried to get as close to the left wall as I could. This was taken with my new Tamron 17-35 about a foot away from that left wall.

My wife has already seen the shot and loves the tree at the end of the alley. I just love the details in the old bricks everywhere, plus the light touch of color from the flowers and flag up on the walls.

(You can see all the photos from my trip by browsing this tag: Holland Trip)