Some random bits of Amsterdam

I really enjoy visiting Amsterdam - it's a beautiful city!

Have you been to Amsterdam?  I definitely put it on the list of great cities in Europe.  Obviously, I have not been to all of them across Europe (still waiting to get to Budapest and Dubrovik, for instance) but I have seen quite a few, so I have some basis for comparison.

Just looking down one of the many lovely canals...

Now, most people think of Amsterdam as a place to go for a party, and that is certainly an option.  But I'm not there for that - I actually find the city very photogenic.  There are so many canals, you might think you are in Venice.  And there are so many bicycles!  Be sure and look twice before you step into the street - I have nearly been run over several times.

See all those bikes? They have so many they have to park them on barges!

One of my favorite things to do is just wander the streets there, looking up and down the canals and taking photos of all the interesting architecture.  But I also tend to do a bit of random shots here and there.  I find it's not only fun, but helps me remember a trip better, and I hope that by sharing some of these here, you can get a good sense of how interesting a city Amsterdam really is.  

See? More bikes!

I have been there twice in the last few years, and hope to return again - with my camera gear in tow, of course.  Like I have said before, this photo thing is quite the addiction.

One other great thing about Amsterdam, which I believe is not as well known as the party scene, is the museums there.  There are quite a few and the ones I have visited are pretty amazing.  Below is the back of the Rijksmuseum, and nearby is the Van Gogh Museum - both worth a visit, assuming you are interested in that sort of thing.

See the big "I amsterdam" sign?  Sort of a town motto at this point, methinks.

And of course, don't forget to get out the camera (mounted on a tripod, of course) when it starts to get dark.  I am a sucker for reflections, and with so many canals at virtually every turn, there is no shortage of cool things to point the camera at!

Blue hour - a perfect time for reflections!

Well, that's a quick tour of a lovely city, mostly shown in random bits and pieces.  I have hundreds of Amsterdam shots still to share, so keep coming back for more if you enjoy seeing this sort of thing!

Shooting the canals

I really love Amsterdam, but not for those reasons.  :-)

It's a great town in my opinion, and great for photography.  I suppose if you were into street photography, that you would find Amsterdam to be rather colorful and fun for that sort of thing. But as you know from coming here before (if this is your first visit, WELCOME!), street photography ain't my thing.

I don't shoot portraits, weddings, or what is typically known as street photography.  I do shoot a lot of street scenes though.  I love that stuff.  And no, I am not trying to confuse the matter.  

Anyways, in Amsterdam as you know there are a LOT of canals.  The city's identity rests primarily with the canals.  It's defined by water.  So being a guy who loves HDR and reflections, well...that's what draws me in.  I could shoot that stuff all day.

So on my last visit there, I spent one evening out shooting with my friend Michiel Buijse, who is relatively local and a great photographer.  You should go see his work.  He's good.  So we spent a great deal of time shooting things like this, partly because it's awesome and partly because you see this stuff at every turn.  Not a bad way to spend an evening, actually!

Sunset in Amsterdam

Ah, lovely Amsterdam!  What an interesting city!

I find Amsterdam to be very interesting.  It's a study in contrasts, really.  It's a city rich in history and culture, but it's better known as a party town.  It has incredible museums, but people go there for it's relaxed views on things.  The architecture is fabulous, and the old churches are beautiful.  It's really a great place.  More than many other towns, it wears these 2 hats equally well, I believe.

Being in my mid-forties and interested in the photography aspect of cities, I love going there, but obviously not for the party.  I enjoy seeing all the canals, museums, and architecture - and then photographing the heck out if it.

On my trip there last year, I wandered around while sunset and blue hour were approaching, as I was looking for a nice vantage point to get some shots that I hadn't seen before.  I was on the fringes of the Red Light District when I saw a little alley sort of thing that appeared to end at some water.  I wandered down that alley and was confronted with this wonderful view.

Since sunset was upon me, I fired away for a bit and then waited for blue hour too, since I always love to get nice reflections at that time of day, and the water was really still here due to very limited boat traffic in the canal.

That's one thing about HDR photography - while it's great most of the time, I find that it really excels during sunset and blue hour.  It just does so much more to a photograph than a single exposure can give you.


Bars in Leidseplein

There are a lot of bars in Amsterdam - and a lot of "pleins" too!

As far as I know, the word plein is Dutch for plaza or square, and there are quite a few in Amsterdam.  It's a great city to walk around in and shoot all that cool stuff, then go find a plein and sit down and chill.  I did that a lot while I was there.  

I would walk and walk, then shoot a bit, then walk some more, then find a bar or cafe to sit in and rest.  Depending on the time of day, I would order tea, or a beer.  I could get used to living like that!  It's pretty awesome.

Leidseplein is one of the larger squares there, or at least it seems that way to me.  It's pretty busy, and there is a lot going on there at all times of day and night.  There's also a boatload of construction in it right now, which makes it a bit more cramped.  There's a cool Apple store.  There are a lot of shops.  And of course there are all sorts of cafes and bars.

I tend to enjoy shooting cityscape things like this, so when I was walking by one day and this section was empty, I knew I had to jump at the chance and fire away.  Right as I was getting ready, that lady in the doorway walked into that spot and stood there.  She started smiling, assuming that I was taking her picture.  But of course, I was shooting with my wide angle to capture the buildings, but I acted otherwise so she would stay still for a minute so I could finish!  

The facade of Amsterdam Centraal

Ok, I know - here's another train station, but I can't help myself!

The first step to knowing you have a problem is to admit it.  So, I have a problem, folks. I love train stations.  I am addicted to shooting them, especially in Europe.  I make every effort to shoot whichever ones I pass through on my travels.  I can't help it.  Aren't they cool?

This is the facade of Amsterdam Centraal Station, which as the name implies is their big central terminal.  And it's big!  The facade is quite beautiful as you can see, but on my last two visits the interior was under such construction that there is not a grand lobby or central interior space to shoot (yet).  I'm not sure, but there might be one and it's just hidden.  If anyone knows, please let me know.

So I have had to satisfy my shooting addiction here by concentrating on the exterior.  And heck, it's so awesome that's ok with me!  I also grabbed quite a few shots from the train platforms, and will have to find some time to work on those.  But still this facade is the main draw for me, photographically speaking.  

The only downside was that I never made it here at sunrise or sunset, choosing instead to focus (no pun intended) on other spots during those times.  So maybe next time I will get there during the edges of the day.  I look forward to a return visit - it's a great town to wield a camera in!

A pond in Vondelpark

Do you ever walk in a park when visiting a foreign city?

Walking in a park is not something that normally comes to mind for me when traveling - unless I happen to be in NYC (which is very rare, sadly).  I usually travel with a list of spots that I want to go shoot, and parks don't usually make the list, mostly because I don't think of them. 

And I think of lots of things that I want to shoot in any given city (and I spend some time looking them up, plotting them on a map, and planning my route): architecture, churches, landmarks, train stations, street scenes, graffiti, rivers and more.  So I should think of parks more often, but I don't.  Maybe I'm wired to ignore them.  I don't know. 

But in Amsterdam I made an exception.   My hotel was actually pretty close to Vondelpark, and one afternoon I had a little free time and therefore decided I would walk around over there before heading off to my next canal shot (and boy did I get a LOT of those in Amsterdam!). 

I'm really glad that I went there.  It's beautiful.  I fully expected to walk around for a few minutes and then leave, but instead I wandered and wandered, taking a few pictures along the way.  At some point I came across this pond and loved the clouds playing overhead and the gentle curve towards the reflected trees.

Night in Rembrandtplein

Some town squares are "plein" - but not this one! 

Rembrandtplein is a square in Amsterdam, so named because the artist known as Rembrandt lived nearby many years ago.  I have no idea what it was like back then, but I am pretty sure it lacked the plethora of bars, restaurants, and neon signs you can find there today.  I also doubt the statue of Rembrandt himself was there back then.  :-) 

But today it's a nice gathering spot for wayward tourists who need a break, or photographers who like to fire brackets at things like this.  I was there with my friend Michiel Buijse, and after meeting up and walking around for a while, we sat in one of those bars and had a couple of beers.  It was still bright, and we were waiting on the sun to sink.  Finally it started to, so we headed out to shoot.

We didn't really get far though, because there is a great little spot just behind where I was standing while taking this photo.  It's perfect to get a shot of the canals, and bridges with lights on them.  It was awesome, so we shot there for a while.  Of course, being a fan of street scenes and neon signs, I had to fire away at this scene too!


Amsterdam's Bloemenmarkt

The floating flower market in Amsterdam! 

The Bloemenmarkt is Amsterdam's floating flower market, and according to a quick web search it is the only one in the world.  That's pretty cool.  If you are into flowers, it's a great place to visit.  If you are NOT into flowers, it's also a great place to visit.  While you can buy flower stuff like seeds and bulbs here, there are also lots of other random things for sale. 

There's a cheese shop or two.  There are myriad shops selling souvenirs, many with naughty themes to them (hey, this IS Amsterdam).  There's also a Starbucks in case you need to pep yourself up a bit.  The list goes on. 

I find the place pretty interesting.  While I don't care so much about buying flower bulbs to take home and cultivate, and I am not concerned with a lot of souvenirs, it is a great place to people watch and since there is a canal there (remember, it floats) I am always up for firing some shots that include water (reflections being a favorite of mine). 

I caught this one at golden hour one evening from the West end of the Bloemenmarkt.  I had shot from the East side on the previous night while out with Michiel Buijse who lives in The Netherlands.  We had a great time and I highly recommend you follow his work too! 

Light trails in Amsterdam

Blue hour, canals, and light trails in Amsterdam - a great combo!   Thank goodness for boat tours!

*** Shot at the intersection of Keizersgracht and Leidsegracht ***

If you have ever been to Amsterdam, you are probably well aware that there are lots of boat tours through the canals, and they are fun to do.  But when I was there a few weeks back, I found myself waiting several times for a boat to pass, as I was shooting a canal reflection and wanted still water.   That's no big deal - it's a typical situation when out shooting.  I am always waiting on something.

But in this case, it was blue hour and the light was fading fast, and I had been standing here shooting for a bit already - I was just waiting for it to get a little darker, as the sunset ended up being a bore.  At some point during this shooting, I saw a boat coming and could see a couple of lights on the boat. 

I thought I would try a set of brackets while the boat passed, in hopes of getting a nice long light trail from it.  As the boat approached and I started my brackets, there were also two cars that passed by on the intersecting roads.  Luckily my timing was great, and I got all three light trails!  Sometimes, things work out well! 

By the way, at the top I listed the location of this shot - the intersection of two canals.  I had seen shots from this location online prior to my trip, but NO ONE listed the location. What the hell?  I literally could not find it ANYWHERE.  Trying to visually locate a particular canal view in Amsterdam is the typical search for a needle in a haystack.  So I resigned myself to wandering and wandering, which I actually enjoy anyways.

A bit earlier that day I passed a souvenir shop, and out front was a postcard stand with a shot from here on it.  I picked it up, flipped it over, and sure enough it gave the name of the canals.  I wasn't actually that far away, so it was a huge win for me! 

Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

The Oude Kerk (literally, "old church") really lives up to its name.  It's over 800 years old at this point, and is the oldest building in Amsterdam.  It's also completely awesome, as you can see in the photo. 

Prior to heading to Amsterdam, I made a list of places I wanted to visit there, as I normally do.  This one was definitely high on the list.  I love visiting churches in Europe, as I always find them so photogenic and beautiful, and this one was no exception.   

I love how they mixed the use of stone and wood here, and found out that this is the largest medieval vault roof in Europe.   That's pretty cool.

Interestingly, this church sits squarely in the middle of Amsterdam's red light district. Sort of funny if you think about it, but I guess they need it there!