Here is another photo from Nice France. I took this as I walked around the streets above the harbor on a hot August morning.
The hill above the harbor is steep, and I remember thinking to my self that I didn’t want to get too hot first thing in the morning. So I paced myself and took slow steps, trying to avoid exertion. That was a fool’s errand because I quickly became covered in sweat no matter how slow I walked. I ended up getting ice cream for breakfast to cool down. That’s just how I roll.
Nevertheless, I prefer to walk around these little streets as opposed to the more famous beaches of Nice. Beaches I have all around me in Florida, so when in Europe, I like unique places like this; even when covered in sweat and eating ice cream.
This was taken on a hot day in Barcelona last summer. I had just arrived from hot Florida and went out walking. It was so hot I had to pause in the shade. As I did, I noticed others doing the same thing.
In fact, it seemed like everyone was doing the same thing, going from one patch of shade to the next. Maybe I should have just stayed inside with the nice air-conditioning, but that’s what I do at home in Florida. Here I was in photo safari mode and the coast of Spain was my savanna.
As I took this, I was sitting across from a little restaurant on the pier. I was thinking it seemed odd that the main food on the menu was cheeseburgers and hot dogs; so much for European cuisine. But they had air-conditioning, so I seriously thought about going inside. Then my hunter instincts kicked in again and I moved on.
As an American, one thing I will say about Europeans is they have an evolved sense of style. I took this in central Bologna around noon while I was busy snapping pictures of people. Most of my people pictures were not very good but this one I liked. It makes me think of the differences between Europeans and Americans.
I could have spent my time taking pictures of the architecture and ancient landmarks, but the Europeans and their culture intrigue me. It’s instructive to observe how they carry themselves in everyday settings. By taking pictures of people in different places I am recording something a little more ephemeral than a ninth century church. Not that there’s anything wrong with ninth century churches.
If you walk around and observe things around you, interesting things appear, they happen all the time. This lady has a delightful style and, she’s using a bike. The scene is reminiscent of something I’d expect to see in a fashion ad.
It seems every time I look at my photos from Amsterdam there are bicycles. Any direction you look people are going this way and that on bikes. It’s refreshing to see especially from a North American perspective. The only way I can relate to this is having grown up in suburbia where, as kids we rode bikes everywhere. Here, they just keep on doing it as adults.
From a photographic perspective it creates ideas for images. One of my favorite is riders in motion. To do that you have to pan the camera along with the rider. If the shutter speed of the camera is set slow enough you get a blur like this. It’s an effect that evokes a sense of motion.
This is a type of street photography that I practice when in urban settings. Photography is the art of noticing things. When you have a camera and are purposely looking for scenes you notice more. On the other hand, if you are walking to the store and have your mind on what to eat for dinner you might miss a lot. Photography is a practice of being present in the moment and open to things going on around you.
In this case I was standing around and noticed the stairs and horizontal motion of cyclists which created an idea in my mind. I took several shots panning my camera right and left depending on the direction of the cyclist. This was my favorite of the bunch.
If I had to sum up my impressions of Amsterdam in three words I would say bikes, umbrellas and canals. There were a lot of each. To take it a step further, operating a bike shop here is steady employment. As well, I think that selling umbrellas might also be big business.
I stood on an adjacent bridge taking photos of people as they crossed this bridge. This scene typifies the central canal district and is repeated hundreds of times from one bridge to the next.
Because I was carrying a camera I didn’t have an umbrella, otherwise it’s a good idea to have one. It got me thinking that umbrellas haven’t changed much in a hundred years, they still look and operate the same.
Lo and behold, a few weeks later I started seeing ads on TV about new type of inverted umbrella. Without going into all the details I think it’s an amazing idea and the only thing I can’t figure out is why nobody invented / inverted it years ago. My wife was so impressed she bought four and gave them away as gifts. So here is a tip, someone needs to open up an inverted umbrella stand in Amsterdam, I think it will be license to print money.
I took this while walking after midnight along the canals of Amsterdam. There aren’t many places in the world I feel safe walking late at night, but this city is one. Maybe I am naive, but it’s a good sign when you see all manner of people out walking at the same late hour, as though it was a perfectly normal thing to do. As I write this I am returning from a major American city where I spent a few days. To be honest I would not walk alone at night in that city. But Amsterdam is different in many ways.
I was discussing this with a friend recently and we were trying to put our finger on the essence of European cities like this. His take was, and this is a generalization, that Europeans tend to be more mature about things. I’m not sure about that but I’m willing to consider it.
Generalization break down as soon as you look at individuals, but at a macro level you notice differences. Maybe it also has to do with countries that are smaller and have a greater sense of altruism on a national level.
Smarter people than me will have a better explanation, but it’s something I think about. And more than that it’s something I’m grateful for as I visit and am able to walk around at night and take pictures.
In Amsterdam there are bike roads constructed everywhere. I’m not even sure they should be considered lanes because in many cases they are roads in their own right. The first thing I learned when I came here was that they are not for pedestrians. It only took one time. The same thing happened to me in Vancouver once. It must be a common mistake for foreigners.
Quite often you’ll see passengers sitting sideways on the rack. The racks on these bikes are sturdy and people carry everything on them. While walking in the morning I saw parents carrying their kids to school. It’s no wonder the bicycle culture is passed from one generation to the next.
Bikes are parked everywhere but the highest concentrations are around train stations. At some stations its the only form of parking. There are tens of thousands parked in massive multi-level lots.
Bike mechanics thrive here, bike shops are more common than cheese shops. However people are resourceful and I saw riders jump off to quickly fix a slipped chain or flat tire. It appears that most people know the basics out of necessity.
From the central station in Amsterdam there are plenty of options as far as transport goes. You could take a train, bus, taxi or ferry. You could also take a bike as tens of thousands are parked here. And if all else fails you can walk.
This side of the station is modern and designed to accommodate these various types of transport. The other side of the station maintains old world classic architecture and is unrecognizable from the front.
On the upper deck to the left is the bus platform which is adjacent to the train platform. Below that is the car lane, then the bike lane and finally the walking lane. On the right the ferry can be boarded, free of charge.
I wasn’t thinking any of this as I took the photo, but Amsterdam Centraal is a monumental feat of engineering, architecture and design. This is where everything and everyone comes together.
My short visit was spent mostly around this section of the city. I missed much and so I plan to come back and explore more. Having time to process what I did see and then go back will make the next trip even better.
And when I do go back I’ll have plenty of options for transport.
This is a random shot I made in Amsterdam while walking around in the rain. It got me thinking about some general differences between the European and North American people.
In northern climates there’s no avoiding the rain. What strikes me is the commitment of europeans to using bikes. It’s one thing to ride a bike on a sunny day, but cold and rainy weather is another thing. I’d rather not ride in the rain, in North America its too dangerous and we don’t have many bike lanes.
Not so here in Amsterdam; there are as many bike lanes as roads and people are committed to this as a primary mode of transport, even in the cold and rain.
While I was walking around in near freezing weather I wore mittens and a scarf, yet I saw people riding without gloves and sometimes more than a little skin exposed. So using bikes here is a commitment beyond just fair weather riding. That’s not something that even occurred to me until I saw it for myself.
I suppose that because so many europeans use bikes, riding in the cold is normal. I think we North Americans can learn from that. It’s not so bad when if we just get on board with the idea.
The other thing that struck me was that folks here are in good shape. They’re burning calories not only from riding but by staying warm. Of course our bodies use energy just to maintain body heat when its cold.
Anyway, this is a long winded post about people and bikes. Not sure why I got off on such a tangent. I guess I was impressed by europeans and their preferred mode of transport. From that one little thing you can learn something about a people and their culture. I think we could use a dash of that here in North America. That’s my 2 cents on the subject.
This is one of my first impressions of Amsterdam. I arrived a couple of days ago for the opening of the Best Top Photographer exhibition. As soon as I got to the hotel I was out walking around the central section of the city. For some reason I had it in my mind that it was cold and not many people would be out. I’m obviously not from around here. There was a light rain but no wind and everyone was out enjoying themselves as though it was a summer evening.
That was awesome to see, so much going on, so many people outside, walking, biking, …whatever. It’s nice to be in a place where people still know how to have fun. Someone told me last night about a saying from Iceland, that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
For someone just stepping off a plane from the states and on to the streets of Amsterdam, the one thing I would mention is to stay out of the bike lanes. The bike lanes are highways and if you’re not from around here you could be in for a surprise. Bikes are the main source of transportation and they’re everywhere, no exaggeration, everywhere.
Anyway, after a long flight from Florida, walking around the central district on a Saturday night was just what I needed. About an hour past midnight I made it back to my hotel, but the city kept on buzzing late into the night. It was a good first impression.