I expected to see a lot of bikes in Amsterdam, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, not until I visited the bike parking lot did it sink in.
Surrounding the public transit stations are huge bike lots. Some of them are multi-stories high and comfortably house tens of thousands. Some like this were outside and stacked to make efficient use of space. Maybe it’s not so strange, but I was amazed nonetheless.
Since everyone is accustom to it, biking seems like a natural thing to do here. It made me wonder why we can’t seem to get it together in places like Florida where I live. From a transportation perspective, we are like dinosaurs, relying on our cars to get everywhere. If we don’t figure out a better way, we may soon end up like the dinosaurs.
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.
I’m always looking for new scenes so capture and so once in a while I’ll go to the park in the middle of the day. I prefer the mornings and evenings when the light is softer, but being open to possibilities, even in the middle of the day, is a good idea. Showing up is half the battle, and once at a location, I’m open to interesting scenes to photograph.
For this photo, I was walking along a path that had a canopy of brush on either side. When some folks rode past on bikes, I noticed the tunnel effect and took a photo as they receded. It’s another variation on the leading line theme that’s so popular in photography.
This stretch of the path causes a little sensory deprivation because the sides are thick with growth and you can only see in two directions. That feeling was heightened one evening when I happened to be walking here as darkness closed in. The effect of being in a darkened tunnel caused my sense of hearing to become heightened. Before you know it, I could hear every little sound in the bushes. At that time of day, all the nocturnal animals begin to stir. It was no surprise that I started hearing sounds emanating from the brush all around me. My imagination started working in overdrive as I wondered what might pop out on the trail in front or behind me. Nothing happened of course, but that’s maybe why I decided to come back here in the middle of the day.
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.
When in big cities I’m usually quite happy with rain. It creates scenes and situations that are interesting to observe.
First of all, people are carrying umbrellas which by itself creates a certain aesthetic. Then there are the motions people go through to keep out of the rain, like running from one source of cover to another. However, in places where it rains all the time, you will also notice how well people ignore it. Amsterdam is one of those cities where people are always outside, rain or shine. So it’s just as interesting to see what they don’t do as what they do.
In this case the couple were taking selfies and the gentleman was texting the pictures on his phone, oblivious to the precipitation. I noticed that in Amsterdam people are always riding bikes regardless of the weather, in some cases holding umbrellas as they go.
I haven’t quite perfected the art of ignoring the rain. I’m a duck and cover kind of guy. But from a temporary shelter I can stand there, observe and take photos of things around me. The best part of that is stepping into a bistro and waiting it out with a hot chocolate. Then, sufficiently refreshed I head back out for more fun.
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.
I walked through central Amsterdam on a Saturday Night and saw a little bit of everything. Having landed only that morning it was my first exposure to things which I’ve only read about. A lot of people were out having fun which in and of itself is not unusual. However the city of Amsterdam is anything but usual.
For instance, I’m not used to seeing people smoking weed and hash out in the open. I’m not used to seeing shops where hallucinogenic drugs are sold. I’m not used to seeing brothels in and amongst the shops, restaurants and bars. Perhaps most unexpected of all was that people seemed quite blasé about it all. These things are just taken in stride.
Honestly I don’t know what I expected. I have this feeling that if we did the same thing in the United States it would be havoc, but that’s probably just my own ill-conceived ideas. I did not see junkies strung out on the street corners. There appeared to be very little crime, I felt perfectly safe on the streets even late at night. It’s the kind of town I could easily live in. In fact Amsterdam has a night mayor. It’s a real position that ensures all the night life runs smoothly.
Anyway, it was early November and they already had Christmas lights up. That, along with all the happy (and possibly high) revelers out having a good time created a fun atmosphere. If I had to sum it up I would say that Amsterdam at night is an exceptional party town that could only exist in a European society. At least that was my first impression.