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.
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.
This is a long exposure I took while walking under a bridge in Central Amsterdam. The hanging vertical lights and their reflections created an eerie effect. It’s a public space that’s transformed into a surreal display of light, reflection and color by night. Just one of many surprises I found while walking around the city of Amsterdam.
I spent a lot of time along the canals at night. It seemed perfectly safe, save for the odd solicitations in a certain quarter not to be mentioned; but that’s another story for another day. No matter where I turned there were lights reflected on the water. If you’ve followed me you know that’s too much for me to resists; the lights that is.
I stood at this spot for a while taking pictures. Every now and then this space was filled with the rumble of trains passing overhead. I passed this same spot in a canal boat tour earlier in the day and it didn’t look anything like this. I would never have guessed it could be transformed like this at night.
The reason I came to Amsterdam is that I had some photos being shown in a Museum in Harderwijk at an event sponsored by BTP and Rinus Bakker. My plan is to come back for the next showing and spend a little more time exploring places like this. Until then I’ll have to be content with my memories and photos.
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.
I took this on Architectural Appreciation day. That’s a joke, there’s no such thing, at least that I’m aware of.
This building is in central Amsterdam. It struck me as a statement of architecture. It was cold and I had competing thoughts that there wasn’t anything worth taking a picture of. That’s how my mind works, it’s always looking for an out when the weather is not good. I looked straight up and decided I better setup despite the protestations of my body and complaining mind.
I think that if I lived in Europe I’d shoot a lot of architecture. Even so there are opportunities closer to home. I know its cliche but it really is a matter of perspective. The idea with architecture photography is to reduce some design to a simple box. Sometimes when we look at things we see too much to appreciate the details. Architecture photography is about appreciating details. Focussing the lens on a single aspect of a building is, believe it or not, an act of appreciation. Think about it, the person who designed this building has surely considered this perspective in his or her mind many times. However most of use walk right by, never looking up to notice. Now imagine you are that architect and you see and read this post. You might smile and think someone actually noticed and appreciated it.
A darkened central Amsterdam underpass creates a setting that is best described as a scene. Scenes are a combination of things that together make it more than just a place. Looking for scenes is a pastime of mine especially when walking through cities at night. Textures, light and motion combined to evoke imaginary scenarios rarely rooted in reality. As I took this the trains rumbled overhead completing the urban soundtrack of this vignette.
This underpass was something of a mystery to me when I first arrived in the city. It is across from my hotel and as I timidly explored I couldn’t see where it ended. As it was late I shied away from following it to the other end. Later I discovered it led to a busy neighborhood full of shops and bistros. But my initial trepidation contributed to a state of mind (erroneous as it was) that created this foreboding subterranean scene in my mind.
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.
This is a three minute exposure of the EYE Filmmuseum and A’DAM Lookout. Below the lookout is a giant sign that says “I amsterdam”. The lookout is one of the few places in the city you can get high enough to see everything. It has a lounge below the observation deck so can view and remain cozy inside. I took this just after arriving from Florida wasn’t used to the cool air. I tend to block out the weather when I’m taking pictures. I stayed out for two or three hours before going back to the hotel. I needed of a hot bath to warmup. After that I was fine.
This is on a river and there is a constant stream of boats passing this spot. You can see traces of their lights as trails across the frame.
At the time I took this I didn’t know how to get across to the other side. I asked someone and turns out it was easy. Just hop on the ferry. There is no cost and it takes only a few minutes.
The tower is a tourist attraction. At the top is “Europe’s Highest Swing”. For a fee you can swing out over the edge of the building. Attractions are good if you’re new to an area. They help establish bearings. As I continued to explore the city, I could usually orient myself if I saw the A’DAM Lookout. And then before you know it I was walking around like I knew where I was, and relative to tourist attraction, I kinda did.
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.
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.