Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Postcards: Jet Lag Walk-About

Amsterdam AmericanI'm fresh back from an extended business trip to Europe and I have a few Postcards to share from the many photographs I took in my off time. I've sorted the photos into a series of small posts, starting with some shots I took walking around the Amsterdam American hotel. Jet lag, especially when flying east, can be a real bitch and I find that a photo walk is great for dealing with the time-warp of international travel.

Starting out a photo walk before the crack of dawn means you can catch the first rays as they bounce off the clouds.

There is something about watching the sun rise in the Netherlands that makes me think of Rembrandt and the other Dutch Masters. They seemed to be able to capture the glorious reds and pinks so well. I didn't have a wide expanse of sky to work with and using a camera instead of a paint brush meant that I ended up with blurry water and trees. Still, I loved the result.

One of my co-workers once paid me a compliment by saying I could "take a picture of garbage and make it look nice". Ever since then I try to not overlook debris as a possible subject.

On the opposite side of the bridge from where I took the sunrise photo was a scene of abandonment: a coffee cup, a banana, and a pair of shoes. In my mind I could see the person to whom they belonged as they stumbled to the stone bench and sat down. Munching on a banana, and sipping their coffee, they tried to recover from the alcohol that they had drunk in the nearby bars of the Leidseplein. It was a futile attempt. Slipping off their shoes they lay down on the cold stone, oblivious to the discomfort and hoping a few minutes of rest would help. Hours later, they awoke with a start. Late for work, they grabbed a bicycle from the nearby rack to hurry home, forgetting their shoes in the process.

Further down the street was more evidence of an alcohol-fueled evening that is common at the Leidseplein square.

These sorts of scenes call out to me and I'm starting to piece together a few of them into a series I'm going to call "The Lonely Soldiers". There is something about a single bottle, or in this case a red cup, that makes me wonder if the person who put it there was a social or a solitary drinker. Strictly speaking, this cup is not a lonely soldier, but the two cans blend in so well to the background I decided I would make an exception.

As the day builds, people come out to prepare for the work ahead.

Like a fisherman who returns to a productive spot on a lake, I had walked down to a place where years ago I had made a photo of some guild houses. It was on a wide canal, which afforded me a good view of the buildings opposite.

Mokum is full of such canals while the streets are crowded and narrow. Many companies operate tour boats on the canals for tourists to easily see the city. There are more such tour boat companies now, and the spot I had gone to was full of tour boats tied up to docks, blocking the view of the guild houses.

Cursing my luck I turned to go, almost missing this shot of a crewman prepping his boat for the morning's first excursion. I had just enough time to raise my camera to my eye, compose, and fire the shutter before the moment was gone.

It's not only the inhabitants of your host city that you can see early in the morning.

If you pay attention you can see all kinds of people getting ready for their day ahead. Walking past the hotel around the corner from my own, I saw these two gentlemen in the window of their room. I imagined they were businessmen preparing for an important meeting that was to take place later that morning. The position of their window in the frame of the hotel was a happy chance I was glad to take advantage of: I shot this with the intention of cropping it closer to put the focus on the readers. However, I chose not to crop in the end, as I quite like the asymmetry the raw shot has.

Whenever I am in Amsterdam, I try to take a stereotypical "canal" shot.

This one is my submission to the classic canal category from this trip. I had found a short canal with a church at the end and trees in bloom to frame the lines leading to the church. A red car blends in nicely with the whites and the blues. As nice as this is in colour, I prefer the black and white version. Without the colours to distract me, I can see the structure of the photograph better.

Back in my hotel room I had one more shot to take. Rather, I had one more to take from my room's balcony.

The hotel's "Café Americain" was directly below me. It was a very warm spring this year in the Netherlands and they had put up their umbrellas to protect their customers from the sun. When I peered out over my railing, which was no small feat for someone with acrophobia, the red sweater jumped out at me right away. I found the hint of the red sweater and the whites of the shirts to be beautifully balanced by the black of the umbrellas .

A slide show of these photos is here, where you can see a bit more detail in the photographs (such as the two men reading in the hotel window) than what you can see in the photos posted here in this blog post.

1 comment:

Geert Jan said...

Lovely pictures Scott - almost as I was there myself.