Wednesday, 26 March 2014

More Museums

2013_NLD_F4_1852 CROPAfter more than a decade of visiting Amsterdam, I am still finding more museums to see when I go there. There are so many* that you need to use one of many museum websites in order to figure out which ones to go see. One, useful only to the Dutch, is hard to navigate for an English-speaker. Others, like the one at, are more visitor-friendly.

During my spring 2013 trip, I continued to add to my list of Dutch museums that I have visited...

While the Heineken Experience is not what I would consider a true museum, I have a tradition of doing brewery tours when I can, and the free beer that I got on the tour was persuasive enough for me to add it to my list. As with all of my blog posts, you can click on any photo to see a better, higher resolution image.


Like all brewery tours, this one covers the basics of how to brew beer. Naturally this involves a lot of copper cookware, since copper is the metal-of-choice for brewers.


Carlsberg. Heineken. Budweiser. It seems that if you do not have draft horses in your marketing, then you are not a real brewery, so no surprise then that the Heineken horses were part of the tour.


My brewery tour standards were set by Carlsberg when I toured their Copenhagen brewery. The bar is therefore pretty high and I am afraid that the Heineken tour does not come close to matching it. The only unique feature of the Heineken tour was that it included a short boat tour on a canal. In a green boat, of course.


The nice thing about being down at water level is that you can capture some interesting perspectives of Amsterdam.


Another not-a-museum-to-anyone-but-me is the Oude Kerk. I guess this is a bit of a cheat, since it's one of my regular haunts in Mokum. However, I love this old building with its worn stone floors and open wood-beam roof, so I will include it in this post as a spot of free advertising to those who run it. The Oude Kerk is home to one of the stops on the annual World Press Photo Awards exhibit tour. The stunning photos are an extra incentive to add this place to your list of must-see places. Sometimes the organizers will tag another exhibit along with the WPP Awards exhibit, so you get a bonus. This year, they added an exhibit about Russian news photography.


I mentioned the floor as one of the remarkable features about the Oude Kerk. This is because when I see it, I always I think about how many people have to walk over the stone before it wears like this. That's a lot of people, and it takes a looooong time. On the other hand, I try not to think about the dead people that lie under these stones that I am walking on.


While I enjoy looking at the photos, I also normally enjoy watching people react to them.


Sometimes not.

I've often said how I like that the Dutch will come up and start talking to me while I am out shooting in the wee hours. There doesn't seem to be any of the reservedness that there is in, say, Paris. So I wasn't surprised when this guy came up and started talking to me. But he got quite agitated about the Russian exhibit (and Russians in general). He went on and on and on. I began to get worried I would have to call security to get him to stop, but after begging off a few times, he went one way and I went the other.


Amsterdam has a well known (and fabulous) science museum. On this trip I discovered Haarlem also has a science museum, the Teylers Museum. This is the oldest museum in the Netherlands, having opened 1784. Like many heritage buildings, the lobby was fabulously decorated.



Inside, it had high ceilings and lots of wood, brass, and glass.


Of course there are books, lots of books, as you can see in this close-up photo of the balcony level.


Walking around the exhibits felt like walking around a Dr. Who set; I think this is a time-flux capacitor.


Everything is stored in well-crafted curio cabinets.


Besides all of the wood, brass, and glass, the wrought iron heating vents in the floor helped add to the Victorian-era atmosphere.


There were lots of fossils on display



Besides being a museum, the building also holds a gallery and on exhibit were some of Redouté's flowers. I had not been exposed to his work before, but I fell in love with his style. His work has inspired me to try my hand at some still life flower photos. I couldn't take any photos of the exhibit, but the gift shop had a few lithograph prints on sale that I could take a snap of.


There are a lot of interesting artifacts in the museum, like this piece of a shipping crate used in the 1874 Dutch scientific expedition to the island of La Réunion to observe the transit of Venus across the solar disk.


A little further down the street was the Frans Hals museum. Frans Hals was new to me, and I am overjoyed to have discovered him. I was so impressed by his paintings that they had on display that I concluded he was as brilliant as his contemporary, Rembrandt, albeit in a different way.

In the lobby, I tried my best to imitate Hals' famous Jester with a Lute. I'm in the one on the bottom, in case you cannot tell.

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I wasn't allowed to take photographs inside, but the guard did let me take this snap of the entrance hallway. The interior was remarkably different from that of the science museum.


I close with my story about The Royal Palace on Dam Square. When I first visited Amsterdam many years ago, the Palace (originally a town hall) was on my list of places to visit, but it was closed for renovations. Every time I visited in the years that followed, the story was the same: the Palace was closed for renovations.

It became an obsession with me to get in to see the place.

One year, my airport cab driver told me that the Palace was finally opened. But when I went to the Palace, it was closed for some "unforeseen" repair work!

So it was only natural that on this trip I again went to see if I could get in. I was shocked to find Dutch police guarding the palace from me. And only me. At least, that's how it seemed. I told them my story and they good-naturedly agreed to pose for a photo.


One day, hopefully soon, I will get inside. I hope it will be worth the wait.

All the posts from my trip to the Netherlands are here:

House of Oranje
Postcards from Kuekenhof
Train Stations
More Museums
Dutch (S)Treat
Up Close

* I have no idea how many museums there are in Amsterdam, but this tiny country has somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400!


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Time Spent in a Train Station

2013_NLD_F2_Pano7Train stations are not something I usually think about. In fact, I rather take them for granted. When departing, I spend only enough time in them to catch whatever train I am waiting for. When arriving, I am in a train station only long enough to go from the platform to the exit.

Unlike me, my grandfather was a train man. He came from a train family and retired from Canadian National Railways as a mechanic. He loved trains. I didn't grow up with trains the way that he did, so I only ever thought of them as something Europeans use to get around.

European trains are very convenient, so I tend to use them when I am there. I have passed through Amsterdam Centraal more times than I can count, but I have never noticed anything remarkable about it. Maybe because I never really stopped to look. Odd, then, that Amsterdam Centraal should catch my eye such that I spent a couple of hours there exploring with my camera.

I was on my way out of the station last spring, when I discovered that my normal route out was blocked by renovations. Workers had installed those large plywood walls that they put around construction sites - the ones with the little cutout holes so you can see what is going on in the work area. The station operator had pasted on those walls some information about different parts of the station, much like a mini museum display. Intrigued, I set out to walk around and have a closer look at the place.

I discovered all sorts of new-to-me things, like the ornate decorations outside. How the golden crowns, put there to indicate that there is a royal waiting room below, escaped my attention until now, I do not know. As with all of my blog posts, you can click on any photo to see a better, higher resolution image.


Of course I had noticed the clock tower before...


...but if you look closely, just past the clock tower you will see a weather vane...


... and I learned that the weather vane drives a wind direction indicator on another tower.


If you look closely, instead of time markings there are compass points.


Wandering around inside, I noticed that the interior decoration was in some cases just as ornate as the outside. Even the structural steel seemed to have a decorative purpose in addition to its main job of holding the roof up.


I even came across the Royal Waiting room. There was not much to look at from the outside, but there was a QR Code posted (look through the gate, on the left and you will see it) and a note explaining that there was an app available that would take me on a virtual tour of the area. I downloaded it and found that it was fantastic. I highly recommend it, so for the iOS version go here and for the Android version go here.


Turning around and looking at the tracks, I noticed this very nondescript structure in the middle of the platforms.


Unless you are looking straight across at it, it blends in with the ceiling.


I saw a conductor slowly walking the platform (he was waiting for a train). I asked him about the structure and he told me it was the old operations centre, but that it was no longer in use. I told him that I was exploring the station in depth, and we got into a discussion about trains. My grandfather would have loved to talk with this guy - he even had an app that played train sounds! He also told me that I had just missed the royal train by a couple of hours, and that it was only the second time in his 30-year career that he had seen it.

As I was roaming around, I noticed there was a large variation in the ambient light. Here, near the old ops centre, the light was bright...


... but just a little further up the platform, and it was so dark that I could easily see inside the trains.


Having spent the better part of two hours exploring the station, I retired to the Starbucks for a cup of hot chocolate. I was pleasantly surprised to see they kept the heritage decoration, including the very embellished ceiling.


It's hard to show what the entire room was like in this very narrow space, but it was quite enjoyable to sit back and drink my cocoa and crowd-watch.


With a newfound appreciation for train stations, on my return trip I stopped and looked around Haarlem Centraal. It had a very different feel from the one in Amsterdam. More "Victorian", I thought.


It is also very much smaller than its Mokum counterpart


Smaller doesn't mean less interesting. Here is the third class waiting room.


I have never seen a third class on a train, which speaks of how we have changed how we like to travel. Or have we? I would argue that with the airline classes of First, Business, Economy Plus, and Economy, we have kept the class distinction very much alive, including using separate waiting areas which we now prefer to call lounges.

Besides the waiting room, the washrooms were also unused, only these certainly did look derelict.


Knowing what to look for, I could easily spot the operations center. Like the one in Mokum, this one also looks unused.


So if you are traveling by train in Europe, take some time to wander around the older stations. Think of it as a "free", open-air museum!

All the posts from my trip to the Netherlands are here:

House of Oranje
Postcards from Kuekenhof
Train Stations
More Museums
Dutch (S)Treat
Up Close


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Football on Frost


While I was out for a morning run in the fall of 2013, I came across a footballer getting in an early morning practice. The field was still undisturbed following the previous night's heavy frost, and as he began his warm-up, he left a pattern of tracks in the frost



Monday, 10 March 2014

Dancers Crossing.

2014_Oda_F1_058In most cities, there is an on-going conflict between pedestrians and automobiles. As one way to help alleviate the conflict, we highlight the pedestrian's right-of-way by painting marks on the road. We call these specially marked locations crosswalks, and it is to the crosswalk I am drawn for a sub-theme of my dancing outdoors series. I want to show people not just crossing the road, but dancing across the road!

I lined up a test shoot with dancer Oda Ytreøy and choreographer Natalie Dahl. I had already scouted the area and came up with a series of locations that I thought would work. I met Oda and Natalia at this one.


With Natalie directing Oda and also keeping an eye out on traffic coming up behind me, we started with some simple positions. Oda worked them over and over and over until I had the lighting sorted out.



With the lighting done the way I wanted, we moved on to more dynamic compositions to reflect more movement, as befits the idea of crossing a street.


As is our tradition, we thawed our frozen extremities and discussed the results over a nice cup of hot chocolate. Thanks to Oda and Natalie for helping me work through the proof of concept. Now, onwards to doing a complete series!

If you are a dancer and are interested in answering the question "How does a dancer cross the road?", then leave me a note in the comments below.