There are bicycles everywhere in The Netherlands. That’s my impression, at least, after visiting three Dutch cities last year. In the larger places like Amsterdam and Utrecht, the bike paths are integrated into the plan of the city. It’s quite impressive and a low-tech solution that makes the city more accessible and the people, healthier. I didn’t see a lot of overweight people there, at least the ones that didn’t appear to be tourists.
While I love the cool blue and white trams of Amsterdam, they look so modern and contrast nicely against the architectural details, it’s the bicycles that probably have a greater impact on country’s transportation infrastructure. Most of it positive, but as you will see later, there’s a downside.
The net effect of all these bikes is the comparably fewer cars in the city centers and cleaner air. Other than dodging an occasional speeding bike, walking around the city is pleasurable. From my limited stay, I was quite amazed by the lack of cars and traffic jams, even during rush hour.
And I suppose that makes sense. I you figure that nearly every bike is a car eliminated off the street, there’s going to be a lot fewer cars around. This bike lane cuts right through the Rijksmuseum, a major museum in Amsterdam. An example of pedestrian and bike first urban design.
The bikers are different in the The Netherlands too, compared to the U.S. Here in Austin, most bikers look like they are out to get exercise clad in skin-tight spandex. The Dutch appear to use bicycles as a method of transportation. Their clothing are normal or even stylish. The bikes are simple urban models optimized for utility and not racing. Some are even fitted with milk crates for increased practicality.
Photographically, I experimented shooting with slow shutter speeds to induce motion blur. It gives a sense of movement to the bicycles.
While the occasional bike by the front door can look quaint, especially next to nicely detailed brick in the afternoon light, what happens when you have a lot of bikes?
You begin to realize, in the big city centers, every foot of available space gets taken over.
It’s especially congested by the main train stations, even in a small city like Breda. But Breda’s impressive collection was nothing compared to the central Amsterdam Station. On either side of the path, in front of the ibis hotel, the low slung buildings housed nearly uncountable number of bikes. The building to the right was the premium spot with indoor parking. The multi-tiered structure to the left, as big as car parking lot.
It goes to show that even good things have a downside. That said, imagine how big of parking lot is need to house this many cars? Overall, it’s a good problem to have and undoubtedly the net positives outweigh small negatives. The bike culture is impressive to see and certainly the mild to cool Dutch climate may be more conducive to biking compared to the oppressively hot Austin summers. The bike usage appears to be going up in Austin however, so there is always hope.
Today, the Earth slipped passed the Autumn Equinox and the Summer of 2015 officially ended in the Northern Hemisphere. It went so quickly — I really didn’t do much this summer.
I was browsing through my images from last year, from Hawaii. As it usually happens with photography, the pictures increase in value over time. I was transported back a year ago, reliving happy memories.
I shot all these in the late afternoon, in the golden hour before sunset. Unlike the demure morning light on Waikiki, the afternoons are vibrant. I really need to shoot more during this time. I shot street photography style with my Fuji X100S on Kuhio Beach which is one of the “sub-beaches” that make up the famous Waikiki Beach area.
I thought you might enjoy some warm scenes before the Autumn chill starts to settle in. In Austin, we still have a month or so of comparably warm weather but the subtle change of seasons are around. The highs barely hit 90 and the evening slips into the 60s. Yes, it’s starting get cool in Austin.
As you know, I’m a city person and love the details of urban life. In Amsterdam, beyond the quaint canals and the ubiquitous bikes, I was most impressed with the tram system. The system radiates throughout the compact city, primarily from the central train station.
Amsterdam is about the size of Austin, population wise. The city is entirely different, for many reasons, but the differences with transportation are stark. I’m sure it’s a nightmare to drive and park in Amsterdam but boy is the public transportation wonderful.
The sleek white and blue vehicles are ever-present and are a wonderful counterpoint to the finely detailed architecture. Not to mention, it makes for fun photography. It goes to show you can have an old city with a modern infrastructure.
There are two grand old hotels in Waikiki. The Moana Surfrider which is the oldest built in 1901, and this one, the Royal Hawaiian built in 1927. They are both beautiful but the Royal Hawaiian is more ambitious with generous hallways and spacious porches. Its unique exterior has earned it the nickname “Pink Palace of the Pacific”.
As part of my early morning photo walk, I shot with the Olympus E-PM2 on tripod and created atypical black and whites. I also used the Fujifilm X100S to shoot these handheld images of the Royal Hawaiian in the early morning light. The place was understandably quiet at 6:45am. I had fun documenting the gracious spender, a remnant of a bygone era.
You can tell from the architecture that there is a seamless blending of inside and out. The temperate Hawaiian climate makes this easy and desirable. You don’t see designs like this in Austin. The occasionally chilly but mostly hot weather necessitates a strong defensive barrier from the elements.
This outside-in design is not confined to the Royal Hawaiian. Even the modern towers throughout Waikiki share this trait. But you can imagine that many of the post-war minimalist designs don’t have the same level of character or detailing. And no other building dares to be this bold, color wise. White is the usual color which makes this pink structure unique.
I shot some really nice wide-angle interior HDRs of this place back 4 years ago. I opted this time to do more freeform shooting. Different cameras and focal lengths encourage me to experiment. I find the 35mm equivalent on the X100S easy to work with, and prefer it over the classic 50mm. The extra width gives me more room to tell a story by capturing more of the environment. But unlike a super wide-angle. the 35 still pulls in details without exaggeration.
I wasn’t going to the hot air balloon launch last Saturday. I had no desire to wake up at 5 in the morning. But it was 4:30am when I finished processing and writing about the Leica M camera that I shot on 6th Street the night before. What the heck. I took a quick shower and headed towards Mansfield Dam for the 24th Annual Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight.
I was there, in the same place, 3 years ago — that was my first launch. Its gotten a lot more crowded since then. I was concerned when I saw a line of tripods setup at the perimeter. Were they restricting access because of the crowds? Unlike 3 years ago, I didn’t bring a tripod. I was determined to capture the events, “street photography style” with one camera and lens. You guessed it, with the Fuji X100S. In order to do this, I needed to get in close. I didn’t have the luxury of a telephoto lens.
Luckily, as the preparations proceeded, people freely mingled between the balloonists. The defensive line of tripods was self-imposed. I was breaking through to get into the action.
Do you know how they launch these giant vehicles? After everything is hooked up and the material rolled out, they use a stout fan to blow air into the balloon cavity. They hold the mouth open for easy air access.
We’re in Texas, after all.
At a certain point, they turn on the gas burners to fill the balloon with hot air. Since the hot air rises, the balloon begins to float upwards. The reclining basket begins to stand erect. Things get exciting, photographically, when the flames come alive.
They started this process near sunrise so it wasn’t very dark. It would’ve been interesting to capture the glow in the dark.
The balloons take off quickly. This multicolored one was up and away, a lot quicker than expected.
All told there were about a half a dozen that took off that day. A small event compared to the ones in New Mexico but my friend Steven said this one was more accessible. He went to New Mexico to photograph those giant 100+ balloon launchings and he said the traffic was challenging. This small one in Austin was perfect for me. Relatively close to home, I got back by 9am and slept until 1.
From downtown street photography on 6th Street to a balloon launching out in the Hill Country, it was a busy 12 hours of shooting last weekend. Either I’m getting lazier or I’m seeing better but I ended up using one camera and a single 35mm equivalent lens to shoot everything. At least I got to travel light.