Walking along the Zuidas

Originally I wanted to hike the Amsterdamse Bos yesterday, but I left home late, and I feared I might not get out before dark. So instead I decided to walk towards the Amstelpark. There and back again taking the scenic route is a little over ten kilometers. You can walk this route through the green belt that divides the ever nearer growing cities of Amstermdam and Amstelveen. This belt is purposely kept open so that animals such as lizards, birds, and small mammals can still move around Amsterdam. Yesterday I chose a different route though, staying close to the highway for most of my walk.

This is the Zuidas (lit. South Axis), the belt of recent high-rises hugging the Southern part of the Amsterdam ringway. Lots of banks here, law firms, convention centers, and the World Trade Center.

Intermezzo: the Southern exit of the Amstelpark.

A menorah in a wall near the RAI convention center. I don’t know whether there was actually something there that the owners decided to rescue from the cold steel of the wrecking ball, or whether the wrecking crew decided to have a lark.

Same building.

Happy 2008

Happy

New Year

Shortest day 2007

Took a lunch break and my camera to the Van Tuyll – Van Serooskerkenplein. There was snow-like frilly stuff on all the traditionally green things, er, plants.

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Going for a walk

I haven’t been hiking for ages. Part of that was because I was busy with work; and on top of that, I tore a muscle in my left calf right after the last job. Scary business, because I did not know what was wrong. I wasn’t really feeling pain, I just could not fully develop my leg, and everytime I walked more than fifty meters (for instance if I went shopping), I’d break out in a sweat and start to limp.

The doctor didn’t sound like he was sure either, but he thought I probably had torn torn a muscle, and he said the condition could take up to six weeks to heal. In my case after four weeks everything already felt fine. So this weekend I decided to take a short walk to the nearby Beatrixpark and back.

The people of Amsterdam have locked up their boats for the winter. When it’s warm you can see boats full of bottles of rosé being sailed through the canals by half-drunk locals, but sailing truly is a summer sport here.

[photo of boats covered with tarpaulins]

I am such a slow student of photography. Part of that is undoubtedly because I have no taste. It has taken me a while to realize that unsharp originals are just not acceptable. And part of the reason I have been taking so many unsharp photos is because this camera really needs a lot of light. Next time I am going to experiment some with using (improvised) camera stands and shorter exposure times. Today I used the flash. I hate the flash, but for the next photo I think it worked quite well, because it pulled the subject into the foreground.

[photo of yellow spindly flowers]

Going home I came across this flower stand on the Olympiaplein. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a flower stand with a see-through door before. It looks a bit like somebody left a teenage boy’s bedroom in the street. It reminded me of the large glass display cases a furniture store had out on the pavement in my city of birth. I used to fantasize about living in one of these.

[photo of a flower stand]

The office, April 2007

Pictures I took in and around my office last April.

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Back then I didn’t think anybody would want to see photos of the remains of fish fingers, but today I saw an arty photo of a blob of ketchup on a sink on a blog that seemed to suggest otherwise.

Amsterdamse Bos revisited

I packed some weight in my back-pack, because sometime this summer I will go hiking in the Ardennes, and I will be schlepping a dozen or so kilos worth of camping gear, food, drinks and clothes along. In other words: preparation time. I went for another walk through the Amsterdamse Bos, this one a bit shorter than last time, but still taking up well over three hours.

The stinging nettle. Hated for its sting, loved for its qualities as foodstuff and medicine. Distant relative of the equally hardy and useful marijuana. I am bit afraid to pick them in and around Amsterdam, because you never know who peed on them, making it quite a while since I have had nettle soup.

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Sunlight reflecting off water onto the bottom of a bridge.

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Ooh, I so hate these. Another accidental photo that I like. This time I was trying to take a picture of a very muddy stream, aiming at the point where it disappeared into the forest. When I got home I realised that sunlight projecting through the overhanging leaves turned the yellow-brown of the water into all kinds of green, giving the scene an emerald quality. This is a crop of that photo.

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Green in Broek in Waterland

After a hiatus of a couple of weeks I went hiking again with my brother and his girlfriend. We took a short 10 mile walk south of a small picture postcard town just North of A’dam called Broek in Waterland, which is Dutch for “more water than even we consider healthy” (“broek” is pronounced “brook,” you figure out the rest).

Lots of birds and plants you can also find in the city, and some that you won’t such as buzzards and swallows.

Apparently Peter the Great stayed here once in a wooden house just like this (or perhaps exactly like this; we didn’t look very far).

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In the next photo I enhanced the contrast a little. OK, a lot.

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The bright colours on the next one are pretty much as they came off the camera. Most of the rest of the photos I took had a pretty strong blue colour cast, which I had to correct by hand, but this one was just fine and only required some local sharpening after the scaling down had blurred it.

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I am not sure I managed to fix the blue colour cast on the next one, but I like the oily look.

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Some more flowers.

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Warmest April day ever

The news said that today was the warmest April day ever recorded in the Netherlands. The measuring of temperatures at the same location (De Bilt) goes back a hundred years or so here, if I recall correctly. 28 degrees celsius.

I have been sick for a couple of weeks. Last week I tried a small hike by myself, but got tired pretty quickly. Yesterday my brother called if I wanted to come along, and I said yes. He and his girlfriend and a friend of hers wanted to go towards the beach. The way I understood it we would first take a long walk, and then the girls wanted to stay at the beach for a while, but as it turned out it was just going to the beach, with a long walk to the spot where we would stay.

Beach means: beige or blue, and sometimes beige and blue. We left early (seven in the morning) with the idea to avoid the queues and have the bonus of coming home early and still have some day left. We went to Wijk aan Zee, which is just North of IJmuiden, the town of the steel industry. Large chimney stacks dominate the view at the beach for miles in all directions.

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I only noticed the bug when I was sorting out the photos back home.

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The four elements: earth, water, wind and nekkid white folk. Or: the flag of a country, blue, blue, beige.

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I think I may have told you about how no beautiful thing has ever left my hands, and how I am trying to develop an own aesthetic regardless. The other day I realized that as part of that, I am developing my own vocabulary. I am learning what this camera can do, and what I can do, and how I can use these things in pronouncing this aesthetic I am after. There’s a lot of frustation in there, because I am learning to say things that I don’t necessarily want to say; or perhaps I am learning words that I don’t know yet how to use.

But whatever I do, I continuously assume that the pictures I make with the express purpose of making pretty pictures will turn out better than the accidental ones. And I get foiled at every turn. The next picture is my favourite in the batch because of the wild dunes in the background and the solitude of the sign — or perhaps because the sign makes it seem about something –, but the only reason I took it was because I wanted to know what it said on the sign, and was too lazy to walk over there. (You cannot see at this zoom level, but the sign warns against treacherous currents.)

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Blossom

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Six Mountains hike

Last Sunday we walked the Zesbergenroute (Six Mountains Hike), although you’d have to take those mountains with a pinch of salt. A pinch of salt is actually quite a good description of the size of these “mountains”. In the land of the blind…

My brother couldn’t come; officially he was in Lapland training for a trip to Greenland next year, and just as officially he had returned early with blisters and frostbite. So his girlfriend and a friend of hers and I went without him.

We had run out of offical routes to walk, and turned to the internet for help, which was quickly provided by the Zesbergenroute of Paula Versnick and Gerard Verwierst. The popularity of their “open source” approach was quickly proved when we met other ramblers who were fumbling the same set of print-outs.

The hike is about 10 miles (16 km), starts and ends in Huizen, and leads through a varied landscape. The area around Huizen is wedged between ancient deposits of the last ice age’s glaciers and a lake that used to be part of a much large open (to the sea) lake we used to call the South Sea. Mostly sand and heath, but also forests, fields and shores.

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The forests both had deciduous and evergreen trees, and sometimes one type would line one side and the other type would line the other side of the path.

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The last stage took us quickly through Huizen’s brown-lands in order to show us the old village behind them, but the former can often be just as interesting.

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