31 December 2009

How to Work a Crowd

This interesting video gives you some ideas how to turn a full room of strangers into new friends. How do you behave in a room full of new people?

30 December 2009

Last Minute Tickets for Magritte Museum

Le Fils de L'homme

Since 2009 a new Magritte Museum has been opened in Brussels. We visited the museum, it gives a good overview of the early years of Magritte.

Purchasing your tickets in advance over the Internet is recommended. The museum is sold out regularly. But if you pass by the museum when tickets are still available, and you want to visit the collection I will share a little secret with you to beat the queues. Go to one of the cloakrooms of the museum and look for touch screen displays with an electronic payment terminal next to it. At the touch screen displays you can see which tickets are still available for that day (only a limited number of people may enter the museum per hour) and purchase them (Visa/Mastercard accepted). Inexplicably the museum does not mention this possibility on its web site.  I only found out about this because I asked a French speaking museum assistant if they have an Internet PC somewhere. He directed me to the touch screen displays.

When I visited the museum I saw the touch screen displays at the cloak rooms of the entrance Regentschapsstraat 1 and Koningsplein 1. The last entrance is for individual visitors with tickets. Why you can buy tickets at the cloakroom of this entrance, is a Belgian mystery…

26 December 2009

Handy Calendars for 2010

In preparation for 2010 I want to share two handy calendars with you. These calendars do not require batteries, a PDA or other electronic devices (-:


The first calendar is the small calendar.  With this handy calendar you can quickly determine on which day (Monday, Tuesday, etc..) a certain date falls. For instance, March 19 is a Friday. Read more about this calendar on Grafish Design’s Blog.

The second calendar is the compact calendar. This calendar is ideal when you want a whole year on one page, so you can quickly see things like “how many days are available, including weekends?” and “when are specific days like holidays?”. Many people use tools like Gantt charts or Microsoft Project. But these tools do not always give a good overview of a year. Read more about the compact calendar on the web site of the designer David Seah.

22 December 2009

100+ Beautiful Examples of Black and White Photography

This web site contains beautiful examples of black and white photography.

How to Photograph Christmas Lights (Outside)

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Photographing holiday lights outside can be very nice because you have the ambient light combined with the electrical light and candles. Strobist has some nice advice on how to get good pictures. The most important advice is to arrive early. Have some sky in the picture to get the wonderful blue colour.

Later in the evening you can still take nice photos, but the sky will be black.

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21 December 2009

Extreme Snowfall 2009

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This Sunday was one of the worst days to drive in Holland. On the motorway Amsterdam-Rotterdam it got very bad starting from Leiden. Due to lots of snow and slippery conditions on the highway we drove only 30 km/h and had to keep distance from the other cars. Braking was out of the question. The car started to slip sideways immediately.

The next day the roads were a little better, but public transportation still had lots of trouble.

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19 December 2009

Flash Technique

The last evening of the photo course will be dedicated to flash photography. Since there is a lot to read and watch about this topic, I decide to share with you in advance what I have learned.

In the beginning I started with on-camera flash with analog photography (film). The flash is directed straight at the subject. You had to know how far your flash was from the subject. By dividing the guide number (GN) with the distance (in meters) to your subject you ended up with the right aperture value. My photos looked boring with lots of shadows. This was not satisfactory.
Later on I used a Braun 370 BVC flash which contained an onboard flash computer. This gave better results, but flash photography remained a mystery to me.
braun 370bvc front_LR
braun 370bvc back_LR

Fast forward to the digital age with Canon equipment (sorry Nikon users). All the math is not necessary anymore because the camera calculates the right amount of flash output. But still, the flash pictures were not entirely satisfactory.

Thanks to the Internet I have learned a lot from the following people.

Planet Neil
Neil Cowley is a wedding photographer which uses flash light in his photos, without you noticing it. He has been so kind to write an entire tutorial. I liked his articles so much, I even bought and read his book. These articles are a must read to understand flash photography and how to avoid the classic flash picture with shadows and the 'deer in the headlights' look. He taught me to take a photo like this:

Of course your basic metering skills have to be OK. Neil has a tutorial for this.

David Hobby takes flash photography to the next level. His Lighting 101 discusses the more technical side of lighting. His proposal is to use small camera flashes (strobes) on light stands instead of the big rigs with lights umbrellas, stands and more. No computer aided exposure, but manual exposure to get more predictable results. I learned from David how to work with colour temperature of daylight, tungsten and flash light. I have not started yet to work with multiple strobes.

Flash photography with Canon EOS Cameras
This is a must read for Canon users who want to know more about the technical side of Canon flash photography. It gives you insight on how the system behaves.

Some other links
Here are some more interesting links explaining the Canon EOS flash system

18 December 2009

Christmas Tree 2009

Christmas Tree 2009
Merry Christmas!

Last Photo Course Evening of 2009

I attended the last photo course evening of 2009.
The topics were:
  • The basics of portrait lighting
  • Results of the B&W shooting session at the windmill
  • Examples of portrait photography
The basics of portrait lighting
The first photo course evening of the new year will be dedicated to taking portrait photos of various models. We will work in teams consisting of a model, a photographer and an assistant (side note: I think we will have to take a lot of water with us. The models will be lighted with continuous lights which give off a lot of heat, as well as light).
Our teacher gave us some examples of various lighting positions:
  • full face
  • 1/3 face (one side of the face lit, the other one in shadows)
  • butterfly
  • profile
  • Rembrandt

The Rembrandt lighting technique is a very interesting one. As you can see in a lot of Rembrandt paintings, a model can be lit in such a way that a small triangle (of light) appears below one of the eyes.

Various camera positions in relation to the model were discussed. When the camera is higher than the eye level of the model, the model can look more humble / smaller. When the camera position is below eye level, the model can look dominant / more important.

Because this evening coincided with large amounts of snowfall in Holland, quite a few students did not make in time and missed the explanation of the lighting positions. Do not worry about that. The photographer David Ziser has released two excellent video tutorials on this topic.
The first tutorial is called 'Rembrandt Lives - Classical Views of the Face' and explains the various positions of the face in relation to the camera. Scroll down to the end of the blog post to see the video.
The second tutorial is called 'Rembrandt Lives Part 2 - Classical Lighting' and explains how to light the face to add detail and depth.
David uses a lot of wedding photos, since he is a wedding photographer. But his techniques can of course be applied to other situations as well.

Results of the B&W shooting session at the windmill
It was very interesting to see what photos each student made. Some had abstract photos, others played with light and shadow.
The group made a selection of my photos and grouped them together:
Overzicht Marc

Examples of portrait photography
To give us examples of several portrait photo styles, we took a look at photos from the following photographers:

OK, I am off to take some snow and landscape photos!

17 December 2009

Camera Settings - Low Light and B&W photography

Here is a description of some things I did during the low light and B&W photo sessions.
We were not allowed to use flash and we did not bring any reflectors with us.

Picture style monochrome, save photo in RAW+JPEG
The camera was set to picture style monochrome and RAW+JPEG format. This way the preview turned up in black and white so you can get a feel  how the photo looks like in B&W. When the photo is right the JPEG can be used. Otherwise the RAW file contains all the colour information which can be used to make a good B&W conversion.

Obtaining the 'correct' exposure was especially challenging inside the windmil. At first I used the Av setting to make a test photo. Based on the histogram I dialed in some extra exposure time on the subsequent photos. This soon became not practical because the exposure varied depending on the amount of 'bright areas' in the picture. I then realised that I wanted to expose for the skin and to have detail in the shadow parts. So I switched over to M(anual) exposure and set the exposure based on a spot metering of the skin. Some checks during the shooting on the histogram made sure that the highlights were not blown out in critical places.
The advantage of this approach is that the lighting on the photos is much more even than in Av mode.

Use Live View to minimize camera movement
Normally the mirror lockup function is used when you make a photo with a long shutter speed. Unfortunately on a Canon this function is buried somewhere in the menu (Custom Function III-6 on a 50D). So I used the Live View function. This way the mirror is moved up before the actual photo is taken. A Canon 50D has a dedicated button to activate Live View which is much easier than diving into the menus.
Another bonus is that I could see a preview of the photo in B&W on the display.

Use a tripod
Using a tripod makes sure your photos are not blurred by unwanted camera movement.

Look for geometric forms in B&W photos
Because colour is absent in the photo, geometric forms become more pronounced in B&W photos.
Outdoor toilet @ Papiermolen de Schoolmeester
In this photo of the outdoor toilet I experimented with the straight lines of the toilet house.

14 December 2009

Wiki heeft een winnaar (Wiki has a winner)

On the NAi (Nederlandse Architectuurinstituut) website I found an article about WLANL and my Huis Sonneveld panorama. Nice to know seven other people took the time to go to Huis Sonneveld.

11 December 2009

Black and White Photography at Papiermolen de Schoolmeester

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I have visited the Papiermolen (windmill) de Schoolmeester in Westzaan, Holland. Together with other students we got an assignment to make a report on how paper is made in this windmill.

Normally, paper is made from wood. In the old days paper was made from cotton. De Schoolmeester is the oldest (still operating) windmill in the world specialised in making paper from cotton. The facility consists of a windmill and a wooden shed of about 60 meters long.
First the cotton is shred to pieces by hand.
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The pieces are put into special containers with water. With wind power the cotton pieces are further broken down into pulp. The pulp is then used to make all sorts of paper. The shed is used to dry the paper.

Taking photos in the windmill proved to be a real challenge. The end result had to be in black and white (I am used to colour photography). During the tour the miller stood most of the time in front of windows, so almost all photos had to be taken in a backlit situation. At first I used Av (Aperture priority) and used exposure compensation to dial in some extra exposure. This soon became too tedious, so I used manual exposure. Exposure was set so you could still see some details in the shadows. The histogram was used to monitor that not too much of the photo was over exposed.

Since this was the first time for me to photograph in black and white I experimented with various geometric shapes.
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I especially liked to photograph the dust in the windmill.
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The entire reportage can be seen here.

07 December 2009

Turning off Google personalization

Google sometimes customizes your search results based on your past search activity on Google. In order to do this Google remembers you previous searches. If you don't like this, follow this guide to turn off personalization:
  • If you have a Google Account, remove your web history from the account.
  • If you don't have a Google account, a cookie in your browser is used to track your history.
    To disable this, perform these steps:

    1. In the top right corner of the search results page, click Web History.
    2. On the resulting page, click Disable customizations.(Because this preference is stored in a cookie, it will affect anyone else who uses the same browser and computer as you).

05 December 2009

Black and White Tips

I am refreshing my skills on black and white photography by re-reading the following web pages:

04 December 2009

Fifth Evening at the Photography Course - Contrast and Landscape Photography

This evening the following topics were discussed:
  • Various photos made by landscape photographers
  • Landscape photography assignment
  • Results of the evening photography session
  • Black and white photography at the Papiermolen
  • Black and white conversion in Photoshop
Various photos made by landscape photographers
We looked at and discussed landscape photos made by the following photographers:
(note: photos are not directly included into the blog in order to avoid copyright infringements).
    Each photographer has an own style. Some make conceptual pictures of the landscape. Others make intriguing series.

    Landscape photography assignment
    Our teacher gave us the next assignment (results must be available in January):
    Maak een serie foto's waarbij je de karakteristieke eigenschappen van het landschap gebruikt als verbindend element (create a photo series and use the characteristics of the landscape as a unifying element).

    To make it ourselves not too difficult our teacher gave us the advice to pick a landscape in our neighbourhood. The landscape photographers discussed should give us enough inspiration to make our own series.

    Results of the evening photography session
    The photos of the students were discussed. The effect of different lighting (tungsten, halogen) and color temperature settings could clearly be seen on the different pictures.
    Here you get an idea how the photo discussion looks like:
    Discussing photos at the photography course

    The photo is actually a first. It is the first photo taken of the group during an evening class!

    Black and white photography at the Papiermolen
    In a few days we will have a photography afternoon session at the Papiermolen.
    We have to be prepared:
    • Bring your tripod.
    • Dress warm.
    • Wear good shoes. The Papiermolen seems to be very windy and of course there is water in the neighbourhood.
    • Bring small change to pay the windmill operator.

    Our assignments at the Papiermolen are:
    • Take photos which look nice in black and white.
    • Take photos with high contrast subjects.
    • Take photos with different themes: black/white, light/shadows, texture.

    Camera settings:
    • JPEG shooters should experiment with the various monochrome settings on the camera.
    • RAW shooters can "shoot now", and "worry later about black/white conversion when sitting behind Photoshop".
    More will be told when we are at the location.
    Take an e-mail subscription on this blog so you won't miss the photos!

    Black and white conversion in Photoshop

    Our teacher gave a quick introduction how black and white conversion can be done in Photoshop. There are several ways to do a black and white conversion:
    • using the Red, Green or Blue channels.
    • using the channel mixer with layers

    01 December 2009

    Campaign Against Landmines

    Very realistic campaign against landmines. When you use this ketchup packet, you tear off the foot. The ketchup comes out and looks like the blood of the child.

    30 November 2009

    I Want It That Way

    This Backstreet Boys song seems to be an inspiration for many Youtube video makers. The video above has been watched more than 1 million times. The Backstreet Boys are looking for the group on the video to sing a duet!

    My favorite is still the one from the Dormitory Boys (2005).

    The next 5000 days on the web

    Here is another favorite TED video of mine. In 2005 Kevin Kelly talked about the next 5000 days on the web. We are right in the middle of these 5000 days!

    Wish list 2009

    This is my wish list for 2009. I will add things to these list when I think of something. So revisit this post to see up to date information!
    The links are for information purposes only.
    Items in strikethrough are already claimed (Thank You!)

    29 November 2009

    TED ideas worth spreading

    TED is a phenomenon coming from the USA. It started in 1984 to bring together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED!).
    This video is one of my favorites. Taryn Simon displays her photographs of secret sites of the USA, and also tells about the obstacles she had to overcome in order to make the photographs.
    Here is a direct link in case you have trouble playing the video.

    VIDEO: Wubbo Ockels on time and gravity

    TEDxAmsterdam: Wubbo Ockels from TEDxAmsterdam on Vimeo.

    Interesting presentation from TEDxAmsterdam of Wubbo Ockels on 'time'. I think I have to watch it again to understand what Wubbo means...

    25 November 2009

    Diez atracciones gratuitas en Europa

    The Spanish must like the Verzetsmuseum a lot! Here is another article featuring one of my photos.

    Wikilovesart /NL aftermath

    Photos I released with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license for the Wikilovesart /NL project are slowly being used.
    The Verzetsmuseum seems to be a popular subject
    A Spanish web site uses one of my photos in an article about the Dutch Verzetsmuseum. The photos is hyperlinked to the source, nice!

    Another Spanish web site lists the top 10 free attractions in Europe. Number 10 is the Verzetsmuseum.

    A German web site writes an article about heating buildings and uses a photo of a transmitter in a suitcase. I don't understand the connection...

    And last but not least: The local TV station AT5 has used my photo of the front of the Verzetsmuseum in an article about the director of the Verzetsmuseum.

    LAC 2009

    I attended the Landelijk Architectuur Congres 2009 at NBC Business Center, Nieuwegein. The opening session was very refreshing. It was a wake up call to all IT architects: spend less time on your models (like TOGAF) and spend more time on explaining what is possible with IT in simple terms (story telling). I liked this message so much that I decided to tweet about this.
    At the end of the session the real-time twitter feed of #lac2009 was put on the main screen. You can see my tweet - it is the third on the list (-:

    My colleague Erik Kiel did a presentation on 'a contextual approach to IT architecture'.

    Productivity Future Vision

    Nice future vision of how people can interact with computers in the future. Pay close attention and take a look at the ' boarding card of the future' (1 minute into the video), and how to navigate and meet someone in the airport of the future (2:03 minutes, and the airport actually exists today - it is Hong Kong Airport).

    Spandau Ballet Live at the O2 DVD

    As you can read in my previous posts, I visited Spandau Ballet at the O2 in London. A DVD of the live performance will be released at 30 November 2009. The Youtube video above gives you a preview!

    19 November 2009

    Evening photography - View from Westerdok Apartment Building

    I got a chance to take some photos from the Westerdok apartment building (thanks Hans!).
    First an interesting building in the neighbourhood (who can tell me the name of this building?)

    Canon 50D, Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM @ 17mm, 20 secs @ f8, ISO 100
    I like the metal structure and the lighting. It 'lifts' up the building.

    The view from the Westerdok apartment building is magnificent!

    Canon 50D, Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM @ 17mm, 30 secs @ f8, ISO 100
    Top left is the Prorail building. At the bottom you can see Cafe Restaurant Open. This restaurant is situated in an old turn track bridge dating from 1922.

    Canon 50D, Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM @ 42mm, 17 secs @ f8, ISO 100
    Detail shot of the Prorail building. I like the trail of the moving train next to the building.

    Canon 50D, Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM @ 55mm, 30 secs @ f8, ISO 100
    Photo of the Posthoornkerk and the Westerkerk (background).
    You can see the train passing by at the bottom part of the photo.

    And to end the series, here is an abstract one:

    Canon 50D, Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM @ 55mm, 10 secs @ f8, ISO 100
    Can you see the train I followed?

    Fourth evening at the photography course - The rough patch

    Second and final stop of the evening photo shoot was the location defined as "the rough patch of Amsterdam". Luckily it turned out to be not that bad. It was the Westerdokskade near the rail tracks.

    Exposure details: 20 secs @ f8, 18mm, ISO 100

    Same place, but with some light painting:

    Exposure details: 30 secs @ f8, 18mm, ISO 100

    Exposure details:15 secs @ f11, 20mm, ISO 100
    Graffiti was light painted with a Fenix L2D LED flashlight.

    Exposure details: 15 secs @ f8,ISO 100, 21mm

    I made a second photo with double the exposure time

    Exposure details: 30 secs @ f8,ISO 100, 21mm

    18 November 2009

    Fourth evening at the photography course - Brouwersgracht

    This evening we went for a photo shoot in the city to learn how to take photos in low light situations.
    Technical details: pictures were made with Canon 50D, Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM lens on a tripod and the RAW images were processed in DXO Optics Pro v6.
    First stop: Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam.

    Exposure details: 30 secs @ f11, ISO 100, 17mm.
    I chose Tungsten white balance when converting to JPG.

    Exposure details: 45 secs @ f11, ISO 100, 20mm.
    I like the light trails left behind by the cars (and the circles of course).

    Exposure details: 30 secs @ f8, ISO 100, 17mm

    Exposure details: 20 secs @ f11, ISO 100, 49mm, Gorillapod, tungsten white balance selected during raw conversion.

    After shooting these pictures, we went to the next stop: a more "rough patch" of Amsterdam. For pictures of this dangerous place see my upcoming blog post.

    Photos for EP - Part 2

    I selected some photos for my 'Eigen Project' (own project). As a working theme I have 'contrast'. Examples: light/dark, young/old, short/tall, male/female. Another topic which could be a theme is something with architecture.

    This is a staircase in Theatro Museum Dali. I walked past by, and returned to take this photo. What's special about this photo is that it looks like I have converted the photo into black and white. But this is not the case. The light and colours are exactly as what you would have seen when you were standing next to me.

    This art piece is hanging in the lobby of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. I like the light and colour of it.

    This is the restaurant on the ground floor of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The photo is an HDR image consisting of three photos: the normal exposure, the 2 stops below and 2 stops over normal exposure. This way you can see the detail in the glass, as well as the individual lights in the light ornament.

    This is the view from the restaurant of the National Portrait Gallery, London (HDR image consisting of three photos).