It’s been a while since my last posting.. I also haven’t had as much time for adventuring. I recently returned from a trip to the motherland – Nederland. Every year, or two years or so, I make the pilgrimage back to see the family, make grandmothers happy, etc. For those of you who weren’t aware or hadn’t guessed, I am 100% Dutch. We believe that there’s a distant relationship to the famous Dutch painter Peter Brueghel (the differences in spelling are consistent with changes in the language). Anyways, while most of my time was spent visiting relatives, racing through the countryside on trains, or eating Dutch delicacies like raw Herring, vlaamse friet (real fries, cooked with horse fat), and poffertjes (bite size pancake like things).. I did manage to sneak outside a few times. Now, the dutch landscape is not by any means dramatic or awe inspiring by most countries’ standards, but that didn’t stop me from finding some beautiful spots.

This first image is from the Schoorlse Duinen, which is near Bergen aan Zee. Translated that literally means “Mountains by the Sea”. So yes, the image below showcases the majestic and awe inspiring high mountain peaks of the Netherlands. Technically they are dunes, covered in vegetation of course. Photographing in the golden hour in a place like the Netherlands, which is at a much higher latitude than, say, Southern California, has it’s ups and downs. Sleep must be sacrificed – sunset is at 10:30pm and sunrise is at 5am or so, but the ‘golden hour’ lasts a lot longer than it does down here in California. I can only imagine what pain the poor Norwegians go through if they want to see sunset and sunrise on consecutive days.. Well, I set my alarm for 4am, saw that the clouds looked pretty promising, and headed out into the dunes. Generally it’s advisable to stay on the hard path when you’re biking.. apparently I made a wrong choice somewhere and ended up on a path that dwindled down to a sandy foot track. After a lot of exertion from pushing the bike through the loose sand, I found the path back (I didn’t want to turn around at this point!). As the sun rose and turned the thunder clouds pink I started searching for something.. anything! These tufts of grass on the top of a small hill caught my eye, and I got there just in time for the breaking sunlight.

“Strijklicht” ~ Schoorlse Duinen, the Netherlands
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII @ 27mm, tripod, 2-stop hard GND
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/5th sec
Notes: It was constantly a little breezy, and having studied a number of moving grass photos, I came to the realization that for a scene like this, just enough motion to blur the blades was ideal. An overly long exposure renders the grasses as fluffy blurs that don’t have the same beautiful brush like impact that the grasses do in person. I found 1/5th sec was just right (I had a Singh-Ray Vari ND on hand in case I needed a longer exposure. Title explained lower down.

My next opportunity to escape was in Oisterwijk, my grandma’s town and my father’s hometown. My dad and I went for a bike ride through his childhood playground – the Oisterwijkse Vennen. The most promising spot I found was actually on the edge of the Kampina Hei, a large prairie like space. I spotted a stand of birches that I knew would catch some special light in the late evening.. so after dinner we returned to this scene. It’s rare to get real side light in a forest, since when the sun is that low there’s usually way too many trees in the way to let the light through. Since this relatively sparse grove was at the edge of a large flat open space it got soaked in golden light.

” ‘t Berkenbos (v)” ~ Kampina Hei, the Netherlands
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm @ 35mm, tripod, polarizer
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 0.8 sec
Processing: I had to double process the raw file to control the shadows and highlights in this one. Using the select color range tool and some gaussian blur it’s pretty easy to make the appropriate mask.

” ‘t Berkenbos (h)” ~ Kampina Hei, the Netherlands
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm @ 55mm, tripod, polarizer
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 0.6 sec
Processing: I had to double process the raw file to control the shadows and highlights in this one. Using the select color range tool and some gaussian blur it’s pretty easy to make the appropriate mask.

Normally I don’t like to have multiple copies of almost exactly the same scene, but I simply can’t choose between these two. I like the verticality and open feeling of the first, and the graphic abstract nature of the second. So, I’ll present both and you can take your pick, or not 🙂

Now, most of you probably still have no idea what the title, strijklicht means. The Dutch are much more advanced when it comes to terms for light, as the single word “strijklicht” means “warm, low-angled soft light” – ie. the light every photographer loves. I don’t know if it’s the digital revolution or what, but for some reason I see very few images these days that actually take advantage of this kind of light – it seems like it’s all about the pink and red sunset colors and completely diffuse lighting for forests and waterfalls. Granted, that kind of light is much easier to exposure for and process. A little bit of direct light, however, adds an incredible dimension of depth and life to an image. If you look at many of the famous old large format shooters, they used a lot more direct light than what I see being done digitally, while we have a distinct advantage in dynamic range over velvia now! So, I’ve decided that while it can be harder to find, more difficult to expose for, and sometimes less dramatically colorful than the pink colors, I’m going to make a concerted effort to continue looking for opportunities to photograph in this kind of light. As you hopefully saw in these images, it can turn rather ordinary and bland subjects into marvelous sights. It’s like putting a delicious jelly on a plain old piece of bread.

2 Responses to Strijklicht

  1. Hi Floris.

    I didn`t know you came from Nederland…but I knew you were european in origin though.

    Hope you had a great time in Nederland…I know I had two years ago.
    Excellent photographs from you wherever you go.
    Very nice work.

    *regarding Norway; yes, the small hours of so-called darkness can also be quite stunning. At the same time, it means neglecting sleep as well.
    Especially if you`re in the mountains.
    When I`m hiking in the mountains I usually sleep max. 2-3 hours a day, but the beauty really makes me forget all about sleeping. In some places the lichen covered landscape makes it look like another world where the ground lights the way for you.
    But…do I sleep heavily when getting home?!

    Take care, Floris.

    Seung Kye

  2. Jacco Rens says:

    Hi Floris,

    You captured your country of origin fantastically here. I like the Shoorlse Duinen picture most, but maybe that’s because I know that place so well. I understand that bike issue you had there, it happens me too now and then while discovering unknown places when in a hurry.

    Next time we should have a kopje koffie! 😉


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