Looking for Textures

A shot from a shoot I did the other day for a magazine shows how important textures and patterns are:

Without the wonderful sun/wave texture, the picture of such an uncharacteristically nice day for the Netherlands would have been rather boring.

We find textures and repeating patterns everywhere – when I am a travel photographer, I make a point of looking for them.

In this case:

  • I used the wide angle lens
  • I pointed it down to give me that feeling of being surrounded by the water.
  • I exposed carefully, down a little to get the saturated colours.
  • Using a wide lens allowed the entire picture to be in focus even at f/5.6.

The lens also served to make the people in the shot small and hence unrecognizable, which given that they are nude is probably a good thing.

You see that even for a picture like this, some thought goes into it. Ask yourself questions and you will come up with the answers!


Here’s a flash with a small 8″ Honl softbox:

Sometimes, bouncing is not the solution. For a snap like this, you would:

  1. Decide on the desired brightness for the background
  2. Set your aperture, shutter and ISO accordingly
  3. Turn on your off-camera TTL flash
  4. Hold it “where the umbrella would be”
  5. Click.

The key here is to use an off-camera flash – even in a simple snap of your child, this would lead to a better simple snap.

Here’s one with direct unmodified on-camera flash, of me and the same son smoking a cigar in Amsterdam (better than the alternative):

And sometimes you just use open shade only, as in this image of my other son in front of Café Hoppe in Amsterdam:

The important thing is to always think of light – “what do I need”.



Can you see the decisive moment, in this shot of Schoonhoven’s corn storage house, designed hundreds of years ago to stop famines due to freezing corn?

Right. The man’s head in the arch. You need to pay attention to these details: moment is important.

Back to my expensive bandwidth.



Today, a few more shots from The Distillery Historic District in Toronto. This time, decay, remnants.

I often find to helps me to think “what is my theme”, when I do urban photography. And as you can see, the theme for today’s pictures was “remnants”. The passing of time, if you will. This fits well with

  • Rain
  • Sombre black and white images.
  • Contrast (the shot with the pipes uses a blue filter effect).
  • Detail shots.
  • Lone items, no people.

When you have decided your theme, see what kind of photography would suit that theme: and things fall into place by themselves. Pretty much.


I am on a trip

You can guess where.

Today, no lesson, just snaps:

Haastrecht and the Rule of Thirds:

Gouda, by the St Jan cathedral:

Behind it, the sombre Jewish Cemetery:

On Kleiweg, a traditional street organ:

And my son Daniel at Gouda’s Town Hall, in the rain:

Yes, wide angle lenses rock; yes, you can use them in the rain; yes, you can tilt; yes, you look for storytelling details, and yes, exposure is critical – shoot RAW. And yes, use the Rule of Thirds.

And yes, most of these images would have been much easier if I had had my speedlight on the camera.

And finally, yes, even no-flash grab shots can be worth taking. Document your life!