Blind for the beauty around me

Concerning landscape and wildlife photography, I always think I live in a boring place. Most of my pictures are taken far away on holiday or I needed to travel some distance at least. I’m a father of 2 young daughters now. Anaïs is 5 and Stina is on her way to her 1st year. Fatherhood, combined with a daytime job and a wife, who I can’t neglect, that wants us-time once in a while; it’s very hard to go out to photograph. Sounds familiar?

Bart Heirweg, a landscape photographer and Nikon ambassador who lives in the same region as me, has quite an impressive portfolio. I noticed most of his pictures are from the Flemish Ardennes. That’s right, my own surroundings where I don’t see any opportunities myself. A couple of his (e-)books are location guides which describe interesting places in Belgium where you can go out and shoot. A lot of scouting and preparation has already been done. Since some of these places are close to my home, it’s a good starting point for me to go out and shoot, without being away for a whole day.

Another fun fact; a lot of his pictures are taken with a telephoto zoom lens; the Nikkor 80-400 F4.5/5.6 VR to be precise. A lens which doesn’t get a lot of attention lately because it's overshadowed by the Nikkor 200-500 F5.6 VR. For landscapes, it has a very workable focal range next to lens like a 24-70. Bart stated in an article in Shoot, a Belgium photo magazine, that a telephoto zoom lens gives you the possibility to focus and to zoom in on the things that matter. If the sky is flat and boring, why keep it in your frame? Just exclude it.

Reading all those things made me realize, I'm blind for the beauty around me. I’ve promised myself to commit myself to take more pictures in my own region! While doing more and more research on Google Maps, Facebook and Flickr, a whole new world is opening up for me.

Last weekend we want for a walk with the family to the Scheldemeersen, one of the locations described in the location guide. An opportunity to scout. Acutally it only lasted 30m before my oldest wanted to eat a pancake in a tavern nearby. But during those 30m I already had an idea for a picture! Yesterday morning, right before work, I visited the Scheldemeersen again. To be honest I was hoping for a foggy morning. Fortunate I have flexible hours and my work is not very far away, so I can return often.

Let this be the first photo of many of the Flemish Ardennes!

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Pairi Daiza

I’m not a very big fan of zoo’s, let alone photographing in one. But my daughter loves them. Last week we visited Pairi Daiza with some friends. It’s not far away from where I live, and I believe it’s one of the better zoo’s of Europe. Anyways, since I’ve recently bought my first mirrorless, the Nikon Z7, I wanted to give it a go with my 80-400. Unfortunate, most of the time it was raining and my camera stayed in the bag. But I managed to get this close-up..

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Speicherstadt unprepared

During on of our walks in, when we were in Hamburg on a city trip, I came across this view from the Poggenmühlbridge. Immediately, I remembered I had this view as a wallpaper on my computer for months. I was desperate to photograph this place in the late evening and I convinced my wife to visit this spot again when it was becoming dark. When we returned a couple of photographers were already there. All waiting with their camera's on their tripods. I never take my tripod with me on these kind of short breaks with Jill. The focus is us-time, not photographing.

It was getting darker and darker outside, while there were still no lights on the buildings. I started to lose hope to take a decent picture without my tripod. To be honest, I was also getting nervous and wanted to leave because we were late for our restaurant which we booked. I changed our reservation up front to a later moment for this occasion, but even that time we couldn’t make anymore. My wife convinced me to stay since we already were waiting for more than an hour.

While we were waiting, we talked to the photographer and his wife, who were standing next to us. Seems I’m not the only one who drags his wife with him, to photograph something. They were from Frankfurt and it was not his first time taking pictures of night scenes. His portfolio was rather impressive.

Suddenly all the lights went on! Using the railing of the bridge was too tricky and normally in these kind of situations I would of used my camera bag to rest my camera on. I didn’t have my bag with me since I was traveling as light as possible with my new mirrorless setup. But my newly met acquaintance from Frankfurt had a really big camera backpack. I was no problem to use it. Because of that I needed to use a very low viewpunt, which wasn’t a bad thing.

I quickly shot a couple of pictures before we left for the restaurant. We arrived almost an hour late and unfortunate our table was gone. I can’t blame them. After we apologized and told our story, they managed to free another table!

I didn’t have a chance to HDR bracket this scene, because I wasn’t photographing on a sturdy tripod. I watched to histogram very closely to be careful not to blow my highlights. At home, when post processing this picture in Lightroom I managed to recover all the juicy details from the shadows. The dynamic range of the Nikon Z7 is quite impressive. When my wife asks me what to buy for the holidays, I’ll ask for a good compact travel tripod!

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Barn Owls

Photographing a Barn Owl was on my bucket list for some years. Recently, I had the chance to photograph them in the wild. Picture was taken in an half open old barn during night time. There was a constant source of light which the owls got used to over time. It was a privilige to photograph these graceful birds that have left a strong impression. A night to remember! Also because of the fact I forgot my mosquito repellent. ;)

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Little Owls

In 2016 I have made a reservation for a photography hide for these little birds.  Unfortunate the day before my reservation, they all had flown away.  Disappointed as I was, I immediately made a new reservation for the beginning of June this year.  

Luck was at my side this time!  For over an hour a we could photograph this Little Owl with her chick.  The most fun and cute birds I have photographed!  

My selection out of approximately 650 pictures.