Sunday, 27 December 2009

Winter in Holland

The winter started early this year. A short overview: On December 14-th it started to freeze seriously. The cold weather continued the entire week and on December 19-th the temperature stayed even at daytime below –10ºC (see also my previous post). On December 20-th heavy snowfall swept the country. A soft white blanket covered everything, and as usual the whole public transport system collapsed. A few days later temperatures already went up above zero.
As usual I really got nervous and wanted to photograph everything at the same time. By now I know that especially in these situations it is important to focus and to draw up a plan (make sure that you can take a few days off!). I decided to do forest landscapes in the neighborhood directly after the snowfall, and to spend the rest of the time to bird photography. My favorites:
  • A high key exposure of an inquisitive Nuthatch (Sitta Europaea/Boomklever) at a feeding station in the forest. She behaves in worst Rambo style (fits well with its Zorro mask), chasing off all the tit species and scattering seeds in all directions.
  • A line of poplar silhouettes mirrored by the Dommel river. I like the tight maze of dead branches; 3 months from now the sound of drumming woodpeckers is all around at this place.
  • I like to capture simple things with my camera, such as this plain water-through for the cattle with a snow-covered bald corn field in the background.
  • The title of this photo “Blue Cathedral”. I showed the same forest path (which is very close to my home) also in autumn colors on October 28-th 2009 on this blog.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Partridges in white

A few days ago the first snowflakes of this winter came down in The Netherlands; in my home village this resulted in a thin broken layer. But some 30km to the west, in Tilburg, there was a snow cover of almost 10cm.
There I found a convey of 6 Grey Partridges (Perdix perdix/Patrijs), in search for food. They are amazingly hardy, and endure much snow and cold weather.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Wet embrace

This morning I witnessed the courtship play of Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos/Wilde Eend). A few stages are shown in the following screenshots.
  • 3 excited ♂♂ surround a ♀. They all try to isolate her by chasing away the other ♂♂.
  • The dominant ♂, busy to make an impression. The ♀ seems not really interested.
  • But sometimes appearances are deceptive. A few seconds later: Intimate duck embrace.
  • Overview of the playground. I like this ‘bar-code’ image with just a few pixels in focus.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

November twitch

Somehow, I find November a good month for twitching. Today, I went to a 1-st winter Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius/Rosse Franjepoot); some years autumn gales bring singles or small groups inshore. This small wader breeds in the Arctic on coastal wet tundra. Sex roles are reversed; more attractively plumaged ♀♀ gather in flocks to compete for ♂♂, which tend eggs and young. They winter in the Atlantic off the African coast.
It was also a nice opportunity to test my 500mm lens, which has just been repaired and calibrated (the lens was heavily damaged when I tumbled over a stone after photographing Avocets on August 21-st, 2009). The bird was very tame and most of the time within the minimum focal distance. However, when it was not too close, I could take some photos. They were razorsharp. Test passed!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Papenvoortse Dijk

The “Papenvoortse Dijk”, a sandy path that runs between Nuenen (the village where I live) and Helmond, is the watershed between 2 local streams. Northern Red Oaks (Quercus rubra/Amerikaanse Eik) flank this dike; the leaves have deep red colors this time of year. The ridge of sand is deposited during the last ice age about 10.000 years ago. On the old topographic map of 1704 AD this dike was clearly visible. At that time it was a local ‘highway’ for farm carts loaded with sods of turf and dung. Miraculously, this connection survived as a sandy path in todays dense network of tarmac roads.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

To eat or not to eat?

Autumn is in full swing. This morning I found many yellow funnel-shaped mushrooms submerged in wet green moss beds. After careful studying at home, I compared pictures and descriptions in several mushroom fieldguides, I could not pinpoint them down to one species. I still doubt between the tasty Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius/Hanekam) and the non-edible False Cantharelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca/Valse Hanekam). When making this photo, I used diffuse silver-coated cardboard as reflection screens to get a bit more light to the gills.
Is there an expert that could help me out with the identification?
The first comment even offers a 3-rd possibility: Jack O'Lantern (Omphalotus illudens/Lantaarnzwam) which is however very rare in The Netherlands.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Stormy weekend

Again I went a few days to Terschelling, this time to do ‘seascape’ photography. The weather gods were very cooperative. On Friday October 2-nd dark clouds full of heavy rain showers filled the sky (in autumn they develop easily above the relatively warm water of the North Sea); the waves left nice foam traces on the sand. The next day things get really rough. The first autumn storm, SW 8, caused a real blizzard with sand-rays. I looked for a foreground object on the beach to create a surrealistic scene. A beer container washed ashore perfectly matched my requirements (beachcombers probably drunk the content, sorry for that :-). But the climax was Sunday morning. The wind even deepened a little further and turned clockwise, resulting in NW 8-9. When I arrived with my bike in early morning at the coast, I could not believe my eyes. The whole beach was gone; it was completely overtaken by a turbulent sea, with tidal waves sometimes surpassing the size of houses. Large groups of stilts, notably Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica/Rosse Grutto), Knot (Calidris canutus/Kanoet), Dunlin (Calidris alpina/Bonte Strandloper), and Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola/Zilverplevier) rushed against the strong wind in front of the high tidal waves, searching for a safe place to stay. The “Boschplaat”, a high-tide (HVP in Dutch) nature reserve, actually the last 10 km of land of eastern Terschelling, was flooded. Also a few migrating Great Skuas (Stercorarius skua/Grote Jagers) passed by at close range. Impressive!
With the above pictures I want to convey my emotional experience; you have to imagine yourself the salt taste in your month, the roaring of the wind in your ears, and the lashing sand rays on your skin.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Young Sanderling

Usually the island Terschelling is loaded with migrating birds in this season. However, for some unknown reason numbers are substantially lower this year. Luckily, small groups of Sanderlings (Calidris alba/Drieteenstrandloper) are already there.
I am very glad with this photo that clearly shows the beautiful juvenile plumage. It is a miracle that these birds, born last summer in Greenland, Siberia, or Canada, are now resting on the beach of Terschelling.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


At the end of this month I stayed midweek with my friend Arie Ouwerkerk on Terschelling. Two impressions of the salting near Seeryp, the place where Arie makes his famous flying-wader pictures. The 1-st photo is taken at high tide. Note the
Common Cordgrass (Spartina anglica/Engels Slijkgras) in the foreground. This is a very young species of cordgrass that originated from southern England in about 1870. It is very valuable for coastal erosion control, assisting in land reclamation from the sea. The drawback is that it smothers natural eco-systems and prevents waders from feeding. The 2-nd photo shows the old wooden sea-defense wall at low tide.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

31m25 N.A.P.

This year the ‘Indian summer’ brings sunny, warm weather. As a consequence the water level in the moorland lakes is very low.
Below the situation in the Mariapeel. Signs indicate a level of 31m25 N.A.P., a Dutch abbreviation meaning “Nieuw Amserdams Peil”.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Tidal difference of 1.5 meter!

Both photos are taken at almost the same location; the Waddensea near Zwarte Haan, Friesland. Experience what a tidal difference of 1.5m can do!
The picture above is captured with a 20mm wide-angle during rising water. The cracked soil of the salting is caused by tropical temperatures of 30ºC (or above) of the last 2 days. You could really hear the rising water by the bubbling in the mud cracks! The salt tolerant plants are Samphire (Salicornia europaea/Zeekraal).
The second photo freezes a group of landing Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta/Kluut) at high tide and is taken with a 500mm telelens and an additional 1.4x converter.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


This time of year, early mornings after cold calm nights give good opportunities to photograph insects (if you can find them!) loaded with dewdrops. Here is a ♀ White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes/Blauwe Breedscheenjuffer) waiting for the sun to get rid of its heavy load on a Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile/Holpijp).

Monday, 13 July 2009

Spooky moorland

This month we had many evenings with beautiful skies. On the photo above you see a sunset view taken from the “Galgenberg” right in the middle of the moor “Strabrechtse heide”. In the past criminals were hanged at this remote place (the Dutch word galg means gallow). After sunset (at 22h00 PM!) it was still spooky with all kinds nocturnal sounds, among which the strange churring trill of Nightjars (Caprimulgus europaeus/Nachtzwaluw). Just when I wanted to go home I found a Natterjack (Bufo calamita/Rugstreeppad) crawling on the sand. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph this amphibian with a wide-angle lens. The moor landscape is a ‘moderate’ HDR photo (see also posting of May 20-th 2009).

Friday, 3 July 2009

Sneak along the waterline

The Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana/Porseleinhoen) is a small waterbird of the family Rallidae. They are very secretive, and are mostly heard (a distinctive repetitive whiplash-like “hwuit-hwuit” call) rather than seen. Their breeding habitat is marshes and sedge beds across Europe into western Asia. The species is migratory, wintering in Africa and India.
Spotted Crakes have a short straight bill, yellow with a red base. Adults have mainly brown upperparts and blue-grey breast, with dark barring and white spots on the flanks. They have green legs with long toes, and a short tail which is buff underneath. The downy chicks are black, as with all rails.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Holiday butterflies

A small collection of butterflies that I photographed in the Alps during my summer holiday. The first photo shows my local field near Tschuggen, Belalp, in Switzerland, where I spotted most of these butterflies. Further from top to bottom:
  • Safflower Skipper (Pyrgus carthami/Witgezoomd Spikkeldikkopje); I have never seen this species before.
  • Wall Brown (Lassiommata maera/Rotsvlinder), well-camouflaged with folded wings in its natural habitat.
  • Mountain Ringlet (Erebia epiphron/Bergerebia) on ‘graphical’ leaves of Great Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea/Gele Gentiaan).
  • Purple-edged Copper (Lycaena hippothoe/Rode Vuurvlinder) to add some color to the series.
  • Almond-eyed Ringlet (Erebia alberganus/Amandeloogerebia), local on southern slopes in the Alps, but here at this time of the year the most ‘frequent flyer’.

Monday, 22 June 2009


A classic: Wide-angle shot of Alpine flora with snow-covered mountains in the background. The flower is Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina/Alpenanemoon). The photo is taken at 2200m at Belalp, Switzerland. After taking this photo it started to snow, strange experience at (almost) the longest day. I used a ND4 (2 stops) gradient filter to suppress the clouded sky.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

No man’s land

Colle del Gran San Bernardo (or Col du Grand Saint Bernard in French) is the most ancient pass through the Western Alps, with evidence of use as far back as the Bronze Age and many surviving traces of the Roman period. The blocky rock structure on the foreground reveals the old Strada Romana. The pass runs northeast-southwest through the Pennine Alps at a maximum elevation of 2,469m. The road running through the pass, highway E27, joins the canton of Valais, Switzerland, to the Aosta valley, Italy.
When we cross this pass harsh almost polar circumstances ruled. Strong icy winds pushed the clouds from the Swiss side upwards to the mountain slopes. After crossing the ridges, the clouds literally fall down sharply and resolved on the Italian side. Our car registered an outdoor temperature of 3°C, but with the wind chill it felt below zero.
On July 21-st, at the 16-th stage of the Tour de France 2009, the peloton will climb this HC (Haute Category) pass! I hope for them that it will be a bit warmer by then.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Some Dutch insects

Some common insects of the Mariapeel. From top to bottom: Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens /Weidebeekjuffer), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria/Bont Zandoogje) and a worn Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui/Distelvlinder) on flowering bramble. I tried to photograph them with ‘context’. Below you find more detailed species information.
Banded Demoiselle ♂, as on the photo, has translucent wings which each have a broad, dark iridescent blue-black spot (or band) across the outer part and a metallic blue body. Large numbers can be found in lush bank-side plants and on floating objects in slow-flowing streams and rivers and sometimes channels as well. ♂♂ court ♀♀ by opening their wings and performing an aerial dance.
Speckled Woods are highly territorial and will defend their territory against intruding ♂♂. For finding ♀♀, there exist 2 basic strategies: 1) Vigorously defend a perch and the immediate surroundings, waiting for ♀♀ to pass by. 2) Patrol a larger territory. Perching behavior is more common in ♂♂ of conifer woodland, whereas ♂♂ of meadows tend towards patrolling behavior. The nominate form has orange speckles, the tircis race, seen on the photo has yellowish cream-coloured speckles.
The Painted Lady occurs in any temperate zone, including mountains in the tropics. The species is resident only in warmer areas, but migrates in spring, and sometimes again in autumn. On average a Painted Lady butterfly travels around 1000 miles in its life. This spring huge numbers of migrating Painted Ladies are seen everywhere in The Netherlands.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Yes, my first HDR!

HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging is a technique to capture scenery with a very large dynamic range, such as sunsets or sunrises. Generally, the range of these scenes doesn't fit on the camera sensor. The technique works as follows: In the field different exposures (in this case, -2 stops, -1 stop, neutral, and +1 stop) are taken with a fixed aperture (only shutter time varies), and later at home these exposures are combined and compressed into a single photo with a computer program. Ideally, the most underexposed image should not contain clipped pixels in white, and the most overexposed image should not contain clipped pixels in black.The combining part results in a 3x32-bit HDR color image. The compressing part, called tone-mapping, downscales this large range to a normal 3x8-bit color image. An important requirement for success is that all the exposures are perfectly aligned. In other words, no camera motion and no motion in the scene itself is allowed within the time-frame in which the series of exposures are taken. In practice, this means working with a tripod and a (wireless) remote control, and of course calm weather.
For this orchid field sunset it did the HDR postprocessing with Photomatix 3.1 using default settings.
There is a lot of debate going on the Internet about whether HDR technique gives realistic results (by the way, what are these?). Plain sensor readouts are certainly not realistic. Playing around with Photomatrix for just an evening gave me at least the feeling that I have something in my hands for the first time in my life to handle sunsets and sunrises shots properly.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Fresh water pioneer

♀ Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa/Platbuik). Note the characteristic wing markings and the very broad abdomen. This dragonfly is among the commonest species in much of Europe. A strong flier that is often the first one to claim newly-created or cleared habitats.

Friday, 8 May 2009

New wide-angle lens

This photo is taken in National Park “Groote Peel”. In my opinion cloudy weather fits in with a boggy area well. Flowering Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium/Veenpluis) cheers up the image a bit. I used it as a foreground for this wide-angle shot with my new Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L objective.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Pochard pair

This cooperative Pochard (Aythya ferina/Tafeleend) pair made my day. They were probably curious what I was doing and came quite close.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Nest building

Together with my wife Judith I went to Zeeland, Colijnsplaat for a long weekend, just to relax a bit. In the early mornings (my wife was still sleeping), I concentrated on photographing Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus/Bruine Kiekendief). Here is my best shot, a ♀ gathering material for her nest in the underlying reed bed. Just another sign of spring.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


Spring is a time of rapid changes; trees blossom, flowers appear in the fields, migrant songbirds arrive, butterflies float in the air. But this year is really exceptional; I have never witnessed a spring that develops so quickly, it is almost explosive. There are just too many things happening at the same time.
For quite some time I have a photo in my mind of Orange Tips (Anthocharis cardamines/Oranjetip) in a field full of Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis/Pinksterbloem) loaded with dewdrops in a backlit setting. Several mornings this week I got up early and went to such a Cuckooflower field near my home village Nuenen just before work. But unfortunately, I didn’t find any Orange Tips. However, at the end of the afternoon, while returning from work, I stopped again, put my bike against a tree, and could take this picture. I hope the mating makes up for the dewdrops and the promised against-the-light shot. Besides, it is always good to have some wishes open and unfulfilled for later.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Dutch Jurassic

Reptiles are air-breathing, cold-blooded vertebrates that have skin covered in scales as opposed to hair or feathers. In northern countries like The Netherlands there are a limited number of species that can survive; to be precise we have 3 snake species and 4 lizard species. They are all rare and hard to found. In the National Park “De Meinweg” I found 2 of them. The typical green ♂ Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis/Zandhagedis) that looks like a miniature dragon and the aggressive and poisonous (!) ♀ Viper (Vipera berus/Adder). In cool summers the offspring will be born next year; the embryos hibernate inside the ♀ snake body.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


In my opinion Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa/Grutto) is the most beautiful stilt of the meadows. Unfortunately their numbers decline every year. Here is a portrait of a ♂ in a flooded grassland (coined ‘plas-dras’ in Dutch). The photo was taken from a hide; many thanks again to Astrid Kant.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


One of the most beautiful landscapes in the neighbourhood were I live is the Mariapeel, an exploited bog area. The last peat was dug around 1975. In both photos the weather was used as a background setting. The first photo of the man-made fen lake was taken on March 11-th, a stormy day with heavy clouds and some sunshine in between. However at the end of the day the wind dropped and the clouds resolved rapidly, resulting in a few friendly white
cotton-wool shapes in the sky that are reflected by the water. On today’s photo friendly cauliflower-like clouds (cumulus) grew by local heating of the sun into some showers (cumulonimbus).
For both photos I applied a circular polarizing filter, for the latter photo I used an additional ND4 gradient filter to cover the sky and to emphasize the spotlight effect on the dead birch trunk.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Just as last year (see March 2008 on this blog) I tried to photograph blue-colored Moor Frogs (Rana arvalis/Heikikker) in their mating season. The blue color only last for a few days, perhaps even for one night. This time I was lucky to found an amplexus, i.e. the ♂ mounting the ♀ and gripping her firmly, at a small pool south of Eindhoven.