Amsterdam

We always wanted to go to Amsterdam, and since Karina has family there, the holidays were a perfect excuse to finally pack and go. The Netherlands in general and Amsterdam in particular always seemed very enticing and interesting. The architecture, the canals, the whole cosmopolitanism, culture. Amongst the things that fascinated us the most were:

  • The very narrow architecture. Due to the weird fact that around 16th century, one would pay taxes on the width of the street facing side of a building, this motivated people to build tall narrow houses, sometimes so narrow you’d need to use a rope to go upstairs, as there were no space for staircases.

  • The street where Theo Van Gogh was murdered and the statue they put on a nearby park afterwards. The film that led to the violent murder, Submission is worth watching.

  • The Vincent Van Gogh Museum. I really like some of his paintings.

  • The Rembrandt Museum. I’m not such a big fan, but since we’re already there.

  • The parks and canals, even though it’s not summer.

  • At least some of the countryside, windmills and such.

Frankfurt Airport

We left our hated beloved village very early in the morning of the 27th on our way to Frankfurt Airport. We didn’t have any mishaps or delays, for a change, and had the chance to take a few pictures on our way there. We arrived in Amsterdam later that afternoon and, quite tired from the journey, went to bed quite early and didn’t get to see or do much.

On the 28th we had a lot of fun. We left early in the morning and headed to the Apple Store. Unfortunately a few days earlier, the silica ball bag inside Karina’s backpack broke and one of the small balls got stuck inside the phone input. They were able to quickly fix it. From there, we went walking about, taking some pictures and enjoying the overall experience.

Holland balls

Such foods

Statues

I took the chance to adventure myself into some street photography, amidst the acre smell of cannabis, the naked women behind glasses, the crowded streets full of people, bicycles and birds.

Karina at work. Karina at work.

Since we were still tired from the trip, we ended up going home a bit earlier than expected, where I took the opportunity to go through the pictures we took and do some writing.

Zaanse Schans

On the 29th we had some sun and left on a little field trip to the countryside. First we saw the mills and did some shopping in Zaanse Schans, before the wave of tourists arrived. The whole town had this smell of freshly ground cocoa and wet wood. It’s very nice in the beginning but can become a bit nauseating after a while.

We met a nice old man who makes pieces out of tin.

Zaanse Schans Cheese Factory

From there, we drove further, to Volendam. With its beautiful houses and quaint atmosphere (despite the tourists), it looks quite dreamy, surreal, plastic even. Their cheese and their fish offerings were absolutely delicious, we had a great time walking about, taking pictures and so on. I certainly recommend visiting both if you have the chance.

Volendam

Spying Spying through the window.

On the 30th of December, we got up early and took the tram to Oostpark, to finally see the aforementioned De Schreeuw. We also walked to the very spot where he was killed, sadly there was no plaque or any other acknowledgment that we could find.

A bit saddened, we went back to the city centre. This time to the sex museum. It's an interesting place to visit but felt more like a fun place for teenagers to laugh at penis-shaped-anythings and showcase old pornography than an actual museum. Misleading name, perhaps. Still, worth visiting, they have some amazing photographs and paintings on display. I didn't like the animatronics so much. After much walking about, taking pictures, we stopped by the Broodbar for lunch. What delicious food and cozy atmosphere, all very nice.

Broodbar The Broodbar has great juice.

From there, we went cheese shopping. Many of my favourite cheeses are dutch, and some of them are quite hard to find where I live.

On the 31st we decided to stay in and rest, as we would probably need the strength to endure the long night ahead of us. In the evening we had a delicious home cooked dinner and left to a friend’s house to drink and wait until midnight. We enjoyed it a lot, tasted the local Christmas specialty, oliebol, and so on. As they live very close to the National Maritime Museum, once the fireworks began we just popped out to watch.

As the fires started to fade, we wandered all over downtown to see the remainder. Overall quite an adventurous night, amidst fire, smoke, noise and people.

On the 1st of January, we again didn’t go out, as it was Karina’s uncle’s husband’s birthday (and the apostrophes just pile up!). A lot of people came by, friends and family. We got to meet his lovely parents as well. His grandfather, who’s 94, could not come, as he lives in a small village near the border with Germany. We really enjoyed it (oh, the cake, give me more cake!). Since we had to fly back really early in the morning on the 2nd, our adventures pretty much ended there.

This might have gone a bit too long, but we had such a great time and I always wanted to do a travel log of sorts, so here it is.

New Camera

Roar!

Last week we got a new camera. A Fujifilm X-E1, as I mentioned before. We were very excited to get it and start shooting. How appropriate that it arrived merely minutes before we left on a trip to Berlin. As soon as we took it out of the box, its beauty really caught our eyes. What a nice looking camera, such a retro fit. Having control over exposure adjustment, shutter speed and so on with dials is great for quickly changing settings. It's also nice that it comes with a view finder, even if it’s electronic. We were positively thrilled with the prospects of using this nice looking camera, after reading praises of its image quality and low light accuracy, in the wild.

We knew it was not a movable view finder, and the same goes for the LCD screen, both are very fixed in place; we were fine with that compromise. But nothing could have prepared us for what was to come. The view finder is electronic, not optic nor a hybrid like the X-Pro1's. You'd think that this shouldn't be much of an issue, if you never used an EVF before, but you’d be wrong. It's not that we lack the technology for a good and well made EVF, because there are plenty of other cameras out there that do a much better job of it, even if they all still pale in comparison to a well done old school optical view finder. Both EVF and LCD screen have a very poor refresh rate and pixel density that it's really hard to use for manual focus. Certainly no one using or reviewing this camera is using it, or you’d read more about this. And definitely not with f-stops of 2.0 or faster in low light.

Now, just so I don’t say only bad things about it, here’s a nice touch: it comes with a built-in diopter correction dial. It compensates for your poor sight right there. Yet, I can't find a justification for something so lacking in image quality and overall software passing basic quality assurance. Maybe they just don’t know what good software looks like, just like Microsoft doesn't know what cool is.

Germany from my backyard My backyard.

Sure, it has some nice helping features for focusing manually, like focus peaking (you can see a nicer implementation here), yet it’s far from being as well implemented as the ones Sony ships. But that’s not enough, I achieve better and faster manual focus with my old Minolta X-700 most of the time. But as with any camera, it’s all about compromises.

I saw some people complaining that the software that shipped with the camera had very poor autofocus performance. Namely, its speed. It would take a while for it to adjust and sometimes it would go “focus hunting”. Well, we didn't concern ourselves too much, as we basically never use it. No auto focus, no auto exposure. We like to go full manual. Maybe we should have looked for similar minded people that might have reviewed the camera, they might've told us beforehand: this is not for you. But even now, I can’t find much about it.

Here's what saddens me the most: it's not an entry level camera, really. And it shows. It feels very solid, comes with a very nice lens, and it can take outstanding pictures with close to no noise even at very high ISO and very dim light.

High exposure

Despite all the highs and lows of this camera, it just performs and feels so nice I couldn’t bring myself to return it. Already ordered the Fujinom 35mm/F-1.4 and can’t wait for it to arrive.

Berlin By Karina This one by Karina Elland