Sinterklaas and six to eight black men

2008, Photography

Sinterklaas, aka Saint Nicholas, and his ‘Zwarte Pieten’ arrived in the Netherlands. Instead of Santa Claus we celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5. Why December 5? He has his birthday on that day.

Now I can give you a lengthy explanation of Saint Nicholas Day in the Netherlands, but David Sedaris wrote a much better story about Saint Nicholas Day and his helpers, the ‘Six to Eight Black Men’. You can read that here. Of course there is also a Wikipedia post that you can find here.



While our Santa flies on a sled, Saint Nicholas arrives by boat
and then transfers to a white horse. The event is televised, and
great crowds gather at the waterfront to greet him. I’m not sure
if there’s a set date, but he generally docks in late November and
spends a few weeks hanging out and asking people what they want.


Young children, dressed up as ‘Zwarte Pieten’, wait with anxiety and joy.



“Is it just him alone?” I asked. “Or does he come with backup?”

Oscar’s English was close to perfect, but he seemed thrown by a
term normally reserved for police reinforcement.

“Helpers,” I said. “Does he have any elves?”

Maybe I’m just overly sensitive, but I couldn’t help but feel
personally insulted when Oscar denounced the very idea as grotesque
and unrealistic. “Elves,” he said. “They’re just so silly.”


The words silly and unrealistic were redefined when I learned that
Saint Nicholas travels with what was consistently described as “six
to eight black men.” I asked several Dutch people to narrow it
down, but none of them could give me an exact number. It was always
“six to eight,” which seems strange, seeing as they’ve had hundreds
of years to get a decent count.



One of the six to eight black men, with some police reinforcement.


Unlike the jolly, obese American Santa, Saint Nicholas is painfully
thin and dresses not unlike the pope, topping his robes with a tall
hat resembling an embroidered tea cozy. The outfit, I was told, is
a carryover from his former career, when he served as a bishop in


This is the reward for the arrival of Saint Nicholas, pepernoten.


All photographs by Wouter Brandsma
Quotes from ‘Six To Eight Black Men’ By David Sedaris

My final Ricoh GX200 impressions

2008, Photography

Ricoh GX200, f2.9, 1/80 sec, 35mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.7 EV (B&W jpeg edited in Adobe Lightroom)

Late August I posted my first initial impressions of the Ricoh GX200. Being enthusiastic about the previous GX100, and the handling of the GX200 prior to my writing, I was somewhat disappointed by the quality of the GX200 RAW files. I had used the camera for a few weeks after receiving it without being able to review the photographs. When I viewed the photographs large on screen the first time I noticed I could not process the photographs the way I used and wanted to do. The editing resulted in more unintended noise, and I missed the byte. The following months I kept using the camera, changed in-camera settings, experimented with under- and overexposing, and had a relook at my image processing in Adobe Lightroom (or other applications) to improve the quality of the images.

And I can say that I have changed my initial thoughts about the GX200. I will explain how I have experimented with the camera and processing software to change my mind. Therefore I will describe a few important items that matters to me when it comes to a camera (though understand that every item is my personal opinion and the readers opinion may and can certainly differ). The three most important items are:

  • Camera handling
  • The images
  • And appropriate workflow

Freedom 2008

2008, Flickr, Photography

During Photomonth 2008, London’s largest photography festival, the Flickr community have been given the opportunity to display photos in the Photomonth Photo-Open exhibition at the Dray Walk Gallery, Old Truman Brewery during 29th October – 9th November 2008 (location here).

Flickr is very excited to be supporting this year’s Photomonth Photo-Open, particularly as the aim of the exhibition is to be as open as possible to all kinds of photographers, subjects and approaches.

The theme of ‘Freedom’ has been chosen for this group, as it’s the first year that global submissions are invited to be displayed at Photomonth. The photos that the Flickr community could upload to the Freedom 2008 Group until October 10th had the chance to be shown at this year’s Photomonth Photo-Open exhibition.

I am thrilled today that my submission has been selected to be shown on the slideshow of photos at the exhibition. The selected photograph will be attributed via my Flickr name ‘Wouter Brandsma’.


f you’re around London and would like to see the display yourself, head over to the Flickr Blog to find out details about the exhibition.

Photograph by Wouter Brandsma

Around Köln HBF

2008, Photography

How to name a city? To this moment I always named this city Cologne on my blog, the English name of this city along the river Rhine in Germany. The Dutch naming is Keulen, that is pronounced the same as Köln or Koeln in German. Until 1919 the city was also known as Cöln, in the Middle Age Colonia Agrippina or Coellen (or even Kölle), and during the Roman Empire it was called oppidum ubiorum and later Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. Cologne is the fourth largest city of Germany, and the largest city of Nordrhein-Westfalen. It is a city with 2,000 years of history, but most importantly it is the host city of photokina.

After the photokina show in Köln Deutz on the west bank of the city I walked to Köln Hauptbahnhof, the main trainstation, near the famous Dome on the other site of the river Rhine. From the main entrance of the station, along the Bahnhofsvorplatz, there is a clear view of the Dome of Cologne.

Since I had still some time left I planned on photographing the area around the Central Station and the Dome.

This place was full with foreigners, mostly Japanese, who had attended the show.

Some were loaded with cameras, like this Japanese photographer. He was in such a hurry to pack his camera in a tiny bag. He just didn’t notice me making photographs 1.5 meters from him.

But the photographers were not all Japanese. These quys were trying to frame the Dome with the widest angle lens they got.

Many people relaxed on the stairs south of the Dome, enjoying the crowd in front of the Central Station, or just fooling around with their mobile phones.

Underneath the station there was still a lot of crowd coming from the Johannisstrasse.

At the station some were in a hurry to catch their train. Must be pretty hard with that luggage.

Waiting on platform 4 for my train to arrive from Frankfurt.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

I like to thank everyone for checking out my blog and reading the previous post about the photokina show. And I hope many are not disappointed with the photograph.