Serendipity

2010, Photography

Sometimes unexpected things do happen. Last year I published a post about a Canadian War Cemetery near Groesbeek the Netherlands overlooking the German border region near the Rhine. A Canadian newspaper, who are working on a special coverage on the 65th commemoration of the liberation of the Netherlands, contacted me for one of these photographs.

A 78-year-old woman from London, Ontario, read the newspaper yesterday. When she saw the photograph and read the inscription on the grave of the soldier, she realised that it was her brother’s grave who died in Germany less than two months before the war in Europe ended.

65 years have passed, we take our freedom for granted, and while the numbers of lives lost in the war were earth-shattering, it makes me realize that all of them should not be forgotten. Not of Corporal L.A. McIntosh, private L.F. Pringlemeir, rifleman R.J. Mc Donald, and many of their brothers.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Respectful and peaceful

2009, Photography

Today’s post is certainly different from all previous posts. Yesterday, a package arrived from Paris with a camera I can use for some time. Not a Ricoh camera, but a Sigma DP1 with the VF-11 optical viewfinder and a spare battery. Last year I tried this camera for just one day, but now I will be able to get a much better understanding of this camera.

The camera arrived just five minutes before I had to leave for an appointment in the city of Nijmegen. After the meeting I went to the small town of Groesbeek near the German border.

This area was an important strategic location during the end campaign of the Allied forces in 1944 and 1945 of World War II. It was a drop and landing zone in September 1944 for the eventually failed Operation Market Garden. And from here the Allied started the Battle on the Rhineland on February 8, 1945, the so-called  and took nearly a month before victory was declared.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Just outside the town is a Canadian War Cemetery located on a hill top with a view over the valley to the North and East into Germany. This cemetery was established in February 1945 and officially unveilled in November 1946.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
In total 2,617 soldiers are burried here including 2,338 Canadians. These soldiers didn’t die in the Netherlands, but died in nearby Germany during battles in the Rhineland. It is said that all fallen Canadian soldiers were burried outside Germany.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Most of these soldiers were young men in their twenties. Still boys when they left home and became men in just a few day’s. They never saw their loved ones again.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Young men like private soldier R.F. Pringlemeir, age 21, from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada who died on the 15th of March 1945. A photograph of him and a soldier friend in front of his grave keeps the lost memories alive.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
There are more Commonwealth cemeteries in the Netherlands, but no other contains so many Canadian war dead. The location is peaceful and all graves are treated very well.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Beautiful oak trees with with lovely red colored maple leaves as a remembrance of their homeland.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma

Their name liveth for evermore

Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Their name liveth for evermore“, a phrase by English writer Rudyard Kipling whose son died in 1915 in World War I. Partly in response to this tragedry he joined Sir Fabian Ware’s Imperial War Graves Commission that we know now as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This group is responsible for the war graves were Commonwealth troops lie burried.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

For those interested in my impressions of the Sigma DP1 I will continuously make notes and write about my learning process with this camera. Yesterday was a very interesting experience photographing with this camera and using the optical viewfinder. Unlike with my Ricoh camera I didn’t use the LCD screen for framing or judging the exposure. I only used it to set the exposure and that was it. I would suggest Sigma to update the firmware and give the camera a screen view just like with a dSLR, since it is a joy using the viewfinder. I am not going to judge the speed of the camera and the writing times. It felt all very appropriate yesterday for the scene and type of photographing.

And some quick notes with regard to the post processing. I used both Sigma Photo Pro by Sigma and Adobe Lightroom for editing the RAW photographs. And Lightroom just doesn’t handle the photographs in the same way as SPP.  The highlight and shadow recovery is impressive in SPP, and the fill light option can be very intriguing. For the photograph of the maple leaves I could get so many different and beautiful looking photographs with just changing the fill light amount. I think I will use this photograph in a later post to give some examples of this option in SPP.

And many have mentioned the sharpness of the photographs from the DP1. but man, these photographs are so incredibly sharp and I am glad that they added negative sharpness in SPP. I often went as far as minus 1 to desharpen the photographs and they still looked good.

I leave my first thoughts of the DP1 here. Last year I was very much in doubt about this camera and I now really want to dig into this. From last day it felt like a very organic photographing experiece.

Pincher Creek and some more

2009, Photography

I have visited Canada twice. The first time just for two days as a break of a tour through Montana in 1994. The second time in 1999 on a trip from Calgary to Vancouver. And since the first time I created a kind of week spot for the small town of Pincher Creek in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains and the US border. Just an half hour north of Waterton Lakes National Park and two hours south of Calgary.
Pincher Creek by Wouter Brandsma
But why? The town is nothing special. A population of 3,625. The country side is wide open with the plains to the east and the Rockies to the west. Often the strong Chinook winds blow off the mountains, so it can be very windy there. But I loved it. Simple, uncomplicated and pure. The vistas are gorgeous, the sky is clear.
Pincher Creek by Wouter Brandsma
The photographs here originate from some of my slides from 1999 with my Ricoh GR1. And I have to admit that I used a very simple technique to digitize these slides. I cut an empty roll of toilet paper into half and used it as extension tube in front of my camera. I kept the framed slide closely against the end of the roll and used a white background on my computer screen as light source. I used the macro mode to focus on the slide, as a result of the diameter of the roll this will work best with compact cameras, slower shutter speed and an aperture around f4.4 to make sure enough would get sharp. Of course you won’t be able to make huge prints from these photographs, but it works fine for smaller prints and web purposes. Sometimes though it can look like photos from a Holga.
Pincher Creek by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

And on another photography related note. My friend Amin Sabet restarted his forum project Camera Work since last Tuesday. See here for more information.

Short test

2009, Photography

Today I scanned some older slides, Fujifilm Sensia 100, taken with my Ricoh GR1. All slides are from 1999 (yeap, ten years old) and were taken in the Rocky Mountains, Canada.

Although the scans were done with a flatbed scanner, and unfortunately not really sharp, I was amazed by the dynamic range and editing possibilities in Lightroom. Although all photos were color slides I converted these to B&W. This certainly tastes for more.

Jasper, Alberta
Canada by Wouter Brandsma
Waterton Townsite, Alberta
Canada by Wouter Brandsma
Banff, Alberta
Canada by Wouter Brandsma
Waterton Townsite, Alberta
Canada by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

And for those who are still interested in a good serious compact camera and want to read some really good user reviews. Check out this Ricoh GX200 review by Cristian Sorega.