Dec 29, 2010

Taking a break

As the most fervent photographer in the family, you commonly are expected to serve as… well, the family photographer.

That meant I took the camera and a few primes to the annual Christmas party with the in-laws. As I like very much to shoot family candids in an unobtrusive way, I switched to ISO 1600 or 3200 and processed the RAW images into black & white.

Here’s a few ‘inbetweens’ from the evening, as various things around struck my eyes while lurking for the perfect headshot.

(The family pictures are just that… and for their eyes only!)

Gear notes: D700, 24/2.8, 50/1.8

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Dec 22, 2010

Across the road

A few quick impressions, shot while taking a short break during a  slippery drive on a foggy winter morning…


Gear notes: D300, 18-70DX

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Dec 14, 2010

Animals to the rescue

This is another period with a lot of work, and as a result way too little time to go out and shoot new material… And so, for your pleasure and entertainment, I will serve you a few pictures from my recent passage through the Antwerp Zoo.

_DS71326wTaking a nap on a sunny afternoon


_DS71341wHigh and dry
 _DS71348wWho will clean up this mess?

Gear notes: D700, 70-300VR

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Dec 10, 2010

Three flavors

After the recent Shooting Day in Antwerp’s Central Station, we moved on to the Zoo that lies just beside it.

The animals did not inspire me much that day, but an old array of stables – that our tour guide sneaked us through – caught my attention. The result: three very different post-processing approaches based on almost identical shots.

_DS71363_67w A ‘classic’ 3-shot HDR (exposure fusion)

_DS71372wNo HDR, no Photoshop either: just Lightroom sliders!
 _DS71373w One more pure Lightroom rendition

Gear notes: D700, 24-120/4VR (I’m getting very fond of this lens)

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Dec 6, 2010

A long and beautiful day

t Was a mighty cold day on the streets, but a heartwarming one in our Help-Portrait studios in Herentals!

Great hosts from the CAW Kempen, a wonderful MUA team, and a lot of hard-working, inspired and at times crazy photographers were ‘open for business’ for a whole Saturday, taking pictures of people that for once got to take their rightful place under our spotlights. All pictures shot remain solely for the eyes of the models-for-a-day, so I cannot share these many images of joy, excitement and gratitude.

Heavy snowfall and icy winds made it hard at times for our guests to make it to our shooting are. The resulting less busy moments of the day were quickly turned into opportunities to serve as each other’s models, demonstrate lighting setups, discuss composition or share post-processing tips. So here comes a small selection of portraits I shot from fellow H-P photographers:

_DS71555w-2Robbie came all the way from Apeldoorn, in the Netherlands 

_DS71714wLander discovered new ways to use gaffer tape 

_DS71700w Michel posed for a Dutch school painting…

_DS71709w…but then accidently looked into the book! 

And, to end in beauty, one of the hosting CAW’s staff members:


All in all a fun-filled and most rewarding day, more than worth our effort (and the slow and slippery trek back home). I can’t wait to spend more good times with this bunch of fantastic friends!

Gear notes: D700, 24-70/2.8G, 85/1.8D

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Dec 1, 2010


In three days, the Help-Portrait movement will one more time burst into action all over the world.

Help-Portrait was formed as a non-profit organization in 2009 by Nashville-based celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. The underlying idea is that a photographer has the unique ability to help someone smile, laugh and return their dignity. Help-Portrait volunteers reach out to those that normally would not have the opportunity, energy, means or guts to have their portrait taken – and keep it! More than anything else, it’s about opening up and giving attention to those so often passed over and so easily overlooked in our society.

In December 2009, more than 41,000 portraits were given by 3400 photographers and over 5000 volunteers were involved.  Help-Portrait became a global movement in 543 locations in 42 countries. The rapid growth of this organization is a perfect example of social media use for good as people share ideas and stories through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogging.

Last year, Belgium was represented by a team in Turnhout. I had the pleasure of being part of it, you can read more about that event here and here on this blog.

For this year, the 2009 ‘veterans’ have split up and will bring their experience to two sites: Hasselt (looking to become a very big meet-up, with over 10 photographers) and Herentals (a more modest setup with ‘only’ 8 shooters, including yours truly).

Time now to start packing photo and lighting gear (a full studio set for myself, and some strobist stuff for others to borrow if needed). I have such wonderful memories of last year’s event that I am more than excited to go out again…!

Gear notes: n/a

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Nov 27, 2010

Colors & Lines

A few quick ‘graphical’ impressions from the recent Shooting Day in Antwerp’s Central Station.

_DS71235w _DS71240Ew _DS71252w
No further comments…

Gear notes: D700, 24-120/4 VR

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Nov 23, 2010

Central Station revisited

Antwerp’s Central railway station is a well-known great source for photographic inspiration. It combines the lush grandeur of old times with modern architecture through renovations an additions. The result is a pleasing and above all functional environment for the countless travelers coming by every day.

This blog has taken you to the Central Station before. Just last weekend some 80 Belgiumdigital shooters were given access to some exclusive vantage points high above. A unique opportunity to discover and document the place from an unusual perspective!

_DS71108_13w_DS71298_1304w_DS71192wThree views from the majestic grand hall.

_DS71147_51w_DS71166w From high above the platforms

To be continued!

Gear notes: D700, 24-120/4 VR, 16/2,8

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Nov 19, 2010

They come, and then they go…

Let’s face it: many photographers are gear freaks. And even those that aren’t (or won’t admit) develop a warm bond with the bits of equipment that serve them well for years.

A few days ago, I said goodbye to two DX lenses that have been reliable travel companions for many years: a 12-24mm f/4, and the (once) ground-breaking 18-200mm VR. First on a D200 and later on a D300 they have never let me down on events, family trips and business travel, or wherever else my bag took them.

_DS71099w _DSC6993w 
But since my D700 came along almost two years ago, I fell in love with shooting full-frame again (and, in addition, using primes). So both DX lenses hardly came out of storage anymore, save the let’s-get-out-casual trips where one lens was all I wanted to take, bolted on the D300. After all, where was the better-than-average walk-around lens for a Nikon FX body?

Enter the new 24-120mm f/4.0 VR. I confess: I was lost as soon as I touched a copy on Nikon’s Photokina booth. Since then, I waited for the first shipments and serious reviews: would the lens live up to my (and others’) hopes and expectations?

Hell yes, those reviews were great, and some well-known photographers started shaking out the lens as well. So I gave in (without much resistance, I admit) and got mine. The DX lenses quickly found a new home with other photographers that will enjoy and pamper them.

The few pictures I have shot with the 24-120 so far more than agree with the good news. No, I will not part from my 24-70/2.8 
– that’s a totally different breed. But now I can go out and travel lighter and simpler – exactly what I was looking for.

The big test will come tomorrow, during an extensive Antwerp Shooting Day organized by Belgiumdigital. If all goes well and my initial findings are confirmed, you will get so see a lot from that piece of glass on this blog. Stay tuned!

Gear notes: D700, 90/2.8 – D300, 18-70DX

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Nov 14, 2010

Frozen in time

One more and final contribution from the Kemmelberg underground command bunker we visited before.

_DS79942w _DS79946w_DS79943w

Everything in the complex has been left (or staged) exactly as if the command center was still in operation. If you didn’t know better, people had just left their offices for a meeting or for lunch. Down to the smallest detail, each room has been organized to recreate the ‘smell of the times’.

_DS79948w_DS79949w _DS79951w_DS70023w

But fortunately, the alarm bells will never sound again, nor will the phones start to ring or the headsets filling with frantic messages. The place is now a Cold War relic, forever frozen in time…


Gear notes: D700, 70-200/2.8VR

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Nov 10, 2010

Echoes from the past

One of the treasures to be found in the underground command bunker of the Kemmelberg is a collection of communication gear from the Cold War era. Every known means of safely exchanging information with the world ‘out there’ is present: telephone, telegraph/telex and of course wireless radio.

Notwithstanding their age and their obvious obsolescence, such kind of toys still make a boy’s heart beat faster.
There’s something ‘retro’ about all those khaki boxes and antique dials, it’s like you can hear the frantic messages from the past flowing in the air around you (well, the museum’s carefully hidden sound systems may have something to do with that too).

I was most fascinated by the radio transmitters and receivers lined up on the shelves. Reminded me of my younger days, when I was a true licensed radio amateur (call sign ON1RQ). I owned a 2m FM/SSB rig connected to a large orientable antenna more than 100m above sea level, even built a portable transceiver from scratch (making the printed circuit board, coils etc. all by hand). Aah, the things that kept us up through the night before we had the worldwide web and digital photo post-processing!

_DS70007w _DS79973w

Who in those cold war days could have imagined the laptops, smartphones and iPads we so much take for granted today? Except for people like Arthur C. Clarke, that is…

Gear notes: D700, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8

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Nov 4, 2010

Daughterhood and pecan pie

My daughter, like my wife, loves to bake. Cakes, muffins, pies… it doesn’t matter as long as it’s sweet. She recently embarked on a venture to try out all the recipes in one of her preferred baking guides , cover-to-cover. That is: each and every one of them. This pecan pie was the first one to tackle.

I could not resist to capture the outcome of this experiment for future reference. The problem: I came by late,
and my daughter and wife were already dying to have a taste. So I had to hurry and make do with just the overhead halogen ceiling spots for lighting (well, that and a piece of white cardboard for fill, and a small mirror to enhance the texture along the side). Yes, I do know better, but I also have learned not to stand (for long) between impatient women and a plate of sweets…

All of this took less than five minutes, start to finish. My dearest bakers have promised though to next time not putting on the whipped cream before I have the camera set up. There’s a start!

Gear notes: D700, 90/2.8 SP Di

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Nov 1, 2010

…and down below

Fore more than 40 years, the Kemmelberg quietly kept a military secret well hidden some 15 meters below its surface.


After the end of World War II, life continued under the threat of a potential nuclear devastation: the Cold War had arrived. The Belgian defense forces too prepared for a worst case scenario: between 1952 and 1956, they established a vast underground bunker complex inside the Kemmelberg. This would become the central command center for the whole Benelux in case of an attack from behind the Iron Curtain. All of this occurred under the highest secrecy – what took shape within the hill was known neither to the local population nor to the construction workers.

Kelby Training sample picture
The complex covers a total surface of 2164 m². The bunker itself measures 30 by 30 meters; its walls are 2 meters thick, the concrete roof from 1.15 to 2.9 meters. The outer walls have copper shielding for protection against electromagnetic radiation.

At the heart of the bunker complex lies a huge Operations Room, occupying two levels and surrounded by offices for each of the military branches: army, navy and air force. The top level houses power generators and the heating and ventilation installations. Various communication facilities – phone, telex and radio – are spread throughout the lower level.


The bunker remained classified and permanently guarded until 1995. From time to time, the site hosted top secret exercises to adjust procedures and evaluate readiness. It took three teams of 200 people each to maintain full operations on a 24 hour basis.

The Kemmelberg bunker was declassified in 1996 and now serves as a Cold War era museum. As much as possible the building and its contents have been kept at their original state.

It’s a true treasure cove for any photographer (if you are allowed to bring in your ‘weapons’, of course). Not to mention the feeling of traveling back to a mysterious period of our recent history.

Gear notes: D700, 17-35/2.8, 16/2.8

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