*The Dark Side of Amsterdam

follow me deeper and you shall see (Pana G3 + Lumix 25mm f/1.4)

While the title may allude to a sinister, Imperial-esque characterization of a city known for many a questionable, extra curricular activity, I mean to speak quite literally.  For anyone who’s read my blog for more than a year, you may know that I travel to Amsterdam once a year on business.  Because of said business, coupled with the late time of year and Holland’s geographical placement, I rarely get to experience it in the light of day.  With a +9 hour difference to tackle, and tiring hours spent working while there, my window for photographic opportunity normally falls within about an hour and a half between when I get done working, and the inevitable collapse into a jet lagged coma that prematurely greets the end of each day.  Luckily, this year, this window happened to open while the weather was crisp, but dry as it gave me the ability to wander around, camera in hand to document a bit of my annual stay in what has become my home away from home.

brother bokeh (Pana G3 + Lumix 25mm f/1.4)

I was excited to scrap my heavy Canon setup this trip in lieu of my OMD EM5 and micro 4/3 gear, until of course my Oly decided to fry itself requiring a little vacation of its own to the distant, mysterious land of New Jersey.

The business end (5DII + 135mm f/2)

With the heavy bag in tow, I double fisted it by keeping my G3 in my pocket with the 5DII in hand.  I even had the phone cam do some heavy lifting this time around.  That’s about as much as I’ll say about gear, but for those interested, see the notes below each shot with camera and lens used.

That’s not an address. (5DII + 135mm f/2)

I’m lucky in that by traveling for business, I get to eat out at restaurants that would otherwise seem opulent, or at the very least, unnecessarily extravagant to a budget challenged family man such as myself.

flies in the wine (5DII + 35mm f/1.4)

I will however, say that d’Vijff Vlieghen (you can just say Five Flies, they all speak english over there anyway) is a special place.

dessert, 5 flies style (Pana G3 + Lumix 25mm f/1.4)

A restaurant housed in a building dating back to 1627, boasts many famous visitors, Rembrandt etchings and original G.H. Breitner paintings along with other historical artifacts and collectibles.  It is literally like eating inside a museum, but more comfortable and photographer friendly.

Etching a name for himself (5DII + 35mm f/1.4)

GH Breitner (5DII + 35mm f/1.4)

With five separate houses spread out over the block, intertwined by a labyrinth of passages, doorways and  ankle breaking stairways, it is truly a unique place and one I would highly suggest visiting if ever the opportunity arrises.

message in a bottle (5DII + 35mm f/1.4)

Thank you to my friend Alexander (click to see his flickr stream) for his suggestions.  One that I was actually able to take advantage of was FOAM, a photography museum in the center of the city.  I meandered through the current Diane Arbus exhibit which was wonderful, and about as much as I could handle after a rather uncharacteristically late night, closing down bars while drinking into the wee hours of the morning, getting mistaken for the singer from the Black Keys, and generally acting the tourist alongside friends and associates the night before/morning of.  So, I actually did see the light of day, it was just painful to do so.  One of these years I’ll learn.

Hey, I heard you had beer. (5DII + 135mm f/2)

crossing over (5DII + 135mm f/2)

I’ll always love visiting Amsterdam and do my best to take advantage of each year that I do.  There are so many things to see, so many histories to relive, and rarely will you find a more photogenic backdrop within which to do so.

a walk amongst friends (5DII + 135mm f/2)

a sweet moment, just the three of us (Pana G3 + Lumix 25mm f/1.4)

Amsterdam is a living, breathing amalgam of the human spectrum with something, nay, many things for everyone.  If you’ve not had the pleasure of visiting this city, I’d highly suggest it.

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Happy shooting,


12 thoughts on “*The Dark Side of Amsterdam

  1. Hmmm. That brother bokeh guy looks sinisteringly (of course it’s a word, never mind some computer programmer doesn’t recognize it and it comes out underlined in red. Why, I use that word all the time) familiar.

    And WHAT happened to the Oly? I agree, New Jersey is distant and probably mysterious. I think I would be afraid to go there let alone send my camera there, but…

    Well, regardless of the machinery used to take the displayed pictures, they are all, as usual, superb. And the photo of “dessert, five flies style”: in cooking, as in so many things, it’s the presentation. Well, the photo ain’t bad either.

    But my favorite, not necessarily because of the composition, which is great, or the subject matter, which is great, or the fact that it is b & w, which, of course, is great, but the pure genius of its title, is the one titled, uh, “a sweet moment, just the three of us”. I LOVE the title, particularly the three of us part. In every photograph of whomever doing whatever, the viewer needs to remember there is at least one other person there: arguably the most important person, even though forgotten or minimized, and that is the photographer, for were it not for him/her, there would be nothing further other than the memories of the participant(s) (not to be minimized).

    Once again, well done, and I, being now prejudiced, like to see photos from a Canon 5D Mk II, weight notwithstanding. Thanks again!!



    • Thanks Dan,

      Can’t wait to talk new cameras in a few weeks. I’ll have to bring out some gear. I’m sure we’ll be testing the functional temperature ratings this year as it looks like you guys are going to be getting cold here really soon.

      The Oly fried itself somehow requiring a new sensor and processor (you know, the somewhat important fiddly bits on the inside of the camera). I thought it was somehow linked to using a flash that had been offered up at a 100% rebate when I purchased the camera, as this problem didn’t present itself until after placing the flash on camera for the first time. The test on the flash was inconclusive and they said the flash passed inspection, so…? I know I won’t be using it on camera any more regardless. I also think I’ve just ended up with a lemon. It has been a very, very quirky camera that operates entirely different now having gotten it back with the fix. I’ll have it with me for the holidays as well 🙂

      Can’t wait to see you guys soon!



  2. How was Diane Arbus? I am planning a visit next week, as I live n Antwerp which is only an hour and a half drive to Amsterdam.
    Last year I missed W.Eugene Smith in FOAM. I will never forgive myself 😦 Eugene is one of my favorite photographers!




    • It was great! I am familiar with many of her more popular images, so it was really cool to see those actually printed and exhibited. There are a couple series that I wasn’t aware of that were really cool to see (she had documented a nudist colony and a home for what I would guess was mentally challenged women in the 70’s, both of which were very humanizing and took on a different connection than what I’d come to know of her work). Her early infatuation with the bizarre in and around NYC in the 60’s is very apparent as is known for most who’ve seen much of her more famous work, and that is always fun to see. My absolute favorite image of hers is the “Child With Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” which is just a hilarious and disturbing image, very cool to get to see up close and personal. Observing her journey and seeing her transition from her early stages into her more clinical projects was really cool too. Well worth a visit if you can.


  3. Pingback: *Porto, business and pleasure | Tyson Robichaud Photo-blography

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