Publication Agenda Iris

I was very pleased and felt honored that the digital Spanish magazine Agenda Iris (from Aefona) asked me to contribute to their nr. 17 issuu of 2016. This is now my first Spanish publication, yeh! It is a beautiful magazine with plenty of room for all pictures to stand out. It is a real joy to be among all of these great photograpers. But most of all it was a real pleasure working with Félix Gil, a very friendly team member of the magazine and my contact person during the period prior to the publication. Thank you Félix and Javier Alonso Torre for giving me this opportunity!

Click here to see the full article or here to see the full magazine.

Posted in Publications

Butterflies of Aosta Valley

After having dedicated our holiday of last year to the orchids in Crete, Edwin and I figured this year it was time for a more ‘vivid’ photo subject. Our search for a new challenge brought us to the butterflies in the Aosta valley of Italy.

First some facts. Now I am not fond of facts, but a little voice inside my head tells me you want to know all about them. The Aosta valley (Valle d’Aosta in Italian) covers around 3300 km² and is an autonomous region in the northeast of Italy. It is mountainous and surrounded by the highest tops of the Alps. In the northwest the valley is adjacent to the French-Italian Mont Blanc (4808 meters), the highest mountain of the Alps. The south side of the valley is formed by the oldest national park of Italy, Gran Paradiso. The highest mountain of this national park is Gran Paradiso with an altitude of 4061 meters. The capitol of the Aosta Valley is the old Roman city Aosta with around 35.000 inhabitants.

So… why the Aosta Valley? Lots of research (mainly by Edwin, yes all credits go to him) showed the Aosta valley is one of the best hot spots for butterflies within Europe. Apparently the moist area with its various heights and vegetation has a positive effect on the amount and variety of butterflies.

We stayed in three star hotel Panoramique (Sarre), which is 4 kilometers away from Aosta, arriving the 27th of June and leaving the 8th of July. The hotel is located on one of the mountainsides of the valley and has a magnificent view over the Aosta valley. It offers free covered parking. What I already assumed the day we arrived was later confirmed by the lady boss of the hotel: we had the best room of the hotel. It was a spacious and tidy room with a a small open upstairs which was reached by a tiny spiral staircase. The very best thing of the room was the wide balcony with a roof that provided a real breathtaking view over the Aosta valley. Since this room was the only one on the (highest) second floor, there were no side balconies and therefore lots of privacy. Breakfast was not excessive but good. Diner was delicious and because of its 4 courses it was much. The staff was all very friendly and helpful. We had a very pleasant stay and I can only highly recommend hotel Panoramique. When you consider to book this hotel, just try and ask if room 211 is available, it will surely not disappoint you.

Well, those were the facts. Time to move on to the fun part, the butterflies…

First thing of course: you have to find them. Now this was not always easy. So with the fun there comes the trouble… 😉 The whole area was new for us and it was big. Where to start? The internet didn’t really help us much. A friendly nature photographer, Hannie Joziasse, gave us beforehand some real useful locations though. Many thanks go to her. We visited several of these places and just walked into the mountain pastures to look for butterflies. Some places were good, others were not. Already on our first day trip we discovered a real nice place. Later on during our holiday this location turned out to become by far our favorite one. It was the butterfly reserve in the Cogne valley, about 25 minutes driving from our hotel. To reach the reserve is like walking through another time. From the parking lot near Pont d’Aell you walk through this small and semi abandoned village. There is only one logical way and it leads to the old Roman aqueduct (3 years BC) that crosses the river Gran Eyvia. After crossing the aqueduct you enter the Cogne valley and the butterfly reserve. Here you have to watch your feet, because you might accidentally step on one of the many many butterflies… This was true heaven for us. Butterflies everywhere.

Another real good spot was the oldest natural park of Italy, Gran Paradiso. We discovered this area very late during our holiday though. We would have visited it more if we had seen it earlier. A beautiful ascending one hour drive from our hotel brought us to a nice starting point in the hamlet Pont in the Valsavaranche valley. After passing some strange abandoned houses with a gloomy character the road ends and nature begins. Here is among others a big parking lot and a camping. Lots of sporty types over there doing all kinds of sporty activities such as walking, climbing, rafting etc… For us the entire nature surrounding was overwhelming and as a dessert there were the butterflies.

All pictures above taken by Edwin.

So in the end we had two good butterfly spots. Two was good enough for us. Needless to say the less variety you have in areas, the less variety you have in butterfly species. But luckily we are no species hunters, we are image hunters.

So all right, we have found some butterflies. Finally there comes the most fun part, the actual photographing of them. This was surely easier said than done. I think I beforehand underestimated this part of the fun. Without talking about it we agreed that the early morning sessions (like we are used to at home in the Netherlands) were no option. After all this was our holiday, and not some sort of a punitive expedition… We never underestimate our early risings because they eventually are strenuous and influence the whole day yet to come. We would like to come out of our holiday happy and relaxed and surely not broken and exhausted. So most photo shoots were made during daytime and only some of them during the afternoon. Again none of them during the early morning hours. This had a huge impact not only on the approach of the butterflies, but also on the final result of the pictures. To approach them we had to search for shady spots or wait till the sun was behind the clouds. It was absolute ‘not done’ for us to take pictures of the butterflies in the bright sun. This only gives harsh contrasts and will destroy all colors. Besides when the butterflies are sitting in direct sunlight, they are most of the time too active to take any decent picture of at all. When sitting in the shadow or when it’s cloudy, they are far more easier to approach. Therefore another reason for us to avoid taking pictures of butterflies in the direct sunlight.

Summarizing I would say the photographing of the butterflies was besides very much fun above all different, and not so much more difficult than how I am used to do over here in the Netherlands. This is a positive thing since I am convinced that a change once in a while is good and keeps me sharp. All in all everything was great and I am very grateful to have had this unforgettable butterfly holiday together with Edwin.

Still a little bit in shock about this one thing though. At the end of our holiday one of the kind ladies of the hotel restaurant told us with a sense of shame that she was suffering from a butterfly phobia. How in heaven’s name it is possible that someone who is living in one of the butterfly hotspots of Europe is deeply terrified of butterflies???

Many thanks go to Paulus Schotten for the determination of the butterflies.

Posted in Photo trips

Publication Camera Natura

So very happy with my first Swedish publication in the beautiful magazine Camera Natura. The article is featuring 10 pages with a selection of some of my macro images including toadstools, flowers and insects. It is a combination of ‘old’ and new work. Now Swedish is not a language I understand, so let’s hope it’s all positive… 😉 I for sure can have peace with the opening title ‘Spectacle of Nature’ (thank you google translate)!

Click here to see the full article.

Camera Natura nr. 2 2016

Posted in Publications

Publication Nat’Images

I am very happy and proud with a brand new publication of my macro images in the June/July issue (nr 38) of the French magazine Nat’Images! The 8 pages counting publication is featuring some of my flowers, toadstools and insects and is now available in the shops. See the full article here.

Publication Nat'Images

Posted in Publications

Orange Tips

Frankly I did not realize it was already so long ago that I took decent photos of the Orange Tips. My latest serious attempt dates back from 2011. While in the last 4 years I already was satisfied with one or two mediocre pictures of these spring butterflies, this year I felt the strong urge to handle them as a kind of ‘project’. It seems that the years of distance now gave me new energy and ideas to go for this subject again.

I am blessed with a nature area nearby where the Orange Tips live. The best way to find these tiny butterflies is to look for them in the early morning while they are still sleeping on one of their most important host plants, the Cuckoo Flower. The Cuckoo Flower  and the Orange Tips obviously go hand in hand form April til June. Still to find them both well and alive is not that easy. It depends among others on the weather conditions. Now it seems that this year unfortunately is a bad butterfly year over here in the Netherlands. Due to the past warm winter and highly fluctuating temperatures in spring the numbers of many species have declined strongly in comparison with 2015 and 2014. This makes me a little sad.

Besides the weather conditions there are other difficulties to conquer in the search for Orange Tips. Did I ever tell you photography is like practicing top sport, is like really suffering? Well, it is… I went into the field for 4 mornings. During my first visit there was this magic sunrise with purple colors everywhere. But… I am a slow starter and as this was my first macro shoot since months, I just could not utilize this moment and nothing good came out. The best thing of the second shoot was the hot shower afterwards. Man… it was so cold! It had frozen the night before and there was no interesting light at all during sunrise. This, in combination with my frozen feet made me want to cry and go home. Instead I stayed and managed to make a high key picture of two tips I could only find after a very long search. The third attempt was marked by failing technique. My tripod did not meet my expectations because of a non adjustable horizontal center column. Furthermore I discovered that my AF of my beloved macro lens was defect. Most of the pictures taken during sunrise were not sharp. And then there was the last visit which can be summarized with only one word: KNUTJES! Now in case you don’t understand Dutch, this is the scientific name: ‘Ceratopogonidae’. Believe me, you don’t want to encounter these mini insects during a photo shoot. Man… there were millions of them and they did not stop stinging. Research afterwards showed they are familiar to the more well known mosquitoes. They are very small, about 1 till 4 millimeter, and they love moisture areas. Their stings can cause severe itching. And so I have experienced…. It is now 4 days later and I am still suffering. They have particularly stung me in the face. I am not exaggerating when I tell you my face is now covered with hundreds of itching red spots. Unless you are a sensationalism person you do not want to see me right now.

Then there are the positive sides. To experience and enjoy nature during these early mornings in spring is just fantastic. The (most probably) Tawney Owl that flies past our car when we arrive in our beloved area makes us awake and alert. The overwhelming wake up call of the singing birds when we get out of the car is just unforgettable and accompanies us during the rest of the photo shoot. The singing courtship flight of the Tree Pipit is just one of them but breathtakingly beautiful. The Common Cuckoo who is welcoming us in the morning twilight by calling ‘koekoek… koekoek’  while flying just a few meters above us. A little bit later the White Stork flying straight above us with majestic calmness.

And last but not least there are the pictures. The tangible remain of four exciting mornings…


Posted in New pictures