Photoessay: mono transport in Amsterdam

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The one thing that stuck with me was the very small number of cars – and of the cars you did see, most were quite ancient…I guess it must have something to do with the Dutch taxes. At any rate, there was certainly enough variety to keep things photographically interesting, even if the weather wasn’t that fantastic. It’s certainly hard not to feel that it’s both a very eco-friendly and healthy city… MT

Shot with a mixture of cameras – Hasselblad 501C with 80/2.8 on Fuji Acros; OM-D E-M5 and 14-42 X pancake; Ricoh GR.

These images were made during the October 2013 Making Outstanding Images Workshop in Amsterdam; I will be holding three more of these in Melbourne, Sydney and London later this year. Click here for more info, and to sign up.

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2014 Making Outstanding Images Workshops: Melbourne, Sydney and London – click here for more information and to book!

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. Love the image of the cycle for four!

    Great images Ming!

  2. Saturnine Zero says:

    I really like the elements in this series, boats, cobbles and back-lighting all things I’m naturally drawn to myself.

    The back-lit man on the bike with his shadow is a great shot.

  3. What an awesome set of black and whites.

  4. The anchor places among my favorites in the set, at this moment.

  5. Hi Ming, Amazing pics. All beautifully rendered. I especially like the one with the back wheel as a frame in a frame. BTW. I know your anti-cropping, but did you possibly crop a couple of the Ricohs? I ask because I’ve only just purchased one and didn’t find an option for a 16:9 aspect ratio.

  6. Beautiful pictures! I especially like how you make the cars blend in so well; I’m still at a point where cars end up ruining a picture… Bravo!

  7. Hi Ming,
    The photos are very nice – but I find that in the first photo the trash bags are drawing my eyes and it somehow doesnt looks so great to me. My favourite one is the view through the wheel of the bike. It is a very nice perspective.

    I really like your B&W conversions. Trying to re-create them in my own images.

    Thanks
    Arpit

  8. I love the bike-wheel-as-frame picture! And shot with the Blad as well — very, very impressive timing.

    • Thanks – timing with the manual-focus only blad is not that tough – there’s no shutter lag. But perhaps I shouldn’t have said that…

      • Yes, true. I was thinking more of the fact that you get only 1 shot to get it right, with no motor drives or deep-buffer 10fps digital cameras. Of course, I don’t know how many times you tried … :) Also, that lens has a really lovely front bokeh.

        • To answer your question: only once, I had a finite amount of film and luggage capacity. :)

          There’s very little point in iterating with film unless you’re absolutely sure you messed it up – there’s no feedback, so there’s no way to refine a 99% result to a 100% one.

  9. Thank you for these nice images of my home town. When you are living in an environement for over thirty years you do not see anymore what is special about it.
    About the small number of old cars. When you have a car in Amsterdam you also have problems. It is an old city, the infrastructure is from the sixteenth century. Cycling and walking is much more convenient and gets you a lot faster from a to b. Finding a place to park is always a problem. The parking fees are the highest in the world, so are the taxes on petrol and new cars. When you are lucky and live in the inner city it takes more than five years to get a permanent parking license. Hardly anyone in the inner city has a garage and cars will be scratched within days after buying it. We have an economical crisis, the sales of new cars are on a low level. Having a car is luxury, but for the younger generation a car is no longer a status symbol.

    • It’s actually a big liability; and your city is so easy to get around there’s no longer any point in having a car for most people. Not so where I live…not having a car is a huge hassle.

      • plevyadophy says:

        Having been to Amsterdam, and travelled to the north of the Netherlands, I would also add that Amsterdam has, compared to London, the most outrageously wonderfully reliable public transport system; when the timetable says a bus will arrive at 14:10, the bus arrives at around 14:06, passengers board, and the bus is on the move at 14:10 and you don’t have all the annoying traffic getting in the way of the buses. In London, timetables are a joke except after about midnight, when there are fewer cars on the road, where the buses can actually keep to the timetable.

        Also, Amsterdam appears, to me an outsider, to have a “joined up” transport policy. In London, we have 32 Boroughs (local government administrations/municipalities) and each one seems to have a transport policy in conflict with their neighbouring Borough e.g. one Borough might give precendece to buses along major roads duing certain times of the day (i.e. dedicated bus lanes), then the bus crosses a junction into another Borough only to find that there are no bus lanes or that the bus lanes have different times of operation. We even have the idiot nonsense of one stupid Borough deciding to close off entirely a bus lane on one of the busiest stretches of road and hand it over to cyclists (where previously it was a shared lane for buses and cycles) meaning public transport commuters will face insane delays getting to work.

        Also, as S.Low says above, in Amsterdam a car isn’t a status symbol for youngsters; in London, if you try pulling up to a woman on a bike to chat her up, she will look you up and down with scorn but pull up in a car, especially a “prestigious” brand of car and you’ve at least got the woman’s attention for a few moments (in which to give her your “sales pitch” :) )

        Finally, Londoners have, just like Americans with their guns, a ridiculous fixation, a sense of entitlement, with cars to the point of it being akin to an infringement of their God given human rights (as laid down in [name your human rights charter here]) if they are in any way restricted in their driving and politicians are just way too spineless to do what is right with roads policy and when they do try they usually get it wrong (penalise drivers unreasonably, treating them as some cash cows, and imposing silly parking restrictions in shopping areas or putting cycle lanes in idiotic places, or not having a London wide easily understood bus lane system (you can drive in bus lanes between 10:00 to 16:00 in one Borough, turn the corner into another Borough, or sometimes in another district within the same Borough, and find that the bus lane restrictions run from 07:00 to 19:00 and by the time you have realised it you’ve been spotted by some automated camera that sends you, a few days later, a £60 penalty ticket).

        The other thing I noticed about Amsterdam is, how calm it is compared to London; no noise, no horns or screaching brakes and no constant noise from emergency vehicles. I think we Londoners are living under intense stress and become so used to it that we don’t realise it until we end up somewhere more calm and civilised like Amsterdam. Hey, even the police are more approachable in Amsterdam, you can actually go up to them and talk to them; London police prefer to act like aliens from another planet, hardly ever engaging with the public who employ them, preferring to remain distant in vans with blacked out windows or seated in cars with the windows wound up only emerging to engage with the public to be rude, to whack them with their telescopic batons or zap them with a Taser gun.

        Photographically speaking, and I have never shot in Amsterdam, I would imagine the calmness of the place creates a nice vibe for one’s artistic vision. No?

        Declaration: I own a supposedly prestigious brand of motor car, but I make most journeys by public transport.

      • plevyadophy says:

        Having been to Amsterdam, and travelled to the north of the Netherlands, I would also add that Amsterdam has, compared to London, the most outrageously wonderfully reliable public transport system; when the timetable says a bus will arrive at 14:10, the bus arrives at around 14:06, passengers board, and the bus is on the move at 14:10 and you don’t have all the annoying traffic getting in the way of the buses. In London, timetables are a joke except after about midnight, when there are fewer cars on the road, where the buses can actually keep to the timetable.

        Also, Amsterdam appears, to me an outsider, to have a “joined up” transport policy. In London, we have 32 Boroughs (local government administrations/municipalities) and each one seems to have a transport policy in conflict with their neighbouring Borough e.g. one Borough might give precendece to buses along major roads duing certain times of the day (i.e. dedicated bus lanes), then the bus crosses a junction into another Borough only to find that there are no bus lanes or that the bus lanes have different times of operation. We even have the idiot nonsense of one stupid Borough deciding to close off entirely a bus lane on one of the busiest stretches of road and hand it over to cyclists (where previously it was a shared lane for buses and cycles) meaning public transport commuters will face insane delays getting to work.

        Also, as S.Low says above, in Amsterdam a car isn’t a status symbol for youngsters; in London, if you try pulling up to a woman on a bike to chat her up, she will look you up and down with scorn but pull up in a car, especially a “prestigious” brand of car and you’ve at least got the woman’s attention for a few moments (in which to give her your “sales pitch” :) )

        Finally, Londoners have, just like Americans with their guns, a ridiculous fixation, a sense of entitlement, with cars to the point of it being akin to an infringement of their God given human rights (as laid down in [name your human rights charter here]) if they are in any way restricted in their driving and politicians are just way too spineless to do what is right with roads policy and when they do try they usually get it wrong (penalise drivers unreasonably, treating them as some cash cows, and imposing silly parking restrictions in shopping areas or putting cycle lanes in idiotic places, or not having a London wide easily understood bus lane system (you can drive in bus lanes between 10:00 to 16:00 in one Borough, turn the corner into another Borough, or sometimes in another district within the same Borough, and find that the bus lane restrictions run from 07:00 to 19:00 and by the time you have realised it you’ve been spotted by some automated camera that sends you, a few days later, a £60 penalty ticket).

        The other thing I noticed about Amsterdam is, how calm it is compared to London; no noise, no horns or screaching brakes and no constant noise from emergency vehicles. I think we Londoners are living under intense stress and become so used to it that we don’t realise it until we end up somewhere more calm and civilised like Amsterdam. Hey, even the police are more approachable in Amsterdam, you can actually go up to them and talk to them; London police prefer to act like aliens from another planet, hardly ever engaging with the public who employ them, preferring to remain distant in vans with blacked out windows or seated in cars with the windows wound up only emerging to engage with the public to be rude, to whack them with their telescopic batons or zap them with a Taser gun.

        Photographically speaking, and I have never shot in Amsterdam, I would imagine the calmness of the place creates a nice vibe for one’s artistic vision. No?

        Declaration: I own a supposedly prestigious brand of motor car, but I make most journeys by way of a big red limo or extended coach (i.e. a London bus or the London Underground :) )

        • I feel much the same about London – having lived there for many years in the past, public transport works and is adequate – but no more. It isn’t super-efficient like Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands etc. There’s also that slight underlying sense of chaos you mention; the quiet is nice for photography, but much nicer is a significantly reduced likelihood of being run down by some kind of motor vehicle.

          • The last time I was in London (about 2 years ago), I saw someone almost get run down by a delivery van while crossing the street. Of course, the pedestrian was texting and not looking where he was going. The van honked, and started to zoom off, only to stop a few feet later, and its driver leaned out the window and started cursing out the pedestrian.

            Throughout all of this, I think the ped only looked up twice: once when he was almost hit, and a second time when he was being cursed. Both times, he immediately went back to his phone. With seemingly over half the pedestrian traffic looking at their phone, you can probably take all sorts of street photos without anyone noticing!

          • Peter Boender says:

            Wonderful to read reactions about the Dutch public transportation by people with a different cultural background and from a different locale. It appears the Dutch aren’t doing too bad on a world scale, and, being a Dutchman myself, it’s good to get this realization. Being put in our place, since one of the favorite Dutch pastimes is nagging and complaining about public transport. (Well, maybe one of our favorite pastimes is nagging and complaining in the first place, about just about anything :-) ).
            Like previous posters have already commented, not going into our older inner cities (most stem from the sixteenth century) by car is usually the better choice, instead relying on public transport or bikes, mopeds and the like. One thing to avoid like the plague are taxis, the rates are ranging from outrageous to outright criminal. Personally I take taxis in almost every major world city, without giving it a second thought, but never ever in my home country.

            • Peter Boender says:

              About the pics: wonderful series again Ming! Thanks for sharing and commenting! The one that works best for me is #7: man on bike, shot into the light, with large shadow dropping towards us. That shot has a wonderful balance and composition and beautiful play of light. Shot #11 (motor bike hanging from ceiling) has a special place in my memory ;-)

              • Thanks Peter! The motorbike storage from the ceiling was one of the more surreal moments I’ve had. I’m sure it wasn’t the wine at that excellent dinner since I didn’t drink it ;)

                • Peter Boender says:

                  Well, I did have the wine, and despite of that (I’m sure) I was surreal for me too! That’s what I like about Amsterdam (and I really should visit more often): there are always quirky and peculiar situations to be discovered, people always seem to have bright and original solutions to common everyday problems. Walking around brightens the mind (and no, the frequent peculiar smells don’t do that for me) and entertains the soul.

            • I take it you didn’t try public transport in Malaysia :)

              I actually prefer to walk whenever I’m in a city that is conducive for doing so – firstly, the exercise and the fresh air; but more importantly, drive-by-shootings usually result in fatalities or accidents…

              • Peter Boender says:

                Well, I’ve done my fair share of Malaysian train and monorail rides… No bad memories at all, although I must say, when I’m in the tropics I always remind myself to slow down my inner clock. Coping with a different pace in life greatly helps my mood: get in sync, “do the buddha” and just enjoy :-) Most of my getting around in KL has been done in taxis. Outside KL it’s been mostly rental cars, and I must say, the toll road highways have left a good impression :-)

              • “drive-by-shootings usually result in fatalities or accidents…”

                So, what you’re saying is no plans for workshops in South Central LA, then? ;)

  10. Wonderful serie! The bike for four is awesome
    Have a nice day

  11. Excellent photos

  12. Wonderful Shots Ming! Really like the bicyclist with the shadow.

  13. looks like my old dutch bike!
    costs a fortune to drive & park
    in amsterdam; go bikes :-)

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