In the October 2017, I visited the Netherlands with my wife. It was a short vacation and I planned to visit a couple of places. This wasn’t photography journey of any kind. But I was able to do some photography without pressure. It happens to have two nice bodies waiting for me in The Netherlands, and I have to chose which lens(es) should I bring. These lenses are mostly for testing bodies and eventually if I feel like I want to bring a camera with me. No tripods are planned and not even any kind of camera bag, except one pouch. I wanted to feel free and fast to show my wife some places because and we have limited time.
So I had Canon 1D X Mark II and Canon 800D in The Netherlands and I had to choose lenses to bring with me. I eliminated full frame very quickly. First reason, 1D X Mark II is obviously too big to carry around with any lens. Especially because this wasn’t photography journey for me. The second reason is that I don’t have zoom lenses for full frame, expect 70-200mm f2.8 IS II. I like zoom lenses in my free time, vacation, holidays, birthdays, etc. As much I love prime lenses while I am doing a professional gig, especially video.
I brought with me Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens and Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS. You actually can use this lens on full frame body, partially. 10-18mm (after small modification) for both video and photo, and 17-50mm for 4k video. I will have a blog post explaining this soon. So I was able to test 1D X Mark II and I had two nice lenses for travel photography in combination with Canon 800D (T7i). Not long ago I owned 55-250mm IS STM and this lens simply worth every penny. I would choose to bring this lens instead Sigma 17-50mm in a heartbeat. Because I am not very interested in that usual mid-zoom range in my free time.
Generally, I tend towards extremes. Extreme wideness, extreme zoom or compression, extremely shallow depth of field. And if you use 24-70mm f2.8 at 30mm and shot wide shot without foreground in daylight, that photo will look like a photo from a phone. No matter how amazing camera body is. I am admitting that 24-70mm or 24-105mm lenses are important in many professional, documentary, unpredictable situations, but often very boring when you have to be creative or just to relax in free time.
Also, 55-250mm IS STM is amazing budget landscape lens. Yes, having reach for shooting landscapes is very important. I heard so many beginners talking about ultrawide lens for landscape. That is a just wrong assumption. You really have to be very close to or inside an amazing place to make a great landscape with an ultrawide lens. But with a telephoto lens, you can create and isolate some parts of scenery and make great landscape frame.
The first day we were visiting Roermond and Maastricht. I brought with me Canon 800D, Canon 10-18mm STM, and Sigma 17-50mm OS. Only with camera pouch, so I changed lenses only if I had a really good reason for that. I needed some shoulder bag to be able to change lenses without taking off the bag. I already been to Roermond and get some snapshots couple years ago, so I wasn’t motivated too much to take photos there. As I said before, taking photos on this trip wasn’t my primary goal. Roermond is a small town that really looks nice. It has more to offer than you can judge by initial impression if you are a photographer.
Maastricht is a bigger place, city and offers more historical architecture and scenery. Roermond is more place to catch small details of everyday, relaxed life of Dutch people I would say. Maastricht gives a classic variety of what you can expect to see through the camera in The Netherlands. You have beautiful architecture, different churches, streets, bars, canals, people. To be clear you can find this in many towns and cities across the country. I was really happy to catch blue hour with street lighting. But I was late for some shots inside churches because churches were closed or just haven’t so good lighting and that part of the day.
I would say that The Netherlands are tourist haven when it comes to snapshots. Whenever you point your camera you will get a nice picture. And that is why you need to have noticeably wider or tighter lens than 30mm, which is the common focal length of today’s phones. That is the way to make your photo stands because it is not that hard to find a place to make a nice photo. You just need to create something different on that place to make your photo stands up.
The second day was booked for Amsterdam. Before Amsterdam, we visited Zaanse Schans. This village is 3-4 train stops after Amsterdam and it is windmill place. If you like authentic travel experience, you will hate this place. Because it is artificial with too much default tourists. This village is made to look this way to show us a way of life in 18th and 19th century. It is probably OK if you are visiting the country for only 30 minutes. In any other situation, you just go to any random place, you will have genuine experience. To be fair, Zaanse Schans is a good place if you want to make cliche photos of The Netherlands. And considering that is very close to Amsterdam, you can leave 45 minutes to visit this place. But no more than that.
And what I can say about Amsterdam. All your photography and tourist needs you can achieve there. I cannot say it is my favorite place because as I became older I don’t like cities anymore. I am now more interested in lakes, rivers, mountains, forests. Nature without generic tourists. But Amsterdam is simply stunning place. You can make any kind of photography there. It is not always “clean” in the frame like Maastricht or some other places. You have to work more to make a photo. But you will be awarded appropriately.
Rotterdam should be completely different visually to other towns and cities and that was to reason why we wanted to go there. We were planning to visit Rotterdam third day, but the rain ruined the plan. Speaking of camera and lens, I cannot complain at all. This was my first contact with Canon 800D. Everything on this camera is as you expect if you ever use some Canon DSLR. Compared to older similar bodies, like 550D or 600D, 800D gives much better grip. Which was a surprise to me, because I couldn’t notice that on the product photos. Canon changed the battery and make grip little bit narrow, but deeper. This is just couple millimeters here and there, but it is amazing how small DSLR can have such a good grip.
I didn’t feel the speed or better autofocus through the viewfinder of 800D. Because I didn’t need those features on this trip. I was using live view and Dual Pixel Autofocus in almost any shot. Well, I didn’t need super fast autofocus at all, but Dual Pixel Autofocus makes you use this camera in live view without the need to go back to the viewfinder.
The second day I left Sigma 17-50mm at home and used 10-18mm only. As I sad, 17-50mm doesn’t have enough reach to be fun and I didn’t take usual portraits at all. The Netherlands is a great place for the ultrawide lens. Because you can find a clean frame so often. This country is aesthetically impressive. Wherever you look and point camera seems so nice, genuine, and not artificial in any kind. Period of the year also helped. It was late October in the northern part of Europe and that means low sharp sun during the whole day. Which is much better, in my opinion, than overhead sun or cloudy day. During summer in southern Europe, you have low sun only 15 or 30 minutes every day. I can highly recommend you to visit The Netherlands with or without a camera.
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