Last year I went out to the Zaanse Schans for the first time of my life. Unprepared, unplanned I just went there and got lucky. The weather was good not great but good and it was a tranquil summer evening. I was surprised by the calm atmosphere of this place. It was a big contrast with the touristic character this place must have in daytime.

As a natural born Dutchie it felt strange walking in a place that people from China come over to visit yet i haven’t been there before in my entire life (and I am not the youngest anymore)! Even though I came unprepared the first time I still managed to shoot some ‘keepers’. And promised myself to go back soon. So this year I planned another trip and together with a friend we set off for Zaandam. Like last year we parked at the parking of the Zaanse Museum. In daytime you would have to pay but in the evening parking is free even though you still have to get a ticket to enter. From there it was a 5 minute walk to the windmills.

Knowing what to expect since I had been here before I knew the classic shots I wanted to get. Most of the time I like images from the early blue hour best but I had made myself a promise to shoot more in daylight conditions too. Luckily this place is so photogenic that you can almost point your camera anywhere for a nice photo. I have seen many images of the Zaanse Schans online and I had a general idea of what images I wanted to capture. As a rule of thumb I try to get the ‘classic’ shots first. This is not always possible because some of them require specific times like sunset or blue hour. But its these are the shots that I build my planning around. At sunset I wanted to be at the jetty at the blue hour I wanted the shot with the streetlights and one of the cheese farm and the bridge in front. That was kind of my shortlist for this day… So the times before and in-between I used to wander around, try different angles and shoot stuff under different light than I had planned. This strategy payed off and I am glad to say that I have shot a lot of ‘keepers’ during the in-between shots.

The path from the parking to the windmills leads in between all these small traditional houses and farms and a couple of these are classic shots to be had on their own.

After stopping waaaay to often on the way we finally arrived at the windmills. I wanted to get that classic shot with the Mostermolen (a shed and the windmills and the streetlight) that was my first priority. Then I made my way along the river towards the most prominent windmill ‘De Gekroonde Poelenburg’ and onto the jetty that is in front of it. After I got these most photographed ’classics’ it was time to do things different again. Varying between classic shots, panoramas and my own compositions. After sunset it was time to head back to the car. On the way back I made sure to revisit some of the classic shots again to capture them in different light. Looking at the images now I was glad I did I got two different lighting setups from a couple of classic shots and I am quite happy with either one of these lighting conditions! 

Me working on a composition image by John O’Sullivan (c)2018


As for the processing I had shot everything bracketed so I could choose the file with the most information and processed it with a little lighter touch that usual for me…. and I was surprised with the crisp-ness and details I got out of the files. I had ‘found’ this way of processing editing business portraits for the company where I work and incorporated some of the newly found insights into the processing of landscape images.. My normal workflow involves importing and basic editing in Lightroom, then into Photoshop for some more detailed processing and styling and some NIK software and then back to Lightroom for the finishing touch…

All in all it was a very productive trip for me, I got more keepers from a shoot than usual and felt that I really had worked the scene and got the most out of it. In hindsight I ask myself if I were just lucky that things had worked out this way. Or was it because I had been here before was not in a rush, knew what to expect and what shots were available? I think it was the last. preparation was the key even though we could have waited/planned for some more dramatic skies… oh well maybe next time. There is always room for improvement.

Anyway hope you enjoy


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