Countdown: the Ten Best Photographs of 2017

Just like in 2016, I wanted to present a top-10 of my favorite photos of the year. And like last year that appeared to be a daunting task. In 2017 I took over 6,000 photos; that makes about 20 per day. When I tried to make a longlist, it still contained 120 photos:

Longlist of 120 photos nominated for the top 10 of best photos of 2017

When choosing the final ten I mainly tried to create a nice selection, with a spread over seasons, locations, themes and parts of the day. It hurts that countless beautiful, sometimes even legendary, photos have not made it to the top 10. But actually that is also a bit of a luxury problem that I hope to have at the end of 2018 again.

10 – The cow in the tall grass

This picture was taken during a barbecue in the garden of a friend of a friend in late August. And it shows once again that it can occasionally pay off to go deep down on your knees, to come to the same level with the subject of your picture. The blurry foreground and background bring all the attention to the cow, which seems to be more interested in something that takes place outside of the picture. I am also happy with the lens flare effects at the top of the image; some photographers think those should be avoided at all costs, but in this case it certainly adds to the summery feel of the photo.

Stone sculpture of a cow in a city garden with tall grass

9 – Puddlegram

There is a word for photos of reflections in puddles: puddlegram. As far as I am concerned, the photo below is my puddlegram of the year. Made at the beginning of March on the quay of Leuvehaven in Rotterdam, with in the foreground the cranes, ships and grain elevator of the Maritime Outdoor Museum and in the background the residential and office towers of the city center. There are a few red and yellow accents, but other than that the colors are quite cold; and  it was in fact quite chilly that evening. It’s a photograph that makes the eye wander from details to the foreground like the structure of the concrete tiles on the quay to patterns in the background like the illuminated windows in the towers, and to everything in between.

Puddlegram: reflection of cranes, boats, grain elevator as well as office and residential towers in a puddle on the quay at the Maritime Outdoor Museum on Leuvehaven in Rotterdam

8 – Pear blossoms

You have to be quick in springtime in the Betuwe, the orchard region in the Netherlands. The apples (pink) and pears (white) are only in bloom for a very short time; come a few days late and there is little left of the blossoms. Although it must be said the Betuwe remains one of the most pretty regions of our country in the rest of the year as well.

This year a hike along the Diefdijk between Leerdam and Culemborg was perfectly planned: the pears were beautiful. I am very happy with this close-up of a couple of blossoms, two with the leaves still closed, three others open. On the branch below we see the irregular moss vegetation that makes fruit trees so fascinating. The background is a nice blur of white, brown and various green shades. Pay attention to the details: inside the white flower is also a little bit of pink.

Close-up of pear blossoom in springtime, captured at Diefdijk in the Betuwe region in the Netherlands

7 – The Bridge and the Stadium

This year I had the opportunity to take photos from a number of high buildings in Rotterdam, such as the Red Apple, the Delftse Poort and Central Post. Yet you do not necessarily have to go very high to take an interesting picture. This photo is made from the roof of the White House; this was once the highest skyscraper in Europe, but with its 43 meters it is now a dwarf between the much more recent towers in Rotterdam.

Here we see a conjunction of two landmarks: the former railway bridge De Hef and Feyenoord stadium De Kuip. In addition, a few other striking buildings can be recognized: the Peperklip residential complex and the Essalam mosque. The photo has a lot of shades of green and gray, that tie all those diverse elements nicely together.

Rotterdam's Southbank and Noordereiland, seen from the White House, with railway bridge De Hef and Feyenoord Stadium De Kuip

6 – Painting with contrails

The middle of the day is usually not the best time for photography. Around sunrise and sunset the light is much nicer or at least more interesting. But there are exceptions. In May I was on the nature island of Tiengemeten, just south of Rotterdam. The island was beautiful but the sky attracted even more attention. This photo, made around noon, is unreal, with little clouds like cotton balls and contrails like strokes on an abstract painting.

According to some people contrails, or chemtrails as they call it, are part of an international conspiracy to drug the world’s population. I myself am inclined to consider the official scientific explanation that they are exhaust gases condensing due to the cold at high altitudes, to be somewhat more plausible. But anyway: they produce nice images.

Blue sky with small clouds and contrails above farms on the nature island of Tiengemeten in The Netherlands

5 – 020 by Night

Many of my city photos are made in my hometown Rotterdam. But also that other city, a little bit north of Leiden, has quite a few photogenic locations. Here we see the Eastern Dock with the Conservatory and the Library, in the blue hour after sunset. I made the photo in January during the Amsterdam Light Festival, which explains the lighttrails of tour boats in the foreground. At the top left, an airplane draws an additional lighttrail. In fact, during the blue hour, the whole world is one big light festival .

Photo taken during the blue hour after sunset at the Eastern Dock in Amsterdam, featuring the conservatory, the Library and Saint Nicholas Church

4 – Red Skies over Medemblik

Until recently, Medemblik was missing in my collection of picturesque Dutch towns, mainly because Dutch Railways don’t have a station there. At the end of October, together with partner-in-crime A., I finally reached the West Frisian town by bus. And we were not disappointed: Medemblik is certainly as scenic as the other two points of the West-Frisian triangle (Hoorn and Enkhuizen).

The whole day we were treated to spectacular cloud formations. By the evening some rain started to fall from those clouds. Time for a beer in the strategically located café De Kwikkel, overlooking the Western Harbour. When the skies became increasingly photogenic, however, I ran out again to capture the natural beauty for posterity, trying to catch not too much rain in the process. This photo was one of the results and no, that sky has not been Photoshopped.

Spectacular red sunset above the sailing yachts in the marina at Medemblik's western harbour in the Netherlands

3 – The Nijmegen Cairn

Early this year I undertook a number of photo expeditions to areas in the east of our country that were in the grip of winter. For me, living in a slightly milder region in the west, it was all I could do; those few degrees Celsius make the difference between chilly drizzle and winter wonderland.

The snow conditions differed from place to place, also in the east. At Veur-Lent island near Nijmegen there was only a thin layer of powdery snow but that was enough to decorate this cairn on the beach near the river Waal. It’s my most Icelandic photo of the year; only the vague background with city bridge The Crossing indicates that this is Gelder- and not Iceland.

Photo of a cairn in the floodplains near Nijmegen, covered with a thin layer of snow, with city bridge The Crossing in the background

2 – Fallen Sweetgum

I made dozens of them this year in October and November: close-ups of fallen leaves. They capture the tragedy and beauty of autumn in one image. If I have to choose a favorite, it has to be this one. The yellow and red leaves in the foreground are positioned perfectly and sharp in the right places, while the blur behind them produces both depth and abstraction.

What kind of leaves are they? I would say they’re from the Liquidambar Styraciflua, or the sweetgum tree. Except that those are usually red and not yellow. Perhaps an expert who reads this can shine her or his light on the issue in the comments below.

Close-up of two leaves in autumn, a yellow and red one, on the ground amidst other fallen leaves

1 – The Lake and the Skyline

The banks of Lake Kralingen, near the Indonesian Minangkabau House, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in Rotterdam, with a stunning view of the skyline across the water. Add to that an amazing sunset and the beauty goes beyond all limits.

A nice aspect of this photo is the reflection: on the Plas itself the waves are a bit to rough, but the separated part in the foreground is a perfect mirror for the spectacular sky. I also like that there is just some vegetation visible in the foreground to add some extra depth to the image.

On most of my photos I try to avoid photographing my fellow human beings. But in this picture the person who is meditating there on the embankment next to their bike really adds something.

Sunset above the Rotterdam skyline seen from the banks of Lake Kralingen near Minangkabau House

 

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