A January Morning in Rotterdam

The month of January, and especially the first half of it, is the perfect time to take photos at dawn. The sun rises around a quarter to nine, so you don’t have to set the alarm inhumanely early and walk around with a jet lag for the rest of the day. Therefore it has become a habit to undertake several photo expeditions through an awakening Rotterdam in this time of year.

This year I hesitated. Photos during the blue hour look cool mainly because of the multitude of light sources, from glimmering daylight to headlights, street lamps and especially interior lighting. But the current lockdown means less traffic and less light in shops, offices and coffee bars.

Although the weather forecast for Wednesday January 13 looked favorable, I decided not to set the alarm. But when I woke up at a quarter past seven, the temptation was great. So, after a quick cup of coffee and some egg and bacon, I went into town with my camera and tripod. It was, as always, a wild gamble, but this time it was generously rewarded.

Colorful photo with harbour and construction cranes at Leuvehaven harbour in Rotterdam, The Netherlands during the blue hour on a winter morning
A festival of color

It always remains a surprise how exactly such a weather forecast – partly cloudy, I was promised – turns out. Around eight o’clock there was still very little to say about the prospects. But at the Maritime Outdoor Museum in Leuvehaven harbour it is always a festival of color.

Under construction

Indeed, there’s less light in offices than in normal times. But construction workers cannot work from home, so it is business as usual on construction sites despite the pandemic. Below we see Wijnhaven harbour with the Casanova and Our Domain residential towers under construction and on the left two residential buildings which have already been completed: 100 Hoog and The Muse.

Wijnhaven harbour in Rotterdam, The Netherlands during the blue hour before sunrise with various residential buildings, some of them completed, others under construction
Wijnhaven at daybreak

Down to the river

At the Old Harbour it became clear that this could well be a very beautiful sunrise. The northern bank of the Nieuwe Maas beckoned as the most promising place for beautiful shots.

Sunrise over the Old Harbour and Willems Bridge in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Two bridges and the Old Harbour


And indeed, when I had crossed the Maasboulevard the spectacle appeared to have erupted in full force. Windmill, water tower and Brienenoord bridge and a passing barge were nice props for this image, which I put on the longlist for the top 10 blogpost of 2021.

Spectacular sunrive over Nieuwe Maas river in Rotterdam, The Netherlands with a wind turbine, the Watertower and Van Brienenoord Bridge
Red Skies over De Esch


The Erasmus Bridge is the most photographed bridge in Rotterdam, but Willem’s Bridge is also a nice piece of work. Especially at this magical moment, with the mood lighting still on and a sky in a matching color.

Willems Bridge, Nieuwe Maas river and Noordereiland in Rotterdam under a spectacular sky at sunrise
Willems bridge and Noordereiland

The Washing Line

And of course a photo of the Maasbeeld sculpture by Auke de Vries, a.k.a. the Washing Line, can’t be skipped. In the background we still see Willem’s Bridge, the Noordereiland and, in a supporting role, another iconic bridge, the Hef.

Nieuwe Maas river, Waslijn sculpture, Willemsbridge and Noordereiland in Rotterdam, The Netherlands under a spectacular sky at sunrise
The Washing Line


And it just didn’t stop. When I walked past Leuvehaven again, longing for my second cup of coffee, the sky was full of clouds of all conceivable shapes, sizes and colors, beautifully lit by the still quite low sun.

Beautiful sky shortly after sunrise over Maritime Oudoor Museum in Leuvehaven harbour in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Maritime Outdoor Museum


The sky was beautiful in all directions. The photo below was taken with my back to the sunrise. Against such a background, even the Maritime Museum becomes a beauty (don’t get me wrong: it is quite an interesting building with those oblique lines and volumes that slide into one another, but those grubby bricks from the 1980’s… horror!)

The Maritime Museum in Rotterdam, The Netherlands at Leuvehaven harbour
Maritime Indoor Museum

The mornings of ’22

I’ve decided to leave it with this one January morning expedition this year. This sunrise is unbeatable. Next year at this time I will make new attempts, in a hopefully more lively city where covid-19 and the lockdowns seem like bad dreams from a nasty period.

January expeditions in other years: 2016201920202022

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