Winter in Rotterdam: a white Christmas animation

Anecdotal evidence is no evidence at all. It’s hard to say whether or not the boring winters of the last few years are an effect of global warming. For which, by the way, there is enough real evidence; that’s what scientists (or at least 99.9% of them) agree on.

Winter scene with snow on the tram tracks, road, sidewalk and bicycle path on Coolsingel boulevard in Rotterdam, digitally painted, framed and attached above the couch in a cosy living room
Snow on Coolsingel boulevard


Anyway, the last few winters were exceptionally mild. Especially here in the southwest of the Netherlands. On television I see people skating on natural ice in the northern province of Friesland or a beautiful blanket of snow in the eastern region of the Achterhoek. But the last time Rotterdam colored white was already two years ago and then the winter lasted just 48 hours. I immediately wrote a blog about it: The Winter of 2014: Two Days of Snow, Ice and Slush.

Not everyone will complain about spring-like temperatures in December. And okay, it can be cumbersome, all this snow and ice. Especially when we get to the the stage of continuously melting and refreezing dirty gray mud.

Photo from the (short) winter of 2014, with the snowy Museumpark in Rotterdam, a frozen over pond, the Boymans museum, the New Institute and the Parkhotel
Winter at Museumpark

Winter Wonderland

But I miss it, the special atmosphere in the city during and after heavy snowfall. The meditative calm that emanates from falling snow flakes. The special light. The fanciful art of snow-covered branches and bicycles. The totally new look of our familiar surroundings.

Fortunately we still have the pictures. You would almost forget it but around 2012 we had a few relatively cold and snowy winters. So I have an extensive collection of charming Rotterdam winter pictures on my hard drive.

I had been planning to do something with that collection for a while. But the problem, er, the challenge was that the footage is quite varied. Made with different cameras and under different circumstances: in howling snowstorms, tranquil winter landscapes and streets full of gray slush. It is not easy to turn that into something coherent.

I decided to revert to an old technique: paintification: editing photos in Photoshop in such a way that ultimately they don’t look like photos anymore. That is not a matter of a single push of a button; such filters exist, but it is the combination of edits that produces the desired result: a sort of impressionistic comic drawing in which the few colors that can be found in a winter landscape stand out really well.

Digital painting of Hotel New York in Rotterdam in winter, printed on canvas in a room with ice on the windows
Hotel New York, ice on the windows


After I put all the images in a logical order, and added some music, I was still missing something. But what? Ah, snowflakes! So I generated a customized snowstorm in 3ds Max, a program that I habitually use for very different things.

Just in time for Christmas this white Christmas animation was finished:

winter in rotterdam


My winter project already has two spin-offs. Firstly my Christmas card for this year, which was distributed in a very limited edition but mainly spread through social media:

Christmas card of the author: a paintified photograph of the maritime outdoor museum at Leuvehaven in Rotterdam, covered with snow
Snow at the quay of Leuvehaven

Winter on the wall

Also, I like some of the paintifications so much that I’d like them on the walls of my living room. And if I want to do that, others might too, so I opened a new album in my webshop:

Man holds a painting of Westersingel canal in Rotterdam in winter
Ice on Westersingel canal

In the meantime, the ten-day forecasts predict some cold for the days around New Years Eve. I would be highly surprised but I have my camera ready.

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