My friends and I found out we all had a few days off at the same time during half-term week, so we figured we'd plan a little trip somewhere nice as we all desperately needed a holiday. We decided on Amsterdam and began the arduous process of looking for flights and accommodation to suit everyones needs and budget and then trying to figure out some sort of plan of what we wanted to do when we got there. 

Eventually we settled on an apartment booked through Airbnb, which was the kind of gentrified, hipster apartment you'd except from Airbnb (no bad thing mind). Big bookcase (with a really good, diverse selection of fiction and non fiction), old record player (seemingly for show as the connecting wires were just dangling down the shelf); old, worn, travel guides and black & white photos of jazz musicians on the walls. While all of that has almost become a cliche these days it does make for good photos as you can see below.

I love portraits with large bookcases in the background, taken in studies or libraries and while Heather was sat in one of the chairs I could't help but take some photos (it then turned into a quick impromptu shoot). When your friends look this good you are almost obliged to! I could have tried to set up the shot a little better or work a bit more on the lighting but that probably would have just killed the mood and spontaneity of it all, and we we were supposed to be on our way out! (Click the images to make them larger). 

Initially we planned to go to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum on day one, have a slow wander round, take in the sights and sounds, and of course take photos. But like most best laid plans, we didn't actually make it into either museum and just spent the day wandering, chatting, laughing, eating, photographing and generally enjoying the vibe of the city whilst relaxing (or patiently waiting on some steps while the photographers and videographers did their thing). 

Days two and three ended up being the exact same thing and so the few places I had on my mental list remained unvisited, but I wouldn't have changed that at all. Sometimes it's best not to do all the usual tourist things and rush round trying to cram it all in, which is exactly what I did in New York and that ended up being exhausting. This trip ended up being an actual break and was exactly what I needed. 

So before we get to the rest of photos here's what I liked about Amsterdam:

The people! Everyone seemed really friendly and chilled. I was genuinely surprised at the people randomly smiling at me in the streets and appreciated the help and advice I got from strangers when I asked. 

The beautiful architecture. The tall, narrow houses, all wonky and tilting; with hooks at the top so items can be pulled up and through windows as getting furniture and bulky items up those narrow staircases would be impossible! Very clever. I also loved how a lot of houses were covered in some sort of greenery or pots were left outside or out on the balconies. 

The bikes. There were bikes everywhere. I try to sneak them into a lot of my shots where I can and I was spoiled for choice in Amsterdam, but somehow ended up with very little photos of them. I love how bikes seem to be the primary mode of transport in central Amsterdam and the roads and paths are designed to incorporate them as opposed to just being an add-on or after thought. They are also parked, literally, everywhere. On the side of the road, up against hedges, buildings, railings, on bridges and in their own parking spaces and racks. 

The art. I might not have actually set foot into any of the museums or galleries, but it was enough to be around it, looking at the gardens, sculptures, architecture, window displays, street art, listening to buskers playing cellos or hip hop sets in the park at night (Rembrandt park no less). 

I would definitely go back and if I did I would make sure I got to see a real Van Gogh, Vermeer and Rembrandt this time round. Then I'd just do the exact same thing again and soak up the atmosphere and photograph.

Enjoy the photos. 

Now while I'd love to take credit for the four photos below, they weren't actually taken by me (I just gave them a little spit and polish). Heather borrowed my camera a few times during the trip and did a wonderful job in capturing the moment below. They are easily some of my favourite photos of the trip (and better than mine) and I think it's obvious she needs to buy her own camera! 

Some photography notes for those interested...

The above was a quick snapshot taken with the 23mm wide open at 1.4, ISO 6400, no flash. I have made some slight exposure, colour and noise reduction adjustments in Lightroom, but it's turned out well given how dark it was outside. I do like the Fuji noise/grain and granted it's not as nice as real film grain, but it can still look quite pleasing if used correctly. It can muddy up faces in colour though which isn't very flattering! I did want to take more portraits at night and incorporate the neon signs of the shops but it didn't quite work out this time. I will try and have another go at some point though. 

Lastly I did think about upgrading to the XT2 before the trip as it seemed to be the perfect excuse, but I really couldn't justify the cost, given the XT1 is still more than good enough for me and what I do. I also don't feel I've gotten close to reaching the limits of the camera. If at any point I don't get the results I'm after, that's more down to me and not the camera. There are a few little niggles that have been ironed out with the latest model and I would very much like the improved auto focus and focus joystick, and the extra resolution wouldn't hurt by any stretch but I don't need it just yet. Maybe by the time the XT3 is out. Or I could just sell an arm and a leg and buy the GFX...