Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My trip to Belgium (Part 2)

In my previous instalment on the subject of 'my trip to Belgium' I told you guys I was meeting up with another photographer. Here's how that went.

A day before we left Cochrane (talk about last minute) I emailed Didier Demaret with the notion that I was coming to Belgium. I asked Didier if he saw an opportunity for the two of us to meet each other and maybe go out shooting or go for a coffee or something.

I've been following Didier for over a year now (thank you Google+) and he quickly became one of my favourite Belgian photographers. He's primarily a long exposure artist that does some really beautiful minimalistic work. And that simple fact surprises me. When I lived in Belgium I found it very hard to find ANYTHING worth photographing. But Didier showed me, stuff is there.

Anyway. So on my birthday, I made my way down to the little town of Ecaussines. Yes I had to use gps navigation to find the place. But it was just under an hour's drive away from where we were staying.

When I crossed into the French speaking part of Belgium I immediately noticed that the sense of 'space' was much greater here. Towns had fewer houses. A lot more trees and fields, etc. In a sense it's like driving out of Calgary onto the prairies. Well not quite. But that's all I got right now. :)

I had just parked the car around the corner of Didier's house and was walking up to the front door when I heard a car stopping behind me. I turn around and Didier jumps up out of his car with this enormous smile. I could see he was as excited to meet me, as I was to meet him.

Anyway. Long story short. Didier invited me into his home and introduced me to his girlfriend. She was busy working on some sort of architectural plan for her studies. It looked all very complicated. Didier also showed me about 12-15 framed prints of his. He had just finished preparing a new batch for a exposition he was part of.

I always find it very interesting to see other photographers prints and presentations. They can say a lot about the photographers' personality. Without saying a word I studied his prints. I could immediately feel and see that Didier had the same COD attention to detail then myself. His prints looked immaculate.

So then Didier invited me to do some sightseeing around his town. We grabbed the gear, jumped in his car and set off. He showed me around for a bit and showed me 2 castles. All very nice but I was hoping for some more... let's say... minimalistic scenes. ;)

Afterwards we went to see the inclined plane of Ronquieres. An immensely impressive structure that permits ships navigate a 222ft vertical elevation in the local canal. Pretty crazy undertaking... The whole structure serves as a huge local landmark. I've always heard about this place but had never seen it before. It made me pretty silent.

Then I saw my first photograph! It got me pretty excited. From underneath the inclined plane I could make out a really nice minimal scene. I asked Didier on our way out to stop exactly here. We walked into the field a little bit. The field was still bare but it was freshly worked a few days before (if I had to guess). That's where I made this photograph.


Anyway. I know this is becoming a bit of a long blogpost.

Later that day, Didier took me out for a 3.5 hour hike around some fields and pastures. Rain was now coming down hard. Navigating slippery mud and puddles we finally saw another scene. And then another and another.




Trying to photograph the scenes above I realized, I forgot my spotmeter! I only brought one bag on our muddy hike and the other bag (with the light meter) was in the car. Which was 30 minutes away from where we where now. Luckily, light had not changed a whole lot during that morning. AND I had my trusty iPhone with me WITH a Light Meter app. Looking back, that app nailed the exposures pretty good.

And then we came across this tree. Now this was a bit of a challenge. But again, the light meter app prevailed. I still can't believe it by the way. I should use it more often.


By now, we were both soaking wet. Didier was apologizing for the bad weather, but I told him I love photographing in bad weather. It's the truth. I love being out in fog, snow, rain, ... 

And THEN we saw this scene. It was pretty spectacular. Well at least in my book.

We came across 2 trees across a field. Again the field was still bare. Behind the trees the background was getting simplified by rain (yup it was still raining hard and we were basically trying to not go face first in the slippery mud in front of us). I immediately 'saw' the photograph. I wanted to silhouette those trees. And I wanted them to have some presence in the frame.

I screwed on the 127mm with the 2x Vivitar extender. The trees fitted the frame perfectly (oh yeah I still had no spot meter). As I was watching through the viewfinder I noticed the bird. I turn to Didier "Dude there's a bird in between the trees, you see it?!". I was excited about this. Then – like on command – the bird started walking from the right tree to the left. I tripped the shutter when the bird was exactly in the middle of the trees. Framing the bird between them (oh yeah, the bird was a model!). I can't tell you how excited I was when I saw the negative of this!



In that negative you can exactly make out what bird it is. For you bird people out there, it's a Northern Lapwing. :)

After this encounter, we decided to not jinx it any more and find our way back to the car. Happy we finally found it again we headed out to a local cafe and grabbed ourselves a hot chocolate and talked a bit about the day. It was amazing to work along side Didier for a few hours. And it was interesting (yeah let's call it that) to brush up on my French again. :s I just hope I didn't offend Didier to much. hahaha.

Anyway an hour later I was standing under a hot shower trying to get the cold out of my bones. My camera bag was soaking wet. I just let it air out. Since my camera doesn't use any electronics I wasn't too worried. But I was worried to see that my film compartment in my bag and all of my exposed rolls of film inside of it, was still soaking wet 2 days after our meet up though.

But nothing was lost. No photographs where harmed. :)

It was great meeting Didier and see the person behind the imagery. I strongly suggest to everyone to check out Didier's website. I can assure you, if you like minimalism and B&W photography, you will be impressed.