This is a blog about Belgium. So far it’s mostly about Brussels, where I’ve been living for the past two years, and for the time being it’s just photographs, but at some point there will be beer. And bars. And frites. And chocolate. And exploring. And trains into the heart of Flanders, so I can practise my bad Flemish. And writing, if only to list my favourite bars and restaurants, and so on, so that visitors to Brussels can dip in and take their pick.
The light in Brussels is very beautiful, and also very strange, and often reminds of this painting by Magritte. I take a lot of photographs of the skyline of St-Gilles from my window, which faces west, so I get some spectacular sunsets. You’ll probably see the skyline repeated, but no two sunsets are the same.
Brussels is officially a bilingual city, so the signs are in both Flemish (ie Dutch) and French. I make no apology for my attempts to write captions in Flemish – I’m trying to learn it. In most cases, you should be able to guess the English quite easily; if not, Google Translate is your friend.
Most of the pictures here were taken with a Canon Digital Ixus 850 IS or my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, the gazillions of different settings on which I am still in the long process of exploring. Some were taken with a tiny Nikon Coolpix S01. A couple were taken with my Sony Ericsson J108i; the poor quality is one of the reasons I bought the Coolpix – so I would always have a decent camera on me.
I try not to crop much, but I have no qualms about shaving the edge of the picture to remove, say, the corner of a building that was never intended to be part of the composition anyway, or straightening an image which is obviously lopsided.
I usually tweak the exposure a bit with iPhoto, to strike what I think is a suitable balance between dark and light areas, but no more than I would expect to do when printing in a black and white darkroom (though of course nobody does that any more); occasionally I play with colour balance and saturation, but never too much, always to recreate colour that was visible to the naked eye rather than to add effects that weren’t already there.
For me, interesting photography is about light, colour and composition. (Portrait photography is something else, but you won’t find much of that here… not unless I suddenly start taking pictures of People of Brussels.) Some of the photographs on this blog may look as though they’ve been PhotoShopped, but they’re not – I don’t really care for PhotoShopping, unless it’s to create a specific graphic effect (as opposed to just trying to make the photograph look “cooler”) and I think it often spoils what might otherwise have been a lovely picture, because the observer has no idea of what the light or colour was really like. Nor do I like Instagram filters which recreate the effect of faded family snaps, or add faux-borders, the sort you used to get if you printed up an entire negative in the darkroom. That’s just kitsch, like mock-Tudor, or plastic trying to pass for something it’s not, such as wood.
In any case, neither PhotoShop nor Instagram is necessary in Brussels, which tends to provide its own dramatic lighting effects.
The pictures of bars were mostly taken with my iPad Mini, which enables me to take photographs without people noticing, though I mostly prefer it when there is no-one in the shot. Self-imposed rules include 1) No changing tables to get a better angle, and 2) Objects within reach (for example, beer) can be rearranged to get them into shot.
- The world’s best museums: a guide (telegraph.co.uk)
- Brussels Braised Endive (flipkey.com)
- Flemish Ballet and Opera to receive additional 791 000 euros per annum (expatica.com)
- Port of Call: Exploring Brussels (dailyjourneysnews.wordpress.com)