April 15, 2012. That was when I uploaded my first photo on Flickr. It’s almost my ten-year anniversary of Flickr Pro, too (July 2012) so I figured now would be a great time to look back. Not only on my work on Flickr, but on Flickr as a big part of the beginning of my photographic journey.
My First Flickr Photo
Let’s start by taking a look at my very first photo on Flickr. It all started with a photo of my (parents’) cat named Ling. And honestly, while some people may look at their old photos and find them horrible, to me this photo is not bad at all! It was shot with my Panasonic GH2 with the manual Helios 44-2 lens. Fun fact: If you look at my Flickr avatar, which has an eye, that’s the eye from this particular photo. I set it as my avatar ten years ago, and it has NEVER changed.
I still love that lens, by the way. I picked it up for about $20 on eBay and got an adapter for it to make it fit on the GH2 mount. I loved, and still love these manual lenses. Lots of them are quite sharp and have great ‘character’. Even later when I got my first Sony mirrorless camera, I was still using some of these lenses!
The next few photos on my Flickr stream are from the same session with Ling, shooting some nice bokeh shots with different manual lenses, like the Pentacon 50mm f/1.8. At that time, Ling was very young. For anyone who’s curious, she’s currently about 12 years old and still going strong.
In the beginning Flickr was basically the only platform I shared my work on. Instagram was out at the time, but not so popular for photography. I loved sharing my work on Flickr and even though not that many people commented, I really liked when someone would favourite my work and leave a comment. I still remember when I was living in Hong Kong, I would come back from a day of shooting and was so excited to put my ‘best’ shots of the day on Flickr.
Let’s take a look at some fun statistics from being on the platform for ten years.
Followers: 48.3k , Following : 669
Total views: 68 million
Photos in Explore: 123
Most viewed, with 16.5 million views: Ala-Archa Kyrgyzstan Inferno
I built most of my followers on Flickr through Flickr Explore. The photo of Kyrgyzstan with 16.5 million views has so many because it was on the front (login) page of Flickr for a while. I’ve been lucky to be featured so many times, and I love seeing new photographers on Explore!
From Old to New
What I love most about looking back on my Flickr stream is that you can see my progress from the start of Flickr until today. I did not delete many images and so you can scroll all the way back to the start of my Flickr account. Scrolling through the stream also kind of defines my photographic journey and brings back many memories.
In the first part of the stream most photos are from Asia: Japan, South Korea, Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong. This is not surprising as I was living in Hong Kong at the time. We see lots of city photography of me walking on the streets simply capturing scenes that caught my eye. You also see me experiment a lot with bokeh.
I remember using my manual Nikon 50mm 1.2 AI lens. On the m43 sensor of the Panasonic GH2, it was 100mm. I loved to photograph people with it, with the silky smooth bokeh in the background. The lens wasn’t that sharp, especially wide open, but it has a beautiful soft character. At the time, I actually shot most of my photos with this lens, my kit lens, and I later bought a longer lens to go with it. It was a super light kit that I could easily carry around everywhere I went.
What’s interesting about these photos from the early days is that I used a very low amount of post-processing in my images. I tried to keep them as natural as possible, but slowly tried to do more post-processing as I experimented with creative things in RAW files. I also transitioned to more landscape shots and quickly noticed that just single shots were not enough to capture an entire scene, especially if I was shooting into the sun.
I started to use multiple exposures and combine them in Lightroom to get all the data I needed to have a properly exposed photo. I started to experiment with certain kinds of toning and split toning, and even did my first focus stacking in 2013 with this image, where I combined two photos (one for the leaf in focus and one for the moon) to get the shot completely in focus. I really enjoyed experimenting with different techniques during this time.
When living in Hong Kong, I quickly found myself outside most of the time with my camera. I captured rainy evenings, reflecting neon lights, the grittiness of the streets, the crowds, the cityscapes and the landscapes around. Basically everything. Most of my free time was spent with my camera.
Some of my favorite photos from that time:
Crowded Kowloon, just a few minutes from my house. I loved to walk around here. There was just always something to photograph.
This was the street I walked every morning and evening when going to the metro. I always loved the symmetry and seeing the buzz of the city. I knew basically every little shop and restaurant there and always went to the bakery to get some bread with sausages, almost every day.
Classic photo of the hong kong skyline with this beautiful iconic boat.
Experimenting with the architectural shapes in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is really a playground for this kind of shot.
Starting to experiment with black and white, clarity, and exposures. Basically getting more creative in taking photos.
I still love this photo in the dark, of an approaching minibus. I would often take the minibus. It was really for locals and the drivers were often crazy. But they were super fast and I knew some of the most ‘obscure’ minibus stops in the city, that would bring me from place to place in a matter of minutes.
Walking around at night photographing the atmosphere with neon lights.
Nowadays my photos are known for being colourful, but I did a lot of experimenting back in the day with black and white. I still love it. One of my absolute favourites was this photo I took in Seoul, South Korea.
Another one of my favorite black and white images is this photo of an old boat against the super foggy skyline. The Hong Kong skyline was often super smoggy but it added some incredible atmosphere.
The Transition to Sony
At some point in the stream you start to see more landscapes and cityscapes. From 2014 on, I slowly transitioned into my current style. My transition to the Sony A7 (II) was one of the causes for this. I started to like post-processing more as you can see from the landscapes and cityscapes: Dubai, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Venice, La Palma, I took my camera everywhere. Travel was important for me at the time and I needed a portable camera. After Sony released the full frame mirrorless camera I was immediately sold. This camera was much better quality and allowed me to do more creative things in post-processing. Basically, the dynamic range was much higher and it allowed me to get better quality images and do more in Lightroom.
My first image on the Flickr stream with the Sony A7II was a classic from Hong Kong. This shot was inspired by Peter Stewart, who was photographing Hong Kong abstract cityscapes long before I started. His work is amazing, definitely check it out.
When I bought that Sony camera in Hong Kong, I also got the 14mm Samyang f/2.8 lens. That’s still a legendary budget lens today! I shot all my early wide angle shots with it, including the milky way. Coming from the Panasonic M43, I’d never shot with such a wide lens. It was like a whole new world. I loved shooting with the 14mm Samyang so much and I shot many great images with it back in the day.
From that moment in 2014, you really start to see my transition to more wide angle landscapes and cityscapes. That was also around the time that I moved back home to the Netherlands. I started to continue my passion for photography that I developed in Asia. I quickly became a tourist in my own country and spent most of my time building a strong portfolio: windmills, Amsterdam, cities, castles with beautiful sunsets, storms, and spectacular skies. Over time, I developed my style into strong landscapes (and cityscapes) and I’ve never stopped.
After my return home, I soon became involved with Sony directly. At that time not that many people were photographing with the Sony mirrorless cameras. People were not convinced about the future of mirrorless yet, and there were not many lenses available. Sony loved my work and we quickly got into a collaboration talk. The rest is history. I have been a Sony ambassador for about seven years now and developed a great relationship with Sony Europe and Sony Benelux. I guess you could say ‘we grew together’, both me as a photographer, and Sony as a leading camera brand.
When you look at the first two pages of my Flickr feed it’s full of spectacular landscapes from all over the world, and the Netherlands, of course. I never stopped traveling and exploring new places. And I never will. I always enjoy looking back on my Flickr feed and reliving all those early memories, especially those from back in the days in Asia.
Today, my style is very well defined and it’s easy to recognise my images. But I don’t let my style limit myself. Sometimes people ask me how to develop their own style. I always tell them not to push it. It will come naturally, and often takes many years. Embrace those early years when you’re simply photographing to enjoy photography. Capture as much as you can and simply enjoy the process. Because after many years, your focus can shift like mine did. Even now I am still refining my photography style. And don’t worry, I’ll keep posting my work on Flickr!
I hope you enjoyed seeing my old photos and reading through this journey of photography on Flickr. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it! Because I always love to see all these older photos. It gives me inspiration and I already feel the urge to return to my ‘previous life’.
Thank you Flickr and SmugMug for being a part of that.