Dusk

This may be one of my last entries about Maastricht for some time now. I have another shot of the above scene at a different angle, showing more of the tree and the branches. 
I prefer that shot. It was a bit more ghostly, and has more “atmosphere” around it. But, what the hell? There are times when you choose one shot over another, just for the hell of it. No real reason.
This shot was taken one very cloudy evening in Maastricht on that cold winter evening. The sky was gloomy and almost threatening. The clouds were a blue-gray in colour, and I was really wondering what I should do to take some good pictures. Typically, I am, like many people, a light loving photographer. In that, I love sunlight. Yet, there was something about the scene that reminded me of many old ghost stories. 
This picture, however, does not remind me anything of a ghost story or a ghost town. Yet, perception is a strange thing, and it does remind me of a Maastricht of days gone by. Days when, perhaps, there was no electricity. 
A time gone by. Time, however, marches on and we are always told not to be sentimental about the past. This is a strange contradiction in us human beings. When it suits us, we speak of tradition; and at other times, we speak about being forward looking. 
Photography, by its very nature, is an activity that records, preserves, and distorts (especially if you do too much digital manipulation) the past. 
I wonder if, ten years down the road, I will like this picture as much as I do now. Maybe, my perception of the past will change. 
We shall see.

The Church

I have seen several churches in Maastricht, and I think this one is the Church of St James. I walked around this church a lot, and even walked up to the church several times.

Yet, each time I found that the composition that I liked the most, is the scene of the church from across the river. There is a nice restaurant there, with glass fronting. It’s a nice place to sit and have coffee or lunch, while looking over the river and gently being reminded of God’s presence.

Oddly, I could not find anything that told me the history of the church, or anything about it’s architecture, and I find this odd. This is a structure that completely dominates the landscape, and yet it is very hard to find anything about it.

Things can indeed be odd.

God’s presence. Why do we need a place of worship to be reminded of the presence of God? If a God does indeed exist, and I doubt this, then this God must reside in nature, and no where else.

Still, on a bright day, the church looks fantastic. It looks really beautiful at night as well.

Even if God does not live in the Church, the work of devotion lives inside, and so does the spirit of the people who built the Church. 
That should be enough for most of us. 

The Eternal Flame

Maastricht is full of statues, small and big. In my walks across the city, I have come across many of them. Some of them have been big and dramatic, like the statue of the lion in one of the squares. Some of them are downright playful, like the three stylized fellows playing some sort of ball game. All in all, they make the city quite nice to walk around in, and allow people like me to take lots of pictures.
Yet, for some reason, I did not walk around most of the statues taking shots of them at various angles, or trying to find the most dramatic combination of light, shadow and perspective. Yet, I always enjoyed walking around the city, and looking at the statues. One issue with trying to shoot many of the statues, is the fact that the mind’s eye does not always translate into the camera’s eye. The camera’s eye is relatively harsh, and is not cluttered by the waves of perception that engulf our minds. Our minds apply a filter that allows us to see things selectively. Sadly, our cameras do not share this filter. 
However, when I was at the Markt Square, I came across the statue of Jan Pieter Minckeleers, a famous Dutch Scientist who invented gas lighting. This statue, between the City Hall and St Mathias Church was designed by Bart van Hove and unveiled in 1904. This bronze statue carries the eternal flame, and is made of bronze. 
“Aha”, I thought. “The eternal flame that lights up the human breast”. I walked around the statue shooting it from a couple of angles, until I finally decided that a silhouette against a nice blue sky was probably the best. I like the shape, and I like the silhouette. It allows something of the identity of the old gent to be shown, as well as giving it some degree of anonymity.
Fire is something that is sacred to human beings. I think, it gave us warmth, protection against the wild beasts, light, and allowed us to cook our food. It also allowed armies to boil oil and pour them over their invaders. 
Without fire, much of modern industry would not have sprung up, neither would we have travelled down the path of culinary delights to the modern reality cooking shows on television. 
I am not sure if modern cookery shows were on Jan’s mind when he invented gas lighting, nor was it on the mind of Bart when he designed the statue. Something more sacred was probably uppermost in their minds. However, no matter how fire is used, or misused, it is sacred, and the eternal flame probably also carries some mystical overtones with it as well. 
The sacred, everlasting flame of life eternal.

At One Bridge

Maastricht has a few old bridges, but near The Crowne Plaza, there is this new one, the De Hoge footbridge that was built in 2003. When I first went to Maastricht, I was quite enchanted by the old bridges, and I was offended by this new one. 
I used to keep walking over the old bridges, and I refused to use this one for quite some time. Finally, one day, I relented. This was in February of 2009. The day, as you can see, was cloudy and gloomy. That’s winter in the Netherlands. I am sure that I have said this before, and I will say again many times, that I like the cold as long as it is sunny. This is why I prefer the winter in Beijing to the winter in Shanghai. Something about a wet winter really can put a person down.
The De Hoge was not to be denied, however, and I finally set foot on the bridge. I have fancied myself as a decent photographer, and the bridge represented another challenge. How on earth was I to photograph this structure, without making pictures that were too bland and boring. 
I searched through various angles, and first came up with the angle in the photograph above. Luckily, people in Europe allow you to do things without staring at you, so I was allowed to take my photos in peace. 
I walked around looking for more angles, and then I found myself under the bridge. Yippee, I thought! An unusual angle in which to shoot the bridge. By this time, the bridge and I were becoming friendly. It helped that the bridge is made in steel. I am, by training, a steel guy, and this warmed the cockles of my heart.
At the end, there was a bit of the structures that we often forget. We see the large picture, but often forget the small stuff. As one who has spent hours peering into microscopes, I can tell you, that when things get smaller, you discover whole new worlds in small, microscopic things.
There are worlds within worlds. The chord is but a small example of that.
By the end of the afternoon, I had a new friend in Maastricht!!
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