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  • Christa Moetwil - van Dijk

A photographic look back at 2023. Photos with a story!

Photo collage of beautiful landscape photos and nature photos: trees, fog, snow, forests, water mill, railway bridge, sun rays, dragonfly, tree roots, dhaven, poppy, poppy, hay rolls, butterfly, insects, walkers.
As 2023 draws to a close, it's a perfect time to reflect on the photos I've taken this year. What a joy it has been to revel in the natural beauty around us. Many of these photos were taken close to home. This year, too, I regularly went out with my two photography buddies. It's not just fun, but also inspiring and surprising. Being open to new experiences and the skills of others, and working together with shared knowledge and skills, is truly wonderful. It's amazing to do this together and marvel at nature.


While selecting the photos, various memories and feelings surfaced that I'd love to share with you.

Number 18: Explosion of light
Two walkers in the forest where the sun is raining in the avenue of trees
There are mornings in the forest when everything just comes together and this was such a morning. We enjoyed a beautiful spectacle by Mother Nature.


On this chilly, sunny morning, we were surprised by a beautiful phenomenon: sunbeams. These are rays of sunlight shining through the tree canopies into the forest, made visible by the morning fog. They create a mysterious, fairy-tale atmosphere. And as a bonus, two walkers were strolling through the sunbeams on the tree-lined avenue. The scene was complete. What more could a photographer ask for...


Number 17: Walking in the snow
Two hikers walk through the snow between very old winding trees
Dutch winters are eagerly awaited as a landscape photographer for capturing beautiful winter scenes. You keep an eye on the weather forecast, wondering if it will freeze, if the nights will be clear, if there will be snow. And yes, in the Betuwe region, we got a little bit of snow. That morning was quite cold. Should I turn over in my warm bed or go out? Well, we don't often have this winter weather in the Netherlands, so I took my camera bag, put the tripod under the bungee cords, and cycled over to the Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt estate, heading for the Notendijk. It started to snow. First softly, with small flakes, but soon more intensely with large, thick flakes. These walkers, between the old walnut trees, enjoyed this fairy-tale winter landscape. And I, too, thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well worth getting up early to capture this beautiful winter landscape.


Number 16: Sunrise at the mill
Beautiful orange sunrise at the mill on the waterfront
Sitting early in the morning enjoying coffee, I checked my phone and saw a message from my photo buddy Carola. "Are you awake? Let's go to the Marschmolen...." Quickly finishing my coffee, dressing up, grabbing my camera bag and tripod, and driving to the mill.
Photographing a mill never gets old. I've photographed this mill in Lienden many times. Each time, the light, the weather, or the skies are different. And honestly, with such a beautiful sunrise, we are indeed very lucky! Thank you, Carola, for this beautiful memory!


Number 15: The purple colors splendor of the heath
Two very tall trees (Scots pines) rise above the purple splendor of the heather
The quietest moment of the day, just before and during sunrise. That's when nature awakens. The first colors appear in the sky, a bird starts singing soon followed by others. Not much later, the first runners and walkers appear. This was my first time photographing on the Den Treek estate. It's a picturesque environment where the purple splendor of the heath in August comes into its own. Two imposing Scots pines tower high above the heath, creating a majestic contrast with the blooming purple carpets.


Number 14: The Lekbridge at Culemborg
Railway bridge with train over the river Lek and a sailing boat on the river
The railway bridge over the Lek at Culemborg is an unmistakable landmark in the vast landscape and very photogenic. The distinctive bridge, once the longest in Europe, not only connects two riverbanks but also serves as a symbol of connection and progress. The Kuilenburg railway bridge was built in 1982 and received an honorable mention at the National Steel Prize in 1983.


Number 13: Breathtaking sunrise on the Leersumse Veld
Orange morning sun shines through a tree and the light spreads beautifully through the mist
Friday morning, 5:00 AM, Leersumse Veld... our goal... to photograph dragonflies and butterflies. On our way there, Mother Nature gifted us an unexpected treat: a stunning sunrise with morning mist. Our focus shifted entirely to the misty sunny landscape. What a JOY! The mist lingered close to the ground, creating a mysterious and fairy-tale atmosphere. The sunbeams became visible around the solitary trees. Wow, what a beautiful scene!
As time passed unnoticed, the sun climbed higher on the horizon, the light grew harsher, and the temperature increased. Our initial plan was to photograph insects, but by now, they had dried off and started flying around. So, we postponed photographing the insects for another time. This wasn't a setback at all, as we had the privilege of witnessing this mesmerizing spectacle.


Number 12: A fusion of nature and art, the dragonfly
Dragonfly with and between the dew drops hangs on sorrel
In my area, there's a beautiful nature reserve where I go every spring and summer to look for insects like butterflies or dragonflies. In April, the Pentecostal flowers bloom abundantly, attracting orange tips. There are plenty of damselflies and dragonflies. Later in the season, I photograph the Common Blue and the Silver-studded Blue. Even though these insects are the most cliché subjects in spring and summer, they still have an enormous attraction for me. So, every time it's a joy to walk through nature early, enjoying the silence, dew over the fields, birdsong, and searching for these beautiful tiny insects. Like this morning. Hours of peering, as if searching for your contact lenses, looking for damselflies, dragonflies, and butterflies. So happy when you find an insect in the vegetation. Sitting on my knees or lying flat to get that one beautiful composition and that special light. You're in a flow and time flies. The light gets harsher, the temperature rises, it gets warmer, and soon all insects will have dried off and fly away. Yet, you feel like you haven't quite captured that one photo. And then, on your way back, out of the corner of your eye, you see the beautiful colors of the sorrel and hanging there is a large, dew-draped dragonfly. Lucky me!


Number 11: Winter Wonderland
Trees in forest full covered with snow
A large part of the Netherlands woke up that morning to a wonderous white environment. What a morning, what a setting. It felt like being in a real fairy tale, and the silence in the forest was incredibly soothing. All sounds were muffled, and with each step, all you heard was the crunching sound of compressed snow under your feet. We felt like kids in a candy store. We quickly started looking for the first composition of the day. It wasn't until two hours later and many photos later that we encountered the first walkers.


Did you know:
The trees are white, but it's not due to snow; it's hoar frost. Hoar frost forms from supercooled water droplets, from light mist or water vapor, which only freeze upon contacting objects like branches or leaves. The white layer on the trees is frozen mist. The mist settles on the trees at night. It turns into ice and adheres. The ice crystals grow, and that's why the trees look so beautifully white.


Number 10: Cyclist through the rays of the sun
Cyclist riding bicycle through sun rays and hedge of trees
On the Notendijk, a picturesque tree-lined avenue filled with old walnut trees, located on the Heerlijkheid Mariënwaerdt estate near Beesd, autumn transforms the landscape into an enchanting setting.


Sunbeams create a magical play of light and shadow. They give a mysterious fairy-tale atmosphere. Amidst this tree-lined avenue, the cyclist gets to witness this fairy tale. Cycling to work or school through this scene is a special way to start the day.


Number 9: Dream flight
Drone photo harbor on the river with beautiful sunrise
This year I started photographing landscapes from the air, with a drone. Let me tell you, it opens up a new world. The landscape is fascinating from above! From the air, the world looks so different. With a drone, you discover unique patterns and details in the landscape that you can't see with the naked eye. I flew around a lot in my area, discovering new compositions. Like this harbor near the Island of Maurik, the brick factory along the river Lek, and Molen De Vlinder near the orchards.


Number 8: Picturesque Dutch river landscape
Misty picturesque colorful Dutch river landscape with tree on the groyne along the Lek
You have to get up early and be a bit lucky to capture nature in this mystical or fairy-tale atmosphere. It's still quite dark, and while walking through the mist with a small flashlight in the floodplains, being careful not to step in a cow pat, you head towards the river. The setting is a groyne (stone dam) with a solitary tree on it. The luck is the colors in the sky and the stones that emerge above the water, creating beautiful depth in the photo. What a fantastic lucky moment.


Many people liked this photo as it was nominated in the landscapes category for the Gelderland Nature Photography Contest 2023. It didn't win a prize, but I'm proud that my photo made it this far.


Number 7: You are now entering a stress free zone
It is raining sun rays sun harps in the forest
An unforgettable morning in the ancient forest with ferns, twisted, and rooted trees. As mysterious as the forest is in the mist, it becomes magical when the first sunbeams find their way through that mist. Beautiful beams of light awaken the forest in a play of light and dark... I am so happy to see such images more often because I enjoy them so much.


Number 6: Hay roles
Rolls of pressed hay on the meadow during the sunset
In the Betuwe, contractors are always busy in the summer harvesting grass from the fields. The grass is then pressed into hay bales or hay rolls. Here, we see the pressed hay rolls in the field during sunset.
Did you know:
Hay used to be stored in hayricks, but nowadays it's pressed into hay bales or hay rolls (round bales), which are stacked in a barn. Hay is primarily dried grass. It is used as animal feed during the winter or in dry periods when grass growth is minimal. Hay is made by mowing a meadow and allowing the cut grass to dry in the sun. However, the grass must be turned several times to dry properly.


Number 5: Mill in the morning mist
Through the half-open gate of the fence you can see the Vlinder mill in the mist with a beautiful sunrise
That morning, the dense fog was so thick that even the mill was invisible and thus unphotographable. So there you stand, a bit disappointed as a photographer but still enjoying the peace and quiet around you. When the mist finally lifted, I managed to capture this picturesque scene by the half-open gate of the fence at the Vlinder mill along the Linge river in the Betuwe.


Number 4: Beautiful butterfly between the green
The Icarus blue (Polyommatus icarus) among the green
Every year, I visit a nature reserve 10 minutes from my home. In April, the photography begins on a square meter scale. First with the orange butterflies (see my website), then the damselflies and dragonflies, and finally the Common Blue. You have to search thoroughly to find them because these beautifully colored butterflies are so small, but oh, how beautiful they are. On that square meter, I spend about half an hour twisting and turning to find the right composition and light. When you get up, you feel all your muscles, especially your back, but it's worth it for these beautiful butterflies.
Did you know:
The Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) is a very small butterfly, with the males being entirely blue and the females brown with orange spots along the wing edges.


Number 3: Old high steam fruit tree surrounded by rapeseed
Old standard fruit tree surrounded by rapeseed
A dreamy landscape, an enchanting place where history and nature converge.
Near Schalkwijk, along the Lek river, at the base of the dike, lies an important part of the New Dutch Water Line. Fort Werk aan de Groeneweg consists of a network of trenches with earthen walls, bunkers, and a moat. Most of the bunkers are hidden in the earthworks. Today, walkers can peacefully wander through the trenches and even enter some of the bunkers.
On the earthworks, majestic old standard fruit trees stand, which have withstood the test of time. In spring, these trees bloom and are surrounded by a sea of yellow flowering rapeseed (mustard) and white cow parsley, creating an unforgettable and breathtaking spectacle.
It was a wonderful morning to walk around there. The combination of natural beauty and historical significance made this place a true treasure in the heart of the Netherlands.


Number 2: Breadseed Poppies in the evening sun
Poppies in the evening sun
Suddenly, there's a huge poppy field full of blooming white and pink flowers just 10 minutes from your house. Understandably, I've been there frequently to photograph. You often see fields of common poppies, but poppy fields are quite special. So, I searched the internet for more information about the poppy.


It's the opium poppy plant, Papaver somniferum. These poppies are cultivated in the Netherlands for flower seeds, medicinal applications, or blue poppy seeds. Blue poppy seeds are known for their small, bluish to gray grains, which have a subtle nutty flavor and are used as decoration on our bread rolls. The pressed poppy oil is used in fine cooking for preparing cold dishes.
The opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, also known as the sleep poppy, has many faces. It's well known that the seed pods contain opiates. For cultivation in the Netherlands, varieties are used with a low content of opiates. So, you don't get high immediately after eating a poppy seed roll. To get high, you'd need about 40 grams of the seeds, which is roughly 12 poppy seed rolls at once. Good luck!

Nummer 1: Rooted trees
The trees in this forest have roots that extend above the ground like gnarled tentacles, like ancient, mysterious creatures that seem to crawl out of the earth.
All credits for this photo go to Hilda, my dear, special photography buddy. Thanks to her, I started forest photography years ago. With much patience, she repeatedly showed me what she sees (and I didn't). I often heard her say "a step to the left or a step to the right," and then she demonstrated it. I'm more of a landscapes person and with this kind of photography, I'm a slow starter. Gradually, I managed to take better forest photos, but this one is quite special, especially how it came about. I had helped Hilda reach a slightly higher viewpoint. When she was done, I thought, well, I might as well see what's up there. Even though we stood at the same spot, her photo looks very different from this one. It's amazing how that happens. Do you also have a photography buddy or someone you learn from, inspire each other, and together marvel at nature?


Nature Experience Combined with Landscape Photography, or is It Landscape Photography Combined with Nature Experience?
Since I started photographing landscapes and nature, I look at my surroundings so differently. Through photography, I appreciate the beauty and tranquility in the landscape and nature much more. Sometimes I even forget to take photos and just 'enjoy'. You enter a kind of flow, becoming completely absorbed in what you see and do. My photography buddies can attest to that, as they sometimes lose me and wonder if they should start bringing breadcrumbs...
It's wonderful to be outside, to exert yourself to photograph something beautiful, and to get energy from it. And you? Why do you take nature photos, why do you like to go out, or why do you enjoy looking at beautiful nature and landscape photos?
 “To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.”
- Mary Davis –

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