Why is the phrase ‘Dutch skies’ placed in the logo of this site? The answer to that question dates back to the 17th century, when Dutch landscape painting went through its classical phase. One of the most famous Dutch painters of that phase is Jacob Isaakszoon van Ruisdael. His paintings are characterized by the skies covered with clouds, which take up a very large area of the painting. Some examples of his work can be found at the National Gallery in London.
The Dutch landscape lends itself very well to this approach. Besides some rather small hills in the Southern part of the country, there are no mountains, volcanoes or other characteristic landmarks that rise above the horizon. No rocks, no ice worlds, just flat lands. An interesting painting or photograph of such a landscape almost inevitably needs ‘drama in the sky’ to make it work. A mountain vista could be interesting with a clear blue sky, but the flat lands of Holland usually require a different approach. In my opinion, this makes landscape photography in The Netherlands more challenging than in other countries where mountains, waterfalls or ice worlds are readily available.
Which brings me back to the topic of Dutch skies. Fortunately, the climate does provide us with enough days with dramatic skies. Depending on your composition, this means you have one third or two thirds of your photo covered. And since most of the country is below sea level, there is always a body of water to be found nearby, be it the North Sea, lakes, rivers or canals. Combining that with some other typical Dutch landmarks such as windmills could make up for the remaining part of a landscape photograph.
Then there is the matter of light. Like Dutch skies, there is also the (almost) mythical Dutch light. This myth first made an appearance in the 19th century, as painters and writers from all over Europe came to The Netherlands to see the famous paintings of the 17th century Dutch masters. This is how the Dutch landscape was rediscovered and claims were made that the Dutch light was very different from anywhere else. This myth continues to live until today and was researched in a documentary film.
Whether the myth is true or false, from a photographer’s viewpoint you need excellent light to bring the vision behind your composition to life. The challenge of bringing everything together in one landscape photograph is what drives and motivates me.