Sietske Tol is a social worker with a serious photo hobby. Her passion for photography stems from a desire to hold on to special moments, especially those from her travels. She travels the globe seeking new photographic gems. Her photos are her souvenirs and she has them hanging everywhere in her home. Sietske shares the stories behind her wall prints and how they constantly remind her of unique experiences.
Everything is quiet
I mainly photograph nature and landscapes, and I choose my destinations accordingly. I prefer to travel alone so that I don’t get distracted. All my senses are on high alert so that I can lose myself in my photography and in the moment. For me, photography is like meditating. My head is o”en full of thoughts buzzing in all directions, but when I take photographs everything is quiet. I am relaxed and at peace. I never have fears or anxieties when I’m photographing. Once in Northern Ireland, I saw an extraordinarily beautiful location I wanted to photograph, but to get the shot I wanted I needed to hang off a cliff. And that’s what I did, just like that. Other people get really nervous in situations like that, thinking about the long fall into the ravine below. Sometimes that makes me laugh and it gives me yet another reason to travel alone.
Photography and adventure go together
Iceland is my favorite destination because it’s a fantastic place to photograph and it’s a land of adventure. I love having a photograph of the Skógafoss waterfall on my wall. While I was there I snorkeled between two continents through a fissure between two tectonic plates that are shi”ing apart. The water was extremely cold, just 35° F (2° C). I had a wetsuit on but it turned out not to be completely watertight. When I got back to shore, everything had become frozen and I was suffering from hypothermia. That night I was in a great deal of pain – but it was more than worth it! In Iceland, I also descended into a volcano where you can see minerals of all colors in the walls. It was such an incredible sight that I’m very glad to have been able to capture it. With geysers, waterfalls, and whales as well, it’s such a diverse country – I almost completely filled my memory card with shots!
Keeping memories alive
Apart from landscapes, I also have a photo of New York hanging in my house. It’s a shot of a crow on Ellis Island, so the photo also has an element of nature. You can’t immediately see that it’s New York, but for me, it recalls memories of that trip. I took the shot on a lovely day after visiting the Statue of Liberty. On Liberty Island, I first climbed the Statue of Liberty and then explored the island. I visited Ellis Island at the end of the afternoon. At a certain time, virtually everyone had gone, the last boat was about to leave. I was then able to capture a truly quiet moment in the city that never sleeps, complete with a bird. Whenever I look at this photo on the wall, it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
I need to be out at night for the best photos at many locations and that was true during my trip to La Palma in Spain. There’s a photo on my wall of the Roque de Los Muchachos volcano, which is where the Observatorium Roque de los Muchachos is located. Due to the stringent light pollution regulations, this is the best spot in Europe to gaze at and study the stars (and a”er Hawaii, it’s the best spot in the northern hemisphere for star-gazing). During the day, the views are also spectacular. There’s also a lot of salt mining on La Palma, and the contrast between the black volcanic landscape and the snow-white salt can lead to magnificent photos.
Camera always with me
I take photographs when traveling but also close to home. My camera is always with me, everywhere I go. I never want to have a moment when I think, “If only I’d brought my camera.” I have photos that I took in my hometown of Rotterdam in The Netherlands on my wall. Sometimes I like to act like a tourist, seeing the city with fresh eyes. One day I was lying in the sun when I looked up and saw hundreds of small flags fluttering from a tall pole. Happy that I had my camera with me, I positioned myself at the bottom and took the photograph with the camera pointing upwards. I like the geometric shapes and how it reflects the diversity of Rotterdam.
I like to have personal things in my house, things that say: ‘Sietske lives here’. Hanging my own photos personalizes my house better than anything else. I’ve always liked to print my photos because it makes them tangible. Once they’re hanging, I can look at them every day, several times a day. I want to be constantly surrounded by my best times and my most favorite photos. The photos hanging on my walls are not always the most beautiful ones, but they’re the ones with meaning that keep a particular memory alive. I especially like Xpozer’s system because it’s easy to change the prints on the wall. A”er a trip, I’m obsessed with my most recent photos and have a tendency to order slightly too many of them. A”er I’ve enjoyed them on the wall for several months and want new inspiration, I can simply change them. It’s perfect for a travel and photography fanatic like me.
“Photography is like meditating.” -Sietske Tol
“Amazing Photography” — the book
Every other week a new photo and the story behind it will be published here on Photofocus. Clemens and Ivan have made copies of “Amazing Photography” available for the cost of shipping — $8.99 alone. The book retails for $29.99 regularly. Here are some highlights …
- More than 100 breathtaking photos by professional and hobby photographers
- 13 personal stories from pros and hobbyists such as Albert Dros (pro-photographer), Laura Vink (pro-photographer), Andre Kuipers (astronaut and photographer), Ori Guttin (co-founder Viewbug) and Evgeny Tchebotarev (co-founder 500px)
- 4 practical photo guides to help you enjoy your photos to the max
- 7 DIY quick fixes for unexpected photography situations
- World’s top 15 under-the-radar spots for stunning photos
- Would you rather …? A hypothetical photography game for friends
- The science behind how your photos can affect your happiness and well-being.