Corona-tography: shooting the empty city of Amsterdam

Like most of you, I have been confined to my house over the last several weeks due to the Covid-19 virus. Here in the Netherlands, thankfully, the curve has started to flatten and slowly but surely, a few restrictions are being lifted. I resisted the temptation to head into the downtown area until now because I wanted to follow the 'stay at home' guidelines as much as I could. But now that we seem to be moving away from the strictest measures, my wife and I jumped on our bike to get a glimpse of Amsterdam unlike anything we know.


Damsquare - normally bustling with tourists [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

It was really odd to see the streets deserted with only a handful of people outside. Public transport has been reduced to a minimum, there was the occasional tram passing by.


Desolated tram rails [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

We are still to see what the impact will be of letting some of the restrictions go. I can tell that the people who were outside on this evening where not necessarily taking the most care with keeping distance. When I get groceries, everybody usually pays close attention to give each other space. That didn't happen as much downtown.


On a pre-Corona evening, you'd see about a dozen more bikers in this shot [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

But, asides from the very drunk elderly person who just leaned against my bike to finish his beer, the streets were wide enough to keep our distance.


Empty canal in front of city hall [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

The canals would normally have been bustling with boats as it was a lovely evening. Crowded tourist canal boats would be flanked by locals, enjoying the last rays of sunshine of the day from the water.

All quiet on the Amstel heading out of the city {Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

I took my Leica SL with my 35mm Zeiss and my CL with the 75mm Voigtlander but ended up using the SL mostly. I had a Gorilla pod with me to make some longer exposure shots as well which is a great alternative to a tripod. Just wrap its legs around something and it will hold even the Leica SL which is not a light camera. I have the '3K kit' which is quite sturdy. I don't use tripods all that much and this is good enough for me to take along as it is a lot lighter and takes up less space in my bag.


The entry of one of the busiest shopping streets in the Netherlands, next to the old Mint. [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

The main shopping street in Amsterdam was also completely empty. I think I saw about half a dozen stores that were open but with no customers in them at all. It'll be a while before we see streets so packed that you can 'walk on the heads', as we say in Dutch.


Evidence from an earlier time, as this store was now permanently closed [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

Even the (in)famous Red Light district was abandoned. This is actually quite a beautiful part of Amsterdam but I don't like to go there during 'normal' times as it is overrun with tourists and is rather a sleazy area in general. Tonight, there was hardly anyone there.


The Old Church in the middle of the Red Light district [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]
It was eerily quiet as well [Leica SL, 35mm Zeiss 1.4]

I hope things go back to normal soon enough. But I also hope we change a few things. This is not the type of blog to go into that. I hope you are all well.

Sharing insights on the art of photography - Erwin Hartenberg Photo