A morning at the Waddensea with landscape photographer Harmen Piekema

On very rare occasions, you know when you step outside of the house: “This will be a great session!” It is still dark outside and yet I see a faint pink glow in the east. It is more than two hours before sunrise and there is color already! As I drive to my location (about 50 minutes), the color becomes more and more intense. I can hardly believe my eyes. Arriving at location, I quickly park the car and get out. It is cold and there is a strong breeze.

It is still dark as I look over the polder. The sunrise is in more than one hour but the sky is already starting to color deep pink!

At the Dyke

I take my backpack from the trunk and walk towards the inner dike, from this place, I have a nice view across the polder and towards the East. What I see makes my heart go faster. The sky is filled with beautiful clouds and where the sun is going to rise, there is an open band. Perfect! If this remains the case, the sunrise will be a magical spectacle!

Still looking at the sky, I quietly walk towards the sea. I know what I want and where I need to be, so I’m not in a hurry. Besides that, it is still more than an hour before the sun will show itself. Still I feel slightly nervous, but in a good way. It is the feeling of anticipation, knowing that something cool is going to happen. I enjoy this feeling and the silence around me. The only sound is the rustling of the wind.

The Sea

After about 10 minutes, I reach the outer dike. I walk up quickly. In my opinion the first glimpse of the sea when you get over the dyke is always very special. Now even more so with the amazing light. It is low tide (which I checked beforehand), there is nobody out (I did not expect anyone else at this time and at this location) and the wet sand reflects the beautiful sky. This can hardly get any better!

As I walk along the shoreline, it slowly starts to become light. It is now blue hour and the sun will rise in about 45 minutes. What strikes me is that the sludge is littered with all kinds of small foot prints, all of which run in the direction of the retracting water, following the Wad Worm. Although this is not what I’d came for, I decide to take a picture anyway. I walk onto the mud and immediately sink into the * cough * wonderfully smelling mud. I try to level my tripod because I have decided that it will be a panorama. The beautiful sky runs so far that it is a shame to only show part of it.

Waddenzee panorama

The striking animal tracks, the beautiful sky and ditto reflection require a panorama. Tamron SP 24-70 G2 panorama of 5 images @ 49 mm | f / 9.0 | 4 sec | ISO 400 with NiSi Medium gnd8.

The planned shot

After taking this photo, I wrestle my feet out of the mud. The place where I walked into the mud is next to my planned location so I don’t have to go far. Thanks to a good dose of luck, the coastline forms a perfect leading line to the most beautiful part of the sky. The composition here is pretty obvious too. I decide to take the photo in both portrait and landscape orientation. In addition, I also use the “focus stacking” technique. In other words, I take a series of photos with different focal points which I’ll put together afterwards. As a result, I get sharpnes in both the foreground and the background. The final image is a panorama consisting of 3 photos (although you won’t recognize it as a pano thanks to the 4/3 ratio). The reason for this is that I wanted to take the photo at about 50 mm (equivalent to the human eye), so that you have the feeling of being there yourself.

Wadden kust

I noticed these great structures during an earlier visit. Now, with this fantastic sky it is even more beautiful! By applying the focus stacking technique, both the foreground and the background are sharp. Panorama of 3 images Tamron SP 24-70 G2 @ 53 mm | f / 9 | 2.5 sec | ISO 400 with NiSi Medium GND8 & Landscape CPL.

The bonus shot

After shooting this photo, I stick around for a while. The sun rises and the intense pink color disappear. I have gotten quite cold in the meantime so I enjoy the first rays of the rising sun. With this, a large flock of birds wake up, fly noisily overhead and drop brown bombs around me.

Walking back along the waterline while collecting waste as usual, my eye catches a special structure in the mud. Where the water has flowed back into the canal, weird forms and structures have emerged. Due to the color and whimsical shapes, I immediately think of Iceland. The dramatic sky emphasizes this even more. There is a disadvantage though, it is very slippery and it runs down fairly steep. So I have to look carefully where I place my feet. Also, I don’t want to be in places that might appear in my image because my footprints would ruin everything. The water flows fast, so to ensure that this movement is accentuated, I choose a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds.

Wadden slik

The striking structures in the mud immediately catch my attention. Tamron SP 24-70 G2 @ 53 mm | f / 11 | 0.6 sec | ISO 100 with NiSi Mdium GND8 and Landscape CPL.

After this shot I pack up my stuff, collect the garbage and walk towards the car. I am looking forward to a good breakfast, a cup of coffee and then processing the results.


It may feel a waste of time, but if everyone takes a little bit of waste with him, we will leave the place more beautiful than we found it! This way we help nature, the animals and ourselves!

Thanks for reading

If you like my photography, please follow me on Instagram @harmenpiekema and Facebook. Check out my YouTube channel to see behind the scene vlogs, learn how to use certain gear and follow me on my adventures. If you want you can check out my webshop. Your support means a lot!

2 responses to “A morning at the Waddensea with landscape photographer Harmen Piekema”

  1. Jan Wijnand says:

    Top stukje Harmen

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