The Editor is invited to judge a #NoFilter photography contest of the Dutch capital run by London City Airport, and participated in by a talented selection of up-and-coming travel bloggers… 

It wasn’t so many years ago that going through someone’s holiday photos was a torturous exercise of attempting to appreciate a vast and haphazard collection of blurred and overexposed images, often with a close up of your aunt’s arm intervening to obscure the most interesting details. Thankfully digital photography has changed all that. The chance to review your image immediately, retake it (with a less wonky skyline) and delete the stinkers, means that there’s no need to impress upon your friends and relatives these days with anything less than a solid selection of great travel pics…

However it seems that most of us aren’t satisfied with the new capabilities of our digital cameras (or perhaps our capabilities to use them!?) and precious few are the holiday makers that aren’t tempted to jazz up their photos using any number of powerful filtering and editing apps. And who can blame them? Which amateur shutterbug doesn’t want to turn quick snaps taken on a phone into vibrant, professional-looking, magazine-worthy images (before inviting the world to approve on Facebook and Instagram)?

But herein lies a dilemma for travel bloggers… for when does a filtered photo effectively become a lie? After all, if a blogger oversells a destination in words, they would quickly lose their credibility. It would be against the code of any travel writer to make extravagant claims that weren’t true (especially if they are being paid to be there), and yet in the very same breath we bloggers are firmly stating “all opinions are my own” how many of us are boosting the saturation levels of that blue sea into the stratosphere, whitening that sand to chalk, and Photoshopping that unsightly tangle of driftwood out of the picture, in an attempt to give our pictures the wow factor? As sunsets turn bright purple, rivers run greener than gemstones and even London’s grey skies are constantly cobalt blue over on Instagram it’s something for travel writers, and travel consumers, to think about…

…and perhaps part of the reason why I was quick to accept London City Airport’s offer to oversee their #NoFilter Amsterdam photography challenge. The concept was simple: to invite several talented and up-and-coming travel bloggers to share their unfiltered photos on their own blogs, giving them the chance to highlight the genuine beauty of the Dutch capital without the need for fancy apps or extensive Photoshopping. In a city that can rival London for gloomy weather it was always going to present some challenges to capture Amsterdam in a good light, but at least with the town’s famous canals, flowers, bikes, cafes and grand museums they had plenty of interesting material to play with. It was over to them to get creative…

Without further ado, here’s a selection of some of the best pictures from the competition, with a quote from each blogger’s post, often with their own tips and insight into taking great photos without the filter. And if this whets your appetite for a visit, you can find out more about Amsterdam with the Urban Travel Blog’s guide to a long weekend in Amsterdam, or check out London City Airport’s own Amsterdam destination guide for tips and advice.

Dana’s #NoFilter Amsterdam Rose on Bike Closeup - Copy

“From time to time, move your focus to the details and there are so many little details that make Amsterdam the lovely city that it is: a flower vase at a window, decoration on a house, a puddle reflection, a flower someone left on their sweetheart’s bike.”

Francis’ #NoFilter Amsterdam Vondelpark scene - Copy

“You can’t skip the Vondelpark, the park in the middle of the city where you can spot locals and tourists enjoying the sun. At spring time you see many amazing flowers in the park, but of course you can spot more flowers at the famous flower market or just stop at one of the many flower shops.”

Lucy’s #NoFilter Amsterdam Pizza in Amsterdam

“There are so many amazing restaurants in Amsterdam, you will be spoilt for choice. Depending on the type of person you are when you travel, either do some research on Trip Advisor to make sure you find the best Italian or just wing it – you will seldom be disappointed, the Dutch do food very well.”

Alison’s #NoFilter Amsterdam Canal Bridge at Night

“You can’t go to Amsterdam without getting at least one canal shot. Fortunately, low light doesn’t mean you’re out of opportunities. Many of the arches in the bridges are lit up in one form or another and street lamps and building lights reflected in the water create some fantastic mirror-like shots.”

Jaime’s #NoFilter Amsterdam Spring Canals in Amsterdam - Copy

“What I loved most about our trip to Amsterdam last Easter was the fact that everyone was out – in contrast to my first visit (when it was cold, wet, and dreary), doors were flung wide open, families were sitting in windows reading together, and people swung their legs along the edge of the canal, chatting away the afternoons.”

Sarah’s #NoFilter Amsterdam Street Graffiti Amsterdam

“To me, Amsterdam is like a fairy tale, all narrow streets and winding canals and flowers bursting out of every corner. But I was also surprised by its rock ‘n’ roll edge. Vibrant street art. Perfectly curated vintage shops. Beautifully designed homes never adorned with curtains. There seemed to be something new and wonderful around every corner.”

Cheylene’s #NoFilter Amsterdam Amsterdam Grand Cafe - Copy

“The photo above is from one of Amsterdam’s beautiful and historic grand cafes. I just happened to catch the sun pouring through the café’s old stained glass windows as I sipped on a latte one morning.”

Ashley’s #NoFilter Amsterdam Rembrandt's Night Watch, Rijksmuseum - Copy

“I wanted to capture me and Rembrandt’s Night watch, which meant I had to be a little creative with it, which is always a good tip when it comes to taking pictures. The Rijksmuseum is one of my favourite places in Amsterdam; there is plenty that you can see and take pictures of.”

Finally congratulations to Dana, whose set of shots I felt captured the essence of the city the best!

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