The expat series: from California to Amsterdam

I met photographer Wendy Waddell a few weeks ago for a photo shoot I won on Instagram. None of us really love being in front of a camera, but she was so wonderful and put us so at ease, and even got a strong-willed toddler to do what was needed!

Wendy is also a teacher, and was born in California. She’s lived in several countries, but thinks Amsterdam will be home for the next few years. Here Wendy answers some questions about herself – and getting a great pic.

How long have you lived in Amsterdam?

It’s a long story but has a happy ending. Here is the short version; I moved in July 2018 for a job and then had to leave due to work visa issues in November and returned for good September 2019.  

Where were you born, and where did you live before?

I was born in Northern California and spent the first 18 years of my life in the same town and house! When I was 20 years old I went on a study abroad exchange to Australia for a year to study visual arts. I guess you could say I realized the world was ready and waiting for me to explore! I have visited 52 countries and counting and have lived in 5 since. Typically, I move every 3 years but hoping the Netherlands breaks my moving streak! 

Do you have a “next” destination?

Not specifically, my partner and I bought a house last year and are busy renovating in our spare time. I guess we will see what happens next!

What do you do?

I consider myself very lucky because I get to to intertwine my passions! I am a PY4 Teaching Assistant at Amity International School Amsterdam and also owner of Wendy Waddell Photography. Moving to The Netherlands for the role at Amity was one of the best decisions I have ever made! Even better now that my evenings and weekends are filled with launching my photography business here. 

When did you start professional photography?

My grandfather was a photographer so I have fond memories of spending hours in the darkroom with him. After graduating university and getting a BA in Communications and a BA in Art (Photography), I furthered my photography career and went to Brooks Institute of Photography. In 2009 I officially launched Wendy Waddell Photography in Los Angeles. 

What are your best things to shoot?

Children! But I don’t shoot them, I photograph them,  haha. Throughout high school and university I  worked as a nanny and honed my skills photographing the children I cared for. At that time at Brooks, I was going down a commercial photography path and did lots of studio work but eventually realised my passion was in front of me all along! I love the challenge of capturing the in between moments of children and families. Every session is different and keeps me on my toes. When traveling I love a good nature photo as well, like Ansel Adams style. 

How do you work around the unreliability of the weather in Amsterdam when shooting?

Yes, this! Right now I am looking at all my weather apps to see if I am going to need to reschedule my Mother’s Day Mini-Sessions! The weather in The Netherlands is SO unpredictable but that is part of the fun. UPDATE: The sessions were postponed and good thing because it actually hailed!

What do you most love about The Netherlands?

I fell in love with Amsterdam when I first moved. The canals, houses, history and stroopwafels! The more I have explored, especially recently with the restrictions I have found that The Netherlands is dotted with incredible towns rich in culture and charm. I have also learned to love cycling but I am still a fair-weather cyclist. 

How does living here compare with the other countries you’ve lived in?

Before I moved to The Netherlands I was living in Thailand so virtually everything is different. The definite pros of living here for me are the quality of life and the access to other European countries. The cons are the weather and that it can be expensive.

What camera do you use?

I am team Canon. I am about to upgrade and I am thinking about going mirrorless next! 

If you could choose one lens for the rest of your life, what would it be?

My 70-200, f/2.8 is my baby. This lens has been my go to since day 1 and it never disappoints. Plus it is like lifting weights simultaneously so it is a win-win!

What do you use to edit your pics?

I cull and do most editing in Lightroom and if anything needs extra attention then it goes to Photoshop. 

What are your favourite spots to shoot in here?

I am constantly finding more and more locations! I love Amsterdam at  any time of year but recently the tulip fields made me a bit crazy! I think my partner is happy that the season is over.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Lately the days have been busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way! School from 7:30-4pm, photo session from 6-7pm, edit photos from 9-11pm and sleep, eat and exercise in between! Weekends are without school and more time for location scouting, recently those that involve lots of flowers! 

Once lockdown has eased, where do you want to travel/what are your plans

We have many places on the list to check off but Iceland and Portugal are at the top!

What is the best photography tip/lesson you can share?

It is all about the light! And I don’t mean the sun, most photographers will try and avoid direct sunlight.  I will be sharing some more tips and lessons on my Instagram in the future so stay tuned!

What is the biggest photography faux pas one can make?

Overusing filters! I started with film and I strive to replicate the look either in color or black and white. I think many people get caught up in just clicking a button and then you end up with blown out highlights or everyone looking like they applied too much self-tan. 


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