Photographing Curaçao in three weeks

Arriving in Curacao is a relief after months of the cold back home. I can feel my skin loosing its tension. My muscles relaxing.

Mitchel Lensink
Mar 2, 2020
10 min read
Mitchel Lensink curaçao street photography

Arriving in Curacao is a relief after months of the cold back home. I can feel my skin loosing its tension. My muscles relaxing.

Day 1 – 3: Mambo Beach relaxing

I haven’t come here with a specific purpose other than to unwind. It has been a few years since I went on an actual holiday; I notice how much I was longing for it as soon as it was there. No work for me the coming three weeks. Still, who would I be if I did not bring my camera to document the trip though.

Fujifilm color profile magic

Before we left, I set up a new thing on my camera where the colors of the JPEG look exactly how I would’ve edited the RAW files. Sort of. Thanks Fujifilm, I might finally appreciate you like I should after this trip.

The first few days are about nothing more than beaches. We spend our first full day in the outskirts of Mambo Beach, where it’s less busy and more relaxed. Just what I needed. The food here is great as well, though not as authentic. A little pricey as well; I’m on an a holiday though so I shouldn’t complain. This is what I’ve been working for.

Life of pigs in Porto Marie

Our second full day takes us to Playa Porto Marie, where wild pigs roam the beach. We do see the pigs but they are just being lazy near the parking lot. I snap a photo but I can’t be bothered that much. The pig agrees. Maybe next time we will intersect paths again but then with the prospected idyllic backdrop of a white sandy beach. Who knows.

Day 4: Adventures

Day number 4 takes us to Shete Boka National Park. If you are unfamiliar, it’s mostly known for the rugged cliffs and waves crashing into them with some moderate enthusiasm. The sight is cool and the water is blue and beautiful. I have seen more spectacular sights but I like it. Regardless, it’s a nice trip that does not require much effort. The photos I got out of it are pretty nice though. I really like how the blues pop with my color profiles set up. I shoot a few short bursts to capture the crashing of the waves at their peak for added drama. I also whip out the iPhone 11 Pro to make use of its Ultra Wide lens.


After Shete Boka, our journey continues to Sabana Westpunt. The only proper village at the north of the island. Lunch is at a place called Jaanchie, named after the owner (I assume) who’s called Jan Christian, and provides a very local experience. The food is whatever they have that day and includes an assortment of prawns and fish for us. Iguana is also an option but I opted out for now. Who knows when I might feel more adventurous some other time.

The vibe of the restaurant is relaxed an Jaanchie is a great host. While one of the USPs of the restaurant is that it’s surrounded by ‘Suikerdiefjes’, it is Mr Christian that made the experience a good one for me. I have long hair so at first he thinks I am a woman but let’s just forget about that for now. I shoot a few frames inside and around the building but am too hungry to be bothered that much.

Blue water white sand, beach

My focus is mostly on what is on the agenda after lunch though: a beach called Grote Knip, or Playa Kenepa. The water is supposed to be crystal clear and the beach pearly white. Upon arrival we realize that not a word was lied about that. Before I get into the water, I pull out my camera and have some fun with the colorful beach beds and the harsh sunlight of the afternoon sun.

Side note: Now that I am writing this, I remember thinking to myself how I wouldn’t have been able to shoot a photo in such an environment a few years ago. Heavily inspired by Joe Greer in the last few months, I tried to shoot with how I think he views the world around him as much as I could. Like a photographical exercise. Without going in depth about the specifics of that, you be the judge if I somehow succeeded.

Day 5 – 10: Otrabanda

The next day is moving day as we relocate from the beachside apartment on Mambo to an Airbnb in Otrabanda, Willemstad. We specifically chose this Airbnb for its central location. The little French Bulldogs they have might have had played a part as well.

As soon as we are set up we hit the streets and immediately notice a lack of tourists. It also makes me realize that my efforts of looking like a photographer actually turned me into a ‘how to look like a tourist’ starter kit. If anybody has tips on how to blend in more, please comment below.

Our walk takes us through the center of Willemstad, with lunch as our final destination.

The following days are spend with the mornings photographing the street art, the afternoons at the beach. We also include a visit to a little bounty island off the coast of Curacao called Klein Curacao (not a very imaginative name but very accurate nonetheless).

This also marks the day I decided to ditch my RAW files and stick to JPEGs with the film simulation recipes applied. I played around with some photos in Lightroom Mobile and realized that they look exactly how I would’ve edited them anyway.

Sure, I might be able to save a highlight here and there if I stick to the RAWs. I don’t want to spend my time doing that though. As a side effect, this also significantly reduces my workload and storage requirements for my mobile photography workflow.

Day 11 – 14: Bringing Mambo back

Day 11 marks another moving day for us. Mambo Beach was calling us again and we are happy to indulge. After a few days in the city, being back on the white sandy beach feel like a welcome change.

Being back in a place we have been before is not so good for my photography though. I do not shoot more than a few frames in the days following. I do not mind at all though. I listen to some podcasts and get inspired by the (para)phrase ‘downtime is part of the discipline’.

As I sit a little with that thought I realize, pushing yourself to high performance requires some periods of doing little to nothing as well. You might not be productive in the common sense of the word but that’s okay. If you grant your mind some room to meander, new insights will present themselves in a timely manner.

With that, my mind is at ease and I can leave my camera down for a while.

Day 15 – 21: Local life

Our final move is taking us to our second Airbnb that’s located a little more local. The area is called Steenrijk but houses mostly the regular (That means middleclass, middleclass is regular for me) local people.

Soon as we arrive we have a little walk around and do some shopping to fill our fridge. We still have Mambo Beach located close by and use that to our advantage to visit the restaurants and bars to get a cocktail. Playa Marie Pampoen is within walking distance as well and, though far less developed as Mambo, proved to be an adequate place to enjoy some sunshine.

Our final days at the Island are spend intertwining between these places as we aim for total unwinding. Mission accomplished.

Final thoughts

Being away from everything for a while was a blessing. Frankly, it was inspiring in some way as well. I did not even pick up my camera on some days and I am glad I didn’t. I am really happy I went the Fujifilm JPEG route as it allowed me to not be stuck behind my computer editing all my shots.

It’s also funny that in my last story from Ghent I mention struggling to commit to the wide angle of the 18mm lens but I hardly used anything else on this trip at all! I only brought out the 35mm for our day to Klein Curacao as I thought the narrower field of view could be beneficial on such an empty island. In hindsight, I could’ve done with the 18mm as well. The iPhone did come out a few times, sometimes for the Ultra Wide angle, sometimes because I couldn’t be bothered to bring the Fuji. I’m sure you can tell a few times but I doubt you’d be able to identify all the iPhone shots in this series.

Concluding, I wrote about my mobile photography workflow recently during this trip. If you are curious to read how I was able to edit all my photos before even coming home, you can read about that as well.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back once I have something else to share.

View the full photo set on my photography archive.

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