Happy Birthday To Me: Reviews of Some Toys I’ve Recently Gotten

My birthday was in April, so in the Happy Birthday To Me spirit, I'll consider anything interesting I've acquired in the last few months a birthday present to myself. Much of it is related to cycling, which I've been getting into.

Anyway, here are some mini reviews on some of the stuff, in case others' find any of it useful...

Apple iPhone 6+

My old iPhone 4s was feeling old. I replaced the battery in March, but it still couldn't hold a charge, so I thought it was a good time to upgrade. The 6+ has been really useful on bike rides, with a screen big enough to actually see maps, a battery big enough to last most of the day, and a barometric barometer (that is as of yet, unfortunately, underutilized by trail-logging apps).

I'm pleased with the size, and it feels good in the hand. I just wish that the sleep/awake button didn't have buttons opposing it on the other side of the phone, since that makes it hard to squeeze with one hand (I keep also squeezing the volume buttons).

Apple Pay isn't used in Japan, so I don't get any benefit from that. The unlock-with-your-thumb thing is amazingly useful, much more so than I expected (I registered both thumbs), and now I find that I keep trying to unlock my iPad that way.

The camera sucks, though.

I've cracked the screen only once so far.

Aukey AIPower 20Ah USB Power Brick

I wanted to be able to charge my phone, iPad, and other devices like GPS units while on a long bike ride or long flight. This thing is amazing... I charged it once when I got it a month or so ago, and have not needed to charge it again yet.

It turns out that the iPhone 6+'s battery is sufficiently good that it'll last all day on a long bike ride if I don't need the screen too much (e.g. if I don't need to continuously display the map), but I did need the map for most of the time on my first 100km+ ride and this power brick was indispensable.

Andy Weir's The Martian

I can't say enough about how good this book was. It's a novel with a compelling story told very, very well. It's probably listed under science fiction, but while it's fiction and it's got a lot of science, it's not science fiction at all.

I put this on my Kindle to give me something to do while waiting in line or the like, and it just grabbed me and didn't let go.

Fantastic, fantastic book.

I just peeked at IMDB and found that Matt Damon will play the protagonist in the movie version, and my first reaction was disappointment (a star in a role tends to draw attention to their celebrity, taking away from the character they're supposed to be playing), but upon reflection I can totally hear the opening monologue in Matt Damon's voice, so I'm looking forward to it.

3M Clear Security Glasses SF201AF

I originally got these clear glasses (and another pair with dark lenses) for when riding on my scooter... I never want to ride with my eyes unprotected, and especially in the hot summer it's more comfortable to leave the visor up, so I thought these simple clear glasses with really flexible temples might be nice. They're great.

But it turns out that I use the clear ones on my bicycle more than the scooter. When descending a mountain shaded by trees, it's too dark for normal sunglasses, but without some eye protection I risk a bug in the eye at 50kph, and the wind just makes my eyes water anyway. These solve both problems.

They do scuff easily, but that's not a major problem for how I use them.

Mio Fuse heart-rate monitor

This watch-like device detects your pulse and sends it via bluetooth to your phone. I use it on bike rides to record my pulse, which turns out to be pretty uninteresting because it doesn't get all that high, even when climbing steep hills. (I think this is less a statement about how strong my heart is, and more one about how weak my willpower is: I tend to give up mentally before physically.)

Doppleganger Saddle Cover DSC74-BK

This is a cushy gel-filled cover for a bicycle seat, and it's fantastic.

On my first long bike ride earlier this year, besides tuckering myself out, my rear hurt quite a bit from all the time on the saddle. Real cyclists wear pants that have cushions built into the crotch area. On one hand, this is convenient because they provide padding whether on the bike or sitting on the ground taking a break, but on the other hand, they're expensive and can be described, at best, as making you look like you're wearing diapers. (But it can get much worse, as a Google Image search shows.)

I suppose I don't look like a real cyclist if I don't have these kind of shorts, but if you've seen my blog lately, you know I don't have much style sense.

These days when I ride, or go to the gym, I tend to be decked out in stuff from Under Armour, which as I've written before, I'm enamored with to the point that I bought their stock. I visited their Brand Store in Osaka the other day, and it was nice to find a huge selection of stuff in my size, but the prices there were full retail, which is too pricey for me, so I didn't buy much.

BM Works SLIM3 bicycle iPhone Holder

I wanted a way to securely hold my iPhone on my bicycle handle bars, and this product certainly does that, but I found it to be a disappointment.

The biggest problem is that its clear cover is highly reflective, so in bright daylight it often makes it completely impossible to see the screen until you get the tilt just right, not something fun while trying to check a map in traffic.

It also makes the buttons on the side of the phone difficult to press, and disables the iPhone's unlock-with-your-thumb thing.

I no longer use it, though I may pull it out if ever faced with a long ride in the rain for which I don't know the route.

TiGRA Sport Bicycle Mount

This is how I mount my phone on my bicycle now, and it's absolutely fantastic. The phone is fully accessible, super easy to take on and off. (I can even take it off one-handed while riding, to snap photos like this one).

How great is it? It's so great that I shattered the screen of my iPhone while using it, yet I still use it.

Oops -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 40mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Oops

When checking out mountain roads on my scooter, in preparation for last Wednesday's torturous(and tortuous) bike ride, I used the TiGRA mount to affix the phone to my scooter. While driving around, I would take photos of vending machines as a way to record their location (I geoencode all my photos), so that I could have a map of all available sources of water on the ride. At one point while whipping the camera around for a photo of a vending machine I was passing, I was dismayed to notice my iPhone 6+ bouncing on the ground beside me, trying, but failing, to keep up with the scooter.

I have no idea how it happened, but I can only imagine that I simply forgot to actually snap the phone into the holder. It holds the phone very securely, so it's inconceivable to me that it somehow got jiggled loose. It's also inconceivable that I somehow bumped it loose with the camera... I imagine that any impact strong enough to force it out of the holder would shatter the plastic and the phone before separating the phone from the holder.

I have such faith in how well made this product is that the only plausible explanation is that I really really really screwed up, such as laid it sort of into the holder and then got distracted, and so never finally put it in. (My sister once put both contact lenses in the same eye after being distracted in between, so I know such distraction is possible.)

Apple charges about $150 to replace the screen, or, if the screen isn't the only damage, about $430 to replace the whole unit. I went to the Apple store in Osaka the next day, and am glad I arrived 20 minutes before they opened... I was about 10th in line. Ten minutes later, there must have been 30 people.

At first they noted some microscopic dimple in the housing of the phone, and said that the whole thing would have to be replaced. I preferred to pay the lower amount, so pushed and asked them to at least try replacing only the screen. They said okay, and told me to come back in 90 minutes.

I popped over to the Nikon Service Center to have a little plastic protective cover on my D4 replaced... I'd cracked that too somehow some months before. It was $15.

Back at Apple, they indeed could replace just the screen, so I was happy to save almost $300.

I paid my $150, and declined an invitation for an immediate session with an Apple Watch. (I knew that I wasn't really interested in an Apple Watch, but surprised myself at how quickly I said no.)

I then headed over to the Under Armour store, which was nearby, to spend some of my savings on a hat, socks, and windbreaker, all in high-visibility yellow (the same color seen here, and in all these photos).

Back home, I snapped the phone into the TiGRA mount and indeed could not believe that the phone could possibly come out accidentally, so I chalked this up to fate and my own stupidity. I used it on Wednesday's long mountainous bumpy ride and it performed flawlessly, offering 0% worry.

My only reservation about this product is the packaging it came in, which was a clear plastic box built like a tank. It seems to be gratuitous overkill, a monumental waste of plastic, and a huge hassle to open.

Roswheel Rear-Carrier Bag

This is the bag seen on the back of my bicycle in recent photos, such as this one. It's a piece of crap, but for $15, I shouldn't complain.

It's intended to hold on to the rear carrier via Velcro, but the design is so bad that if there's anything in the bag besides air, the weight jiggling back and forth while riding wants to pull the bag off the side of the carrier. Plus, the sides are not firm at all, adding to the tendency for the thing to want to drip over one side or the other.

I went to the hardware store and got some firm metal strips to brace the thing. I bolted them to the carrier facing up, and made holes in the bottom of the bag so that the bag can slip into the strips and be held very firmly in place. It's invisible when the bag is on the bike, but makes the bike look super dorky when the bag is not there. But it works.

Knog Blinder Front Light

This is an LED light for the front of a bicycle (its light is white, as opposed to red for a rear light). The LEDs are very bright to look at, and I got this to augment the red Knog Blinder that I already had rear. For safety, especially in tunnels, I want a light so that I can be seen, and that's what this light does, even in daylight. It's really really bright.

I leave it flashing on the front of my bike as a matter of policy, all day. If it's a really long ride, I may have to recharge it with the power brick noted above, but I've had to do that only once so far when I'd forgotten to fully charge it before heading out for the day.

And since this post is ostensibly about my birthday, let me share a birthday story that my sister sent recently, about her husband Marty's birthday:

Considering it's your birthday, I have a funny birthday story to tell you.

Marty's birthday was a couple of weeks ago. A few weeks before that, the kids and I were badgering him for ideas about what he wanted for his birthday. The evening that conversation took place (Come on, Marty, give me a hint!) I just happened to leave Firefox open on my computer to Amazon.   When I sat down at my desk the next morning after Marty went to work - there it was!   The hint! In the Amazon shopping cart had a little 1 in it - and it was a pair of bicycling gloves in Extra Large that looked a lot like the pair he'd had for years!    Wow! He must need a replacement pair!    What a cute way to let me know what he wanted!    Of course, I ordered it immediately. It took a long time to arrive, so it was a good thing we had several other gifts to give him on his birthday. But when the gloves finally arrived, I tucked it under his pillow for a very late gift.

Words cannot describe the blankness of his face as I cheerfully told him the present he had hinted at had finally arrived.   You know, the one you put in the cart on Amazon? was followed by an even more profoundly thorough blankness.   After a polite but baffled thank you, he gently reminded me that he never, ever, under any circumstances buys any type of glove before trying it on, and would never order them online.   After my response of Well, why did you put it in the cart, then!, the conversation sort of went downhill.  Well *I* didn't!  I didn't!  Well, do you think the kids did it?    A vaguely irritated and thoroughly bewildered truce was called.

It was maybe 5 minutes later that realization dawned, at which point I sheepishly mentioned to Marty that, you know, Jeffy sometimes borrows my Amazon account.  And Marty noted that, well, he's been into biking lately. Anyway, the gloves are on their way to Japan.

Hah! I ordered some stuff through her account during my recent vacation in The States, and had apparently left the gloves in the shopping cart. How convenient for me! I use them on every ride now.

Thanks Marci!


A Day of Vertical-Climb Cycling Torture in Western Kyoto

The problem with adding a new hobby is that it takes time away from other things. I've been cycling a fair amount lately, but still must devote time to family and my Lightroom work, so what falls behind is my blogging. :-(

Yesterday I lead a 100km extreme-mountain cycle ride with some friends from Cycling Kyoto. I was the slowest/weakest of the five guys, so lead was only in the map sense, but I purposefully made a route in the mountains of western Kyoto with as much vertical climb as I could fit in.

It ended up being a hot, brutal day. (Cyclists apparently love to use words like brutal and hard.)

Starting Out 7:43am - taken while moving at 26 kph (16 mph) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/550 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Starting Out
7:43am - taken while moving at 26 kph (16 mph)

Because I knew it was going to be a tough day, I didn't bring my heavy camera... just my phone... so I don't have any good photos.

I didn't even think I'd actually do much of the ride because I had cold symptoms from the previous day, and I would have bailed on the whole thing had I not been the leader. As it turned out, the hard effort seems to have pushed the cold aside, and I got through the whole day.

We started with a warm-up 160m (525') climb, then moved on to Koshioyama (小塩山) and the 570m (1,870') to its top....

Not From the Top from 415m (of 600m) up Koshioyama (小塩山) 9:14am - taken while moving at 2 kph (1 mph) -- Koshioyama (小塩山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/3600 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Not From the Top
from 415m (of 600m) up Koshioyama (小塩山)
9:14am - taken while moving at 2 kph (1 mph)
The Top Salvo Manino, Thomas Busch, Gorm Kippenberg, Manseki Kanemitsu -- Koshioyama (小塩山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
The Top
Salvo Manino, Thomas Busch, Gorm Kippenberg, Manseki Kanemitsu

We were quite the international group, with folks from Italy, Germany, Norway, Japan, and America.

The road to the top is a dead end, so we headed back down the way we came, moved to the next mountain road to the south, and headed up it. On the way I noticed a monkey in a tree, only the second time I recall seeing a monkey in the wild. It just sat there not giving me much though, so I had time to take a picture, but of course the iPhone camera doesn't do a good job so you can barely differentiate it from the branches....

Manseki and Monkey the monkey is in the far upper right -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Manseki and Monkey
the monkey is in the far upper right

The second big climb had a pause halfway through at the Konzo Temple (金蔵寺), which I posted about six years ago, and also here and here. A the time I wrote those, never in a million years would I believe I could ride a bicycle there, but there I was...

Pause at the Konzoji Temple (金蔵寺) photo by Thomas Busch -- Konzoji Temple (金蔵寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Thomas Busch
iPhone 6 + iPhone 6 back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/60 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Pause at the Konzoji Temple (金蔵寺)
photo by Thomas Busch

We then continued up the mountain, which includes a couple of short (350m long) segments of extreme slope... not as bad as the 22% slope that I posted about the other day, but almost as bad. We plowed through them, then mostly down for a long enjoyable ride through scenic countryside...

Mountain Countryside -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/2800 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Mountain Countryside

Somewhere along the way I broke one of my spokes. Luckily Manseki had a Band Aid with him, so we used it like a piece of tape to hold the spoke inside the wheel, to keep it out of the way and unmangled...

Bicycle First Aid -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Bicycle First Aid

We eventually came into the mountains of northern Takatsuki City, and took a detour to the Honzanji Temple (本山寺). This involved a 350m (1,150') climb over 3,100m (2mi) of road, giving an average slope of more than 11%, but it was the final 700m (half mile) that set this segment apart... it had a consistent slope of a stunning 16%.

Manseki Going Straight Up -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/40 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Manseki Going Straight Up

The photo above of course doesn't show the slope well, they never do, but it was ridiculous. When taking the photo above, I was standing still, having stopped on a big climb for the first time since a month earlier (after which completing climbs without stopping became a specific goal). Manseki also stopped for a moment, the first time I'd ever seen him stop on a climb. It was tough.

But we all made it.... eventually.

Resting at the Top Honzanji Temple (本山寺) Takatsuki, Japan -- Honzanji Temple (本山寺) -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 50 — map & image datanearby photos
Resting at the Top
Honzanji Temple (本山寺)
Takatsuki, Japan
Honzanji Temple (本山寺) -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Cooling Down Manseki douses himself with water -- Honzanji Temple (本山寺) -- Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Cooling Down
Manseki douses himself with water

In Japan, convenience stores and drink vending machines seem to be ubiquitous, so one gets used to relying on them. But on this course, there were long sections without drink vending machines, and most of the course without a convenience store, so those who didn't heed my warnings about lack of services got tuckered out for lack of energy.

So after finally making our way down the mountain and into Nagaokakyo City, we could stock up on food for the first time since the early morning. I ate a lot, and drank even more.

So with bloated stomachs, we made our way to the toughest climb of the day, up to the Yoshiminedera Temple, and then beyond.

Overall the route we took entailed 420m (1,400') of vertical climb over 4,400m (2.75mi) of distance, yielding an average slope of 9.5%, but this includes a long section of relatively-mild leadup. Some sections of road were considerably more steep.

We paused at the entrance to the temple. We didn't go inside, but I've posted it about it many times before, including here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As I mentioned before, photos never seem to show the steepness well.... the section of road leading up (on the right) was really Really REALLY steep....

Looks So Flat but was anything but parking entrance to Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/140 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Looks So Flat
but was anything but
parking entrance to Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺)

The particularly tough thing about this section of road was that it wasn't the end... the next sections would be even worse.

Looking With Trepidation -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/15 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking With Trepidation
Cooling Off Dipping a towel into the river -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/60 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Cooling Off
Dipping a towel into the river

I headed up first, and stopped part way up ostensibly to make sure no one took a wrong turn at an intersection I'd forgotten to explain, but mostly that was just an excuse to stop. It was tough.

Here's Thomas coming up after me...

He's Down There toward the right -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/30 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
He's Down There
toward the right
Still Going -- Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) -- Kyoto , Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/30 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Still Going

Despite these steep climbs, it only got worse.

Eventually we all made it to the top...

Happy at the Top Manseki wearing Gorm's sunglasses, which Gorm had dropped along the way and Manseki had found -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6 Plus + iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at an effective 29mm — 1/350 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Happy at the Top
Manseki wearing Gorm's sunglasses, which Gorm had dropped along the way and Manseki had found

When I arrived at the top to find Gorm waiting with a worried look, he asked me whether I'd seen his sunglasses. I had not. The look on Gorm's face said everything.... "I really want my glasses, but I even less want to go down looking for them if that means having to claw myself back up here."

Luckily, Manseki had found them so there was no need to go back down.

The original plan allowed for one more steep climb, but we were all exhausted, so we called it a day and headed back into the city.

I processed my ride data (as per The Voodoo of Elevation Gain and Strava) and uploaded the correct data to Strava, yielding this report. All in all it was 99km of distance, but the real number is the 2,500m (8,300') of vertical climb. By a little bit, it's the most I'd ever done in a day.

I slept well.


Kyoto’s Nasty 22% City-Bike Hill Climb
This Hill is Not Steep It's Nasty Steep photo by Manseki Kanemitsu -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
This Hill is Not Steep
It's Nasty Steep
photo by Manseki Kanemitsu

距離125mで高度上昇26m、22%の坂を頑張りました。

I went out for a long bike in the mountains of northern Kyoto on Saturday, and after 120km (75mi) of tough ups and pleasant downs with friends (that I'll write about separately), I made an attempt at a hill so steep that its name on Strava is Nasty.

It's so steep that they have a mirror over the road, pointing down, so that folks coming from below can see whether the road is clear up over the lip.

Car Heading Down note the mirror facing down -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/4000 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Car Heading Down
note the mirror facing down

The hill rises about 26m over a distance of 125m (85' over 410'), which puts the overall steepness at 21%, though Kyoto City labels the road at 22%, perhaps because its measurements are more accurate than mine. In any case, that's about the same slope to the top of a 6-story building over the course of a football field.

I was tired after eight hours of hard riding, but had heard about this hill the other day and wanted to try it. Manseki kindly used my camera to snap some shots.

I'm Down There Somewhere -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
I'm Down There Somewhere
Chugging Up -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Chugging Up
Grinding It Out -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Grinding It Out
I Survived -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1600 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
I Survived

It took me 51 seconds.

I had to make a new segment on Strava (which is not available yet) because the one that was already there is way off from reality, putting the ending point well beyond the end of the hill instead of at the end of the hill, so after you're done with the climb, unless you move an unnaturally-far distance from the end of the hill before stopping to recover your breath, the stop is counted in your climb time. Just stupid and sloppy.

Lots of segments in Strava are like this because people who create them are sloppy, and Strava doesn't give any way to provide feedback or to even see who made it. So I have to end up making new (carefully-measured, seemingly-redundant) segments. But Strava also doesn't give any way to describe a segment beyond the title, so these carefully-measured segments aren't presented as such to folks who come across them, so perhaps they get lost in the slew of crap.


Photo-Development Challenge Results #2: Statues

It's been three months to the day since I posted Photo-Development Challenge: Inspire Me and Others With Your Artistic Interpretation, and I'm mortified that it's only the second set of results that I'm finally getting around to sharing (the first having been Hillside Temple Buildings 2½ months ago). In retrospect, it was irresponsible of me to post the challenge right before a long family vacation. Sorry.

In any case, to recap what's going on, I posted some raw photos and asked others to develop them to their taste, and here I'll share what those different interpretations looked like.

First, today's subject in its unprocessed, straight-from-the-camera (via default Lightroom settings) originalness...

The Unprocessed Original -- Otaginenbutsuji Temple (愛宕念仏寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2015-02-22/2528 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/640 sec, f/1.4, ISO 250 — image data
The Unprocessed Original

This is from the delightfully whimsical Otaginenbutsuji Temple (愛宕念仏寺) in northwestern Kyoto, which I've not nearly posted enough about.

As before, I'll present the results in the order I received them, starting with my own processing that I did at the time...

My Version -- Otaginenbutsuji Temple (愛宕念仏寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
My Version

I put an almost-daylight white balance to match the splashes of sun, and created a bit more visual range by increasing contrast and making highlights brighter while making shadows darker. I think this leaves a slight spotlight effect where there are splashes of light. I also added a slight vignette.


processing by Werner Gansz -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
processing by
Werner Gansz

Werner comments:

I love these guys. The two statues on the right were the best focus and light so I used local radials to bring out their features and textures. I also used the GND to darken the strip of sunlight at the top which I found distracting.

My Reaction: Well, now mine feels dark and muddy.


processed by: Niels Volkmann -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
processed by:
Niels Volkmann

Niels comments:

Thoughts on processing: immediately I thought this would make a nice b/w-conversion. By using some lightening/darkening I would like to put some focus on the face of the rightmost statue.

My Reaction: Nicely done. It looks like you cropped it to just fit the four in front, which feels more balanced. The focus is indeed on the rightmost statue, but perhaps a bit too brightly for my taste, but still much better than mine.


— processing by anonymous — Contemplation Contentment in the crowd -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
— processing by anonymous —
Contemplation
Contentment in the crowd

My Reaction: This uses the crop instead of brightness to put the focus on the four main statues, and so it can actually lose contrast buts still work well. This is really interesting to me.

processing by Herve Fear and Serenity -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
processing by Herve
Fear and Serenity

My Reaction: Juuuust a bit too-strongly implemented, but an interesting idea to focus on the emotions and juxtapose two opposites.


processinb by Ben Willmore -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
processinb by
Ben Willmore

Ben's comments:

1) As usual, crop to refine composition.
2) Emphasize green by messing with saturation/vibrance blend.
3) desaturate and darken surrounding areas to keep the eye from spending too much time there.
4) Split-tone to add warmth to highlights.

My Reaction: This crop really identifies the heart of the photo. It's how I should have cropped with my feet at the time. Maybe because I read Ben's comments before looking at the result, I ended up focusing too much on the desaturation on in the background and wish it were a little more lightly applied.


One person, nnkka, submitted three versions...

— processing by nnkka — “ Iced ” -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/640 sec, f/1.4, ISO 250 — image data
— processing by nnkka —
Iced
— processing by nnkka — “ Magenta ” -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
— processing by nnkka —
Magenta
— processing by nnkka — “ Pseudo B&W ” -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/640 sec, f/1.4, ISO 250 — image data
— processing by nnkka —
Pseudo B&W

nnkka's comments:

  • iced version

    I was at a loss in what to do. Then I fooled around and made the blue version to get going.

  • magenta version

    Then I made highlights magenta using the tone curve, and decided it added something unusual to mossy statues. My friend said the statues looked magical, I think that's great. Split toned green shadows to balance out. Then vignette, to better focus the viewer's attention. Cropped for composition, as the highlights in the back could be distracting. Used graduated filters to desaturate and darken the defocused statues in the back, so attention is on the foreground.

  • pseudo B&W version

    Then I clicked B&W and really liked it, but to me B&W is just a gimmick, but I wanted to use it here. I ended up trying to tone the image lightly to make people think it's pure BW, when actually it was toned.

My Reaction: A progression from muddy (a blue version of mine) to crisp. Having seen the bright area in the back cropped out in the first two, it's distracting to see it in the third, which just goes to show that it was the right move to crop it out.


processing by anonymous -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
processing by anonymous

My Reaction: This is a nice balance between Werner's and Contemplation (showing that all three are in a nice ballpark).


processing by Tom in SF
image data
processing by
Tom in SF

comments:

This image seemed to be about one active statue amongst many sleeping ones.

Decided to emphasize this difference by color separation via Topaz Labs and Totally RAD plug-ins.

Considered cropping the result as well, but thought to leave the full composition alone for now.

My Reaction: LAVA! (or, given the posture of the guy in question, Hell)


processing by Amit C -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl
processing by
Amit C

comments:

Here I cropped a bit to give focus to only the four statues in the front and wanted to saturate the greens to make what is covering the statues pop out more. Also felt the image needed more sharpening and some contrast to make it more appealing.

My Reaction: A very nice balance, and, oddly, the most 3D looking one to me.


It was fun to see the repeating themes (particularly the crop) and unique takes. I just must apologize again for taking so long.


Discovering Kyoto’s Wonderful Toji-in Temple on a Tour with NORU
desktop background image of the garden at the Toji-in Temple (等持院), Kyoto Japan -- Basin Above the Garden at the Toji-in Temple (等持院), Kyoto Japan -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/320 sec, f/10, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Basin Above the Garden
at the Toji-in Temple (等持院), Kyoto Japan
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I had a fun outing this morning on a temple tour lead by Joshua Levine, who wanted to lead a test tour in preparation for offering tours by bicycle as part of his cycle cafe NORU, scheduled to open near the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine at the end of the month.

First Stop Hirano Shrine (平野神社) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 26mm — 1/320 sec, f/5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
First Stop
Hirano Shrine (平野神社)

Unlike the cafe whose target demographic is cyclists, the tours merely use bicycle as a means to move around freely, so they're cute highly-adjustable easy-to-ride little bikes. Riders ranged from 153cm to 192cm (5'0 ~ 6'2) and we all had a great fit. The bikes were surprisingly easy to ride.

Compact Parking -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Compact Parking
Always Impressive with how many tourists can be crammed into the Golden Pavilion -- Kinkakuji (金閣寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Always Impressive
with how many tourists can be crammed into the Golden Pavilion
Kumiko · Joshua · Sara · Dino · Manseki -- Kinkakuji (金閣寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Kumiko · Joshua · Sara · Dino · Manseki

The test subjects consisted of some cycling friends (Kumiko, Manseki, Michael who had to leave before this photo was taken, and me), and two non-cycling acquaintances of Joshua visiting from Switzerland, Sara and Dino. They fit the demographic for this kind of tour, and if their reaction is any indication, it will be a great success.

Kinkakuji (金閣寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Running Commentary -- Kinkakuji (金閣寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Running Commentary
desktop background image of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺, Kyoto Japan) poking up above the trees -- Sort of Freaky View of the top of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺) poking above the trees -- Kinkakuji (金閣寺) -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Sort of Freaky View
of the top of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺) poking above the trees
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Off to the Next Spot taken while moving at 16 kph (10 mph) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 45mm — 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Off to the Next Spot
taken while moving at 16 kph (10 mph)

The next stop was the Ryouanji Temple...

Garden-Viewing Room Ryouanji Temple (龍安寺) -- Ryouanji Temple (龍安寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Garden-Viewing Room
Ryouanji Temple (龍安寺)

(The sort of yellowish-green tone to the back room screams fluorescent-light white-balance problem to my gut, but it was actually that way in real life, green flooding in from the overhanging trees out the door seen in the background.)

The temple's grounds are gorgeous in the autumn, gorgeous in the spring, really just quite nice any time. But it's most famous for its Zen rock garden. It seems that I've never posted specifically about it, which I find hard to believe, but all I can find are one-off pictures of it, here, here, and here. Perhaps it's telling that all three are provided as desktop backgrounds.

Off to the Next Spot taken while moving at 8 kph (5 mph) -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Off to the Next Spot
taken while moving at 8 kph (5 mph)
Bicycle Parking Toji-in Temple -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Bicycle Parking
Toji-in Temple

The next spot, the Toji-in Temple (等持院), was new to me and by far the highlight of the trip. Unlike the Golden Pavilion which was mad-house crowded, and Ryouanji which was normal crowded, Toji-in was almost empty, yet the garden was prettier than both.

More Running Commentary -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
More Running Commentary
Enjoying the Garden -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Enjoying the Garden
Enjoying Tea -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 58mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Enjoying Tea
Enjoying Each Other -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 140 — map & image datanearby photos
Enjoying Each Other
Tea House Above the Garden -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 40mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Tea House Above the Garden

It as brilliantly sunny, which makes it difficult to get shots that don't feel washed out. I had my polarizer filter (which makes a huge difference) and so it helped, but with many of these shots I had to be sufficiently aggressive with post processing that they start to edge toward an HDRish feel (what I call single-shot HDR). I don't care for HDR, but it's a lesser of two evils situation.

Kitchen Roof pointing out that the littlest rooflet sticking up would be above the kitchen -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/16, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Kitchen Roof
pointing out that the littlest rooflet sticking up would be above the kitchen

The shot that leads this post was created with Lightroom 6's new HDR photomerge feature, combining seven shots that I created in rapidfire with a bracketed-exposure burst (handheld). I just selected them, invoked Photo > Photo Merge > HDR and let it do it. It corrected for the slight movement among the shots, and came up with a great result without any further input from me.

On the other hand, the next two highly-similar shots are of the aforementioned single-shot HDR variety...

Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 26mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
desktop background image of the garden at the Toji-in Temple (等持院), Kyoto Japan -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
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Wood and Bamboo corner of the tea-house veranda floor -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Wood and Bamboo
corner of the tea-house veranda floor
desktop background image of the garden at the Toji-in Temple (等持院), Kyoto Japan -- Private Garden It seesms that the guy in the room at right was the only other person there at the time -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/8, ISO 140 — map & image datanearby photos
Private Garden
It seesms that the guy in the room at right was the only other person there at the time
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desktop background image of the garden at the Toji-in Temple (等持院), Kyoto Japan -- Hallway -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/60 sec, f/7.1, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Hallway
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Another two-methods pair, one from a single frame and one combined from multiple frames...

Room All To Themselves -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Room All To Themselves
Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Not Quite Alone -- Toji-in Temple (等持院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/100 sec, f/5.6, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Not Quite Alone

The tour continued on to other places, but I had to bow out early for a prior commitment, so this is where the story ended for me.