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Mysterious Cut Stones in the Mountains of Kyoto
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.
Finely Carved Junk or so it seems -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 62 mm — 1/250 sec, f/5, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Finely Carved Junk
or so it seems

In yesterday's “Fall Colors in Nature, as Nature IntendedI wrote about an area of (what I think is) natural-growth deciduous trees in a long ravine along the mountain road between Kyoto and Otsu. In using the phrase “as nature intended”, I meant to contrast the exquisite (but planned) landscaping of large temples like Eikando. I did not, however, mean to imply that nature intended such a gorgeous display of color to be marred by ugly visual pollution like guardrails, telephone poles, and junk.

But, like most areas of nature in Japan that are accessible to people, junk was aplenty, roughly in proportion to the natural beauty. (At first this “beauty equals garbage” tautology broke my heart, and then as I got into photography, it created exceptional composition challenges..... but sadly, I'm now jaded to it and it's just one negative aspect of the place. Sigh.)

Anyway, I mentioned in yesterday's post that there were a bunch of cut stones apparently discarded by the side of the road, seemingly having been there for many years.

Piled Up Behind the Guardrail -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Piled Up Behind the Guardrail
Makes for a Solid Barrier the river is at left, way down below -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/250 sec, f/4.5, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
Makes for a Solid Barrier
the river is at left, way down below
Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Zeiss 100mm f/2 — 1/250 sec, f/4, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Zeiss 100mm f/2 — 1/250 sec, f/4, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
( I wonder whether this'll make a nice desktop-background image? ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Zeiss 100mm f/2 — 1/250 sec, f/2, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
( I wonder whether this'll make a nice desktop-background image? )
Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Zeiss 100mm f/2 — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 26 mm — 1/250 sec, f/4.5, ISO 4000 — map & image datanearby photos
Edgy -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Zeiss 100mm f/2 — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Edgy

Some of these have a vaguely HDRish feel because I felt compelled to use Lightroom's “fill light” to bring up the darkness of the stones in the shade. The photo immediately above, though, had an edgy feel to begin with, which I then further encouraged with Lightroom's positive clarity (to get the opposite of the soft-glow effect that negative clarity brings).

Stone that Rolled Down Into the River alongside the requisite random river trash -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Stone that Rolled Down Into the River
alongside the requisite random river trash
Color Check with the handy WhiBal I keep in my bag -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 26 mm — 1/250 sec, f/4.5, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Color Check
with the handy WhiBal I keep in my bag
Signed and Numbered -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 44 mm — 1/250 sec, f/4.5, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Signed and Numbered

The stones were in many shapes and conditions, but I could find writing on only two. I can't read what's on the one above, though it certainly seems like writing. Whatever it is looks like it ends with “130”, but I'm not sure.

And on another, after pushing back some accumulated decaying leaves, I found...

(For the) Village Safety -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48 mm — 1/250 sec, f/5, ISO 3600 — map & image datanearby photos
(For the) Village Safety

I'd left my scooter at a less narrow arrow just up the road a bit, and after returning to it and passing back this way, I noticed that someone else had stopped to take pictures of the leaves. I stopped and asked whether he knew the story behind the stones; he did not, but suspected that they had been dumped there nefariously in the dead of night some long time ago. His curiosity piqued, he said he'd ask the local police, and let me know what he finds out. Cool.

Later in my short but fruitful exploration of the area, I found some things that might offer ideas about this pile's origins.... we'll see.

UPDATE: it turns out that these are owned by the nearby Nishimiura Stone Lanterns company. They use it as sort of an overflow warehouse. I guess big stones don't really mind if they fall into the river... at least so long as they're not left for more than a few hundred years.

Continued here...


Comments so far....

I’ve been playing around with the lightroom3 Beta and specifically trying to get the hang of white balance feature. I was just thinking over the weekend that I should probably get a gray card because I’m having a hard time trusting the balancing I’m seeing in LR3.

I took some textural pics of tree bark and stones in the woods (rural NJ elm trees). When I try to use the eyedropper in LR3 even on the most neutral gray tone I can find it renders the image a little too warm. I find that I like the ‘As Shot’ white balance the best. (I’m shooting with a dinky Ricoh R8… it scares me to trust that camera’s judgement)

Your COLOR CHECK photo is a great lesson: 1. Carry a grey card. 2. Wear /bring something in your test photo that you can easily remember its true color.

For your eizo monitor did you have to get a calibration tool for that? Also it looks like your grey card is slightly angled to maybe catch the daylight. After you get that gray card shot do you eye drop in LR for white balance or do you do something else that you find works better?

I have an Eye-One calibration tool for my monitors. The gray card is indeed angled up to catch the same light illuminating the scene. In LR, I eye-drop on the brightest part of the card that’s not blown out (though with the WhiBal, I watch out for direct reflections in the little white patch) . More often than not I’ll not care for the technically correct white balance because it doesn’t match what I remember and/or because it doesn’t match what I want to remember, so I’ll use it as a starting point and go from there. If I don’t have the card and don’t notice something neutral in the shot, I’ll try to find something that is and take a picture of it, though one must realize that the many things we consider “white” are not white. In a picture with lots of “white” things (my boy’s socks, the white parts of some superhero sticker on his backpack, the white of a business man’s shirt, the white paper on a shoji screen, the white stripe on a road, etc.) clicking around with the white-balance eyedropper will often cause wildly different interpretations, some of which (though wildly different) may seem reasonable, and some that are not reasonable at all. The mind is easily tricked, both when out and about and in front of the Lightroom window. In the end, if your goal is to share some pretty photos, play around with gray cards and semi-dirty socks, but in the end just pick what you think looks nice. :-) —Jeffrey

— comment by Ron Evans on December 1st, 2009 at 12:12am JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

My guess is that one time this roadway was much smaller and less traveled with a small shrine next to it. When the road was widened and paved, the temple had to be moved out of the way of “progress” The stones were only moved aside, not dumped. Perhaps someone will take them and rebuild elsewhere someday. Seems so poignant…tugs at me. They seem very old..if only they could talk. I love stone and rocks

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on December 1st, 2009 at 1:41am JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Mom said “I love stone and rocks”

Ya think? :-)

My first thought on seeing the photos of that tumble of rocks was “Uh oh – Mom’s going to try to get you to ship those to Ohio, see if she doesn’t!

— comment by Marcina, USA on December 1st, 2009 at 12:13pm JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

I liked the fourth (JF7_027133.jpg ) the most. If the stones were bit more prominent, say about 1/3 of the bottom, that would have been even better. (i think for that one might have to shoot with a wide angle lens looking upward & closer to the stone & the ground.)

— comment by parv on December 1st, 2009 at 5:19pm JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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