Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Posts relating to Japan and things Japanese

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 [...]

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Discovering Kyoto’s Wonderful Toji-in Temple on a Tour with NORU

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.

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.

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Little Surprises on a 500-Yen Coin

After including the above photo on "Thoughts on the Venus/Laowa 60mm f/2.8 Super-Macro Lens" in February, it was pointed out to me that the coin includes some visible security features that I'd never noticed.

At the bottom of the zero in the middle, the lower-most horizontal line is flanked on each side by a letter "P"...

This shot was taken with an 8:1 macro setup that falls into the "stupid tricks" category, using extension tubes and a teleconverter. The accumulated chromatic aberration turns the cold monochromatic metal into a squishy field of splotchy color. But it was fun to try.

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Architectural Details at the Kyoto Imperial Palace


I've been posting mostly cycling and Lightroom stuff lately, so time to return a bit to my roots with something Kyoto...

Last November I took a tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and at the time posted "A Few Photos From The Start of a Visit to the Kyoto Imperial Palace", but got sidetracked, as I often do, before posting more. So today I'm picking up from there with a few architectural shots....

Let's start with a simple wigglegram of the courtyard that ended the previous post...

Looking through, the columns and doors on the wall on the right [...]

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Shocking Discovery at the Top of a Kyoto Mountain

I lead my recent post about inaccuracies with consumer GPS devices with the photo above, but I'm repeating it here to tell a different story...

In the photo, taken by a passing hiker at the summit of Mt. Otowa (音羽山) in Kyoto, my fingers are lightly resting on the bike frame. When touching the bike that way as I was posing for the shot, my fingers felt a kind of buzzing vibration sensation, which I thought was odd. The wind was strong, but I didn't think the gusting would hit the bike's resonate frequency or anything.

Later, when moving the [...]

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More GPS Cycling Tests: Things are Pretty Bad and There’s Little Hope

I made my second cycling run up Mt. Otowa (音羽山) on Wednesday, the first having been two days prior in the gloomy late afternoon just before a typhoon came through. Wednesday's was the first afternoon after the mild typhoon passed, so I expected the air to be really clear (like this and this), so I lugged my Sigma "Bigma" 50mm~500mm zoom all the way up there, along with the 2×TC to give me a 1,000mm lens.

It was so not worth it... it was the most hazy I'd seen it in ages.

The only things that were sort of clearly [...]

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Visiting Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine with Matt Campagna and a Super-Wide-Angle Lens

It's been three weeks since I posted "Matt Campagna Wigglegrams Kyoto", so I'm finally getting around now to posting other photos from that outing, where I met fellow Lightroom developer Matt Campagna while he was visiting Kyoto.

Our plan was to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and since I'd been there for photoshoots many times (most recently with former Yahoo! co-worker Andrei Zmievski, and The Japan Times columnist Alice Gordenker), I thought I'd try something different this time.

Unless I'm going out on a bike ride or other special situation like a heavy snowfall, I tend to bring three lenses, [...]

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Gray View of Kyoto from Mt. Otowayama

I've found a new place to try to get nice sunset photos of Kyoto from. Sort of.

For years my go-to place has been the Shogunzuka, which I first posted about almost eight years ago, but have posted about many times since. It's a 5-minute drive from my place on a high hill (small mountain?) over eastern Kyoto.

The small mountain it's on is the little bump going across the center of the shot above... the mountain I'm on for the shot, Mt. Otowayama, is 593m (1,950') high and 6½ km farther away. It took me about an hour fifteen [...]

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The Voodoo of Elevation Gain and Strava (and How I Get Around It)

In the screenshot of Google Earth above, you can see the route that I rode my bicycle last Wednesday... the little bit of green coming in from the right is a downhill section of road, followed by the long red uphill section through the tiered rice paddies of the village, then up the mountain on an old road no longer open to traffic.

I'd ridden 55km (34mi) to get to that point, and would end up riding 72km (44mi) farther before I got home, but ever since my first "real" ride in February, I've not been so interested in how [...]

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Awesome Cycle Outing: Revisiting My First Real Mountain Ride

If you would have told me half a year ago that I would be riding a bicycle as far as 10km, I would have never believed you. Bicycles where for places too close for a taxi or my scooter or a car.

It's amazing how "giving it a try" can change your opinion about something.

On Thursday I retraced the path I took on my first "real" ride last February, covered in "Attempting a 100km Bikeride in the Mountains of Kyoto, Part 1: Hanase Pass" and then "Part 2: the Last 70km". The tough part of this ride is not [...]

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Coffee at Cowbell: Short but Intense Bike Ride in Northern Kyoto

I had a wonderful little bike ride today, 48km distance with 1,720m of elevation gain (30 miles of distance with 5,600 feet of elevation gain). (The report of the ride at Strava reports longer distance and less elevation gain, but I trust Google's elevation data for Kyoto more than I truest my phone's GPS/GLONASS unit's elevation.)

Things didn't start well.

I went downstairs to my bike to find the rear tire quite flat, likely a slow leak from the spoke problem I had on the ride last week. I'd ridden 70km after it was fixed so I thought it was [...]

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Pleasant 105km Bike Ride From Kyoto, Along Lake Biwa, to Takashima’s Shirohige Shrine

I finally made my first 100+km bike ride the other day, cycling with some folks from the Cycling Kyoto Facebook group.

Strava says the ride was 105km (65 miles). Even though it's 10% longer than the first long ride I did, this time was much easier because it had only 1,300m (4,200 ft) of vertical rise, only about a ⅓rd of the first ride's climbs. Even last month's 58km ride was much harder, again, due to having more elevation. Flat distance seems to be easy.

Anyway, as usual we met in front of the Sanjo St. Starbucks...

The route I'd [...]

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Matt Campagna Wigglegrams Kyoto

I got to meet Matt Campagna of The Turning Gate Software yesterday for coffee, conversation, and a hike over the mountain paths of the Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社). He makes highly-regarded Web Gallery plugins for Lightroom, so we had plenty to talk about with the release of Lightroom 6 that had happened earlier that day.

I think this is my second wigglegrams I've published from this location, the first having been this one in December. Neither are quite as nice the previous wigglegram I published last weekend. 😉

I've tweaked the code for the wigglegram on this one so [...]

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Highly-Visible Cycle Ride Though the Mountains of Northern Kyoto

For my first "real" cycling ride after my USA vacation, I had a lot of Under Armour clothes to choose from. I've been enamored with the brand for a while, so took the opportunity while in The States of actually being able to find my size to buy about a thousand dollars worth of the stuff, from sportswear to casual wear to jackets.

With sportsware I'm partial to loud vibrant colors, especially for visibility when road cycling. But perhaps in retrospect I shouldn't have quite gone so full throttle. Still, with this getup I bet I could always get a [...]

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A “Flowers Among the Flowers” Wigglegram at Kyoto’s Haradanien Garden

Here's a wigglegram from the same outing that produced "Photoshoot at the Peak of the Haradanien Garden’s Awesomeness".

I think it's nicer than my first Haradanien wigglegram, for a variety of reasons.

However, when I showed this to a friend, he said that he felt that the foliage in the foreground was a bit distracting. My reaction was "there's foliage?"

Joanne (at left) had to leave Kyoto that day, but Ting Ting (at right) joined my friends for a photoshoot the next day (which I couldn't participate in because I was making tofu). But I could join in the [...]

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Lunch in a Small Mountain Farming Hamlet in Japan

In my previous post, I wrote how I spent a wonderful afternoon making tofu in japan with an 80-year-old farmer's wife. This post is about the rest of the visit, the experience that would normally be part of a tour one can take on a day trip out of Kyoto.

The tofu/meal part of the tour takes place in the hamlet of Hata (畑, literally "field") tucked in the mountains of north-western Shiga prefecture. The terraced rice paddies, tended by hand for generations, can be quite photogenic, though my visit, two or three weeks before the planting, found them at [...]

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Making Tofu in Japan with an 80-Year-Old Farmer’s Wife

I had a fantastic experience on Friday, part of which included making tofu from scratch with an 80-year-old lady in her old farmhouse in northern Shiga prefecture, about an hour from Kyoto.

She's five-foot-nothing of pure grandmotherly warmth, but was a bit shy of the camera, so my photos of her don't really reflect her incessant beaming smile. I was there as a photographer on behalf of Tour du Lac Biwa, a tour company that arranges off-the-beaten-path "experience" tours in Shiga prefecture, for English-speaking visitors. It's the same tour company that I appeared on TV for, and that arranged this [...]

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Photoshoot with Ting Ting at the Murin’an Gardens

I spent a few hours today in the Murin'an Garden (無鄰菴) in eastern Kyoto, doing a photoshoot with Ting Ting, which you might remember from "Photoshoot at the Peak of the Haradanien Garden’s Awesomeness" two days ago.

Like two days ago, I was with Eric, Gigi, and Damien, but this time Gigi was behind her own camera as well...

I really enjoyed the situation with three photographers and one subject. While someone else is directing Ting Ting to look this way or move that way, I can capture pseudo-candid shots that I'd probably not get otherwise.

For example, early on [...]

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Photoshoot at the Peak of the Haradanien Garden’s Awesomeness

I visited the super-duper unbelievably amazing Haradanien Garden (原谷苑) today, in the mountains above the Golden Pavilion temple in northwestern Kyoto. It was my first visit since the photoshoot with John and Ai two years ago.

This time I went with Eric, Gigi, and Damien just to practice portraiture. Gigi wore a kimono she bought yesterday.

I can not begin to tell you how wonderful Haradanien is. When the blossoms are at their peak, such as now, it's 100× better than any other garden I know of, anywhere.

金閣寺の近く、原谷苑、は今メチャメチャメチャ美しいです。 行きにくい所ですが、今週はおすすめです。今日は全然満開でした!

I wanted a different kind of shot of Gigi than [...]

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Anthony Starts Middle School


The new school year is getting going in Japan, and having graduated from elementary school last month, yesterday Anthony had the entrance ceremony for his new middle school, Doshisha International.

There are two kinds of "international" schools in Japan. The most common type that comes to mind when one hears the term is a school that has a non-Japanese curriculum with instruction in a non-Japanese language, e.g. an "American" school with a US curriculum taught in English. That's not what his school is.

Anthony's school is mostly a normal Japanese school (instruction in Japanese of the standard Japanese curriculum), [...]

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