It has been a long time since I last posted a shot. Not sure why I haven’t had much interest lately, but I mostly blame the state of Georgia for not inciting that sweet, succulent desire to transpose life onto a camera sensor and attempt to call it art! I did go out shooting last week and Georgia nefariously called a legion of stinging or biting ants onto my leg in an attempt to derail my burgeoning photographic desires. Still, I feel I may have come away with some good shots, but we shall see once I load them onto my computer. I will say that it is highly possible I will be moving yet again within the next two months if my dubious plan comes to fruition. Until then, I give you the lanterns of Asakusa!
Minato-ku Ward is a great place to escape the relative bustle of Tokyo if you ever find yourself in the area. There is a great Sapporo Beer Garden located here at Ebisu Garden. You could probably spend a couple of hours within this little complex to find cool pictures due to the interesting architecture and open market that is regularly hosted here.
Monkey seemed like he needed a friend, so one week ago we went and adopted another kitten who wears cute little mittens everywhere she goes. She is a lot more photogenic, cuddly, and about half the size of our other kitten, but she holds her own when they play fight together.
We have been planning on getting a cat once we were more settled in here in Georgia, and have been going to the Pet Smart across the street a couple of times now to check out the cats that are brought in from the local animal shelters. One cage looked empty, but while we were looking at the other cats, a dark cat with a neat little silver coat came out to greet and talk to us. I stuck my finger in the cage and he was happy to play. I raised my finger higher and higher until it was at the top of the cage and he climbed up like a little rock climber, then climbed back down, so we couldn’t let a lil rock climber like that go and we took him home.
We don’t know how old he is since animal control found him and his sibling on the street, but he is a lot smaller than he looks in the pictures. Quite a smart and playful little guy. He loves to climb up the bed over and over until he gets tired, then lays down to sleep between me and the wife. He isn’t big into posing for the camera, he is too quick. Fortunately for me though, he doesn’t get scared of it one bit, so he is going to be my little model from now on.
This was my first fireworks show that I have ever attempted to shoot. I thought it would be an easy affair other than finding the right spot amongst the throngs of people. We were at Jekyll Island on the coast of Georgia for the event, so we set up a small plot on the beach and waited for the show begin. I figured it would be cool to get really long exposure by stopping down to about f18 and even covering the lens between bursts to get as many fireworks in the shot without overexposing the areas below.
This does not work. You are lucky if you can get a series of 2 shots without the bright blasts completely over exposing the area of explosion and also lighting up the smoke in an unappealing way. I was getting my best shots by capturing only one at a time, which meant lowering the exposure to around f9 for proper exposure. Ideally you would be somewhere like Sydney Harbor that has a linear series of shots that do not explode in the exact same spot in the sky.
The last thing I would like to have changed, but is usually out of a persons control is the wind. If you could keep the wind blowing directly against your back as you face the display, that would help hide the smoke that easily lights up in your shot. I wasn’t too happy with the shots, but it was a good learning experience for next time.
I have only a couple of weeks left here in Japan and kept realizing that there were quite a few shots that I did not have due to my short notice move to Turkey before last summer. Now that I am back, I now have only a few weekends left before leaving Japan for good. We basically only had this last weekend as our only time when we don’t have something planned and getting a good shot of Fuji was one of “those shots” I was missing out on. So we threw our sleeping bags into our small little Toyota Starlet to camp out on Friday night for a 4am viewing of Fuji across Lake Motosu as long as our luck way for clear viewing conditions.
Two people sleeping in a Toyota Starlet goes against the grain of the universe and I would never recommend anyone ever try that. On top of not being able to sleep in 3 cubic feet worth of space, I also omitted my allergy meds, and allergies in Japan kick my ass. Luckily the weather cooperated and we had our first clear skies in what seemed like weeks. Not only did we get an awesome viewing at Lake Motosu, but we were also able to get some nice warm light paint on Fuji across nearby Lake Saiko.
One thousand and eighty photos over the past two and a half days of crawling around Tokyo. The arches in my feet feel as if they have completely disappeared and this is only the beginning. For now, here is a sampler of shapes that have caught my eye during the grand Tokyo extravaganza.
One more from my day in Yokohama. The cherry blossoms are starting to bloom, so hopefully I will finally be posting up some decent hanami shots after this weekend, hanami NOT from Yokohama.
While in Yokohama I stumbled upon what I believe to be either a cool looking purple sculpture along the waterfront.. or possibly the worlds filter for the color purple.
I am guessing it is just a cool sculpture.
After a couple of days of skiing, we headed back to Sapporo to finish our trip. The Sapporo Bier Garten seemed to top the list of recommended things to do while in town, so we booked dinner reservations for two in the Ghengis Khan Hall.
This is actually a beer garden owned by Sapporo beer, but it is well known for one thing, the mutton grilled on the table ‘yakiniku’ style.
Being stupid gaijin, we needed a few tips from the friendly staff like taking the cube of animal fat and gratuitously coating everything before putting meat to grill. One hundred minutes of all-you-can-eat mutton and beer ran us about ¥3,700. We noticed everyone else just dumped all their fresh cookins onto the grill and went to town, so we learned quickly how to maximize our 100 minutes!
I don’t usually like lamb or smokeless grills, but damn, this was a good meal, great beer, and a cool atmosphere. It was definitely worth the 30 minutes of running while lost trying to make your reservation!
Just be sure to bring some breath mints or gum for after the meal. I don’t eat mutton often, but the after taste is… not good!
Got away from the lair full of evil homework for a little while on Sunday. Turned out to be very rainy and foggy at the castle we had visited. Wasn’t very conducive for taking good landscape or architectural shots, so I put on 32mm of Kenko macro tubes and took a couple of shots.. I was mostly just happy to get out of the house and away from schoolwork for a while!
These Torii can be really difficult to photograph in the middle of the day with the bright sun overhead reflecting off of every odd curve down the entire row. I was trying every angle I could think of and it suddenly became obvious how extremely small changes in your position would completely change the way they lined up. This one was my favorite due to the tight grouping without large gaps that would expose super bright sunlight reflections. I still needed the help of HDR to reign in the dynamic range, but I am finally happy with one of the many shots I had taken this day. I still want to go back and try again with a tripod… Looks like I will be doing that at the end of February.. Another 2 months in Japan and back with my wife for me!
Mt. Erciyes is a bit of a weird resort compared to what I am use to in the States. Each group of chairlifts and rope tows are owned by different people, so even though you can see 5 or 6 lifts nearby, you have to choose which one or two that you would like to ride and pay for a pass that is only good for a specific lift or two. Doppelmayr! How I have missed you!
I was having a lot of fun skiing for the 2nd time in 7 years. Last year I felt like a disaster, but this year was different for some reason. I think it might be the kebabs and sahlep? Anyways, I didn’t care to get my camera equipment until near the end of the day, so it was getting pretty dark by the time I started to shoot. You can also kind of see the runs that were pretty much 50/50 rock snow, not the pure snow like found on the K-12, but.. If something gets in your way, turn.
For the last run I locked my 50mm on and loaded my SB-600 and tried to get some shots of my friends as they were trying to breakout of beaterdom. It would have been nice to have my 70-200 to get in a bit closer, but I was a little weary of breaking my leg on a rock, smashing my head into the dirt, and having 50 pounds of camera reconstruct my face. Here is Dean showing me the dangers I speak of.
I can’t even see his upper body in this shot!
Took a little New Years break ski trip up north to Mt. Erciyes, a big 3,916 metre stratovolcano that can be seen from Cappadocia. When we arrived at night, it was extremely bright out due to the full moon, which I hear was a blue moon. Me and one of my friends eschewed the New Years festivities at the deluxe hotel that we had booked and decided to enjoy the blisteringly cold night air with our cameras.
I pulled out my handy LED key chain light to graffiti the mountain with a New Years declaration about some girl I know named Amber who should have been there to partake in the lovely wind chill with her husband!
These long exposures were really fun to play around with my flash as well. Me and my friend would hold my SB-600 flash and fire off the test flash a couple of times at each other while strategically hiding the flash unit from view of the camera to create some neat effects. Too bad my retarded ass kept moving around between flashes so that I look like a fragmented apparition!
Combined, neither me or my friend had enough common sense to at least dress up warm enough to stay out in the cold for very long, a damn shame because the views were simply amazing. After about an hour and a half, our tennis shoes became the weakest link and we had to quick pack everything up and head back to a warm car to try and regain feeling in our feet. While packing up we noticed our gear was extremely frosted over.
Modern gear is pretty damn awesome though; it all kept working so well, we had no idea it was all coated with frost until I happened to shine my LED on it. I think we were too preoccupied running in place and hopping around in circles like Indians for warmth! We headed out again the following night since this night was so amazing, but the 2nd time was so windy that we could not steady our tripods enough to take any sharp shots with such long exposures. I guess I’ll just have to go back again!
Messing around with my Kenko extension tubes I bought last month. This is the 20mm and 12mm tubes stacked onto my 50/1.8. I have played with these once before in Thailand and realized quickly that you really need to have an external or ring flash. So I setup a cheap tripod with my SB-600 firing down almost straight down on top of the Baklava.
Another macro shot, this time of the rear sprocket of my very neglected mtn. bike. Again, 32mm tubes and the 50/1.8 were used with the off camera flash firing directly above. Gotta love the Manfrotto tripod with articulating arm to get into your subject and still remain steady. Now I just need to go find one of those gigantor centipedes that were setting up shop inside my house over the summer; would be an interesting subject.
Sneak attack from behind!
Even if I vehemently abhorred Istanbul, which I do not, I have to go back. I am on a mission to get the perfect shot of these glass mosaic lamps. During my first visit years ago, I failed with my point and shoot; I thought this time would be different armed with more knowledge and better gear, yet I still failed to get the shot I had envisioned. This is my best attempt, but I learned that a large depth of field is absolutely key to the result that I am after. I went in with f2.8 and found the bokeh way too distracting for me. There is just too much going on to tease the eye with such a large amount of blur.
One evening we went searching for the Spice Bazaar and thought we found it. I was confused if this was actually a dog and cat food spice bazaar because there was bin after bin of food for furry critters. We later found out that the bazaar was next door and may have been closed on Sundays, but I still felt silly. Special Kedi Maması means= Special Kitty Food. Köpek= Dog. Yummy!
When we did find the Spice Bazaar, I went all out in my Turkish Delight sampling as I tried to find the best flavors to use as a gift.. The best advice in a situation concerning Turkish Delight is to start slow and build up an iron gut that can support the sheer weight of the concoction as every piece feels like it weighs about 1 pound once it has reached your stomach. Honey is one of the main ingredients for Turkish Delight, so I present you a picture of a jar of honey found in a store overflowing with Turkish Delight.
I am going to quick post up some Istanbul shots that I just processed, mostly straight out of Lightroom with minor adjustments to convert from RAW to JPEG. It is 12am right now and I am a bit tired and these shots mostly explain themselves so I won’t go into great detail about them. Tomorrow will be a good day for me because the movers are finally delivering my household goods that I haven’t seen since I left Japan. That means I can finally work on a proper computer and monitor for my shots.. or play games if I am misbehaving..
The last one is one of my favorites because old couples out and about enjoying life and traveling together are alright in my book. I hope to be lucky enough to do that with my lovely wife one day!
I had a three-day weekend and headed up to Istanbul for the 1st time in over three years. The first time I went with a good friend and my wife whom I was just beginning to date at the time. We had an amazing time and I would easily say that Istanbul is only 2nd to Prague when it comes to big cities. If I was offered a job there that could support me and my wife, I would take it in a second and I am sure my wife would probably back me up on that statement as well.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque), completed in 1616… Not even the coolest mosque in Istanbul. I should have a few acceptable shots of the coolest that I will post on the blog sooner than later.
And this is inside of the Sultan Ahmed. I didn’t bring a tripod so I had to hand hold and crank up the ISO to 4000 for this 5XP DRI shot @ f2.8. The corners are out of focus, but usually high ISO shots will turn out extremely noisy as the HDR and DRI process seems to amplify every little spec of noise. I was highly impressed with the results this D700 is turning out at such high ISO though.
Here I am trying to trying to venture out and take shots with human subjects in them for a change. Of course, Istanbul has all types of people since it is the gateway to Europe. I really dig the Middle Eastern dress that you find, but I am typically most shy about taking pictures of those who are wearing that kind of traditional dress for some reason. I’ll have to steal a few from behind I guess.
And 2 guards that were stationed at the entrance of the Topkapı Palace. I knew they wouldn’t care if I took their picture because they were unflinching statues until they were called out of their pose. I didn’t see them blink, instead they had a guy go up to their faces with a tissue to wipe away what was most likely crumbling stone out of the eyelids that were a result from such seriousness.
These two were good. I have never seen such an intense pose held so well that you wouldn’t be able to tell if they were wax figures or not.
Lots more to come. I am excited to go through and start processing the rest of my shots!
On the weekend me and a buddy (whom I just turned onto the Darkside with a Nikon D90) rented a car for a day to visit some nearby sights. The Sabancı Mosque is probably the largest attraction to be found in Adana. It is the largest mosque in Turkey and can accommodate 28,500 people at one time!
The accompanying park has got to be about 3 km long and is very ornately decorated with all kinds of statues, fountains, gardens, playground equipment, and plenty of places for a picnic.
There were a lot of people out when we first arrived, and let me tell you about being a foreigner rolling up to a park in Southern Turkey… You become the center of that world. Everyone wants to look at you or talk to you to practice their English or just find out what in the hell these 2 white boys are doing in Southern Turkey. I was a little apprehensive about rolling up with all of my photo equipment because I already knew what to expect, but I was totally surprised to find that when they see all the equipment, especially the 70-200 hand cannon, they immediately want you to take their pictures.
Almost none of them even wanted to ask if they could see the picture, instead they were totally surprised when I offered to show it to them on the camera LCD. They didn’t even try and ask me to email them a copy of the shot. So basically this is like free practice for someone timid about asking to take portraits.
Hell yeah! This kid below was so excited that he literally wet himself. Well, maybe he did it before he saw me, but I didn’t even notice until I got home and looked through my shots. I had to cut out about half the picture and clone some extra shirt to spare the poor kid some embarrassment.
This last shot isn’t the most interesting shot in the world, but what is interesting is that this was taken at ISO 4 million (4,000 for non-sarcastic types) and still looks pretty damn acceptable and let me take this at 1/60 hand held in the middle of the night @ 105mm! I did run this through Noise Ninja, another great little program.
Anyways, I need to keep going back to practice portraits because I have learned it is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, especially when using my external flash. I have figured out that the exposure meter is basically worthless and trial and error or experience is what you really need to just get the exposure right.
Tumlu Castle is an interesting castle. It situated above the small town of Dumlu and can be seen from both Anavarsa Castle and Snake Castle. It basically looks like someone built a castle on top of a single boob out in the middle of a large plain. Here it is from the bottom, although it doesn’t really show how much this little hill sticks out around such a large flat area.
This is the second time I have visited Tumlu and so far I have been awed by the dark blue hues of the sky with each visit. It is almost like you are looking off into the edge of space. Today was no different, the castle is pretty cool, but the sky contrasted against the fields is what really drew my interest. I am not sure if the fact that you can see the curvature of the Earth has anything to do with such dark blue skies here or not? But that curve in the photo certainly isn’t all from my lens.
And here is yours truly trying to figure out how to use my SB-600 flash. I am a complete noob when it comes to properly using this thing. It took me about 5 tries to get the exposure right for the outside window, the inside of the castle room, and myself. I need to post a picture of me every once in a while or my lovely wifey in Japan is going to forget how magnificent I am!