Today we headed up to Okutama to explore the many side roads and we ended up on this extremely steep road and followed it for miles until became a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and then we followed that until it was very much in the far end of nowhere. As we were backtracking on the dirt road, I commented on how I preferred off roading in our newer super-compact car as opposed to my wifeys old super-compact car that has been part of many off road adventures in austere parts of Turkey. I would call it a beater, but I don’t want to jinx myself again.
As soon as we hit pavement, we parked the car so I could take the photograph below. Not the most interesting photograph, but it has an interesting story. See, as soon as I went back to the car and tried to start it up, I heard a of-all-the-places-we-could-suddenly-have-mechanical-problems type of sound aka the starter sounded like it was dead and we have an automatic with power brakes. No jump starting or coasting down to the main road, plus we don’t speak Japanese, on top of all that.. the road was so steep in places that a tow truck would probably never attempt going out there.
I decided rolling the car off the hillside wasn’t a good long-term solution and we packed up our camera gear and started the trek to the town of Okutama for some help. Luckily we quickly stumbled on 3 locals foraging for leaves to be used in their favorite tempura recipe and we were able to play charades to see if we could get some help. We went back to the car and when they heard the starter, they immediately knew that only the battery was dead and it could be jumped. They were right and that was the biggest relief I have had in a long time!
Thank you 3 guys foraging for leaves to use for a tasty tempura meal! I dedicate this picture–that would have been a lot better had I tried to piece together a vertorama to capture the beautiful overlook–to you guys!
Here is another one from Showa Park. I am sure the trees in the background are completely full of green leaves now. The day after the cherry blossoms all fell off, the green leaves started appearing on the trees all over the surrounding areas.
This is a blend of a DRI on top of an HDR using 5 exposures for both. I used the +1 exposure underneath it all to paint in the people since the DRI and HDR show lots of ghosts due to the the movements of the people. I topped it all of with a lush icing of LuciArt. That program is far and away my favorite way to add sharpening to images.
Lightroom amazes me the more I play around with it. I had another picture on of the many oddities to be found within Showa Kinen Park, but the neat spiral walkway was surrounded by unsightly, yellowish grass. I played around with the pretty much every option including about 8 gradient filters and ended up with this. The only thing I used Photoshop for was to run an unsharp mask on it since the Lightroom sharpening doesn’t appear to do as good a job at that.
I haven’t really shot a nice HDR in a while for some reason. I have been using DRI a bit, but I keep seeing these scenes that I imagine would look great in HDR and end up utterly disappointed with the result after I process it. This scene was another shot that I thought would look really nice when I HDR’d it. I even took 9 shots for this scene, 4 more than I usually shoot for an HDR.
Another disappointment… so I took the middle exposure and tried some de-saturation, orange-ish gradient for the sky, and some vignetting. I wasn’t too sure about this since the smaller size looks too dark, but it has received a decent response on Flickr, so I thought I would throw it up on this blog.
Zombie? This picture isn’t a zombie, I am a zombie. I have a bunch of pictures I have been meaning to process from the beginning of the Japanese flower viewing season (hanami), but I have been operating on a temporary graveyard schedule with my wife this week which has proven difficult to get used to. Since my waking hours are spent in a drooling stupor– completely devoid of any and all motivation in life– I will have to post a photo devoid of any cherry blossoms or nature.
This is looking up at the Sanno Park Tower which is the same building I took the photo in “The Process” blog posting from about a week ago. This photo is frustrating because it looks like crap in my Flickr stream when it is a smaller size which seems to be the complete opposite of how most photos look in a smaller size. That and this photo has a bit of a “murky” cast that I was not able to shake.
My wife serves as a photographic consultant for a lot of my photos. Usually I will have two versions of the same photograph with varying levels of processing. I need her to balance my preference out because the synapses in my brain are definitely more excited by scenes that contain some element that you would most likely not see with the naked eye if you were standing at each scene. She prefers a more natural or lifelike look when viewing photos. Eventually one picture makes it to my recycle bin and the other goes online.
Tonight I over ruled her and this processed abomination won over the realistic looking version. I created a DRI out of 3 exposures then applied some sharpening and LucisArt ‘sculpture’ processing to it. Then I imported it back into Lightroom because I really like the ease at which it allows you to selectively desaturate your work. The 3 most important sliders to achieve this look are blacks to about 60, vibrance to 40, and saturation to -70. From there I slightly tweak each slider and the individual color channels. This look makes for some pretty neat portraits as well.
I took a trip to Akasaka last Sunday with the wifey. She wanted to see one of Tokyo’s renowned hair stylists so she could show up and ask for a haircut and style that would be most appropriate for her facial structure and hair type; the kind of makeover you see on TV where they tell you how they are going to cut it instead of the other way around.
I dropped her off and took a little walk about to an area I had been before. For once I left my tripod at home and really, really regretted it. Pretty neat little area, but I still keep getting my ass kicked by my D80 overexposing shots, but on the LCD screen they all look like they are spot on. I need to permanently dial it to -1 EV whenever I am using spot or center weighted metering which is about 95% of the time. Luckily, I bracketed a lot of shots and ended up with a few that should turn out okay.
And if anyone has a wife with naturally curly, caucasian hair and was wanting to get a ‘makeover’ from a trendy stylist in Tokyo.. Well, 3 hours later, wifey looked like someone put a high-powered tazer in her hair and juiced it up with 1,000 volts of electricity. Basically, what I am saying is… Beauty is subjective!
On Sunday we visited the Yokohama Sea Paradise to pretend like we are marine biologists/photographers. I was highly impressed with this aquarium! They have a pretty big variety of sea life to watch including polar bears. They also had a pretty amazing show with not only the animals performing stunts, but the handlers were doing some pretty neat tricks with them as well.
We both shot a ton of pictures, but the lighting was very low as to not blind the sea life that is not always use to bright light; that coupled with the speed at which they like to swim around the massive aquariums made it very, very difficult to get any decent shots that are even half way sharp. The shot below is one of the many blurry shots I took, but I thought these tubes inside the aquarium were very interesting.
I have not been out shooting since I last visited Odaiba about 2 weeks ago due to the constant rain, cold, and snow we have had for nearly as many days. This weekend we are headed to Mt. Takao for their annual fire walking festival. I am hoping for decent weather, but then again, maybe the entire point of the fire walking festival is to sacrifice the soles of human feet to the sun God in hopes of better weather.
Here is to warmer weather, or at least maybe if it snows, it will start sticking to the ground instead of melting right away!
The wifey and I went into Odaiba on the weekend which is a man made island connected to Tokyo by under water roadway, the amazing Rainbow Bridge, and an unmanned train amongst other ways in. There is so much photographic potential to easily warrant a couple of visits in an attempt to capture even a fraction of the potential this island has. I think this huge amount of potential affected my brain and it became overloaded just thinking about all the neat things around me. I ended up becoming too relaxed with my camera and made a few big mistakes.
First, inside the Miraikan Museum of Science and Innovation, they had this amazing LCD globe of the world with massive windows which made for an amazing scene that required more dynamic range than my DSLR could capture in 1 shot. I planned to bracket my shots as I usually do for architectural scenes and ended up taking a large series of shots without the bracketing turned on! Now I have a bunch of series of 6 and 9 shots all with the exact same exposure which happened to be set for the inside only.
Then once it was dark, I turned my ISO up a bit to do some hand held shots. I then inadvertently left the ISO up the rest of the night which turns the D80 into a hot pixel factory on long exposures and seemed to rob me of a lot of color with the shorter exposure times. Needless to say, I will need to go back and try again. Maybe I am feeling the effects of photography intoxication, but hopefully this 2nd lesson keeps me more aware of what I am doing in the future.
Tokyo is an amazingly dense city comprised of a complex system of buildings, roads, and rail, but what really boggles the mind are the veins and arteries underneath the city. I have no idea how the Japanese engineers have managed to keep the towering building from succumbing to earthquakes while practically every square inch of Tokyo has been hallowed out underground. Here is a small glimps into one of the pores of Shinjuku. Yes, I happened to be doing lines at the time.
Well it is true, I have been doing lines again.
I still remember the first time I did lines was when I was at a castle in Turkey about 3 years ago. My equipment was very amateur and I had no idea what I was doing. Eventually it takes over you, but I am still in control.
Now a lot of our money goes to my habit, but I can stop whenever I want. I swear.
Before I joined the Air Force my life evolved around 2 things: skiing and skiing. I grew up for 10 years at a ski resort and after graduating high school I proceeded to work at resorts as a bit of a ski bum for 5 more years. Skiing literally was my life, the reason I hated summer time and the only thing I thought about.
I ended up joining the AF mostly because I needed to find a way to break the cycle and start working on school so I could start the grind towards retirement so I could finally ski again, except not being in my prime.. It didn’t make sense, but I did it anyways and ended up meeting my amazing wife and finding my love for traveling. Anyways, after 6 years of cold turkey, I finally went skiing this week at Nozawa Onsen; possibly the most humbling day I have ever had.
I still thought a lot about skiing in my mind because I am weird like that and still go through powder withdrawals, so I thought I would not have lost too much of my brain cells dedicated to balance, technique, and the “feeling”. Basically, I thought I would step into my skis and take a run or two before I get back to my old self being able to have my way with whatever resort I was at or mountain I had climbed so long as I paid my respects to spatial awareness, inanimate objects, and avalanches. After 15 years of dedication, I thought I had earned as much.
I clicked into my skis after getting my, uhhh, square microchip device that was going to be my lift ticket and took my first kick in 6 years towards the ski lift. I knew after that first kick, a mere couple of feet that I suddenly had become what is known in the inner sanctum of ski bums as.. a beater! I suck at skiing, bad!
I thought this was like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. I even severely underestimated the atrophy of my inner core muscles used for balance; I found myself driving from the backseat many times that day; I even felt out of control pointing my skis straight down the fall line of a groomer which used to be my comfort position after a long burner down a mogul run.
At first I despised skiing, tried to blame my ill fitting boots or the tail edges that the ski techs had not beveled off like a good ski tech should do. In the end, I knew I have become the mountains bitch.. the scum of the ski resort.. a beater. Luckily, I retained my knowledge of technique so I was able to help teach my wife since she has been a beater for life as well as reteach myself. I did start to feel much better as I took more runs, but I still think I would be counting in seasons, the amount of time it would take to get back to were I left off if I went back to skiing about 4-5 times a week. Good thing I found traveling and photography I guess! Maybe when we move to Germany we will be close enough to a resort to get back into it. I have about 2 years for the knowledge that I am a beater to set in before that time. /end rant.
On our way back from Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, we decided to take the Chuo Expressway on our way back to Tokyo to see some different scenery that we have never seen before. We stopped at the famous Matsumoto Castle in the Nagano prefecture. The castle was built in 1504 and while most of the castle was demolished and then rebuilt, it is still quite fascinating to walk through and admire the history. Although you cannot tell, the mountains in the background are extremely amazing and very jagged looking; something I never knew Japan had prior to moving here. We will definitely be exploring this area some more in the summer time.
I have come across a few people on Flickr who shoot a lot of abstract work which surprisingly piqued my interest in it. I didn’t realize it until I went through a few streams full of great examples of abstract photography, but I think I could really get into this. I guess I am interested in most styles of photography, so why not practice this when I get a chance to add another style to my quiver of mediocrity?
I have to quick throw this little tidbit about a Firefox add-on I found called Firebug. I have no HTML or CSS skills. I am allowed to edit my CSS for my free WordPress account and it was very time consuming trying to make a barely acceptable theme for my version, which was an atrocity.
This program lets you view the HTML and CSS of any website with a simple right click. You can then change any values and see the results real time after making the change. It helped me get my blog to look like something I actually don’t mind in a very short amount of time. Anyone wanting to make slight modifications to their blog should check it out. Now if only I could figure out how to center my photos and text, but still give the text a left margin to start from…
I have never really touched the exposure blending feature in Photomatix, but I was having a difficult time getting my pictures to come out after inadvertently leaving my ISO at 800 for most of my Tokyo International Forum shots. Both shots below were 5 exposures each and blended together using Photomatix.
All of my correctly exposed shots were full of noise and the high and low exposures could not be tamed without yet introducing yet more of the same noise I was trying to avoid in the first place. Exposure blending went in there and kick its ass. I promise to post another location next time!
Sigma 10-20mm lens. Tripod. Tokyo International Forum. I had walked past it once before, the glare must have been veiling this land of joy that was inside. Today me and wifey decided to take a visit after seeing a lot of amazing photos on Flickr. No entry fee, tripods allowed, and almost completely desolate on the upper-most floor.
While Amber was using the tripod for a few moments, I slipped into the 50mm f1.8 and dialed up the ISO to 800 to fire off some hand held shots. I made the heathenish mistake of forgetting to dial my ISO back down to 100 once I had my tripod in hand once again. I almost have to HDR some of my shots just to keep the noise at bay. I guess I will just have to go back, 4 or 5 times.. at least!
Even the outside has got a wealth of photographic potential. I highly recommend a visit to the Tokyo International Forum. Absolutely stunning architecture!
After a year of lust, I finally have a wide angle lens to play with, the Sigma 10-20mm. So far I am amazed at the varying perspective you can create by barely moving a couple of inches. Definitely a well-built, solid lens as well.
I can see this lens staying on my camera the majority of the time I use it; I have always been more of a landscape and architecture type of guy and this lens creates a whole new way to view the world through my viewfinder.