From an extremely fun trip to Hokkaido for some skiing at Niseko and a little exploring in Sapporo, this being on top of Grand Hirafu resort after a small hike from their highest chairlift, classy little single seater.
It was a cold March night in Sapporo and the foggy storm told me it would be interesting to get out and take some shots despite it being late in the middle of the night, so I rolled out of bed with my camera and ended up with a few shots like this.
I was a little tipsy one night after eating out and ended up with a bunch of crooked, off kilter shots, but this decent one was found in that series.
Last May we took a quick trip over to the Hakone area to go to this crazy onsen that has everything from a coffee bath, a wine bath, sake bath, and a pool you dip your feet into and let little fish nibble off your top layer of skin. We also were able to see another side of Fuji I had not seen before once we reached the Gotemba area. The city of Gotemba has got one hell of a view! I took these shots from their shrine, which was also nearby an awesome camp spot we found that was cheap and had a pretty amazing view of Fuji as well. I think I actually enjoyed the Gotemba area a bit more than Hakone, which is probably blasphemous to even say as so many people love Hakone, but that is the problem.. So many people in Hakone!
Of course, every time I go through my shots of Japan I miss it quite a bit, but it is easy to forget that during the spring time when I took these shots I had the worst allergies of my life! I could barely sleep at night for over a month during our last year there. I guess that is the price exacted by Mother Japan for so much amazing photography potential.
This post leads into the last shot I posted of the city. I took a couple of steps back and snapped off some shots of the other people enjoying the observation deck. There are usually quite a few people with DSLR’s pressed up against the glass, trying to find the right angle to eliminate glare from the sun and building lights while avoiding the atrocity I call window smudges! I messed around a bit in Lightroom to convert it to black and white, then just exported the unaltered shot into Nik Softwares Silver Efex Pro. This program is just amazing for black and white conversions. I don’t think any other software is quite a match for it! I thought my Lightroom version was looking pretty good, but Silver Efex Pro just seems to know something I do not and bested me and my Lightroom sliders.
This iconic mountain looks like a mini Fuji. I had always seen Yōtei-san in the background of ski movies and in ski magazine pictures. I thought there were actual ski resorts on the mountain itself, but it is actually free from any of that. I cannot imagine how nice it must be at the top admiring the surrounding mountains before dropping in to the valley below!
The city you see on the other side is Turkey’s fifth most populated city, Adana. There is an American Air Base minutes away from this city. It is kind of arid, dusty, and dingy compared to what most Americans are used to, so most of them think Adana is a terrible place. I, however, love it. Where else can you get some of the best food in the world for cheap while watching people drag 100ft long bundles of rebar down the street in the middle of traffic while an old man squats in the median to relieve himself? It feels like a different planet, but there are hidden gems all over the place.
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.
This was taken the day after the gyoki festival ended at Zōjō-ji Temple. We didn’t stick around for the entire ceremony after being attacked by some ruthless Japanese women with cameras that were half our size!
I usually would have deleted a shot as soft as this, but something about this shot tells me not to do that. It kind of looks like sparks, but this is actually light reflecting off of water as he cleans his machete/knife looking instrument with his sponge. I have a lot of other Tsukuji shots to post since it is such an amazing place to visit. Highly recommended if you are ever in Tokyo.
Some more from Zōjō-ji before we head back out for a couple more days of shooting.
Probably my last picture I will be posting for a few days. About to have my last grand hurrah in Tokyo with a friend and our camera gear. I really want to eventually move to Germany in the future, but I will be missing all of the sites to be seen in Tokyo and how easy it is to get around anywhere in the city. It is a photographers dream.
My favorite big city we visited while in China.. Xi’an!
Not your usual long tail-boat-on-a-nice-deserted-white-sand-paradise-beach picture. This was only about 15 yards from the edge of the beach so they were able to wait until low tide to remedy the situation. These long boats are really damn smoggy and noisy when operating and I secretly wouldn’t have missed this one if it was totally enveloped by the sea, but on the other hand there aren’t a lot of other options to get back and forth between Railay. Still, I have no idea why Thais utilize these slow, inefficient, and completely archaic long boats?
Last Friday I found myself with a day off and thought it would be nice to go revisit scenic Anavarsa castle which is situated atop what must be a 1,000+ foot cliff. The first time we saw it we were on an awesome rock climbing trip at the base of the cliff, saw the amazing castle, and headed back the following weekend to explore the ruins. In the photo below, the little dots in the field below the cliff are actually sheep and cows if that helps give you a sense of scale.
It was humid as hell out and I felt like I was dying of aids for some reason, so you’ll have to bare with me since I wasn’t exactly in my happy photo place. Anyways, Anavarsa dates back longer than our recorded history from the area and from what I have been told, the ruins have yet to be excavated by the Turkish government. The history can be read on the Anazarbus Wiki, but the jest of it is that the castle and settlement below pre-date the Roman Empire and if you lived there prior to our times, you would most likely die in a battle or in an earthquake while being confused with multiple name changes to the settlement; all seemed to happen constantly to this site and it is absolutely remarkable to me that anything remains at all.
I will go back and take better photos to prove to you that a lot more remains than what my pictures present, but there is quite a bit of ruined structures from aqueducts, to arch-type gates, walls, and of course the remains of a very spread-out castle. I did play a bit with my new 70-200 bokeh cannon, but I am figuring out that zoomed in above 130’ish and above and wide open pretty much obliterates the background so much that I need to actually stop up to bring in some soft details to create a more interesting background.
This is a -1.33, 0, +1.33 exposure HDR that I then created 2 layers from. I converted the top layer to black and white and selectively colored the bottom layer. I then painted through the sky. The original picture has the hazy sky overlapping the horizon where the dirt is and that made for an incredibly blurry horizon. I set the clone stamp to about 58% opacity and lowered the flow slightly and created a nice crisp horizon by cloning the dirt in certain areas and the sky on top of the really blurry areas.
I think it fits because this entire valley looks like an alien landscape. They even filmed part of the original Star Wars here. One interesting fact about these particular formations in the shot is that they are used on I believe the 20 or 50 Turkish Lira bill.
Since I am leaving Japan a lot sooner than I thought, we have been trying to get out and see as many of the things we had planned on seeing during the last year we were here. This week we did a 3 day 2 night Shinkansen trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshima. Quite honestly, it was nice to see all of this, but it is borderline work to jump off the trains, check your baggage at the hotel, and run from place to place trying to be as efficient as possible with so little time! Of course it will all be worth it once we process the photos, but it was a shame to not have more time to enjoy the sites along the way. We rode on the most modern Shinkansen, the N700, but I still think this E4 model pictured below is the coolest looking of them all.
Kyoto was our first destination along the worlds busiest hi-speed rail line, the Tōkaidō line. This line has a top speed of 270 km/h, but the N700 actually moves at 300 km/h (186 mph) on the adjacent Sanyō line. They look fast from the outside as they snake their way along the rails of Japan, but on the inside it is super smooth, and it doesn’t seem like you are really moving all that fast with the lack of noise and eardrum-busting pressure changes that I experienced with the German ICE trains when they enter tunnels. I read that the N700 is pressure sealed and when I was sitting next to the window, my leg could feel the frame of the train expand as it entered the middle of the tunnel and contract back into place as it exited the tunnel. I figure their must be a great deal of negative air pressure as it rushes through the tunnels, but I am no engineer, so that is just my theory..
Kyoto is a breeze to navigate. For only ¥500 (about $5) you can get an unlimited all day city buss pass, and on top of that, they give you a great map with all of the routes and nearby sites. The most difficult part is deciding which shrines to see, and with barely 24 hours to spend in Kyoto and a lot of shrines being closed at night, this made it difficult to see everything that we wanted, but that was our fault. We definitely were able to hit the most famous sites though. I would say the Golden Pavilion is easily one of the most popular sites I see on Flickr. I always thought this was the tackiest shrine I have ever seen, and in person, it still looked tacky, maybe I am just a jerk, but I really wanted to create a different take on this popular site. I think the gold looks perfect when paired with black and white.
The only beef I really had with Kyoto is that you are not allowed to use a tripod at most of the sites. Demonicus, my beloved tripod, was none too happy to hear about this. The bastards that made those rules are lucky they avoided confrontation with him as he pretty much hurts anyone he touches.