Gotemba Project

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!

Gotemba Project

Peeking Fuji

Skybrant

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.

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Glowr

Been a while since I dug down into my D80 archive territory, but I have been yearning and burning for more time back in Kyoto, especially for this coming fall. That is just torture to think about because there isn’t any way it will happen this year. 😦

Glowr

Torii Medlii

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!

Torii Medlii

Indecisions

I have been working on the same shot to post to this blog for the past 3 nights in a row and sometimes spending as much as 2 hours on each attempt. Sometimes just staring at it wondering where to go from there. This is my 4th attempt.. I have never deleted more than 1 attempt before, but this time I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it.

The unique thing about this photo is the blue hue which is not HDR, DRI, or any color replace shenanigans. The problem is that I couldn’t decide if it had more potential than I was able to squeeze out of it. I tried HDR, DRI, converting those to B&W, straight B&W, B&W with selective coloring; then I finally decided on just some Lightroom adjustments off of the -1 exposure and a quick trip to Photoshop for some sharpening and cloning out of junk in the water. I am still largely unimpressed, but after all those hours, sometimes you just have to move on with your life!

This is the famous Itsukushima Shrine near Hiroshima on the island of Miyajima during high tide.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine

I had a series of about 8 shots of this Itsukushima Shrine scene and all I had to do was layer the 0 EV exposure onto the +2 EV exposure and paint the bright areas through on the left side of the photograph and I would have had a quick shot that was natural and pleasing to my senses… No, I had to go and create an HDR version on top of the two other exposures, create a couple of other layers for different colors, LucisArt, and a few filters so I could selectively add them to each area. I seriously spent 2 hours trying to figure out were I was going with this and completely hated it, I was about to just trash it when I found the perfect Nik filter that suddenly created a look that I was happy with.

Itsukushima Shrine

The Final Push

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.

Shinkansen E4 Series

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..

Gion Shrine-
Gion Shrine

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.

Golden Pavilion

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.

The Quiver

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?

Ochanomizu Abstract

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…