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.
More, more, and even more shots from the photography goldmine known as Shibuya Crossing. It is quite entertaining to browse through my shots from this location. A lot of them are not fit for posting, but the expressions on random strangers faces will keep me from ever discarding the files into the bit shredder. When I am shooting, I never realize how many people glance at me with my camera then become extremely shy or timid and look down towards the ground or towards their side with a big awkward smile. Sometimes I come across a pair of fashionistas that are eager to get themselves into a shot to hopefully one day be acknowledged for their chic taste in seasonal wardrobe.
So first you have the lineup between each succession of lights. This is were I begin my offensive planning and the other team begins their defensive posturing. I plot my victims and they plot their evasive actions, strategic placement behind others to block my view, and funny faces to be made.
My coach usually pulls up on his bike beside me and gives me some helpful advice, like pretending to take a picture of the street light above me, then quickly moving in for the capture kill when they least expect it. Thanks coach!
Time was a tickin for me. I had one more free day available to go into downtown Tokyo before I would be leaving Japan and I STILL had not shot the Roppongi clock. It is kind of easy to miss since it is behind the Mori Tower, but damnit, there is a Starbucks right across the street with an open air seating area. I could have been comfortably sitting across the street sniping people as they walk past the clock while sipping down my Grande Carmel Machiotto that is sized for a midget and priced for a baron!
I don’t know what the hell kind of time it is flashing, if it is even time at all. The numbers seem to be a bit more random and only change once every 10 seconds or so. Maybe it is a Mayan numerical countdown until the end of the world, I don’t know. I just know that you need to take a walk behind the Mori Tower and find this clock and feed your camera!
So I have not been processing photos lately, setting up our place, kittens, and school all kind of have higher priorities lately, but I have this archive folder of shots that I have worked on and then never posted for some reason or another. I don’t know why I do not dig down into my archive folder with my little spoon to keep my blog from getting moldy?
Here are a couple of snaps from the last photo walk in Tokyo that the wife and I took a day or two before leaving. I definitely miss the gold mine of photo opportunities in Japan. It would be nice to go back to live again, but this time further north to see something new and beat the crowds a little bit.
These shots are taken in the upscale Roppongi Tower area. I am sure that the meal at this restaurant were not cheap!
I know some people like to give their lenses people names. I think I might name my 70-200 Mr. Peepers. I love throwing it on and just camping out at different crowded spots in Tokyo and seeing the reactions I get when looking through the lens. It is kind of big, so it stands out and some people immediately dislike it, a lot of them seem to like it, and some don’t really know what to think. Here Mr. Peepers and I were camped out at Shibuya Crossing. My friend was with me who has the same camera and the newest version of my lens, so we stood out pretty well.
I usually do not mess around with using filters in my post processing, it seems to take a long time for me to get them right. I attempted it in this shot since the sky was ugly as can be reflecting all of the city light in the frozen moisture particles. I think it is an improvement, but it is hard to make the look subtle. I am also thinking about purchasing a Cokin Z-Filter system in the future and switching the 14-24 for the new 24/1.4, mostly so I can use filters in my landscape shots. I’ll test it out on the 70-200 before making the switch; I have never used filters before and 14mm is a lot to lose!
And last, but not least.. I leave you with more snow monkeys. I just cannot get enough these little guys!
Cruising down a windy road amongst huge karst limestone formations jutting out of the ground like stalagmites reaching hundreds of feet high. The bulging eyes of a chicken are staring straight at me as it is in an old lady’s iron-choke hold grip, possibly about to be cooked and served to me for my nightly meal, some of the best meals I am about to ever have. We are on our way to Xingping on a small, yet intimate bus. I will let the scenery speak for itself.
From Xi’an we hopped on a 元320 one-way flight (roughly $193) to the South China city of Guilin. Our fellow passengers provided great entertainment. They are proof that using cell phones during takeoff, en-route, and landing will not cause a crash. I have also never seen people crawl over other passengers so they can get a better look out the window, but it was fun to watch! Once we arrived in Guilin airport we caught the shuttle into the city for 元25, which was about 20 minutes away. Make sure you get off at the bus stop, otherwise you’ll end up in some random place in the city. From the bus stop we caught a 元30 non-express bus into Yangshuo.
Yangshuo had some pretty landscapes, but anything the town touched seemed to just ooze tourist trap in a real bad way. We rented bikes and rode out to Moon Hill which was very nice (and extremely humid), but after being pestered by super touts, we decided to head into Xingping for the remaining nights since we read it was nice and quite over there. Xingping was only a 元5.5 ride from Yangshuo bus station, which was a real bargain because it magically transported us back in time about 100 years.
Xingping was an entirely different world, a special place that I kind of feel guilty divulging such a gem to the Internet. The streets and buildings looked ancient, but they were very well kept. In the evening, there wasn’t a single car, truck, or motorcycle; about as tranquil as a town can get. We stayed at This Old Place youth hostel. If you are around in the evening, grab a beer and your camera and head to the upstairs deck for one of the most amazing sunsets you will ever see.
The owner was extremely nice, he even upgraded us for no reason after our first night. When it was raining, we spent time on the front porch facing the street sitting in rocking chairs, 55-200mm lens in hand watching the interesting passers by. For eats, head down one of the alleyway streets to This Old Place restaurant.. Try the sechuan beef in spicy oil… Some of the best and definitely the freshest food I have ever had. The Li River also happens to be a short walk down the street, although, I cannot recommend the raft cruises; slow, noisy, and loud. I would get a bike or hike along the banks instead for better views.
After Xingping, we ended up back in Guilin to catch a bus for the rice fields of Ping’an, but that is for another post.
Our timing for our China trip was perfect if you like rain. We heard from fellow travelers that they had not come across rain for over a couple of months while in country. Most days it was okay since it would let up for most of the day. We had one day in Xingping, which is near the tourist trap of Guilin, that pretty much kept us inside or under an umbrella or awning all day. I took out my rarely used 55-200 lens and had a lot of fun taking pictures of the locals under the protection of our hostels’ porch.
Usually I am a bit timid when it comes to photographing strangers, but as a Westerner in China, everyone will stare, stop and take pictures, and all around be very excited to see you. That makes it a lot easier to reciprocate the curiosity with my own camera.