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Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Meow!

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Just found this image buried in my archives. Almost forgot about it! I met this cat on a leisurely stroll in Kyoto this past spring. He was perched on a ledge overlooking someone’s backyard, relaxing and enjoying the calm day. Took this with one of my favorite lenses, the Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8. I think the image demonstrates pretty nicely the lens’ pleasing rendering of out-of-focus areas, as well as its sharpness at maximum aperture.

The Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 was the main lens I used on my recent trip to japan. If it only had a vibration reduction system, it would hardly leave my camera at all!

Shot Specs: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 at 135mm f/2.8 1/160 Sec ISO220

Kyoto Station

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Kyoto station is massive! One of Japan’s largest transportation hubs, Kyoto station seems like a city all its own, with places to eat, shop, stay, you name it.  There’s also terrace at the very top of the complex where you can relax and enjoy sweeping, panoramic views of the city. When we first arrived here from Tokyo, we must have spent at least a couple hours exploring the enormous station before heading to our hotel in Kyoto Gion. I was particularly impressed by the massive, open-air canopy shown above (see an alternate shot here). I wish I had a chance to come back to the station at dusk to get some night images of the structure, but we never had the opportunity.

First order of business after a long Shinkansen ride into Kyoto station? Eat! We found a great place for Okonomiyaki there, and chowed down. Took a while to decide where to eat, since Kyoto station has literally dozens of restaurants to choose from.

Image:
Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Written by Jonathan

May 10, 2010 at 11:34 am

Exploring Kyoto

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Something I found fascinating during my last stay in Japan was exploring little side streets and alleys wherever we happened to be. Tucked away in bustling neighborhoods and often times barely wide enough for single-file foot traffic, these paths offer peaceful exploration away from the busier main streets, and are full of interesting sights.

I suppose that after being completely overwhelmed by the extremely crowded streets of Tokyo, we wanted to try our best to find ways to explore Kyoto as “alone” as possible. Which is why we got up really early in the morning on the days we went touring the city. Exploring the Gion area as well as various parks, temples, and shrines in Kyoto starting at 7:00am proved to be a great idea. We seemed to have the city all to ourselves at such an early hour, which not only made sightseeing more enjoyable, but also made photographing the city much easier.

Head out too late, especially during Sakura season, and you’ll run into way too many people, which definitely takes the fun out of touring for me. I was fortunate to head out early enough, for instance, to the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine in Kyoto one morning. When we arrived, virtually no one was there, giving me the freedom to take many shots without anyone walking into the frame. By the time we left the shrine, so many tourists had showed up that getting a shot without gaijin standing in the way would have been next to impossible.

Moral of the story? Don’t sleep in when you travel!

Camera Specs:

Top Image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-150mm f/2.8 at 85mm f/2.8 ISO1250 1/200 Second
Second Image: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/4 ISO200 1/15 Second
Third Image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-150mm at 50mm f/3.5 ISO400 1/80 Second
Fourth Image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-150mm at 75mm f/7.1 ISO200 1/200 Second
Fifth Image: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 45mm f/5.6 ISO360 1/8 Second (VC works!)

Thoughts on the Canon Powershot S90

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I realized, after posting the photo above to Flickr, that it’s very likely that Bridget was the one who actually took it! I was using my D300s with the Tokina 11-16 fitted when we arrived at this scene in the Maruyama area of Kyoto. She had the Canon S90 on her, and while I did ask her to hand it over a few times to get some shots in this area myself, I can’t remember for sure if I actually took this one. Oh well! This image was processed in-camera using the S90′s “Film” color mode, and I added a touch of vignette in Lightroom 3 beta. So Bridge, if you took this, good job!

Speaking of which, Bridget did take a lot of fantastic photos with the S90 during our trip. She really took to the camera because it’s such a joy to use. I would set up a white balance appropriate for the scene for her, set the camera to Program Auto (usually), and program the control ring around the S90′s barrel to adjust exposure compensation. Then I simply told her:

“If it’s too bright, twist the dial this way. If it’s too dark, twist it that way.”

That’s it!

With that awesome control ring allowing easy access to exposure comp adjustment, she was able to focus on composing, and the camera stayed out of her way (the control ring is that black bezel you see around the lens in the image above, and is the S90′s coolest feature). I often used the camera in the exact same way myself. The S90 tends to expose a little hotter than I prefer, so I’m usually dialing in at least -1/3 EV when I’m shooting with it (the above shot has a -4/3EV dialed in by either me or Bridget, can’t remember!). I also found that it was a lot of fun to use the S90 in full manual. The control ring around the lens would set aperture, and the control wheel on the back would set shutter speed. Wow! I felt like I was using a film camera again! The combination of seeing the live view preview, a live histogram, and a live EV read-out on the LCD while composing made it dead simple to nail the exposure I wanted every time. No compact camera has ever given me a control experience like this one!

Here are a couple sample photos that show how great the JPEGs produced straight from the camera look from the Canon S90 (neither of these were adjusted in post):

I finally feel like I have a true compact camera with the control and feature set that can be utilized and appreciated by both a beginner and a more advanced photographer. Good job Canon!

So anyway, we were heading up to this huge temple in Maruyama-cho. To get to it, you had to scale these ridiculously steep stairs. The first image was the view from the bottom. Here’s what it looks like from the top:

I’m not sure this image really tells you just how steep these stairs were, but they were STEEP. Worth the climb, however. =)

Top Image: Canon S90
Second Image: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC
Third and Forth Image: Canon S90
Fifth Image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Riding the Shinkansen

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My friends in Kyoto tell me it takes them a good 9 hours to drive to Tokyo from where they live. We traveled the same distance in about a third that time on a Japanese bullet train, or Shinkansen, last week. These trains really haul! Check out the video posted above that I took from a window on the Shinkansen we took over the weekend. See how fast those houses fly by?  It’s insane!

Inside, accommodations are very comfortable. This is the standard car. The “Green” cars have even larger seats with more legroom (for a price of course).  A beverage and snack service rolls through each car on a regular basis.

Train stations in the big city can get really crowded and busy in Japan. This particular day was extremely light. Well stocked food and beverage stores are located on the train platforms. Japan is all about convenience!

Zzzzoooom!!!!!

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Top: Video by Canon S90
Shinkansen Interior: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/2.8 ISO200 1/200 Second
Shin-Osaka Station: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 14mm f/4.5 ISO200 1/80 Second
Beneath the Platforms: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/6.3 ISO200 1/15 Second
Zzzzoooom!: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 22mm f/8 ISO200 1/80 Second

Written by Jonathan

April 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Camera Shopping in Japan

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While in Kumatori, Osaka, Bridget and I went shopping at a local Aeon center, where I got a chance to take a look at some yummy camera equipment. One of my favorite reasons to come to Japan is to get my hands on Japan-exclusive gear, like this white Lumix GF-1 (above), which I absolutely fell in love with. It controls very similarly to the Lumix LX-3, so it felt right as soon as I started using it, although I simply can’t imagine using a compact camera that doesn’t have dual control rings like the Canon S90 anymore (control freak!). What impressed me most about the GF1 was its very speedy performance for a mirrorless camera. The auto-focus speed, in particular, is incredibly snappy for this class of camera.

The store also carried the very newly released Olympus EP-L1 (above). I liked the size of the camera, but found the controls to be a little awkward to use. The rear LCD is also kind of…meh.

On the other hand, I liked the GF-1 so much that I had a very difficult time resisting the temptation to walk out of the store with the 20mm f/1.7 and the “storm trooper white” body, Japanese menu system and all. Reason, however, prevailed over gadget-lust in the end. I can’t really see a place for this camera in my bag right now. Sure is a nice piece of gear though!

Top Image: Canon S90 at 10mm f/2.8 ISO400 1/400 second

Bottom Image: Canon S90 at 6mm f/4 ISO80 1/30 Second

Written by Jonathan

April 4, 2010 at 1:22 am

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

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I’ve always been fascinated by photos of these kinds of shrines in Japan. Today I finally got to take a few of my own. We came to this shrine in Kyoto really early in the morning today to avoid running into other people, and it turned out to be a really good idea. By the time we had finished exploring the shrine, tons of tourists had showed up. Coming so early meant that the light was pretty low, making handheld shots inside these “tunnels” very difficult, though possible with care.

Walked a good 6 miles or so today, exploring Kyoto. After spending a few hours with friends for dinner, I’m back at the hotel reviewing the images I’ve taken over the past week (and posting this!). What I really should be doing is packing…we’re heading home tomorrow! Sigh…there goes another trip to Japan that just seemed too short!

Camera: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/2.8 ISO280 1/15 Second

See another shot on flickr!

Written by Jonathan

April 2, 2010 at 6:32 am