Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘kyoto

Kyoto in Black and White

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I recently went over some of the images I took on what till this day I still consider to be my favorite photo walk ever.  Thinking about exploring the rain soaked streets of Kyoto on our most recent visit to Japan brings back some great memories of that beautiful city.

These photographs were originally processed in color, but I spent the night yesterday converting them into a simulation of Kodak Tri-X black and white film. VSCO rocks, y’all.

I miss this place.

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Images: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 | Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

Written by Jonathan

November 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

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

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!)

Why I Shoot RAW

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Just like any given subject on the planet, there are many varying opinions on the JPEG vs RAW issue. As for me, I shoot RAW. Ok, so I’ll shoot the occasional JPEG, perhaps when using my Canon S90. But other than that, it’s all about RAW for me. Why?

There are many advantages to shooting RAW, but let’s stick to one for this post. In the screen capture above, the color of the image on the right is very close to what came out of my camera when I took this shot. If I shot it in JPEG, the warmer white balance I chose on-camera would have been locked in, making this the only possible interpretation of the scene’s color. The ability to reinterpret a scene by selecting a different white balance later is one key reason I shoot RAW.

When I first took this photo, I was pretty happy with the way the warmer color looked when viewing image on the LCD of my camera. After uploading it to my computer and viewing it larger, I was still pretty happy with it. Upon giving it even further thought, however, I decided that the warm color didn’t really represent how I truly felt at the moment of capture, when I was actually there. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? It’s very important for an artist to convey not just what a scene looks like, but what it felt like to actually be there, experiencing the scene.

So what was I feeling at the moment of capture here? A little bit of loneliness from strolling the streets of Kyoto very early in the morning for one. The cool spring air was chilling yet refreshing, and I was dazzled by the all the reflections on the ground that were caused by the light but steady rainfall that day. I decided to convey that feeling more effectively by turning down the white balance temperature (in LR3 beta), resulting in the cooler, bluer version of the image (above). If I had shot JPEG, I would have been stuck with the warm version. It would have still been a nice image, but again, I would have lost the ability to reinterpret the scene in a way that truly conveys my feelings.

Couldn’t I have just taken a second shot with a cooler white balance adjustment at the camera? Of course! But that idea didn’t really hit me until much later. Only after several times of coming back to this image and thinking about the scene did I finally decide that I wanted it to look different than I originally intended. Shooting the image in RAW allowed me to go through this longer thought process, and then make the desired changes to the image. Who knows, maybe I’ll want to change even more aspects of this image later, with newer, more powerful software that will inevitably be released as time goes on. RAW gives me that flexibility, JPEG doesn’t.

…and that’s one reason why I shoot RAW!

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Top Image: Screen grab from the develop module in Lightroom 3 Beta 2
Second Image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 at 60mm f5.6 ISO400 1/125 second

Be sure to check the progress of my gallery of images from my last trip to Japan on flickr!

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

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