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Enoshima, on a clear day.

July 25, 2011 60 comments

Click here for todays images

I spent last Saturday in Enoshima.

I’ve been there many times, but it had been at least 6-7 years since I had actually made the journey to the backside of the island where it directly faces the wide open pacific.   Not a whole lot had changed, save for the much improved pedestrian path up above the sea scoured shelf that fronts the ocean, as well as a few more extra banisters full of locks up at lovers point.

It had not been my idea to spend the day there, but a couple of friends of mine (Ian and Liis) were going to be there and had asked if I was interested in coming.  As a typhoon had just recently ripped past Kanagawa, I knew the weather was going to be good.  But I was not at all prepared for just how clear it was going to be.

Not only could you get a great view of Mt Fuji, but all the coastline between Enoshima and the rolling hills near Odawara were clear and sharp in the relatively dry air.   All the way from Enoshima to Odawara you could see the beach give way to green, city beyond that, and more green hills even further on.

It was also nice to be able to follow Liis as she took us on a round about (long-cut) that bypassed the majority of the crowds and also afforded me to explore a (new-for-me) shrine.

We spent a good hour or so enjoying the view from the back side of the island, remarking on the stupendous number of dragonflies buzzing about.  (I’ve never seen so many in one place in my entire life)  It was an excellent day, spent with excellent friends.

We capped off the day by spending a few hours in one of the varied beach bars strung out along Enoshima beach.  Our entertainment being cold beer, cheap food, girls in skimpy bikinis, and the obligatory passed out young Japanese guy being harassed by his “friends”.

Not a bad day at all.  Definitely one to remember.

My gear for the day:

  • Leica M9
  • Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 ZM
  • Cosina Voigtlander 12mm f5.6 UWH
  • Leica Summitar 50mm f2
Categories: wanderings Tags: ,

It’s yesterday once more

November 1, 2010 15 comments

Click HERE for todays images

Yesterday I decided to do a photo-walk around Yokosuka.  Partially to enjoy the out-of-doors after being kept in from the previous days typhoon, and also to put some of my older rangefinder lenses through their paces with the M9.  I was also inspired by some vintage images of Yokosuka that I was recently browsing on Flickr.   So I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see if I could reproduce something with a similar look.

My two lenses for the day were the Canon ltm 28mm f2.8, and Canon ltm 50mm f1.2.  And as you can see, they are not the most technically perfect of lenses out there.  They are soft in the corners, and color fringing is readily apparent.  But I imaged that they would fit the bill for the type of images I was trying to create.

I’ve yet to devote the resources to buy a stable full of Leica lenses, but of the more modern glass that I do have (Konica, and Voigtlander) all perform to a much higher technical standard than the older Canon Leica thread mount lenses that I used for this exercise.

But sometimes the best tool for the job is not the best tool that you have, but rather the best tool for THAT SPECIFIC job.  So what lenses would be better to reproduce the look from 40 years ago than some lenses that were 40+ years old?  And truth be told, they did perform admirably, with regards to both sharpness and resolution when stopped down.

The shots themselves are nothing special. In most cases I tried to keep to subjects that were independent of time.  And in honor of the old glass I was using (1950’s to 1960’s vintage) I decided to process them using a “yesteryear” type of filter in Lightroom.  This gave them a yellow’ish washed-out look, common to old film images.  Right out of the camera the images have a much more natural look, as would be expected from the M9.  But I thought this treatment would better convey my idea.

Was it a success?  I have no idea.

I like the effect, but I have no idea what others may think about it.

If you do have some thoughts about it, please take a minute and jot down your thoughts in a comment.

Categories: gear talk, yokosuka Tags: , , , , , , ,

Finely orchestrated chaos

January 11, 2010 13 comments

“Finely orchestrated chaos”, or as I like to call it, “Tsukiji Fish Market”.

Click here for todays photos

Click here for todays photos

On Saturday I woke up at O’ dark-thirty, packed my Nikon D700 and four primes in a bag and caught a train up to Tsukji to spend a morning shooting pictures as part of a Japanorama workshop.  Due to the frenetic pace of the place (it is a fully functioning fish market) the group size was restricted to six students and two instructors.  As soon as I saw this one posted at Japanorama I rushed to sign up, knowing that the student slots would fill up fast.

For those of you you plan on going to see the Tsukiji fish market I have one word of advice.

Go early.  (OK, maybe that’s two words, but you know what I mean)

The place is a beehive of activity, and it only starts to wind down shortly before 10 a.m..

To sum the place up in a phrase I would have to choose, “finely orchestrated chaos“. Everyone and everything is in constant motion, including a lot of the fish!

The game plan was to make a couple of loops through the heart of the action, shooting short telephoto (85mm’ish) on the way in, and wide (20mm’ish) on the way out.   I was solid on the 85mm department, since I had my Nikon 85mm f1.4 with me.  But on the wide side I went a little nuts and tried using a Tamron 14mm f2.8, which turned out to be entirely too wide.  I rather quickly swapped that out for a 35mm f2 (my next widest lens).  I did shoot a few images with a 50mm, but that was the exception.  The idea was to obtain some reportage type shots through the use of these two focal lengths.  The wides to set the scene, and the telephoto to fill in the details.

This was not my first (or second, or even third) trip to Tsukiji, so adding some external structure to my shooting was a very good thing.  The tips and guidance provide by Alfie and Hunter were very much welcome as they helped open my eyes to some new ways to see and capture things.  This prevented me from falling back into my own personal comfort zone of shooting.

I definitely feel that I got a higher percentage of keepers that on my previous trips to Tsukiji.

This time I used the two extreme focal lengths

The real lesson for me was that I need a 20mm lens.  There seems to be no better focal length for dragging the shutter and getting some closeup people shots.

And there is a lot of people to see:

People hauling Styrofoam boxes on their shoulders, men pulling two wheeled carts heaped with seafood, and funny looking self-propelled three wheeled wagons that can turn on a dime and give you six cents change. (A very necessary feature in the crowded rows of fish mongers.)  The real change since my last trip to Tsukiji is that now a lot of these self-propelled carts are electric powered, so you can’t hear them coming.  You really have to keep your head on a  swivel to make sure you don’t get run over.

One thing that always strikes me about the place was just how clean it is. For a place that moves more than 5 million pounds of fish (worth nearly 30 million dollars) daily, the place has no fishy smell.

Part of the reason is that everything is so fresh. The other reason is that the place is given a very thorough cleaning at the end of each day.

5 million pounds of fish a day.

Think about that for a minute.

That is more than 10 times the volume of New York City’s Fulton Market, the largest seafood market in America.

Pretty impressive.

Tsukiji has already been reported to death on the internet so I will not try and give the whole history behind the place. Anyone interested in learning more need do nothing more that a quick google search and you will have loads of information to read.

It’s a must see for anyone who wants to get some interesting photos, as well as a snack of some of the freshest sashimi you are likely to ever come across.

FYI – I just fell off the wagon again and ordered a Canon 5D Mark II.  Soooo,  I will soon be putting my trusty 5D mark I up for sale.  The going rate for used 5D’s seems to be about $1,200, but I figure I would offer it up here first for $1,000 (plus any insured shipping costs and/or paypal fees).

If I had to guess I would say it has about 40,000 actuations on it (the 5D shutter life is rated at 100,000 actuations) and it is in very good condition.  It comes with 3 Canon batteries (all hold an excellent charge), an 8 GB memory card, and all the original odds and ends (battery charger, strap, etc.) and the original packaging/box.

It has been lovingly used by me for the past four and a half years, but selling it will help fund the Mark II, so I will have to let it go.

If anyone is interested, please let me know.  If there is no interest here I’ll be posting at the usual online photo gear selling websites.  (But I would much prefer to give a better deal to one of my regular viewers.)

ps: My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who have been ordering prints from my Smugmug page.  Your continued purchases have helped to fund the 5D Mark II, and I will be sure to do my best to keep serving up fresh content for you all.  The video capabilities of the 5D Mark II particularly intrigue me, so expect to see some videos in the future.

For those of you in Germany, check out page 28 of the February 2010 issue of FHM.  You’ll find one of my photos there.


For those of you in Japan, pick up a copy of the Metropolis 2010 calendar, one of my photos has been used for the month of February.


Seems like February is a hot month for me…

A day in the park

October 20, 2009 8 comments

Todays Photos

Last Sunday I met up with about 30 of my closest friends.  On the third Sunday of every month the Tokyo Cameras club gets together to shoot pictures, and last Sundays location was Rikugien Park in Tokyo.  It’s near Komagome Station on the Yamanote line.

Club votes on the location for each months get-together, and the last two finalists were Rikugien park, and Yokohama Chinatown.  I was pulling for Chinatown as it is a whole lot closer to where I live.  And to tell the truth i was a bit bummed when Rikugien ended up winning the vote.  But, not to be deterred by a 90 minute train ride (That’s what iPods were invented for) I happily hopped on the train.

After getting to Komagome station, Saori and I stopped in at Matsuya for a quick meal of beef with rice and a bowl of miso soup.  Speaking of Matsuya, I am completely impressed with traditional fast-food in Japan.  Be it Udon, Ramen, or Gyudon, it’s always completely and satisfyingly delicious, not to mention worlds healthier than western style fast food.  Think of Puppies frolicking through a field of MORE puppies and you will get an idea of how satisfying a good bowl of gyudon and miso soup can be.

Thinking that I may find it hard to find interesting things to shoot in a park, I stopped in at a combini for a couple of cans of liquid inspiration  (aka: BEER)  ans set off down the street towards the park.  Polishing off the second can  just as I was passing a recycling bin near the park entrance, I dropped the can into the bin, and pulled my camera of the day out of my backpack.  (Olympus E-P1) I pulled off the lens cap, checked to make sure the battery was charged, the memory card was empty, and the lens was clean.  Check, check, check.  “OK, time to go see if I can scrape together some images from this park” I thought to myself.

Boy, were my feelings wrong.  The park ended up being spectacular.  Not at all crowded, and beautiful.  It also helped that the weather was absolutely perfect, the ideal autumn day: clear skies, dry, and moderate temperatures.  It turned out that I didn’t need the beer after all.  (Although even knowing that ahead of time would probably not have stopped me)

The lenses that say the most use while using the E-P1 was the standards kit zoom (14-42mm f3.5-5.6), and a manual Olympus Zuiko 55mm f1.2 .  The kit zoom is spectacularly sharp, and built in such a manner that it can collapse down into a quite compact form when not in use.  The 55mm f1.2 equates to a rather ridiculous 110mm f1.2 on the E-P1s cropped sensor, so the shots and perspectives you can get are pretty fun.  It’s soft as hell wide open, but the bokeh is to die for.  Stopped down it gets satisfactorily sharp.

To make a long story short, the three hours of shooting went by all too fast. but now that I have gotten a taste of the place, I will be sure to return when the maple leaves are in all their full autumnal splendor.

So I guess the moral of the story is, ” Don’t be too quick to judge something before you get a chance to experience it” and also “Beer never hurts”.

In case anyone is interested, I took part in another episode of “Cool Japan”.

It will air at the following times:
Nov. 17 (Tue) 22:00〜22:44 (NHK BS Hi-vision)
Re-run – Nov. 22 (Sun) 0:10〜 0:54(NHK:BS-1)

NHK Cool Japan TV show

February 24, 2009 13 comments

Click HERE for today’s photos.

I have a friend who works for NHK producing television programs, and in a classic case of life being all about who you know and not what you know, I was recently asked to be on an NHK television program.  

Called Cool Japan, it is a program that explores what, from a foreigners perspective,  makes Japan cool.  It touches on a wide variety of subjects;  fashion, anime, alcohol, etc., as well as other cultural aspects of Japanese society.

The particular episode that I took part in looked into the aspect of “Mottainai” culture in Japan.  It will air at the following times:

  • March 18th (Wed) 19:00-19:44 on NHK BS Hi-vision
  • March 29th (Sun) 0:10-0:54 on NHK BS-1

It was my first time in a television studio, and I’m glad I was able to absorb the experience.  It was also a lo of fun.  At first I thought I would be a little bit nervous, but I guess I am too old to get nervous about things like that anymore.

Most of today’s photos are from Kamakura, and if all goes as planned when you click on the “map this” button within Smugmug you will see a map showing the location where each photo was taken.  More GPS madness. 🙂

While I was shooting photos I could not help but notice that of all the other photographers at each of the locations I was stopping at, they all seemed to be shooting the same scenes, usually from the very same vantage point.

It got me thinking about how we all usually see the world.

What I mean by this is that in our haste to digest and understand the world around us with the least amount of effort, we usually rely on those around us to provide clues.  I think this is where a lot of prejudice and bias stems from.  After all, its a lot less mentally taxing to take what someone else says at face value, rather than cogitate on your own and seek your own truths about the world.

And I’m not saying that is all bad.  I can’t image trying to get through event the most mundane of days if I were to have to think everything through on my own, just to make sure I understood what was going on., and that I was doing it in the best manner.  Taken to this extreme, even a simple trip to the local combini could end up being a sojourn of epic proportions: What route should I take, and why?  What is the most effective mode of transport, and what on earth should I buy once I get there?  The choice of say, potato chips alone could cause one to spend eons weighing the merits of one brand versus the other, and lets not even mention serving sizes!

So what am I really blathering about here?

I’m nowhere near arrogant enough to think that I am immune to falling into this trap. But the great thing is that when I am aware of this danger, I do find that I take better pictures.  And, I also happen to enjoy the world around me a bit more when I see it through less filtered eyes.  

It’s kind of like what I was talking with some of the other people that were on the Cool Japan show with me; when you go to a place for the first time (like when I first came to Japan) there are no bounds.  It feels like anything is possible, and you never know what the next day will bring you.  

I think this is what usually makes travel so exciting, it’s the thought that something new could happen.

But invariably, the longer you are in one place, the more artificial bounds you place upon your own existence.  And while these bounds can serve a very useful purpose, and allow you to make a lot of assumptions so as to more smoothly  operate, they also invariably rob you of some of that mystery and wonder that even the most ordinary of circumstances can hold.

Yes, the tightest, most secure prisons are the ones we build for ourselves.

That is why it is so important to remember to not take anything for granted.  Not one single moment of the time we are given will ever come again.   Moments rush towards us and then are gone  in a  flash, never to repeat.

So make the most of it by slowing down to really observe what is going on around you.  Stop just looking at things; categorizing, tagging, and blindly rushing through life with too many preconceived notions.

It’s amazing what you will find if you instead take the time to really “see”.

I hope I am able to do this more than I currently manage.  Life itself is just too interesting and varied for me to want it any other way.

Categories: philosophy Tags: , , ,

Kyoto tourist snaps

January 13, 2009 3 comments

Hello All.  I’m finaly getting around to working on some more of the photos I took during my last trip to Kyoto.

 Click HERE to see todays photos. 

I’ve been going to Kyoto on average twice per year since 2003, but this was the first time I was able to have a model with me.  Saori was kind enough to agree to get dressed up as a Maiko for a few hours so I could get some shots.  

While not nearly as adventurous as shooting maiko and Geiko in “The Wild”, it was a great way to get some classic (cheesy?) postcard type shots.  After spending the past many years stalking and shooting the real thing, it sure was a refreshing change to be able to provide a little direction and set up my shots.   

But I do have to admit, I still Really enjoy getting shots of the real thing. 

I’ve been battling a running cold for  the past month or so, but I think I am finally starting to get the better of it.  I’m not sure why I seem to have gotten such a stubborn string of colds this year, maybe it the age thing catching up with me.  After all, I did turn 38 last month.  

I’ve also been wanting to take some time to try out a brand new used Leica R mount 50mm f2 Summicron on my 5D.  From the few test shots I have taken so far, it looks ot be pretty spectacular little lens.  This coming Sunday I’ll be meeting with the Photo Club that I belong to, so that should be a  good chance for me to give it a spin.