Google Plus 2nd Anniversary Photo Walk in Tokyo (Podcast 377)

Google Plus 2nd Anniversary Photo Walk in Tokyo (Podcast 377)

It doesn’t seem like two years since Google Plus was launched, but last Saturday, on June 29, we celebrated Google Plus’ 2nd birthday with a photo walk here in Tokyo. I ended up with 21 photos from the day, and have select 10 to talk about with regards to my thinking behind the photos, and also just to fill you in on the day.

I’ve uploaded my 21 shots to the event photo gallery on Google Plus, and I’ve also uploaded them to my own Google Plus gallery, if you’re interested in taking a look. Because I want to put out a Podcast on this walk today, just two days after the walk, I won’t be making a decision as to whether or not any of these photos will end up as long term keepers, as the emotional connection with the day is too strong still.

Sky Tree Reflection

Skytree Reflection

I’ve got a feeling that a few might make it, but a number of them won’t. I’m definitely happy enough with the shots to talk about these ten today though, especially when you consider that this is really just a bit of fun. If I can make anything worth keeping out of it, that’s an added bonus.

So, we started at the Tokyo Skytree, a new broadcasting tower that was completed in March 2011 and has just started broadcasting it’s signal out to the Tokyo area. It replaces the wonderfully characteristic Tokyo Tower that for me, as for many, will probably remain one of the iconic structures symbolizing Japan’s economic growth as they rebuilt the country after World War II.

Tokyo Tower isn’t going anywhere just yet though. It will remain open and you’ll be able to travel to the top in the elevator etc. for a while yet. It’s just that there have been so many high-rise buildings built around Tokyo Tower that with it’s relatively low height of 333 meters (1,093 ft) it was no longer able to broadcast to the entire area, leaving some parts of Tokyo without a proper digital TV signal.

Anyway, I arrived at about 10am, 30 minutes before the meeting time, as I’d left early enough for the trains to run a little late, which they didn’t, but my plan was to walk around the tower trying to find some interesting angles if I had any free time before we started. This first image is one of a few of the Skytree that I’ve uploaded, and here I’d found a spot where the tower was reflected in the windows over an elevated passageway between the tower and the adjacent shopping area etc. I lined up the shot so that the reflection kind of completed the tower, as though you are looking up at an open railing rather than a set of windows.

I used Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 to convert to black and white, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I love black and white skies. They always seem much more dramatic than a straight color shot, and I also just like black and white architecture. I’ve found over the years that the majority of Tokyo architecture photos that I’ve shot just look better to me in black and white. This is true of all black and white photos of course, but removing the color helps us to see the structure and form of the subject, without the added color information, which can often be distracting. I was also conscious here of the amount of roof I placed on the right side, and that patch of textured siding at the bottom, wanting to give them weight, minimizing the space for the tower and sky, to add a little drama to the photo.

After photographing the Skytee alone for a while, I went around to the meeting point, and found a good sized crowd already gathered. I met a few friends that I hadn’t seen in person since the first anniversary walk a year ago, and there were a lot of new faces. Remember names was going to be difficult. I’m terrible with names at the best of times…

I found the registration queue, and let them know I was there, paid my money for the boat we’d ride on later, the entrance fee to Hamarikyu, and most importantly, my $40 for the party that we’d have when the walk finished. I was given a sticker with my Google Plus profile photo and name on it, a map and key times for the walk, and a Google camera strap, which is actually quite cool.

We had a steady walk around, and shot the tree some more before starting to walk towards the Asakusa area. We passed through a small park, in a small corner of which is the Ushima Shrine, and we were lucky enough to find a wedding ceremony in progress (below).

Mohican/Japanese Wedding

Mohican/Japanese Wedding

I switched between Aperture Priority and Manual exposure modes throughout the day, still trying to get used to Aperture Priority, which I had set when I shot this. I had Auto ISO set too, to give the camera more wiggle room, and with Plus 2/3 Exposure Compensation for this shot, the camera set my ISO to 1000 with a shutter speed of 1/80 of a second, at f/4.0. I had added a little exposure compensation to stop this from going dark, but I didn’t need much.

Yagishita-san Doin't His Thang!

Yagishita-san Doin’t His Thang!

I have to admit that I didn’t even notice that the guy in this shot had a mohican, which I thought was quite cool to say the rest of the wedding still seemed to be very traditional. We can also see the Shinto Priest wafting his Ounusa, like a wand with paper streamers on it, to purify the happy couple. We heard from the Shinto priest that blessed us during our Winter Wonderland Tour here in Japan this year, that bad spirits are sucked into the paper on the Ounusa, and then sent on their way, removing them from the people being blessed.

We had to shoot this from outside of course, and as my longest lens was the 24-70mm, I had to crop just a little bit from around the edges here to clean it up a little. Note too that I used the new Upright feature in Lightroom 5 to straighten the vertical lines, and it worked like a charm with one click.

Next up we see Shuhei Yagishita (right), a Tokyo Plusser jumping for us on a wall, in front of the Skytree. It was a relatively narrow wall, but luckily there wasn’t much of a drop on the other side, as I had visions of him doing a duChemin on us when I first saw him climb up there. He was a great sport though, and jumped a few times on request. I like the leg position and dynamism in this frame.

Note that with the black and white conversion here, I didn’t go as dark with the sky as I usually do, because Shuhei had a black t-shirt on, and we’d lose the separation if the sky was too dark. It would have been great if we could have done this when there was a big fluffy cloud behind his upper body too, but we didn’t have that luxury.

By this point, it was 12:30, and we would now have a couple of hours of free time to go and get lunch in the Asakusa area, and I found this next scene under the highway as I headed over.

Downtown

Downtown

This was actually quite a colorful store, and the first of these images that I considered leaving in color, but as I worked through my set, I found myself with so many photos that would be black and white, I started to really want to do the entire set in black and white. I processed each of them individually, using various settings, and various color filters and color channel tweaks to emphasize or deemphasize colors depending on the photo.

Old Gentleman Taking a Rest

Old Gentleman Taking a Rest

Note too that as this was under the highway, the only light in the scene was that which was pouring in from the left of the frame, so I reduced the Highlights slider in Lightroom to -18, and then reduced the highlights in Silver Efex slightly too, to tone down the left side which was slightly overexposed in my original.

Sitting on the bench on the left of the last photo, was this old gentleman (right), enjoying his cigarette. This is one of those times when I turn on the under-excercised street photographer in me, and fought my anxiety to ask permission for a photo. Although I’ve started to enjoy this type of photography over the last couple of years, I still don’t give it enough time to really get comfortable with this, and as far as I believe, many people never get over the anxiety of walking up to strangers and asking them if it’s OK to photograph them.

It makes it a lot easier when you speak the language though, and although this gentleman looked quite stern as I approached, I smiled and said hello, and knelt down so that I wasn’t looking down at him, and asked if it would be OK to photograph him, adding that I thought his beard was absolutely incredibly cool, and I did.

I shot two frames, and then showed him them on the camera, and his face lit up, so I shot a couple more. This was the second to last, as he blinked in the last photograph. I found that he was a local, living in this area, and after a very brief conversation, I thanked him again, and moved on.

Sensouji (Temple)

Sensouji (Temple)

I entered the street of old stores that runs up to the Sensouji Temple from the side, just past the middle, and started to make my way up to the main temple. The Google film crew stopped and videoed me standing in the middle of the crowds for a while, but despite our group being over eighty strong, once I’d left the the video crew, I didn’t see a single person from our photo walk group until I made my way around to the afternoon meeting point at around 2:30, about half an hour after this shot from inside the main Sensouji Temple building (left).

I didn’t see any no photography signs, and none of the officials asked me to stop, so being somewhat respectful that this is a place of worship, I shot a handful of images like this. If you’ve ever been to a large shrine or temple like this in Japan though, you’d know that they aren’t quite the same as religious building in most other countries.

Although the Japanese will throw coins into the box in front of the area where the main ceremonies are held, then clap to alert the gods to their wishes, before holding their hands together and praying for a while, it’s not as serious as most countries, for want of a better word. Maybe sullen works better, but to many Japanese, a visit to a shrine is part of the tourism or day trip that they’re probably on, and although many locals will feel very attached to this place spiritually, for many here, it’s just another stop, something to tick off, before they move on to see the next Tokyo sight.

Again in Aperture Priority at f/11 for a deep depth of field, my ISO jumped up to 8000 here for a 30th of a second, but the 5D Mark III ensured there was too much grain in the shot. This also allowed me to capture all the beautiful detail in the roof of this building that I honestly had never really noticed before. There is always so much light pouring in from the doors that the ceiling is usually very dark, so this was a fresh look at the building for me.

After Sensouji, I headed back around to the banks of the Sumida River where we were to meet, and half the group would ride the water bus to Hamarikyu, a park that we’d walk around later in the afternoon. The meeting time was 2:30, which seemed a little over cautious when you consider that our boat wouldn’t leave until 3:20, but I got there on time, and chatted to others as I waited.

This photo (below) was shot from the roof of our boat, as we pulled away from the pier. By now, the light was further around the Skytree, so unlike the earlier shots, it was now easier to capture it’s metallic surface and all the detail. The other reason I shot this of course was because Himiko, the futuristic boat to the left had entered the picture.

Himiko with Sky Tree

Himiko with Sky Tree

Himiko was designed by Reiji Matsumoto, a Japanese anime and manga artist behind Space Battleship Yamato and a plethora of space adventures. I find it fascinating and incredibly cool that Japanese society, often considered very serious and staid, would commission an artist to design and create a boat like this. I think it’s things like this that help to keep the Japanese sane in their otherwise often very restrictive lifestyles.

The sail along the river to the Hamarikyu gardens was nice, with most of the group on top of the boat, and as we set off, a Google video crew had set up on one of the first bridges we’d travel under, and we all waved and cheered for the camera as we approached. They were filming on the boat amongst us too, with wide angle lenses extended out on monopods, swinging them over our heads. I’m quite looking forward to seeing the video, and I’m hoping it doesn’t turn out to be just a promotional video for one of their recommended plussers like last year’s video. I don’t see that happening this year though. They didn’t seem to be focusing on any one person.

I got a few shots from Hamarikyu, but this is a difficult spot to work. It’s very Japanese in some ways, and has great contrast with the towering architecture behind the park, but I’ve never really been able to get anything spectacular there. I spent most of the afternoon walking around with a guy named Camilo Medina, a talented photographer living here in Tokyo, and was enjoying the conversation as much as the photography.

We walked through the city a little more, then got on the Oedo train line for a few stops, over to Azabujuban, then walked for about 15 minutes from there to Roppongi Hills, where Google Japan is based. They’d kindly used there super-powers to get us press passed to the Sky Deck on the roof of the Mori Tower, the huge cylindrical building there, and we were given permission to use tripods, which was great!

As the sun drew close to the horizon, this first shot is before the city lights really started to come on. You can see from the blur in the clouds that this was a long exposure, but it was only 30 seconds. This was one of the first I did, but although I tried to go longer, there weren’t that many places where you could get a clear view out over the city with a wide angle lens, but without getting the railings around the deck in the shot.

Tokyo from Sky Deck

Tokyo from Sky Deck

The best place I found was where the resident photographers stood people for their tourist “I’ve been to the Sky Deck” photo, and there were people that kept coming down to the left side of this same spot, so timing was really difficult. I’m happy with this shot mind, which I basically shot with the camera pointed further up that I wanted to, to avoid people’s heads. It allowed me to get some nice sky movement in though, and we can see out to the sea in the distance, showing that Tokyo is very much a port town, though people don’t really think of it that way.

As the city lights came up, I shot this next image, which is just a six second exposure, no longer using a neutral density filter as I was for the last image. I wanted to do longer, but the obstructions were stopping me, and although there were times when I could get a clear view, there was a family that that come out on the deck, and their kids were jumping up on the hand rail, then time and again jumping back down onto the wood deck on which we were standing. This of course meant that during most of my longer exposures the deck would shake, and my shot was ruined, so I gave up on the longer exposures.

Tokyo Tower from Sky Deck

Tokyo Tower from Sky Deck

Again though, I’m happy with this shot, probably another that I had a hard time converting to black and white, but I like the way increasing the red and orange channels enabled me to make Tokyo Tower stand out as it does here. We can also see the red tail lights of the cars streaming along the highways that weave through the city too. Plus, the shorter exposure enabled me to tilt the camera down a little more, shooting between people going down here, and this enabled me to get the curve of the highway in, which I think adds a nice touch, kind of forming a circle around Tokyo tower. I love driving through the city at this time of night, and have driven around the tower on that road many times, so it was nice to get a shot from this perspective, thanks to Google.

Tokyo Plussers (Look in the Reflection)

Tokyo Plussers (Look in the Reflection)

Although it would have been nice to stay out on the Sky Deck for about another 15 minutes, we were being called in, and were already late for the party that had been planned, so we made our way back down. As I approached the last meeting point, I noticed a whole bunch of plussers’ reflections in some glass roofing over the open area where we’d meet, so I got this last shot for the day (right), looking up at the Mori Tower. To deal with the low light here, this was shot at ISO 6400 at f/2.8 for 1/25 of a second. If you are wondering why it’s all sharp at f/2.8, note that I shot this with my 16-35mm lens at 17mm, and at 17mm, the hyperfocal distance at f/2.8 is 3.4 meters, or 11ft, with the near focus starting at 1.7m or 5.6ft, so I was safe to go this wide. If that last sentence confused the hell out of you, stay tuned for an exciting announcement shortly. I have something for you that will help with that.

The party was a lot of fun, with great conversation with Camilo and also Brian Kemper, another Tokyo based photographer who is just a laugh a minute. The bear flowed, somewhat hindered by the shear numbers of our group, but a great evening was had by all. A great day in fact.

Any of you that follow me on Google Plus will know that it’s where I spend most of my social media time now. That’s not a lot of time, but of the time I spend in Social media, these days I’m probably on G+ 95% of the time, with a further 3% on Twitter, then 2% on Facebook. The thing that I enjoy about Google Plus is that it has shaped up into a real community. A photography centric community in many respects, so I really enjoy spending time there, when I have time to go online and share, or look at others’ work or what they’re posting about.

The other thing of course is that it enables us to bring that online community into the real world, as we did for this photo walk. It’s only the third I’ve been on, and it was a year since my last, but it’s great to be able to jump on a train, and go and meet some of the people that we interact with online, and I’m sure it’s like this in every city around the world. If you haven’t gotten involved in Google Plus yet, jump right in, and have some fun, and maybe also consider joining the MBP Community while you’re there. Our conversation is getting more lively by the week too, so I’ll put a link into the show notes, and it would be great to see you there.

My New eBook – Sharp Shooter!

Before we finish, I have some really exciting news to share with you, and that is that my second eBook from Craft and Vision, Sharp Shooter: Proven Techniques for Sharper Photographs, was released last week, and is now available from the Craft & Vision Web site! We start by covering what makes an image sharp in the first place, then I cover some hand-holding techniques, stabilization for long lenses and focus stacking among other things, and we also go into sharpening in post when it didn’t quite work out, and also sharpening for final output. I wrote a blog post to introduce you give you some more details, which you can find at https://mbp.ac/sharp if you are interested.

sharpshooter_spreads_cover-NEW

Remember these books are incredible value at only $5 a pop, but for those of you that pick up and listen to this episode quickly enough, if you use the promotional code SHARP4 when you check out, you’ll only pay $4 or use the code SHARP20 to get 20% off when you buy 5+ products from the Craft & Vision Library. These codes expire at 11:59 PM (PST) July 4, 2013, so just a few days from now. If you miss that, it’s still only $5 and if you sign up for the my newsletters with the buttons on my blog, you’ll receive an email when I release any future books, so you won’t miss the sale in future.

I’m really happy to get my second book in the Craft & Vision library, and I really hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick up a copy.


Show Notes

Martin’s 21 Images on Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/102227359845636175866/albums/5895503804877505873

Google Plus Event Photo Gallery: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/gallery/cav22j3eo2rtheqmjqf756jfigc

MBP G+ Community: https://mbp.ac/community

My New eBook — Sharp Shooter: https://mbp.ac/cvss

Music by UniqueTracks


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Nikko Part II – Synergy of Culture and Nature (Podcast 41)

Nikko Part II – Synergy of Culture and Nature (Podcast 41)

Much of the Nikko area in Tochigi Prefecture, a few hours drive north of Tokyo, is perched high in the mountains, and is very close to the Japanese people’s hearts. Nikko is the synergy of Culture and Nature. Last week we looked at some shots from two Sundays I spend in Nikko in May 2006, and this week, although we’ll initially look at another view of the famous Kegon Falls and some landscapes in the area, we will also take a look more into the cultural side with some shots from the Toushouguu Temples and Futarasan Shrine areas.

To give you a brief outline of the Nikko area, Nikko is split mainly into two areas. The area we visited last week perched high in the mountains at around 1,400 meters, and then the Nikko City itself, where there are 103 Shrines and Temples. Nine buildings are registered as World Heritage national treasures and 94 of them registered as important cultural property and natural environments. Forty two of these buildings are in the Toushouguu Shrine area, 23 are in the neighbouring Fatarasan Shrine area, with the remaining buildings in the surrounding area. Before we take a look at just a few images from the Nikko shrines at Toushougu and Futarasan, let’s look at a few more shots from the highland area that we also discussed last week.

The first shot for today is image number 1000 of the beautiful Kegon Falls. This was shot with my 16-35mm F2.8 lens, using a tripod of course, and the ISO was set to 100. The shutter speed was 1/4 of a second with an ND8, 3 stop neutral density filter, to show a certain amount of movement in the water by making it a flowing stream and not freezing the motion as a faster shutter speed would have done, and the aperture was F11. Most of the scene was quite far away from me, and at a focal length of 21mm, that is plenty to attain pan-focus. That is, where everything is sharp from the nearest object in the image to the farthest.

Kegon Falls in the Rain #1

Kegon Falls in the Rain #1

Again, as I mentioned last week, the fact that it was raining on this day meant that the fresh spring greenery, being all wet, was recorded as a beautiful lush green that is just not possible on a bright sunny day, even at the same time of year. The overcast sky helps to give even lighting to the scene, as basically the whole sky is just one big diffuser box, like the ones you can put on the front of flash units. The cloud is creeping over the top of the mountain in the top center to left from the Chuuzenji lake that we can see in one of the shots I showed you last week, and this helps to add depth to the shot as the trees in the top right of the shot are quite highly contrasted against the mist and the farthest parts of the scene are basically quite low contrast because of it.

Also before anyone says it, no this shot does not need rotating a degree or so to the right. I always use a spirit level in my flash shoe when using a tripod and I can assure you this image is straight. The waterfall is flowing with such force due to the rain that the volume of water is pushing it further away from the rock face as usual making this optical illusion. I really like this and the other shot that I uploaded of these falls, just because of the misty, moody feel. I think this shot has a lot of atmosphere, and I hope it comes across in this smaller version that you’ll see in iTunes or on my Web site.

I had shot the Ryuuzu or Dragon Head falls also after shooting at this location on this day, but as we discussed that last week, in comparison to the nice bright day version from the previous week, we’ll skip those images today. After shooting the Ryuuzu falls we headed down the Irohazaka, which is a very steep winding road that leads back down to the Nikko city area. Let’s look at image number 1009. On the way down the Irohazaka, when there are not so many cars and tourist buses around, you can sometimes pull the car up at the side of the road and get out to shoot some pictures. The bus drivers as they come around the bends, which is usually where the best shots are visible from, get frustrated if you have a tripod setup taking up part of the road, as this makes them have to work harder to swing their bus around. For handheld shots you can get right up against the white crash-barrier at the side of the road as I did for this shot, and that way you don’t annoy anybody. I had a bus driver shouting at me last autumn for getting in his way, but I don’t see any no photography or no parking signs, so generally try to avoid doing this just to keep the peace. If the shot is available no other way though, just try to get as close to the barrier as possible without being in danger of toppling over it.

Misty Spring Mountain

Misty Spring Mountain

This particular shot was again shot with my 16-35mm lens at ISO 200 as I was hand holding, and still at F11. Exposure time was now 1/100th of a second which is plenty fast enough for hand holding at 31mm. I was also using plus 1/3 of a stop exposure compensation, as the large expanse of white mist and cloud and the bright green foliage was fooling the camera’s meter into under exposing this image just slightly. I also shot some images from this point that were a little bit wider, containing more of the mountain to the left, but I felt that it was not adding anything to the scene, so I went again with this slightly more tightly cropped version.

Nioh Statue

Nioh Statue

After descending the hill completely and reaching the Nikko City area, we now headed for the Toushouguu temple area. On the way into the main area there is a gate called the Omote Mon, which basically just means the front gate. This gate is guarded by a security guard to stop anyone going in that has not bought a ticket, but it is also guarded by a Nioh Statue at either side. I shot the one on the left on the way in, but the more successful shot was actually the one on the right as I came out an hour or so later, but we’ll look at that first. It is image number 1012. You will see a fearsome looking fellow, painted in the bright red that is common to many Japanese temples and shrines. Red is believed to ward off evil, and this guy looks like he will definitely be accomplishing his purpose.

I hand held this shot resting my elbows on a wooden ledge, looking up at the statue. I chose this perspective as I find looking up at this guy with his sword about to thrust down upon us helps to make him look as menacing as he can. I was shooting at ISO 400 with my 24-105mm F4 lens, wide open at F4 to get as much light onto my sensor as possible. I had the image stabilizer turned on and the shutter speed was 1/8th of a second at 70mm. I shot in a burst of about 3 or 4 shots though due to the slow shutter speed and indeed some of them were slightly blurred. I selected -2/3 of a stop exposure compensation as the shadows behind the statue would have fooled the camera into over-exposing the statue, even though as I’ve mentioned before, I always use center-weighted metering. Note that by Center Weighted, I’m using the Canon definition, which is where the camera weights the priority in the center but still is averaged for the entire scene. Please do not confuse this with Evaluative Metering, where the entire scene’s average is used, or Partial metering, which is where the center 8% of the scene is metered, or Spot metering, where just the center 3.5% of the scene is metered. To confuse matters, it seems that Nikon use the term Center Weighted to refer to what Canon refer to as Partial Metering, you’ll need to check your manual if you want more information on the various metering modes available for your camera. Basically though, I pretty much always have my camera set to Center Weighted metering, sometimes switching to Partial or Spot metering for more accurate readings from a small area.

Shourou (Belltower)

Shourou (Belltower)

Moving on though, let’s take a look at image number 1011. This is actually a bell tower inside the Toushouguu grounds. I chose this shot to upload and to talk about today to give you a taste of the sort of architecture within the grounds, but this really does not do Nikko justice. The temples themselves are difficult to get full shots of, because even on rainy days like the one I visited on, the place is usually teaming with tourists. Most shots you see of the temples and shrines at Nikko are either just the tops of the buildings, to cut out the tourists, or they have the full building but the bottom half of the shot is indeed full of tourists. I dare say, if you really wanted some nice serene shots of the buildings you could spend the night in a hotel close by and get there as early as possible in the morning to beat the crowds and get your images, with some patience. I personally have never done that so far, and I’m not that bothered about doing so, despite the obvious beauty of the buildings.

Without going into too much detail, the temples and shrines of Nikko came to be from an original commission for a small temple to be built to house the body of Ieyasu Tokugawa, a Shogun lord, born during the feudal period of Japans history. Ieyasu is accredited largely with bringing peace to Japan, and when he died on April 17th, 1616 at the age of 75, he left a will instructing his body to be enshrined for one year in Mt Kuno in his hometown of Shizuoka. After that he had instructed that a small shrine be build in Nikko in which he was to be enshrined as a God and said he would be the guardian of Japan. Nikko is in the North of Japan, and for a long time the North was regarded as evil and barbaric. Ieyasu wanted to be enshrined there to protect Japan from the evil that lay within, and he wished for eternal peace under the Tokugawa government.

Although he’d requested just a small shrine, his third successor Iemistu rebuilt the area in today’s form which is really way more than Ieyasu had originally requested but probably more befitting one of the most powerful and influential Shoguns that Japan has ever known. The Nikko temples and shrines cost around 40 billion yen. That is 40 billion in the US or I guess 40 thousand million in the UK. This equates to around 400 million dollars in today’s terms. 4,540,000 people were involved in the reform, which took just one year and 5 months, and was completed in 1636.

Five Storied Pagoda

Five Storied Pagoda

Most of the inner buildings are covered in ornate carvings and many painted in bright colours or clad in gold leaf. I appreciate their beauty but have never to date been able to photograph them in a way in which I like, partly because of the crowds, but also probably because I prefer more subdued colours as opposed to bright sparkling, almost gaudy colours. Having said that, the next shot, image number 1013 of the bright red Five Storied Pagoda just outside the Front Gate with the Nioh statue we looked at earlier, could well be considered gaudy, to a certain degree. I posted this shot and included it in today’s Podcast to talk about the thinking behind the shot.

As I turned and walked down the stone steps after shooting the Nioh statue, I noticed this lady standing looking at a map to the right of the pagoda, and her striking red jacket match the red of the pagoda, and there was no other subject in the shot for a second or two. I snapped off a couple of shots before a number of other people walked into the frame, but was pleased to have noticed the matching colours and to have acted quickly enough to get at least an OK shot. In my haste I did make this hand-held shot slightly skewed. I had to rotate it in Photoshop after the event, but saved something out of the moment. It was shot at exactly the same settings as the last shot, as I didn’t have time to change anything, but the exposure compensation was now at -1 stop, as I think I had shot my last shot of the Nioh statue at -1. I hadn’t worried too much about the aperture though, as although F4 is quite wide, it was going to be enough to get the pagoda in focus and I just made sure that I focused on the woman in the red coat as she was to become the focal point of the shot, not the historical building that has already been photographed millions of times before this capture.

As you descend the stone steps from the Front Gate of the Toushouguu grounds, if you turn right and walk between the grounds and the 36m tall Five Storied Pagoda, you’ll be faced with the scene from image number 1014. This whole row of stone lanterns and the red wall leading down the right of the image is called Shinmon, or God Gate, and it leads to the Futarasan Shrine. For this image I closed the aperture down to F8 to get a little more depth-of-field, but I didn’t want pan-focus as this was have reduced the feeling of depth that we get from having the scene go slightly out of focus as we get deeper into it. I was still at ISO 200 and was hand-holding at 1/15th of a second, and -1 stop of exposure compensation. The shot looks normal as far as brightness is concerned, but this is thanks to the exposure compensation. On overcast days such as this you will often find that the camera wants to make them brighter than the scene really is, so under compensating a little can help to normalize things.

Futarasan Shrine Shinmon Gate

Futarasan Shrine Shinmon Gate

I could have used a tripod here, but I’d also like to stress that on this day I was with my better half and a friend visiting from India, so I couldn’t really take very much time on my shots. I had to get the shot, and get a move on pretty much most of the time. The only time during this day that I used my tripod was to shoot the falls that we looked at last week and earlier today. I enjoy using my tripod when I can, especially for landscape work, as it helps me to think more carefully about composition etc. but I think it’s also important to be able to shoot hand-held when necessary too and still get results.

The next shot is number 1016, and was shot inside the Futarasan outer grounds. This is actually a building or kind of a wall around the garden next to the Shrine’s office. I included this as I like the contrast between the bright greens and the reds, but also the witches broom propped up against the wall in the center of the image adds a little reality to the overall image. From this we can learn that people are living and working here, sweeping up fallen leaves in their daily lives. Again I was under compensating by 1 stop, with an aperture of F5.6 and shutter speed of 1/125th of a second with ISO 200 still, and still using my 24-105mm F4 lens at 55mm for this shot.

Futarasan Shrine Office Buildings

Futarasan Shrine Office Buildings

I you walk back out of the Futarasan Shrine, to right is a bank, which is what I shot in image number 1017. Again, I just like the contrast between the bright green of the wet moss in the foreground here, with the red fence out of focus in the background adding a little extra interest. I didn’t want to keep my company weighting while I changed lenses, so despite having an F2.8 100mm macro lens in my pocket, I chose to go with the 24-105mm lens already mounted, and just opened it up to the widest aperture of F4. This was enough to throw the red fence out of focus as I wanted, so I’m quite pleased with the results. So as to keep the green bright now though, I’d raised the exposure compensation to -2/3 and the shutter speed hand held was 1/50th of a second for this shot at 75mm.

Moss with Red Fence

Moss with Red Fence

The last shot for today (1019) was something that I spotted from the car on the way out of the Nikko area on the way back to the highway to head back to Tokyo. This is a simple shot of the raindrops ripples in a rice paddy shot with my 100-400mm lens at ISO 400 at F5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second. I was OK hand holding as I was resting the lens on my car door with window open. The lens was getting wet, but it’s splash proof because it’s an L lens, so I just wiped it off after I finished shooting. This simple shot kind of wraps up this two part series from two Sundays in Nikko in May of 2006. I will be going back to Nikko many times since becoming a little more free after buying a car in December 2005, but for now, this is my most recent Nikko experience.

One thing that I must say before closing, about Nikko and for that matter much of Japan, is that both Buddhism and the Shinto religion can live side by side in places like Nikko without everybody trying to kill each other and blow up each other’s places of worship. Although this is a pretty touchy subject, and I’m sure that many of those that were held captive in prisoner of war camps will have a very different opinion, in general the Japanese are an incredibly peace loving nation. I do so wish that many of the other countries and religions around the world could take a leaf out of their book and live together in peace and harmony as the main religions of Japan do today.

Even if you didn’t tune in last week, most of you will have now noticed that this Podcast is now available as an Enhanced Podcast, which means if you listen on an iPod the images I speak about will change automatically as the Podcast progresses, and are viewable freely by navigating between chapters. For anyone that does not use iTunes or and iPod to listen, I have also created a new feed that you can subscribe to that contains the MP3 version of the Podcast that has no chapters, but will enable you to continue to listen as you have done to date. The address for this feed is available on my Podcasts page and is also in the show notes.

Finally, remember that there is still just under two weeks left of the Rainy Day assignment, which closes on June 25th, so if you still haven’t posted your entry, please take a look at the detail in the Assignment Forum, and if you didn’t listen to the original Podcast on this assignment, you can go back to Episode 37 for more details. There are some great images already uploaded to the assignment gallery, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of you make of this assignment.

Thanks very much for listening, and enjoy your week, whatever you’re doing. Bye bye.


Show Notes
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