One of the often overlooked but essentially Japanese experiences is the slow train journey through the Japanese countryside in summer. One of the reasons I get to travel around so much in Japan is that I don’t mind spending hours and hours on the train, just staring out the window. A year and a half ago I took these photos while traveling through northern Gunma prefecture, between Minakami and Takasaki. It is difficult to get good photos through a moving train window but I still had to share these with you. The landscape in these photos are absolutely typical of the countryside, with the buildings, the bamboo forests, the distant mountains, village stations and much more. Just looking at these photos makes my heart ache for the next train journey through the summer Japan I love so much! Oh, and can you spot the real life house of Satsuki and Mei from the animated movie “My Neighbor Totoro” (となりのトトロ) in the sixth photo? Doesn’t it look just like in the movie? I could live here, just a couple of hundred meters past the Gokan station in Minakami-cho. Don’t miss the slow train when you visit Japan next!
A perfect solar eclipse does’t come along too many times in the life span of a typical human. You’re lucky to see it once or twice in your life perhaps. Yesterday morning the entire southern Japan had such a chance, but in most cases clouds and even the smoke plume of an active volcano made it hard to see anything. I got up early to find the sky in dense cover of clouds but as the magic moment came closer the clouds gradually disappeared, only to reappear a few minutes before the eclipse, to cover the sun. Still, the strong light of the sun shone straight through the clouds even in the middle of the eclipse and I managed to get these photos of the perfect ring of fire with my 500mm Bigma lens, set at 1/8000, f36 and ISO of 25, in addition to holding up a polarizing filter in front of the lens and a pair of sunglasses. It was magical to see it live in the viewfinder of my camera though, the clouds drifting past and the edges of the ring of fire casting rough flames across the rim. I sure hope all the people who had bought special eclipse viewing glasses keeps them for a while longer – there is another eclipse coming up in 2038, but this time in the northern island of Hokkaido. I wonder if I will be able to see it?
One of the best ways to improve your health by a long day’s walk, improve your creativity and to improve your general mood is to go for a photo walk! During all my years with a camera, it had never struck me to just walk around with my camera and shoot randomly whatever I saw or encountered, until I came to Japan. I believe that this kind of photography is what the Japanese really excel at when it comes to image art, and it has taken me many years to even warm up to the idea of just shooting for fun and with no purpose, goal or set idea. It’s also possible to do photo walks anywhere in the world, alone or with friends or even total strangers. I believe it has become quite the art movement during the first decade of this century with organized worldwide photo walks held simultaneously all around the world. I have never joined any of those by I often go out with other camera happy friends, most recently in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago. These are just random photos from Tokyo station, Marunouchi and Ginza. I accept that I haven’t even begun to master the art of the photo walk, I am always amazed by the images my friends take, it really requires a special way of seeing to be able to get good results from a photo walk! Anyway, here’s mine. Enjoy!
Last month I had time to enjoy an evening stroll in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Usually famous for it’s high fashion and expensive shopping there are still plenty of run down older areas to explore. A fun ting to do when shooting at night is to play with shutter speed, as I did when I saw this old man calmly reading a newspaper while sitting on a busy street. The second photo is a normal shot of the same scene and maybe not as interesting as the first. Shooting at night you also quickly learn that most street lights have very different colors! From the vermillion-orange cast by festival lanterns to cold green and blue from roadside lamps. Sometomes though, you get lucky and stumble upon a more or less whie light, like in the last photo of the walking man. Enjoy!