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!
Here’s the second batch of night photographs from last weeks Bonodori dance festival. Night photography is one of the areas of photography that has benefited immensely from the revolution in digital cameras. With the old color negatives, it was very hard to overexpose a photo, the negatives held information in the brightest of areas and if you had the f-stop and a good minimum time there was nothing to stop you from cranking up the exposure. With digital it was almost the opposite: the digital sensors in modern cameras work much more like old positive film (slides) where the dark areas hold a lot of information while the brighter areas quickly lose information if overexposed. Like color positives you also have to be much more careful about correct exposure than with the old negatives, too much light and the shot becomes pure white, too little and you get strange colors/blur in the underexposed shadows. So with digital, I always underexpose a little since it is easier to bring back details in underexposed areas of the photos than it is to bring back details in overexposed areas (there is nothing to bring back).
This bias towards underexposure makes digital cameras very suitable for lowlight and low contrast photography, and thus most evening or night time photography. The problem is when you have, like in these photos, a huge contrast from bright to dark, it is quite difficult to capture the shadows realistically while keeping the brighter areas from blowing out completely, which almost happened on the third photo in this post, of the young woman dancing.
Again these photos were saved by clever software courtesy of Adobe Photoshop, to bring back the colors and reduce the red, but the photos I’ll post tomorrow are slightly better than these, as I had time to fix the levels completely manually and thus got more realistic results. Out of these four, the second and the fourth photo are the most realistic ones.
Sorry for my rambling by the way. I really need to find a ghostwriter for this blog. When I started Tokyobling in November 2008 my only purpose was to post photos with the tiniest bit of writing. Recently I have to stop myself from being to verbose on this blog. I am not very good at stop myself though. Anyway, enjoy these and please come back tomorrow for four more photos!