Japan

31 January 2017

Kegon Falls in Japan

Posted in: Japan|

I’m still very busy and haven’t taken any photo this year yet. However, I still have plenty of nice images from my last year trips and today I would like to share one of them. It shows amazing Kegon Falls in the Nikko area in Japan.

Also, in the last few days I slightly modified the layout of the blog. Also further to your comments (both here on the blog, Facebook and sent by email) I will be making additional adjustments to the blog layout to make it simpler to navigate as some of you pointed out that navigation right now is quite complex.

Kegon Falls

Taking photo and post-processing

As I wanted water to be smooth I decided to use long exposure. As I was shooting in the bright daylight I had to use neutral density filter (I used Formatt Hitech) what allowed me to use 1 second of exposure. I experimented with much longer exposures as well but as the speed of water was very high, there was no need for that.

Editing this image was very easy. I mainly increased contrast and color saturation a little bit. Additionally I cropped the image slightly and added vignette to darken the edges and draw viewer’s attention to the waterfall.

CAMERA: Canon 5D MK III (read my review)

LENS: Canon 16-35 f/4 L IS USM (read my review)

FOCAL LENGTH: 24 mm

APERTURE: f/14.0

EXPOSURE: 1 s

ISO: 100

NUMBER OF EXPOSURES: 1

E.V. STEP: n/a

FLASH: no

TRIPOD: yes

FILTERS: ND400 neutral density filter

TECHNIQUE: long exposure

SOFTWARE: Magic Lantern, Capture One 10

26 January 2017

Tips on chasing Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in Japan

Posted in: Japan, travel guide|

At the same time last year I started preparing for my Japan trip in March – April later that year.

One of the main goals of the trip was to see beautiful phenomenon known as sakura or cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms are found in many countries of the world but only Japan is so crazy about them – there are thousands of thousands of trees around the country, there are sakura parties (known as hanami), there are sakura-flavored icecream, sakura Coca Cola. Even one of the shinkansen trains is called sakura. Yes, cherry trees are important for Japan.

As planning trip for the sakura might be a bit difficult, here are some tips on how to increase your chances of photographing and seeing this beautiful phenomenon.

BTW if you’re interested in travelling to Japan you will find more useful tips on travelling through this amazing country here.

1Sakura near Mt. Fuji (hiding in the clouds). Visit Japan at the right time of the year (late March to mid-April)

Sakura season usually starts in the late March (e.g. in Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka) or early April (e.g. in Kyoto). But there are some regions like Hokkaido island where it can start in late April or early May due to much cooler weather.

Sakura lasts for only about two weeks in a given place but there is one issue. There are just a couple of days when most of the blossoms are opened at the same time (what’s called full bloom) and when observing and photographing sakura is the most rewarding experience.

There are over 600 varieties of cherry trees and some begin blooming much earlier while other bloom later. So even if you miss full bloom you can still see some trees blooming.

2. Check sakura forecast often

When will sakura begin exactly in the given year? No one knows, but based on historical data as well as current and forecasted weather some predictions are being made.

One of the best sites to check sakura forecast is https://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php – it shows current predictions for each of the major regions in Japan (as well as historical averages). And the closer it gets to the spring, the more precise the forecasts become. Right now there is still no forecast for 2017 season but I guess it will appear soon UPDATE: forecast for 2017 is already available there.

When I was in Japan I checked current forecast at least once a day, planning next days based on it. This resulted in cancelling some hotel reservations or travelling to some distant cities just to see this phenomenon in full.

3. Be flexible

As sakura is highly unpredictable, you need to be very flexible as mentioned above. Even with good forecasts something might go wrong – it might become too warm (and sakura will begin earlier than expected), it can be too cold (what can slow opening of the blossoms), it can get rainy or windy (what can blow the blossoms off the trees much earlier).

And in case of my trip all of that happened. At first it got very warm so the blossoms started to open. But then temperature dropped suddenly what greatly slowed the process. And once cherry trees reached full bloom strong wind and rain blew a lot of blossoms off the trees.

4. Prepare for the crowds

Most of the tourist spots get really crowded during sakura with a lot of Japanese and foreign travellers trying to see cherry blossom. So if you have an idea for a photo, make sure to be there either very early in the morning or well before sunset (if you plan on shooting it).

Also what I noticed is that even though a lot of trains were crowded during that time, usually there wasn’t problem with finding a sitting place.

27 September 2016

Yakushima island

Posted in: Japan|

Yakushima island

Today I would like to share another photo from Yakushima island in Japan. I already shared a few photos (together with locations description) from this magical place here, here, here and here but I believe it deserves sharing even more images.

Ponta de Sao Lourenco

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9 August 2016

Dramatic Sky over Kawaguchi Lake

Posted in: Japan|

Dramatic Sky over Kawaguchi Lake

Today I would like to share a photo from Kawaguchi-ko, beautiful lake lying at the foot of the Mount Fuji. While Mt. Fuji wasn’t visible all the time I spent there (but when it was, it was gorgeous!), there were other locations worth photographing nearby and one of them were the mountains on the shores of Kawaguchi lake. When there were clouds, they created very dramatic effect as you can see below.

I decided to compose this image in a way there are several layers, starting from top: clouds, mountains, water and lake shore. I also decided to include old blue rowing boat in foreground as I found it a nice addition.

If you would like to learn more about landscape photography, make sure to read my Landscape Photography Tips, where I give a lot of advice on creating photos like this.

Kawaguchi lake

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5 August 2016

Morning Light in the Bamboo Grove

Posted in: Japan|

Morning Light in the Bamboo Grove

I shared 2 images from Bamboo Grove in Kyoto here and here so I will just say it’s one of the most beautiful locations I photographed in Japan (the only two comparable are Yakushima Island and Mount Fuji). And one of the most beautiful I ever photographed.

The image from today was taken in the morning when the sun was already up and it was shining through the bamboos creating some very nice light and contrast.

Morning Light in the Bamboo Grove

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4 August 2016

Those Eyes

Posted in: Japan|

Those Eyes

Today photo was taken in Nara Park in Japan and it shows one of the numerous wild sika deers wandering freely around this park. I wanted to get close portrait of it to show its beautiful eyes so I used tele-zoom lens at 300 mm.

Sika Deer in Nara Park in Japan

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1 August 2016

Golden Light in Kamakura. Kencho-ji Temple

Posted in: Japan|

Golden Light in Kamakura. Kencho-ji Temple

Kamakura, a small town less than an hour south of Tokyo, is a former capital of Japan (it was political center of Japan from 12th to 14th century). It has a lot to offer to tourists from numerous temples and shrines to several nice hikes through the woods and even sand beaches, especially popular in the summer months. There is also 2nd largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan with a height of 13.5 meters.

I spent whole day in Kamakura as a side trip from Tokyo (BTW you can check my Japan travel itinerary here) and managed to visit most of its attractions, including one of its forest hikes.

In the photo below you can see Kenchoji temple, which is the most important of five Zen temples in Kamakura. The wooden structure in the image is the Sanmon – main gate to the temple.

The best thing was I had whole place just to myself 🙂 I went there just 20 minutes before it closed and my girlfriend and I were the only ones being there apart from some staff doing some maintenance work. As wood really loves warm golden hour sun, the gate looked really fantastic during the sunset. The only thing I wasn’t happy with was that cherry trees haven’t started blooming yet. The image would be so much better if the cherry tree in the foreground was densely covered in pink blossoms!

Kamakura

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27 July 2016

Tsuki-ji Fish Market – Photoreport

Posted in: Japan|

Tsuki-ji Fish Market

Tsuki-ji fish market in Tokyo is the biggest fish market in the world. Although not all sections of it are opened to the public, quite a few are and as I love fish I couldn’t miss that opportunity and visited the market several times during my visit to Japan. Especially as the market is due to be moved from its historic location to different part of Tokyo in November 2016. So it was probably last chance for me to see it in the original location.

I especially enjoyed visiting so called inner market where real business happens. For that reason it is available for tourists after 9 AM (so tourists don’t disturb too much). Despite the fact, after that time most of the sales are done already, there is still a lot of interesting stuff going on there.

Tsuki-ji is also famous for its tuna fish auctions which starts almost daily around 5 AM. But as I mentioned in this post I decided to skip it and visit tuna auction in Kii-Katsuura instead. And I don’t regret 🙂

Today post will be slightly different than usually. Normally I post one image, with EXIF info and some other technical stuff. But today I would like to show you the nature of Tsuki-ji and sort of tell its story. So instead of one image, further down you will see several photos from this market. I used two wide angle lenses to capture the photos: Canon 16-35 f/4 IS USM and Canon 24 f/1.4 II. This combination allowed me to shoot hand-held in low light conditions.

Finally, I’d like to ask if you like such post? Let me know your thoughts!

Entrance to the inner market inside Tsuki-ji Fish Market

Entrance to the inner market inside Tsuki-ji Fish Market. It’s a really busy place with trucks running down the street every few seconds. It was important to be respectful to the people working there and don’t disturb them.

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By the time tourists are allowed inside inner market most of the fish is already sold but you can still find stalls where there is still something to buy

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Seeing how precise these workers are is really amazing

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Wonderful tuna slices waiting to be eaten 🙂

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Stall with crabs

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Although alleys with stalls are most impressive, walking through some less spectacular areas also creates nice photo opportunities.