Primeval Forest

Autumn morning deep in Kasuga Primeval Forest, Nara, Japan

Autumn morning deep in Kasuga Primeval Forest, Nara, Japan

Kasuga Primeval Forest is an old-growth forest on the eastern edge of Nara city. It’s actually registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is inhabited by wild boar, raccoons and Japanese deer. I have spent many peaceful hours up in the forest trying to capture the spirit of the ancient woodland, and no matter how long it takes, it’s pleasure just to be there. The deer are very tame and if you don’t make too many sudden movements, they seem quite happy to share the forest, even in the rutting season.

This was taken with a Sony a6000 and the kit lens that comes with the camera. I had to push the shutter speed to 1/200 in order to freeze the deer, so I had to use an aperture of f5.6 and ISO of 1000. That created quite a lot of noise but it was easily corrected in Lightroom.


By Dawn’s Early Light

A deer in the early morning autumn light in Nara, Japan

A deer in the early morning autumn light in Nara, Japan

I remember reading that the best photo opportunities occur when most people are inside…either because it’s too early or because the weather is too bad. Yesterday morning, I set the alarm early intending to go for a run, but one look outside at the thick fog and I was out the door, camera bag in hand. Nara is not a very foggy place, and so it was an opportunity not to be missed.  This corner of the park is about 10 minutes from our front door by bike…I’m lucky to live in such a gorgeous place!

I ended up with 112 images in less than 3 hours before the fog cleared completely, and this is one of the last one’s I took before the mist finally cleared. Some minor adjustments in Lightroom followed by some layering and final cropping in Photoshop. This was taken with the same kit lens that I dropped in the local pond last month, and it’s showing no ill effects so far. This was an exposure of 1/250 second taken at f8.0, with the lens zoomed all the way in at 50mm.

The Tea House

Japanese Tea House

The old Mizuya Chaya tea house in Nara Park, Nara, Japan

The old Mizuya Chaya tea house is one of the most beautiful spots in Nara Park, and I’m lucky enough to pass it every weekend on my morning run. The website is here.

It opened in 1948 and nestles amongst the trees between Kasuga Grand Shrine and Wakakusa Hill. For a long time, I’d thought about the possibility of getting a photo of it, but when the sun was shining, it didn’t seem to create the right atmosphere. I decided to give it a try when the weather was not so good and I think it works much better. This was taken on a very hot and humid rainy day in July 2014. Even on a day like that, it is very popular with tourists, so I had to take several different frames with tourists in different places and then blend them together with layer masks to remove them from the finished shot. It’s a technique I learned from a very good post over on Jimmy McIntyre’s excellent website. Link here.

This was taken with a Sony a6000 and the kit lens that came with the camera (E 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS) at a focal length of 16mm. Exposure was 0.5 seconds at f13.

I hope the finished photo captures the magical quality of this really gorgeous spot.

Gotham Grand Front

Osaka Grand Front Umeda Night

Between the big buildings
I sat like a flea crouched
In the stopped works of a watch

– W.S.Graham

For some time now, I’ve been following Jimmy McIntyre and his particular style of cityscapes is quite inspiring.

I wanted to try out some of his techniques and I thought that perhaps the skyscrapers in the Umeda area of Osaka might be a place to try. There’s something about Osaka that is strongly reminiscent of Bladerunner, Gotham or other dystopian visions. It’s ironic really, as it’s quite a nice place, if a little impersonal. Anyway, after looking at various angles, I came to a crossing beside the Grand Front South Tower and it seemed to have the atmosphere that I was looking for. It’s sad that with all this amazing architecture in the area, few people seem to look up; a few people even seemed to be confused about why I would want to photograph it…
I set the aperture to f16 to give me a wide depth of field and put the camera on a lightweight tripod to allow me to set the camera at 100 ISO to keep the levels of noise down. That gave me a shutter speed of 10 seconds, and although at meant that the people at the bottom of the shot blurred out a bit, I don’t think it detracts too much from the shot. The building has a very futuristic look to it, so I tried to bring out some of the blue/grey tones in Lightroom while keeping a little more warmth towards the bottom of the frame. Overall, I’m reasonably happy with the result, but it’s just a first attempt at this kind of thing and I think there is plenty of room for improvement.

Ukimido in Autumn

Nara Japan Autumn

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.”
– William Cullen Bryant 

The Koyo (autumn colors) season is here and Nara Park is stunningly beautiful. I headed to one of my favorite spots before sunrise but quite a number of photographers were already there. Nonetheless, I managed to find a spot and get quite a nice view of the Ukimido pavilion through the trees. I wanted to keep the ISO down to 100, so I used the tripod and I took this at f11 with a shutter speed of 1/90. I particularly love the slight mist that was still lying on the surface of the pond…

Gion Corner

Gion Night Kyoto Japan

This is one more shot from the same evening visit to Gion. Most of the buildings in that area are very dark in color so this red restaurant stood out. It is unfortunately on a very busy street, and on this Sunday evening, there were a lot of tourists and locals in the area. I set up the tripod and set the sensitivity to 100 ISO with an aperture of f11 to ensure a good depth of field, which meant a shutter speed of 20 seconds. I waited until there were fewer people and cars and then tried to get the shot. It took several attempts, but I finally got a reasonably clear shot and the few people who did walk past simply turned into ghosts and disappeared…

Evening in Gion

night in shirakawa gion kyoto japan

I have wanted to take night shots in Kyoto for some time, but only having a heavy Canon 50D and a Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod meant carrying a lot of gear a long way. In the summer, after much research I finally made the transition to mirrorless and in particular to a Sony a6000, paired with a Manfrotto Compact Light (MKCOMPACTLT) tripod that only weighs 810g. Since making the change, night shots have been a much more practical proposition as the camera and tripod together weigh less than 1.2kg, which is less than the 50D with a standard lens. This shot was taken on one of my first trips to Kyoto with the new pairing and I was very happy with the result. It’s hard to beat mirrorless for portability, and the best camera is always the one you have with you…