Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Great Buddha of Kamakura

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Great Buddha of Kamakura

Above is a the Great Buddha of Kamakura, located in Kamakura Japan.  This statue of Buddha was, at a few points in time, enclosed in a wooden temple.  During a few large storms and a tidal wave back in the 14th and 15th centuries, the wooden structure was blown or washed away, each time leaving the large statue intact.  The statue is made of bronze and is over 13m tall.

Inside the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Inside the Buddha

The children in front of the statue help to give a sense of its size.  They are also the typical example of Japanese pop culture, with their brightly coloured bandanas.  They stand in stark contrast to the conservatively dressed school kids on the right.  The area was filled with children on school trips, and I was lucky to get such a relatively unpopulated shot of the statue.

For a few Yen, you can go inside the statue.  I wasn’t sure what was inside, and thought to myself “how often do you get a chance to go inside a giant statue of Buddha?”  So I paid the fee and went in.  The inside looks pretty much like one would expect the inside of a large bronze statue of Buddha to look like.  That is, it is a large bronze-walled room in the inverse shape of the statue itself.  At the top of the statue is the head area, which has been reinforced recently with some sort of red plastic.  The rest of the statue remains the same as originally constructed way back in 1252.

One thing photos cannot reproduce is sound.  When I was inside, the statue was filled with the echo of a dozen excited Japanese children.  Japanese children, like all other children around the world, have only one volume level–loud.  Needless to say, the inside of this bronze-walled echo chamber was quite loud!  🙂

Due to the overcast skies, I boosted the saturation a bit to bring out the colours in the statue’s corroding metal, as well as the bright colours in the children’s clothing.  I’d have preferred a more interesting or dramatic sky for this picture, but mother nature wasn’t on my side that day.

Imperial Guard House

Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Imperial Guard House

This is one of the guard houses, or lookouts in the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo.  The accessible areas of the Imperial Gardens aren’t really that spectacular in the winter, but this was one view that seemed to be worthy of a snapshot.

Lighting was a bit tricky on this one, as the sun was just out of frame to the right.  A little localized reduction in exposure and a little post-crop vignetting was done to tame the sun and bright sky.

Tokyo & Mount Fuji

Monday, February 15th, 2010
Tokyo & Mount Fuji

This shot of Mount Fuji and the skyscrapers of Shinjuku is one of my favourites from my trip to Japan.  Before my trip, I had made a list of quintessential photographs to take while in Japan, and Mt. Fuji with the city in front of it was at the top of my list.  After a fair bit of internet research, I managed to find a “top secret” location in a public building to get this shot.  I was surprised when I eventually got there to find a handful of other photographers with the same shot in mind.  Obviously my secret location was well known.  🙂

Those familiar with Tokyo will undoubtedly know that such views of Mt. Fuji are quite rare.  In fact, even on a clear sunny day the chances of being able to see the distant mountains and Mt. Fuji are slim to none due to the typical heavy layer of smog covering the city.  I somehow lucked out on this occasion, as a weather system had rolled in over night.  It was quite windy the night before this shot, which I suspect helped clear out the smog.

I will admit, that when I made my way onto the observation gallery and saw this spectacular view I got quite excited.  This was exactly the view I had pictured in my mind.  Unfortunately, in the rush of it all, plus the lack of coffee (I’m a mess without it) I forgot to switch the ISO on the camera back to 100.  I had been shooting night scenes the night before.  Sadly, all of the shots I took of this view were made at ISO 800 on my Canon 20d, which is quite a shame.  This actually ruined my day when I realized my mistake about an hour after I left the gallery (and by then the smog would have hidden the mountains).  I highly doubt I will ever get this shot again, so this is one of life’s hard lessons I learned.

Shinjuku at Night

Friday, February 12th, 2010
Shinjuku at Night

Nighttime in Tokyo is just as busy as any other time in this city.  The city never sleeps, and if anything, it feels even busier at night with all the bright flashing lights from traffic, billboards, and other advertisements.  Like a moth to a flame, your eyes are drawn into the bright lights.

I took this shot while walking back to my hotel after a long day of sightseeing.  Leaving the Shinjuku train station there is a pedestrian overpass that takes you to a plaza filled with Christmas lights (this was taken in December).  This is the view from that overpass.  The towers in the distant background are the Tokyo’s government buildings (aka city hall).  They’re the tallest buildings in the metropolis, though you can barely make them out in the dark night sky.

The shot was taken hand-held, probably resting on a railing, I can’t remember exactly.

Yodobashi Camera

Monday, February 8th, 2010
Yodobashi Camera

My hotel was located in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo’s more livelier prefectures, and was about 4 blocks away from this shopping area.  The area consists of about 3 blocks of brightly lit stores that are actually just one store: the Yodobashi camera store.  I can’t remember what happened when I realized this, as my brain had gone into overload thinking about all the camera gear surrounding me.  I was in the Mecca of photographic technology.

The main Yodobashi store (pictured above) consists of about 8 stories of technology ranging from cameras, to laptop computers, to books, to rice cookers and home appliances.  The camera selection at this particular building was the mainstream point and shoot variety.  Down the street was a more professional camera store that carried SLRs, medium format, lighting, developing, etc.  Basically a mini B&H Photo, but in Japan.

As for prices, they were very similar to those of B&H Photo in New York.  I probably could have saved $150 on a Canon 7D bought in Japan, but everything would have been in Japanese, including the warranty so I decided not to bother.

As for this photo, it was shot hand-held in manual mode.  It was difficult finding a good exposure that balanced the neon signs and the ambient light on the street, but I think I got it.  I think the Japanese couple walking in front of me adds a bit of character as well.