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Yellow On Red

I love when colors naturally contrast so well in nature. While exploring around Lake Kawaguchiko near Mt Fuji in November, I found this yellow autumn leaf laying on top of a deep red bush. Thanks to the overcast sky, the lighting was perfect for the shot. Personally, I usually prefer overcast skies for shooting autumn colors. There are exceptions, but I’ve found that in the stronger light of a clear day, the colors can get blown out and shadows become harsh, such that shooting close up like this becomes nearly impossible. It depends somewhat on what you’re trying to shoot of course, but my point is, don’t put away the camera just because it’s cloudy!

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
Shot Info: f/1.8 | 1/1250 | ISO100 | 50mm

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Christmas In Shibuya Tokyo

Christmas in Japan is very, very different from Christmas in the United States. In the US, Christmas is one of the most important holidays of the year, if not the most important. It’s a time when you get together with friends and family from all over the country, and celebrate together. It’s a time when you give and receive gifts, enjoy special music, sounds and sights. For many, it’s a holiday with deep religious meaning as well, a time to celebrate and reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ. So there are a lot of facets to it I think in America. Japan, on the other hand, doesn’t have that long standing tradition and so it’s a relatively new holiday here. In fact, most people don’t get off for the day. It’s just another day, probably most similar to Valentine’s day in the US. Many here eat KFC fried chicken on Christmas Eve and maybe have a Christmas cake. It was pretty strange to me at first, but I’m used to it now. Still, “Love! Loud! Xmas!” in large neon letters seems a bit much for this traditionalist, but then again, that’s the nature of Shibuya!

A couple of notes on this image. In taking the image, I had to increase the ISO to 500. Normally I keep my ISO lower, but I wanted to minimize the movement effect on the people crossing the road, which meant faster shutter speed. The combo of f/8 and ISO500 did the job without introducing too much noise. As for the pictures, I took this in Photomatix, so it started as a traditional HDR image. With a place like this, I like some of the feel HDR software can offer. I then masked different parts of the image separately, breaking it into 3 basic sections – the sky, the buildings and lights, and the people crossing the street. I used a combo of luminosity masks (for the lights), smart selections (for the sky), and general masks (for the people) to get everything where I wanted it. On the sky, I wanted the saturation increased a bit so it would match the vibrant colors of the buildings and lights, but the problem is that in doing this, you introduce some banding. To help reduce that effect, I added a low level of noise only to the sky. I actually decided not to fix the building distortion in this image, as I kind of like the perspective it adds to the scene.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Shot Info: f/8 | Multiple Exposures (HDR) | ISO500 | 16mm

Photo of Shibuya TokyoClick Here To Purchase A Print

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An Autumn Creek in Japan

There are certain places in Japan that are truly unique to Japan – you can’t find them anywhere else. There are other places that actually remind me a good bit of home. This little spot fellow photographer Anthony Wood and I found in Gunma early last month is an example of the latter. Particularly, it reminded me a lot of North Carolina, where I lived both as a child and for several years as an adult right after getting married. It’s not especially common, but it is always nice to find those special places.

Regarding editing this photo, I kept it pretty basic. Primary edits for color, white balance, and lighting done in Lightroom, then brought into Photoshop as a smart object. From there, a number of adjustment layers were added to help enhance different aspects of the photo. Mostly, I just wanted to share the great autumn vibe going on in this spot when we were shooting, so I lot of my focus went into color adjustments to keep things warmer. In many cases I might try to keep the water cooler, but it was so shallow here that I actually liked it soaking in the warmth a little bit as well.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Shot Info: f/14 | 1/165 (ND Filter) | ISO125 | 16mm

Autumn CreekClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Where Earth Meets Sky

This Thanksgiving my family had the chance to enjoy a final get together with some good friends of ours who have been living on Yokosuka Naval Base. They’ve blessed us each year with a chance to come down and eat with them, to enjoy a true American Thanksgiving meal. They’ll be headed back to the US this month though, which is why it was our final time together. Anyway, since we were down there and they are about to leave, I did a small family portrait session for them in one of their favorite places – Hokokuji. After we were done taking family pictures, I hung back for a few minutes to take some photos of the lovely bamboo, so that’s where today’s photo comes from. This wasn’t my first time to Hokokuji, but every time I go I can’t help but photograph the beautiful bamboo.

A little info about taking and processing today’s shot. One reason bamboo is great for shooting is that it offers fantastic lines, and also a great canopy of light at the ends of those lines. That’s the case in all kinds of light. For example, on this day it was cloudy, but the tops of the shoots are still exploding with beautiful light. I tried to use the lines of the trees to lead the eyes up to that light. In post processing the image, I did a number of changes. First I did some basic edits in lightroom (contrast, shadows/highlights, coloring, etc.) and then sent that into Photoshop. From there, I added several adjustment layers, including warming and gradient filters, as well as color balance and levels layers. I also added a blank layer where I effectively brushed in a very light bit of white into the lighted areas, and then set that layer’s blend mode as “soft light” which will do just what the name implies. This helps give that area a softer feel, and not so jagged as it looked in the original photo. But since it is only brushed in, it does this without affecting the different things going on with the bamboo shoots themselves. I also added a little bit of sharpening and decreased noise to help things be a bit cleaner, and finally cropped a bit to get the framing exactly how I wanted it. It’s always best to get the framing just the way you want at the spot of the photo, but Hokokuji is very small and I didn’t have a lot of time, so I kind of rushed my original framing. Anyway, I really wanted to show how green and fresh these bamboo look (even in late November!) and I think this image does just that. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Shot Info: f/5.69 | 1/25 | ISO400 | 16mm

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Atami Nights

This is another photo from my recent trip through Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture. As I mentioned in a previous post, I got there a bit later than I would have liked, so I ended up taking some shots I hadn’t really planned on in an effort o maximize my time. Sometimes you just have to role with the punches as they say, and as is frequently the case, this ended up producing one of my favorite photos from the short trip.

This photo is is also a chance to share a quick photo tip with you. In this scene, things were actually already pretty dark. But with lots of lights around the town, I knew it could light up the sky nicely in a photo. In order to try to keep the darker areas from ending up too colorless though, I tuned my white balance down towards the blue end, which gave the scene a nice vibrance to an otherwise dark sky, and the electric feel works well with a light trail image like this one. In photoshop I then blended multiple images together to control the color and lighting a little more, which is very important for scenes like this one.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Shot Info: f/9 | multiple exposure (HDR)| ISO200 | 16mm

Photo of atami japanClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Atami Castle Shizuoka Prefecture

Yesterday I had a church event down in Shizuoka Prefecture, and on the way back home took a stop by the town of Atami on the Pacific coast. It’s a beautiful little town with some fantastic scenery and places to explore. I only got there just in time for sunset (because the sunset is so early now!) but the little time I spent there convinced me I need to go back sometime and explore some more. Anyway, this is one shot I was able to quickly process. The castle here is Atami Castle, and is famous for, among other things, being the climax of the fight between Godzilla and King Kong. Thankfully, it was only destroyed in special effects, and still stands as a beautiful coastal castle today.

Regarding the shot, unfortunately the longest lens I had on me was my 85mm, which while a slight zoom on full frame, was not quite enough to get the framing I wanted. I ended up having to use the D610’s DX mode, which effectively makes the zoom reach longer, though sacrificing image size. For those interested, the reason this works is because the lens itself is actually made for FX, but since a DX sensor is physically smaller, it only uses the center of the lens. That means you end up getting an extended reach, and many photographers, particularly wildlife photographers for example, may use this to their advantage at times, although in my case it worked great for a stationary castle.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
Shot Info: f/5.6 | .6 sec | ISO400 | 85mm

Photo of Atami CastleClick Here To Purchase A Print

 

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Autumn Vibrations

While exploring around Kumoba Pond in Karuizawa earlier this month, I found a great spot where the leaves could float atop the water and catch the light perfectly. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough leaves going by on their own to get the shot that I wanted, so I had to improvise a bit by finding a good leaf nearby and placing it in the water myself. Due to the inconsistencies in the current it took several tries, but I finally got what I was hoping for. Sometimes the scene you see in your mind needs a little help (and patience) to become reality!

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
Shot Info: f/2.5 | 1/800 sec | ISO125 | 50mm

leaf floating in waterClick Here To Purchase A Print

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