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Tokyo Cosmos

You never know what you might find when you’re wandering around Tokyo. I found this lovely display of cosmos – a beautiful autumn flower – just across the street from Tokyo station a couple of weeks back. These are some of my favorite flowers, and they can be found in abundance throughout Japan this time of year. I was particularly happy because it gave me a chance to try out the bokeh capabilities of my new Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens. It’s a great lens, but f/4 isn’t really the best for getting soft backgrounds generally. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how good a job it did here. Keep in mind, bokeh isn’t just a matter of things being out of focus but also how nice the out of focus area looks. It should look creamy, not harsh, and that’s how it came out with this lens. Honestly, I think the bokeh with this lens at f/4 looks better than some lenses I’ve seen even beyond f/2. Something worth considering anytime you’re buying a new lens where bokeh might matter.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR
Shot Info: f/4 | 1/80 sec | ISO200 | 24mm

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Autumn on Lake Haruna

I had a meeting yesterday in Gunma Prefecture, and was able to eat lunch with several people along the shores of Lake Haruna. This is a volcanic lake that sits atop Mt. Haruna, and is famous for, among other things, it’s mini Fuji-san – a portion of the mountain coming out of the lake that bears the familiar shape of Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy and rainy, so we weren’t able to see that very well. However, at these higher elevations the autumn colors are in full swing, and I was able to grab this photo from just outside the restaurant where we ate. Won’t be long before these colors are making their way down the mountains for the rest of us! It was nice to get a little sneak preview of what’s to come.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
Shot Info: f/7.1 | 1/100 sec | ISO200 | 85mm

Photo of Lake Haruna in GunmaClick Here To Purchase A Print

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A Japanese Snack in Asakusa

Every now and then I like to take a trip down to the Asakusa area of Tokyo. There’s a great vibe of old Tokyo in the area, and lots of small streets, unique sights, and delicious cuisine to enjoy. Of course, I don’t live that far away, so while I might not be looking for a meal, I do on occasion find myself looking for a good snack. When that happens, I head down to Nakamise street (the main strip leading to Sensoji Temple) and look for Asakusa Kokonoe (浅草九重).

Nakamise Street in AsakusaAsakusa Kokonoe is small vendor toward the temple end of the main street selling what is called agemanju. Manju is a traditional Japanese pastry of sorts stuffed with a kind of flavorful paste. Quite frequently this is a sweet bean paste, but there are many other flavors to enjoy. However, this isn’t just normal manju – this is agemanju. The age in this word means it is fried, and boy, is it delicious! I know I’m an American, and I’m even from the South, where we have a serious affinity for fried foods, but I think almost anyone would enjoy at least one of the versions of agemanju sold at Asakusa Kokonoe. They have traditional flavors like sweet bean paste and green tea, as well as some some less conventional ones like my two favorites, sakura and pumpkin.

Photo of agemanjuIf you ever find yourself wandering around Asakusa during a trip to Tokyo, do yourself a favor and visit this great little vendor. Not only will you be enjoying a great tasting, inexpensive snack, but you’ll also be enjoying a taste from traditional Japan in one of the most traditional areas of all Tokyo. Sounds like a sure fire way to make a good memory to me!

Asakusa Kokonoe

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Emperor’s Palace at Sunset

Tonight I took the evening to go down into Tokyo with my daughter and take some photos together. I wasn’t really expecting much by way of photos to be honest, just happy to spend some time with my little girl. But we were both greeted with a beautiful sunset. Thankfully, we were next to the Emperor’s palace, so we rushed over and grabbed some photos while the colors were still popping. Love when you get great moments like that!

This was also one of those times when having VR on a wide angle lens and having a full frame sensor came in handy. I shot this at just a half second and ISO 500, so that might give you an idea of how dark it was getting to the human eye. The colors were still vibrant in the sky, but that’s about all I could see in the direction I was shooting. ISO 500 let me regain some shadow detail without getting too noisy, and the VR helped keep the whole thing sharper than it likely would have been otherwise.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR
Shot Info: f/4 | 1/2 sec | ISO500 | 25mm

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October 2014 Lunar Eclipse

Tonight we got a special treat in Japan, as we were able to see a full eclipse of the moon. Thought I’d share a quick photo I took this evening. Unfortunately the biggest lens I currently have is an 85mm full frame lens, and even using DX mode on my camera I had to crop significantly. Still, it didn’t turn out too badly. Hope you got to enjoy it, wherever you are!

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8
Shot Info: f/3.5 | 1.6 sec | ISO400 | 85mm

October 2014 Lunar Eclipse

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A Meat Shop In Chiba

Over the course of this year, one goal I’ve had is to capture normal, everyday scenes of Japan. I love a great landscape or cityscape of course, but in a sense those are easy to photograph. It’s a lot harder to share the essence of a place; to really express in photographs the atmosphere or vibe you might experience when visiting a place. At the same time, I had no desire to do typical street photography. There’s plenty of it here for one, but also my goal isn’t to focus so much on what people are doing as much as the general sights you see walking around an average Japanese town. The reason I wanted to do this is that, as someone who has lived in Japan multiple times throughout my life, my experience is that I feel most nostalgic when I see those kinds of everyday scenes. The epic shots may inspire a person to visit the country, but these everyday photos draw out the nostalgia of being there.

This photo is one I took recently in my own town. This is a little meat shop here in Chiba Prefecture where I live. Although the kanji on the sign would suggest otherwise, it’s not actually in Narita, but my own town of Matsudo. I’ve seen this place many times, but just finally got a good night to grab a shot. And looking at it, I feel like it shares a small glimpse of what it’s like to be here, walking down the streets on a beautiful October evening.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR
Shot Info: f/5 | 1/30 sec | ISO160 | 35mm

small shop in JapanClick Here To Purchase A Print

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The Five Story Pagoda of Sensoji

If you read my blog regularly you know that I recently purchased the Nikon D610 and sold my D7000. After selling the D7000, I used the money to purchase Nikon’s 16-35mm f/4 VR lens. I’ve really been enjoying it! It’s a spectacular lens, and sharp as can be. Also recently, my oldest daughter has begun to get into photography, using an old camera my wife had, so we went down to Asakusa earlier this week so she and I could test out our cameras together. This was one of my favorite shots from the evening, of the five story pagoda at Sensoji Temple. It’s an impressive piece of architecture and worth seeing if you’re in Tokyo.

This was also one of my first posts over at the new social site Ello. I’ve heard a lot of skeptics, but personally I am loving their website. It’s simple, beautiful, and really encourages interaction with others. You check out my profile and ask for an invite here: https://ello.co/lestaylorphoto

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR
Shot Info: f/7.1 | 1/80 sec | ISO400 | 29mm

5 Story Pagoda SensojiClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Deano @ JapanTravelMate.com - Awesome photo… I keep scrolling down on this shot, quite a cool effect how it expands as you scroll down, like some kind of tripped out visual trick!