This is an image I took last summer during a trip to the Mt. Fuji Five Lakes area. Before this trip, I had been to three of the lakes: Kawaguchiko, Shojiko, and Motosuko, but had not yet been to Yamankako or Saiko. Out of the remaining two, Saiko was easily my favorite. Although the view of Mt. Fuji is partially obstructed at Saiko, the natural beauty and serenity of the lake made up for it. Out of all five lakes, Saiko might be the quietest. Additionally, the history of the lake is interesting; those large hills which obscure the view of Fuji were formed by lava flows thousands of years ago, which separated Saiko from Shojiko and Motosuko.

Aside from the opportunity to incorporate all of these elements into one image, the view also offer a good opportunity to show the power of Lightroom. With the sun going down over the mountains behind me, the lake and part of the hills were in the shade, making for a strong contrast. Lightroom was able to cut through this with no problem, and pull out great details on Mt. Fuji as well. Lightroom is truly an amazing tool to have at your disposal!

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Shot Info: f/11 | 1/50sec | ISO 100 | 35mm

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As January nears its end, my mind starts turning towards the fast approaching cherry blossom season. Especially since this will be my last cherry blossom season as a resident of Japan, I’m aiming to make the most of it. I’ve got lots of places I want to visit and photograph, and can’t wait to share those photos with you! In the meantime, I’m looking back through old images and considering the editing process while I dream of the coming spring. Although there are situations that call for more advanced techniques in Photoshop, most of the time, all I need to make a photo of the sakura pop is Lightroom. That was certainly the case here. The original image was very flat and the colors muted, and I also I under exposed the image a bit. With some easy adjustments in Lightroom, I was able to pull out details and colors that the camera had a difficult time picking up on its own, and easily correct the exposure.

By the way, you can get my free eBook on photographing cherry blossoms at this link. You can find my free Sakura Lightroom Preset pack right here. And make sure to check out my gallery of beautiful cherry blossom photos at this link: Cherry Blossoms.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
Shot Info: f/1.8 | 1/800sec | ISO 100 | 85mm

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cherry blossoms japan before
cherry blossoms japan

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Although it doesn’t snow a whole lot in Tokyo, it can get very cold. As a landscape and travel photographer, that poses a problem. There’s not a lot of motivation to get outside with my camera, but there’s also not much to photograph indoors. Thankfully, Tokyo has a solution – tall buildings with observation decks. During the winter, the air over Tokyo is relatively clear, so the views from these buildings can be spectacular. Additionally, during the winter there are less tourists around, so you’re less likely to have to fight the crowds. All in all, it’s a great combination for some aerial cityscape photography.

This particular image was taken from the Sunshine Tower in Ikebukuro (also known as the Sunshine 60). If you’re ever in Tokyo, this is a great observation deck to check out, thanks largely to the liberal tripod policy. This photo was created using digital blending, meaning it is made up of bracketed shots. For that kind of photography, a tripod is pretty important!

Use the slider below to see the before and after comparison.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Shot Info: f/8 | Multiple Exposures (Blended) | ISO 320 | 16mm

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In early December, I took a single day trip to Akita Prefecture for an assignment. Akita is about 3-4 hours from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) so suffice it to say this was a very brief trip! There was snow in the forecast though, so I was excited about potential photographic opportunities. However, with nearly 8 hours of total travel and a job to do for much of the day, there wouldn’t be much spare time for that. Thus, I tried to make the most of the snowy scenes I saw from the shinkansen on my way up. As you might imagine, getting quality images from a bullet train in the falling snow is not an easy task! Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when shooting in a situation like this:

  • Use a high shutter speed. A higher shutter speed will help counteract the speed of the vehicle, as well as any shaking that might arise from it.
  • Use a lower aperture. Windows in any vehicle are likely to have scratches and dirt on them. In this case, snow could even be on the outside of the window. Using a lower aperture will blur this, often enough to be unnoticeable. This also allows you to increase your shutter speed. And since in this case I was shooting objects in the distance, the shallow depth of field was not a problem for sharpness.
  • Get as close to the window as possible. This will help protect against glare from lights inside the vehicle, and will also help further blur any debris on the window. If you can cover the camera somehow, either with a coat or products like a Lens Skirt, this can further help protect against glare.
  • Don’t go wide. Most of these images were shot with a 50mm lens. I also used an 85mm. A wide angle lens in this situation would have made it harder to find a good subject, filled the foreground with distractions, and likely introduced glare, among other things.
  • Don’t worry about a looking ahead. Even if you can see what’s coming, you don’t have time to put a lot of thought into composition. You’re better off setting up, focusing in the distance, and waiting for something good to come into your frame. You’ll certainly miss some things you’ll wish you could have shot, but that’s just part of the deal.

My goal in this situation was to create photos with a minimalist feel to them. Using the above thoughts, I think that I was able to do that. Especially since I was traveling alone, being able to use the time for something productive was a nice bonus.

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Fukushima City

Akita Snow

Japanese Farmhouse Snow

Trees In Snow Japan

Snow River Akita Japan

Trees in Snowy Akita

Power Lines And Snow Akita Japan

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Back in November I paid a visit to Hyogo Prefecture on an assignment with Japan Travel. After finishing my work for the day, I went through Himeji Station on the way back to my hotel and took a few photos. This was a favorite for a couple of reasons. First of all, the way the taxis were parked provided both a nice foreground element and a kind of leading line into the rest of the image. Secondly, Himeji is most famous for the ancient castle located there (so ancient, in fact, that you have to take your shoes off to go inside), so this image provides a nice contrast to that aspect of the town.

Below the image you can see a speed processing video that condenses roughly 30 minutes of Photoshop processing into a little over a minute. For this image I actually began the processing in Lightroom where I merged the images into an HDR, and also edited the images individually somewhat to prepare them to export into Photoshop. Although I’m typically impressed by Lightroom’s HDR capabilities, it’s still only the beginning point for me. After merging to HDR in Lightroom, I then moved the image over to Photoshop for manual blending to better control elements like lighting and color. That’s the part that speed processing video below shows.

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Shot Info: f/11 | Multiple Exposures (Blended) | ISO 160 | 16mm

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Himeji Station Japan

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