Tokyo From The Ikebukuro Sunshine Tower

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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Snowy Scenes From The Shinkansen

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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Evening at Himeji Station

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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Top 10 Photos of 2016

Yet another year is coming to an end, and that means it is time to choose my top 10 favorite photographs! I was fortunate to be able to photograph some beautiful locations this year throughout Japan – so many, in fact, that I still have many pictures left to edit! But out of the ones I’ve finished, these are my favorites. You can click on any of the images to see a larger version

Thanks so much for following along throughout the year! Here’s to a wonderful 2017 – may it be filled with great memories and great photos!

Sunrise over the Pacific Ocean from the Izu Peninusla

Late Afternoon Over Tokyo From The Skytree

Kaneyama Waterfall, Yamanashi Prefecture

Mt Fuji Reflected In Rice Paddies

View From Yokohama Bay

Autumn On Lake Haruna, Gunma Prefecture

Milkyway Over Mt Fuji

Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) in the Spring

Sunrise Over Japanese Rice Paddies, Chiba Prefecture

Sunset From Mt Iyogatake, Chiba Prefecture

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  • Rachel Cohen - Beautiful selection of images! Looks like you had a great year! All the best to you and your family in 2017! 🙂 ReplyCancel

    • leslie - Thanks so much Rachel! Same to you! Hope you have a fantastic 2017.:)ReplyCancel

  • Delona Fulkerson - I was asked today by Matthew and Brittany Pearce if I ever heard of you and your photography. I have followed your work for a long time. Always wanted to ask a question but didn’t know if I could. Anyway, Brittany is my favorite, special niece. 
    I enjoy your work. Delona Fulkerson ReplyCancel

    • leslie - Thanks for dropping by to comment! Matthew and Brittany are fantastic, without a doubt. 🙂 Appreciate them both very much, and appreciate your kind words. Thanks again!ReplyCancel

Sunset from Mount Iyogatake

Earlier this year in May, I took a trip to the Boso Peninsula of Chiba Prefecture. Although I live in Chiba, the area where I live is much different from most of the prefecture. I live in the city of Matsudo – it has a population of nearly 500,000, and is only about 30-40 minutes away from central Tokyo. As you might imagine, it’s a pretty urban town. However, as you head east from Matsudo, the prefecture quickly becomes more rural. The Boso Peninsula to the southeast is an especially beautiful area for nature lovers, as it offers everything from sandy beaches, waterfalls, and great mountain views.

One of those great mountain views can be found from Mt. Iyogatake. At 1,104 ft (336.6 m), it’s not all that tall of a mountain. However, it is quite steep, especially as you move closer to the summit. About the last third of the hike is actually climbing more than hiking, with chains and ropes playing an important part in the ascent. You can watch the video below for some behind-the-scenes footage from the climb.

Thankfully, your efforts are richly rewarded once you reach the top. In good weather, the summit offers clear views across both sides of the peninsula. The day I climbed was very hazy, but even with the haze I could see well into the distance, and ultimately the haze made for the beautiful image you see below. This photo was taken from a chained-in area on the rocky outcrop which marks the summit of Mt. Iyogatake. Although the rocks made for a nice foreground element, I had also hoped to get a non-obstructed view. Unfortunately, a tumble off the side of this outcropping would certainly lead to serious injury or death, so I decided not to risk it.

If you’re ever in the Boso Peninsula, I definitely recommend a trip to Iyogatake. Come prepared for the beautiful views and a serious workout!

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Iyogatake Chiba

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