Sometimes its just Fail, all the way around~

So, long time no see, again. Yes, yes, I know. I fail at this writing thing. It’s not so much the writing as it is the keeping to a posting schedule instead of visiting wordpress and getting lost in other blogs. It’s the same thing on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and FB for me. No it’s not ADHD…. it’s more like easily distracted, believe me I am not hyper about anything… well except chocolate and new camera gear, and maybe cute puppies.

Anyway to the good stuff! On the list are two new photo sharing apps.

One is very specific and unfortunately for me doesn’t have an android app yet. Just a mobile website, which is fine, just lacks some of what you would expect. But it is a relatively new app. Know as Pack, it is a photo app for dogs! Only dogs. I mean you could take a selfie, as long as it is with your dog. Visit the website or check out the app for ios here. It is a great way to share the love of your best friend and not feel guilty about spamming your social networks with photos of your dog. If there was an app for android I would use it more as the mobile website doesn’t quite offer everything I like in a photo app yet.

On to my second, and I dare-say my Instagram replacement! Not that I really even use Instagram much, it is way, way to messy. EyeEm is my newest photo sharing app obsession! Oddly enough you can also connect it to your Instagram. You can also connect it to your Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Foursquare, and Facebook. I am still waiting for a G+ hookup, please please please give me a G+ hookup! EyeEm offers a nice selection of filters and all those other things you like about a photo sharing app but it does offer more, a lot more. First there are missions, much like how Foap had events you can join and win money or prizes so does EyeEm, however, I don’t need to take a picture of my passport or drivers license to compete. Secondly unlike other photo sharing apps like Instagram where the plethora of tags is staggering, I am limited to 4 tags. It is amazing!  The limit of 4 tags helps a lot, and cuts down on the messiness. When I search for #Cute dog, I just get cute dogs, not random selfies tagged with cute dog. EyeEm also has two great features that deal with geo-location.  The first is if you photo has geo-location information you can tag businesses, locations, etc directly, much how foursquare used to work. The second geo-location feature is like something from 500px but much better. Photos tagged with a geo-location close to where you are with your phone now show up. A great little feature called “Photos around you” will bring up any photos tagged with geo-location in the area you are currently in. It’s great for last min photo ideas, photo walks, and inspiration in a neighborhood you may no longer see anything new in. So if you have the desire to leave the little square box behind check out EyeEm.

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In photo trip news August should be a decent month. I plan on going to Yoro Park in Gifu and hopefully climbing Mt. Fuji this vacation! It will destroy a pair of shoes though… it did last time. So I will need to get a new pair. I am in need of a new pair of Vibrams anyway 😉 September is looking pretty bland but I am saving for the Kouyou season so I can hit Kyoto, Wakayama and Nagano this year! I am taking part in Color Me Rad in Tokyo on the 23rd of September but I have been reading the horror stories of the cornstarch in the lens! So now I am seeing what I can do to protect my camera and if it is worth the risk…. One can hope! It looks like it may involve a lot of plastic wrap, plastic bags and maybe some duck tape to keep it all sealed up tight.

I did make it to the last day of the World Cosplay Summit which will be up in a post hopefully next week! So keep an eye out for those photos!  It was amazing! I just wish I had taken the days off in advance and gone to the whole thing! Next year that is the plan! I also became an official contributor to Yokoso News! Check it it here!! Get your Japan fix from the Chubu area!

 

 

 

 

Sakura Season Plans~

YEAH! It’s that time of year again! Sakura Madness! If there is a busy but beautiful time of year it is during this season. Spring has come and around the end of March, beginning of April everyone and their dog goes out to view the symbol of spring here in Japan, the Cherry Blossom!

I am no exception. This year however instead of just taking pictures of gorgeous flowers I am hoping to do a bit of people work too. It will be the first BIG challenge this year. I have my diffuser, reflector and my speedlight and will hopefully be able to capture something worth posting. However…… If you want to send me something… I am in need of an Orbis flash ring ^_^~  As for where I am going in the Nagoya area and beyond, I plan on hitting a few locations.

Tsurumai Park – mainly for people partying shots, gonna try getting some of that in~ not so much the flowers.

Iwakura~Gojo River – This location is for the flowers and river, may do a frolicing session here~ it’s gorgeous!

Yamazaki River- This will probably be night shots and few frolicing as it is in Nagoya

Kyoto- Flowers and buildings! What more could you ask for~ I’m just hoping it’s not as goofy as the Kouyou was.

Yoshino Mountain- LOOKS AMAZING!!! If things go well might hit up here with great friend~ More landscape-ish

Those are the big plans this year! If you are in the area and want to meet up I am all for it! Hit me up on here or G+ or FB! I have one more paid day off so I will be saving that most likely for Iwakura or Kyoto~

The blossoms are set to open around March 27th here in Nagoya~ are you ready? I am!

 

Bonbai~

Bonbai? What is that you ask? Well it is a bonsai ume(plum) tree and I got one!

I went to Nagahama to blow glass and also happened upon a bonsai exhibit. Now being American it is always interesting to see things that are, well, older than my country. I know that sounds weird but hang on a moment I shall explain. Japan, China and some parts of India have some of the longest, static, by static I mean continuous culture/tradition/history, which I find fascinating. Of course some things have changed but as a whole compared to the rest of the world there hasn’t been and huge revolutions to the heart of the culture and tradition. So when I saw these little trees that were 400 and some years old it made me stop and think. This art, this piece of culture has survived so much and has been passed down successfully that it makes one want to be part of it, to be a small piece in the bigger picture. So, I bought one and will attempt to not kill it!

 

Its actually quite a bit of work once every 3 years or 5 years. The repotting process is daunting but I will attempt it this December. In the meantime I get to enjoy the lovely blossoms this year and will have to prune and water only until December. It also makes a great subject for photography~ So there shall be many more photo experiments to come that include this new little member of my family.

My first experiment was with time lapse. I know, I don’t start small. So for my first ever time lapse I would have to consider it a success! It was actually much easier to do than I assumed it would be. As you know, I have a Canon 7D and thats pretty much all I really needed. I didnt have to purchase any special software. I used the EOS Utility and iMovie, as I have a Mac but I am pretty sure you could do it in just about any regular movie editor.

Using the timer in EOS utility you just have to make sure your live view is off. Set your camera up on a steady tripod and fix the focus, DON’T use autofocus as it may search each time for a new focus point or be unable to find it. I ran my camera in Manual but you could also do this in AV, TV, P or B. Depending on the length of time you need between your shots or the length of your shots I have read you may have to have it in B, given that I was throwing mine together before work and have yet to attempt another one I am not sure if this is true or not. I set mine to take a photo every 30 seconds and just let it go. I had originally had it set to take 500 photos but it only took 372 as the light and my camera both died. I highly recommend starting with a fully charged battery! Mine was down to the last little bar when I started, fail on my part.

I stuck around for the first ten or so actuations and then left for work. Came home and threw all of the photos into one folder and then imported them into iMovie. Set the display time to 0.1 seconds and fixed the crop so I didn’t have that goofy, ahem, I mean supposed cinematic effect. All in all 372 photos became about 50 seconds of movie. So not overly long but considering I didn’t do a lot of work on my own not bad. Now I did take all of these photos in RAW so I could go in and batch edit or fix a few if it seemed necessary, however, as this was my first attempt I was more worried about it actually working rather than the quality of the images. Bad, bad, bad Anne! I know, but now that I have this part down on my next one I can work more with the quality of the images. My biggest worry was to do a lot of intensive work and then have it fail somewhere along the way. Now that i know the first few steps I feel more comfortable putting more work into the next one. I would like to try a night time lapse but we will see how it goes. I would need to get out of the city and into the countryside to actually be able to see the night sky. But when i get this down I have a new reason to climb Mt. Fuji this year, because there is this great little spot near the top that I think would look great in a time lapse with the stars.

Watch the video here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31tlGQNuQR4

Windmills~

Sometimes it’s easy to forget where you are. It’s easy to forget what you set out to do. Instead taking a tilt at the windmills you become lulled by the motion, it soothes you inexplicably. I fear recently that this has happened me. In my photography and life in general. It’s easy to say I’m good enough or that it whatever it may be is good enough for me, I can produce decent work, I know the basics and the rules and I seem to no longer challenge them. I used to laugh in the face of challenges! Now I cringe and spend more time and energy thinking how to avoid them. I’ve realized I do this more and more.

This really hit home for me when I took a trip to the Nagoya aquarium with a friend. I had to look at my controls! As in physically remove the camera from my face and look at the controls! And the light, ahhh the light! I read it wrong! Some of my pictures turned out decent and yes by decent I do mean workable and just toeing that line of “looks good”. Examples below. But more than half of the pictures I came home with were to be honest… Crap. With that capital C, as in no amount of Photoshop or Lightroom will save you!

I’m so lucky I don’t shoot film. I will also save your eyes from the horror that occurred and not post any of those instead a few more decent ones. So the goals for this year have a new sub-article? Yes again! I plan to see this one as a lifestyle change not just a photography one. I think they go hand in hand in my case so I expect that as one changes so will the other. At least that is the logic I’m applying to this constant problem.

Some of my new year’s resolutions have fallen under the lull of the windmills. I don’t need to go for that run or I can have an extra bottle of soda because well I look good enough, I don’t NEED to run…… See where this is going? So hopefully with this new point added I can focus on doing stuff. And doing stuff better ^_^ at least that is the goal. I’ve even downloaded the couch to 5k app and will be starting that Monday. I plan on bringing bigger and better and also more frequent photos to the table. But, gotta walk before you can run I guess. As to that I’m am going to need a lot of practice before sakura season starts so I’m going to see if I can rope someone into being my shadow model. I hate taking photos of people but I’m curious if I can do a shadow series where all they are are shadows/silhouettes. Stay tuned to see if I can convince anyone to do so. In the meantime I convinced Koyo to model a little bit. She was too sleepy to object.

Unfortunately she awoke with the first actuation. So only one of her really sleeping~

Other than that I am off to Kurokabe Square on Sunday and going to attempt blowing my own glassware. I’m going with a friend so hopefully she will allow me to take pictures of her but we shall see. I plan to get more of Koyo as she is my constant companion and therefore makes a great model~ We had snow on the 14th which was really nice. I was actually able to make a snowman! He lasted a total of maybe 5 hours though all said and done. However, Koyo was able to play a bit in the snow so I got a few good ones of her out running around.

Working on it

So with my last post deciding what I should work on I have started working! You should feel proud! I feel proud! However as I have been sick for going on about two weeks now I haven’t gone out and gotten new shots…… How am I working you ask?  That is a good question! Youtube and Adobe tutorial videos and such! Yeah for the computer!

Everyone knows that the camera can’t see what you see in fact sometimes it’s way off~ way way off sometimes if you are me. If you are working with a DSLR, welcome to heaven and purgatory! Better known as Photoshop and Lightroom in my case. One I have trouble getting it just right in but when I do it’s great and two is fantastic for organizing and non-serious edits but I hardly get any photos out of it, they just sit in limbo. More of a personal problem I know but I would like to believe that it happens to all photographers at one time or another.

So what have I been doing about it you ask. Well first I watched The Grid: How to be a better Photographer in 2014 and as you know I scrapped my 365 project, we had that lovely discussion earlier. I decided I needed to learn PS and LR better than I already do, which involved me buy Scott Kelby’s book covering Lightroom 5 because I like his writing and his book usually covers enough to get me going into the extras that I can later explore on my own. So started flipping through that learning some new tricks and tips. I headed online and watched a bunch of educational(FREE) videos because I wasn’t going out in the wind and cold. So with my hot chocolate I sat down to absorb all I could in about 3 or 4 hour segments.

I realized that I did not know as much as I thought I did. So then I decided to delve into all the photos! I mean ALL THE PHOTOS… I hate deleting, that just in case always gets me. So I decided to start just randomly and closed my eyes and clicked a folder. It happened to be my Shirakawago trip. I then picked a photo I really liked but I couldn’t get to work/look the way I wanted. This was the photo I started with….Snow in Color - Original

So as you can see it’s kind of flat, a little boring and not really at all how that morning looked to me. The snow is rather gray and a little dirty~ Not really the pristine snowy landscape I saw. So using all the wonderful information I has absorbed I took it all into lightroom, took 3 of the different exposures, bumped them over and into HDR in photoshop and then SURPRISE, SURPRISE I bumped them back into LR as a 32bit TIFF! Oh the things you learn… So about an hour or so later, yeah I’m still learning LR, I had a final-ish product.

Snow in Color

Now I tried to crop it so those little branches on the side disappeared but the crop looks funny and as much as I don’t like them I have started to like them. Not sure if that is good or not. So what do you think? Let me know! More and more the work continues. So much more to do and learn and hopefully when I get over this stupid sickness I will be able to get out and get more shots.

A need shutter actuations~

New year new goals.

Ah dear reader, it’s nice to see you again. I am still here but I happen to be a little lost. As you know I am on a quest to better my photography. I even started a 365 project to do so….. And then I watched an episode of the grid that told me not to! I was told I should instead figure out what I want to do. Therein lies the rub. I want to do it all! Except portraits.

It was hinted at that I should decide to master one thing this year and not just be generic. So… What should it be… Let us do a process of elimination together ^_^

Portraits -as you know are out, I’m one of those awkward people, those who know me know this.

Wildlife – don’t have the glass or the time to travel extensively. I live in the city so the only wildlife is rats and cats. Neither are really high on my list.

Macro -don’t have the glass, and though beautiful takes a lot of time, effort and bugs.

Street/city – back to being that awkward person.. Let me leer at you through my lens. Also having a camera around my neck makes me stick out a little more than I already do here in Japan.

Underwater – would love to do these… If I could afford the housing so I wasn’t freaking out about water damage every 2 mins.

Trains – um nope. I mean great for practicing different skills but not something I enjoy taking pics of.

Sunrise/set – oh the over done joy! Honestly I like these but unless you are somewhere spectacular I really don’t want to see another.

Food – see above. In all honesty I don’t care how it looks, the most important thing for me is how’d it taste.

Architecture – this I enjoy, let my buildings lean! Lean back, lean back. So we got one that’s a maybe…

Landscapes – oh sweeping beauty how I wish you looked at least similar in my final product.

Daily life/traditional life – I live in Japan, opportunity abounds, but some odd million other people live here also…

Nature – Flowers, overdone but beautiful. Autumn leaves, see Flowers. But I enjoy it none the less. So that gives us another one to work on.

So I guess that gives me landscapes/scenic views and Nature. Hand in hand I guess. But I want to add “leaning” architecture to that too. And maybe a bit of daily life?

See the problem I’m running into here? I can’t get it down to just one. The tragedy! But I guess that will give me more to work with. So it seems that I will have to rename my G+ album and start getting more focused. I have ideas, but same problem as always. I actually need to get up and off the couch to do them!

And as I do not have a nice scenic landscape on my phone to post. Here! Enjoy this chocolate piggy~
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Kyoto and things~

I am back, I’m back again…. It’s been a day and an age I know but I swear the older you get the faster life goes…. It doesn’t feel that long until I look at a calendar.

Anyway, Life is continuing to happen. Just when you think you got everything set and laid out… well Murphy’s Law, I hate Murphy and his laws.

But onto photog news~ I went to Kyoto for the Kouyou/Momiji season! ONCE! I was planning to go twice but I got sick. I have never been as sick as I have this year. I give you odds if you took all the sick days from the first 29yrs of my life and added them up I would still be leading by a long shot for sick days just this year alone.

So anyway, I went to Kyoto and I learned 3 valuable lessons! #1 You need sleep to operate your camera, I am not as young as I used to be and my hands just aren’t as steady. #2 FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS. USE LIVE VIEW AND CHECK YOUR FOCUS >.<* and #3 Kyoto is a little sparse on bathrooms. I blame all of my problems really on #1 I just cant pull a 48hr no sleep go at it anymore without side effects.

So I had decided it made much more sense and money sense to go to Kyoto after my shift on Monday. (I have Tuesdays off) So I roll into Kyoto around midnight~ YEAH! and Cheap A$$ that I am you know that I am not going to throw down for a hotel so what do I do? What the smart traveler who doesn’t mind smelling vaguely cigarettes usually do? A net cafe/manga kissa of course! Now if this traveler also happens to be hauling around more gear than they are comfortable falling asleep with out in the open they should stay at the OWL net cafe. It’s at most a 5 min (2min) walk from Kyoto station and has private rooms that have a door and LOCK so you can go about reading manga, visiting the drink bar and the bathroom without bringing everything with you! Now it’s best not to ponder what exactly has gone on in these rooms before you showed up but other than that its great~ I recommend the VIP cushioned floor room! Its just like a giant mattress on which you lounge, read your manga, and dont think of what might have happened before in the spot that you happen to be reclined in. Its in Japanese for the most part but check it out here. It is pricier than a regular manga kissa but that door and lock are worth the extra price for me.

After spending 3 hours there… I decided to WALK to Arashiyama…. not my best decision…. but I wanted that sunrise picture… that was ruined by clouds. By then I was cold, shaking and tired…. oh so tired… but press on! My feet were also ice blocks…. it hurt to walk. I love my Vibrams, dont get me wrong, I think they have helped me a lot… but they aren’t really made for standing still in about 0 degree temps on cold stone. So after a few not so spectacular shots at Togetsukyo Bridge. I minced my way to Tenryuji! Surprisingly enough it was open! Most places in Kyoto don’t open until 9am so I am still not sure if it was a special day/event or I just got lucky and was able to walk in with everyone else that was holding a camera. So I got a few nice pictures~ It was very picturesque. However due to  lack of sleep, and my body unable to regulate my temp into anything of the warm variety a lot of the pictures were blurred by shake. Whip out the tripod you say? Ah my friend, you have never been to Kyoto have you? In most cases and places tripods are prohibited. As in they can kick you out and request that you delete your pictures. Also as a bit of random information. You can’t/should not sell your pictures of MOST temples in Kyoto. Unless you want to pay a big fine…. Most places fall under “important cultural property”… That’s translated and I have no idea where to find it in English… But here it is in Japanese. Quite simply you CAN’T that is right, CAN’T sell photos of certain temples/buildings/and grounds without it falling into a dark gray area… in which if they catch you, you must pay a big fine.

So temples and shrines and temples upon shrines later it became very apparent that the trees were all confused this year. Where Tenryuji had some rich gorgeous colors, a little down the road everything was still green. Even the hills around Kyoto hadn’t decided if it was time to change colors or not. So all in all the though it was a nice trip it was a little underwhelming. Luckily I was able to meet a friend there and get a little off the beaten path! Unfortunately, #1 struck again. By 5pm I was dead tired. Like falling asleep during conversation tired. So had to call it an early night and head back to Nagoya.

I had a great time but if there is anything I took away from this go around its that I need sleep before attempting a full day photowalk. I also need to start using live view and concentrating on getting the focus on the first shot. So I don’t come home with 500 photos to sort through and only find around 50 nice shots~  So here are some of the shots I got~

 

Golden Doorway

 

Bamboo and Momiji~

 

Tenryuji in the Morning~

 

As you can see even in these three live view auto focus would have greatly improved them~ Sad 😦

 

So now I am contemplating what to do for my next photo trip. Maybe Takashimaya xmas display, Nagoya xmas town, or maybe the illumination in Nagashima~ Decisions, Decisions. What to do and where to go. If there is anything you would like to see in the Tokai/Chubu area comment and tell me where to go and what to shoot!