Armed, but not dangerous, at least not yet….

So as I have said in an earlier post my camera is coming along more often. As much as I love my camera bag and everything that I can bring along sometimes it is just not as shoulder friendly as I would like it to be. So I am trying to cut down on what I bring and trying to go camera only. Half the time it feels as if I am walking around naked, I miss the bag that much. While it took a little bit of getting used to it made it easier to get some shots as I didn’t have an unwieldy bag to haul around. Fully loaded for a day trip my bag probably weighs more than it should and I guess that is my fault for wanting to be prepared for everything. I am horrible at packing suitcases too, not just camera bags.  With just my camera, my 18-200mm lens, a few filters, and lens cloths it is a much lighter load, so I can get around a bit easier and stay active a little bit longer as the weight doesn’t drag me down. I went to USJ and hit the local park like this. Even forgoing my tripod! I have to say on one hand I am happy with some of my shots, while on the other I was longing for the bag and every little bit of magic it contains.
So since there is a little blur in Mel’s diner, don’t hold it against me! Shot in the cold, without a tripod, shaking hands were kind of a problem.

I also hit up my local park and was able to use my Kenko Pro 1D AC CLOSE-UP #3. The effect it gave was varied and it created a kind of “slice” of focus which was very hard to work with. I think I really need to hit the gym more also to help take care of this shaking hands. Not sure if it’s just me or if everyone’s hands get shaky after holding up the 7D for long periods of time. Needless to say the tripod would have probably came in handy again here but I didn’t have it on me.

As you can see very little is actually in sharp focus. So this little guy will take a lot more work to get decent at.

While I like the effect on flowers, I’m not quite sure what else I will use it on.

So while I have been using it more and going to try to get it out even more often I find that I always want my bag when I don’t have it. And and I don’t want to carry it when I do. Such is life I guess.

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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~
image

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!

What’s in a Name?

I am a big fan of Patrick Rothfuss. If you know who I am talking about then double extra bonus points for you! I have just finished re-re-re-re(maybe one more re-) reading his two books while I am awaiting the third and something struck me as interesting. I HATE NAMING my photos or entitling them if you will. I believe in a way it detracts from them! Well for the most part, sometimes I will find something that just works. If you have read the book or thee books then you will know why this is relevant.

So here is my question for you…. Do you enjoy naming your photos? If so why? I find it one of the hardest parts of my photography. In fact if you check out my G+ page you will find of a lot of the photos are named… Why you ask? Because I feel like its a failure on my part if there isn’t a name along with my photos. But at the same time I feel that in a way I am forcing my view upon whoever is viewing my photos. Maybe they don’t see the same thing, maybe it creates a different feeling, maybe there is some other connection that just isn’t there for me and by titling my photo I have now taken that chance away.  AAAAHHHHH THE PRESSURE!!!

This is especially true of photos of people or animals, for the most part I focus on nature and landscapes but sometimes…. ahhh sometimes its just too cute or too perfect to pass up and when I get it home and load it up its still perfect! But it will just sit there…. in an abandoned folder on my hard drive lost forever due to the fact I can’t, or won’t name it! *sigh* There is a literally a folder… and the folder itself was just left as “unnamed”.

The pressure… I pretty sure there are people out there that would love a job to just sit around a name photos, to be honest it would be a fun job, but I would still be afraid I am taking away something that someone else may see by the simple action of slapping a name on it!

 

 

THE BOX

THE BOX, you either love it or you hate it! Then again there are those of us that just don’t really care 😉

If you haven’t figured it out we are talking about Instagram. Arguably the most popular photo sharing social media site out there. Started in mmnnmnm (What Anne means is “October 2010” – K) and now owned by the Big Blue Giant FB the box hasn’t changed.

I use instagram…. >.>…. sometimes. My screen name is Chimera_Refelections. I usually don’t post a lot of mobile photography per say as much as I take my camera shots and crop them to fit the box. I also hate trying to hashtag all my photos.

I happen to use G+ for a lot of my mobile shots now. Even before it changed owners I wasn’t a big user and after well…. I felt much less likely to use it. From my previous trip I posted a few shots of Fu but other than that I haven’t done much. In all honesty if I used it more it would probably be pics of my daily life (which I assume is what its supposed to be) and my dog.

Her first ocean wave~

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Being the stupid perfectionist that I tend to be when it comes to my photography I don’t like posting half thought out shots and thats what most of my mobile shots are. My bf on the other hand is an instagram pro, his screen name is shirokodogg  and he spends HOURS and HOURS (small exaggeration……not really pretty sure he spent an hr on some of those photos) getting that perfect instagram shot. He works from within the box to begin with and doesn’t crop. I on the other hand can’t spend that much time doing so with my phone. I like being able to enjoy the moments as the come rather than record them as they go.  Especially if I didn’t bring my big camera for just that reason. I am one of those people who get upset, well FURIOUS, at those people who can’t put their phone down and just enjoy dinner or the park or wherever we are. Also I hate it when my phone dies and the camera and auto-upload with G+ are two things that drain my battery!

I, on the other hand, use Instagram quite a bit.  You can find me as kwaterloo.  As per my previous post, I use it more to share moments in my life with my friends and family.  I do equal parts bringing a photo in to Instagram and simply using the camera feature within Instagram.  It depends on how quickly I want to get the shot.  And I don’t typically spend a whole lot of time perfecting a photo.  I worry less about “does this photo look amazing?” and more about “will this photo remind me of the experience I was having at the time?”  

My evening.

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I was very hesitant of using Instagram at first, but once I took those first steps, I broke out into a run into the Instagram craze.  I don’t have it linked to my Facebook or my Twitter.  I have more friends on Facebook and don’t necessarily want to flood their news feeds with pictures of my cats (read: they would not enjoy being flooded with pictures of my cats).  

Disco… Are… Are you trying to seduce me?!?

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And then this happens.

A post shared by Kate Waterloo (@kwaterloo) on

But I am considering connecting it to my Twitter, just for shits and giggles.  I feel like Twitter would appreciate my cat pics more than Facebook would.  I tend to be one of those people that’s always on my phone.  But I think that has more to do with the fact that I’ve had a smartphone for less than a year and am still mesmerized by the whole experience.  If I am at dinner or out somewhere with a friend, what I usually do is snap a quick picture and deal with Instagram later.  That way I get to capture the moment and enjoy it!  

Daytrippin Bag, What do I carry?

This is sorta a what’s in my bag but not really as this is more specific for traveling all in one bag. Much harder than it sounds! Especially as a woman! So its more of a what you SHOULD have in your bag for day trips! (photos in this post were taken with the HTC One)

I recently just took a 3 day adventure with

http://www.Centrair.Jp/en/japantravel/
http://Go-centraljapan.Jp/en/
https://www.facebook.com/Centraljapan.Jp and https://www.facebook.com/japantravel.nagoya?refid=17

You can check out my photos on my FB or G+(Anne Vornbrock) as I am in the process of uploading them.

 

Here in Japan a lot of travel is done by train and bus so you are a little limited space wise. You shouldn’t have something that is too bulky or too big  or awkward you know just something would become a concern to others. For my 3 day adventure I decided to break in my new bag!! it was the first trip with this monster and I am ever so happy I decided to get it. Well thats not true, it was a gift for our 2yr anniversary from the BF, but all the same I am happy I insisted on this one! And even happier it was on sale when we bought it and IT WAS THE LAST ONE! So I am sincerely thankful to whatever photo deities were watching out for me on that day. I have a Kata Bumblebee 222-UL.kata

 

The bag is gorgeous in my opinion and fits my needs. Of course there are a few things I would change but I won’t get into that too much here. The two big things I would change are: I would attach the weather and rain cover somewhere on the bag permanently! Secondly I wish I could get some type of cover for the straps! They are amazing don’t get me wrong I have never had a bag that felt as nice as this one does on but let me tell you that material will rip your hair out. It just seems to catch it. You can check out more about the bag here –>> http://www.kata-bags.com/bumblebee-222-ul-for-1-2-pro-dslr-w-70-200-lens-4-lenses

Anyway the first thing I pack is…. Bug repellant! Sounds funny I know but nothing is worse than sitting in the grass to get a shot and getting eaten alive while doing so! In Japan they make these nice little devices you can wear or attach to whatever you like that look much like an oversized wristwatch that keep everything away. It’s light, lasts for hours, no smell and no chemicals on your skin! So I dont have to worry about touching my equipment or reapplying it. I just attach mine to my bag and go for the most part. If I know I am going to be moving into a highly infested area such as tall grass I will move it to my ankle or wrist and then I am good to go. The device looks like this

bug

There are a few other things I always have in my bag that have been lifesavers or well camera savers! The first is rain gear for my baby. There are many different types and I guess it depends on what you will be exposing your camera too. I didnt want it to take up much room or cost me an arm and a leg. So I went with a soft type I can fold and stick in a pocket. This means that though I shouldn’t pull out my camera in the driving rain I can get by. I usually carry an umbrella also so this isn’t a huge deal but it gives me piece of mind. On the body without a lens it looks like this.

Of course I will need my camera. Here is a shot of the Canon 7D and strap. I love this camera! I started out with Canon Rebel XTi when it first came out. I stuck with it until my sister needed a camera and I wanted an upgrade. So I passed it down and went almost a year without a camera! Needless to say this is my second baby, my dog being my first 😉

 

Now all the camera stuff that I bring on a day trip or a 3 day trip. Here is my everyday head out with the camera stuff.  I always have an extra battery which I forgot to throw in this photo but I do carry one extra fully charged battery. Of course my battery charger for the just in case I blow through two. My two travel lenses which are a 18-200mm and a prime 50mm. I have found these two work best for my needs and that way I don’t have to carry extra weight. I of course carry an array of filters. On the 18-200mm I usually have my Kenko C-PL W filter on and ready but I also carry a macro, a ND 8(w), and 8x-cross for the 72mm and just a ND 4 for the 58mm. I carry my lens cleaners in a small clutch thing because well, I have a dog who sheds, and sheds small light brownish-red hair that gets EVERYWHERE and so as an extra step of protection I keep them in their own little pouch. Same with the blue bag. It holds an air blower and a Hakuba Sensor Klear 2 which I use on everything BUT my sensor!! It great for cleaning the eyepiece or getting a difficult smudge off glass. It works great for that!  IF I am going to do a sensor cleaning I buy a brand new one and use it once and then it goes into the blue bag. I am terrified of ruining  my sensor so to say the least I am paranoid about cleaning it. The blue bag also carries two extra cards in their own cases in case I fill my main one. You will notice I don’t have a speed light! I am hopefully getting one this month and then that will also be added to this pile along with a soft cover~

 

Following all the camera stuff there is of course my personal basics that I usually don’t leave home without for the most part whether it’s in the camera bag or in the purse. Some of these are specific to living in Japan while others are not. So we will start top left and just go around and around until we reach the center! Sound good? Good! Get ready! Here we go! First is a face powder, not that I’m vain but this powder also helps keep the grease off the LCD of the camera not to mention a matte face 😉 Then I always carry a pen! Black ink and this one is 1.0. I love the look it gives my crazy handwriting and if i need to jot something down it is readily available. Of course I have my phone charger. Its micro USB so it also works for two more things in this mess, bonus points for you if you can guess them! I have a mini-man fan! This fan is particularly aimed at men here in Japan its small and black but it fits my needs perfectly and boy do you need it some days in japan! I also carry a watch and sunglasses. Not just to be on time and look cool but so I also can plan out when to be where.  I then have a mirror, again for the vain part of me but also to help reflect light and in some cases act as a backdrop to something small. Going along with the small things I always carry a mini tripod so I don’t need to worry about setting my directly on the ground. Sand in the battery compartment is a serious issue! I try to carry a travel toothbrush and toothpaste because well… it just seems nice to do. It’s hard to see but yes that brown thing underneath the toothbrush is actually my house key. Can’t leave home without it! I also carry my train IC cards. Not only to get from place to place but these lovely things also work in convenience stores here in Japan making a run for a bottle a lot easier than fumbling for change. I of course carry my Kindle for relaxing on the train at night when I can’t really get a nice shot or just if I need a little down time. The white thing which is a little blown-out (sorry) is an extra battery for anything that you can use an USB cable with. Bonus points awarded to you if you guessed these to items! They can be charged using a micro-usb charger! I tend to also carry a wet wipe. These help for sticky fingers after lunch. The bright red case is mints, again why not? The small pink cloth is a necessity here in Japan as many bathrooms don’t have hand dryers or towels so its pretty much bring your own! I usually also have tissues, because along with no dryers or towels many bathrooms also do not have toilet paper… a definitely scary prospect if you are ever caught without! Next is my camera remote just in case I need a night shot or a selfie. The white thing its on is actually a stack of blank business cards which are great for carrying and jotting things down.  I haven’t gotten around to designing my own business cards yet but it’s on my to-do list for this year! A hair band! My hair is the longest its been since I was a child so I need this, always!  A business card holder is the small black and silver things just in case I get handed one. Chapstick! Again not vain but a necessity when traveling in trains and buses as it is usually dry, dry, dry, air. A small LED flashlight for pin pointing night shots or light painting or even illuminating the path ahead! FLOSS!! Beyond its capability of also acting as string 😉 It is also another thing that well why not? Finally my i-pod just in case the Kindle isn’t enough to relax me. Very hard to see but under the i-pod is a small container which contains ibuprofen for those days when lighting seems to strike and thunder seems to pound in my head.  That is all that I carry in more of a personal arena. It may seem like a lot but for me everything is kind of an necessity. The only other thing I can think of, but I had used all of it and thrown the container away, is sunscreen it is a MUST in my book!

 

That is all I regularly carry in my bag for small trips not including clothes and make-up and other things that surprisingly fit in this bag very well! I usually dont bring my tripod as it makes the bag a little unwieldy. This again though depends on the trip and if I think it is a necessity to get the shots I want! Going on day trips is something I greatly enjoy here in Japan. Its the perfect country for it if you don’t mind the train! If you are over here or make it over here and want to go on a photo trip just drop me a line! I’m always up for travel even if it’s some place I have been before! Hope you travel safe and prepared for whatever the world throws at you and your camera!

 

Remember it isn’t the camera that makes the photographer, it’s the eye behind it.

~Anne