Monday, December 31, 2007

View over the River IJssel

After days of fog and frost, the sun reveals a dream-like landscape. Since the built-in light-meter is easily fooled, I over-exposed this shot by 1.5 stops.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Back from Holland

I've just returned from my Christmas vacation in the Netherlands and I couldn't wait to put a photo up. Although most of the time the weather was very foggy and cold, we had a couple of excellent days which we managed to use to the fullest and shoot lots of photos. The first week was cold and due to the fog the trees developed a white coat that was amazing the day the sun came out. Everybody with a camera was out and about and having a ball taking the most fantastic photos they have ever taken.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX APO

Monday, December 17, 2007


I'll be on vacation until the 30th. Thanks for all the hits and see you next year. :-)

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Forest Through the Trees

Now that we're getting close to the end of the year, it is the traditional time to reflect and look back at the past year.

I have to conclude that this year's trip to Japan was an enormous success: Not only did we have a truly culinary and gastronomic vacation, but for the first time I am also happy with the photos I brought back, especially the black and white photos. The travel photography course I took earlier this year really paid off, is my conclusion.
The other notable thing photography-wise this year is that now that I have my black and white photos developed via DSCL, the negatives have no fingerprints, scratches or calcium deposits on them and I get them back much quicker than via any other high-street photo shop for the same price.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Which one do you prefer?

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

The day we visited Shiragawago I was using both my DSLR and my SLR which I had loaded with an Ilford FP4+ B/W film; I usually keep to one camera for a subject but in Shiragawago I could not resist the urge to shoot left and right.
Ponder both images above which were taken from almost exactly the same location and with almost the same focal length. For the life of me, I can't decide which is the better photo. Please use the comments to let me know what you think.

Friday, December 14, 2007


There is a reason why Shiragawago features more and more often on the list of places people want to visit. And sometimes it is better to get there on a rainy day then on a sunny day. :-)

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gujo-hachiman castle

The original castle was built in 1559 by feudal lord Endo Morikazu; the castle was pulled down during the Meiji Restoration and rebuilt in 1934

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A-dome Hiroshima

The famous Hiroshima Peace Memorial, better known as the A-dome, was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall at the time of the bomb. It was the building closest to the hypocenter (150 meters/490 feet away) to withstand the explosion

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The mountain

This is one of those shots you shouldn't bother taking or put up on a photo blog but I couldn't resist on both accounts. I put the camera on the side of the bridge and let traffic drive by over the road while the mountain loomed in the background. Why do I like this photo? Because it conveys to me the feeling of the night of the Japanese countryside, not unlike the Ghibli film 'Only Yesterday' by Isao Takahata.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nakasendo- around Magome

The Nakasendo is a path which connected Kyoto and Edo (today's Tokyo) over an inland route that passed 500 kilometres (310 miles) through the centre of Japan's main island of Honshu. From Kyoto, it passed along Lake Biwa, over the mountains at Sekigahara, across the plains north of present-day Nagoya, close to the southern Japanese Alps, across the plain between Matsumoto and Karuisawa, and down to the Kanto plain which surrounds present-day Tokyo to Tokyo's predecessor, Edo.

During the Tokugawa shogunate these kinds of highways were carefully planned and constructed with stations at regular distances; providing food and lodging for travellers. Magome is the forty-third of the sixty-nine stations of the Nakasendo and you can still follow the old footpath between Magome and Tsumago, an 8 km long stretch through some of the most beautiful area of the Kiso Valley.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Wigeon (Anas penelope)

A couple of Wigeons (Dutch: Smient) on the River IJssel in Zutphen, Netherlands.
My father's hobby was to photograph birds in their natural habitat and I have tried it myself but usually I fail as the birds or animals are always looking away or are scared away the moment they hear the shutter. I've really a lot of respect for people having the patience to get the shot just right.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Saturday, December 08, 2007

All female Taiko drums

For a while now, France has had a special relation with all things Japanese. For example, years before other countries got interested in anime, it was shown daily on French TV and there were many shops where the Japanese manga were sold as translated manga was not yet heard of; instead people would learn Japanese. Where else would they show Yasujiro Ozu films on TV?
The Maison de la Culture du Japon (Japanese Cultural Centre) close to the Eiffel Tower is an excellent example of this relation. But nowhere is the relation felt stronger than in Versailles where yearly exhibitions and other Japan related activities are held. The photo above I took at the Versailles cultural centre at a performance of an all female Taiko drum group.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Views of Mount Fuji

Taken from the shinkansen at full speed. It is not a good photo, I know, as it neither shows the tranquility of the mountain nor the horrible contrast between the very industrial city in front spewing yellow and black smoke against the backdrop of the most well know scenery in Japan.

Due to travel photos like mine, the unsuspecting first-time tourist in Japan probably expects a serene environment where man and nature live in harmony. This is unfortunately besides the truth as the countryside in Japan is polluted and covered with concrete to an extend unparalleled in the rest of the world. ^_^;;
Of course, all the beautiful and pretty areas are no lie and are there, but you'll have to seek them out.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Essence of Japan

I probably have looked at too many ukiyo-e woodblock prints, but the trees silhouetted against a mountain is so recognizably Japanese to me.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Kamikochi scenery

Another black and white shot I took in Kamikochi; I kinda went a little overboard and probably shot way too many photos but it is difficult not to when the scenery is so beautiful and different every corner you turn. If you're planning a trip to Japan and you like landscape photography, include Kamikochi in your trip!

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

Built in 1991 by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Kyoto Chamber of Trade in Japan by Tanaka, a famous Japanese garden designer, to celebrate the Japan Festival in London in 1992; the garden aims to give the feel of Japan in the centre of London.

According to the ancient Chinese book of gardens, there are six different qualities to which a garden can aspire. Grouped in their traditional complementary pairs, they are: spaciousness & seclusion, artifice & antiquity, water-courses & panoramas.

Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, which I visited earlier this year, is blessed with all six qualities but, as you can imagine, it is difficult enough to create a garden with three or four of these qualities. To be fair to Kyoto Garden, I think it has three of these qualities (seclusion, artifice and water-course) but to me it is missing some of the Japanese "feel." Still, definitely worth a visit just to see how different it is from a true Japanese garden.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Monday, December 03, 2007

Obese squirrels

Holland Park is a pretty park and obviously lots of people go there to feed the squirrels who are not shy at all and will happily come up to you and take a nut from your fingers. Too many people do this apparently as the squirrels are twice as wide as the squirrels that live in our neighbourhood. My wife suggested to have a 'fat fighters' program for squirrels.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Holland Park Tube station

If you're ever in London and want to take photos of an empty tube station, Holland Park station on the Central Line is a good recommendation. It got enough inexplicable pipes, long corridors, fish-eye mirrors, decaying walls, etc. to spend some time with a camera in it.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Toden Arakawa line (2)

Two more photos I took at the Toden Arakawa tramline line, see also here. The Toden Arakawa line itself and the people on the train reminded me of being inside a Yasujiro Ozu film and therefore I'm glad I only brought my black and white camera that day.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Friday, November 30, 2007

Japanese not so secret onsen (1): Dogo onsen

Overcrowded, touristy, but immensely enjoyable would be my review for Dogo onsen in Matsuyama on Shikoku. At the entrance several different ways to enjoy the baths are offered. We took the deal that included tea and a tour around the onsen. After you're done bathing, go up in your yukata and you'll get served tea on the upper floors that are nicely shielded against the sun and wind.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: SMC Pentax35-80mm - 1:4-5.6

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Uxbridge in Black&White (2)

Detail of the Pavillions carpark entrance.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Uxbridge in Black&White (1)

I took my camera into the office and walked around Uxbridge. Uxbridge is one of those typical towns surrounding London: a concrete centre surrounded by middle class and lower middle class homes.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


One of the many ponds in Kamikochi. As soon as you get away from the famous and crowded Kappabachi a bit, it is so quiet and beautiful.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sogi Sui spring - Gujo-Hachiman

Sogi Sui water spring is the site where fifteenth century poet Sogi and local feudal lord To Tsuneyori exchanged farewell poems when the poet returned to Kyoto after visiting Gujo Hachiman.

The water is very high up on the list of Japan's 100 remarkable waters as complied by the Japanese ministry of environment.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Japanese secret onsen (4): Yunishigawa onsen

In the mountains of Tochigi province, behind Nikko, you'll find Yunishigawa onsen among others. The area is stunningly beautiful in autumn and the view from the outside baths, the rotemburo, in the cold mountain air is simply fabulous.

GPS Waypoint

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: SMC Pentax 35-80mm - 1:4-5.6

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gujō-Hachiman -.- Ayu fishing (2)

The same Yoshida river in Gujo-Hachiman as in this photo, just a little further downstream.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gujō-Hachiman town

Quite often people ask recommendations for small towns to visit in Japan and I would certainly recommend Gujo-Hachiman as it is a lovely town and has a very nice festival, the Gujo Odori, which takes place from the middle of July until early September. Every night of the Gujo Odori, 100 lanterns are lit along the riverbanks of the Yoshida River and sent downstream.
Take the Nagaragawa Tetsudo line from Mino-Ota to get to Gujo-Hachiman from Nagoya or Gifu.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Japanese secret onsen (3): Naruko onsen

You will notice immediately that you have gotten off the train in the correct station. The moment you set foot in Naruko onsen, Miyagi province, the chife of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulphide) will slap you in the face. Gradually the impact diminishes and finally attenuates to an almost pleasant intimation.

Check into your hotel or ryokan, quickly check out the bath there and buy one of the 湯巡り手形 (yumeguri-tegata) multi-passes and walk around town in your yukata and geta and visit onsen after onsen. One of the onsen, the Waseda Sanjiki-yu - see photo above, was built by students of famous Waseda university. The higher up in the town you go, the hotter the baths will get. Where the street ends and turns into a path disappearing into the woods, you'll find Takinoyu. This bath is the hottest bath I have experienced in more than 10 years of onsen hopping. Slowly lower yourself into the water, try to avoid all unnecessary movement and avoid disturbing the water touching your body that has cooled down by your body temperature.
Health warning: make sure your body can handle the temperatures and many visits to onsen in one day. ^_^

GPS Waypoint

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: SMC Pentax 35-80mm - 1:4-5.6

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Izakaya restaurant in Tokyo

This is one of the tiny restaurants frequently visited by Japanese salarymen that is not even recognized by tourists as being a restaurant; it is so tiny and lacks all obvious clues to the westerner of being a restaurant. The food is usually good and the atmosphere is relaxed and you can chat with the master. It is a pity that restaurants like these are missed so often by travelers as they add so much to the unique experience that travel to Japan can give you (IMO).

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sanford and Son Japanese style

Among the most expensive offices and Louis Vuitton shops of Ginza, Tokyo, I came across this junk dealer. Collecting recyclable stuff and selling it to make a living seems to be getting a popular occupation in today's Japan. Probably the next anime hero will be 'Recyleman!'

With the recent surge in oil prices and the Olympics next year in neighbour China, the price of recycled PET bottles has soared this year and make about 50,000 yen per ton.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Lost inside Westminster tube station

Weird how you can take a photo inside a very crowded tube station and create the impression that it is all abandoned. I guess you don't need Photoshop to change reality ^_^;;

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Monday, November 19, 2007

Italian Restaurant, Japanese style, Shibuya

Italian restaurants in Japan are visited mostly by women and couples on first dates. The salarymen prefer to go to Japanese style restaurants with their colleagues after work but when a woman needs wooing, French or Italian cuisine is the way to her heart. It probably also guarantees they won't embarrassingly bump into any colleagues by accident. :-)

The food in the Italian restaurants in Japan is often surprisingly good even though you'll find the cheese platter among the antipasti. Even the most ardent lover of Japan and Japanese cuisine gets tired after a while of not being able to read the menu and ordering food by pointing at plastic models; in such a case, the Italian and French restaurants are worth investigating to see the Japanese take on them.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Press the 'information' button for help

Buying a ticket for the underground in Japan can be difficult if you can't read Japanese or are not familiar with the system. For the tourist or for the Japanese from the countryside an information button is supplied to press when you've no idea how to get the ticket you need. When you press the button, all of a sudden a trapdoor opens and a head pops out.
We had a great laugh with the girl in the photo about how funny it looked.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Underground station, Tokyo

Train pulling into the underground station at high speed while the station master keeps a watchful eye on the passengers waiting on the platform.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Friday, November 16, 2007

St. Paul's Cathedral and the Gherkin

Another view of London from across the Thames.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Action shot of the kids having fun with their bicycles at the area reserved for skateboards and bicycles.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ira Levin dead at 78

Probably best known for his books 'A Kiss Before Dying', 'Rosemary’s Baby', 'The Stepford Wives' and 'The Boys from Brazil', I liked the little known 'This Perfect Day' best.

River Thames panoramas

As you have probably guessed, last weekend we walked along the River Thames from London Bridge to Westminster Bridge. The upper panorama covers London Bridge on the right and the Cannon Street Railway Bridge on the left. The second panorama covers St. Paul's Cathedral from in front of the Tate Modern Museum. You'll have to click through on the images and select the "full size" view to be able to appreciate the images.
I realize that to do panoramas properly, you have to find the optical centre of the lens and use a panoramic head on your tripod, but with the clever blending and scaling of the tools available, handheld photos can turn into pretty decent panoramas. For the stitching process explained very well, have a look here.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"What is the color when black is burned?"

In his song "I'm a Child" Neil Young asks this question and it has been puzzling fans for decades now. Lots of people think that the answer to that pseudo-riddle is 'dark black' , but everybody who has cleaned out a fireplace or a BBQ knows that the answer is ash colour or even white. :-)

Of course, the answer doesn't matter, the question is: why does Neil ask this question in a song about childhood? I always thought that it was an example of one of those difficult questions children can ask leaving the parent baffled, but maybe you have a different explanation.

I am a child, I'll last a while.
You can't conceive
of the pleasure in my smile.

Southwark Bridge panorama

Southwark Bridge is an arch bridge for traffic linking Southwark and the City across the River Thames. This is a panorama built up from 4 photos and even though the panorama is not perfect, it makes for a stunning image.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Monday, November 12, 2007

Onion seller

Borough Market, close to London Bridge Tube station, is London’s oldest food market. The guy in the photo was unloading onions and tying them up to sell them. He certainly looks the part of a French onion seller as they are pictured in UK TV comedies. :-)

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Writer Norman Mailer Dead at 84

After Joseph Heller dying in 1999, with the death of Norman Mailer another one of my favourite authors has passed away. His later works I like best: An American dream, 1965; Ancient Evenings, 1983; Harlot's Ghost, 1991; The Gospel According to the Son, 1997.

A (non-scientific) QuickVote on the CNN webpage revealed that 22% of the voters had read one of his books; I have to say that I find that rather high judging by my colleagues and friends who can quote any TV program but think you are insane when you quote literature.  ^_^;;

Jazz street musicians

The Embankment in London, close to the London Eye, is usually packed with jugglers, magicians, living statues and other attractions trying to make a couple of pounds off the tourists. Today these two trumpetists and their drummer spiced up things a lot underneath the Hungerford bridge for natural amplification with some hot jazz.

The image above was compiled out of three photos. I didn't have the intention to stitch the photos together when I took them but I discovered that there was enough overlap to do so. The only problem left was that if I wanted some space above the guy on the left, I needed to fill in the space above the head of the guy on the right as the angles had been different. Luckily a third photo provided me with enough of the underside of the bridge to make it work (for the not too critical eye).

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Asashōryū in stone?

The resemblance between the Sumo yokozuna Asashoryu and this ojizo-san in Gifu is striking. Quite often several ojizo-san statues are found in the same place and it is common for Japanese to look around for the one resembling themselves.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Friday, November 09, 2007


The train bridges of Tokyo are everywhere and it is easy to ignore them, but the colours and rust all of a suddenly make it worth taking a closer look.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Colourful kabocha

Squash sold at the outdoor market in Takayama. They're meant for decoration only and the orange colour will certainly appeal to the clients as it is considered to bring fortune.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Society in Japan revolves around omiyage, or souvenirs, or so it seems. The economy certainly does, or did, until an avalanche of food scandals rocketed the market recently. You cannot return from the tiniest trip, business or pleasure, without bringing back omiyage for your co-workers, friends, neighbours and family. The most desirable omiyage is some local produce of food. One big drawback of this practice is that quite often the many identical omiyage shops take over a beautiful location leaving only a tourist trap. Buying the T-shirt is more important than having actually seen the location. Miyajima and Matsushima are excellent examples of this.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Magome panorama -.- PTGui versus Photoshop

During my trip to Japan I took a couple of photos with the idea of turning them into panoramas; my previous experiments with the Photomerge feature of Photoshop had worked out really well and I was sure that it would be perfect for vacation shots as it would give me the image of the view that I remembered. However, the photos I brought back yielded pretty disappointing results in Photomerge. I shoot in RAW and while processing the files, I had followed the rules and made sure that all photos used the same white-balance, etc. However, the stitching was very apparent in the result, most notably in the sky and clouds, and I dropped the whole plan.

This weekend I revisited the idea and decided the pull down the trial version of PTGui and, surprise, surprise, the result didn't give me the same problems and, in fact, looked pretty good. All of a sudden it was my photos that were showing their weaknesses and not the tool anymore. The fact that PTGui supports 16bit images seems to make all the difference in preventing banding in the sky.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO