Friday, August 31, 2007

Omikuji tied around a wire

Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.

When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree in the temple grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb 'to wait' (待つ matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer should keep it.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm - 1:3.5-5.6 DC

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pont du Langlois -.- Arles

The famous Pont du Langlois, as portrayed several times by Vincent van Gogh still exists today although it has been moved a couple of meters. This move and the environment having changed considerably made it impossible to get the same angle.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mumm Cordon Rouge

We did the Mumm factory tour in 2002 and I would certainly recommend people visiting Reims to take a tour of one of the champagne factories. Did you know that Mumm has 25km of tunnels/cellars below their factory? Seeing the very old vintages laid up in the dark was a sight to see. The tour includes with a free glass of champagne, so what is there to lose?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Standerdmolen -.- Openluchtmuseum, Arnhem

Always worth a visit, the Openluchtmuseum in Armhem. My favourite part is the pancake house. If you haven't tried a real Dutch pancake yet, you'll be in for a treat.
My favourite part of this photo is the "Dutch" sky so well known from old paintings but rarely seen in Holland.

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

Puerto de Mogán

The company I worked wanted to stick the heads together and come up with some creative ideas and brought everybody over to Gran Canaria for a meeting. We had a day off and I rented a car and drove around the island. In Puerto de Mogán I ran into some bad weather :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Venice -.- View from Ponte di Rialto

My colour photos from Venice were not particularly good, but I get more and more pleasure in the Black&White photos I took.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Shinkansen at Nagoya Station

A 300 Series shinkansen (bullet-train) at Nagoya station in the 90's with the JR Central Towers's construction just started in the background. After finishing the JR Central Towers in 1999, it became the world's largest train station by floor area (446,000 m²)

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Photographers' Gallery

Today we visited the Photographers' Gallery near Leicester Square in London. If you haven't visited it yet, I would highly recommended that you do. I liked The Hitcher (Chris Coekin) exhibition as a concept and the I’m a Real Photographer (Keith Arnatt) exebition.

I picked up a book that I just had to have: Subway Love by Nobuyoshi Araki who you might know from his nudes. This book is about all the photos he took while commuting to work. It is a fabulous collection. If only I dare to take photos in the subway and trains in Japan next month...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hiraizumi (平泉町)

Hiraizumi (平泉町) in Iwate Prefecture hosts some beautiful historical monuments and sites which are on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Hiraizumi was the neutral terrain where I met my, at that time, girlfriend's parents for the first time when our relationship got more serious. After our marriage my in-laws relaxed a bit ^_^;;

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: SMC Pentax F1:4-5.6 35-80mm

Chrome Dreams II

The Neil Young webpage announced the release this autumn of Chrome Dreams II which will feature one of Neil Young's best songs which, weirdly enough, has never been released on one of his official CDs: Ordinary People. We know of the song from concerts and bootlegs and it has the most extraordinary lyrics.

I just read that Chrome Dreams II will be released with a Bonus CD with a track from 'The Riverboat' performances in February 1968; which track depends on where you buy your copy of Chrome Dreams II. Since the 'The Riverboat' will be disc 1 in the Archives, by buying enough Chrome Dreams II CDs you can compile your own version of the 'The Riverboat' concert a year before it will be officially released. ^_^

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sheep in the Peak District

Talk about having only a fraction of a second to raise the camera, pick the aperture, focus and take the picture. I tried taking pictures of sheep before, but the moment you start walking around them they become aware of you and turn around and walk away. I'm quite happy with the framing of this photo.

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Miyajima, the famous floating torii

One of the nicest places to visit in Japan is Miyajima, a small island easily accessible from Hiroshima and famous for the Itsukushima Shrine and its floating torii. True, the town of Miyajima is a tourist trap that I normally would recommend avoiding with the deer and souvenir shops, but the walk up to Mt. Misen (弥山, 530 meters) makes it all worthwhile. If you are healthy, skip the ropeway and follow the footpath instead, it takes about an hour. I enjoyed that so tremendously, walking through the woods, the serenity of  the hidden temples ringing their bells occasionally; it really felt for the first time like I had imagined Japan to be.

Monday, August 20, 2007


We used to live close to Auvers-sur-Oise where Vincent van Gogh worked and died. The church he so famously painted, the house of Dr. Paul Gachet and L’Auberge Ravoux where Vincent Van Gogh spent his final months are all still there and can be visited. A little walk away, in the fields, the graveyard is located where you can find the final resting place of both Vincent and his brother Theo van Gogh, who died six months later.

Tanja -.- our first Dachshund

We went out to buy a Cocker Spaniel and came back with a Dachshund. She loved to hunt and chase rabbits; she never really caught anything. ^_^

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lighthouse at Dyrhólaey, Iceland

On the way to Vík í Mýrdal, there is a tiny road that will bring you to a nature preserve and an amazing black beach with a steep road leading you up to the lighthouse with a view over the  gigantic black arch of lava known as Dyrhólaey.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm - 1:3.5-5.6 DC

Train at Zutphen station

I probably took this photo at the same day as we went to Emmerich to visit the train show there. This is of course a Dutch train, one of the Materieel '64 (Mat '64) trains that are still running today on a couple of routes.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Temple church

The powerful and mysterious Knights Templar built the Temple church in the late 12th century. After featuring in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown it became a very popular place for tourists to visit, but don't let this be a reason to snub the place. It is easy to understand why Dan Brown couldn't resist speculating about the mysteries surrounding the Knights Templar and the the Temple Mount they occupied in Jerusalem after the First Crusade of 1096 which was believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. So many of the Templar legends are connected with what relics the Templars may have found there. The Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, a piece of the True Cross, the head of Saint Euphemia of Chalcedon and the Shroud of Turin as the most commonly rumoured. Enough material left for a couple more Indiana Jones films. ^_^;;

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Get one of the boules closer to the wooden ball called a cochonnet than the other team and your team wins. Discuss the result, then do it again. Drink some wine at the local café, and do it again. Everybody who has been to the South of France has seen the people playing pétanque in the parks and on the town squares. I spent hours watching the old men playing the game; admiring their skill at shooting or pointing.
But not only in France: Once I watched an elderly French man walk up to some Swedish students playing pétanque in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm asking to join their game. The confident youths invited him over almost patronizingly, however already the first round it became clear that youth and muscles were no match for skill. He kicked their asses, time and time again!

I took the photo above in the park they built where Les Halles used to be, on top of the shopping centre. No doubt immigrants from the South of France. ^_^

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: SMC Pentax F1:4-5.6 35-80mm

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


We went to visit the Temple Church on a Saturday only to discover that the visiting hours didn't start until 12:30. We had some time to kill and then you find out that everything is closed on a Saturday morning in the City of London. We walked around for a while and finally discovered a Starbucks that was actually open, but, unusually for a Starbucks, it was deserted like the rest of that part of London.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Inside Senlis Cathedral

The chairs inside the Senlis Cathedral were just too tempting of a subject. The lighting was really difficult to attempt the large field of depth I intended. Luckily I could stabilize the camera on the first row of chairs.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: SMC Pentax F1:4-5.6 35-80mm

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mont Saint-Michel in Black&White

After previously posting some of my colour photos of Saint-Michel, I just finished scanning in the black and white picture I had taken with a subsequent visit. I prefer the angles I picked on this visit. To me it shows that subsequent visits of the same subject, years apart in this case, can be very helpful to take better compositions. I like the space in these photos and the added mystery that comes with the graininess of the black and white photo. On the other hand, they could have been sharper and a better filter might have cut better through the haziness of the village in the distance although, on the other hand, this adds to the atmosphere.

Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lenses: SMC Pentax F1:4-5.6 35-80mm

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Road in the Cotswolds

A couple of times a year we like to drive through the Cotswolds to enjoy the scenery and visit the Daylesford Organic Farmshop for a late English Breakfast. ^_^;;

The above photo didn't come out at all, it had none of the image that made me pull over and take the shot until I cropped it into a panorama which sort of gave me the view I had had through the windshield of my Audi.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm - 1:3.5-5.6 DC

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Maiskogel Sell am See

For several years in a row we visited Niedernsill in Austria as it was close to the Europasportregion Zell am See - Kaprun but was still a tiny little village without the tourist circus of Kaprun and Sell am See. We would take the ski bus from Niedernsill to Kaprun or Sell to ski and return in the evening for the more important after-ski.  One area we always loved in Sell was the Maiskogel; lots of friendly slopes through forest and stunning views of the Alps. Because the Maiskogel is located really low and already suffered from lack of snow the last couple of years we went, I wonder if the area is open at all in recent years...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gero Onsen Photo Gallery

Another step further in trying to get an idea of the place we will be covering during our upcoming September trip: Have a look at the Gero Onsen photo gallery made available by Michael Cheng. I now start to get sort of an impression of what to expect.

Click here for the Google Maps satellite image.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Discover Gujo Hachiman

In the series of posts about our upcoming September trip, I had a better look at Gujo Hachiman. The council of the village has created a very nice webpage for the tourist. I never knew that the plastic food replicas were first used in Gujo Hachiman; I guess that'll be a museum we won't be visiting. ^_^;; One thing that I'll be looking forward to would be the Ayu (Japanese Trout) fishing. We will be too late for the Gujo Odori festival, which is a pity as they will be floating every night of the festival 100 lit lanterns along the riverbanks of the Yoshida River which would make a great photo.

I found this gallery of Gujo Hachiman photos very impressive with its overview of many details of the village.

Click here for the Google Maps satellite image.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

View of Mount Ena from Magome

Another post resulting from my searching the web for interesting photos of the places that we will be visiting during our September trip. Have a look for a gallery of photos of Magome in the Kiso Valley that caught my eye here.

Magome is part of the Nakasendō (中山道) which was one of the five routes of the Edo period, and one of the two that connected Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto. The most famous remaining section of the original stone paved road lies between Magome and Tsumago and we will take the walk between these two towns.

Click here for a satellite photo of Magome at Google Maps.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nighttime bokeh -.- Japan trip Project 2

Have a look at this picture I came across when browsing photos about Japan: Raining in Ginza, it is what is called a bokeh which is a photographic term referring to distorted out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a camera lens. The Japanese term bokeh stems from ピントが暈ける (pinto ga bokeru - out of focus) where ピント is an imported word from the Dutch: 'brandpunt'.

The 2nd project I have set myself is to try a couple of these photos when we'll be staying in Tokyo. I asked around at Usenet and got the following answer from Floyd L. Davidson:

Position yourself where everything in the near foreground is dark. Set the camera to the widest f/stop, focus it just slightly closer than the nearest object that is well enough light to be distinguishable in the image.

Then expose at a relatively fast shutter speed and look at the histogram it produces. Change the shutter speed to position the brightest parts of the image almost to the right side of your histogram. Ideally that would be with the aperture wide open, but if you run out of shutter speed range it may be necessary to use an ND filter, or stop the lense down slightly.

The problem with stopping down the lense is loss of what everyone has been saying is "great bokeh". With the aperture wide open it produces circular out of focus highlights, but if the lense is stopped down they will be the shape of your aperture. If you do have a great lense it won't be bad (if you have a 9 bladed shutter it might even be great!), but it won't be the same as the example image.

The focus point, and the relative distances to highlight objects, will affect how the image looks. Hence you might want to look for a location where all objects are about the same distance (relatively, and keeping in mind that focal length of the lense will affect how relative that is) if you want the out of focus circles to look all similar.

In any case, you'll have a very hard time judging what they look like through the viewfinder. It probably won't be all that easy to tell looking at an LCD display either! So take several exposures, each with the focus at slightly different points. And then switch focal lengths and do it again!

Additional information of Ray Fischer summarizes it well:

Skip the light meter and use manual exposure. The nice thing about digital cameras is that you can try many different versions without spending money.

At ISO400 I'd start at f2.8 and, say a 30th of a second. Don't reduce the aperture by much if you want the blur.

Kamikochi, Nagano-ken

I have been browsing the Internet for information about the places we will be visiting in September. In preparation of the many photos I want to take I want to get an as good as possible mental picture of the area especially since I will have only a limited amount of time there. The following gallery shows some very good photos of Kamikochi, Nagano-ken which will also be the highlight of our trip. I'm really looking forward to it already.

Click here for a satellite photo of Kamikochi at Google Maps.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Château Guiraud Premier Cru Sauternes

Yesterday we picked up half a bottle of Château Guiraud Sauternes to have together with a some Brie and blue cheese. The partially raisined grapes, due to the noble rot of the Botrytis cinerea fungus, give a very sweet wine with a stunning yellow colour.
The vineyards at Guiraud currently comprise 100 hectares of vines, of which 85 are committed to the production of traditional Sauternes, without doubt the grand vin, which is named Chateau Guiraud, whereas the remaining 15 are used in the production of the estate's dry wine, G de Guiraud.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Photo Stitching Digital Panoramas -.- Project 1

Ever since creating the panoramas of photos I took in Paris, see also here, I'm very keen on experimenting some more with these kinds of photos. Therefore project 1 for my upcoming Japan trip will be the creation of some panoramas. As you can see, the above panorama is far from perfect and therefore I have been reading up on the best way to prepare for this. This webpage gives a very thorough description of the process.  It is worth checking out the other tutorials they have on that page too, it is very rare to find such great information all collected on one page.
I might even invest a couple of  €'s and buy me PTGui, but I intend to try first with the Photoshop PhotoMerge Panorama included in Photoshop Elements 5.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Zutphen -.- Hansetown

 With my family still living in Zutphen, the Netherlands, I visit there quite often. Zutphen's history goes back over 1700 years. It started out as a Germanic town on on the right bank of the IJssel at the influx of the river Berkel during Roman times and received city rights in 1190 or 1196 and is therefore one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. During the Dutch Revolt, or Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), on 17 November 1572 the town was taken by the Spaniards and so many men were killed that the river IJssel turned red of the blood as tradition recalls it.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Japan trip September 2007 schedule

We have now finalized our trip to Japan next month. Here is the schedule after arriving at Narita:

  • Hanamaki (Iwate)
  • Gero Onsen (Gifu)
  • Kamikochi (Nagano)
  • Takayama (Gifu)
  • Shirakawago (Ishikawa)
  • Nagoya (Aichi)
  • Gujo-Hachiman (Gifu)
  • Magome (Nagano)
  • Tokyo

I'm now trying to come up with 2 or 3 photo projects that I want to focus on. Apart from walking around and just snapping away I want to have it clear in my mind what to focus on. I have been looking at other photographers' galleries lately and this body of work by Andrew Chang really gave me some great ideas.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Izakaya restaurants -.- 居酒屋

When in Japan, make sure you visit Izakaya restaurants to get a taste of lots of different Japanese cuisine. It's like a pub or a bar where together with the drinks you order food. Then you order more drinks and more food and some more drinks, etc.  ^_^;;

You can recognize the restaurants by the red lantern outside.

Japanese secret onsen (2): Yunohira Onsen

Yunohira Onsen Town (湯平温泉) is a picturesque small town on Kyushu about 20 minutes by train from Yufuin on the JR line that connects Oita with Yufuin. A bus service operates between the Yunohira train station and the town and only takes a couple of minutes.
The town slopes along the river with many small cobblestone roads, boardwalks and bridges. Yunohira 's hot springs have been valued as curing water for the stomach and intestines for many years. Many of the locals do not have bathing facilities in their homes and use the onsen as public baths which gives us a great chance to bathe with the friendly people of the village after their return from work. I recommend a stay there as the town is magical at night. Click here for the Google map location of the town.