UENO PARK, TOKYO

Last year we missed the blooming sakura, Tokyo’s famous cherry trees. One of the most famous is Ueno park, truly breathtaking in the middle of a city of 40M.

Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.5 USM.

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Down the main path – the sky was filled with blossoms.

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As with everywhere in Tokyo, there were large crowds. Everyone enjoying Hanami;

is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, "flower" in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms ("sakura") or (less often) plum blossoms ("ume").[1] From the end of March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan,[2]

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Truly spectacular. Should have brought some sake to sit with the crowds …

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TREE TRIMMING AND CONES, TOKYO

As I wandered around Chofu I started to get lost. Fortunately I had my iPhone and used it to locate where I was and where I had left the car. Somehow I had gotten quite far off track so I cut through a park to get closer.

I came across these gents heading out for work. They were trimming trees in their tiny little truck. There seems to be a lot of little specialty vehicles in Japan.

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You are not allowed to do a lot of things in the park. The “no golfing” was the one that caught my eye.

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I do not know why, but apparently this guy is a lucky man. Why does his poster have English on it? You have got me.

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I wandered past a train station. It seemed like everyone on the platform was looking at their phone.

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It never stops amazing me how many bikes there are in Tokyo. Probably one of the reasons why there are very few obese people in Japan, they all ride bikes (and don’t eat western fast food). The bikes are everywhere on the streets and at certain train stations, they even have their own parking lot.

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A friend of mine is constantly writing about the cone culture in Japan. They are literally everywhere and often, head scratchers. Cone madness.

The “this is a sidewalk” coning.

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The “garden in waiting” coning.

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The “please don’t walk into my air conditioner that is closely tucked away and you would never hit it anyway” coning.

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My final shots of Chofu. As you walk through Tokyo, a land of 40 million, you will also come across random plots of land that have remained farm land. This “farm land” is often crammed in between apartment buildings and 2 story houses that are 500 square feet per level (including land).

And like so many farmers that I know, they have a tough time throwing things out. You never know when you will need it …

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A greenhouse waiting for spring.

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Love the look of this building. I cannot begin to guess the age.

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A good wander.

CANON’s HDR

I love the Canon 5D Mark III. The only thing that I wish it had was integrated GPS. I have to use a GP-E2 which connects to the hot shoe – I find it bulky.

One of my favorite features is the HDR. It is a little trick shooting hand-held HDR with the camera as you get some odd effects and at times it will end up out of alignment. That is why I use the setting which keeps all of the pre-HDR shots. If the HDR shot doesn’t work, I can process one of the others.

It is much more convenient than doing it post processing and candidly, I just don’t have enough time to be fiddling and building the images. Sure, it means that the chances of my shots getting to the front page of 500px are nominal, but so be it.

While on my “Chofu wander” I was mixing between hand held HDR and “normal” shots with my 28-300mm lens. I accidentally selected emboss. It came out quite interesting.

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Not sure I would use this setting other than by accident?

THE TAJ MAHAL, INDIA (part 2)

The Taj Mahal, wonder of the world, ode to love. Well an ode to his 3rd wife. Not sure how first 2 felt when he embarked on this 25 year building spree to remember her.

None the less, one of the “must sees” when in India.

Our first glimpse was from down the river. It was a little bit hazy, but luckily not foggy and the sun was coming out. (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM).

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Once past the gates you come to the large entrance – effectively called “The great gate”

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Our first peek at the Taj Mahal.

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As we walked through the gate it came into full view. It was quite a unique experience.

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Even thought it was an official holiday, it was not as busy as I had expected. But there were a lot of Indians. With the recent collapse of the rupee there has been a sharp decline in travel abroad as Indians looked to more affordable travel within the country.

Unfortunately, this means that if you are a local, you can expect a very, very long line. Fortunately, as foreigners we were able to skip the lines. The lines wrapped around the Taj Mahal multiple times.

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And on that note, what else is there to say? It is the Taj Mahal. A spectacular monument that you simply stand back and soak in.

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A unique Christmas day.

THE BLUE DOOR, OLD DELHI, INDIA

One of my favorite shots in India. We were wandering down the back alleys and I happened to look left. What is behind the door?

Config: Canon 5D Mark III (I love my Canon), Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM.

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I also posted this shot to 500px. I don’t know why but whenever I post to that site (I do it sporadically) it always feels like I am entering a competition …. the shot did hit ‘popular’.

TOKYO SKYLINE

A few shots of Tokyo a week ago. Spring is upon us but it cannot decide if it wants to be warm, cool, cloudy or raining. Handheld HDRs via Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200mm f/2.8.

Makes interesting viewing out the window.

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It wasn’t raining, but it was foggy. I don’t know why I woke up, but I took this shot at 2AM.

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The sunset against the clouds.

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I work in that office .. for a few more months.

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I threw my 2X extender on to get this shot (handheld).

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Loved looking at this lonely cloud.

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A few hours later, it was raining.

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Thanks for dropping by.

BALI RICE FIELDS

Bali is a lush and beautiful country and one of the “must do’s” is to stop at a small town with the rice fields new Ubud. You look out on the river flowing through the terraced fields .. and all you see is green. As viewed through a Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8, mostly shot in handheld HDR.

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You hike down one side, cross a bridge and hike back up to the other side. Along the way there are a few farmers collecting “donations” .. donation 1 was at the bridge.

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It is quite steep.

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Row upon row of rice, with carefully crafted ledges around each terrace to keep the water in.

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And a simple mode of getting the water from level A to level B.

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What is at the top of the hill?

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Nothing but a great view of this spider, who is almost impossible to spot .. even after I edited the photo to bring out highlights and confirm that she/he was the focus point.

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A great hike.

SACRED MONKEY FOREST PT II, BALI

The Sacred Monkey Forest in Bali is a truly amazing place, one of the most interesting that we have ever been at:

The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal is owned by the village of Padangtegal. Village members serve on the Sacred Monkey Forest’s governing council (The Padangtegal Wenara Wana Foundation). The Padangtegal Wenara Wana Foundation has historically strived to develop and implement management objectives that will both maintain the sacred integrity of the monkey forest and promote the monkey forest as a sacred site that is open to visitors from around the world.

The Sacred Monkey Forest is a series of paths that cut through the jungle, encompassing 3 temples and hundreds of macaques with staff spread on the paths selling bananas. A tourist mecca. There are many different reviews of this place, but my TripAdvisor review will give it 5 stars and call it out as one of the most unique places I have ever been. Yes, the monkeys can be ill-mannered – as this is the wild, with no control.

I loved shooting here, interacting with the long tail macaques. This little fellow kept my attention, when we first arrived. Same configuration, Canon 5D Mark III, and luckily I had my 70-200mm f/2.8.

He was just looking around … enjoying a banana.

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And look at how white his teeth are. Really enjoying that banana.

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Those eyes ….

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I could have watched him all day. As you walk the path there are monkeys everywhere.

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This fellow made me smile. He found a remote place to enjoy his banana, away from the rabble … away from prying hands.

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If you looked closely, you would see mothers and their children.

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There was a group of mothers sitting above us, on a log.

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I wonder what this fellow was thinking?

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It is a beautiful place with temples scattered across the grounds.

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A special place.

SHRINES, TOKYO

There are shrines everywhere in Tokyo. What I didn’t know is that many of them are family run, generations and generations.

Near us is a shrine with a wall around it. I have not gone in yet, and when I walked by on Equinox day it seemed closed (which is odd). I did hear drumming. I had to get going, and will return, but I snapped a few photos (usual configuration shooting handheld HDR). It looks like an interesting place for future exploration.

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Love the flowering bushes in Tokyo.

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The not yet “awoken” contrasted by the blooming.

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The view over the fence.

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In contrast to a hazy white sky.

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Warrants more exploration.

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FUJI-SAN, WHERE ARE YOU?

Mount Fuji continues to elude me. Bring my camera, clouds role in. Don’t bring my camera .. clear as a bell. On this day I thought that Tokyo could double for Gotham city.

Shooting with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 28-70mm f/2.8. A mix of handheld HDRs and RAW.

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The weather has been odd in Tokyo. I am told it was an extra cold winter, but that it is also warm earlier. This means the trees are blooming weeks earlier. As I walked home with the wind blowing, I clicked off a few pictures.

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A school yard.

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Walking a dark path. Not scary in Tokyo.

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Trees in bloom.

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Beautiful time in Tokyo.

HAPPOEN GARDEN, TOKYO

Last week I was at a meeting at the Happoen Garden. The conference center and gardens are beautiful. All of the trees are not in bloom yet, but they are started. Definitely on my Fall visit list.

Today’s configuration: Canon 5D Mark III, handheld HDRs, Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8.

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A beautiful open space right in the middle of Tokyo.

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The cherry blossoms are beautiful.

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I stood outside at lunch and took a conference call, snapping off a few shots as I listened.

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Of course, a beautiful little shrine is tucked into the garden.

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I am going to have to take the family back there.

I DID NOT SEE A GHOST ON THIS TOUR (Part 1)

 

As previously mentioned, we went on a Ghost Walk tour on the last day of the New Year holiday. One of the frustrating things about Japan is that they are not that interested in sharing their rich and diverse history. Everything is either hidden away or only in Japanese. They really don’t care about sharing. This is not a stretch, just look at their history, foreigners have never been popular in Japan.

However, there are a few gaijin who have been here long enough to assemble the history. If you are in Japan, I would highly recommend taking one of Haunted Tokyo’s tours. The tour we were on was positioned as a ghost tour, but it quickly became obvious that it was more of  a shrine tour filled with history, culture and Japanese mythology. We loved it and will definitely take their other tours.

We wandered around Tokyo FINALLY learning the history (beyond what we have dug up on our own). We started here … a building that she is convinced is haunted with pulled curtains and odd sculptures. Not sure. But I think someone was looking out at our group through the curtains …

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We stopped off at Shitaya shrine, where our guide explained how the corner is guarded by foxes as there is only one location that the demons and bad spirits can enter from. A beautiful shrine .. with a demon entrance.

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While looking at the shrine we were told that many of the shrines are being disassembled and stored by developers and the government. If you want to bring a shrine to your home, you simply need to agree to reassemble it and pay for transport (although I can find no reference to this on the web).

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Still amazes me to see berries and flowers in January (especially after that snow fall)

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As we wandered the streets we came through an area which was home to many geishas at one point in time. One of the few areas in Tokyo where very old buildings remain.

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And very old vending carts …

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A COUPLE LAST RANDOM AUSTRALIA PHOTOS

 

Most are handheld HDR.

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The sunrise .. the tide is out.

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I became quite fond of their beers. Australian beer is almost as good as Canadian beer. Almost.

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Moon overhead.

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Beautiful place.

THE COMMUTE IN TO SYDNEY

 

While staying at Manly Beach I commuted to downtown Sydney each day for work. Despite a significant amount of coaching and planning, I kept getting on the wrong ferry out of Manly Beach each morning (there are 3 every 30 minutes and many go to different places – a few permutations). The upside is that I got dropped off at different places each morning and had my camera, so I explored my way to the office with a little help from Google maps on my iPhone. The downside … it often took longer.

A few (quite a few) photos from Day 1’s wander to the office and the ferry ride in.

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A friendly ferry.

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No one honked while I stopped in the middle of the road.

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I have been to Sydney a handful of times and never explored the city. It has always been airport > hotel > office >  customer > office > hotel > airport. It was nice to walk through the streets. I was struck by how Sydney has preserved so many older buildings. Toronto and Sydney are similar in age, and compared to Sydney – Toronto falls way short. They would have torn most of these buildings down by now .. which is a shame. Well done Sydney.

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Someone told me this is a rubber tree. I think they are wrong, I believe it is a sycamore tree.

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Beautiful church.

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This fellow stopped to have his photo taken. He was charming the people exiting a long line of buses.

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During my “lost” wander to the office I stumbled upon a coffee shop that I had been to before. It happened to be the shop which serves the best cappuccino in Sydney (or the best that I have had so far). I asked about the froth – as I would love to get it that thick on my home machine. Alas, it is a special milk only delivered to the shops.

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The sky was very blue in Sydney. This is a zero processing handheld HDR. Well done Canon.

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The place where I should have gotten off each morning. I only got it right the last time. Which isn’t a bad thing.

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Thanks for stopping by.

SHOOTING AROUND MANLY BEACH

 

While in Sydney, I kept playing with the HDR on my 5D. The biggest lesson when shooting handheld HDR is ghosting is a pain, and simply doesn’t work when there is motion. The options are to keep the originals (The 5D has the option of just keeping the combined HDR or keeping all shots) or shooting with the knowledge that you will discard a few shots (or a lot of shots, depending on the situation). An example of the ghosting below.

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Despite the handheld challenges, I do like the way it brings out the colors.

Now on to Manly Beach in Sydney. We wandered around Manly late in the afternoon after coming off a very long – 18 hour travel through the night. As you would expect the seafood choices were fantastic.

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I enjoyed the Fish Shack .. and we had a chuckle at their Est.

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I am not a big beer drinker, but sitting on the beach makes it taste different. I have a new favourite brew, and it is from Australia: Little Creatures pale ale.

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A few shots from Manly beach.

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Great food abounds.

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A very purple bike. I cannot picture myself riding this bike (smile).

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A side street, with graffiti art.

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A very cool little town.

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