Sometimes I can get such good results with my iPhone that I wonder why I lug my big heavy DSLR and lenses around….OK, not really, but when the circumstances are right you definitely do well on the iPhone. Basically, you need something that doesn’t move and which is in good light. And, you need the right software. I’ve talked about Pro HDR before, but recently I’ve been having fun with something called Snapseed.
It’s put out by a company called Nik Software that creates plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop, and which I’ve wanted for years. They’re a little too expensive for me to be able to justify, but essentially the same technology is now free (down from 5 bucks after the company was recently bought out by Google).
Here is one recent shot, followed by the original, non-Snapseed-ed image:
The above is a little more processed than I usually like, but I was just learning and having fun with the software. I realize that there are all sorts of bogus filter-effect apps out there, and Snapseed does indeed include some filters, but more importantly it enables an impressive amount of very hands-on pixel-level editing. For example, I was able to selectively increase the saturation on the red bushes at the bottom of the frame, as well as on only some of the golden leaves.
Here I was able to bring down the almost-blown highlights in the fallen leaves while raising the contrast and brightness in the circular tiles at the bottom, which were lost in shadow in the original:
Here is a photo of the moat that I very nearly fell into while standing on a ledge to get the photo above. I used HDR Pro first, to meld two photos taken at different exposures, then I used Snapseed to tweak the photo until I got a result I liked. I love how the light shines on the big green lotus leaves.
(Don’t miss the giant Koi half-hiding under the leaves.)
Today was the first, really nice day of spring-summer-short-sleeves weather. It was also the first day that I felt half-way OK after the flu that knocked me out for most of the week. And, finally, it was the day after my Voigtlander 125/2.5 came back from being repaired and adjusted. I didn’t feel all that great, and I didn’t have much time because of Genbo’s half-day at school anyway, so I kept my wanderings close to nearby Yamashina station.
There was still plenty of photographic interest, though. The neighborhood isn’t exactly poor, but it’s far from affluent. So, it’s practically oozing with what the Japanese call aji (“flavor”), which implies something akin to “character,” “interest,” or “depth.”
Here’s the front side of someone’s house.
Someone’s second-floor veranda
This door practically oozes aji. The texture of the rust and the concrete contrasting against each other, and with the trees standing guard on either side…
I have always been intrigued by (OK, incessantly aggravated by) the Japanese predilection for making everything annoyingly cute. I often wonder what the sociological roots of this pathology are. We could carbon date this sign for a minimum age for the trend.
“Whitewash me out of my creepy misery, please“full exif
I took this as a throwaway shot, but it’s interesting because of the colors. The top of the train just happens to nearly exactly match the sky, while the bottom of the train just happens to nearly exactly match the train tracks. (It also tells me that I really need to clean my sensor.)
If you click on this last photo, you can see that this woman is sporting some pretty serious in-ear headphones.
*Calling old women “grandma” is not rude in Japan!
I found a nice, hardly-used Nikon 24/1.4 AF-S lens on the street on the way to Kyoto, so I decided to pick it up and take it on my daily constitutional.
This is a throwaway shot from my station that I ended up liking somehow. There’s something about the balance between the three people coming up the stairs, the converging lines of the tracks, and the big wall that I like.
This is the Higashi Honganji temple, right outside of Kyoto station. It’s been under construction/refurbishment for years, and it still has years to go, I think. Whenever I walk by it, which is frequently on these walks, I think about how intentionally oppressive it is. There’s nothing particularly pretty or aesthetically pleasing about it; it’s just a raw statement of political power, which various Buddhist sects wielded lots of back in the day.
This next photo is taken from a comfy-seat inside a Starbucks. I’ve walked past this particular Starbucks for years without realizing that it abuts this ancient temple (Rokkakudo), which it reveals with a huge wall of glass. The other day I went into it just by accident, looking for the closest hit of espresso I could find, and was incredibly pleasantly surprised. It looks so unassuming from the outside that it is always almost empty, making it about as perfect a cafe that a huge soulless chain can be.
This is the rear side of some store…I didn’t even bother looking at the front. I love these traditional external walls, fire-treated to make them weather-resistant.
More walls. This time I liked the convergence of the three different textures.
And, finally…guy with clicker waiting for his garage door to close. There was something about his face I liked; everybody gets an expression, while waiting just a few seconds for something, when they completely enter their own little world for just a moment, that I think is almost endearing.
One of the things that is both so endearing and frustrating about Japan is that it is truly a culture without irony. It is a culture that can have an official Coming of Age ceremony at Disneyland and see no irony in it at all. You know all those whacky commercials Japan is famous for? These are only possible in a country without irony, and indeed those commercials are not actually ironic, which makes them all the more amazing.
This is a small shrine I came across on a recent walk through Kyoto. The large red sign says “God of Academics”, while the two vertical black and white signs on either side say, essentially, throw money in and pray here for academic success and getting into a good school. This is all perfectly normal, but I loved the fact that the same shrine would also put up the vertical wooden sign to the far right, which says “Fortune-Telling School.”
OK, I think I pulled a record (for me) of not posting for about 3 months. I have been both busy with work and playing more shakuhachi than usual, which, because these things are largely zero-sum, means less photography. I’ve been wanting to get back into it, however, and recently I’ve been taking long walks through Kyoto, which has been giving me plenty of material. Here is one shot I particularly like from my last outing.
(Update: Funny, but I just noticed that both this post and my last one from three months ago are of birds catching fish. Not that this is a long-running theme of mine…)