Traveling and Photographing in Japan

By Meng Tay

Photographers are always looking for new subjects or scenes.  If you are tired of the same old, same old, why not consider traveling to Japan?  First, let me give you the reasons why you want to travel to Japan.  Next, I will give you some ideas on what to photograph.

  1. It’s very safe – guns are illegal here and the crime rate is very low.  Never once was I threatened or scolded in any way, even when I accidentally bump someone.  Such a contrast to the US when anything can cause a confrontation.  As a matter of fact, most Asian countries are very safe, contrary to what most Americans think.
  2. It’s very clean – the Japanese are fastidious about their cleanliness.  Every restroom I went to was clean (and free).  This includes public restrooms in busy tourist areas, shopping centers, etc.  The streets, parks, buildings are all clean.  I even had a hard time finding trash cans.
  3. Japanese are helpful and polite – I’ve heard stories of Japanese actually walking a tourist to his or her destination instead of just pointing and giving directions on how to get to a place.  Most of the signs have an English version but Japan’s twisty streets are sometimes hard to navigate.  Unless you ask someone local, sometimes it’s almost impossible to find it on your own, but ask.
  4. At today’s exchange rate (US$1 = ¥112) it’s a bargain to travel in Japan.  Yes, hotels and certain things are still expensive but it’s less expensive than some of the European countries like Norway, Iceland or Switzerland.
  5. Public transportation is very convenient and easily accessible.  Ironically, one of the biggest car manufacturing countries also has one of the best train networks.  Learn how the train system works and you will love riding the shinkansens (bullet trains).  If you have a big group, perhaps 4 or more, maybe it’s better for you to rent a car but trains can get you almost anywhere in Japan.
  6. Japan has a long history.  If you want to understand how it went from a sheltered country to an international economic powerhouse, an Oriental culture to an International culture, this is the place to learn.  The blending of east and west is everywhere.
  7. Food – you will love the food.  Be open-minded about sushi.  The Japanese eat a lot of things raw.  They have been doing this for centuries.  It’s healthy and after you’ve acquired a taste for it, you will love it.  You will never want to eat sushi or sashimi anywhere else.

What would discourage you from traveling to Japan?  Language may be the biggest challenge.  Very few Japanese speak English.  But this is no different than some European countries.  With today’s travel aids like Phrase Books, Google Translate, etc, this should not be a big hurdle.  I find that most Japanese studied English in school but because they are shy, they don’t get to practice it a lot.  Speak slowly and with a little bit of gesture, you should have no trouble getting around.

If you don’t feel comfortable traveling on your own, why not join a tour?  Tours will get you to many places where you have excellent photo opportunities but may not offer you the freedom of going where you want to go and for longer than you want.

What are some subjects that you may want to photograph in Japan?

Temples:  Because of its long history with Buddhism, temples are everywhere.  You find them in villages or big cities.  They are intriguing because their architecture is so different from churches or cathedrals in Europe.  The predominantly red color of Japanese temples make them stand out.  Here are some examples:

Food:  Food is the essence of a culture.  If you look at what they eat and how they eat, you can tell a lot about a culture.  That’s why I love going to markets when I am in a foreign country.  Japanese food is a contrast to American food.  That’s why it’s always an interesting subject matter for photography.

Landscape:  There is more to Japan than Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or other big cities.  What is not known to most tourists is that Japan has a beautiful countryside.  Hokkaido is arguably, most beautiful of all rural areas..  Go there in the fall, when the leaves are changing color.  If you are lucky enough to go during the cherry blossom season (sakura in Japanese), they will be everywhere.  They start in late March to the middle of April, depending on which part of Japan you go to.

Other topics of interest may be people, traditional buildings, castles, etc.  Japanese ladies in kimonos is a good topic.  If you happen on a geisha (very rare nowadays), that’d be the ultimate photo shoot.  Towering castles that were built during the shogun days are also good subjects.

If you want to read more about my travels in Japan, here is my blog:

http://mengineurope.blogspot.com

It’s in reverse chronological order.  Click on the year 2017 on the right.  It will drop down a menu of months.  Click on March, April or May.  You will see my posts on different places in Japan that I traveled to.

You can find out more about travel in Japan at the following sites:

https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

http://www.japanvisitor.com

Meng Tay is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

THE NEW LIGHTROOM “ECO-SYSTEM”

By Suzanne Mathia

LIGHTROOM CLASSIC – LIGHTROOM CC

Lots of changes announced this week and confusion, worry and misinformation are rampant.  This happens with any new changes.  We all get very comfy with the familiar and resist change vehemently.

At the same time we have also been complaining loudly about the speed of importing, culling and developing inside the current model.  Adobe listened, and have drastically improved the speed of the interface while giving us some great new tools.  They also added an entirely new platform to the Lightroom “Eco-System” By separating the two products, they are allowing Lightroom Classic to focus on the strengths of a file/folder based workflow, while Lightroom CC addresses the cloud/mobile-oriented workflow.” The new names are: LIGHTROOM CLASSIC and LIGHTROOM CC

I have been working with the upgrade and I am ecstatic with the improvements.

“Lightroom Classic CC is designed for desktop-based (file/folder) digital photography workflows. It’s a well-established workflow solution that is distinct and separate from the new cloud-native service.  For professional photographers who want all the Lightroom Classic capabilities to support their own very specific workflows as they are now.Your Lightroom is now called Lightroom Classic.

HUGE IMPROVEMENTS!!

Speed – reviewing and culling with the speed and efficiency of programs like  Photomechanic or On One browse because Lightroom now uses use the imbedded jpg for fast loading. When you select the Embedded & Sidecar previews option, you can scroll through a large set of images quickly in the Library module and also perform 1:1 zoom quicker. The rendering of Embedded previews is prioritized based on the folder you are viewing. For example, if you import and add images to multiple folders, you can immediately begin scrolling through the images as they get added.

TIP: on import select Embedded and Sidecar for best performance

Performance and stability enhancements

  Enhanced in this release of Lightroom Classic CC 

  •     Application loading time
  •     Catalog upgrade and compression upon import and export
  •     Faster import with Minimal, Standard, 1:1 Previews
  •     Faster image selection upon import with Embedded Previews.
  •     Smart Preview generation
  •     Switching from Library to Develop module
  •     Rendering of images in Library and Develop modules
  •     Scrolling through images in Library and Develop modules
  •     Improved brushing and slider movements
  •     Deleting Collections
  •     Loading of faces in the People view

Bigger standard previews – wide of monitor default – was 2000 pixels now 3840

Export metadata without camera settings option – You can export All except camera raw info if desired.

  • Fine control over selections with Color and Luminance Range Masking tools.
  • Auto-masking with better noise reduction by updating to Process Version 4 (Current) under Camera Calibration
  • Filter Criteria in Smart Collections: Title – Is Empty or Not Empty and Lens Profile – Applied or Not applied
  • Metadata preset for the export dialog – All Except Camera Raw Info. This helps you to conceal the settings or changes you had made from being exported.
  • Filter Criteria in the Import dialog – File Type. This helps you to quickly remove certain file types if needed.
  • Better handling of multiple batches of merge operations (HDR/ Pano) improving GUI response
  • Preview generation of recently edited images (in last 2 days) during idle system state. This is applicable for Batch Editing use case, using Sync Edit functionality.

Color Range Mask

After making an initial selection mask on your photo with Adjustment Brushes or Radial Filter/Graduated Filters, use Color Range Masking to refine the selection mask based on the colors sampled within the mask area.

Luminance Range Mask

After making an initial selection mask on your photo with Adjustment Brushes or Radial Filter/Graduated Filters, use Luminance Range Masking to refine the mask area based on the luminance range of the selection.

Smoothness = feathering                                     Click and drag eye dropper for color range

So far I am absolutely loving the import interface speed and the new masking features are a real game changer!

For most users and those happy with the current system – no need to adopt the cloud based version at this time.

STOP HERE…..Update and be happy

For those interested in the Cloud Based system

No folders – date based that you don’t control

Sensei keywords – content search

Image analysis capabilities will continue to improve

Manage across any device at any location

Version 1.0 now

No pano or hdr

No curves

Get to know new LRcc first – Take for a test drive using duplicate copies

DOWNLOAD A PDF COMPARISON Comparison chart and additional info from Victoria Brampton – The Lightroom Queen
https://www.lightroomqueen.com/lightroom-cc-vs-classic-features/

Eventually, I may end up using a hybrid of both systems but primarily I am a desktop user and for now I’m just using the new and greatly improved CLASSIC!

If you have any questions or constructive comments, please let me know.

Suzanne Mathia is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Wildlife photography–Increasing your chances of capturing an image!

By Amy Novotny

Recently, a friend commented that he had moved away from wildlife photography to landscape photography because it was hard to find wildlife and then even harder to capture an image of a moving animal. He mentioned that he would go out searching and might get a shot or two but then get frustrated so he switched to landscape scenes.  Although I love landscape photography, I have begun photographing more wildlife during the hot summer and I mentioned a couple suggestions to him that have helped me in the past couple months.

First of all, speaking to biologists or searching the website of the Arizona Game and Fish Department are great ways to gain some knowledge of where animals will be and when they will be most visible to humans. This past May, Bruce Taubert, wildlife biologist and photographer took a small group of us to the desert to photograph western Screech owls and elf owls. His knowledge of the owls’ territory and their activity level at this time of year led to a great night of shooting.  He knew that the birds would respond to calls and the approximate height of where they would perch in the trees, making it easier for us to photograph in the night sky.

Images: Elf owl, Western Screech owl, Elf owl. Taken in the desert in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Learning animal behavior can also be a huge asset in saving time finding animals and even capturing an image of a moving animal.  Recently, I was out photographing bighorn sheep in the canyon surrounding Canyon Lake, Arizona.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department had set up a boat tour at the beginning of July to search for the sheep. Even though it is typically the hottest time of the year for Arizona, this is the time when the mating season is underway and sheep can be seen going down the walls of the canyon to drink from the lake. Sure enough, within minutes of being on the boat, we came across a herd of sheep halfway up the canyon. The boat driver recommended waiting to watch the sheep, as he suspected that they would climb down to the water. To our delight, his knowledge of animal behavior was accurate and helped us get the opportunity for some close up shots of the sheep at the water’s edge.

                       
Image: Bighorn sheep climbing back up the canyon walls surrounding Canyon Lake, Arizona

Knowledge of animal behavior is also critical for capturing moving animals. This is especially useful in bird photography when trying to capture a bird in flight. When trying to photograph a roadrunner in flight, I studied his behavior for a bit and learned how he turned his head and changed his body position just prior to takeoff. Although it was still difficult trying to capture the little guy in motion, having some knowledge of his tendencies increased my opportunity of getting a shot.

      

Images: A Greater Roadrunner begins to dive and then dives off the branch to the ground at the Pond at Elephant Head Ranch in Amado, Arizona.

Workshops, such as those offered through Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, are great ways to highly increase your chance of capturing images of wildlife because the professional photographers have done all the research for you and gained special access to areas.  However, when workshops are not an option, other sources exist, such as Bruce Taubert’s book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife” that describes when and where to find certain wildlife throughout Arizona. The Arizona Game and Fish Department website also has email newsletters of wildlife viewings throughout the year.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Sunny 16 Rule

By Pam Henrichsen

Time to brush up on one of the simplest photo applications. This is very old school and most digital photographers may not even use this concept. However, it is simple and it does work.  The Sunny 16 Rule is a way to meter during the daylight without using your camera meter.

The rule is… if you have a bright sunny day set your aperture to f/16, next set your ISO and shutter speed to the same value – for example if your ISO is 100 your shutter speed will be 1/100; if the ISO is 200 your shutter speed will be 1/200 and so on.

Sunny 16 is a very useful tool for numerous reasons. It is a good way to check and see if your camera has accurate exposure. Try using this method to determine if your camera tends to over expose or under expose your images. Most cameras have a tendency to slightly under expose.

Additionally, unlike the camera metering system, Sunny 16 is based on incident light not reflective light. What does this mean? It means that it is based on the brightness of the light only, not how the light is being reflected off the subject and into the camera. So the Sunny 16 Rule can help you check your camera’s metering to make sure it is not being thrown off.

That’s all there is to it. Pretty simple. It’s a great tool to have in your bag of photographic tricks. Give it a try…or try it again.

Pam Henrichsen is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.