Deep Nikko in Winter

Taking of the beauty and grandeur of nature, no place comes to mind quite like Nikko. The place offers some simply awe-inspiring views and immersion in a natural world that once covered this planet. I don’t just look at the places and events taking place there- I feel them. They make me more alive, too. Though I may have posted some of these earlier, here they are with a little more explanation of how I felt to see them. I really wish more people would learn to appreciate nature. I don’t mean just worrying about the state of the environment for people, which I consider a form of egotism (however enlightened it may be), but a concern for the planet and life on it in and of itself, valuing more than  just the human species, which are in a sense it’s custodians. I believe such thoughts are sometimes called ‘deep ecology’ and get criticised for their lofty, trans-human aims, but if you don’t aim high, your arrows are bound to fall short.

Anyway, I digress, but the point is that I don’t want these just to be pretty pictures, or to think of these places just in terms of their beauty. We should all work together to protect the Earth we live on, and a first step on this path is overcoming the cultural and linguistic barriers that have held us back from co-operating for so long. So let me take you on a little tour of Deep Nikko (‘Oku Nikko’), from the bus ride onwards, in the winter. Oku Nikko is the protected, national park area, whereas the area nearer the station is filled with cultural treasures, as well as some less dramatic natural ones. I plan on making another post about Autumn when I usually go for the gorgeous colours).

The first thing is to get the bus from the station, to or past Chuzenjiko lake. The view from the bus is magnificent and a good reason to go to Nikko in the first place. It is a steep and winding road up and over the mountains. This year, I went once by bus and once with friends by car.

View from the bus

View from the bus

Next you will find yourself at the lake itself. I would generally go straight to Kegon Falls by foot from here, or ride the bus further, as the lake itself isn’t so interesting. But in the middle of winter, the rocks near the shore were covered with amazing icicles. It was freezing cold to photograph, right by the windy lake as it was, but the sights were quite primal  Nature at it’s essence, with no filters in between. As always, it surprises me how beautifully designed everything is, even the icicles, far from being mere frozen water randomly forming, have intricate, fractal-like designs. Randomness is a human idea, not a real, existing natural phenomenon was my mantra, as I witnessed beautiful fractals emerge from the complex combination of forces.

Icicles by Chuzenjiko

Icicles by Chuzenjiko

Next, here is Kegon Falls, where the vertically-falling water makes even more intricate designs. I spent some time here by myself photographing in wonder at it all. It was like a great painting, or cathedral, or both. Of course, it also depends on how you see it. To that extent, nature is like a mirror. The waterfall itself is infamous for suicides, with one famous writer saying he wanted to escape into the infinity of the water-fields. Fortunately, guard rails and the like make this harder to do now.

Kegon Falls

Kegon Falls

Kegon viewing platform

Kegon viewing platform

Down the elevator and closer to the falls (zoomed in, though)

Down the elevator and closer to the falls (zoomed in, though)

 

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Street Candids in Ueno

One of my favourite types of photography is the street type. Capturing the lives of people, with brief snapshots of their lives. Each photo in this field should tell a story, preserving for posterity those fleeting moments that make up so much of the human experience. Generally, for intimacy and inconspicuousness, short, relatively wide lenses are often used for this and also small, range-finder style cameras are prefered.

Yet there is certainly a place for the candid taken from a distance. The intimacy can be just as real, with the space bridged by the lens. I took my Nikon P510 out for a stroll in Ueno. I found the range of images I could capture quite miraculous, all without scaring anyone or feeling like an intruder.

A little note here might be appropriate- I intend to turn this more into a photo-blog, or at least a blog with more photography as an art-based features.

Snowy Day- First Shots with the Nikon P510 Bridge Camera

Great- it’s snowing! Or terrible, I’m not sure which, as I have the day off and my Nikon P510 just arrived and I’m itching to take it out for a spin. So I settled for throwing on my coat and taking some shots from the balcony. After all, I don’t really want to risk any damage to it on its first day.

 

I’ll cut to the chase and put some samples right here- I think you can see the rich creative potential of having such a tremendous zoom in such a small and handy body, as well as modern processing abilities that make it a fast and effective camera to use. Meanwhile, I’m working on a review/user report, which I’ll be posting in installments shortly.

 

Wow that zoom is tremendous! You can see how, from a safe distance, I could zoom right into the scene and catch what was going on. You get an intimacy with events that you otherwise would just distantly notice. It is, in fact, the digital camera equivalent of a telescope.

I got it to help out with my birding, where the maximum reach of anything I have is a relatively short 450mm equivalent, offered by my trusty 70-300mm VR on a Nikon D300, which offers excellent autofocusing even on birds in flight (BIF). This is fine for big birds or those silly or brave enough to stick around when I’m approaching, but the little ones get away. Even the photos I do get, when they are snacking on fruit in trees, as heavily cropped, so I really need more image. This seems to be a very convenient way to get that and in portable form. As a companion to my DSLRs or even m4/3, I can see it transforming my photography. It can produce some wonderful candids, as well, without the obvious issues of pointing a long lens in someone’s direction- it looks so small and inconspicuous.

Snowy Wonderland

By a lucky and rare coincidence, it snowed on Friday night and I woke up to some stupendous views of my local shrine, Suwa Jinja. It was truly a winter wonderland, with snow slowly falling from the trees and light shining between branches. A little old lady was there too, carefully taking shots her camera sensei recommended. It was fun talking with her and I got some insight into the way the shrine had been arranged. I feel in this peaceful little place I had a taste of what the sights must be further north, luckily without needing to shovel mounds of snow all the time (sometimes it’s so deep there, they have to clear passages every two hours). Just the magical beauty of nature, something C.G. will never catch up with (I think!) The dramatic lighting, the contrast of bright, fluffy snow with deep greens and browns of the huge trees there was unforgettable.

It doesn’t snow much here, so it is always a great sight, worth making the most of. I headed out with my D300 fitted with my sadly under-used Nikon 17-55mm and I have to say, I really love this lens. As zooms go, it really captures a really beautiful image, crisp and detailed, with a nice bokeh. Usually it’s too heavy to take on a trip with me alongside other stuff, so my Tamron equivalent fills in, but for a one-lens adventure outside my door, it works just perfectly.

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