Monday, 27 May 2019

Vivid Sydney, from the deck of a cruise boat...

Vivid 2019
How do you record a boat trip experience on the night Vivid 2019 opened and still get interesting colourful images? As it happened it was very hard because pottering about in the harbour on a large boat was a bit like riding in a washing machine. On several occasions all the guests had to hang on for dear life as we bobbed and corkscrewed about in the washing machine. High ISO was the only way out of this mess. Unfortunately very high ISO. I was pretty happy with this HDR image, shot at ISO12,500. A bit soft, a bit grainy but somewhat better than the lousy results produced by my smartphone.
Zooming with the lens while moving on a boat is not the best recipe for success. What I did here was to take one zoomed shot that looked really dynamic in one half and was mostly black in the other then duplicated the layer, flipped it to give this mirrored effect - and finished it off by changing the Blend Mode from Normal to Difference (which highlights any tones that are not 100% on top of each other - because they were effectively reversed by the flipping action, it fills the entire frame with more colour. (Pic by natalie Hitchens).

A similar zoomed shot, flipped and with the Difference Blend Mode set on the top layer.
(Image by Natalie Hitchens
Another zoomed shot, flipped and with the Difference Blend Mode set on the top layer.
(Image by Natalie Hitchens
Taken before boarding the vessel with some light still illuminating the Sydney sky. 1/15s @ f2.8, ISO 3200
(Three bracketed frames processed using Aurora HDR Pro)
Another almost impossible shot to get because it was so dark and the luxurious motor cruiser was quickly throbbing into the gloom behind the Harbour Bridge.
1/50s @ f2.8, ISO 8000
Zoomed abstract detail of a tower block in Darling harbour
Panned shot of a small harbour boat passing our much larger harbour boat. Kinda tricky to get a good panning shot when both subject and the camera are moving at different speeds.
Another nice, zoomed shot.
Because zooming at night can basically fill the frame with a lot of black, as well as colour movement, I select and copy some of the better-looking 'zoomy' bits
and paste them back into the file to cover over the really dark areas, making sure that they line up with the original sections by adding a bit of transform.perspective distortion to give a near perfect zoomed effect.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Weird Japan - Fighting the Golden Week Crowds

Golden Week, at the end of April till the first weekend in May is a time when most Japanese get time off from work - so they all go travelling. Things get very, very crowded.
Smartphones and cameras as thick as the bamboo grove itself.
Even on a drizzly day, the World Heritage bamboo grove at Arashiyama teems with tourists at all hours of the day.

A family poses in a cut-out of a cartoon character at Himeji castle
Capturing the perfect wisteria snap is tricky because there are so many other keen photographers trying to do exactly the same. Uji near Kyoto
You literally have to stand five or six deep to get the best angle...
Modern Japanese poster seen in Kyoto
Natalie could not resist posing with whatever this is in Kenroko-en garden
Secret push button door bell at the main gate of Nijio Castle
Panorama of moving people never works!
Fuji (wisteria) fever at Nezu shrine, Tokyo

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Weird Japan (1)

Japan is always a country of surprises: culturally, visually and socially. Here are a few oddities I spied during our two-week sojourn through the country. More to come...

One bite octopus on a stick at Nishiki markets

Stroppy poodle being photographed among the wisteria in Uji
Curiously-named fashion outlet in Teramachi-dori,Kyoto

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Mini Geisha Lookalike

Here's a very young girl dressed in the full geisha makeup and costume that we saw during a walk around Gion in Kyoto

A Day out at Mt Shosa and Himeji

View from the walk up Mt Shosa just outside of Himeji city(All images have been processed using Jixi Pix Moku Hanga, a plug-in that produces a Japanese wood block effect)
Stone figures adorned with blue bibs to signify lost children along the way to the Engyo-ji temple
Engyo-ji temple on Mt Shosa - this was one of the locations for The Last Samurai film.
Entrance to on of Engyo-ji's many sub temples
Inside the main shrine of Engyo-ji
Himeji castle with azalea gardens
Koko-en garden just next to Himeji castle grounds

Fuji (wisteria) flowering in Koko-en gardens next to Himeji castle
Panoramic view of Himeji, the White Heron castle with its various outer walls, watchtowers and guard houses. This is the finest medieval castle in Japan and is quite spectacular in all weathers!

Yabusame Shinji: Japanese horse archery at Shimonogo Jinga (shrine), Kyoto

To honour Shimonogo shrine, mounted archers race down a 400metre long path through the Tadaso-no-mori forest which surrounds the shrine. The purpose is to hit the three wooden targets placed at intervals along the course. The trees provide a perfect cover for the event which is surrounded by a lot of pageantry and traditional costume wearing - none of which I really understood - but it provided a fantastic atmosphere for the day. Here's one of the riders preparing to loose an arrow at the target that's just out of the picture at right.

Senior and apprentice target erectors busy wedging the wooden plate into a bamboo stake
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)

Junior target minders wait behind a perspex screen for the next rider to appear
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)
The only female rider of the day comes into view at 65kph in the classic samurai archer's pose
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)
Fabulous detail of the rider's stirrup and clothing (Pic by Natalie Hitchens)

Rear view of the second place contestant with the red sash over his shoulder
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)

Front view of contestant prior to starting the 400metre long ride
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)

Young 'helper' in traditional costume.
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)
This man was the overall winner. He's either Western or Eurasian and hit every target, every time he rode the course.
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)
Although the horse gallops along a two metre-wide path fenced with a single rope, the riders still have to control their mounts using only their knees.
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)

Although we waited three hours for the event to start, we were about four rows back so had to suffer a lot of heads in the way...
(Pic by Natalie Hitchens)
A group of kids along the pathway singing a jingle for a charity (I think)
Part of the ceremony was to bring this box out of the shrine and parade it about the course - no idea what was in it (the Royal cutlery set?) but it was clear that the man carrying it knew what he was doing..

Close up of the only female rider in the event

Another character from the parade

Musician from the opening parade

One of the contestants - this was the guy who 'won' the event

The secret box again

Cool head gear worn by one man in the pageant

Another participant in the pageant

One of the obvious first world problems facing photographers is the plethora of iPads, e-devices and smartphones used to record daily events. It's almost impossible to get an accurate snap of a horse travelling at 65kph with one of these - plus they really get in the way if your DSLR is set to tracking AF!

Poised for the shot

The winner looks over his shoulder, waiting for the rest of the riders to follow him to the end of the track. Below: More pictures of the event.