I bought a new camera bag recently. There was nothing wrong with my old bag, really, but the hip strap no longer fits around my expanding girth and I needed something to carry my gear around Hong Kong in, while researching and photographing article about tea.
Hong Kong is everything that Tokyo is not, and I was enchanted.
Maybe I just needed a break (I’ve been tired since September, for non-work-related reasons), or maybe I needed a change of scene. Either way, I’ve come back refreshed and inspired, doubly in love with Japan, and determined to learn more about Asia in general.
I’m not sure, however, amidst the changes and changing that will be happening around here in the next couple of months, where I’ll be able to find the time.
Time, tilting away from the solstice, sends us headlong into autumn. Summer slipping out gracefully. Rice ripens, nights cool. It’s been a busy summer, and I’m just coming up for air, surfacing to say I’m still here.
Nikon D700. 1/200s at f5.0, 70mm, ISO800.
In the meantime, my article on the Izu Peninsula came out in the Japan Times, and another on London was published in Kansai Scene.
Having written a lot of copy for a travel company that specialized in Japan, there are a lot of places I know about but have never been. Kenrokuen Garden was one of these.
A lot of our recent trip around Japan was about getting to know the country, seeing for the first time places we’d only read about, no matter how in depth. Very little can prepare you for much of this country: it is so rich in history, in landscape, in variety. It takes me a long time to digest experience.
We started by going north into the last of the snow, where beech groves, knee-deep in snow, were bursting into light green leef, and then struck out for the sea on Japan’s cloudy coast. Where Noto Peninsula joins the mainland, we came to Kanazawa, a green city with wide straight streets and one of Japan’s most famous gardens, the lush green Kenrokuen. I’d read about it extensively, in travel guides and websites and travel blogs, looked at photographs and read the history, and written about it, about the waterfalls and the fountain, but seeing it in the morning light with everything green and golden was something else entirely.
Nikon D700. 20s at f32, 80mm, ISO100.
There’s something about the ocean.
Maybe it’s because I spent my childhood summers beside it, listening to the waves breaking on the rocks, watching the tide roll in, looking in tidepools and exploring the rocky shores and sandy beaches. It draws me back.
I live in the mountains. The sea is, at best, a day’s drive from here. This sea is on the remote south coast of the Kii Peninsula, a rugged, rocky shore where low mountains meet the Pacific. We camped between the shore and the hills, and all night we listened to the waves on the rocks.
There’s something about photographing the ocean.
Maybe it’s because of the way it moves: no two photographs will look the same. At dusk, the light changes so rapidly, too. Dark comes rapidly in through the blue air. Everything is magically transformed: waves are smoothed out to white around sharp rocks. The horizon fades into the sky: blue meets blue.
including monkeys. There will be more to come, but like all journeys it may take a while to digest, to turn into something.
Nikon D700. 1/1600 at f9, 125mm, ISO 1000.
Nikon D700. 1/8 at f40, 220mm, ISO 800.
Rainy weekends sometimes seem like a disappointment: there are no bright sunrises, no light streaming through the trees, no mountain peaks reaching up into the sky. But grey skies make colours more vibrant. Startlingly bright greens come out of usually dull mosses, and everything shines with moisture. The background fades to grey in the misting rain.
I’ve been out exploring, driving around Nagano on wet days, my camera wrapped up against the weather. Last weekend I went back to Komagane for the first time in years. The river was swollen with the steady downpour of rains, rushing down over water-tumbled rocks out of the invisible mountains. All night the sound of rain and of running rivers, the summer field smell of tatami, and hot baths in the onsen at a hotel out of another era.
In the morning the rain continued. We drank hot coffee from a roadside vending machine, and discovered a temple I’d never visited before: Kozenji, famous for the legendary dog Hayataro and for it’s weeping cherry trees, still in bud. Umbrellas in hand we explored the temple grounds, and found these statues tucked away in a grove of giant sugi trees. The mist, the rain, the green moss, and the red all came together, perfectly.
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I’d also like to thank again everyone who helped me support charities in the Tohoku by sharing my link and by buying prints. Every little helps and it means so much to be able to help make a difference. Thank you.
Taken with my trusty old Nikon D700 just after sunrise at Myoshin-ji Temple in Kyoto last weekend. 1/60 at f11, 35mm, ISO400. We’d spent the night at Torin-ji, one of the sub-temples at Myoshin-ji, and woke early enough to explore the temple grounds just as the sun was rising over the complex. While I stopped to make this photograph morning prayers were being chanted in the hall behind me, and everything seemed heightened and extra-real. Very Zen, really.
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