Japan IV - Pinhole

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

I'm going to start this post with my favourite image that I made in Japan, in fact it is probably up there with the best I have made ever, at least in my humble opinion (and I am a terrible self-critic). I should also note a degree of trepidation when posting this, which stems from my uncertainty as to whether it is OK to make such a shot in a temple. Nobody seemed to mind when I was making the image so I'm guessing all is OK but if anyone thinks otherwise please let me know. I already talked about the scene and this spot in my Japan IV - Faith post so I won't go into that again here.

Hotel Mume, Kyoto

Hotel Mume, Kyoto

Our general approach when we first arrive in Japan is to head straight to the familiar solace and comfort that is Hotel Mume in Kyoto. I may have mentioned before that this is the greatest hotel in the world, and I shall continue to maintain that despite the fact that for our next trip we may not go to Kyoto. Regardless, if you are planning a trip to Kyoto, and if you can get in, I urge you stay at Mume. Hisako and her team will make your holiday something truly wonderful. They'll also recommend other spots to visit whilst you are in town, such as Uji. 

Byodo-in, Uji

Byodo-in, Uji

Bridge, Uji

Bridge, Uji

Uji has the most remarkable temples and townscape (which I also mentioned in my Japan IV - Faith post...already linked above) and we were lucky to visit on a beautiful day. That, combined with the use of a last roll of Kodak Ektar explains the vibrancy of the images. I usually use Kodak Portra for pinhole (most shots in this post use Portra 160) and the vivid colours of Ektar are the main reason. I find them to be pretty unrealistic in many cases, although they can add a nice vibrancy. 

Ohori park, Fukuoka

Ohori park, Fukuoka

Sometimes though, particularly as the light fails, the subdued tones of Portra work really well. The image above was taken on a cloudy day, and looking at my lens-based images of the same spot, it was pretty grey by the time we arrived at Ohori park. I'm pretty certain it was raining as well. All this goes to show that you have to make the best of your opportunities when travelling. The long exposure, and resulting colour shifts, give the simple shot above an extra something. Sure, it's not going to win prizes but I still kinda like it.

Damaged home, Kumamoto

Damaged home, Kumamoto

Playpark, Kumamoto

Playpark, Kumamoto

Pinhole also gives you an option to make very ordinary images and try and find some additional interest. Sometimes this doesn't work so well, or at least how your thought it was going to work out. I was hoping to get better reflections in the water in the shot of the damaged home in Kumamoto but it didn't work out. The flash of blue from the tarpaulin is as I had hope though. As is the shot of the somewhat odd child tubes in the playpark in Kumamoto (a short distance from the damaged home). There's a lot to take in in this image, but my main feeling is that I like the slight otherworldly nature of the yellow tube, which is just as well considering it dominates the shot.

Aso caldera viewpoint (alternative version), Kumamoto prefecture

Aso caldera viewpoint (alternative version), Kumamoto prefecture

Grasslands, Aso, Kumamoto prefecture

Grasslands, Aso, Kumamoto prefecture

Talking of damage, I'll pause here to remind you of the devastating earthquake that hit Kumamoto in April 2016, a few months before we visited. This explains the damaged home and is also a good chance for me to plug again the prints that I am giving away in exchange for donations to Aso Shrine. You can find more details of that in a prior post, and to whet your appetite here's some outtakes from my Aso rolls.

Horses, Kusasenri, Kumamoto prefecture

Horses, Kusasenri, Kumamoto prefecture

More horses, Kusasenri, Kumamoto prefecture

More horses, Kusasenri, Kumamoto prefecture

I'm also going to explain that I am not a big fan of horses, particularly those that are untethered and without a fence between me and them. I felt very nervous making the above images, especially when the horses decided to come fairly close as I was making the shot. I am, pleased with the results of my incredible bravery. The images contain just enough movement to elevate them (in my humble opinion, again) from mere snapshot. I shall decide to ignore one of the comments my friend made, who thought the images were of cows. Cows are much gentler and not to be feared in the same way as our equine friends, and so far less bravery would have been required if these were ovine.

Whirly sculpture, Fukuoka

Whirly sculpture, Fukuoka

Movement with pinhole is undoubtedly a good thing, so I couldn't help but be pulled in by this sculpture in the centre of Fukuoka. I honestly don't remember why the sculpture was there, which either means I need to take better notes or that there was nothing noticeable (that wasn't written in Kanji or Katakana) that explained. 

Life captured, Fukuoka

Life captured, Fukuoka

The sculpture though was clearly a magnet for other photographers, including the gentleman above who kindly stayed still during my image making. I'd really like to see how his shot came out but I doubt that will ever happen. I'm also grateful for the salaryman who stayed still as well, as well as the little hints of movement elsewhere. I doubt the exposure was very long (see before re. my note taking abilities - a bit worrying considering I am a fully paid up member of the #notebookarmy). 

Boating, Takachiho Gorge

Boating, Takachiho Gorge

...and so we come to probably the longest exposure of the trip - but worth it to capture both the waterfall and the movement of the row boats in Takachiho gorge. I am grateful to my touring companions and to the other tourists who patiently waited while I made this shot, with my camera balanced precariously on a bit of railing. All over Japan I suspect there will be folks with their sightseeing snapshot with a little wooden box photobombing them in the background - I think this is a good thing.

Shibuya scramble, Tokyo...I will get this right one day

Shibuya scramble, Tokyo...I will get this right one day

What is less of a good thing is my seeming inability to nail a pinhole shot of the Shibuya scramble. I had better luck with my shots from a prior trip to Japan (which were made from the best seats in a well known Seattle-based coffee chain) but this time I wanted to get closer. I think I need to change my viewpoint, the time of day, and perhaps the film speed to capture this better. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to go back. 

As always, these images wouldn't have been possible without the sterling work of Christian and Erica at Canadian Film Lab. All were made with a Zero Image 69MF - still my go-to pinhole camera of choice although I think soon I shall have to report results from new friend.