Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell to Japan (2)

Mid-Saturday morning:

Taxi from the hotel to Shinbashi Station.

Yamanote Line to Tokyo Station.

Narita Express from Tokyo Station to Narita International Airport (Terminal #2.)

Boeing 747 to San Francisco International Airport. (Lots of turbulence.) Leave 4 PM Saturday afternoon. Arrive . . . mid-Saturday morning.

Marin Airporter to Larkspur.

Gwen’s car to Fairfax.

No typhoon as in the first Farewell to Japan, but you can’t have everything!

Photos: Train Passing, Tokyo Station—Tokyo, 2008; Boeing 747, Narita Airport—Japan, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Truck & Fog (Adjusted & Original RAW Images)

Photo taken with an Olympus E-510 using the 12-60 lens. Two things:

—Very bright sky due to the sun hitting the low cloud cover. This meant that the camera could not record any detail in the upper left-hand corner.

But I decided that that was OK, because my eye couldn’t discern any detail there anyway.

—The camera meter averaged the scene so that the bottom half was too dark. So I lightened that part up in Photoshop, first in Adobe Camera Raw, then as an adjustment layer. Also, slight cropping on the right hand side.

I’ve included the original shot straight out of the camera for comparative purposes.

Photo: Truck & Fog—Marin County, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Zot Hanukkah

The last day of Hanukkah is known as Zot Hanukkah, according to Wikipedia.

I did not know that.

Photo: Menorah, Drake Terrace—Marin County, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Evening Clouds

—Clouds and bay, taken near the San Rafael-Richmond bridge.

—Clouds and hills, taken in the San Geronimo valley.

Both photos made with my old (in digital terms: bought in February, 2005) Olympus C-8080. So, shot as JPGs (as opposed to RAW.)

Photos: Clouds and Bay—Marin County, 2008; Clouds and Hills—Marin County, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No More Early Adoptions (E-30)

By "early adoption" I mean the purchasing of a tech product—in my case, cameras—just upon the release of said product.

I have to admit, I was an early adopter of the Olympus E-510 digital SLR. At the time I was getting increasingly aggravated with the Sony R1, and the Olympus promised much of what I was looking for. That was in 2007. Then, this year, I acquired the highly praised 12-60 Olympus zoom lens.

Now, in the "olden times"—that is to say, the Twentieth Century, or maybe even the middle part of the Twentieth Century—cameras were, ahem, built to last. Oh but no more! Now, as the saying goes, a camera is "a computer with a lens attached."

Must. Stop.

This could easily degenerate into a stereotypical geezer rant.

The point is this: Olympus is now introducing a new camera, the E-30, positioned between my little E-510 and the much heavier and professional E-3.

Oooo . . . looks really cool, doesn’t it?

Photo: Olympus E-30 (Olympus Corporation)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thoughts of August in Late December

For example, August, 2005. I hiked over Kearsarge Pass and stayed overnight in the shadow of the impressive Kearsarge Pinnacles.

Next day: the steep descent towards Bubbs Creek.

Photo: Kearsarge Pinnacles—Sierra Nevada, 2005

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Sycamore, little birds and . . . a rainbow.

Taken in the Whole Foods parking lot in San Rafael last week.

Photo: Sycamore, Birds—Marin County, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Japan: Culinary Adventure (11): Kaiseki at Ajihana

October 14, 2008: Go down a narrow street lined with restaurants, then turn right into an even narrower alley. Then duck through the noren and inquire if this is the correct spot.

Yes it is. Or, that is to say, yes it was. We had arrived at Ajihana, a very small restaurant in Kyoto featuring kaiseki-style meals. Very small: two tables and a counter. There were two businessmen at the counter; the four of us were the only other diners. Behind the counter was the chef and one apprentice.

Kaiseki refers to a specific Japanese multicourse meal with no set menu. The chef and Maz had a longish discussion concerning what kind of food was acceptable to our gaijin tastes. After being reassured that anything he made would be acceptable, the courses began to arrive.

Some of the items served (in small individual plates, the compositions jewel-like in their perfection):

—Anago (eel) wrapped in kelp. Braised to perfection.
—Miso glazed cod.
—Local fresh vegetables served tempura style.
—A crispy glutinous dish—like nothing we’ve had before.
—Pickled vegetables.

Served with beer, tea and sake.

During the meal, Maz and the chef discussed various culinary topics, including the use of avocados in California sushi rolls (much scoffing by the chef.)

Very special meal. And, it was Mike’s birthday!

[Blog Note: For this particular meal I’ve had to rely on others’ memories of the event, so it’s taken me a while to get some of the details of the meal straight. Strictly speaking, in terms of chronology, this should really be Culinary Adventure #2, instead of Sumiyoshiya.]

Photos: Night Street—Kyoto, 2008; Ajihana Exterior—Kyoto, 2008; Chef & Apprentice, Ajihana—Kyoto, 2008

Photo by Maz: Tempura Dish, Ajihana (Mike pouring beer in background)—Kyoto, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tsukiji Fish Market (2)

Two more Tsukiji images.

—The hustle and bustle of trucks and carts coming at you in the narrow lanes.

—An extremely formidable-looking knife.

Photos: Cart, Tsukiji—Tokyo, 2008; Knife, Tsukiji—Tokyo, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tsukiji Fish Market (1)

The Tsukiji Fish Market is widely considered to be a must-see in Tokyo. Luckily, our hotel in Shidome was within easy walking distance of the market, so we made our way over there early Saturday morning.

Hundreds of stalls in a large factory-style building, open at the sides. Water sluicing through the aisles. Mini-trucks whizzing back and forth. Workers wielding knifes the length of samurai swords.

Difficult to take photos, certainly.

Afterwards, sushi for breakfast.

Photos: Truck, Tsukiji—Tokyo, 2008; Knifes, Tsukiji—Tokyo, 2008; Warning Sign, Tsukiji—Tokyo, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

. . . from the archives #31: Amargosa Hotel—Death Valley, 1995

Taken as I was just driving by. The hotel is actually a tourist destination, with its own web site.

The evident grain structure in the photo means, to me, that it’s probably made with a Tri-X negative. Good low-light sensitivity, but very high grain. It’s a nice look—nowadays you can get software programs to add "grain" to digital files which are of course grainless. (Digital files have "noise.")

The question remains: what was I doing with low-light sensitive film in Death Valley!?

Photo: Amargosa Hotel—Death Valley, 1995

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Storm Clouds

Mike had to run out to the stable to reconfigure the hay in Tuffy’s hay shed.

During the pouring rain.

Too much hay in too little of a space was the situation, so he had to move several flakes of hay from the shed to the tack room.

In the rain.

In the rain, and also, dodging and weaving around Tuffy who insisted on standing directly in front of the tack room door.

Afterwards, on the way home, Mike glimpsed clearing skies directly behind him, so he pulled over and took this picture of eastbound traffic in the San Geronimo Valley.

Photo: Storm Clouds, San Geronimo Valley—Marin County, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Meiji Shrine (More)

Two extra photos from the Meiji Shrine visit. (Update: Pix are somewhat noisy . . . had to use a high ISO. If only I had had a Nikon!)

Photos: Umbrellas—Tokyo, 2008; Umbrella—Tokyo, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Very cold around these parts. Had to string some extra tree lights onto our lemon tree in the back yard and prop up some boards to shield the lettuce as anti-frost measures. While out there I noticed these nandina leaves. (Seen before . . . here.)

Photos: Nandina Leaves—Marin County, 2008; Lemon Tree—Marin County, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tokyo Afternoon and Evening

After visiting the Meiji Shrine, our soaked group ended up at the upscale Omotosando Hills Mall: cutting-edge architecture with spirally floors ala the Guggenheim Museum. We dried off during lunch at a top-notch ramen restaurant.

Thence by subway over to the Ginza district for shopping in one of those enormous department-store-basement-food-emporiums. By this time I was starting to drag, so I elected to walk back to our hotel utilizing my trusty REI keychain compass. It was still raining when I saw some nice stone jars against a bright red background, and again when I crossed over into Shiodome via one of the district’s ubiquitous overhead crossings.

Back at the hotel in our 33rd-floor room I contemplated the lights of Tokyo spread out before me. Later that night Hali and I spent some time packing our suitcases; then had dinner at a nice little beef tongue restaurant.

Photos: Stone Jars—Tokyo, 2008; Shiodome Rain—Tokyo, 2008; Mike Overlooking Tokyo—Tokyo, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meiji Shrine

Later that morning we visited the Meiji Shrine (dedicated to the Emperor Meiji) in the pouring rain.

I managed to shelter my camera inside my parka, bringing it out rather frequently in response to the wet scene in front of me.

At one point, Hali took off on a solo stroll across one of the inundated squares, her red umbrella and blue parka punctuating the overall drabness for the benefit of the camera.

Photos: Rocks & Leaves—Tokyo, 2008; Red Umbrella—Tokyo, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Red Skies At Dawning, Sailors Fix Their Awning

Or is it, Red Skies At Night, Sailors Take Fright?

Or Red Skies At Dawn, Sailors Mow Their Lawn?

Yesterday saw red skies over the Marin County Civic Center, where Mike was setting up his exquisite artisan’s booth.

Well, it didn’t snow, nor did it hail. But, and this is a big but, there was plenty of wind and rain. It cut Mike’s display time down by a little over an hour. But, and this is a big but, he still managed to sell some stuff . . . enough stuff to cover the daily booth fee, anyway.

A number of artisans (including Mike) left early, especially those whose work would be considered water-sensitive. Also leaving early were the inflatable kid house people. Their puffy structures had been standing there sad and vacant, kidless. So they left, alas, to the utter dismay of one little boy who, rounding the corner in his red wagon and seeing the lifeless vinyl, burst into tears. Can anything match the disappointment of a child losing his coveted bouncing time?

Photos: Red Skies & Civic Center—Marin County, 2008; Vacant Inflatable Structure—Marin County, 2008; Mike & Rain, Farmers Market—Marin County, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Morning Rain—Shinbashi

Morning came with still more rain. Of course, that meant that I had to scoot over to Shinbashi Station and get some early AM rain pix. It was raining harder than people expected!

Photos: Morning Commuters in Rain—Tokyo, 2008; Loading Beer Kegs in Rain—Tokyo, 2008; Tokyo Tower, Rain—Tokyo, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gifts Versus Acquisitions

Sales at the Farmers Market have been, um, rather slow. And they promise to be even slower this weekend, given the weather forecast of rain and possibly hail.

Giving me time to do a little product analysis.

My new theory (or is it my new hypothesis?) is that the purchase of one of my photos can be almost always categorized as a personal acquisition. Very rarely has one been sold to be used as a gift. (Of course, I’ve had some photos used as gifts. Unusual, though.) I’m therefore wondering if acquisition-type art would sell better during Spring and Summer, when people are not thinking primarily about gift-purchasing. Under this idea, gift-type art would do better in Autumn and Winter.

Of course, some arts and crafts can fit under both categories. Nice!


Yes, I could do with a nice Vietnamese sandwich right about now.


In other biz-type issues, there’s a very interesting essay by Alain Briot at Luminous Landscape . . . here.

Photo: Vietnamese Sandwiches—San Francisco, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Japan: Culinary Adventures (10): Marunouchi Beef

Marunouchi (pro. Maru-no-uchi) is a heavy-duty financial district in Tokyo, but also the site of some great new shopping areas—it's adjacent to Tokyo Station, only two stops away from Shinbashi Station. So it was relatively easy for us to meet Shawna and Maz and head out in search of . . . beef! (And, incidentally, to avoid the rain.)

We had all heard of Kobe beef, and wanted some.

We finally decided on a Korean-style restaurant that offered a multiplicity of beef offerings—various cuts and selections (as indicated by the menu.) You cooked your food at individual hibachis. Very satisfying. No Kobe beef, as such, but selections equally as good.

And yes, the beef was all well and good, but I found the most intriguing thing to be the automatic draft beer machines. After glasses were inserted, these machines automatically tilted them while the draft beer was dispensed. As the beer flowed, the glasses were gradually brought back to the level. Wow!

Afterwards I had some famous dessert vinegar (with ice cream) in one of the maze-like underground floors of Tokyo Station.

Photos: Beef Menu—Tokyo, 2008; Dessert Vinegar—Tokyo, 2008; Draft Beer Machine—Tokyo, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Night Rain—Shinbashi

After our arrival at Shinbashi Station the rain had gotten steadily worse. I elected to wander around a bit taking these photos of homebound commuters and a rain-soaked street with a Yamanote Line train speeding by in the background.

Photos: Evening Commuters in Rain—Tokyo, 2008; Street in Rain—Tokyo, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Recent Work (2008): Truck & Building

This was taken in back of the feed store in Novato; the sun was low in the west.

Another in the series of "photorealist" pix, as I like to call them. Not sure what makes them photorealist . . . I guess subject matter, mainly.

Taken with the Olympus C-8080. Since I was pointing the camera up, the verticals in the picture converged, with a sloping-inwards look. But! I've recently become aware of the "Distort" filter in Photoshop which allows you to not necessarily distort, but to correct distortion. Used here.

Photo: Truck & Building—Marin County, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bamboo & Hummingbird

I saw my one and only bamboo grove during our Kamakura trip. Imagined Ziyi Zhang (in House of Flying Daggers) up there in the branches, fighting off the imperial troops. (As director Zhang Yimou is said to have remarked: "Bamboo groves are an inextricable part of martial arts films. It is as though you have to fight in the bamboo forest before you can be considered a true warrior.")

At Tokei-ji we saw the tiniest hummingbird ever. At first we thought that it was a bumblebee, but no: a hummingbird. Although I’m really not equipped to take bird pix I did my best.

Featured Comment: From Hali--If you click on the hummingbird picture, you can really see it much better.

[Update: Not a hummingbird! It's a moth!]

Photos: Bamboo Grove—Kamakura, 2008; Hummingbird, Tokei-ji—Kamakura, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kamakura Kids

In Kamakura we reached, I think, the maximum kid count of any spot during our trip.

There were kids in all the temples, kids at the money-washing shrine, and kids running up and down the trail.

There were even kids with questionnaires, wanting to know where we came from and if they could take our picture (as part of a school assignment.) They had forms to complete!

Photos: Kid Running—Kamakura, 2008; Hali with Kid Taking Pix—Kamakura, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Hali and I left our hotel early, walked though the vast underground Shiodome spaces to Shinbashi Station and took the train for Kamakura. We had read that there was an interesting hiking trail there . . . another one of those anticipation-turning-into-reality experiences.

The train took us past Yokohama to the small station of Kita Kamakura (North Kamakura.) We got out our guidebook pages and fussed a bit, but eventually headed off in the right direction, towards the Zen temple complex of Engaku-ji. Very pretty place, but I don’t see how anyone could possibly attain satori with the noise of the trains and all the schoolkids running around.

After I bought a T-shirt at Engaku-ji we walked to Tokei-ji, a former nunnery. Nicely landscaped spot with a statue of the Buddha surrounded by colorful foliage.

From Tokei-ji we embarked on a real hike, past a weathered gate and up into the hills with some steep going at times. We eventually ended up at the Zeniarai Benten Shrine, a "money washing" shrine. If you wash your money there, it will double. Or something like that. The wooden toriis leading to the entrance caught my photographer’s attention.

We had already hiked up, now it was time to hike down into the town of Kamakura. The forecast called for rain; under threatening skies we stopped for lunch at a very pleasant teahouse chosen at random. Most of what the proprietress offered was sweet, but we were able to order a satisfying lunch.

Finally, rain drops and the train station in Kamakura where we hopped on an incorrect train (of course) ending up somewhere in Tokyo, but eventually finding our way back to Shinbashi.

Photos: Buddha, Tokei-ji, Kamakura, 2008; Lantern, Engaku-ji—Kamakura, 2008; Gate—Kamakura, 2008; Toriis—Kamakura, 2008; Teahouse—Kamakura, 2008