Posts Tagged ‘photos’

Shibamata summer fireworks in Tokyo

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

On Tuesday 26th July 2011 I went to see the summer fireworks display at Shibamata, north east of central Tokyo. From the station I had to walk through a traditional street before getting to the park where the fireworks were to take place.

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I made it to the park by the river just before the fireworks started. The fireworks were very impressive – they went on for about 40 minutes, and the promotional material said that they were going to us 7000 fireworks. That works out at nearly three fireworks per second! This display was even more impressive than the Yokosuka New Year’s Eve fireworks display that I saw at the start of the year.

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Here are some of my photos from the event. I took about 200 photos using my cheap handheld camera. Many of the photos were blurry, but when you take that many, you are bound to get some good ones.

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The above firework explosion reminds me of those images that they get from particle accelerators when two atoms smash into each other.

The below sparks looks like stars in the night sky, but it is the final parts of a firework fading away.

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They had some very intensely coloured fireworks. Here are blues and reds.

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And a load of multi-coloured fireworks all exploding at the same time.

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A lot of people try to frame their fireworks photos so that they don’t get the spectators in the shot – but I like the look of the sillouettes they make against the bright lights. On the bottom right someone is taking a photo using their mobile phone.

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These fireworks left bright streaks across the sky.

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In these final two you can see someone speaking on the phone whilst the display takes place. Though with the noise of the music and the explosions I don’t know how any audible exchange could take place!

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The display was completely free (if you didn’t want a designated seating position) and professionally organised so if you didn’t get to see it this year, I can recommend it for 2012.

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Is is near the end of April now and almost all the cherry blossoms in Tokyo are gone. But in the second week of April when I went to see them properly they were everywhere. I visited two well known cherry blossom viewing places, Sumida Park, and Ueno Park.

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The Japanese get very excited about cherry blossoms. They get a warm up to the cherry blossom season when the plum blossoms appear in February, but the cherry blossoms are the main flowering event of the year.

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First I visited Sumida Park which has cherry blossoms along both sides of the river. In the background above you can see the Tokyo Sky Tree which is being built. Below is a different type of cherry blossom to the standard ones.

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Each year at this time there are cherry blossom forecasts on TV that show you the spread of the blossoms through the country, so you can pick the right time to view them. They are only in full bloom in any one area for a few weeks.

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Although all the flowers are pink, there is a big range in the colours, from very light pink, to very stong pink colours.

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There were plenty of people in Sumida Park, but there were even more in Ueno Park. Lots of people were taking a break from work to have a look at the flowers.

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Many people and companies organise cherry blossom parties, where they will have some food and drink whilst sitting on a plastic sheet under the cherry blossom trees. These are called ‘hanami parties’ – hanami means flower viewing.

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I spotted a large group of people crowding round one particular tree taking photos.

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On closer inspection it turned out that there was a cat in the tree. Perhaps he had gone up there for a quite rest, and was now regretting being the centre of attention.

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If you are in Japan at cherry blossom time you can’t fail to spot them. They are planted everywhere, from parks, to gardens, to government buildings. For much of the year these trees look very bare, but for just a few weeks, they are one of the most famous sights in Japan.

Plum blossoms in Ritsurin Park

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Japan’s most famous type of blossom is the cherry blossom, but if you can’t wait until March/April to see them you can see the plum blossoms in February.

Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu has one of Japan’s most famous gardens, and in that garden are two groves, each filled with 80 plum trees (also known as Japanese apricot trees).

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The first plum blossom trees in the South grove were planted in the Edo period, and the first ones in the North grove were planted in the Meiji period.

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There were plenty of other people taking photographs of the blossoms as well as me.

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Japan is very in tune with the seasons, so whenever there is a change in nature (plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, etc) Japanese people flock to gardens like this to see it. They even show the progress of the blossoms in the weather forecasts as they start flowering through Japan. A sign in the garden says that one of these trees is a ‘sample tree’ that is being observed by the Takamatsu meteorological observatory.

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As well as pink blossoms, there are also white ones, and others that are light yellow. Many of these plum blossom trees are 50-60 years old

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Here’s a close up of some of the pink flowers.

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And a close up of some light yellow ones that are waiting to come out.

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And finally in the background is Mount Shion which is visible through much of Takamatsu.

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Seto Inland Sea sunset photos

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Whilst living in Takamatsu, Kagawa I had the opportunity to observe the Seto Inland Sea sunset many times. Here is a small selection of my photos. This first one was taken from the Naoshima to Takamatsu ferry.

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The Seto Inland Sea is always busy with passenger ferries taking people between the islands. There are many interesting islands to visit near Takamatsu, I visited some of them as part of the Setouchi International Art Festival.

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Most of the photos are taken from the Takamatsu harbour area near to the Sunport Centre and red lighthouse. But the next two are taken from Naoshima Island.

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Here is the ferry arriving to take me from Naoshima to Takamatsu.

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All the colours are natural; I didn’t use any filters, or software to change them. They were taken using my cheap compact camera that I’ve had for many years.

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These were taken during the Summer/Autumn seasons of 2009 and 2010 which is why everyone is in short sleeves!

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Many people came to the red lighthouse pier with much more expensive camera equipment than I did.

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And finally a sequence of the Sun disappearing behind the Seto Inland Sea.

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Can you walk across Tokyo in a day?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Once you’ve seen all the main tourist sites in Tokyo what can you do next? Why not try walking across the city! I recently did two walks across central Tokyo, one from Akihabara to Shinjuku, and one from Shiba area (Hamamatsucho station) to Shibuya. Both these walks are from East to West from one side of the Yamanote loop train line to the other. This map shows very roughly where I went and you can click on it for a (slightly) bigger version.

walking across tokyo map small

Akihabara to Shinjuku walk

Akihabara was my starting point as that is where my hotel was (Akihabara Washington Hotel). Akihabara is the electronics and manga district of Tokyo and is full of brightly lit shops, and geeky looking customers!

akihabara shinjuku walk 1

I headed South, walking along the canal (there are quite a few canals in Tokyo if you look for them).

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It didn’t take long for me to reach the musical instrument area with many shops selling guitars and sheet music.

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Beyond the musical instrument area is a second hand book street (lots of themed areas on this walk).

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I went throught the North part of the Imperial Palace park and exited on the West side near to where many embassies are.

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Then the walk was largely in a straight line along Shinjuku-dori, the bright lights of Shinjuku becoming visable in the distance.

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And here is the end, Shinjuku, famous for its nightlife, shops, and restaurants.

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In total this walk took about two and half hours at a leisurly pace. It shows that central Tokyo is quite walkable if you can be bothered.

Shiba to Shibuya walk

My second walk was again from East to West. This time I started at Hamamatsucho station in the Shiba area and walked to Shibuya. Again both areas are on the Yamanote JR line which loops central Tokyo. The first major sight on the walk was the Tokyo Tower.

shiba shibuya walk 1

Next I ended up following a not very glamerous looking expressway that was going towards Roppongi Hills.

shiba shibuya walk 2

Once the slightly scruffy looking area was out of the way I could see the new tower buildings that make up the Roppongi Hills complex.

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You can go up to the top of this tall tower (Mori Tower) to get a good view across Tokyo. The rounded building to the left is the TV Asahi building which you can also visit.

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After passing Roppongi Hills I continued following the raised expressway.

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Going through a dark tunnel (but not as dark as the photo makes it look).

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Before finally reaching Shibuya – one of Tokyo’s main shopping areas.

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This walk only took a bit over one and a half hours.

If you are looking for a new way to discover Tokyo walking across it is very good for discovering how all the areas are linked. You don’t realise how close some of these areas are if you go everywhere by train.

Tokyo New Year’s Eve fireworks in Yokosuka

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

On New Year’s Eve most of the major cities around the work have large free organised fireworks displays in the city centre. Unfortunately Tokyo doesn’t – at least not in the main city. There are several paid displays if you are prepared to travel a bit outside the centre, but if you made the journey to Yokosuka (横須賀市) in Kanagawa prefecture on 31st December 2010 you could see the fireworks for free.

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From Tokyo JR station it took over an hour to get to Yokosukachou station (needing two trains), from where it was just a five minute walk to the fireworks area. As we were there early we went for a walk around the park where there were many stalls serving hot food and drinks.

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There were lots of Japanese food stalls, and even a stall claiming to serve ‘American Food’.

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The fireworks were being launched from the Tokyo Bay near to some navy ships that had been decorated with lights.

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There were three submarines in the water. One had ‘2010’ written on it in lights, and as soon as it became 2011 the lights changed to ‘2011’.

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The fireworks display then started. Despite using an old, cheap digital camera that I was holding in my hand I still managed to get some good shots of the fireworks reflected off the water.

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The display lasted a bit over five minutes and the mostly Japanese crowd watched very politely. Unlike in many other countries where people drink to excess on New Year’s Eve, in Japan people either don’t drink, or they just have a very small amount. There was no sign of any rowdy behaviour during the whole evening.

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After the display finished there was time to get the second to last train back to Tokyo. If you hang around too long after the fireworks you’ll miss the last train, so make sure you know where you are going after the fireworks finish.

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Takamatsu Christmas ‘Dream Illumination’

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Here are some photos from the ‘Dream Illumination’ event that is taking place in Takamatsu’s Chuo Park this year. The event is on from the 18th December to 25th December. On many of the days there were events happening on the stage (singers and dancers). But on the day I went it was just the illuminations. The centre piece of the park was this large Christmas tree made of hundreds of lights (there is no actual tree inside it).

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On entering Chuo Park (no charge!) there are loads of food stalls selling octopus, ramen, soba, okonomiyaki, chips and ice cream (you do have to pay for these though).

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takamatsu christmas dream illuminations 02

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I just had some chips, but the meat and fish is there if you want it.

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Onto the lights. There are lots of displays around the park with various Christmas themed images. Plenty of snowmen and bells.

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There was a bouncy castle in the shape of a rabbit, and a tunnel of blue lights that you could walk through.

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Here is one of the stages – it was very quiet, as no one was performing today.

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This is Christmas scene, made of out (I think) coloured plastic bags which are rolled into cylinders.

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Finally a family of snowmen, near to one of the park tents. More food and drink was being served inside these tents.

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Ritsurin Gardens Light Up in Takamatsu

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The Ritsurin Gardens in Takamatsu, Kagawa is one of the best looking gardens in Japan. Usually you visit it during the day, but during November, for less than two weeks, the gardens are open at night.

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Selected trees, plants, water features, buildings and statues are lit up with a mixture of white and coloured lights.

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Unlike during the day when the whole of Ritsurin Park is open, only certain routes around are available to walk along during the light up. This is partly for safety reasons, and also partly because it would be too complicated to light up the whole park for such a short time.

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The light up proved very popular, with hundreds of locals visiting to take photos using their expensive cameras and tripods.

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I made do with my cheap compact held in my hand, but the results aren’t too bad!

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The Koi fish were up and as ever hoped to get food from the visitors.

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It is a bit like being at an art gallery where you move from one piece to the next rather than the usual Ritsurin Gardens where you can look at everything.

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Here is the Ritsurin Gardens waterfall. It is an artificial waterfall and at one time servants had to carry water up to make it work. These days a water pump is used.

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This shot is of the Ritsurin tea room reflected in the lake. The lighting provided for some great ‘reflected in the water’ photo opportunities.

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That isn’t the moon by the way, it is a light behind the tree.

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In the dark even a simple piece of tree bark became very interesting to look at.

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Many of the stepping stones across the ponds were off limits due to the dark, but this set of stones was well lit up.

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And finally here is the poster of the 2010 Ritsurin Park light up.

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If you want to see what Ritsurin Park looks like during the day see my other Ritsurin Park photos.

Japan vending machine photos

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Japan is full of vending machines. There are everywhere from city centres, to deserted alleys. Anywhere where there is a power supply can be home to a vending machine. Here is a collection of photos of vending machines that I have taken, they are mostly taken around Takamatsu in Kagawa, on Shikoku Island.

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Although there are vending machines that dispense all kinds of weird stuff, most of them just dispense drinks. On the machine above the blue buttons dispense cold drinks, and the red buttons dispense hot drinks. Yes the photo is a grumpy looking Tommy Lee Jones, whose photo was all over these machines during 2009 and the first half of 2010.

Often you’ll get big rows of these machines all together.

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And sometimes the vending machines will be all alone.

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Here are two Coke machines side by side. One serving cans, and the other bottles.

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The one on the below right is specific to Takamatsu. You can use your Kotoden Iruca travel card to buy the drinks.

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Anywhere there is a small piece of space you can find a vending machine. Below they’ve used a bit of spare ground next to a single car parking space. And on the right, they’ve fitted one between two pillars.

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On the right is a vending machine that dispenses beer. And on the left is one that dispenses a glass – just in case you don’t want to drink straight from the can!

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Here are some cigarette vending machines.

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This is a photo of a vending machine taken from above, on a bridge.

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Next to almost all vending machines you’ll find a bin for your used can or bottle.

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Here is a slim line machine, which fits next to the shop window.

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If the restaurant runs of our drinks – no problem you can get one from the machine just outside the door.

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And here is the final one, a classic red Coca Cola vending machine in Japan.

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How many photos will fit on my memory card?

Friday, March 12th, 2010

When taking photos with a digital camera it is useful to know how many photos will fit on your memory card (SD, Memory Stick Duo, USB, etc), and know how large the JPEG images are.

There are a lot of tables out there showing this kind of information. I don’t trust other people’s numbers so I decided to calculate them myself and produce some charts to show how the number of megapixels you use when taking the photo affects how many photos will fit on the card.

MP 0.3 1 2 3 4 5 7 10 12 15
256MB 1896 569 284 190 142 114 81 57 47 38
512MB 3793 1138 569 379 284 228 163 114 95 76
1GB 7585 2276 1138 759 569 455 325 228 190 152
2GB 15170 4551 2276 1517 1138 910 650 455 379 303
4GB 30341 9102 4551 3034 2276 1820 1300 910 759 607
8GB 60681 18204 9102 6068 4551 3641 2601 1820 1517 1214

The table above is what I came up with. I made the assumption that the images are stored as JPEGs and the compression ratio is 15:1. That is a rough average of what my Sony Cyber-shot W80 camera is compressing my photos at.

The compression ratio can have a big effect on the size of your photos. It can for example make the difference between your photo being 2MB in size or being 4MB in size.

This graph shows the JPEG photo size when using low compression (which I’m defining as 10:1) and high compression (which I’m defining as 20:1).

size of jpeg photos vs megapixels

My second graph shows how many photos you can fit on a 4GB card. I chose 4GB as this is quite a typical memory card size for today’s digital cameras. You can see that a small decrease in the megapixel resolution (that you shoot the image at) can allow you to fit a lot more photos on the card.

how many photos will fit on a 4gb memory card

Here’s a table of the average JPEG image sizes for differing megapixel resolutions.

MP 0.3 1 2 3 4 5 7 10 12 15
Size (MB) 0.14 0.45 0.9 1.35 1.8 2.25 3.15 4.5 5.4 6.75

If you take a lot of photos then I’d recommend you try decreasing the number of megapixels in your photos. Most digital cameras will allow you to do this very easily. Today 10MP and 12MP cameras are common, but this level of detail is way more than most people need. Megapixels are a marketing game played by camera manufacturers.

By having the resolution too high you are just decreasing the amount of pictures you can take, increasing the space they use on your computer, and increasing the time it takes to process or upload them.

I have a 7MP camera. I have turned it down to 5MP because I find 5MP to be sufficient. You get great photos at 5MP – they look great on screen and great when they are printed out on 6×4 inch or 7×5 inch photo paper.

Give it a go, and see if you notice any difference.