Why did it have to be snakes?

Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 50mm/1.8, Kodak Portra 400

We caught an Indiana Jones exhibit at the Discovery Science Center in the spring.  It was a blast seeing many original props and costumes from the Indiana Jones series of movies which are some of our all-time favorites.

The lights were pretty dim but I was impressed what Portra 400 could pull off with my lens wide open.  I checked my metering now and then, but mostly just left the shutter at 1/60 of a second.

Most of my images came out quite nicely, including ones of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol, Holy Grail, Crusader Shield, and Grail Cross.

Kyoto Ginkakuji Temple

Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 35-105/3.5-4.5 D IF, Fuji Velvia 100

Our second major destination in Kyoto was the Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion.

The Ginkaku-ji Zen Temple is nestled in the foothills on the east side of Kyoto.  It includes a few historic buildings, a beautiful sand garden and sculpture, and several connected ponds and woods.

Its construction began in 1482 and it originally served as a retirement home for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa.  After his death in 1490 it became a Buddhist temple according to his wishes.

Unlike at the Heian Shrine, tripod photography is not allowed at the Silver Pavilion.  While the overcast weather afforded some soft lighting, it also made handheld shots with Velvia 100 quiet challenging and I often had to resort to resting on a post or against a tree to stabilize myself.

You encounter the main temple to the right as soon as you have entered the main grounds.  You also see a finely sculpted Zen rock garden and sculpture in the shape of a cone.


Walking around the main rock garden you start to enter the rest of the grounds.  There are several other buildings and side gardens along the way.


There are a few paths which wind around ponds, a wishing well and small grassy areas.  The main path starts to wind up hill with a mixture of rock and bamboo steps along the way.


And if you keep going to the top you are rewarded with a view back down towards the rock garden and temple.


You can casually explore the whole grounds in half an hour or so, but if you want to linger at all (and I recommend that you do!) plan for an hour or more.

Even though they say the temple closes at 5:20 PM they actually mean they expect you to be completely off the grounds by then.  The caretakers start to politely but firmly usher you out shortly after they play a ritual drum cadence at 5 PM.

Note: If you find your 3-year old has fallen asleep on your shoulder or lap when you get there shortly before closing, you may not want to rest in the covered area near the rock garden.  The drum ceremony at closing is not conducive to nap taking!

Kyoto Heian Jingu Shrine and Garden


Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 35-105/3.5-4.5 D IF, Fuji Velvia 100

Our first destination in Japan was Kyoto, the former imperial capital which is full of historical, religious, and artistic places to visit.

We stayed at a charming traditional ryokan called Three Sisters Inn Annex.  It was a gorgeous inn with charming staff and excellent breakfast and warrants its own post.

However, I can't wait to share photos from the first site we visited, the Heian Jingu Shrine and garden.  Since it was literally right around the corner from our inn we figured it was a good location to drag our jet-lagged selves to.

This Shinto shrine was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100 year anniversary of Kyoto becoming the capital of Japan.  The shrine itself is incredibly striking with its bright red buildings and green tile roofs.

There is a dragon guarding the fountain near the front of the shrine which has cups with handles to pour the purifying waters over yourself.


We weren't prepared for the beauty of the gardens which are hidden from view until you pass through an entryway inside the shrine. The first section starts with a narrow stream inhabited by some very friendly koi.


Walking to the next section reveals the first ponds which feed the stream.  They are full of lily pads and irises which happened to be in full bloom in June.


Further ahead were more ponds, but now there were a few sets of stepping stones crossing them in places.  Our two boys had no end of delight chasing each other across these, it is a minor miracle neither fell in!

And the final section included the largest pond yet, a bridge crossing it, and a smaller building across the way.  An bonus is that tripods are allowed inside the shrine and gardens, so I was able to make the photo at the start of this article as an 8-second exposure to smooth out all the ripples in the water.

Japan Expedition

Nikon F6, Nikkor 85/1.8 AF D, Kodak Portra 400

Well, in case you couldn't guess or you haven't caught it from my Dear Sweet Wife, we recently returned from a family expedition to Japan.  We also hit Hawaii on the way back because… well, it was on the way!

We spent two days in Kyoto and five in Tokyo, but of course there were a couple travel days around and in-between.  Then we soaked up the sun at pools and the beach in Hawaii for about three days.

It was an amazing trip in many ways, and we had a total blast.  This was our biggest family vacation ever, and our 6- and 3-year-old sons had a great time.

Above is the totem pole from Robot Park, with some Roppongi Hills towers visible behind.  This was an extremely cute playground and a very welcome opportunity for our kids to use up some energy.

My DSW came back with plenty of quilting goods, I managed to nab some photography toys, and our boys practically filled a suitcase with Anpanman and Catbus stuffed dolls.

I have plenty of tales to tell in future posts along with a mound of film to scan in the process.

Roll In A Day April

Nikon F6, Nikkor F 105/2.5 P, Kodak Porta 400

April 21st was the second Roll in a day / A day in a roll event.  This is where you shoot a roll of film over the course of one day and upload it in its entirety to your Flickr photostream.

I loved this event when I participated the first time one a month ago.  I especially enjoyed it now as my Dear Sweet Wife went along for the ride this time.

She was encouraged by a recent gift that I gave her, a little something to reignite her love for film photography.  I think it worked!

This time around for my roll I again shot my Nikon F6 with Kodak Portra 400 film.  However, I decided to try using only my old manual focus Nikkor F 105/2.5 P lens.

We had a blast, encountering a teen rock band that really rocked, rodents of unusual size (or ROUS) at Happy Hollow, enjoyed cold treats with our friends, and wrapped up with some yarn winding at home.

See my whole roll here, and her whole roll here.  You can find plenty of examples of our two perspectives on the same subjects.

I am looking forward to the next RIAD event Saturday May 19th, although I am going to have to cook up something different for this time…

What if I Like The Noise?

Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 50/1.8, Kodak Porta 400

While I do love shooting film, I also enjoy keeping up on developments in digital cameras.  If you are looking for objective data on the latest digital sensors and lenses then you had better check out DxOMark.

They put most new cameras and lenses through their paces and produce a bewildering array of charts, graphs and performance scoring.

CNET recently sent behind the scenes at DxO Labs to take a look at their testing procedures.  Stephen interviewed chief scientist Frederic Guichard who had some interesting things to say about digital versus film.

Frederic says that "the dynamic range of film is eight stops more than any sensor on the planet", presumably speaking about color print (C-41) film which typically has broad exposure latitude.

He goes on to argue that with some minimal acceptable "quality" threshold (which he defines as 20 decibels signal-to-noise-ratio or SNR) that the latest DSLR's appear to beat out film.

Take a look at their figure 9 comparison of film and sensor dynamic range:  the digital sensor does achieve a higher maximum SNR, but it hits a hard wall clipping higher exposure levels while the film goes on to degrade slowly and gracefully.

I wonder what the "noise" is in this context.  If it is the grain, color tendencies, tonality, etc. of the film I don't personally consider it "poor quality".  The tested film was Kodak Portra 160, and I prefer the look of its photographs taken in daylight over any digitally captured image.

I guess the film versus digital debate at some level comes down to whether you like the inherent characteristics of a given film or the more neutral (or is that sterile…) look of a digital sensor.  I know where I stand in this argument, and I have to say I don't mind the bonus exposure latitude either!

Remove Before Flight

Nikon F6, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Ilford XP2 Super 

This is a shot I took at the Hiller Aviation Museum back in January.  Our two young boys love this place, I think we visit there at least twice a year if not more often.

Since I had our boys with me I was just taking some quick hand-held shots, mostly wide open due to the relatively low indoor lighting.  Sometimes I was uncertain what to focus on, but in this shot I think the "remove before flight" tag worked.

I just finished listening to Film Photography Podcast episode 56, released April 1st.  This is my favorite film photography related podcast, and while the discussion can wander at times there are usually a couple gem segments in each show.

This time I thoroughly enjoyed Hunter White's interview with Brian Wallis from the International Center of Photography in New York City.  They discussed the Weegee – Murder is my Business exhibit currently showing at the museum.

Weegee was one of the first famous photojournalists, you have probably seen some of his iconic photos.  He was a fascinating character who leveraged his connections with both the police and the gangs to be on the spot when the action was happening.

Dan Domme gave a brief introduction to pinhole photography and also reminded us that World Pinhole Photography Day is coming up soon on Sunday April 29th.  The whole idea is to get out and take pinhole photographs that day and then share the results.

I lost my Nikon F-mount pinhole cap some time ago, but we have a few other pinhole cameras around the house.  I will have to dust off one of them for this event!

Roll In A Day Results

Nikon F6, Nikkor 24mm f/2.8, Kodak Portra 400

The Darkroom finished developing and scanning my Roll In A Day film roll two days ago.  I just barely pulled the files from their site and uploaded them to my Flickr photostream last night before the designated deadline.

It was a fun project and I tried two kind of new things out for the day:

  1. I only took one shot per subject.  (Normally I "work" the subject with multiple compositions and I often bracket exposures.)
  2. I used color conversion filters to try to correct for the color temperature of the predominant light source.

Check my whole roll out in my Roll in a day March 24th 2012 Flickr set.

I think I may have overdone it on the one-shot-per-subject goal as I didn't even complete the roll of 36 exposures.  I barely managed over 20 shots that day.

However, it was thrilling to be very selective in what I shot, when I shot it, and then move on once done.  I think I need to practice restraint like this some more, it certainly saves some film!

And using the filters was fun.  I rarely try to shoot color in incandescent or mixed lighting (or bother with the filtration) but I was very happy with the results here.

Looks like the next Roll In A Day event is scheduled for April 21st 2012.  I am looking forward to it, and will have to try some other camera/film/technique this time around.

Lighting It Up

Nikon F6, Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AF, Kodak Ektar 100

Well, I had a blast working on my Roll in a Day / Day in a Roll project this past Saturday.

It was a rainy day and so we were unfortunately stuck in the house much of the time.  I shot more of some indoor subjects and with artificial and mixed lighting than I am used to, but that was part of the fun.

We did make it out for breakfast at one of our favorite places, Gilley's Coffee Shoppe in Los Gatos.  The food is excellent and the staff as friendly as can be so definately stop by there if you are nearby (though beware of the lunch time rush).

I was a bit too conservative in my shooting, by the end of the day I only had around 20 shots total.  I had an idealistic approach of only taking one exposure of any given subject/composition.  I could have afforded to "work my subject" a bit more in a few instances, oh well.

My roll of film is now off to The Darkroom for processing.  They scan your photos and upload them to an online interface where you can access them.  Hopefully this will let me get them on Flickr by next weekend.

One of my earlier resolutions for the year was to streamline my photo editing process, and to that end I have taken the plunge and purchased Adobe Lightroom 4.  The new $150 price point is to attractive to ignore, and I have heard from other film photographers who love working with it.

I haven't read any manual or instructions and just spent about 5 minutes working on the image above.  But I did clone out a strand of hair from the scan, adjust blacks a bit, crop, sharpen, and add a slight vignette.

I can't wait to dig into it some more, but I am BIG read-the-manual-first kind of person.  I will have to see if there is a good book to get me deep into the Lightroom 4 interface.