Tag Archives: photography

A Walk in the Park

21 Mar

Hi blog.

I’ll spare you the excuses, mostly because I have none.

We are into late March, meaning the end of the academic and financial years, unstable weather – one day’s minimum might be higher than the next day’s maximum, rain one day and dust storms the next – and cherry blossoms and the hype surrounding them.

Feeling somewhat low over the spring equinox long weekend – right after my 45th birthday, no less – I decided to take the plunge and go out in search of something to blog about.

This will be a mostly visual post.  I cycled to Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park (it feels so strange to call it that – everyone I know uses “Kokukoen”) in the hope of seeing something worth photographing.  And something I could photograph with my not-so-great smartphone camera.

A Trachycarpus palm, one of the evergreens found in this area.  I should get around to writing about them some day.

 

Small bracket fungus growing on a tree stump.

 

Mississippi red-eared sliders vie for the best basking spot on what was the warmest day so far this year.

 

A yulan magnolia in full bloom. Avid followers might recognise this.

 

They smell better than those cherry blossoms too.

 

A mighty Japanese zelkova stands still bare of leaves. This is one of the most ubiquitous trees in suburban Japan.

 

A pair of brown-eared bulbuls and a pair of white-cheeked starlings acting a little wary of the bloke with the camera.

 

A brown-eared bulbul plays by the water.

 

A gorgeous pink camellia. The brown-eared bulbuls sometimes feed on the nectar.

 

On the way to the park, along the banks of the Azuma river. White, pink and red camellias under a cherry tree and palm.

 

Rape blossom, cherry and camellias under a street lantern. Comma placement is VERY important!

 

Sometimes a walk in the park is just what one needs.

Photos in Kyoto

24 Jan

Hi blog.

Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Rumours of me being too lazy to put together a decent blog post are pretty well spot-on.

Of course, I will try to rationalise it away – it’s cold out there, I don’t have my own camera, family commitments, the trip to Kyoto…

Ah, Kyoto.

Everyone who is someone, or even anyone, in Japan has been there.

Ryoma was here. This was a spot we stumbled upon – it was on a main street on our way to Gion.

That soy sauce could kill you…

My first experience of Kyoto was during my stint as an exchange student back in 1989.  It would be more than 25 years until I visited again, this time as guide and chaperone to my niece (on her second trip – she had to wait less than one year).

 

This isn’t a travel blog, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

Kyoto had received its heaviest snowfall in over 60 years, and we were warned to expect snow and extreme cold.  Luckily, there was almost no trace of that snow, nor was it particularly cold during our stay.

We arrived on January 10th at a little before 11.  After leaving our luggage at the hotel, the first stop on the agenda was the Gion area, specifically the Yasaka Shrine.

The entrance to the Yasaka Shrine from across the road.

My own reasons for visiting this shrine were very much WIJ themed – I remembered another blogger’s post about the kirin there.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my the wife’s camera (I was forced to leave that home), and my mobile phone doesn’t quite cut it in less than optimal conditions, so please excuse the quality of my photos.

The lion dogs which guard shrines are known as komainu (狛犬), but you’ll notice that one of the guardians of the Yasaka Shrine has a single horn.  This has led some people to believe that it is not a lion dog but in fact a kirin (麒麟), or unicorn.

The horned guardian.

You can see the horn more clearly in this shot.

(There are bizzare theories that this is related to the lion and unicorn on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, suggesting a Semetic origin of the Japanese!)

Komainu or kirin?

 

From Yasaka, an easy walk to the famed Kiyomizu Temple, my favourite spot on my previous visit… only to find that it is currently under repair!  No photos there!

Pagoda on the Yasaka Road heading towards Kiyomizu.

OK, I lied. I got one photo at Kiyomizu. This is a decorative roof tile known as an onigawara (literally “demon tile”) Many temples have their own distinct onigawara.

 

A bus ride to Ginkakuji, whose garden is well worth the entrance fee.  I hadn’t visited this before, so it was quite a treat.

The main pavillion.

 

Now, that’s a sandcastle! The Kogetsudai is said to be to reflect the moonlight, or to repesent Mt. Fuji.

View of the pavillion from across the sand garden.

The other main temple building and pond.

Raked sand art.

The pavillion viewed from the hill. Note the Chinese pheonix on the roof.

It was here that my niece asked me about various Japanese plants, and I was able to explain about Aucuba, coral bush, and several other plants.  She astutely observed the lack of flowering plants and that most of the colour to be seen was fruit.

After Ginkakuji, we took a short stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk and stumbled upon another temple, the Honen-in.  It cost us nothing to enter the grounds, but the garden was quite good.

Sand art…

 

… and more sand art.

 

We decided to call it a day – most temples and shrines close to the public at 4:30 in winter – and made our way back to the hotel.  There, I plotted out our route for the next day.

The first stop on day 2 was Kinkaku-ji.  No-one seems to care that the current building dates from the 1950’s, and after all, it is a very nice piece of real estate.  My niece was interested in the carp in the pond, while I pointed out the night heron waiting in a tree.

The main gate and entrance to Kinkakuji.

 

The pavillion on the pond.

 

A closer view.

 

Note the phoenix on the roof again. This one is also featured on the ¥10000 note.

 

Ryoanji was next on the agenda.  This was my first visit, but I had heard and read a lot about the famous rock garden.  It is certainly worth visiting.

The onigawara on the main temple building at Ryoanji.

♬ I am a rock, I am an island ♫

“Enlightenment?” “Nah, it’s just a bunch of rocks”

On a warm day I coud just sit and watch these things for hours.

Door post decoration. I reckon I was one of the few people who weren’t too distracted by the rocks to notice this.

I have to admit, that rock garden is a pleasant distraction.

 

Next, we paid an impromptu visit to Ninnaji.  A couple of the buildings were under repair, and for me it lacked something – maybe I was suffering from temple overload.  Still, we were able to enter the grounds for free.

Pagoda.

 

One of the temple gates.

 

Nio statue.

 

 

From there, a bus ride to the Arashiyama area.

The bamboo forest walk was quite impressive, and no camera can capture the feeling of being surrounded by huge bamboo stalks.

World’s tallest grass?

 

I don’t think any of the other tourists stopped to take photos of the bamboo until I did.

 

 

Next was Tenryuji, a large temple with a nice garden and large pond.  Here, many of the plants were labelled – how thoughtful!

The pond at Tenryuji. Yes, that is my fiinger on the top left.

 

Onigawara.

 

Nice rocks in front of the temple building.

 

Nicely twisted and gnarled red pine.

 

Finally, we walked down to Togekkyo.  The bridge was a disappointment – a modern concrete structure, complete with traffic.  A bridge too far?  Oh, well… tomorrow is another day.

Anyone for bridge?

 

The morning of the 13th brought snow, but it stopped during our late-ish breakfast.  My plan was to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha and maybe one other location, time permitting.  Time didn’t permit – no-one told me that the shrine complex extends up a hill and needs at least 2 hours to complete the circuit!

The first torii gate and main shrine building.

A guardian fox.

And so it begins… the circuit of thousands of torii gates and pockets of Inari shrines.

Shrines everywhere!

Mossy fox. Inari is usually either depicted as a fox, or foxes are the god’s messengers.

There are a few Buddhist dieties here and there among the foxes…

… and the occasional toad.

A sign proudly states that the shrine complex was voted the most popular destination in Kyoto among overseas tourists in 2014.  Each to their own, I guess.

There were other places I would have liked to visit, and I really needed more time for those unplanned “stumble upon” experiences.  I just hope I don’t have to wait another 25 years for my next Kyoto visit!

 

Many thanks to my sister and niece, without whom this trip wouldn’t have happened.

 

 

 

 

Trees don’t just grow on trees…

2 Apr

 

I took advantage of some free time during a sunny and warm period to go for a little walk and look for wildlife.

Unfortunately, nothing except pigeons seemed to be on the out-and-about.

However, you don’t see this every day…

Growing in the fork of a coppiced oak were two seedlings, an oak and a maple.

The taller of the two appears to be an oak, and the shorter one a maple.

Wild in Australia

30 Aug

I’m tempted to title this post “Things you can photograph with a proper camera”.  The best ones turned out to be videocaps, thanks largely to the more powerful zoom on the video camera.

I would like to have taken more nature shots, but my wife seems to think that taking photos without the kids in the frame is inherently wrong…

Anyway, none of these involved going off the beaten track.  For example, this photo was taken just outside Goolwa, near the barrage.

A water hen and egret

This one was taken at the barrage, where overflow from the Murray River is released into the sea.

A pair of seals – I think Australian fur seals – on the barrage. There were about 30 of these animals playing around the barrage, no doubt enjoying the fish that make it out.

We could have gotten a shot like this almost anywhere – the Gold Coast was full of them!

A rainbow lorikeet in a banksia tree. We saw many of these in South Australia, and flocks in the dozens at the Gold Coast.

Our trip to the Riverland – Lyrup, Renmark, Loxton and Berri – gave us a different view of river wildlife.

This appears to be a pied cormorant, which tend to hang around estuaries rather than rivers.

This one was a good catch…

A heron with its catch.

And the sunset on the river is wonderful.

A cormorant and dart by sunset.

A return to Goolwa and a day trip to Victor Harbor.

A rainbow near the Bluff, an old lookout for 19th century whalers.

We went across to Granite Island in the hope of seeing penguins. We weren’t in luck – it seems that the penguin population has plummeted. Seals may be partly responsible.
But instead we saw this:

A southern right whale at play, about 1 km off Granite Island.

Two whales?

It was a good trip.

I hope to have some more wildlife from suburban Japan coming soon.

More things you might see when you don’t have a camera

2 Aug

A brief collection of random things I photographed with my mobile phone, all in one morning on a slightly different work route.

There were sunflowers over two metres tall…

A sunflower. Known locally as “himawari” (向日葵)

Jungle…

Welcome to the jungle [cue Guns N’ Roses]

♫…Down in the jungle…♫

Taro fields…

Taro is a major crop in Sayama, particularly the Mizuno and Horigane areas.

Another taro field, with irrigation in action.

Great purple emperors (Sasakia charonda) or omurasaki (大紫), Japan’s national butterfly…

Japan’s national butterfly.

A closer shot of a purple emperor.

… which were sometimes battling various beetles for the best feeding position on an oak tree…

Pole position… beetles (the black ones here are female rhinoceros beetles) and butterflies scrambling to get the sap of an oak tree.

beetles vs. butterflies

Not to mention a male rhinoceros beetle graveyard…

The beetles’ graveyard.

Heads will roll… the remains of a male rhinoceros beetle.

And a cicada carapace discarded on a gutter.

Cicadas live burried for up to two years as nymphs before emerging, moulting and surviving for about a week as adults.

And all in a day’s work!

The things you see when you don’t have a camera

21 Jul

Just a brief collection of assorted pics hastily taken with my mobile phone.  These are ones that actually turned out – my attempts to photograph herons, kingfishers, lizards and tree frogs with  my mobile inevitably end up as tiny blurs – assuming I even have time to get the thing out of my pocket and switch to camera mode.

How I wish I could afford to carry a real camera around with me all the time, as there are encounters that happen anywhere.

Like this snake…

A snake just outside my school entrance. It slithered into the bushes before I could get a decent shot or identify it.

And this…

A spider of the genus Argiope. Note the stabilimentum (web decoration). This was taken at an amusement park.

Or this…

An unidentified insect – I guess it’s a bush cricket (katydid). This one was about 3 cm long.

A little closer…

And this…

A snail by the roadside. The shell was about 3 cm across.

A closer look. At least this one didn’t get away!

Saving those yen…

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