Half of a Geological Micro-instant

How long I’ve been in Japan really depends on your perspective. If you’re looking at how I’ve developed as a photographer, I’ve been in Japan for Eons. However, if you’re a giant pile of rocks that occasionally gets upset and throws ash and rocks and lava around in a fit of anger, I haven’t even been around long enough to say word one. Yeah. Geologists have different ideas of what “a long time” is. Don’t even get Neil deGrasse Tyson started on it.

The photo above is old enough that I don’t actually know where I took it from, but I’d put a solid guess on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s interesting for me to look at, because you can really see the limitations of my D200, and also my beginning photo developing skills at play, and yet, even with that, it’s a composition that I really like still today. I wish I could remember all of the details behind this shot, more than the EXIF that I do have.

This photo, taken from near Kawaguchiko Station on my first trip to Kawaguchiko was an experiment in composition. In Japan, it’s often impossible to get away from the power lines, so sometimes, you try to make them work for you. In this case, I used the power lines of the train in the foreground, with the mess of the city power grid in the mid-ground. I’m not sure why I chose to go black and white, but I still have the color original on file, and I still agree with the choice, and with my crop.

This one, I absolutely remember taking from the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. I really wish that I could set up this combination of an amazing sunset with the news helicopter and Mt Fuji all over again. I’d like to think that with all of the better technology and skills that I’ve picked up in the intervening years, I’d do better. But the truth is, I’d probably miss the shot. Instead of shooting hand-held, I’d probably be set up with a support structure and a long exposure, and in no way ready to readjust to the opportunity. I’d probably just grimace, and keep trying for the long exposure shot.

The first time I went to shoot “diamond Fuji” from the Top of Mt Takao, I brought along a film camera, with a roll of AGFA Vista 400. It was long before I started scanning my own film, so I’m 100% unsure of why this scan came out so noisy. I should go back and re-scan it now that I know more about how to do that. But at the same time, I really like the noise in this shot. It adds something to it somehow, even if the digital shots I was taking at the same time are crisp and noiseless. Every year on the winter solstice, it’s possible to watch the sun set into the caldera of Mt Fuji from Mt Takao. Takao is a great hike. It’s an easy day trip from Tokyo, and it’s not difficult, and there’s all the infrastructure if you’re new to being in the woods. Even the toilets are pretty nice at the top. But if you’re going for diamond Fuji, get there early. Plan to get to the top around lunch time, and bring enough food and or beverages for you to sit there with your tripod and camera until sunset.

A lot of photography is like that. Hiking somewhere, and enduring cold, wind, rain, or crowds in order to get the shot. But sometimes, the sky clears, and life puts you on top of Roppongi Hills with a glorious sunset, and you can sit there, drinking a beer, and photographing from your air-conditioned table. The beer purchase was purely so I could justify taking up the table space to photograph sunset. I swear.

Speaking of photos that were incredibly pleasant to photograph, this Velvia 50 photograph was taken from the comfort of my hotel room near Lake Kawaguchi. Which is good. Because it was an 80 minute long exposure. I pulled the trigger on my Fuji GW690, and let it go for 80 minutes while I sipped a beer and enjoyed the company of friends. In the dark. Because if we turned the lights on, we would have gotten a reflection in the window. It’s ok. Don’t worry. I got the beer prepped before I turned out the lights. Priorities. Velvia goes green as the exposure gets long, so getting the colors right afterwards is definitely an exercise in creative color-correction. I’ve re-edited this photo a bunch of times, trying to look for the most natural-looking colors. And every time I think to myself… why am I trying to natural-looking colors from Velvia? It seem’s a fool’s quest.

Thanks for this little trip down Fuji memory lane. I don’t always take photos of Mt Fuji. I don’t even aspire to be a Mt Fuji photographer. But there’s something special about the volcano that rises over the city I live in. I don’t really know what it is, but it’s a draw. I’ve got more Mt Fuji photos planned in the near future, so we’ll see what else pops up here on the blog.