An ancient tree at the Shōren-in temple

An old tree at the Shoren-in temple

Jingu Michi road is abundant with buddhist temples and shinto shrines that offer a lot to see. One of the things that drew my attention were these old ancient trees at the Shōren-in temple’s website, a buddhist temple of the Tendai sect. This time we decided to admire the Camphor trees from the street instead of visiting the temple, but it is on my list of places to visit in the future. The entrance costs 500 yen for adults.

The processing of this image was quite simple. After some basic edits in Lightroom, I switched over to Photoshop where I removed power lines and other small but distracting objects. Then I opened the image in OnOne Perfect Effects, where I applied a paper texture selectively on the image to emphasize the warm tone and to add some vignetting to it. As you can see from Google street view below, the tree is as magnificent, if not even more spectacular, as it looks in the photo.

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Sakunami

We finally arrived in Sakunami a little past noon. Although the distance between Ayashi and Sakunami is only about 13 kilometers, it still took about 20 minutes to get there. When we stopped at Ayashi, I thought it was a quiet little station, but compared to Sakunami it was actually quite busy. Sakunami station was mostly surrounded by fields and forest, and there were hardly any passengers, although there was a taxi waiting for customers in front of the station. It seems that there is a hot spring resort with quite a few hotels and spas in Sakunami, but not having done our homework we had no idea of what the area had to offer.

We had to ask the station staff for directions to our destination, Nikka’s distillery, and while they seemed a little amused to find out where we were going, they were very helpful. A station employee actually ran to the nearest bus stop to check the schedule for us. Because we would’ve had to wait for 30 minutes for the next bus, we decided that we might as well walk because it was only two kilometers to the factory.

While I was talking with the station staff, my sister found out the terrifying secret of the Japanese countryside: there are MONSTERS everywhere! There was a butterfly the size of my palm resting on a phone booth next to the station building, and unfortunately this freak of nature wasn’t an exception in the local fauna. The brushes were bustling with all kinds of bugs from huge spiders to different kinds of beetles. While we were walking to the distillery, we also noticed that there were a lot of hornets about 2 inches long flying around and a lot of dead ones on the roadside. (I read later that they are common in the mountainous areas of Japan.) I was also later told that they cause more deaths in Japan than all the other wildlife combined. Strangely, I had never encountered wasps or other bugs of this size before, even though I have been camping in the countryside and the mountains in Southern Japan.

Here’s a few photos from Sakunami Highway that leads to the distillery:

On Sakunami Highway
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Mt. Kamakurayama
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The mountain above is called Kamakurayama. I read later that it is possible to go hiking there from the hot springs, so it’s a shame we missed that opportunity.

Sakunami Highway
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The distillery is just around the corner in the image above. Despite all the bugs it was a pleasant 20-minute walk to the distillery and although we spent a good amount of time goofing around and taking photos of the insects and other stuff, we managed to get there well before the bus. If you want to see the route to the distillery yourself, check the map with the street view below (turn left on the highway and head towards the big mountain):


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A bumblebee on a Tansy

A bumblebee on a Tansy

Bumblebees are busy little fellows and surprisingly fast when you try to capture them. I wasn’t even using a proper macro lens, but the depth of field was still narrow enough to make it difficult. After an hour of trying, this was the best image I got. I took this on the same evening as the previous fireweed image.

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A fireweed flower on a meadow

A fireweed on a meadow

First of all, Happy New Year!

This image of fireweed flowers caused me some grief because I wasn’t sure what to do with it. The original framing left too much space around the flowers and there was nothing in the image to catch your eye. After trying a few different cropping options, the square format solved the composition problem. I then started to experiment with a new texture pack I got a couple of days earlier to see if I could add interest to the image with it. I applied the texture on the entire image and then painted a part of it out to reveal one flower that was in focus. This helped to draw attention to it, tone down the colors and to give the image a more serene look. If you like this one, I have uploaded a few other images from the same shoot on my Instagram account.

I was first going to write a longer recap of last year, but I think it’s better to just get it over with by saying that in terms of photography 2013 was a good year for me. From all the good things that happened last year, I feel that there are two thing worth mentioning. First of all, I redesigned my website completely. It’s not finished yet and I plan to keep improving it this year, but I like the new layout and larger photos better. Secondly, I some of my images are now available for licensing. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while, but last year I finally made it happen. At this point my images can be licensed from Getty Images and Alamy. I’ll keep growing my portfolio on both sites but I’m also planning to add more licensing options on my website when the time allows.

I’m not going to make any promises for 2014, but I would like to make this blog more active and post images to other social media sites more regularly. In case you didn’t know, you can also follow me on Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

If you’d like to see more images than the ones I post on this blog, follow me on at one of these social media sites. I like to keep my feeds more interesting by uploading different images on different sites and most of these images never find their way to this blog. I know some of you might already follow my personal Facebook page, but I have also created a new Facebook page for my photos. It gets updated more frequently than my personal page and contains more images.

Well, that’s it! I wish you all a good year and hope I’ll see you here also in 2014.

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Quiet sunset at Lake Tuomiojärvi

Summer evening at Lake Tuomiojärvi

A simple click of Lake Tuomiojärvi I made during an evening walk. It’s a shame I didn’t take more than one photo of this beautiful scene, but then again, this one photo is all I need to remember the moment.

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Autumn leaves in the wind

Autumn leaves in the wind

Here’s one more autumn image to start the week. One of my goals this autumn was to photograph leaves flying in the wind. There was a strong wind on the morning I took this photo and I knew it was probably one of the last days before all the leaves were gone. I saw these trees next to our office and started working on different angles. I finally settled on the one you see above and began to wait for a gust of wind that would blow some leaves off the trees. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought and I kept missing the shot because of the slow response time of my phone camera (I’d left my DSLR home in the morning). I stood there a good while, trying to anticipate the right moment until I finally got a couple of promising images.

I took the one I liked best and blended in a couple of leaves from another shot to fill some spots in the sky I thought were too empty. I’m not sure if this was really necessary, but it made the image look more balanced to my eye. I then finalized the image by increasing color contrast and adding some vignetting to the corners in Nik Color Efex Pro. Although this might sound like a lot of post-processing work for a mobile phone image and the image was by no means bad out of camera, these final post-processing steps really made the colors pop – and more importantly – they made me happier about the image. Even if you’re not shooting in raw, there’s a lot you can do to improve your images afterwards with software such as Snapseed, Lightroom or Photoshop, and I see no reason to settle for what the camera offers you.

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Maple leaf

Maple leaf against the sky

A quick update for Friday afternoon before I have to get going.

Here’s the second image from the autumn series I shot a month ago. When it comes to autumn and mobile phone photos, a hand holding a maple leaf against the sky or sun is probably one of the most common photographic clichés. Still, the weather was so nice and the leaves so colorful that I had to make my version of it. I’m not sure if I was able to bring anything new or personal to this shot, but at least its my hand in the image. I’m also happy about the color contrast between the blue sky and the yellow leaf.

That’s it for today. Have a nice weekend, and if you’re in Jyväskylä, come and see singer-songwriter Heikki Hallanoro, a friend of mine, perform at Vakiopaine tonight. I’ll also be there to take a few photos. Hopefully I’ll have some nice ones to upload next week.

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Autumn at Lake Palokkajärvi

A boat covered with autumn leaves

Autumn is almost over and the leaves are already gone, but I haven’t had time to post any autumn images yet. I’m going to fix that by posting a series of images I took on a beautiful morning in early October. This boat is one of many boats on the shore of Lake Palokkajärvi. I walk by it almost everyday during my commute, but this time the golden leaves and the morning light created such a beautiful scene that I had to stop and try to capture it. I took a number of shots from different angles, but this one stood out.

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Long and winding road

Winding dirt road lined with trees

I’m trying to catch up with posting images I’ve post-processed recently. I took this one in May only a few hundred meters from where I live. I liked the original version, but thought it was a bit too light. Because the image already had a painterly quality to it, I decided to emphasize it by adding a texture on most of the image. I think it worked nicely, making the image a bit darker and giving it a more tranquil mood.

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Pappilanjoki River on a sunny spring day

Pappilanjoki

This image was pulled from the previous version of this blog. I took it in Rantasalmi, my home town, a few years ago on a sunny spring day. There’s a small river called Pappilanjoki (Parsonage’s river) that connects two lakes, Lake Kosulanlampi and Pieni Raudanvesi.

Both Lake Kosulanlampi and the river have become eutrophic due to the surrounding agriculture and municipal waste waters. On the right behind the trees, there’s an old parsonage built in 1870. Because of quality of water in the river and the lake, there’s a lot of vegetation on the shores and riverbanks, which has made this area an important resting stop for many species of migratory birds.

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