Ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera

Ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera

Often when visiting a new place, I tend to photograph wider landscapes to record an overall picture of the place. While I think it’s important to make those images as well and I primarily shoot landscapes, it often results in overlooking the details of the place. Looking at the photographs others have taken from locations I have visited, I’ve come to realize that as much as the entire view, the details help tell the story of the place as well. These ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera caught my eye when we were finishing our tour of the temple and leaving the area. In this case it was the aging staircase with all its cracks and the red autumn leaves on the stairs that made be want to press the shutter. The day was beautiful and sunny, but I did warm the image up and add some flare in post-processing to emphasize the summery feeling.

By the way, I hope you like the new layout of the blog. I’m still working on it, but think it makes the photos look better and is generally easier to read. What do you think?

Omikuji at the Heian Shrine

Omikuji at the Heian Shrine

Omikuji are fortunes written on strips of paper that visitors can buy at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. People can make a small donation and select a random fortune from a box. The omikuji contains a general fortune which varies between great luck and great curse. The fortune paper also includes fortunes regarding different aspects of life, such as business, travel, studies, romance and marriage. If the fortune is bad, it is customary to tie the paper to a tree in a shrine. The reason for this is that the bad luck will stay at the shrine instead of following the person. It’s a similar custom to writing a prayer on an ema with the exception that with ema people can specify what they wish from the future.

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Prayer plaques at the Heian shrine (and a giveaway!)

Prayer plaques at the Heian Shrine
See this photo on Flickr

First things first: I’m currently running a giveaway on Google+ and Instagram! A Japanese friend of mine sent me a few copies of his band’s new album “Adaptation”, so I decided to give them to someone who might like the music. Participating is simple and doesn’t require you to follow anyone if you don’t want to. The giveaway ends next Sunday, so if you’d like to get the album, go to Google+ or Instagram right now! The album is also available for listening on Spotify.

Here’s a music video for the song Ruri by Panic Soup:

The image above is one of the places at the Heian Shrine where people can hang small wooden blocks called “ema”. People can buy these wooden plaques from shinto shrines, and write their wishes on the plaque and leave it to the shrine in the hope that the gods will grant their wish. In the one in the image, a person wishes her mother good health.

Evening flight

Summer evening flight

I’m slowly working through my back catalogue of images and although I’m not finding as many gems as I wanted, there is an occasional image that I like. This was a pretty simple image to finish. I cropped the image to square format to get rid of the needless space on the edges and removed some of the trees at the bottom of the image in Lightroom. Then I moved to Photoshop where I cloned out the logos of the balloon company in Photoshop and finally accentuated the colors of the sunset in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 by adding a violet/pink bi-color filter to the image. I could have done a more careful job on removing the logos, but it’s not too bad.

I was out shooting with a friend one evening because I wanted to test a Sigma 150-500mm lens he had for sale (and which I later bought). It was already quite late in the evening and the sun was setting when we saw this hot air balloon taking off a couple of hundred meters from us. I shot a few frames as it floated by just above the trees. After flying a few hundred meters, it suddenly shrank and fell down to the woods on the other side of the park. I don’t know what happened and we never found out whether the people in the balloon were ok, but I don’t think they were in any danger. It looked like a relatively soft landing.

Finally, if you’re one of the people who started following this website back in 2009 when it was still a travel blog about Japan, you might be happy to hear that I still have quite a few photos from that period that I haven’t uploaded here yet. I’ll start working on those images next and I’m really excited to visit them again! I’ll be posting the travel images in the Travel section under “Japan 2009” and return to this blog after I’ve dealt with those images. If you’ve subscribed to the RSS feed from the front page of the blog, you should receive see those posts as usual in your reader.

See this photo on Flickr

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.

See this photo on Flickr

Midsummer bonfire

People looking at a midsummer bonfire

Here’s some light for the darkest time of the year. It’s interesting how old non-Christian traditions like burning a bonfire still live on in a society that has been prevalently Christian for hundreds of years. I hope these traditions continue to be part of our lives in the future. Happy winter solstice, everyone!

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The first spring flower

New life

This image of a coltsfoot in spring forest is one of the older photos I’ve been post-processing recently. It was taken on the same evening as the series of spring leaves I’ve been uploading on my Tumblr blog. Originally this image had warmer light and it was a bit soft, so I accentuated the details on the flower and the piece of wood next to it and adjusted the white balance to make the ground look desaturated. I also added a lens blur filter on the background to give a “Lensbaby” look.

As a side note, I’ve started adding selected images to a new stock agency called PicsaStock. It’s a startup that specializes in mobile phone photography. This is one of images available on my PicsaStock gallery.

See this image on Flickr

License this image on PicsaStock

A train at Pieksämäki Station

Pieksämäki Station

I visited my home town recently to meet some friends. On the way back to Jyväskylä I had to wait for the train at Pieksämäki station, and having nothing better to do, I snapped a few photos with my phone. I’ve actually posted a couple of those photos on Tumblr, including another version of this image, but I like this one better.

See this image on Flickr

New beginning

Spring flower

See this photo on Flickr

I’ve neglected the blog for quite a while again, partly due to work and partly because I was updating the layout. Finally everything works almost as it should so it’s time to start posting new photos. I have also decided to move my old photo blog at scumbucket.explodingfish.net to explodingfish.net. From now on, you can find my travel photos by clicking the Travel tab and the photos from Scumbucket by clicking the Blog tab.

You can now subscribe the RSS feed by clicking the rss icon at the top of the page. There are also links to my social media sites.

I’ll start adding old post and photos to the blog little by little and try to post new stuff once or twice a week. I’d like to hear what you think about the new site.