It’s time to look at this year’s Year End Review and talk about it. What can I say, 2015 flew by so fast! It feels like it was yesterday that I was enjoying the spring cherry blossoms and packing for my month long trip arcoss Europe. This year has been very significant to me and my wife for a few different reasons. One of them is that being given the chance to do some well needed traveling around the world, this time we headed to Europe for a month of living out of a suit case while traveling to 9 different cities in 4 different countries along the way. Another thing is that we switched to the Sony mirror-less system and have been enjoying the benefits from it. I wanted to share some of my favorite moments/Images from this last year. I am going to talk about some of the big “I understand now” moments that made me really think about my life and the direction that I want to be heading.
Let’s start the Year End Review by talking about the first moment that changed my life for the better in 2015.
– Purchasing the Sony A7R
My wife and I had been planning to travel around Europe for a month and one of the biggest concerns was the weight of my camera gear. Ow how I loved my Canon 5Dm3 and what it could bring to the table but one of the biggest down side of it is its weight and size. If you want to have a camera that screams “I have Professional gear” then that is the camera to have. However, I wanted something that was smaller and lighter for traveling and would not stand out in a crowd so I went ahead and picked one up. The very first outing with this new camera was to the SkyTree area here in Tokyo. I had never used it besides messing with the settings and shooting in my house so this was going to be a real test for the camera and me. This was also my very first time blending different parts of time together in a single image. I was able to capture the Sunset, Blue hour followed by the time right after that when the lights on the buildings come on. When I looked at the back of the camera at the screen, I was not very happy how it looked but once I got home and loaded them up on my Imac, I was sold.
– Shooting Tokyo from the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
I was teaching one of my Tokyo By Night photo tours for Eyexplore Tokyo when I was asked to photograph the Park Hyatt Tokyo for a client. I felt like it was a real honor to do this and it made me really think outside of the box to capture the images that he asked for. I was asked to capture all 4 sides of the buildings at night time from the top floor of the hotel and bring the city to life. It was my first time creating panoramic images from behind glass. I have shot single images behind glass but never done 3-4 image panos from hind a sheet of glass. You can read more about it HERE but I wanted to show you a few of my Favorite images from that night/morning.
This is a 2 image Pano taken from the top floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The elevator is right behind me in this shot so whenever someone got off the elevator to the New York Bar, I had to deal with the white lights from it. It was fun trying to time it just right to get this shot without the white lights of the elevator reflecting back in the window.
The next morning I woke up before sunrise to get a shot of the sun coming up over the city and it just happen to pass right behind Docomo Tower. I love the Atmosphere in this image and how it gives you this 1980 movie look and feel. Read more about it HERE.
– 30 days of living out of a suitcase in Europe
When my wife and I first met, one of the things we always talked about was going to Europe and backpacking from one end it to the other traveling via train and just having fun along the way. Earlier this year we booked our flights and went for it. We started in Amsterdam and then traveled via train to Paris, Normandy, Switzerland, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Positano, and then finally ending our trip back in Rome before we headed home to Tokyo. It was so much fun living out of a small 25″ suitcase and a backpack for a month. Traveling like this really makes you think about what really makes you happy in this world. I found out that having great conversions with my wife over a fantastic meal is worth so much more than anything that you could buy. This is where I truly understood that experiences far outweigh material things. Once I got back to Tokyo and my old daily grind, I made a choice to change my life for the better and look for experiences rather than the newest and greatest gadget. From this trip, I ended up taking around 200GB of photos and have yet to edit 1/10th of them. A few of them really stood out to me so here are a few of them.
I love to add light trails of cars to my images to give it a different look than just a basic snapshot look. Here you can see the Eiffel Tower with the twinkle lights going off. This was taken from the Arc de triomphe on our 2 night in Paris. It was so much fun walking around the Parisian streets enjoying the sights and sounds of this romantic city.
This is the Accademia bridge in Venice along the Grand Canal at blue hour. My wife and I just finished dinner and went for a walk after to just relax and burn off some of the pizza and pasta we just had when we came across this view. It was amazing to see the lights of Venice come on casting a warm glow on the water as the Venetian boats travel up and down the waterfront with the sounds of street musicians play romantic songs. It is the moments like this that you only dream of or see in movies.
We left Venice to find ourselves in the old city of Florence, Italy. This is where I meet Will Harnett (his website) by chance at Piazzale Michelangelo as we both set up and begin to take images of the sunset over the city of florence. It turns out that we both were at the Trey Ratcliff photo walk in Venice just 2 days before that. Funny how small the world really is! Either way I love the orange glow that the setting sun casts over the city. I still have yet to edit the wide angle view from this spot. Read more about this place by clicking here.
Here is the wonderful city of Manarola in Cinque Terre. I really loved the view from here but I had to fight for this very spot. I am still torn between either the sunset or the Blue hour image. What do you guys like? Read more about how I created this image by Clicking Here.
One of our last spots that I always wanted to shoot was the Vatican city. I knew that this staircase existed and i really wanted to find it. Believe it or not, this wonderful spot is inside of a gift shop right as you enter the museum. You can see the full post HERE.
– Finding a Great spot to see Mt Fuji
I am always shooting Cityscape images of Tokyo and I really do love taking them but whenever I see a breath taking shot of a natural landscape, it makes me want to pack my bags and spend the next week out in the wilderness searching for that perfect spot in the mountains. After searching long and hard, I found a great spot that I could drive to and enjoy the views from my car if i wanted to. On this day, after I got all the shots I wanted, My wife and I had dinner that we brought from home while enjoying the view and headed to home. Here is the view from the Mazdaspeed way out in Hakone.
– Sony 10-18 lens + Shinjuku = Seeing a Whole new world
I love to shoot Shinjuku cause it’s close to my house and it has tons of things to shoot. A few of them are very hard to shoot since you need to have a Wide Angle lens. I ended up buying the Sony 10-18 lens and it gave me the ability to capture the images that I could never get before with my Canon 17-40. Here are just 2 of my favorite shots from Shinjuku with this lens.
I love this side of Shinjuku Station cause of the non-stop motion. Either you have cars passing by or people walking by you. From this spot, you see the car traffic move up and down the ramps with the station in the back ground.
I’ve been always wanted to shoot the Mode Gakuen tower from below but a wide angle lens which lets me get everything was something I did not have. Now that I have one, so I got this shot.
I was out one night with my pal shooting some images for Wattention when I found this spot. Like I mentioned before, I love having light trails in my images. You can also see a time lapse edit of this image by clicking here.
– Kyoto Fall Colors and More.
We always planned to travel to Kyoto for either the cherry blossoms or fall colors. This was such a hard trip for us cause trying to get the time off or spending that kind of money to just for Kyoto. Since we live in Japan, Kyoto feels like our local area and it makes us think what we could have done with the same amount of money in other country. It’s really expensive to travel inside of Japan and the City of Kyoto is very expensive during the spring or fall time. To give you an ideal of how hard it was, finding a hotel or AirBnB that had rooms available that was not over $300 per night was a challenge. In the end, it was well worth the trip.
This is Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in the early morning before the mass amounts of people showed up that morning. I think I fell in love with Bamboo cause I tend to be editing all of my Bamboo shots before all my other shots now….LOL
Here is the 1,000 torrii gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha. This place is kinda surreal since it’s a never ending tunnel of torrii gates that lead up a mountain. It was a pain to get this shot but I used one of my many tricks to get it with out any people in it. Read more about them HERE.
I have seen this image of the old wooden houses with the pagoda in the middle of them so many times on the internet and I always wanted to see it in person. My wife and I walked down this street in the middle of the night only to find this view right in front of us. With all the cars and the neon signs lighting up the streets gone, It takes you back in time to when life was just simple.
– Ending the Year on a “High” note
After we got back from Kyoto in Late November, I kinda put the camera gear away and started to work towards my next project. I was able to enjoy my Thanksgiving, Christmas and now New Year not thinking about photography. Now am working on something that has been non stop work with designs, research and testing out different prototypes to find the right look and feel. I hope that I can lunch this new item in the summer next year but only time will tell. Wish me luck!
I hope you all enjoyed my journey this year through Japan and Europe. Next year I plan on making a trip out to Korea to visit family and maybe a few photography buddies, and maybe to a warm country to relax for a week or two. I wish you all the best and a happy New Year.