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Japanese Vehicles

2 Apr

Now, on to some backlogged travel posts.

I got to spend a month in Japan last year, and I got to looking through a lot of the photos I’d taken there. I’m going to make a few unconventional posts, starting with this one, of the random things I’d noticed walking around while I was there.

It took me awhile to realize it, but I tend to photograph bicycles a lot. I do enjoy bicycling and tend to use a bicycle for my primary form of transportation when I’m not working, but there is also a nice pleasing aesthetic to bicycles as well. In older and/or denser cities, like those in Japan, much like Northern Europe, bicycles are the most practical form of transportation, and so bicycles tend to be utilitarian and designed with reliability in mind. We’re talking baskets, panniers, fenders, and chain guards.

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The other thing I noticed, is that much unlike the US and Europe where bicycles tend to get stolen and are locked well, Japanese bicycles tend to be left unlocked, or at the most have a simple locking mechanism that locks the rear wheel to the frame. Petty theft just doesn’t seem to be an issue in Japan, and I’ve heard stories from friends there that have had lost wallets returned to them with cash still in them.

Bicycles more often than not seem to be left standing upright in their most convenient location.

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There are, of course, also bicycles that have been tricked out to be unique and match the rider’s personality:

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As with most dense cities, there was no shortage of motorized two-wheel vehicles, but they tended to be economical scooters. I didn’t see too many motorcycles, and the ones I saw were simple and small.

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There were also lots of cars I hadn’t noticed anywhere else in the world, like this squashed-looking compact van in Kyoto that seemed to typify most of the cars I saw in Japan:

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 Or this typical taxi cab:

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Interestingly, every cab in Japan has a little button that the driver can press to automatically open and close the rear door. Upon returning to the states, I stood in front of a cab for several long seconds before realizing that the door wasn’t going to open automatically for me.

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Japanese taxis also seem to have their side mirrors placed really far forward, and I never asked why.

Forcing Inspiration

16 Apr

Today was not a “photo day”.  Normally driving along the coast from Northern California to Central Oregon could take a week if I stopped at every gorgeous photo op, of which there is no shortage in the Pacific Northwest.  However, being Oregon in April, it rained.  Hard.  So hard that water could be seen dripping into the car through the cracks between the window and the door frame.  It was not a day to be outside with expensive camera equipment.

By the time we had hit Coos Bay in the late afternoon, the rain had finally let up, although we were beginning to lose what little light was filtering through the dark clouds.  We hadn’t stopped for anything except food all day, so this was beginning to look like our last chance to wander around and shoot anything.

From the highway, I could see an industrial complex and a long-neglected rail yard.  When we stopped, I grabbed my camera with the lens I had on it (a 28-70L) and started wandering, leaving my backpack with all of my other lenses in the car.  I wandered relatively far from the car without taking very many photos … the light was bad, and what looked interesting from the road turned out to be pretty dull of a subject.  I wasn’t “feeling it”, if you get my drift.  I deliberated getting a telephoto from the car so I could shoot things across the river, but knew that if I’d made the walk all the way back I wouldn’t want to keep wandering around.

I decided to force myself to come up with at least ONE good photo before I could leave, and without changing lenses.  As is often the case as a professional photographer, if I’m given something to shoot, it doesn’t matter if I’m “feeling it” or not. I have to come up with something to give to the client, and I have to make it look good.

After a few minutes of looking for a subject and daydreaming about what this railyard would have been like in it’s heyday and how long it had been since it had seen any trains, I took a look at the rust on the rails for any forensic clues to their wear.  All of a sudden, it clicked.  The patterns and the textures in the rust on the wet steel rails looked really cool. The soaked ground and soft dim light from the sky worked perfectly, instead of against me as they’d been doing all day.  Finding interesting compositions became immediately easy, and I spent fifteen minutes pointing the camera straight down.


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