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Japan 2014 – Day 4

Brief update today…

Just before setting off for Kyoto and the bamboo groves of Arashiyama, I discovered that today was a Japanese national holiday (respect the aged day) and that most popular visitor attractions would be busier than ever.

With this in mind I decided to reschedule the Kyoto trip and instead had a wander around Osaka’s Nipponbashi district (known locally as Den-Den town)
Nipponbashi is famous for it’s electronics, collectables, anime and manga stores. Not to mention a huge number of cosplay / maid cafés.
(There are girls dressed in French maid outfits on every corner inviting customers into their cafés…)

I joked yesterday about not knowing the Japanese for “Allen keys” and thankfully I didn’t need to know as almost immediately on arrival i found a hardware store and picked up a set for less than £3!
So, the mini-tripod is repaired! 🙂

Finished the “day off” by getting lost amongst the huge number of shops in the subterranean Namba city / Namba Walk / Namba Parks shopping complex.

To give some perspective here: Namba Parks is a 5 floor shopping and entertainment complex linked to a 30 floor office complex.
Namba city is a 400+ shop and restaurant mall and Namba walk is a 2km long underground shopping mall.

All in, more than 1000 shops and restaurants spread over 5 floors – each floor longer than Glasgow’s famous Buchanan Street shopping area!

After the mall – tomorrow’s long walk through the Japanese countryside is going to be easy!

Oh, and before anyone asks, no. I didn’t get any special respect on “respect the aged” day…!!

Japan 2014 – Day 3

Spent a couple of hours first thing arranging rail passes and picking up tour guides, etc.

As I’d hoped, the trip to Minoo National Park was fairly straight forward: subway to Umeda, railway to Ishibashi then connecting train to Minoh. All in, maybe an hour and a half travel from my base at Namba.

The highlight of the park is the 33m waterfall which is approximately 3km walk along a well laid out path which climbs steadily up through a forest of Momiji and cedar trees and passes some traditional tea-houses and temples. (Not to mention regular vending machines supplying ice cold beers – we could do with some of them back in Scotland!)
The area around the falls is apparently home to wild monkeys and deer, although I saw neither on my visit.

The park is clearly very popular with the locals with families making the most of the beautiful scenery.

I can imagine that in spring and autumn, the forest colours must be amazing. The first signs of autumn were just visible in some of the trees and most guide books recommend November for a visit when the trees are blood red and orange. I’d love to visit again then!

Followers of my photo page on Facebook will know I regularly visit national parks back in Scotland and the first thing that that struck me about Minoo Park was just how busy it was compared to the Scottish parks!

I’m certainly going to have to work hard to get some photos that do justice to the place as the number of people at each location is quite incredible!


The evening was spent with a walk around the entertainment and shopping districts of shinsaibashi and dontonburi and a lovely meal of raw salmon and rice with wasabi and soya sauce. Also had some vegetable tempura and gyoza.

So, a day of contrasts – beautiful forests and waterfalls to begin with and neon lights, karaoke bars and pachinko malls to finish!

Weather permitting, I’m hoping to set off for the bamboo groves of Arashiyama near Kyoto tomorrow.
I’ve been pre-warned that they can be busier than Minoo, but fingers crossed for some nice photo opportunities!

The small tripod I brought has developed a small problem so unless I can locate a small toolkit to fix it, I may be back to handheld shots for the rest of the trip. (Anyone know the japanese for “do you sell Allen keys” ??)

I’ll update you all tomorrow! Thanks for all the nice comments and messages. 🙂

Japan 2014 – day 2

Well, I arrived in Japan on a gloriously hot sunny September evening and as the train connecting Kansai international airport with the mainland (the airport is on a huge artificial island in Osaka Bay) we were treated to a spectacular sunset.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any photos, but, if this was a typical example of what’s to follow then I’ll hopefully have some great images to share when I get back!

From Namba station in Osaka it was only a brief walk to my accommodation so after the bags had been dropped off, I just had just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and a very welcome Asahi beer!


My first meal of the trip was a beautiful chicken curry served with sticky rice, ginger and pickles.
The most noticeable thing about the curry was it’s colour – it was jet black – but as it tasted so nice and I was so hungry it didn’t seem important at the time!
Of course, hunger abated and beer consumed a quick re-read of the menu revealed the phrase “all of our food is coloured using fresh squid ink”
Squid ink?! That’s a first for me! 🙂

So, travel weary and increasingly jet-lagged the second day of the visit drew to a close without a single photo (apart from the squid ink curry!) being taken…

Tomorrow will be mainly a day of arrangements: train passes, maps, routes etc to plan, but I’m also hoping to visit Minoo Park in Osaka which has a beautiful waterfall and some nice forest walks.

Thanks for accompanying me on my trip, I’ll keep you updated on my progress!


Japan 2014 – Day 1

Day 1: Glasgow to Dubai; Dubai to Osaka

Bags are packed (almost!), camera batteries charged, memory cards wiped and ready for action!
I leave in a few hours for Glasgow airport, then on to Dubai for a brief stop-over before continuing on to Osaka.

This will be my second trip to the Kansai region of Japan, but my first with the new camera, so I’m looking forward to re-shooting a few of the places I enjoyed visiting first time around.
The EOS 5D Mark III has a much better sensor than my previous camera, so I’m also looking forward to shooting some of the locations where low light and no tripod stopped me last time!

I normally concentrate on landscapes and architecture when I’m travelling but on this trip I’m hoping to try to capture something of the Japanese people and culture too… so fingers crossed!

One thing is for sure – I’ll be taking LOTS of photos!

I won’t have any way of uploading images directly from the camera while I’m away, but, I will try to upload as many “behind the scenes” shots from my iPhone as I go!

I hope you enjoy accompanying me on this trip!
Arigato gozaimasu!

Glencoe trip

I set out at 2.30am on Saturday June 21st (the summer solstice) to capture the sunrise across Rannoch moor as part of the photo-book I’ve been working on for the past 16 months.

Unfortunately by the time I reached the moor, the weather had closed in and it was beginning to rain.
With any chance of seeing the sunrise gone, I decided to try to rescue something from the trip by driving a little further into Glencoe to see if the moody overcast sky would lend itself to some dramatic shots in what is one of my favourite locations in the Scottish highlands…


I knew of a great little waterfall on the River Coe, close to Loch Achtriochtan, so I set off for the car park at the foot of the loch.
Thankfully, the car-park was deserted and I parked up, collected my equipment and set-off.

Near the loch shore, I found a patch of daisies growing in a clearance overlooking the loch and some reeds, so I set up my tripod and camera and attached an ND grad filter to my 24-105mm lens to reduce the contrast between the brightening sky and the dark foreground.
I decided to stop the aperture down to f22 to maximize the depth of field as I wanted the daisies and the distant mountains in focus, and selecting a shutter speed of 2 seconds, took a few shots of the daisies.

Once I was happy with this shot, I set off along the footpath to the waterfalls, only to find that the recent spell of hot weather had reduced the usually dramatic falls to a mere trickle!

Undaunted, I set up the camera and waited for a break in the now increasingly frequent rain showers.
Although not ideal for photography, I prefer dull overcast days for shooting water, and in particular waterfalls, as the low light allows long exposures which give that pleasing, if slightly clichéd, milky look.

During a break in the showers, I managed to snatch the following three images:

BC_River-Coe2BC_River-Coe BC_Glencoe2
(all images taken at 100 ISO, f22, and 2 or 3 second exposure times)

The first image has been posted on my Facebook page (here) and has since been shared 31 times and viewed by over 2220 people.

The second, of the River Coe, was also posted on my Facebook page (here) and been viewed by more than 350 people.

Image 3 (above) plus the daisy photo at the top of this page are “blog exclusives” 🙂

I have received requests to make images 1 and 3 (above) available to buy as prints, so these will be added to the inventory of available prints on my web-store, which is opening VERY soon.

One of the most exciting things to come out of this trip was that while sitting waiting for the rain to stop, I envisaged images 1 and 3, under VERY different weather conditions.
If the resultant photographs are anything like what I have pictured in my mind, then WATCH THIS SPACE for what may turn out to be some of my best photographs yet.   Fingers crossed that the right weather conditions present themselves soon!

Thanks again to everyone who follows my work, your encouragement and support is greatly appreciated!
Please feel free to comment or leave feedback below.
In particular, I’m keen to know if readers would prefer more, or less, technical information regarding how I’ve taken each shot?

Stills Photo competition

Stills Gallery in Edinburgh is one of Scotland’s most innovative centres for contemporary Photography.
I was therefore very excited to find that I had been shortlisted for this month’s photography competition along with four other photographers.
If you’d like to vote in this month’s competition, please follow the link below and click “like” on your favourite image!
The image with the most “likes” by the end of the week will win the photographer the opportunity to showcase some of their best work on the Still’s social media pages.


“Never miss another photo” – explained

Last week I launched a newsletter signup form on my Facebook page.

I’ve been increasingly frustrated that Facebook’s sharing policy severely limits the number of views any new work receives. Unless of course, the page owner is willing to pay Facebook to “boost” each and every post…
I firmly believe that if someone has taken the time to “like” a page, then they should be allowed to see all the posts that page makes and decide for themselves whether they want to continue to support it or not.
Over the past year or so, I’ve seen average viewing rates fall from around 25% to less than 2%.
Other page admins are reporting similar drops.

So, I’ve created a mailing list on the mailing website and invited visitors to my page to subscribe to the list.

Subscribing is free, and will mean that once a month subscribers will receive an email “newsletter” providing links to all new work posted by me online.
This should mean that subscribers never miss another photo, regardless of which site it is posted to.

I currently share work on my own website, Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, National Geographic’s “your shot” site, 500px, pinterest and several other photo sharing sites, so it can be difficult for anyone – including me – to keep up with everything shared online.
I’m hoping that a single email summary sent out once a month will help everyone track my work, regardless of where or how it is shared.

To keep it interesting, and to make it worthwhile for subscribers, each month there will be newsletter exclusives, including competitions and discount codes for use in my web store.

So, in summary, here’s a list of what the newsletter IS and ISN’T:

The email newsletter IS:

  • one email, monthly, listing all photos shared online since the last email;
  • links to each image, so that you can view the work with a click on the email;
  • a brief news section, detailing any interesting news or updates;
  • a monthly discount code for use in my web-store;
  • a quarterly competition for subscribers only;

The email newsletter IS NOT:

  • an attempt to sell you anything;
  • spam, or junk mail;
  • a marketing list to be sold on to third parties

You can subscribe by following this

You can unsubscribe from the list at any time with a click of a button (I’ve tried it!)

I hope that everyone who likes my work subscribes to the list so that I can be sure that when I post something online, the people who matter most – those who like and share my work – are seeing everything that I do.

Facebook “likes” : Quality not Quantity

I use my Facebook page to showcase some of my photographs and to get some feedback from people who clearly have an interest in landscape photography.  I find it a very helpful tool to help judge what works and what doesn’t in the eyes of the public… 
(Before anyone goes off on one about how it should all be “art for art’s sake”… I’ll just add that I don’t shoot anything just to appeal to my Facebook audience, and I certainly don’t avoid shooting anything just because I know it wouldn’t work on social media either…)
(I have folders full of unpublished work to prove this last point!)

Landscape photography can be a very solitary pursuit and I find the interaction on Facebook helps put things into perspective a little, and stops me going off on tangents that aren’t really that interesting to others.
I don’t go along to any camera clubs and I’m not a member of any photo society, so Facebook is a very useful sounding board for what’s working and what’s not with my photography.  It also helps that many excellent photographers follow my page and provide constructive feedback – not always positive! –  publicly and through private messages which has greatly helped me grow and develop my own style over the last few years.

Anyway, what’s my point? 
I was interested to see that Facebook has introduced a “pages to watch” feature, which allows page owners to “spy” on the number of page “likes” other pages are getting. 
I’m guessing it’s a clever marketing ploy which feeds on the ego and pushes page owners into signing up for expensive ad campaigns when they see the “competition” overtaking them in the popularity race…

It got me thinking; should I really be stressing about how many page likes I get?  Doesn’t that just lead down a road that encourages clichéd snaps designed to appeal to as many people as possible?  I kinda like the fact that I have people following my page that have diametrically opposite tastes!  There are some who will only “like” dark, moody, stuff, and others that only seem to like a photo if the sky’s blue and the sun’s out!

As I’m a scientist by profession and consequently obsessed with mathematical correlations and statistics, I thought I’d use Facebook’s “pages to watch” tool to see how many of these page “likes” actually interact with the photographers they “like”. 
This is, after all, my reason for using social media, so I was curious to how my 398 page followers compared with those who follow the photographic “big-guns”;  those pages with THOUSANDS, in some cases, TENS of THOUSANDS followers.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!

I looked at the last 5 photographs posted by each page I follow and compared the “likes” each photo got with the total likes the page has.  My theory was simple:  the more people like your page, the more “likes” your work should get, right?  Wrong!

It turns out that these excellent photographers are getting, on average, around 2 – 2.5% feedback from their page followers per image.
No one would argue that it’s impressive that one page I reviewed had almost 7500 page followers, and it’s equally impressive that 220 – 230 people take the time to show their appreciation of the photographers work by pressing “like” but I was more impressed to find that my 398 followers are much more supportive! 
I calculated an average 14% feedback on my past 5 photographs!  Now, that’s got nothing whatsoever to do with me, or my work, it’s a reflection on the people who are kind enough to pay attention to my page and INTERACT with it, showing appreciation where they like something and withholding that all important “like” where they think I could do better. 

I’ve always said that I’m amazed when anyone actually takes the time to like or comment on anything I’ve done, but, to find that the people doing it are SEVEN times more supportive than those following some of my favourite artists was, simply, astonishing.

So, dear Facebook.  Thanks for the offer, but, I don’t need droves of new page followers who don’t actually follow, I’m happy with the people who find my page through friends, or shares, or just chance. 
When it comes to people: it’s QUALITY- not quantity – that counts!

And I’ve been very fortunate indeed to have been discovered by so many quality people!