It’s been a good year, again. A lot of travel (43 cities, 12 countries, 100K+ kilometers), a lot of laughs, a lot of good food. A promotion and the largest deal we’ve ever done closed at work. And, most importantly, a kind young lady agreed to marry me. I end 2012 feeling very fortunate.
NOTE If you are reading this in a news reader such as Google Reader, or inside Facebook on a tablet, you might want to open this in a dedicated browser window as the photo layout may work better.
In January I returned to Scotland in winter, this time to the Isle of Skye, accompanied by my good friend (and accomplished photographer) Corin Dimoupolous and guided by local expert landscape photographer David Langan. We spent a long weekend exploring the island, and, weather permitting, shooting a few landscapes.
The coldest month saw us on a mini-break to an even colder place: Berlin. Despite icy temperatures we had a great time exploring both the historic and modern aspects of this vibrant city. We ate well and drank better.
MARCH, APRIL, MAY
These months were fairly quiet, at least in terms of photography for me, as they consisted mostly of a series of work trips which didn’t allow much time for quality snapping. Must do better.
However, I did manage a few shots around London in the downtime.
June saw another personal trip to France for a wedding in the Dordogne – but first stop was a few days in Paris. (More Paris shots can be found in the original blog post.)
After Paris we moved to the Dordogne and Limousin region for our friends’ wedding. This was a lovely few days in rural southern France, touring the medieval fortress towns along the river, and eating as much duck, pate, and Limousin beef as we could manage. Again, for more photos go and check out the original blog post.
JULY AND AUGUST
In the late summer, London was host to the 2012 Olympics and we were lucky enough to visit the Olympic Park as well as going to see the Men’s Hockey and the Men’s Basketball Final. It was a magical time in London, and I will always remember what it was like to be here in the thick of it.
In late August I went back to Paris for the first of a series of work trips there, and I managed to catch a perfect summer’s day along the banks of the Seine.
We began September with a lovely late-summer break to the Cyclades: a two-part trip to Mykonos, famed for its maze-like streets and raucous nightlife, and Santorini, land of a million postcard views. More photos can be found in the original blog post.
The morning after I returned from Santorini, I boarded another flight to Bangkok for work. Fortunately I allowed myself an extra day there to get reacquainted with this city, and to sample some of the myriad food delights on offer in its street stalls and markets…
Early October saw me on yet another work trip, this time to Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey, where I was fortunate enough to have a few free hours to myself here and there to wander the old town and the nightlife district of Beyoglu. It’s always good to return to Istanbul.
NOVEMBER and DECEMBER
November and December were all about our trip to Japan and Hong Kong. Though I am only about a third of the way through processing the photos from that trip, what I have gone through thus far is encouraging and more photo reports from this trip will be gracing this blog over the course of January. Of course, this is the trip that hosted the aforementioned proposal, so it has a special place in my heart.
First up: Tokyo
And, of course, the rural beauty of Hakone and Nara:
That’s about all for 2012, photo-wise at least. I am happy that we’ve had a fulfilling year. Here’s to 2013 being bigger and better!
Happy New Year
For the second instalment in our Japan trip, we find ourselves travelling through the very distinct landscapes of Hakone – a volcanic spa area near Mount Fuji – and Nara, a verdant and picturesque former imperial capital filled to the brim with centuries-old landscaped gardens, temples, and shrines.
NOTE If you are reading this in a news reader such as Google Reader, or inside Facebook on a tablet, you might want to open this in a dedicated browser window as the photo layout may work better. Also, there are more photos from these locations available in the corresponding set over on Flickr.
After our first few days in Tokyo, we were city’d out and ready for a change of scene. A quick Shinkansen bullet train and then a series of switchback local trains found us in Hakone, an area of volcanic scenery, hot springs, geysers and lakes surrounding Mount Fuji. It is also an extremely popular destination for Japanese tourists as it is so close to Tokyo. So, at times, one feels like one is at an amusement park, in an endless series of queues to board various funiculars and cable cars. But the moment your cable car comes over the first ridge and you see Mount Fuji dominating the horizon, it’s all worth it.
One of the obligatory and fun bits of the day tour of Hakone is Owakaduni, halfway along the ropeway, which is a national park area on the side of a mountain which is perforated with steam geysers venting sulphurous gases from the volcanic water table below. It is the done thing amongst the Japanese day trippers to visit this area, take a photo of the geysers, and then queue to buy an egg which has been boiled black in the sulphurous waters. We skipped the egg.
Hakone, as it turns out, was not the photographic treasure trove it might have been for me. This is not because of any fault of the subject matter, but of the preoccupation of the photographer with a more important capture. Back in 2007 I was very impressed with the beauty of the view from the Hakone Detached Palace Park on the shores of Lake Ashinoko, and took this panoramic:
We have the picture above enlarged and hanging on our wall at home, and take great pleasure in contemplating it. So, it seemed like a nice place to propose marriage. Much rejoicing followed, though we never found this exact spot again, given the context, the view was just as impressive.
In a bit of a happy post-engagement haze, we moved on to Nara in the Kansai region. Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital, established in 710, and attracted powerful families, becoming a political and religious power centre. The legacy this left is a small, attractive city of low buildings, but the main attraction of Nara is certainly the large Nara Koen (park) and the various temples, lakes, gardens, tame deer, and bountiful autumn colours to be found therein.
Within Nara Park there are some stunning gardens, chief amongst them the Yoshikien and Isuien Gardens, adjacent to one another and both examples of immaculate landscaping in harmony with the surrounding countryside. Of course, in common with most Japanese gardens, these were liberally sprinkled with Japanese maple and gingko trees, and as we were bang in the middle of the autumn colour peak, there was a brilliant show of leaves, both on the trees and on the ground.
Isuien Garden was build as a “mirrored landscape” mimicking the hills surrounding it, and meant to draw your eye towards the main gate of the Todaiji Temple in the background.
The main temple in Nara Park is Todaiji, the largest wooden structure in the world. The main Buddha hall or daibutsu houses a 15m bronze Buddha image as well as guardian demon statues.
The Todaiji Temple has a sub-temple up on a hill – the Nigatsudo Hall – which is (yet again) situated within some amazing autumn foliage.
Kasuga Taisha Shrine
Finally, nestled in the southeast corder of Nara Park is the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, the most important Shinto religious site in Nara. Kasuga Taisha is known as the Lantern Shrine, with hundreds of stone lanterns littered throughout the forests surrounding it, and hundreds of worshipper-donated bronze lanterns hung throughout the main complex. There are also regular donations of rice, cabbage, and sake to keep the kami spirits appeased.
That’s it from Hakone and Nara. The next episode will take us back into the cities of Osaka and Fukuoka, where we will see neon nightscapes, samurai castles, and sumo. See you then.
From time to time, I will use these “From the Archives” posts to highlight some of my photography from the period before I started this blog in 2009. These photos have been publicly available on Flickr for some time but they have never before been featured on this blog. I hope you enjoy this blast from the past!
Back in November 2007, I took a 2 week photo holiday to Southern Japan. Like many Westerners I had been fascinated with Japan since I was a child – every boy goes through a ninja phase, after all – and I had a growing appreciation for the refined nature of their culture, especially their cuisine. I came to Japan with many preconceived notions, somewhat expecting everyone to be demure, deferential and bowing non-stop, but I quickly realised – of course – that the Japanese are human after all, and a few rowdy nights in izakaya and out on the streets of Harajuku and Osaka quickly put paid to my hackneyed stereotypes. The Japanese people were generally very kind and even inquisitive, and it was a joy to travel through this land, and, barring the occasional instance of having no clue where I was or how to read the signs, I had one of the most perfect times imaginable. I am looking forward to returning to this fascinating land.
Below are a small selection of the thousands of photos I took during my travels through Japan:
More of my Japan 2007 photos can be found over on Flickr.