Koya Bound

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The Japan Times has a great photo essay and interview up with Craig Mod and Dan Rubin, who earlier this year walked the Kumano Kodo route in Wakayama, and are about to launch a photo book based on the experience (Koya Bound, out in September).

Update (16/09/06): A Kickstarter campaign for Koya Bound was launched today, with plans for the book to ship in December.

LIFE for iPad

If you’re a fan of The Guardian Eyewitness app or event the “Photo” section of the NYT app, then you’ll probably find a lot to like from the new LIFE app for iPad. Available as a free download, it’s basically an interface to LIFE magazine’s amazing photo archives.

There are a few different ways to explore the collections, starting from an “Explorer” page that lets you dig in geographically, and then a few themed sections.

It’s not perfect though, and the biggest annoyance is the ad for LIFE services (pictured above) that pops up every few photos — it’s especially annoying because when it comes it actually moves the regular interface elements away, which makes for a jarring transition. There’s also a slight load time for every single photo you view, so it seems that they should have paid a bit more attention at keeping file sizes manageable.

But hey, it’s a free app, and there’s more to like here than to not like, so well worth a download.

Taking It to the Streets

This past Saturday we walked all the way down from Ikebukuro to Harajuku with the dog, mostly because we wanted to spend some time at the big “dog run” area inside Yoyogi park. It made for quite a pleasant outing (if a long walk), and we also walked around Aoyama a bit — I wanted to check out the Magazine Library event — and also spent some time at a cafe. As you can imagine, we get a lot of attention when we’re out and about with him, and it’s quite normal to have to stop so that people can pet him or take photos.

Above, a photo taken as we were walking through Shinjuku. Below, walking up Takeshita Street in Harajuku.

Where’s That Camera Again?

Remember that long post I wrote at the end of June in which I talked about me getting back into photography? Well, it appears that my wife’s love for her camera has meant that I’m still not anywhere close to getting a chance to play around with it. Guess it means I’ll need to be a bit more patient, or just pull the trigger and get a camera of my own (which I doubt will happen).

PauseTalk Tonight

It is indeed PauseTalk Vol. 42 tonight (July 5), happening as always at Cafe Pause in Ikebukuro from 20:00 (with the space reserved from 19:30). Already looks like we’re going to be a good group, and I know a few ex-PingMagers will be there, so I’m feeling like a post-mortem might be in order.

Above, one of the many photos taken at last month’s edition (Vol. 41), courtesy of Michael Holmes passing around his camera — you can see a gallery here.

Panasonic Lumix G2

One thing that’s happened to me over the past few years is that I’ve pretty much stopped taking photos. Sure, the odd iPhone-to-Twitter shot is still a regular occurrence, but in terms of taking photos with a relatively descent point-and-shoot — in my case, a series of Canon PowerShots — either for this site, for other sites, or even just for personal use, that just kinda stopped. You’ll notice it also if you check my Flickr account — except for a little rekindling courtesy of an iPhone/Toy Camera fling last year in Macau, not much has gone up over the past couple of years, to the point where I haven’t even renewed my pro account in years, and this coming from someone who was particularly active there.

So why? That’s a good question, and there are several answers to it. One thing is that I grew dissatisfied with the quality of what I was taking and sharing, but lacked the energy (and money) to move up to decent gear and shoot (yeah, pun sadly intended) for more. It also doesn’t help when you have a lot of friends who are so damn talented when it comes to photography — some would say this can be inspirational, but I’m on the side that tends to think, oh well, better leave this to those who are better at it.

But to be honest, the biggest reason is one that actually affected a lot of the content that you saw appear on this blog, and that’s even pre-SNOW Magazine. It got to a point where I just couldn’t “experience” anything for myself anymore. Every time I was out and about and spotted something interesting, I was immediately composing a blog post in my head about it (even if I had absolutely no intention of writing one) and taking photos to “document” it. This ended up literally getting in the way of my enjoyment of things. Many are sure to say that this is a handy skill to have, and I wouldn’t disagree, but it can also be a negative in the sense that I started losing something rather important, and that’s the pure sense of enjoying the moment/space you occupy.

Sure, this wasn’t just about photography, but I think one way to fix this for me was to remove that part from the equation. And you know what, after a while it did in fact work. I no longer cared which angle of what I was seeing or experiencing would best tell the story.

“OK, Jean, but this post is titled ‘Panasonic Lumix G2,’ no?”

Yes, how perceptive of you.

My wife has been wanting a decent camera for a while now, at first mostly to use for her next field research trip to China, but also to just start taking better photos of the things around her, including of course our dog. She finally pulled the trigger on a purchase yesterday and ended up getting the aforementioned Panasonic Lumix G2, the follow-up to the company’s G1, the camera that kicked off the whole “Micro System” craze. For months I’d been suggesting to her the GF1, in part because of Craig Mod’s amazing field test article, but also because at least 5-6 of my friends ended up buying one, to great satisfaction. She was able to get something a bit better — the GF1 is sort of a paired-down more compact version of the G2 (or rather its predecessor, the G1).

So this means we have a nice new camera in the house, and she says I’ll be able to use it when I want — although there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule stating that such sharing will happen after a fixed amount of time. The prospect of learning photography has me rather excited, and despite my fears of getting back to that sense of always being in reporter mode, I’m thinking that it will help get some more original (not reblogged) content on SNOW Magazine.

To be fair, I also have a feeling that the iPhone 4 is going to help with that. I finally got around to ordering one yesterday — the wait will take up to a month though — and from the examples I saw in this Boing Boing post, I think it will make for a great device when you’re in a pinch. But more than just the camera, it’s the prospect of HD video recording that has me excited, and I’m hoping that you’ll see the results on SNOW as well — and hey, that G2 takes some pretty decent HD videos too, just look at what Craig was able to get out of his GF1.

Next up is moving to some more serious photo editing tools — iPhoto and quick Photoshop touch-ups have been fine so far, but I want to move up. After asking about Adobe Lightroom versus Apple Aperture on Twitter, the feedback was overwhelmingly pro-Lightroom, and Adobe certainly makes it easy for you to try it out for yourself. It seems that Lightroom 3 was actually released just recently, so looks like I’m hopping on at a good time.

What you see at the top of this post is just me having fun with some of the filters in Lightroom, on a photo my wife took of me this morning — this is pretty much what I look like, and where I find myself, everyday. Funny how adding a vignette/sepia filter makes everything look oh-so serious. Looking at the photo, I really feel like a hard-working writer. Yeah.

Tonkatsu Spaghetti

I may not have talked about it a lot here on the blog, but I’ve certainly tweeted a bunch over the years my love for tonkatsu spaghetti, which I get at this great little pasta joint in Ikebukuro (not far from Cafe Pause) called Nobu. I like it so much I’ve even added the place to the next editions of The Rough Guide to Tokyo and Japan.

Here’s beautiful shot of the meal in question, taken the other day by Hiyoko Imai — a fellow GOOD person.

Walking this Town

Yesterday after getting lunch at the nearby Maison Kayser — it’s the one located inside Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City with a terrace, so it’s dog-friendly — we decided to just start walking, with the general idea of heading towards Iidabashi. Three wards later (Toshima, Bunkyo, and Taito) we ended up not only stopping for a drink at the very enjoyable Canal Cafe (you sit outside by Kanda river), we continued on to Yasukuni shrine. We wanted to end up at Sanbancho Cafe — it’s also dog-friendly — but there was a wedding reception in full effect, so no go. But the epic walk was an enjoyable one — despite some feet dragging on my part towards the end because of fatigue — and we’ve realized that it’s something we want to start doing more often. It gives us a chance to get out and about without having to leave the dog at home in his cage, which he doesn’t much like.

Pictured, photos taken by my wife near Yasukuni shrine, showing my dog Confiture simply hanging out. I think we should start a regular series of these, with him checking out various parts of Tokyo.