Category Archives: Mt. Fuji

The Bhagavad Gita for Landscape Photography

Nikon D810A + AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Listening to audiobooks has been one of my favourite activities for nearly a decade. It is a great pleasure to gain knowledge while driving, walking, jogging, cocking, and ironing shirts like a character in a novel by Haruki Murakami. Lately I started listening to audiobooks while shooting landscape photographs. Because you often need to wait for the right moment when shooting landscapes, there’s nothing left to do until you press the shutter button after you set up your tripod and camera. So I was listening to the Bhagavad Gita translated into English by Eknath Easwaran while shooting the sunset yesterday.

A brief description for those who are not familiar with the Bhagavad Gita: The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Indian text which is part of the epic Mahabharata. The Gita is a dialogue between the supreme guru Krishna and his disciple Arjuna, who is facing the duty as a warrior to fight his relatives. In Hinduism, Vishnu descends to Earth in a from of an avatar to restore the world. Krishna is said to be  the eighth avatar of Vishunu, Buddha is referred to as the ninth avatar, and the tenth (and last) avatar Kalki is predicted to appear in the future .

Lord Krishna says:

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engaged in action, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself — without selfish attachments ,and a like in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind.” (2:47-48)

I saw thin clouds over Mt. Fuji and left the house in anticipation of a dramatic sunset. Yes, I went to Lake Yamanaka because I expected a good result. In a strict sense, this action seems to indicate attachment to a good result. But it can also be regarded as part of my dharma (duty).

Nikon D800E + AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR
Nikon D800E + AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

As a photographer, I should try my best to take good photographs making full use of my knowledge and skills. But, once I make a decision on where and when to shoot, I just take care of things I have control over such as finding the best composition and getting perfect focus and appropriate exposure. Then I detach from the result: “I may capture a beautiful sunset or maybe it will be mediocre. But in either way, I will be content.” How nature changes its appearance is beyond my control, and I shouldn’t worry about things I have no control over.

I’d like to point out the fact that yoga mentioned in the quotation from the Gita doesn’t mean physical exercises. In the West, the physical postures (asanas) of Hatha yoga (one of the branches of yoga) became very popular and now people call such physical exercises yoga. In my opinion, it’s as absurd as calling the act of sitting on a floor zen. In this part of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna talks about Karma yoga, which is is the process of attaining Nirvana in action. The Bhagavad Gita also teaches two other paths to self-realisation (Bhakti yoga and Jnana yoga), but I don’t write about them for now.

This was how far I could apply the knowledge of the Gita to my photography. I’m sure I will gain more insights from this ancient wisdom and apply them to my everyday life as I read (and listen to) it over and over. But I can safely say that it wasn’t too difficult to detach from the fruit of my action in this case since I love nature in any form.

Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

The exposure time of the above shot is 300 seconds and I had to wait for another 300 seconds for noise reduction. So it took 600 seconds (10 minutes) all together. It gets cold in winter in the area and I don’t use my Kindle when the temperature is below the freezing point. But it is getting warmer now. I find Kindle is quite useful when waiting for a very long exposure to finish after sunset or before dawn as it lets you read books in the pitch dark. Perhaps it is also a good idea to meditate while waiting for a very long exposure to finish. But I wouldn’t do it in Yamanakako as this area isn’t that deserted and I may appear too far-out. I meditate in nature when trekking in the backcountry.

A Day Trip to Nagano

Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR

I went on a day trip to the Nagano prefecture and visited many places yesterday. I usually visit one place  to take a special landscape photograph. At times, I stay at the same place for a couple of days. But sometimes I want to take photographs in a more casual way and so I took a lot of hand-held snapshots this time.
Continue reading

SIGMA 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM | Art

Diamond Fuji from the Southern Alps
Nikon D800E + SIGMA 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM | Art
HDR image created out of 4 brackets to expand the dynamic range.

Many photographers with a big budget buy the so-called trinity, that is f/2.8 constant aperture wide, standard and telephoto zoom lenses. Why? Because it is the common knowledge that is the way to go for any serious photographer. But my ‘go-to’ standard zoom lens is a f/4 constant aperture zoom lens, SIGMA 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM | Art, although I can afford more pricey standard zooms. I’ve taken tens of thousands of shots with this lens . Let me explain why I prefer this lens.

Continue reading

Alpine Shooting in Winter (2)

Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji from Southern Alps Akaishi Mountains Mount Eboshidake Nikon_4E04130Nikon D800E w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED

This is the second part of the story. Read it after the first part.

It was snowing at the top of Mount Eboshidake. It was very windy too. I could barely see a thing. I went down. But after 40 minutes of walk, the sky suddenly cleared up and I got direct sunlight for the first time in the mountain. I debated myself whether to go back to the summit to shoot Fuji or go down to the parking lot. The time was 1:00PM. It was almost midwinter. The sun sets much earlier than summer. I only had 3 and a half hours of daylight. Going back to the top and shooting Fuji with sunset means I would have to stay near the summit for a night. I wavered in my decision. I decided to leave the mountain just 40 minutes ago. Once you decide to go home and think about relaxing in a hot bath, it isn’t easy to determine to go back into the snowstorm.  The sky may turn back to grey while I’m climbing.  I looked up. Thin clouds were moving fast. Sometimes they turned into rainbow colours by the sunlight.

Continue reading

Alpine Shooting in Winter (1)

Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji Southern Alps December Winter_DSC0785Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Shooting Fujisan seems to be one of the favourite activities for retired people. Famous shooting locations are getting more and more crowded with old people.  I want to believe that everyone who loves Fujisan is a good person. But sometimes it is not true. I often pick up trash thrown away by some of such amateur photographers. They don’t throw away trash at popular places where their deeds are witnessed by other people. They reveal their true personality when they’re seen by no one. That’s what mindless jerks does. Some take pictures from the back of the spots with wide angle lenses and try to chase off everyone comes into the frame. I’ve heard someone actually did such even to people who came earlier to the spot than him, saying “I always shoot Fuji from this position. You guys must go away.” But his ‘place’ was owned by someone else. Some get furious when someone briefly lights his camera with a headlight or penlight. If he really doesn’t want any artificial light to enter his camera, I think he should shoot in back-countries. I’m sick of all of this. I wanted to stay away from them. I wanted to be all alone in nature.

Continue reading

Reflections of Mount Fuji are just like vain dreams

Yuga Kurita Lake Saiko Mount Fuji Reflection_KE06536
Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM

For landscape photographers, Saiko (Lake Sai) is the least popular lake among the Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes). The number of photos of Mt. Fuji taken from this lake is much less than the other four Fujigoko lakes. The main reason why this place isn’t very popular is that Mt. Ashiwada lies between the lake and Mt. Fuji and thus we can only see the top of Fuji from Saiko. By the way, “-ko” indicates lake so Lake Saiko is a bit redundant translation but I think it is more understandable for those who are not familiar with Japanese. There is one great location for shooting mount Fuji on the lakeshore of Saiko, which is located at the western bay of Lake Sai.

Continue reading

What are the virgin landscapes of Japan?

I have trouble translating this article. If I could, I wanted to translate the title of the article as “What are the Genfukeis of Japan?” A genfukei seems to be a concept only exists in Japan. Or at least, It doesn’t exist as an English word. I couldn’t find any words that directly correspond to the word.

Genfukeis (原風景) are landscapes that remain in one’s memory most vividly when he/she gets old. It depends on each individual. But when we use the phrase “a genfukei of Japan (Nippon no Genfukei),” it indicates landscapes that invoke the emotions of nostalgia for the majority of the Japanese.

After I posted  a blog entry about Mt. Fuji and cosmos flowers, I received an unexpected reaction from a Slovakian guy. He argued that cosmos bipinnatus originated in Mexico and introduced to Japan in the Meiji era. They explosively proliferated in Japan, and now represent the autumn season.  He said the photos are beautiful but it isn’t good in terms of environmental protection.  Honestly speaking, I didn’t know that cosmos flowers were introduced to Japan in the 19th century. Kanji characters given to cosmos flowers is 秋桜. 秋 indicated autumn and 桜 indicates cherry blossoms. I vaguely thought that it didn’t originate in Japan but  it was probably imported to Japan much before than that.

Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji Terraced Rice Fields Lycoris radiata_9E49437
Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM

Continue reading

Come to think of it, it’s the equinox day!

YUGA KURITA Mount Fuji Taikanzan Dawn_DSC7785
Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR

According to the weather report, it is going to be fine and Fuji will probably be visible. I hate shooting in a crowded place in weekends. It is a Tuesday. I’ll probably enjoy shooting Fuji without being bothered by anyone.

I somehow wanted to go to Taikanzan, a popular vantage point to admire Fuji in Hakone. This place was haunted by legendary Japanese painter Taikan Yokoyama as he loved drawing Mt. Fuji from here. This mountain was originally called Daikanzan but was changed into Taikanzan in memory of the great painter after he died. That’s the story written in guidebooks. I’ve never found any authentic sources to prove the story though.

Continue reading