Archive for March 26, 2016

Google offers photo editing software Nik for free now

PetaPixel just reported that Google is now offering photo editing software Nik for free (PetaPixel). Is it just me, or does this seem like a game changer, at least for amateurs? For me, it was a terrible idea for Adobe to move to a subscription charging service. I don’t need a constantly updated LightRoom or PhotoShop, and so monthly and annual subscriptions are bad for me; it would be money lost for no reason. Consequently, I’m using the last versions of Lr & PS that were available with licenses for perpetuity. However, at some point, I’m going to buy a camera that isn’t supported by these versions, and so I need to be on the look out for Adobe replacements.

Adobe PhotoShop LightRoom 3 does not support my new camera.

Adobe PhotoShop LightRoom 3 does not support my new camera.

Now Google does this? Admittedly, I’ve never heard of Nik. Is it any good? I’ve tried other photo and batch editing software before, and always LightRoom has been head and shoulders better than others. Nik? I have no idea. Is it a batch or single photo editing or processing software?

@500px cutting their payments to photographers is selfish

This is a unilateral decision. A couple of years ago, launched their “Market Place”, where photographers could earn money from selling their photos. However, there were two immediate problems. First, they let Pinterest members get and use the photos for free anyway. Subsequently, I have almost stopped uploading photos to 500px, and restarted using Flickr. Secondly, they offered a measly 30% of the sale price. The cost of employing a model, makeup artist, maintenance of photographic equipment, and photographic software cannot be covered by such a payment scheme. Understandably, photographers complained and boycotted. So, 500px bumped up the pay to 70% commission, which is better, but their prices were still kind of low. So, I never joined their market place.

Screen shot of the JapanesePhotos.Asia 500px portfolio.

Screen shot of the JapanesePhotos.Asia 500px portfolio.


Now, PetaPixel reports that 500px is again unilaterally readjusting the price. All non-exclusive market place members will have their commissions cut to 30% (again). 500px claims that in order to be competitive, they need to ‘restructure’. For photographers to be competitive, and to create photographs, we need money, and cutting the amount paid is is utterly ridiculous. The quality of product will suffer, and so will 500px’s sales. In any case, it doesn’t affect me, as I don’t take 500px seriously, as they don’t seem to take the whole thing and photographers seriously.

5 things to do in Tokyo

Tokyo is an exciting city with many things happening all the time. If it’s your first time, I really recommend you stay at a hotel in Asakusa (Google Maps), so you’re close to the rickshaws, Sensoji temple, kabuki theaters, the vibrant restaurant districts that are typical of Japan (but these ones have English menus), and a casual walk to Tokyo Skytree Tower.

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1. See the Shibuya Crossing

This is the crossing that has featured as “Tokyo” in various movies including Resident Evil, and the crossing has it’s own Wikipedia entry (Wikipedia). It is said that in peak hours about a thousand people cross at each light change (every two to three minutes). I guess this is in the evenings when office workers are leaving, and nightlife establishment workers are going to work; and of course people going for a night out with colleagues. You can witness this fascinating coordination of people scrambling from the Loccitane Cafe (pictured, the yellow place behind the tree), the Metro station, or Starbucks 2nd floor in the Tsutaya building (pictured, to the right).

In the Starbucks, you might be lucky enough to get a rarely available window seat. On the second floor of Starbucks, you’d have to figure out who is camped out for a few hours, and who are there just for the view. The ones who are there for the view will probably be bored after about half an hour and leave. Be ready to grab your tray and claim a spot quickly. Interestingly, “Tall” is the largest size this Starbucks serves.

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2. Visit Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple is in Asakusa near the Asakusa Metro station on the Ginza Line. It is perhaps the oldest or first religious site in Tokyo, and the most visited tourist attraction. Despite the ominous promise of crowds, it’s not that bad, and other tourists are nice and respectful.

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3. Rent a kimono

It is possible for men and women to rent a kimono for the morning, afternoon, or the day in Tokyo and Kyoto. The best place in Tokyo is probably in Asakusa, near Sensoji Temple. It’s a small area, and so you don’t have to walk far wearing it to all the great photo ops. A model of mine has written about this experience before, see here for Mariko’s kimono story.

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4. Try the food

DON’T do McDonalds! Ramen is a cheap, classic, healthy, and hearty food. It’s quick and easy to order, and is a real friend to weary travelers at the end of a long day. Also see previous blog posts on food, including ramen and sushi blog posts.

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5. See the sumo

Sumo is held for middle two weeks, every second month. It also is held in different cities. The schedule is:

  • January-Tokyo
  • March-Osaka
  • May-Tokyo
  • July-Nagoya
  • September-Tokyo
  • November-Fukuoka

Tickets go on sale about two months before the tournament, and can sell out very quick. It is possible to book tickets online in English. See previous blog posts for more info about sumo.

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Bonus: Rickshaw rides.

Rickshaw rides are best had near Sensoji Temple, Asakusa. The rickshaw pullers have some English language abilities, lots of energy, and will tell you about the neighbourhood they’ll take you through, with lots of unique photo ops you’ll never get back home. They can even give you some additional advice and perhaps discount offers for other unique Japanese things like tea ceremonies and more.

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A rickshaw puller and his rickshaw and customers viewing the plum blossoms in Kyoto.

I’ve only been to Tokyo once for two short days, and couldn’t even scratch the surface of this busy city. There’s lots more to see and experience, including maid cafés, kabuki, Japanese tea ceremonies (held at some hotels), restaurant pubs, the city view from the Mori Building, and lots more. My advice is spend at least a week there, and may be do a day trip to Mt Fuji. Finally, make plans to go back for more exploration.

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My first trip to Tokyo and model shoot

It was my first trip to Tokyo, and it seems I got the best and worst of Tokyo weather in two days. Day one, 20°C; day two, 8°C. It was great working with Miyu, who knew exactly what to do. We were lucky and blessed with beautiful warm weather, and lovely breeze which was hinting at Spring and coming summer. However, day two was cold, dreary, and wet. Below is a sample of the shoots, and more photos will be added to galleries and portfolios in the coming weeks.

A young Japanese lady in Asakusa and Sensoji Temple, Tokyo. Gallery:

A young Japanese lady in Asakusa and Sensoji Temple, Tokyo. Miyu’s Gallery.

Day two was a reprise with Ana, and a first time with Joanie. Both were fantastic to work with, and they worked great together. However, the glue of the operation was Ksara our makeup artist. She did a great job in keeping everyone’s spirits up on a cold and dreary day, and helped us all pull through and do well. Her work, her attention to detail, and commitment are all great.

The photos are available at Alamy, and my portfolio in these galleries, Ana, Joanie, Miyu, and Tokyo.

Young women sightseeing at Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo. <a href="" target="_blank">Ana's</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Joanie's</a> galleries.

Young women sightseeing at Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo. Ana’s and Joanie’s galleries.

Does this Nara Park deer need help?

Does this deer need veterinarian help? If so, how important or urgently? I was in the Nara Park (Nara, Japan) on the 18th March, near a toilet block far from the other deer. I saw this guy and notice what looks like a problem with his mouth. It appears that the lower jaw is recessed a lot, and possibly twisted slightly counter clockwise. There also appears to be a lump on its lower left lip, and some foam coming out of its mouth near the lump. It also appears to have a runny nose. Also, it was far removed from all the other deer, possibly avoiding the other deer.


People can interact with wild deer in Nara Park.

People can interact with wild deer in Nara Park.

There’s also another issue regarding humans. The white stuff coming from its mouth isn’t frothy, but it made me a little concerned that it might be infectious. I doubt it would be rabies, but Children do pat and feed the deers. I’ve even seen adults put a deer food biscuit in their mouths, so the deer would take it from them for a photo op. So, there may be some risk to humans. There is no health or welfare oversight for these wild deer, so it may be up to us.

Below I’ve included two images that may help. The first is an index of key images that show the problems. The second is the two locations I photographed the deer. The first is near the toilet block that can be seen, and the second is actually at an ice cream stand, tagged at the lower left of the satellite image. The actual coordinates are: 34°40’58” N 135°50’24” E (Google Maps ref: Of course, I assume that deer will roam a lot, but I have a feeling this guy might stay in quieter safer places.

Also, if this deer does need help, who can we contact? Please send this link to someone who is a vet, or someone you think knows a vet. Use the address above or this:

A possibly sick deer. See details here:

A possibly sick deer. See details here:

Location of possibly sick Nara Park deer sighted.

Location of possibly sick Nara Park deer sighted.

5 things about eating in ramen restaurants in Japan

One of the most well known foods in Japan is ramen (Wikipedia), however, it’s actually a Chinese food. There’s a few different kinds, and it’s a delicacy that each ramen restaurant (or franchise) wants to be distinguished from the competition. That is to say, each restaurant will have slightly different styles and tastes, but are generally quite similar. One restaurant I went to, the noodles were quite eggy in flavour, others not at all. Because it’s also a dish that Japanese people have very particular tastes for, there are options that you can request when ordering. You don’t just say “ramen”, and a bowl of it magically appears, there are questions. Of all the places I’ve seen, this place featured below is definitely the most visitor friendly with English info. So, here are 5 things about ordering and enjoying ramen in Japan.

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1. Street displays. Most places will show pictures of their products outside to lure you in. Here you can get a sense of what you want and the prices, and can compare to other nearby restaurants. As you can see, you can expect to pay between 690 to 900 yen (USD$6-10) for a hearty, healthy, and great tasting meal.

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2. Ordering. Many places now have a machine that you put money in, push buttons, and get tickets. You give the ticket to the staff member. Often they’ll ask you these questions you see in the picture below. It’s quite ok to say in English “regular”, “medium”, or “normal” or in Japanese “futsu” or “zembu futsu” for ‘everything normal’. I recommend keep all communication simple and to single words, so there’s little chance of confusion. Once you start using English sentences, communication quality drops. Single words for simple communication.

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3. What’s in it? It’s basically a soup broth, either fish, miso, or pork broths, Chinese wheat noodles, a slice of pork, sheets of seaweed, maybe half a boiled egg, and some vegetable matter. This one pictured below also includes a local type of spinach, and spring onions. The varying flavour between restaurants is usually down to the broth and the secret ingredients they use. This one below is a common pork and pork-broth ramen, with some spring onions, local spinach, and seaweed. It’s actually my favourite.

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4. What to do. Actually, this picture below has pretty good advice. Once you get it, try it, and you can adjust it with condiments and seasonings that are usually on the bench near you. I usually like to add some diced spring onions, or a small spoon of mashed garlic, depending on how I feel that day. The particular restaurant I went to gives some rice for free that you can add to your noodle soup. You’d need the Chinese soup spoon to scoop it up. I never do, as it’s already a lot of carbohydrates, but it’s additional energy that weary travelers might actually need.

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5. How to eat. I eat it in the same way Korean ladies do, just because it’s easier, I look less of a fool, and perhaps less sloppy. Step one, use the chopsticks to load about a mouthful of noodles onto the small Chinese spoon (like the one shown below). Step two, once you’ve got a manageable amount on the spoon, then it’s easier to pick up the noodles as a bunch with the chopsticks and transfer the load to your mouth. Step three, repeat for each mouthful. Once you’ve finished, you can use the spoon to drink up the soup one scoop at a time. It may be a little salty though, so you don’t need to drink much, some people do finish it. Most places provide courtesy jugs of water, so you can wash the salt of your tongue or re-hydrate after a long day in the summer heat. Jugs are replaceable by the staff, so don’t worry about emptying the shops supply or the local lake. Also, there are tissues provided so you can wipe your mouth and the the surrounding bench of splashes.

The picture below also shows below the shelf the other condiments you can add to your ramen. Don’t add them all, just open and sniff and figure out what might be to your liking. As you can see, I was thirsty from a long day travelling and photographing, so the jug is almost empty.

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Bonus advice. Never settle on a “favourite way” to enjoy ramen in your first few visits. Try a variety of different flavours and combinations of condiments, at least until you can settle on something you are in love with.

Visiting Sensoji Temple, Tokyo #POTW

This Photo of the Week (POTW) is of Miyu at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo (Wikipedia). This photo was taken on my first day ever in Tokyo. Yes, I have been in Japan for many years, and have never taken a trip to Tokyo ever before. I had just dropped my bag off at the hotel, not being able to check in until 3pm. I met up with my model and we made our way to Sensoji Temple and created a great set of photos.

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Miyu at Sensoji Temple, with Tokyo Skytree Tower in the background.


Sensoji Temple is probably the first religious site in the area that later became a town, city, and then “Tokyo”. It is said that in 628AD two fisherman came across a small gold statue of Buddha in the near by river, which also marked the approximate location that the temple should be. The statue is so sacred that it has long been hidden away from public view (if it still or ever has existed). Consequently, this temple was probably the first and oldest tourist attraction in Tokyo. The site was bombed in World War II, and has been rebuilt partly as a symbol of resurrection of the city. Today, it is the most visited ‘tourist site’ in Tokyo and possibly Japan for overseas tourists. I heard people speaking English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, (probably) Thai and Vietnamese, and of course Japanese.

Photo galleries: Alamy, Ana, Joanie, Miyu, Tokyo.

Cost: Free.

Where: Closest subway station is Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line of the Tokyo Metro.

When: Any time of year. Best is obviously when the cherry blossoms (sakura) are in bloom, early summer, and Autumn with the changing colour of the leaves. Best to go early in the morning before 10am before the crowds get to thick, and in the evening when it’s beautifully lit.

What to see: Kaminarimon Gate, Sensoji Temple, Nakamise Street (shopping & souvenirs), Tokyo Skytree Tower (a 17min walk away), the kabuki and geisha districts.

A view of Nakamise Street filled with stalls selling souvenirs for tourists, and at the end if Sensoji Temple.


What to do: Enjoy the sights. Take a rickshaw ride and tour of the area. Enjoy a kabuki performance in the area.

What to eat: Surprisingly, there are a lot of restaurants that say they have English and Chinese menus. A lot of restaurants have pictures or wax samples of their food on display out the front. It is possible to find a good hearty meal for under ¥500 (USD$5), but more usually about or under ¥1,000 (USD$10). Also see food.

A ramen restaurant in Asakusa.


Where to stay: There are many hotels in the area, which are reasonably priced. This area is on one of the main subway lines, which gives good access to much of the other interesting places in Tokyo. The Ginza Line of Tokyo Metro gives you straight line access to the famous Ginza district, and Shibuya.

Friends enjoying dining out at street eateries.

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