Tokyo Skyline – Dealing with time travel

The interesting thing about hurling your body from one side of the planet to the other is that your body clock gets out of synch with the solar day. From France to Tokyo is about a 12 hour flight, but it is also about ten hours further around the globe. Novelist William Gibson referred to jet lag as waiting for your soul to catch up. And it can feel like that!

So how do you deal with it? Well, there are the practical things like ‘drink lots of water’ or ‘stay awake until dark’ – which is generally good advice. And I do all those things and usually adjust within a couple of days. In the meantime you have a wonderful opportunity to take photos that no-one else is awake for.

If your body is ten hours out, you will be quite nocturnal for a while. And let’s face it, late night TV is pretty boring – especially if you can’t understand a word of it. So you look out the window.

In our case, we were on the 16th floor of a hotel and had a great view over the city. This is a great opportunity to take a time series around the day-night cycle. And it goes like this:

First, you’ve unpacked, found some green tea or milk for your coffee, and it’s now late-ish afternoon.

Tokyo afternoon

Tokyo afternoon

Then you have some dinner and lie down exhausted at sun down. By now you are talking gibberish and – in the case of Tokyo – struggling to comprehend the fast array of controls that operate the loo. By 8.pm you are asleep.

You wake at 1.00AM and your body is refreshed and ready for the…um… day. Even in Tokyo the shops are closed. It’s time for a glass of water – while the light streams in the window from the myriad lights stretching off to the horizon. Time to grab the camera.

Tokyo night

Tokyo night

Don’t forget the circular polarising filter – otherwise you will take great shots of your room reflected in the window. The filter won’t get rid of all reflections, but it will enable you to reduce them. Turn off the room lights – all of them if possible, after setting up your tripod and attaching the remote trigger – now you can do some long exposures and really pull out some detail from that amazing skyline.

Tokyo blimp

Tokyo blimp

Then you lie down again hoping to sleep some more.

Around 4.00AM you are wide awake again. Don’t waste it – grab the camera and check out the pre-dawn light. Now that makes it all worthwhile!

Tokyo dawn

Tokyo dawn

By 6.00AM you are ready to see the city come alive – take the camera and step outside for those big city, deserted streets shots. And the street sweepers, and the setting up of the market stalls and… the possibilities are endless. I’ll do another post on street photography soon 🙂

How do you deal with jet lag? Let me know in the comments 🙂


A visit to the Zojoji Temple Tokyo

Zojoji Temple Jizo statuesOur visit to the Zojoji Temple left me with one of my most lasting impressions of Tokyo. To be honest, it was not the temple itself that moved me – despite the beautiful peaceful gardens – so much as the serene rows of little statues each standing with a peaceful expression.

Zojoji Temple Jizo statues TokyoThe Jizo statues each held a toy wind mill and were dressed with a red crocheted baby cap. These statues are said to protect and calm the souls of stillborn infants.

Zojoji Temple Jizo statuesThey are like the Buddhist equivalent of an angel that watches over the child’s soul.

Zojoji Temple Jizo statuesIn Japan there is a ceremony for those who have had a miscarriage or still born child.

Zojoji TempleEven though the Zojoji temple was badly damaged in World War II and was reconstructed in its original style in 1974 it is well worth visiting because it is a living Temple. People still worship and leave prayers written on strips of paper.

Zojoji TempleTo be honest, seeing these handwritten prayers beside the little Jizo statues – one for an Australian child – brought tears to my eyes and I had to leave and calm my emotions in the gardens. Jerry was subdued too, and he mentioned a friend who had recently experienced this.

The Zojoji Temple is a place that impressed me greatly so I thought I would share this and Jerry’s photographs with our readers.


Silbury Hill, Wiltshire

Silbury Hill stands out in the landscape like nothing else. The largest man-made mound in Europe, we encountered it as we left Avebury. You couldn’t miss it. That it was made around 2500BC is doubly impressive. It was dated by the broken antler picks left behind by its builders – that means it was built around the same time as Egypt’s pyramids. And to this day it remains a mystery.

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill

It stopped me in my tracks so that despite the rain I just had to stop and grab a photo. One thing I found remarkable is that although I was probably close to a mile away (1.6km) on a road leading over an adjacent hill I saw an indent near the top which suggested that a previous top – now a terrace-like feature – would have placed the hill top at that time in direct line with the horizon line from where I was standing. That is some serious engineering and surveying!

It was long assumed to be a larger version of the burial barrows in the district – but no burial chamber has been found despite three tunnels being dug through its centre.

  • The first tunnel was built in 1776 by a team of miners hired by the Duke of Northumberland and Colonel Drax. They sank a shaft from the top of the hill.
  • Then came an Archeological Institute dig arranged by Dean Mereweather in 1849. This tunnel went in from the side.
  • And finally, in 1968 the BBC and Cardiff University dug another tunnel close to the second one.

Assuming it was a burial chamber for a great chief, they were each chasing treasure – hopefully on an impressive scale. But to date none has been found.

What has been discovered is how it was built. First a layer of gravel covered in soil and surrounded by a ditch. The hill was raised several times, with each successive phase filling in the ditch and recutting in around the new base.

Today the base covers more than two hectares – 5 acres – and as the hill was enlarged, the soil was stabilised with sarsen boulders from the district incorporated into the soil.

Unfortunately, there is no public access to the site as it is unstable – in 2000 a portion collapsed into the first tunnel which had not been properly filled in.

But as a triumph of human ingenuity and tenacity to build something greater than themselves, the Silbury Hill is an impressive piece of work.


London to Brighton with a camera and some interesting cars

As Sharon went off drawing at the British Museum, I decided to take another route and follow the London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally to Brighton. The challenge with something like cars, old or new is to find an interesting way to photograph them.

One solution is to find some interesting detail that says something about the car as a whole.

lamp1

Veteran car lamp

Toledo

1901 Toledo

Or to find a particularly beautifully shaped or presented car.

Veteran car

Veteran car

I had arranged to hire a (modern) car – which I picked up at Victoria Station on the Saturday and promptly parked while I checked out the concours display in Regent Street.

After a month driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road it was a relief to be back on the left – although London traffic and street layout still offered its challenges for a ‘Colonial’ driver. I took some photos of the superbly presented cars – and picked up a copy of the program – with the all important route.

The weather forecast looked promising – as did the pre-dawn sky at 05.00AM when I drove to Hyde Park. I grabbed the camera and braced against the cold as I walked up toward the start. Sure enough one of the cars from 1900 was just getting up steam, so I stopped for a chat and took some photos.

Steam car

Steam car

I took a few shots of the 1901 Toledo steam car – it looked show-room new. I liked how the support pit crew all wore Toledo overalls – nice touch!

Toledo

Toledo

The 1904 Gardner-Serpollet deservedly won accolades as the most historically significant car – it was one of only two surviving cars of that make from that year. These are rare cars indeed!

1904 Gardner-Serpollet steam car

1904 Gardner-Serpollet steam car

Some cars glided smoothly and silently by. Other steamers had a healthy howl from the burner – at least with those you know their burners were still alight – although those driving petrol cars nearby looked a little nervous! In the early days there were about equal numbers of steam, petrol (gasolene) and electric cars on the road – petrol (gasolene) cars didn’t really start to dominate until after 1906, boosted in 1913 when the first electric-start vehicles were produced.

Another way to add interest to a photo is to present an antique car with an antique look, such as a black and white image.

Salvesen

1896 Salvesen

So then it was time to put the sat-nav and my driving skills to the test. I put in the steam car stop as the destination, and set off in what I thought was good time to get ahead of most of the cars so I could see them at the way-point. The satnav had other ideas, and after about 45 minutes’ driving I found myself pulling back into Hyde Park! The GPS must have lost signal at some point and re-directed me back to the start. After that I referred to it as the ‘doubtful Thomas’…

The second go was more successful and I arrived at the steam car stop after a quick belt down the motorway to try to get ahead of the cars.

It wasn’t long before the the first one arrived for water and soon after came several more.

1900 Mobile

1900 Mobile

Two more CX stanley steamers arrived – being 1905 they weren’t in the Rally but did the run anyhow in fine style.

CX Stanley

CX Stanley

With two steam cars to go – one apparently seen not too far away but stopped with a problem, the other not sighted, I decided to head off to see the finish line.

This time the satnav behaved and I headed off to Brighton. Miraculously I found a park on the sea front a few hundred metres from the finish line so I grabbed the camera and headed for a bite of lunch and watched the cars coming in.

The Toledo arrived looking as though it had just driven down the road, and about 15 minutes after arriving it was off under its own steam to do a quick sprint up and down the sea front – the driver remarked to me that he needed to let off a bit of steam as the pressure was still very high.

Toledo at Brighton

Toledo at Brighton

I never did see if the Salvesen had completed the run, and I feared it may have had some problems near Brighton. Someone had seen it by the side of the road.

As the afternoon came on and the clouds began rolling in, I headed back to my hire car. I arrived back in London as the sun went down and prepared to fly out the following day.

steam car rear

Mobile steam car