Nagano (part 2) – Terraced rice fields of Obasute

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

On the 2nd day of my Nagano visit, I left the inn before 5am and pedaled in, towards my destination. This is the light I wanted to see at my destination. I was already awake at 4am and why waste so much previous time? A bit too lazy on my holiday mood…

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X100T

After a few kilometres on the highway the google map in my pocket announced I was to turn left. To the left of me was the hill and I knew I had to face the uphill at some stage. Judging from the route taken on the way back, there was a slightly less demanding way up to my destination, but I did not know that at this point. The destination is some 6.5km away from my inn in the town of Kami-Yamada hot springs.

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

Obasute (literally means ‘dispose of grandma’) station is known for a switch-back line layout, which used to be common among the train lines that traveled along steep hills. Instead of going straight from bottom to another point at the higher altitude, the tracks are laid out in zig-zag, with train traveling one way to hit the end, switch back to the other side going further up for some distance, where there is another switch-back point where the driver moves to the other side of a train.

Here at Obasute, it is a little different. There are actually straight-line tracks on which freight and express trains go up and down. Obasute station is not on the main line, but is branched off from it on a small plateau along the side of the mountain. Only local trains would pull into the branch and stop at the platform for passengers, then switch it back out to main line, and keep going along the main tracks. Maybe this was a solution to the location where it was not possible to put aside enough space for structure like platforms and station building along the main tracks. When I arrived at 5:30am, the station was well outside of its hours of service. The first train would come in at 7am, according to the station timetable.

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R (cropped)

The idea for the trip was to photograph the night view from here, and I even brought a tripod, which is uncommon for me. But seeing the overcast and haze the afternoon before, I had given up on the night shots. Instead, I focused on the view over the terraced rice field in the morning light. Maybe next time, I can come back in season, with the view as an excuse to bring a girl along with me…

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X100T

Here, as well as in Kami-Yamada hot springs, you can still see the hydrangea in bloom. I wonder if it is still cooler here (not yesterday, though!) This bush is opposite the Obasute station.

The drizzle continues to come down, changing its force between extra light and hard. Watching my feet on the wet stone I slowly walked down the hill with breaks on bike pulled in. Then the view opened up towards the leveled terraces of rice fields.

According to the tourism info websites, the view has been known as ‘moon on every piece of rice paddy’, and it was loved by many artists including famous poets from centuries ago. The time I visited was certainly not the most popular time, as it was not possible to see flat water surface on rice fields, as the crops were already growing almost chest high. To see the moon on the water, the only time would be between the start of season when they pooled the water in the field and the rice crops start to grow tall, AND when there is a full moon above on a clear sky night. The Japanese love those delicate, limited opportunities, especially when given a small difference in condition, it would not eventuate.

As my regular readers would know, I actually enjoy shooting in the rain. Today, with the rain on the forecast, the images I built in my mind to capture were all around the rain and the white mist. Regardless of lack of rain gear, this was the perfect timing, and given the few hours before returning the bike, taking a hot bath to avoid catching a cold and checking out from the accommodation, I was excited to get my shooting started.

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + Leica Elmarit 90mm F2.8

I got to make good use of the Leica piece that I acquired not long ago. Due to its narrow angle of view, there is only limited use to it. but I believed when such opportunities did arise this is the piece I wanted to have available in my arsenal. And this image I knew I needed this. The elegant shift in tonality is just elegant. It was a hustle to change lenses one after another in the pouring rain with my body as the umbrella, also using the left hand to constantly block the rain drops hitting the front protector glass. I was drenched from cotton shirt down to cotton short pants to new balance walking shoes and socks inside. I was a bit worried about catching a cold or worse, but I was so happy where I was, I walked slowly, feeling each drop of rain, and looked for another image to capture.

Unfortunately, due to the way I’m posting images on Flickr and embedding in this blog, the tonality is broken through JPEG resize. I will have to try printing this one and see.

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF35mm F1.4R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X100T (cropped)

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 +Industar 61L/Z-MC 50mm/f2.8 Macro

Another piece that I brought with me is also a new-comer, purchased as used from Ukraine. On this trip I had 5 different angles (lenses) including X100T, from wide to macro and telephoto. And yet, there was not a single piece I found redundant. There are images I want to make, and I need to have that angle, that feeling of depth and the air in between, that usability, with me when it happens. It’s been years already since I started using the Fuji system. I was not in a rush to build up my tools in the arsenal; I rather waited to meet the right ones for me, which I think I started to happen. I thought, for a change, I’d share with you the gear I used for each shot. For the ones not using mount adapter (i.e. XF lenses and X100T), you can see the full setting detail by clicking through to Flickr and see EXIF info. Mind you, though, I do shoot raw and finish the images one by one through the control of exposure level, tone curve, etc. so they are not the same as straight-out-of-camera-jpeg’s.

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X100T

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X100T

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF35mm F1.4R

The decline in farming population is obviously serious here as elsewhese. It is particularly problematic with the terraced rice fields, which are not suited for scalable production. There are signs for ‘rice paddy available for rent’ here and there. The notes pinned up on the wall inside the storage area seem to be written for those ‘novice’ farmers; why else would you need to say what kind of fuel this farming machine takes? It is easy for us visitors to speak of the view and how we want them to keep them alive, but it is far more serious matter for the farmers who manage them.

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

When the rain gets heavier, I joined the farm machines to let it pass. Little difference, though, as I was already drenched from top of my cap to the socks and shoes…

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 +Industar 61L/Z-MC 50mm/f2.8 Macro

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X100T

2016-07-12_13 Nagano 長野
Fujifilm X-E1 + XF18mm F2R

It may be natural outcome when shooting for more or less general landscape, but naming each photo like this I realise how frequently I opt for the wide-angle views. The next item on my shopping list has been a 28mm but I know I could really use a compact manual lens of 18-21mm angle, with a neutral and flat tonal representation. But not finding one right away, maybe I should get that 28mm, as I should be in need of one after that any way…

One last post to come to wrap up the story of the short trip to Nagano. Stay tuned!

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