Monday, August 27, 2012

Green Hoppity Monsters

Back to the normality of sea-level living - cute green grasshoppery crickety things are hopping around the neighbourhood, enjoying the unremitting heat of summer.

grasshopper or cricket
What cool back leg patterns.

But then I found a monster: AAaggggh!

Help help help - monster!!

I think it may be a shouryou-batta (ショウリョウバッタ)/ Acrida cinerea antennata/ oriental long-headed locust, but it looks rather more colourful than most of those I found online. I guess from its massive size (10cm+?) that it is a girl. I'd hate to meet the preying mantis that would gobble it up for tea.

The top photo is from my D90, and the lower one from the RX100. As a special treat, for those of you interested in the new RX100, I also took the monster's photo with my D90 (see here).


Friday, August 24, 2012

Starbucks Green

Back from the mountains to normality, Japanese style.

Starbucks Green
British Racing Green isn't a specific colour, but any green that British teams have raced in. So said Wikipedia, last time I checked. Starbucks Green seems to be similarly vague.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mountain Views

Shiomidake and tree

The route

James on Kita Dake
3rd time lucky with the weather on Kita Dake, Japan's 2nd highest mountain.

clouds and mountains

A tree and mountains

MInami Alps

jules and Fuji-san

MInami Alp



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mountain Wildlife

The reader will be pleased to hear that we are nearing the end of the mountain photos.

Sometimes I think we should sneak more quietly through the mountains in order to see more wildlife but we generally walk quite noisily so as to avoid being eaten by the lions, tigers and bears. The Japanese mostly carry bear bells, or even radios. I bet the mother bears get really fed up of the cubs hankering after the latest noise-making gizmo.

Shika - Deer.

Mountain wildlife - deer

Raicho - Ptarmigan.
Mountain wildlife - raicho - ptarmigan

Hebi - Snake.
Mountain wildlife - sneek


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mountain stream

On the tops of the mountains water is scarce with just the occassional spring. So after four days of trekking, descending down to 2300m this hut feels like an oasis, with its snazzy onsite water feature (a natural stream runs by the side of the hut). The experience is made 10 times better by the horrible rarity in Japan of any kind of stream or river that is not covered in concrete. We arrived early enough to go on photo safari. The lighting assistant was in charge of holding and adjusting the vari-ND filter.

Mountain stream


Monday, August 20, 2012

Mountain huts

As previously mentioned, all the mountain huts serve beer. But they do not all have much in the way of bedding or room to sleep. However, the hut staff often find some extra space to put James in, and as we were out of the peak season we did not have too much trouble this time.

First, some huts that we didn't stay at... on the ridge before Kita Dake (2nd highest mountain in Japan) summit.

Katanokoya (hut on the shoulder)

Then this one is down the other side of Kita Dake.
Kita Dake Hut

Later we got to sleeping bag on wooden boards territory (we were ready and took thermarests this time!). But it is quite a picturesque hut, and it was from here that this view was taken at dawn (4:30am) the next day.

This one is a favourite, and one of the main reasons I wanted to do the walk again. Still not enough bedding, but a lovely location by a steam and plenty of excellent food.
Liccle Hutty
Hyakkenbora yama-no-ie

And here we are on the last night, waiting for people to pile in next to us. As you see, the big foreigners are put in one corner, and then other people are filled in from the other corners, so that the space next to us is the last to be filled. Eventually, the Olympic snoring champion arrived and took the spot, although there was still space for 3 or 4 Japanese between us and him.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Blue bell alpine flowers

The alpine flowers put us clumsy humans into perpective by growing in inaccessible places. I suppose we can still metaphorically tread on them through our climate changing activities, but they are probably in more immediate danger from the collapsing mountains. It was quite interesting how much of the path we trod 7 years ago through the Minami Alps has now disappeared over the cliffs. A Tokyo University geologist once told me that the mountains are going up faster than they are falling down, but it doesn't seem like it when you are there.

alpine blue bell flowers

My Japanese flower book says there are a number of kinds of these little blue bell flowers, but I can't tell them apart. James is the expert at photographing them.

alpine blue bell flowers

alpine blue bell flowers

alpine blue bell flowers

alpine blue bell flowers


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mountain Flowers

alpine flowers
A week of bright sunshine made for tricky flower photography, saved by the technical lighting assistant and his magic hat.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More Fuji-san


I have been wondering why the good people of flickr so much prefer this photo to the two I posted last week. I wouldn't say it's exactly "gone viral", but I don't self-promote my pix much, so 1700 views, 31 favourites, 12 comments, 1 gallery, an appearance on flickr's "explore" and on something called "reddit" are unheard of. I like the minimalism of the other two pictures, the colours, and the way they go together well (which doesn't come across on a single-pic-view site like flickr), despite being taken from different places.

But the crucial thing may be that the the first two photos seem to me to be an improvement over the origial view. Meanwhile, the goal of the third photo was to capture the layers of hills and cloud leading to Fuji-san. I thought I'd nailed it at the time, but now I think the original view was more wonderful. So that makes me pleased with the former pics and slightly disappointed with this one. Nevertheless, I guess I'll have to print it out and see how it looks on the wall.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Mountain resources

The mountain water comes out of the ground (via dodgy looking pipes),

mountain water

but at 3000m, the coffee comes in china cups.
mountai coffee

Provisions are brought in by helipcopter, but beer is available at every hut.
mountain beer

Here are all the requirements for a relaxing post-walk afternoon tea...
essential food groups
sake, coffee, chocolate, nuts and map.


Thursday, August 9, 2012




We walked the Minami (South) Alps from North to South, which is towards Fuji-san. From about half way through the walk, it was visible for much of the time.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

black and yellow and buzzy

alpine hoverflies

Little hoverflies buzz over the alpine flowers, although not usually in this density. There were also bigger hoverflies.
And then there were these:
James had seen a hornet warning at the bottom of the mountain path. And this caused us to notice the yellow and black stripyness of the enormous things buzzy around us every few minutes along the path. But Asian hornets are a like Fuji-san in the sense that they are so massive and dramatic that when you see the real thing you know it. And the behaviour of these didn't seem quite the same. Hornets can hover but they tend to fly with motivation - i.e. angrily towards something. These were sitting near the path and would loop, or figure of eight the two of us, 2-10 times as we walked past their territory. The best we could come up with was that they were stripped down happy mountain hornets. However, after return and much Googling, I found a British reference to a "hornet mimic hoverfly". And cropping my photo (I didn't want to get too close!) reveals a relatively smaller face, bigger eyes, and, crucially, the lack of bee-crushing mandibles, and inclusion of some kind of stabbing mechanism. They were, however, absolutely huge, but then so are our hornets, so I guess they have upped their game compared to the European ones...


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mountain butterflies - and a bee.

I don't know why, but they are so much more amazing seen on the mountain, than in the butterfly house. Can anyone tell me what kind the amazing big brown and white one is?

James is now making serious moves to try and adopt my new RX100 camera! It could be a tough fight. It was pretty cool carrying 1.5kg less stuff and the 20Mpixel resolution is phenomenal.


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