A lot of people dislike it, but I am big fan of teh pretty colorz.

(Taken with my Canon S90 at ISO80, the only usable setting on this camera for HDR)

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Unfit for duty

Today, looking out my window, I admired Mount Fuji in the distance, very clearly visible today. The view is always the same: to my left, the AXT tower, where I work, right in front of me a very ugly square white building. The, further in the distance is the mountain range that starts out low on the left side, and eventually becomes OoYama (BigMountain) on the right. Fuji is behind those mountains, right in the middle of my view. I was thinking today that I could probably get a great view of Fuji if I cycled up that mountain ridge that's not too far away, then I could finally see the full Fuji. After all, how hard can it be to climb a couple of low mountains by bicycle, right? Right.

I set off towards OoYama after finding a 'hidden' path on Google Earth, that branches off from the main OoYama road just before reaching the end. From there, I should be able to climb a small bit and get a good view. I've cycled up towards OoYama twice before, with a crappy bicycle. It's about a 300 meters climb, and the two times that I tried it with my old bicycle I was completely wasted and could barely make it to the top. This, however, was three years ago, and I've improved my fitness level a lot since then. Besides that, I got a nice bicycle now, with a lot of gears and full tyres. This time I should be able to do the climb easily.

It didn't take long before I arrived at the start of the mountain pass, and I started on the uphill. Following the sign that says OoYama, I climbed a lot, only to find that the road that I took did not actually go to OoYama. Instead it branched off after a while, went downhill again, and then joined another road that went to OoYama. But that road also did not go to OoYama. Being slightly pissed off and incredibly out of breath, I decided to change my plans. I took a random road up the mountain to see where it went, figuring that there will be some hiking trail in the end that will allow me to hike up the remainder of the mountain.

There was something that could possibly be called a hiking path, if one was so inclined. That would, however, require a lot of imagination or, alternatively, the use of psychotropic substances. The road that I walked up on (the incline was too steep for me to continue cycling) became a dead end, with the only way to go on being a hiking trail that looked like it hadn't been used for decades. The entrance to the trail was blocked by a lot of fences, and the only way through was by a door that was tied to the fence with a rope. To keep wild animals from entering the road, I guess.

Gateway to hell, taken from the hell-side

Always being the stubborn one, I decided to try the hiking path anyway. Opened the door, tied the door behind me with the rope, and started to climb.

Not a hiking trail

I didn't get very far. A lot of twigs and bushes ran across what used to be the path, and eventually the path became narrower and narrower, until in front of me was what seemed like the entrance to a dense forest, to the left of me was a high mountain ridge, and to the right of me was a barbed wire fence. Not confident that I would be able to find my way back after entering the unhikeable forest, I turned back. No great view of Fuji this time.

It's only funny in one direction

Getting back on my bicycle, I cycled downhill a bit, scaring the hell out of myself after realizing that my brakes were not really as strong as I thought they were. (Definitely something to fix before setting out on a trip!) After circling some smaller mountains I somehow ended up on the road to OoYama again. I figured 'why not?' and started to pedal, slightly less confident in my stamina than at the start of the trip. My doubts about my stamina were justified, as I soon found myself in lowest gear, my bicycle rattling like a cable car as I went up the hill at 5 kph. My heart racing, I took every opportunity to stop. Besides the road flows a river, and quite frequently there's a bridge across the river for the people who live at the other side. Pretending to be incredibly fit and not tired at all, I stopped at every bridge to admire the great view and act like a tourist. I guess I prefer people thinking of me as a tourist rather than a tired, sweaty gaijin (foreigner). Oh well.

I did make it up eventually, although my detours meant that it was a bit too late to start climbing. The sun still sets early here in winter. I took a short break, and then went back down. Having gotten used to my weaker brakes I went at insane speeds down the hill, enjoying myself greatly. Once back down again, I zigzagged my way towards the riverside and cycled back home. Today's distance: about 25 kilometers. 25 HEAVY kilometers. Still not fit yet...

I did get my view of Fuji though.

I HDRed this photo a bit by duplicating a single photo in Photoshop, creating two copies with exposure +2 and -2, then merging them in Photomatix Pro, letting the plugin do all the work. Here's a comparison of the original vs. the end result.

I can't believe that cycling up the damn hill is still as difficult as it was three years ago! I'm definitely not fit enough. I'll have to work on that..

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A nice day for cycling. Here's some more photos (unedited).

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Shopping in Gotenba

Haven't had much time to process my photos, as the PC containing them was offline for the whole day. Here's how it looks like without the HDR treatment.

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One of those skies


Some days the sky just flares up and I can't help but take some photos, even though I've seen it a million times already since I came to live here. Today the sky was one of those skies that never seems to come out right in a photo. No matter how much I adjusted the white balance the colors wouldn't come out right. The tungsten setting looked the most 'realistic', but didn't at all capture the warm colors that I could see with my eyes. Every other white balance setting made everything yellow instead of just the yellow parts. I guess in this case the unrealistic photos were not to blame on the white balance, but it's rather the human eyes that manage to see things that no modern camera can see, thanks to the eye's ability to resolve extreme differences in contrast.


I found out today that I have a serious focusing issue with my 10-20mm :(. When focusing at or near infinity it's always off by a large enough amount to make photos seem blurry. I'll have to see if I can fix it in-camera tomorrow, but if that won't fix things then I'll have to send it in for repair. No telling how long that would take...



Bonus: here's a panorama :D

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Big mountain part three

(final part of the OoYama hiking trip. read part two here.)

The trail to Yabitsu path started off as a very narrow path on a mountain ridge, slowly going downward in a fairly straight line. Eventually the path receded enough to hide the sun behind the big mountain for large areas of the trail. It was in this area that I came across the scene below.


All trees except a few have lost their leaves already. In the area between two mountain ranges not enough sunlight can penetrate and the autumn is already happening.

The path was a fairly easy hike, and I did not encounter many people along the way. I made good speed and managed to reach the Yabitsu pass bus stop well before dark. Still feeling energetic I decided to walk back to the train station instead of taking the bus. The way back was a very nice mountain pass, flowing left and right while slowly going down. Because it was a road for cars it was very easy to walk on, but it was also very long and not very steep. During my hike down the sun started to set and I managed to get some nice photos of the scenery.


Right around the time when the sun disappeared behind the mountains (~16:30-17:00) I reached an observation tower that offered me a great view of mount Fuji. I stayed around there for a while to take photos, and then realized that there was no bus stop there. Not a huge problem, since my feet were still feeling ok, but it was starting to get dark quickly, so I started to walk a bit faster than before.


But I wasn't quick enough. The mountain road was a never-ending zigzagging path without any street light, and twenty minutes after I departed from the observation tower I was walking around in pitch black darkness with no idea of how much further the next bus stop was. Occasionally a car would pass me by and illuminate the road with their headlights. I don't know who was more scared it these cases: the car drivers who suddenly had to avoid a weird foreigner walking down the road, or me, scrambling to the side of the road for cover. It was right about at this time that a car hit me, and I died.

All in all it was a very nice hike, and it took me about 30 more minutes to reach the next bus stop. From there on it was a short bus ride back to the station and an even shorter train ride back to my bicycle. I managed to cycle back to Atsugi just in time to join my friend for a well-deserved bowl of ramen at Ippachiya :D.

It's nice to hike by yourself. You get to decide your own schedule and you're much more flexible than if you are with a group. Japanese are especially notorious for planning everything up to one month in advance, including the tiny details. This doesn't really fit with my personality as I like to do random things and change my plans at the last minute. I will certainly do this kind of trip again some time.

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