iPhone photos from deep inside Melbourne’s heavily-restricted life.
What a kick in the nuts COVID-19 has been! Looking on the bright side, Australia fared comparatively very well this year, but on the down side, Melbourne was forced to endure one of the harshest and strictest lockdowns on the planet. And I’m not gonna lie – it was tough. The mental stress of not knowing if things would improve, a police-enforced curfew from 8pm until 5am, being only allowed outside for 1 hour of exercise and being restricted to a 5km radius from home was extremely burdensome … and just draining overall.
But what it did give me was a greater appreciation for the everyday beauty in the ‘burbs less than 5km from my home. I’m fortunate that from Flemington there is a lot of great places nearby, and being restricted in my movements meant that I had to explore, by foot or by bike, a lot of places I would have normally bypassed. And of course I had my iPhone on me. Here is a selection of some of my favourite images from March until November (when we could finally start to get back to normal).
Some beauty in the ‘burbs … and a very empty CBD on the rare occasion I visited:
When we were permitted to travel further than 5km it was nice to by the water:
The Yarra River gets all the glory, but out west, the Maribyrnong has some real beauty:
And it’s funny, when you walk the streets, you notice so much more than when you zoom by in a car!
Jetstar Asia Magazine – Snowboarding and Skiing in Japan: Whether you have just one day or more on your itinerary, hit up Japan’s ski fields to get your winter fix.
After my two trips to Japan in early 2016 I was briefed by Jetstar Asia Magazine to produce a travel article about snowboarding and skiing in Japan. My words and photos ran as a four-page feature article in the October 2016 issue of the inflight magazine for the Singapore-based airline, which is seen by 350,000 passengers each month. As a bonus, I was pleased to be able to sneak in a photo of myself and Mary G, and also of my brother into print. Please take a read of the text from the article, and I hope it inspires you to travel to Japan too…
Whether you have just one day or more on your itinerary, hit up Japan’s ski fields to get your winter fix.
The Land of the Rising Sun is every snow-lover’s dream: think consistent dumps of light, dry powder, terrain that ranges from the easy to the epic, as well as world-class backcountry riding and ski runs through the trees. And with easy bullet-train access from Tokyo or Osaka to some of the best skiing on Japan’s main island of Honshu, the only decision you’ll make is: how long is your snow holiday going to be?
SUPER-EXPRESS DAY TRIP: GALA Yuzawa
If you’ve only got a weekend in Tokyo, you can still fit in a quick day trip. GALA Yuzawa is located roughly 200km north of Tokyo and is famous for having its own bullet train station at the base of the mountain. In fact, Japan Rail can transport you in high-speed style from Tokyo station to the resort in just 75 minutes. Step off the train to rent some gear next to the platform, collect your packagedeal lift pass and then walk straight onto the gondola without leaving the building. How’s that for instant gratification?
Once you’re set up, you’re sure to love what’s on offer: Yuzawa has beginner, intermediate and advanced ski runs across its 17 pistes that can all be accessed by 11 lifts. You can also buy a combined lift pass to access two connected resorts – Ishiuchi Maruyama and Yuzawa Kogen – for even more variety. The top of the resort is 823m higher than the base, giving you a plethora of vertical metres to ride. Plus, Yuzawa receives almost 12m of snow on average each winter.
So next time you’ve got a spare day in Tokyo, grab a bento box breakfast on the early shinkansen (bullet train), hit the slopes at GALA Yuzawa by 8am, then celebrate back in Tokyo with yakitori and Asahi beer in the alleys next to Shinjuku station (after changing trains at Tokyo station). And for ski novices, GALA Yuzawa has a snow sports school with English-speaking instructors.
SHORT SNOW TRIP: Nozawa Onsen
If a day isn’t enough to satisfy your snow craving, Nozawa Onsen provides the ultimate Japanese snow experience over a few days. It’s about two hours from Tokyo by bullet train and bus and is the quintessential Japanese ski town. It is one of the largest ski resorts in the country – an all-in one resort where the runs funnel back to a quaint, historic village. A maze of laneways hides more than 100 traditional restaurants, as well as bars and Western eateries. It was the famed 13 historic soto-yu public hot-spring bathhouses that attracted visitors to Nozawa before Austrians introduced skiing to the locals in 1912. Now, it’s the snowboarding and skiing that keep the town buzzing in winter.
Beyond the historic temples and shrines, tucked among the towering cypress trees on the edge of town lie almost 300ha of skiable terrain and 50km of runs with a huge kilometre of vertical drop.
For authorised tree riding (skiing through wooded areas), head to the top of the resort where a large section of forest is accessed by two lifts. Being that high means the powder stays light and dry and the trees are powder-coated a shimmering white.
If fresh, groomed runs are more your thing, Nozawa has wide leg-burners, steeper high-speed runs and winding forest trails for all abilities. You’ll find one of the better terrain parks in Japan, with small to large jumps, rollers, some rails and a fun half pipe. If you don’t ski, explore the labyrinth of shops and eateries in town and the picturesque shrines and temples nestled in the forests nearby. Then, don a yukata (traditional dressing gown) and geta or zori (clogs or sandals) and stroll through town to take a steaming dip in one of the famous Nozawa onsen.
A WINTRY WEEK: Hakuba Valley
A world-class ski destination, the Hakuba Valley, three hours from Tokyo, has been attracting serious snow lovers from all over the globe for at least 70 years. With more than 200 runs, including some of Japan’s steepest, and 140km of pistes accessed by 135 lifts across 11 separate resorts, it’s easy to see why some consider it the jewel of the Japan Alps – and then there’s the huge 14m of annual snowfall.
Happo-One Ski Resort is the main resort in Hakuba, and it provides all levels of skiing and snowboarding, as well as abovethe- tree-line alpine terrain and The Happo Banks Snow Park. Head to the top of Happo: a 30-minute hike up the ridgeline gives you backcountry options for kilometres down to the valley.
The view atop the Alps is mesmerising, and the endless powder turns on offer are hypnotic. Book yourself a mountain guide with all the backcountry avalanche gear and you’ll be in for a day you will never forget. Afterwards you can kanpai those powder grins and goggle tans with an icy cold beer from one of the traditional pubs, or izakaya, in Happo Village.
For some of Japan’s best tree riding, trek to the Hakuba Valley’s northernmost resort, Cortina. It’s a bit more out of the way, but that generally means fewer crowds – except for when fresh flakes have fallen. Cortina has a full-access tree-riding policy.
If you’re not a skier, you can still imagine you’re Eddie ‘The Eagle’ by taking in the dizzying view from the top of the 90m and 120m ski jumps at the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. Take the easy option of a chairlift up to the museum at the giant structure that was built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Or, take the hundreds of stairs up and down, and afterwards a steaming bowl of ramen cooked in the natural hot spring water at Happo Bijin will taste even better.
CULTURAL EXCURSION: Matsumoto
If your legs need a break, take the local train from Hakuba station one hour south to the 16th-century castle town of Matsumoto.
From the station, cross the bridge to Nawate-dori, a picturesque laneway of traditional wooden stalls along the riverbank, and try some of the local delicacies and treats. Soon, you’ll spy the towering black-and-white wooden tiers of Matsumoto-jo in the distance.
Construction of the Matsumoto Castle began in 1592, and it was saved from destruction during the late-19th-century Meiji period when Japan went through modernisation. There are only 12 Japanese castles that survive today, and as well as being the oldest, Matsumoto is also one of only two with five visible floors from the outside with a secret sixth level hidden inside.
Look for colourful koi fish as you cross the shimmering defensive moat to enter through the wooden Black Gate and into the fortified bailey. Don’t be too startled if a costumed samurai greets you with a flick of his gunsen war fan and presentation of his jumonji yari spear. Even if you want to give your legs a rest, be prepared to scale the steep and narrow wooden stairways to climb through each lowceilinged floor inside the tower. You’ll glimpse the surrounding snow-capped mountains from one of the 115 archer’s and marksman’s slits – but to feel like a real lord, climb to the highest level and imagine life as a conquering clan. Reality will likely set in as you head back to ground level but by then you’ll be ready to conquer the pistes again.
GETTING THERE: Bullet trains (shinkansen) and express trains depart from Tokyo Station in the centre of the city, as well as the nearby Ueno Station, to all destinations in Honshu. Express trains run from Tokyo Narita Airport to both Tokyo and Ueno, and you can purchase all train tickets at the station counters as well as at the airport station counter.
To find train timetables and plan the quickest trip, visit hyperdia.com
The fastest way to get to the Hakuba Valley is a 90-minute bullet train to Nagano, then a one-hour bus to Happo Village. You can also take express and local trains to Hakuba train station.
Hot tip: Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass from japanrailpass.net to save money if you’re going to be catching lots of trains.
And below is how the printed article looked. Click on the images to see them larger…
Someone much wiser once said something like ‘the best camera you have is the one you have on you’ … and as my iPhone 5 is nearly always always in my pocket, it has become my go-to image creator. The quality of the images you can capture are quite amazing for something that also does a pretty good job of acting like a phone … and a computer. And with the outstanding Photoshop Express app, the level of post-production and editing you can do all in the palm of your hand rivals what many amateur photographers do on their desktops.
On my latest overseas trip to the USA my iPhone well and truly got a workout on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Reno. Around NYC I often carried my Canon EOS 1D MkIV, but with the ability to edit on the fly, then directly upload to Instagram and Facebook, I found that I have enjoyed the shots I took with my Apple phone much more. And sometimes having the limitations of a non-optical zoom, 8-megapixel mini-lens makes you think just a little bit more creatively to make the most of those limitations. So take a look at some of my shots, and if you like what you see, follow me on Instagram for more of my iPhoneography.
Click on the photos below to see larger versions…
This photo was taken with a Russian Horizon Perfeckt 35mm panoramic camera, with the film cross-processed.
For 18 months I sat in the sunny Gold Coast office of the surf magazine, watching the palm trees out the window and looking for a change in wind direction that signalled “down tools” across the office and a race to the Burleigh Point, or mid-Gold Coast beachies. But the whole time I was sitting in board shorts and thongs and enjoying the security (and paycheque) of full-time employment, I was more often than not dreaming of sub-zero temperatures, icy faceshots and the quiet solitude of hiking through the backcountry with a camera in hand. If there was one major gripe I had with what many would consider a dream job, it was that as the Online Editor for a major surf magazine, I just didn’t get enough time to follow my true love: snowboarding.
So when I left the magazine, the first thing I did was book a trip to Japan. I wanted back in the game … and with four weeks in peak pow season, the game was sure to be on.
Dane Tiene had teamed up in Niseko with the kiwi boys, filming their webisode project across the island of Hokkaido, Japan Journals. And although I wasn’t able to meet up with ol’ mate Dane before he flew out, Nick Hyne and Nick Brown were more than happy to have me tag along and shoot some snaps with Connor Harding and filmer Heath Patterson.
It’s always a pleasure to work with the kiwis, as every one of them is just so chilled, friendly … and willing to throw down at every opportunity. And with Japan Journals, these boys are onto a good wicket, producing some great snow-travel-themed web edits full of banging tricks with some great backing from their sponsors.
Veteran shredder Nick Hyne has been to Japan more than a dozen times after first visiting on a high school exchange program, and so I had no doubt that he would have the locations dialled. And so for two days in late February the boys picked me up in Niseko in their Rhythm Snowsports-supplied van to shoot a backcountry jump hidden not far up a valley in the mountains halfway back to Sapporo, and a pillow-line cliff band outside Niseko.
Check out the jump we shot at 3:15 in this Japan Journals episode.
While it might have been just another couple of days in front of the camera for the boys, for me it was quite a successful two day return to the snowboard photography game. The great li’l shred magazine from the other side of the Tasman, NZ Snowboarder, was looking for some shots of Hyner, Browner and Connor and I managed to have a couple of shots published full-page, as well as a double-page spread with one of my Shibuya Crossing 35mm film panoramas, and a couple more shots throughout the magazine’s two issues of the 2013 winter. And through Nick Hyne I was able to tee up one of my shots being used as a full page ad in the skate and snow mag, Manual Magazine.
Not a bad outcome for two day’s shooting, if I do say so myself!
And with another snow trip booked (back to my second home, Lake Tahoe) for this February, I can say: it’s good to be back!
Click on the photos below to open them up in a full size gallery, and take a look at the finished results…
Yep … it was pow season in Niseko during February 2013!
On the road with Japan Journals. Kutchan, just outside Niseko.
Pulled over somewhere on the highway.
Hiking to the goods…
Ahhh, the serenity!
Jump building with the Japan Journals boys.
Nick Brown warming up with a frontside 360.
Connor Harding dodging branches while he gets close to check out the Niseko tree-living wildlife (Heath Patterson).
It doesn’t always go to plan. Nick Brown bailing mid air.
Nick Hyne’s wise words alongside my photo in NZ Snowboarder Issue 58.
Double-back flip from Nick Hyne. You can see the front-on angle in the video above at 3:24.
Full page for Connor Harding.
Booost! Connor Harding launches.
Nick Hyne styling a melon on this pillow drop.
Back-lit vapour trail as Connor Harding bounces off Niseko pillows.
Double pager in NZ Snowboarder Issue 59.
Connor Harding dodging millions of fat Hokkaido flakes on this frontside 540. Check out the footage at 3:28 in the video above.
Shibuya Crossing shot with a Russian-made Horizon Perfekt swing-lens pano-camera, on cross-processed 35mm Fuji Provia 400 film.
When it snows, it pukes. We waited for what seemed like ages (check the snow accumulation on my camera bag) for a window of semi-sunshine to shoot the pillow line Browner had in mind. It was worth the wait to see the shot in the magazine…
Nick Brown gettin’ ‘er done in NZ Snowboarder issue 59.
Droppin’ bombs on Niseko backcountry pillows.
Nick Hyne advertising his Ride Snowboards Machete GT full page in Manual Magazein issue 50.
Nick Hyne launching and landing this frontside double cork 900.
Looking out from the frozen Rhythm Snowsports van back in Niseko-Hirafu.
Japan has got to be one of the best places to travel with a camera – the hyper-industrialised cities, bright lights of the shopping districts, old temples and shrines, not to mention the epic snowscapes. Japan is full of epic visual scenes. And so it was a dream to finally be able to visit Japan this year … for snowboarding, and photography.
Along with what Apple likes to tell us is the “World’s most popular camera” in my pocket at all times, I travelled to Japan with my new Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, a pocket Canon Powershot AS3300 IS and a funny Russian panoramic 35mm film camera, a Horizon Perfekt. Have you had a look at the quick little blog posts of my iPhone photos from Tokyo and Kyoto? Well, here is a selection of my non-iPhone snaps.
I bought the old fashion, fully mechanical Horizon Perfekt from Lomography, and this trip in February was my first real chance to use it (besides one test role). The Perfekt uses a swing lens that moves left-to-right to project a 120-degree-wide image across almost two normal frames of 35mm film. As with any film, and particularly as I wanted to cross-process Fuji slide film, using the Perfekt was a little bit hit or miss – but that’s the fun of film! I took along a digital light meter to try and take some of the exposure setting guesswork out of it, and some of the results came out great.
As it’s taken me so long to post these extra non-iPhone photos, I think in future I’ll travel on non-photographic trips with just the little phone, and maybe a film camera for fun. I hope you enjoy these photos, as much as I enjoyed taking them.
Click on the photos to view them in a pop-up gallery…
Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto
Wooden prayer wall at Fushimi Inari Temple, Kyoto.
Kyoto view from Kiyomizudera Temple.
Lanterns at a Kyoto temple.
A traditional restaurant facade in Kyoto.
The famous Zen rock garden at Ryonanji Temple, Kyoto.
The external corridor at Sanjusangendo Temple, Kyoto.
A couple of locals enjoy the Kyoto sunset dominated by Hokanji pagoda near the Gion district. (Yasaka no To Pagoda)
Flying into Sapporo.
Niseko trees during a blizzard.
Niseko trees during a blizzard.
Niseko forest at dusk.
Niseko forest during a blizzard.
Snowy Niseko streets
Snowfalling in Niseko.
A Niseko blizzard.
Downtown Tokyo from the Metropolitan Government Building.
Akihabara street scape.
Akihabara street scape.
Inside a Manga shop in Akihabara.
Looking up in downtown Tokyo.
The guard towers along the moat at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
A security guard (or cop) cycling round the Tokyo Imperial Palace gardens. They love their old school Euro-style uniforms in Japan.
A well-dressed local on his lunch break in the ruins of the tower at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Tokyo skyline from out front of the Train station.
Shibuya Crossing (from inside Starbucks).
Shinjuku back streets.
Lanterns in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
All asleep on the Tokyo subway.
End of the film… You’ve gotta love that authentic light burn. No Photoshop after-effect here.