Photo books that inspire

Not meant to be a complete list, just the list of photo books that I own and that continue to inspire me for one reason or another. Use the comment section to add photo books that you would like to recommend.
Here goes, in no particular order and not split up into categories:

  • An ode to travel photography with gorgeous photos from Tibet, Japan and Italy among many other countries:
    Fosco Maraini, Maraini: Acts of Photography, Acts of Love, Joost Elffers Books, 1999, ISBN 1-55670-973-0
  • If you ever want to get into landscape photography, this, or any other books with photos by Ansel Adams:
    Ansel Adams, Ansel Adams 400 photographs, Little Brown, ISBN-13: 978-0-316-11772-2
  • Awesome street photography in W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburg project:
    W. Eugene Smith, Dream Street, Lyndhurd / Norton, ISBN 0-393-32512-1
  • The perfect execution of a project; Nakamura went to Miharu in Fukushima Prefecture and took the gentlest of portraits:
    Nobuo Nakamura, Miharu, 2000, ISBN4-938737-42-6
  • A must have if you like jazz or if you like the photos of Eugene Smith, a treasure if you like both:
    W. Eugene Smith, The Jazz Loft Project, Knopf, 2009, ISBN 978-0-307-26709-2
  • To show that a city can be photographed in a beautiful way although this might not longer be true because of the parked cars ruining every shot these days:
    Eugène Atget, Paris, Taschen, ISBN 978-3-8365-0471-3

In my bag Pentax 645NII


Pentax 645NII
– Pentax 645 FA 45mm f/2.8 (on camera)
– Pentax 645 FA 75mm F/2.8
– Pentax 645 A 150mm f/3.5
– Pentax 645 A 200mm f/4
– Pentax Rear Converter-A 645 2X (not shown)
– Fotodiox Pro PT67-PT645 adapter (Pentax 67 to Pentax 645)
– Pentax 645 extension tubes
– Extra 120 film insert
– AF-360FGZ flash
– F&V K480 video light
– Lowepro Mini Trekker bag that I have had for years

Hakone: Goshinkasai Motomiya Reisai Festival

Two Shinto priests are using a bow drill to light a fire while two others are trying to keep them out of the strong winds.

Every October 24, on top of Mt Komagatake in Hakone, the Goshinkasai Motomiya Reisai festival takes place. It is an important festival for the Hakone shrine and it consists of lighting a fire of which burning coals will be distributed to all related shrines in the area.
This year, the top of Mt Komagatake was covered in clouds which gave a special feel to this matsuri. In the photo to the right, two Shinto priests are using a bow drill to light a fire while two others are trying to keep them out of the strong winds. Once the torch was lit, the Guuji (head priest) of the shrine brought it to the pyre and light it. The ceremony continued with a miko dance and offerings of sasaki branches and prayers. By this time the pyre was ablaze and the priests circled the fire clockwise and anti-clockwise after which some coals were collected in a special box and brought to the nearby shrine.
The ceremony had taken place in some ancient ruins of what once had been a much larger shrine. Once this part of the ceremony was finished, we walked over to the tiny Hakone Shrine Motomiya (“original shrine”) and got in for the second part of the ceremony. The torch is lit and the Guuji (head priest) is on his way to the pyre to light it.The shrine was packed but I was happy to stand in the back and bowed when everybody else bowed and clapped my hands twice when everybody else clapped their hands twice. Before the start of the ceremony outside, we each had made a donation to the shrine for which we had received tickets in return. Once the ceremony inside the shrine was finished, this ticket gave us a naorai, a thank-you gift from the shrine with an Ofuda, a nice bentō, some sake and katsuobushi shavings.

Access to Mt Komagatake

Access to the top of Mt Komagatake is via the Komagatake rope-way which is not covered by the Hakone Freepass, but the freepass gives you a small discount on the price of a round trip ticket. Inexplicably, there is no bus connection from Hakone or Motohakone to the Komagatake rope-way station which probably explains the few non-Japanese at the matsuri. Although the rope-way is only a little over three quarters of an hour walk from Motohakone, about 2km lead over a treacherous and dangerous road with many curves and no space to walk on either side. It is probably best to take a taxi to the rope-way station.

A Miko offers a branch of a sasaki shrub to the fire kami now the pyre is lit.

The Guuji offers a branch of a sasaki shrub to the kami. The altar already contains many other gifts of fruits, fish and sake.
The Guuji offers a branch of a sasaki shrub to the kami. The altar already contains many other gifts of fruits, fish and sake.

Shinto laymen
Shinto laymen

The pyre ablaze
The pyre ablaze

Kamikochi — a photographer’s dream

Taishoike pondWe had taken the bus from Takayama JR station to Kamikochi and got off in front of the Taishoike Hotel where we had reserved a room in advance. Typhoon #9 of 2007 had just passed over the area and the weather was just getting better. The hotel was the usual small Japanese room but it had a pleasant surprise in the form of a nice view from the communal bath and an excellent dinner from a table with the same breathtaking view over the Taishoike pond. The next morning I woke up around around 5AM and after I took a look from the window, I grabbed my photo gear and took some of my favourite photos from the hotel room window. We got up and dashed outside where the first hikers were just getting ready. The Taishoike pond was covered with some early morning fog which together with the lonely decaying trees created a very surreal sight and it was difficult to put the camera down.

Kappabashi bridge and beyond

We checked out of the hotel and arranged for our luggage to be dropped off at the bus terminal for collection the next day and continued on foot towards Kappabashi bridge. It is close to the bus terminal and it is the main destination of most visitors who have their photo taken on the suspension bridge and buy some omiyage (souvenirs) to bring back for the family and colleagues who stayed behind.Kappabashi

Behind the bridge is a campground and the visitors centre which was worth a visit. Much more stunning scenery was awaiting us beyond Kappabashi, so it was time to move on and we continued on the anti-clockwise loop. By now we ran into warnings for bears and the people we met on the footpath became quickly fewer and fewer but more and more of those people were dressed in hiking gear and would have bells attached to their rucksacks to warn any bears you might otherwise scare.
Eventually we arrived at the Myojinkan Ryokan and Myojin-bashi bridge. This is the furthest most people go and where they turn around to return to Kappabashi and the bus terminal.

Tokusawa Lodge

From the Myojinkan Ryokan, we kept on the right side of the river and continued over the now empty footpath. The riverbed became narrower and the landscape wilder while we made our way to Tokusawa. Tokusawa Lodge

At Tokusawa there are two lodges and a campground and it is used as base for people going rock-climbing. The atmosphere and people were completely different from Kappabashi. The lodge we had reserved, Tokusawa Lodge, was like an European chalet on the outside and the rustic inside immediately warmed up to me. The room was like any ryokan and dinner and breakfast were simple and traditional but plentiful. Electricity was only available between 16:00 and 21:00 but everybody was so tired that nobody really minded.
To reserve you’ll have to contact the Tourist office in Matsumoto.

Tips if you plan on travelling to Kamikochi:
  • Access to Kamikochi is by bus only and buses leave from Matsumoto and Takayama. Try to avoid the weekends as it gets really crowded and there usually is a big traffic jam of buses getting into the bus terminal. Alternatively, get off at the Taishoike Hotel and walk the rest and I would even recommend this option for people travelling outside of the weekend as you won’t have to go back and forth to the bus terminal when visiting Taishoike.Myojin-bashi
  • For a small fee you can arrange for the hotel to transport your luggage to the luggage room at the bus terminal so you need only take the things you need during your stay with you.
  • Hotels around Kappabashi are expensive, consider the Taishoike Hotel which we thought was really value for money considering it included an excellent dinner and breakfast. The view over Taishoike from the dining room was awesome.
  • Yearly, Kamikochi has a photo competition and the results of the previous year’s competition can we viewed in one of the buildings at the bus terminal. Make sure to pick up an entry form when you check out the photos.
  • The walks as described are mostly flat over excellent footpaths along the riverbed; however, there are lots of proper hiking opportunities. At normal walking pace, it’ll take you about 45min from one point to another, see map. However, reserve a lot more time if you are a photographer.
  • One thing I missed myself and still curse myself for is a visit to the Bokuden-no-yu cave bath at Nakanoyu onsen which is located just before the entrance of the bus-only tunnel entrance to Kamikochi at the Nakanoyu bus stop.