Organizing photos with Japanese-style dates

Countries around the world have different ways of writing a date like June 28, 2013 which is the American style. However, I think Japan has the best way of rendering the date, with the year, month, and day (2013年6月28日).

I find this especially true when I organize my digital photos. The file names of my photos follow the Japanese style. For example, 20130628-0001.jpg.

I also have my image folders named in the same fashion along with a title or key word(s) such as 20130628-UenoPark. It’s a lot easier to organize and find digital photos according to date. I don’t ever use iPhoto, etc., to organize photos.

Safe from earthquake

Northern Japan got hit with a major earthquake today on March 11, 2011. We felt it in Tokyo as well, and it was the worse earthquake I ever experienced. I was at home and rushed out as soon as it became clear it was a big one.

We had a few aftershocks and it was hard to return home, fearing more aftershocks. But it settled down, and my books, flat-panel TV, stereo speakers, etc., toppled over. Fortunately, no real damage except for a few scratches on the TV.

Anyway, I’m alive and well.

Philbert Ono

YouTube video limit extended again

I just uploaded another video clip to YouTube and I got the following message:

Congratulations! Your account is now enabled for uploads longer than 15 minutes. Click the Upload button below to select a video.

Wow, I was happy to hear that the video length limit was extended from 10 min. to 15 min. last year in 2010, but now it looks like I’ll have a lot more freedom with video clips as long as the file size is not larger than 2 GB. Great!

Movie: Katen no Shiro

Released in Japan on Sept. 12, 2009, this movie is about Okabe Mataemon, a Nagoya (Atsuta)-based master carpenter who in 1576 was ordered by Japan’s leading warlord Oda Nobunaga to build Azuchi Castle on Mt. Azuchi fronting Lake Biwa. The main castle tower or donjon was to have an unprecedented five stories. It was to be the grandest and most lavish castle Japan had ever seen. Mataemon and his crew had only three years to complete the epic construction which they did. The movie shows the major and minor tribulations Mataemon and his crew went through during the construction. The movie is also unusual because it has no battle scenes despite being a samurai movie.

Being a castle fan, I really looked forward to this movie. However, I was somewhat disappointed with the quality of the acting, completeness of the story, believability, and overall visual and emotional impact. The movie does have a few outstanding scenes with what looks like thousands of people working, but they were too few and too short. Computer graphics depicting the construction of the mountaintop castle were impressive enough. But I thought there were too many story lines and characters which could not be fully developed or explained within the movie’s 139 min.

For history buffs, it might be frustrating because the movie is obviously not historically accurate since it is a work of fiction. For castle fans, the movie does not show all the major aspects of building a castle. I wish they showed more scenes of the actual construction (which sped by too quickly). Work on the stone walls, interior, moats, etc., are missing. Seeing the stones being cut and fitted onto the walls, the beams being fitted to the main pillar, the construction of the roof, moat digging, interior painting, gold leafing, etc., are all missing. So the educational value of this movie does not attain its potential.

The movie does have interesting story lines. Construction of a major castle with mostly manual labor, Mataemon the carpenter prodigy, Nobunaga’s affection for imported European goods, merchants getting rich from European trade, ninja-like assassins, and a few love stories. But the movie was too short to adequately develop them all. It tries to cover everything, but in doing so, it never really developed any story to its fullest and best potential. It might have been better to make it a TV series rather than a movie.

But I still recommend seeing this movie. It is worth seeing the few outstanding scenes that it has. The movie was filmed in Kyoto; Adogawa in Takashima where they filmed the giant boulder scene with 200 extras, Awajishima island in Hyogo for scenes atop Mt. Azuchi overlooking Lake Biwa, Kiso-Fukushima in Nagano for forest scenes, and Taiwan for the big tree scene.
It is pretty much an all-star cast headed by Nishida Toshiyuki as Mataemon, Otake Shinobu as his wife, and Ogata Naoto (who gave a fine acting performance) as a woodsman.

I have posted a detailed review and detailed summary of the movie plot for those of you who cannot understand Japanese, so you’ll know what’s going on:
http://photoguide.jp/txt/Movie_review:_Katen_no_Shiro_(火天の城)

Official Web site (in Japanese only): http://katen.jp/

Canon EOS 7D on my shopping list

When I bought my EOS 50D in fall 2008, I thought it would last me for a few years. But I was wrong. I’m ready for the EOS 7D.

I wish the 7D came out last year. But this is what I always say about new D-SLRs. There’s no end to it. One key feature of the 7D is the viewfinder with 100% field of view. This is what I really want, and really miss.

The 50D’s viewfinder coverage is only about 95%. That 5% sounds minor, but it actually makes a significant difference in how it affects your composition of the shot. What you see is not what you get. I often find myself reshooting a shot after noticing that the image has too much space on one side.

The 7D’s weather-resistant construction is also very welcome. It often rains/snows in Japan, so it’s quite essential. The faster continuous shooting speed of 8 fps is nice, even though the 50D’s 6.5 fps is nothing to complain about.

I really hope the 7D will last me a few years. I cannot afford to buy a new D-SLR every year.

I also take videos, so video cameras with better image quality is always of interest to me. It’s really amazing to see how much the image quality of videos taken by compact digital cameras has improved in recent years. Everything is now HD at the 16:9 aspect ratio. It makes me want to reshoot all my old videos with a new camera.

I looked at the Lumix GH1 which is causing a lot of excitement among video enthusiasts. But I decided against buying one because of the lack of power zooming. You have to zoom manually, and since I zoom a lot while shooting videos, manual zooming won’t work for me. I think if Panasonic offers a D-SLR camera geared more for video than for still shooting, than it would be revolutionary. Right now, all D-SLRs are mainly for still shooting.

Which forces me to look at conventional video cameras. The problem with conventional camcorders is that they do not have very wide-angle lenses. Maybe 35mm or 40mm at the widest. I need a 28mm wide angle at the very least. It is possible to attach a wide-angle lens attachment to the camcorder, but it’s pricey and I wonder about the distortion. My temporary solution is the camera I just bought last month. It’s a compact digital camera with an incredible 25-300mm zoom range and takes HD (but not Full HD) videos. The image quality is quite good and I’m happy with it. I wish I had a camera like this a few years ago.

There’s no doubt that we’re witnessing a revolution in video technology and video culture with the popularity of YouTube and so many people taking and uploading video clips. Of course, the quality of the clips is another story. Most people are amateurs shooting video which often is too shakey or not good at all.

I’ve always taken movies or videos with a conventional movie film camera or camcorder since high school. My first digital movies were taken with my first compact digital camera in 2003. Then came YouTube. I started uploading videos to YouTube in July 2006, and I’ve come a long way since then. New digital cameras improved the video quality by leaps and bounds. I can still remember Casio’s super slim digital cameras which could shoot videos, but without sound. Made no sense to me. My Canon Powershot S50 at least recorded sound as well.

At first, it was a very casual thing. I shoot a video clip, then upload it to YouTube. I was happy just to record some motion and some sound, to add some background info to my still and silent photos.

But now, I’ve become much more seasoned and sophisticated, taking videos more seriously. I now shoot to create a story or record a logical sequence of events. I also use professional and amateur video editing software to edit my videos. I try to make each video as interesting as possible. And also add annotations. If you watch my early videos on YouTube (uploaded in 2006) and my most recent videos, you can see the difference in not only the image quality, but in the content quality as well. I would have to call myself an “advanced” amateur videographer (instead of just an amateur videographer).

My problem, though, is shooting both video and stills at the same time. When I’m shooting video, I’m usually shooting stills at the same time with my D-SLR. Yes, I’m holding two cameras at the same time. That’s why in most of my videos you may hear my D-SLR taking pictures or see the flash being fired. I’m doing a pretty good job at shooting both stills and videos at the same time. I won’t tell you how I do it, but often there’s a compromise between the still shooting and video. Of course it’s hard to shoot very well with both cameras at the same time. But if one or the other is much more important, I will stop using the other camera and just concentrate on shooting stills or video. Note that in most situations, I cannot use a tripod.

But I continue to perfect my techniques for shooting both stills and videos at the same time. It is a challenge.

Update: In Feb. 2010, I sold my EOS 50D body and bought the EOS 7D body.

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