Better Photography Through Pressing Random Buttons: An Accidental Review of the Canon G1X

About every time I see somebody’s gorgeous travel photo, I think, I should really learn how to take a proper picture. I’ve tried off and on, studying what the heck “aperture” means and then promptly forgetting, looking into what different camera lenses do and then giving up when I realized they didn’t fit my camera. I even thought about paying for a photo editing app once! (I didn’t.) But at the end of the day my method will always be better photography through pressing random buttons.

Canon G1X

My camera of choice for the past 4-5 years has been the Canon G1X, which falls on the spectrum between “point-and-shoot” and DSLR. I am ride or die for Canon going on 10 years, ever since their customer service fixed my ancient little point-and-shoot, well over warranty, totally for free. (Take note, customer service.) So when I decided to level up, but a DSLR proved both too intimidating in functions and price, the G1X, with a reassuring auto mode, limited manual controls so I could futz around without getting too overwhelmed, and a nice little flip-out screen, was ideal.

Nine times out of ten the camera takes great pictures on its own, too. Some samples from the past years:

boroichi-market

flea-market

ghibli-museum

kawaii-monster-cafe

sugar-overload

tokyo-sunset

yosakoi-festival

Some of those photos were taken with auto, some not. The Canon G1X gives me just enough fiddle room to feel comfortable.

Canon G1X controls

I’ll forget a few more times what aperture priority vs shutter speed priority means for my photo results, and if I’m supposed to turn the dial + or – to get more light or less. But in the meantime this little guy is doing a great job saving me from myself, and through the magic of technology if not my own skill, I am taking better photos.

Edo Sakura Exhibit in Nihonbashi

Though I’m still laughably behind on posting some of my other adventures, I thought I’d share a bit of what’s been going on in Nihonbashi lately for those of you in the Tokyo area. I didn’t know much about Nihonbashi before helping build and write their new English-language information page, but despite putting in a few late nights getting that thing up I’m still pretty interested in everything they have going on. Nihonbashi is essentially where the modern day Tokyo first emerged from the confluence of trade routes and merchants clustering around Edo Castle.

My friend and I went to the newly opened COREDO Department Store to see kimonos from the Edo era on display.

The exhibit also included a multimedia light display, with ancient and modern lacquerware and other dishware on display; washi paper; and goldfish in an intricate glass (plastic?) tank with alternating colors of light.

Edo Tokyo Museum

When my dad visited last summer in the midst of the oppressive heat, I designated one day as a museum day for the sake of our sanity and continued survival. Poor dear dad has a habit of asking me “what does that say?” without noticing the English translation right next to stuff, so at a certain point I left him to wander on my own for a bit. I’d been to the Edo Tokyo Museum before, and at a certain point the old timey Japanese culture stuff loses its cool factor. One part of the museum I’d missed, however, was the section dedicated to fashion, technology, and media from the early 1900s to 1960s, which was pretty darn cool.

Project Runway and a general fondness for period films has made me veer toward any old timey clothing in any museum ever, and I loved the handful of ladies’ dresses the Edo Tokyo had on hand. The printed materials were also very cool – the way art has changed over time, not just in methods but also in tastes and style, is a pretty fascinating reflection of what people responded to and what we’re trained to respond to, and how that relationship is both a feedback loop and ever-changing.

Personally I can’t recommend the Edo Tokyo Museum for information on old Japan, as I think there’s plenty of that to be seen up close and personal if you’ve come all this way. But the price of admission isn’t much, and you could spend an hour perusing more modern artifacts.

Kanda Matsuri

Hop in a time machine with me, friends, to way back in May, when going outdoors didn’t feel like putting one foot in the grave. When there were matsuri aplenty, and it was nice enough out that we actually were inclined to go to them. Yes, way back in that unimaginable time, I did leave my house and my precious AC, and I attended the Kanda Matsuri.

Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three huge annual festivals, though the full blown big ‘un only happens in odd-numbered years. There’ll be one in 2014, but it won’t be on quite as grand a scale as it was in 2013.

I’m not quite sure how grand the Kanda Matsuri was myself, because by the time I got there around noon, the crowd of people was so thick I couldn’t get anywhere near the actual temple. Well, I could, but that would require being swallowed by the mob, and going where ever the current decided to take me. I’m a bit crowd-phobic (wrong city to be living in, I know) so I did not muster the will to dive in. Instead, I stood further down the parade route where personal space was at less of a premium, and watched the steady parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) go by.

As you can see from the last row or two, I got pretty obsessed with getting a nice shot of the women in the beautiful orange, black and white outfits. Per usual for me, I couldn’t really tell who each group hauling the mikoshi or walking in the procession was, so if you have any information on this particular lantern- and staff-carrying group and their significance I’d appreciate it!

Summer festival season is winding down and fall festival season is gearing up, so if you, like me, have taken a bit of a break from the outdoor festivities so as to not melt, now’s the time to get outdoors again and catch these kinds of matsuri and other cultural performances.

Do you have a favorite spring, summer, or fall festival? Drop your recommendations in the comments!