Sunday, 25 November 2012

Photographing autumn foliage

Words and images by Danielle Lancaster

For the past ten days I have been visiting Japan during the changing of the leaves as autumn kicks into full swing. Japan is renowned as one of the best places on Earth to witness the colours of autumn. While many of the locals are saying this year the colours are not at their best, the sea of golden yellows, oranges and reds have for me been a thrill to see and photograph.

Colour is an important compositional tool in photography and we use it in all genres. Colour can tell a story, therefore the placement of colours in the image is very important.

When photographing the colours of autumn try using the strongest colours in the foreground as this will really grab your viewer’s full attention. Look for patterns and line to connect elements from the foreground to the background.

 Red is a stronger colour then green or yellow.
The image above is not as dynamic as the red is in the background while the
image below is more dramatic as the red is now in the foreground.

Find colours that are complementary, this is easy in autumn. For example: brilliant yellow leaves contrast against a bright blue sky. Try looking to the ground for a red leaf on green grass or against a pile of yellow leaves can make for striking images.
Keep your images simple. Minimalism is powerful so look to isolate a tree or leaf to make a strong focal point.

I generally find underexposing my autumn images brings out the vibrancy and gives the colours the saturation level as seen by our human eye.

We’ll have more tips for photographing autumn coming up both here on our blog and on You-tube.

For more information on the Bluedog Autumn in Japan Photography Tours please visit or email us at

Friday, 16 November 2012

A lady I met yesterday

Words and images by Danielle Lancaster

Japan in autumn is mesmerising. As the temperature slowly drops in preparation for winter’s icy chills, the leaves of the maples, plums, oaks and ginkos transform into a myriad of captivating colours.

One of the best places to see the colours of autumn in Osaka is at Osaka Castle and the neighbouring Nishinomaru Garden.  Sitting under an old maple tree outside the castle entrance I met this lady. Her name is Nagawa-San and she is 85 years old. As I sat next to her we silently nodded politely to each other and she softly spoke pointing and nodding towards the castle.

I nod back and tell her I am going there soon but for now I just want to sit. She bows lower and gently touches my hand as if reassuring me it is OK. She is happy to chat and tells me she comes and sits here every day. It is part of her daily routine that has lasted a life time.

During World War II a building next to the castle was a bomb shelter and Nagawa-San along with her family and other Osaka residents would take refuge there. ‘I remember seeing the planes flying by, low, very low and dropping bombs, many, many bombs. The noise was loud and each day we’d walk seeing less of our city standing,’ she recalls. ‘The castle was safe and we wanted to believe the US didn’t want to bomb it because of its importance to the Japanese’.

After the war Nagawa-San worked at the castle which became a US base. ‘It was very secret work and we are not allowed to talk about it, not ever,’ she tells me pressing her fingers to her lips.

Nagawa-San’s favourite season at the castle is autumn and she tells me she is glad I am seeing it at its best. ‘I paint and autumn brings me great inspiration,’ she continues as I pry a little asking more and more questions. She seems happy to sit in the dappled shade and continue our conversation.


Traditional Japanese style ink drawing and oils are her favourite mediums. ‘I am still being taught by a man very well known. His name is Uemura-San and maybe he is one of our most famous modern oil painters,’ says Nagawa-San. 

I ask her for the best place in Osaka to see the autumn colours. ‘Why here’ she says ‘in my opinion Osaka Castle is the best scenery in Osaka’. And as another ruby red maple leaf drops to the ground between us, I think she may be right.

About Osaka Castle
The construction of this magnificent castle started in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who intended the castle to be the centre of a new, unified Japan under his rule. It was at the time the largest castle in Japan.

Unfortunately a few years after his death, Tokugawa troops attacked and destroyed the castle and terminated the Toyotomi lineage in 1615.

Tokugawa Hidetada rebuilt the castle in the 1620’s however in 1665 the main castle tower was struck by lightning and the castle burnt down.

The castle you see today was built in 1931 and the castle miraculously survived the ferocious air attacks on the city during World War II when much of Osaka was flattened.

The only other area in Osaka that was spared was the red light district:)
It is a major tourist drawcard for visitors to the city. An elevator allows easy access and the interior of the castle which houses an informative museum about the castle's history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Autumn leaves at Osaka Castle
Hours and Fees
Castle Tower

Hours: 9:00-17:00 (entrance until 16:30)
Closed December 28th to January 1st
Admission: 600 yen

Nishinomaru Garden
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (entrance until 16:30 from November through February)
Longer hours during cherry blossom season
Closed: Mondays (or following day if Monday is a national holiday December 28th to January 1st
Admission: 200 yen (350 yen during the extended hours for cherry blossom season.

 Osaka Castle

Thursday, 8 November 2012

An interview with Bluedog Tutor Cathy Finch

Leading to Christmas we have asked each of our tutors here at Bluedog Photography a series of questions. First up is Cathy Finch. Cathy is based in Toowoomba and runs some of classes in Toowoomba.

Q. Tell us briefly your photography journey to date.
A. My photography went hand-in-hand with travel writing and I also ventured into being on staff with newspapers covering primarily news and sport.

Q. What inspires you – photographically?
A. Documentary photography...where one picture can speak on behalf of a nation. 

Q. What is a highlight of 2012?
A. Travelling to Nepal to capture not just the magnitude of the world's highest mountains but the spirit and beauty of the people.

Q. Do you have a ‘most memorable’ moment to date?
A. There are many but more recently an outback helicopter flight with an aerial musterer.  The chopper had only two seats, no doors and the pilot sat in stubbies, thongs and sucked on a cigarette.  I wasn't clipped in but he banked and rolled this chopper like a matchbox car, up and down Coopers Creek where the birdlife was prolific.  I insisted I didn't have the squadrons of pelicans we were mustering in the right light just so I could do it again and again.

Q. What lens can’t you live without?
Wide angle

Q.  What is your favourite type of shoot (and why)?
A. Travel because every year I say I'm staying home but every month I continue to live for my next boarding pass.

Q.  What do you do in your spare time?
A. Run, Ride, Climb, Swim, Scuba Dive and Travel.

Q.   What's your best 2012 photography advice or quick tip?
A. When hiking or going on a long trip, wear your gear around your waist - backpacks are a pain in the neck.

Q. What are your plans or highlights for 2013?
A. To stop every evening for sunset.
For more information on Bluedog's workshops, retreat and tours visit:

for more information on Cathy Finch visit:

 Aerial pelicans Coopers Creek.
Image by Cathy Finch

 Sun rising over Mt Everest.
Image by Cathy Finch

Way to Everest.
Image by Cathy Finch

Morning Mountains.
Image by Cathy Finch