Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sand Flowers

I helped teach at an English camp the last few days.  The kids were all from the Japan mainland and most of them have advanced English for their age (like the six-year-old who answered the question "What things do you like?" with "1 billion, 9 trillion, and black holes.").  On the first day we went snorkeling out at a deserted island, except I didn't get in the water because I'm old and know better.  It's a long story, but I ended up getting stranded on this island for 30 minutes longer than I'd hoped.  I was super cold, so I walked around to generate some body heat - and I found these flowers on the way:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mimi 1, re-do

The bra strap bothered me a little bit but I thought the Photoshop work would be immense to get it removed.  But when my mom mentioned I decided to have a go at it and was surprised it only took me a few minutes:

And for comparison, the original, straight out of the camera:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mimi 2

This is probably my "stockiest' stock photo yet:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mimi 1

Last weekend I organized with a couple models to meet for photo shoots.  Mimi was first.  She brought her daughter and husband, though I didn't photograph him.  I got to the location an hour early, which turned out to be awesome because I discovered a part of the park I didn't know existed before and that's where we ended up doing all the shooting.  And I was able to unwind some nerves for my first independent shoot with a model.  Sky was gray, which was unfortunate, but at least it didn't rain.  I'll post more from this series later:

Thursday, March 24, 2011


The Japanese school year is ending this week, so I am working at the Board of Education for the next ten days until the new year begins.  The big news today?  A ghost was seen in three different rooms at the teachers' apartments last night, so the head of the BoE is tasked with finding an exorcist today.  For real.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Found Camera Follow-up

So two weeks ago I found a camera on a beach.  It was my most amazing beach find yet, but the coolness was overshadowed by the earthquake news.

Well, I received a good tip in the comments to look up the Bluefield Dive Shop, which is located on the Okinawan mainland.  I did so and wrote them a big long Japanese email and included 10 pictures from the camera hoping that the dive guides would recognize the faces or the dive locations (from above-water photos). I got this email back:

Hi David!!

It turned out that it's the camera that one of our staff lost last year!
She used it at the Whale shark dive site in the main island, then had a day of diving in the Keramas, that's where she lost it (the girl in a red shirt).
It will be nice if you can send it back to us with Chakubarai (Cash on Delivery)!
Then, we can send the picture data to the customers!

I'd be lying if I said I was psyched about this outcome.  Of course I am pleased the rightful owner is being reunited with the camera, but the fact that it's a business is a disappointment.  I was really hoping it'd go to a real person who would be ecstatic to get his/her underwater vacation photos five months later (and would then send me a cool Japanese thank-you note).  Instead, it will go to a company which has probably already replaced the camera.

Oh well, I didn't need the camera and it was worth the effort to take a chance at an awesome story.  Plus I'm sure it'll be a good story for them to tell their dive clients.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kindergarten Graduation

[this teacher is leaving this year, so they did a little presentation and the everybody was crying]

video of a student receiving his diploma:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Missing the People I Never Met

We had an assembly yesterday morning regarding the earthquake.  The important figures were wearing suits, we had a minute of silence, and the principal asked the school to think about what they'd like to do for the earthquake/tsunami victims.  A couple of teachers cried.  A few hours later there was another explosion at the nuclear plant and all but the most necessary workers were evacuated.  The prime minister gave a press conference asking people to remain calm, but simultaneously warning that the situation is dangerous.  I read on the internet that the radiation levels surrounding the reactors were likely high enough that the 50 workers who remained behind to operate the saltwater cooling system are taking years off their lives for each day (or hour) they keep working.  I see pictures of people being reunited with loved ones and lost pets, and also people being reunited with dead bodies.  And then last night, just before going to bed, I heard a report of another 6.0 earthquake that struck Kanagawa (SW of Tokyo), about the 30th 6.0+ earthquake to hit in the last four days.

I was just up there a couple weeks ago for the marathon and everything was clicking along like it should in a cosmopolitan metropolis.  But now the train systems are crippled, the population is hoarding food and watching the rain and wind forecasts carefully, and earthquake reports imply that the ground is spending more time shaking than not.

And yet here I am preparing for my third/fourth grade English class.  We will play karuta with A-Z alphabet cards, introduce some new verbs, and continue learning "I like….".  I will get my food order from Naha tomorrow, our water supply is sound, and for all intents and purposes, life is normal.  I only know a couple people with connections to Sendai and the surrounding prefectures, but no stories of loss.  I don't get any news that you non-Japan-living readers don't get and I don't see any affected people, nor am I really in the path of the 'winds of radiation' should it come to that.  But I live in Japan.  And I am surrounded by Japanese people all day, every day.  And they are just like you have read in the news: generous, tranquil, trusting, and 'in it together.'  And that is why this unfolding story is so painful: knowing that those who lost their lives and livelihoods in the disaster are the same people who sit next to me today.  The people in Sendai would smile at me on the street and tell me my Japanese is great.   They'd be proud when I initiate a short English conversation with their kids.  They would have wasted valuable time to stop by my apartment and warn me of the incoming tsunami.

And that is my connection.  It's not a country of different colored people with black hair reeling from the world's latest natural disaster; it's my friends and neighbors living on a different coast.  I never met them but they were the nicest, most generous people I have ever known.  I am heartbroken that any of them have to go through this.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Earthquake Info

I will update the status of finding the camera owner later in the week, but it's probably more appropriate to concentrate on the earthquake, even though I'm very isolated from it.

I logged into Facebook tonight and saw this:

I thought this was pretty cool of them to do.  There is also some press about how Google is contributing via their People Finder and this English language Crisis Response page.  I am also struck by how many specifically secular charities there are to donate to (because really, Japan doesn't need bibles).

Here are some of the more impressive links I have seen in the last 24 hours:

A Before-and-After satellite photo viewer:

And here's another one that I can't embed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today: Mediocre to Awesome

My day was progressing with little excitement when I happened to glance from my apartment towards the ocean at 11:30am and saw a cluster of whalewatching boats in front of the harbor.  I grabbed my stuff and took off for my kayak.  They'd moved a kilometer east when I reached the port entrance so I paddled hard in that direction.  It's quite rare for the whales to enter the waters between the islands because the water is so shallow, but usually once or twice a year they make a pass through.  It's been a goal of mine to kayak with the whales so this was my chance.

[that's me on the right.. forgot my life jacket]

It wasn't terribly exciting at first, until the big male surfaced only a few meters away from me and took a very loud breath ("reeeeeeeeer") and then slapped his tail on the way down.  The whales are very aware of what's happening on the surface and they never come up for a breath and hit something, even a kayak, so there was no reason to worry.  But it was hard not to be a little scared so close to such a monstrous creature while I was in my little plastic toy.

We continued following them around that island in the picture until it became boring, then I split off and kept wrapping around back to Zamami.  En route I stopped at a long beach to do a little combing.  This is where I found my best beachcombing discovery ever: a digital camera inside waterproof housing.

[the rhinestones point to a female owner?]

I was pumped!  The case had a lot of sand in all the holes so the buttons didn't really work, but the inside appeared to still be dry.  Hope!  When I got home I pried it open:

I tested the power button but nothing happened, so I took out the SD card and put it in my computer.  A whole bunch of underwater pictures came up along with a few that appear to be off of a Naha-based dive boat.  Also, I think this girl is the owner:

What do I do now?  I am in the market for a point-and-shoot camera, but I feel a little guilty about claiming this one.  Plus it's not a super great camera (though it does come with housing!) and I don't have a battery charger.  I checked the metadata on the photos and they were taken around October 11, 2010.  But I don't even know where to start to try and find this girl.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that after finding the camera I also found a large glass fishing float.  It's my eighth large one, so you can understand how I forgot.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Earthquake

8.9?  Seventh biggest of all time [recorded]?  You've probably heard about it by now and seen the footage, which is pretty dramatic.  Here is something else that's pretty dramatic:


We started getting village-wide announcements around 4pm, which was a couple hours after the earthquake.  The announcements gained in frequency until they were every few minutes and included English announcements.  People moved their cars to higher ground:

And then boats became the priority.  It went against my instinct to get in a boat when a tsunami is coming, but after it was explained (the boat just bobs up and down in open water instead of getting crashed against the docks), it made sense.  But alas, I wanted to try and get video of the tsunami, so I stayed on shore and didn't follow the announcments to go to the school.  Instead I went out to a big pile of coral near the sea (seen in background of pictures below).  If the tsunami was big enough to kill me off that pile it would wipe out the village as well, so I was okay with my chances (and we'd been told to expect a 2m wave).

Unfortunately the police officer was not amused at all when he spotted me from across the port.  He and the ambulance had been patrolling the water's edge for 30 minutes and had nearly cleared everybody away.  The officer had no patience for my pleas that the wave was only going to be 2m and I wanted to video it.  So when I rode back to the village to 'go to the school' I accidentally just went to my apartment instead.  (It should be noted that there wasn't any village checklist and quite a few people were not actually at the school - I wasn't causing any grief or concern by not going to the meeting point.)  A few minutes later the tsunami came, but it wasn't nearly as dramatic as I'd expected:




It appears there was a very slow surge of 40-50cm.  Here is a better shot of the height of the wave/surge:

[click to enlarge to see where the waterline was a few minutes prior]

So, pretty anticlimactic here, but I suppose that's the preferred scenario (compared to what Sendai got).  But the preparation I witnessed was amazing!  The wave was predicted to hit at 6pm, but at 5:50pm a helicopter showed up from the mainland and just hovered high over one of the uninhabited islands, clearly in position in case of injury.  A low-flying plane came through at 6:20, too.  I assume assessing damage?
The announcements were very clear about meeting places for each of the three inhabited areas of Zamami, also instructing people on where fresh water would be available and what our timeline was looking like.  They definitely had a disaster preparation manual and were following it.  Like I said, there was an announcement in English and the policeman and ambulance were doing a great job patrolling.  The communication really was great.  Japan really is good at this stuff (at least from my experience and also what I am hearing from the news reports).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

iStock in Action!

It's sort of a big deal when you see one of your sold photographs in actual use in the real marketing world, so I was pretty pumped when my dad forwarded me this link today.  Of the 190 downloads I have, this is the first use of my photos I've seen!

[it appears they bought the XS size and upsized, then cropped it sorta badly]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Japanese Wedding 2

Very hard light to work with her pure white dress and I probably overexposed it a bit.  I pulled some of that back in Ps, but there is still some lost detail in there.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Japanese Wedding

iStockphoto recently starting accepting photos without model releases as part of their expansion into the editorial market, so when I was in Tokyo I went to Meiji Shrine in Harajuku for some people shots.  Just as I was arriving a wedding was happening and I lucked into a good position from which to photograph.  The light was really tough with all the white those ladies are wearing and the midday shadows, so there's a lot of post-processing work that went into this photo:

(click to enlarge)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Whalewatching Breach

I've done two 'sunset' whalewatching trips this past week in hopes of fulfilling my goal of getting a photo of a breaching whale with a sunset backdrop.  Both trips involved lots of breaching, though both times the breaching stopped as the light turned orange.  Here's a decent shot from yesterday:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tokyo Marathon 2011, The Numbers

February 27th, 2011
Start Time: 9:10am
Start Temperature: 7C
Heart Rate Average: 168bpm
Heart Rate Range: 82-182bpm
Time Above 180bpm: 40 seconds
Time Below 165bpm: 25.40
Ascent Total: 180 feet
Descent Total: 150 feet (this should be ~130 feet greater than the ascent)
High Point: 184 feet @12:18pm (wrong again, must have been a big barometric shift during race)

(Spaces where the Heart Rate is left blank are kilometer markers that I missed, so the times are averaged until I hit the lap button at the next marker.)

Distance Time (Total) Time (last 1km) Heart Rate
Start Line 1.11.5 0 108
1km 6.22 5.10 148
2km 10.40 4.18
3km 15.00 4.19 160
4km 19.15 4.15 165
5km 23.34 4.18 166
6km 27.46 4.12 169
7km 32.05 4.19 166
8km 34.33 4.28
9km 39.01 4.28
10km 45.29 4.28 166
11km 49.51 4.22
12km 54.13 4.22
13km 58.37 4.22 167
14km 1:03.04 4.27 169
15km 1:07.31 4.26 168
16km 1:11.59 4.28 169
17km 1:16.25 4.25 171
18km 1:20.52 4.26 166
19km 1:25.17 4.25 165
20km 1:29.46 4.28 168
Half 1:34.39 4.53 (1.2km) 173
23km 1:42.18 7.38 (1.8km) 171
24km 1:47.00 4.42
25km 1:51.42 4.42
26km 1:56.24 4.42
27km 2:01.06 4.43 174
28km 2:05.39 4.33 173
29km 2:10.16 4.37 167
30km 2:14.50 4.33 173
31km 2:19.23 4.32 172
32km 2:24.00 4.37 173
33km 2:28.37 4.37 171
34km 2:33.14 4.37
35km 2:37.52 4.38 174
36km 2:42.32 4.42
37km 2:47.18 4.43 176
38km 2:51.57 4.38 176
39km 2:56.42 4.45 180
40km 3:01.42 5.00 174
41km 3:07.01 5.19
42km 3:12.21 5.20 176
42.195km 3:13.18 56.9 (195m) 176

Adjusted final watch time: 3:12.09