Sunday, August 28, 2011

Self Portrait

I went into the woods yesterday afternoon to play with some off-camera lighting and my bow.  I was pleasantly surprised with this result:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Photographing the Miyajima Fireworks

On the 6:25am ferry, all of us walking passengers had to wait until all the vehicles exited.  There was a rather large mob jockeying for front position, which quickly escalated into a fast walk and then a run.  I was surprised how many people at the front of the run seemed to be families and not photographers.  Since I knew it would be the only exercise I'd get for the next 13.5 hours, I ran the whole distance - about 5 minutes.  When I arrived at my spot the old guy whom I'd brokered with the day before held his end of the bargain and let me stand my tripod up next to his.

[Unless you actually spent the night at your spot (and some people spent TWO nights), you weren't allowed to reserve a spot with a tarp until midnight of the day of the fireworks.  So when I came Sunday morning at 6:30am, I was surprised to see ALL the waterfront areas for a couple hundred meters reserved.  By the way, this section is not considered a choice spot to photograph from because of the limitations on the right-hand side of your frame.]

[See the two extra tall tripods (one with a hat on it)?  This was a great idea apparently not used before.  These two photographers still gained a choice spot just by getting above everybody (they used ladders), but they only had to wait 13 hours instead of two days.]

[This is probably the best spot because it lines up perfectly with the fireworks barge that puts out the 'fountain' style fireworks from water level - makes for great backlight/framing of the torii gate.  I was in the second-best spot.]

[My tripod]

There was a man and woman who occupied this spot (above) for ~38 hours prior to the fireworks display.  The man had a still camera and big video camera mounted on two fancy tripods with an umbrella attached to protect them from the sun.  While I was on a bathroom break the wind came up and apparently blew both his tripods and cameras off the wall and onto the tidal flat below.  Thankfully it was low tide, but his cameras still suffered enough damage to not be useful.  He was a good sport, but he left his spot two hours before the show to return home.  I imagine he would have been crushed to sit there and watch the show thinking the whole time about how he wasn't photographing/taping it.  The woman stayed and offered me his spot.  I gladly took it as it offered me a lot more space to spread out.

[one hour to go]

[the old guy at the bottom of the frame stayed in that spot for 2.5 days waiting for the fireworks show]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mariko T. 3

One more of Mariko T:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mariko T.

The first model I photographed in Kyoto, Mariko T. is a woman I met on Zamami a month ago and proposed photographing to.  I left her with my email and website information and a little hope - and a week later she emailed saying she'd like to photograph.  We met in Gion near dusk, which is a beautiful backdrop for a yukata shoot.  Interestingly enough, a couple of times hordes of geisha-seeking tourists gathered around the end of our alley and photographed us.  I think they thought I was a professional or she was famous or something.  At one point there were 25 people all snapping pictures of us.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Zamami Matsuri

I've got 4500 pictures from the Hiroshima/Kyoto trip to sort through and here I am shooting more at Zamami Matsuri (festival)..

[fire dancer]

Friday, August 19, 2011

MarikoTSD 2

[I posted this one last week, but this time it is processed differently]

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I photographed two models in Kyoto, both named Mariko.  MarikoTSD was the latter Mariko's username on the modeling site where I found her, so that's how I'll differentiate her here.  We met at the Kyoto Botanical Garden for an hour of shooting with her son.  She was on time, very easy to work with, and had a son who, despite it being his naptime, was a very good sport.  I am hoping to get back to Kyoto this winter or next spring to, among other things, get another shoot in with MarikoTSD by herself.  Her skin was amazing and I think with her hair down she'd be a wonderful, beautiful model.

Here's the first half:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hostel Mundo Family

I stayed at Hostel Mundo while in Kyoto.  I had a few minutes to kill on my last day so I took their family out into the street and did a few family portraits for them.  I think a lot of [Japanese] families go through life without any professional photos being done, so I figured I'd do a little capture while they're all still young and practice my own portrait photography.  I don't think these photos are anything special, but I'm pleased considering I only shot for 10 minutes and had no plan.

[they were really embarrassed to do this but I'm glad I pressured them]

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Miyajima Fireworks

Took the 6:25am ferry along with a ton of other people, ran from the harbor on the other side to the prime photo area and staked my spot next to an old guy who said I could.  Waited 13 hours, took many photos.  No time to even look through them, but here is a sample straight out of the camera:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Itsukushima Torii Gate

I'm at Miyajima for the fireworks festival tomorrow night.  Actually, there is a slight problem in that I am not at Miyajima.  My hostel, which I remembered as advertising itself as being on the island, is not on the island.  It's a ferry-ride away, but that means I will be on the first ferry tomorrow morning at 6:25am with a bunch of other semi-serious photographers hoping to score a good spot.  I say semi-serious because our 13 hours spent waiting in the sun tomorrow pales in comparison to the guys in this picture, who are all spending the night at their spots right now.  That's right, there's at least 30-40 photographers already staking out their spots 24 hours ahead and at least two have already been there since yesterday.

The space for the best photos falls between the guy in the green umbrella over to that wooden structure, though every place where an overhanging tree exists (twice) is heavily discounted.  I made friends with the guy in the blue umbrella by busting out some Japanese, telling him about where I live and how awesome I am, then buying him a beer and promising to buy him a bento tomorrow.  I'm pretty sure he promised me a share of his space in return.

Here is the view from his spot, which I would be psyched to be shooting from tomorrow night:

It's going to be a long, hot day between now and then, though.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shooting Mariko (number two)

I met with a model yesterday (second Mariko this week) and her son to photograph at the Kyoto Botanical Garden.  There's a few more but only time for one now:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kyoto Fireworks

So I went to a fireworks show tonight to learn how to photograph fireworks.  Here are some of the better ones:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fushimi Inari 2

Fushimi Inari was one of two landscape shots on my list for this trip and I think I've checked it off now. I went yesterday morning but was a little dismayed at how late I arrived (7:40am) so, after checking with the train station and finding that the first train goes at 5:35am, I rented a bike from my hostel, woke up at 4:40am, rode to Kyoto Station, and caught that first train.  Naturally, the dream shot I developed in my head yesterday was at the furthest point of the 4km mountainous path that is Fushimi Inari.  Unfortunately the sun was already coming up in the forest where I wanted my shot, but after doing some testing I'm not sure if, even under flat lighting conditions, it would produce what was in my head.  So onward I went to try to get something similar. This is one of many scenes I did, so you may be seeing these pictures often over the next few months.

I have been averaging 500-600 pictures a day on this trip and I got 550 just this morning, so between today and yesterday, there's a lot of Fushimi Inari to sort through.  (I should point out that for most low light shots I bracketed each frame with seven shots, so those numbers are inflated.)

Tonight I am attending a fireworks display in Kyoto.  Having never photographed fireworks before, it is serving as a practice shoot before Sunday's show at Miyajima, which is the number one priority of this trip.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome Lantern Ceremony

I woke up at 6am and took off with my larger packed bag for the Hiroshima Station on the other side of town.  I deposited the bag in a locker and scouted out where my night bus would be leaving so I wouldn't have to worry about it after the lantern ceremony (scheduled to end at 9:30-10, my bus leaving at 10:30 and it takes at least 20 minutes to get across town).

I briefly went over to the Dome and the Memorial building for the moment of silence, which wasn't very silent because the anti-nuclear protesters at the Dome didn't bother to heed the moment of silence with the rest of the city.  It was interesting, seeing all the groups protesting this and that (I got a paper, in English, about NHK's conspiracy to overtake Japan with Korean culture).  I was asked to represent the U.S. in a 'peace' rally, but the messages were so muddled to me that I didn't want to end up in an anti-nuclear event instead so I just melted away into the crowd.

At 11am I checked out of my hostel and went to scope out where I wanted to take my photos.  I had thought about this briefly during the previous two days, but my suspicions were confirmed that morning when I saw someone throw rose petals into the river at 8:00am and they floated away from the dome, rather than towards it.  This was because it was still low tide, so the water was flowing out to sea.  I checked the night tides during the day and found the tide switch to be at 8:25, which could mean that I might get photos of the lanterns going both ways, but I would definitely have to alter my 'first shot' plans to account for the lanterns floating down stream.

I set up under a bridge at 1pm and had an old guy show up around 2:30pm.  Apparently he'd never been beat, or so he told me, I think.  Anyway, my promptness helped warm him up to me and he ended up on my team as dusk approached and people tried to squeeze between us or cut below us as the tide went out.  He defended out territory so vigorously that I only needed to worry about shooting.

They started launching the lanterns at 6pm, but the light was so bad that there was nothing to be done about it with cameras, so we just watched thousands of them float by before dusk brought about the light we'd come for.  I made sure to shoot all three of my test white balances at each of f/3.2, f/8, and f/16, then repeat that pattern for vertical shots.  I had written out a schedule that morning of the three places I wanted to shoot from and where I should be when, but I finished up my first spot (and the others) early so I moved on quickly.  It did hurt a little to give up the spot I'd been sitting at for seven hours, but I made sure to give it to a video friend I'd made.

I went high to get a different angle, then went on the bridge above my first angle, then over to my money shot location (see last blog post), then on around between the dome and the lanterns.  I wasn't paying attention until I heard somebody behind me say "the wind must be getting stronger, the lanterns are changing direction!"  My senses, already on adrenaline-fueled high, jumped into action and I grabbed my camera/tripod and booked it back up to the bridge, where I got a great spot (3 feet to the right of the best spot) and got the shot I'd originally wanted.

I still had a little time so I ran down to the water's edge and grabbed one more shot on my list before hurrying back to the tram for the station, arriving at my bus 15 minutes before it was to leave.  Enough time to change out of my sweat-drenched clothes into a new set and apply some deodorant!

I ended up with 632 shots/15gb.  I've just uploaded them and haven't even scrolled past the first 100. I won't have time to properly go through them for awhile, but I'll post two that I quickly processed:

[please don't use these photos without my permission]

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome (Night)

Sorry, very little time for post-processing tonight:

[One of my hundreds of scouting shots taken last night and tonight for tomorrow's lantern memorial 'ceremony', this angle is currently leading as my number one pick for tomorrow.  I'm not excited about waiting out there for more than six hours, though, so we'll see if I get this spot or not.]

Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome

I'm here to photograph the Memorial Ceremony on Saturday night, so I did some scouting today:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shuri Castle at Night

I have my friend Hazel to thank for this angle.  It's from the roof of a building at a college, which I snuck into.  Shortly after I began shooting a bunch of college students came out on the roof to shoot off fireworks. I photographed them dancing with their sparklers and then showed them the photos, so I think everything was cool. I'm somewhat disappointed with this photo, though not sure how to improve it.

[click to enlarge]

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011