Sunday, May 27, 2012

My [1st] 2012 Marlin

As a tune-up for next weekend's big Sam's Cup billfish tournament, we went out both Saturday and Sunday this weekend.  On Saturday we caught a couple of mahi in the morning and had a touch by a marlin mid-morning.  At 2:50pm we had a strong hit and he started jumping.  Our team worked well and we got me on the line quickly.  The marlin didn't run far (comparatively) and he came back relatively quickly, as well.  Too quickly, seemingly.  At about 40m to go (in only 10 minutes of fighting) he saw the boat and started jumping again and threw the hook. So that was that.  The plus side was the marlin hit a lure that I bought as a present to the captain.  A few years ago I came back from America with a half-dozen lures but we've never caught anything on them.

Today we tried a different location and had terrible luck all day, only picking up one mahi.  At 3pm when everybody had given up and were looking forward and talking, I was still facing the direction of the lures and keeping a close eye behind.  I saw a big swoosh through the water behind the lure I bought and I shouted out "LEFT, LEFT, LEFT!!"(in Japanese) then just as quickly said it was a marlin.  He missed the lure twice but hit it about the time everybody else was comprehending what was happening.  I jumped down stairs and started reeling in the center/shotgun lure (to get it out of the way of the jumping marlin so he didn't cut the line). Everybody else knew exactly what to do and we worked better than I've ever seen a team work.  In less than two minutes all four loose lines were in and I was harnessed in with the marlin in the fighting chair.

The fight went pretty well, but then again I'm pretty strong so the marlin struggle against me.  After taking out a lot of line he jumped a lot more, which makes us nervous because this is when marlin often get off the line.  But he was hooked pretty well, apparently.  After 20-ish minutes he got close enough to the boat that I changed out with my friend, Aya.  She would reel in the last few meters of line while I would take over the handlining [of the 10m leader]. Once I got the fish up to the boat the captain would spear him.

The marlin was still plenty energetic, though, and fought back against me, taking line out making me give up and try again a minute later.  The second time I prevailed and muscled him up behind the boat.  The captain speared him, handed me the rope with the spear tip attached, then speared him once more and hooked him with the gaff.

[the marlin came alive again just as this picture was being taking - see motion blur in the tail and the look on my face]

[I went nuts with lure experimentation; usually we'll use 6-7 lures in a day - today we used 14]

[99kg, 218 pounds, my ~9th marlin(?) and maybe my last?]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

China, Xingping Farm

I went out cruising on a bike in the farm flats and got this shot:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zamami People Project - June 17th Opening

I started doing some weekend allotment a week or two ago and realized I only have one free weekend in June to open my photography show on Zamami - that of June 9-10.  Then I looked at my wall of 'shots taken/shots to be taken' and panicked.  Then it rained for the next ten days and my panic multiplied.  So I talked it over with a friend and decided to not only change the opening night of the show from a Saturday to a Sunday, but to slide it back a week.  There is a big event on Zamami June 16/17 (Rough Water Swim), but if I hold the opening the evening after RWS, hopefully many Zamami people can attend, which is the goal, after all.  So I've just settled on June 17th and started telling everybody.  That's less than four weeks away, but I'm confident things will mostly come together.  There are some ideas that will likely not get photographed, but there probably isn't space for them anyway.  I'd hoped to produce an accompanying book of the images, but considering that I will be photographing up until the last minute, this would have to come later.

Today was the biggest shoot of the whole project - an attempt to gather all of the 3-, 2-, 1-year-olds, babies, and mothers together at one time.  We got about half of them, which was a little disappointing but probably a pretty good turnout.  Thankfully the weather complied.  I know I got a useful shot, but I haven't yet completed the processing on my hopeful 'stellar' shot (it's a 10+ image panorama composite).

Here are some outtakes:

[I handed off my point-and-shoot to my 'assistant' and she got some great behind-the-scenes photos, which is something I need more of!]

[giving my thank you speech/show announcement]

[gradually moving them all to the right... (and five more will go in the next two days)]

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ginowan One Day Marlin Tournament

Have to interrupt the China pictures for a marlin tournament.  

Yesterday we left Zamami at 8:30am to join a one-day trolling tournament.  At 11am, as I was explaining to a new girl how some of the finer parts of marlin fishing and catching work when something caught my eye behind one of the lures.  I'd been watching intently, looking for any variation in the streams of water, bubbles, and splashes when I caught a rustle of white water behind the lure on the right (long) outrigger.  I perked up and the girl asked me what happened.  I wasn't confident in what I'd seen so I didn't answer, but kept watching.  A full minute later I saw the white water again and felt confident enough to call it out.  I shouted "右" (right) and jumped up.  I said I'd seen a fish come up behind the right lure.  A few seconds later he came back and hit the lure, tripping it off the outrigger, which confirmed to everyone else that my claim was in fact accurate.   Just a few seconds later he hit the lure hard and we were off to the races.

[I had lost the janken (rock, paper, scissors) battle so this was not my fish to fight]

I was the leader man on this fish, which was still a pretty energetic fish after an hour-long fight.  This gave me some nerves since handlining the fish in for the last 40 feet is dangerous, but he came up with surprising ease.

We fished the remaining three hours uneventfully, then went two hours to Naha for the weigh-in.

[Team Heartland with our 95kg (210lb) marlin]


In this tournament the rules stated that we had two line weight classes: 50lb and 80lb+.  Most fishermen fish with 80lb. line or stronger, which is why a fisherman who uses 50 pounds gets a multiplier for their fish.  Recognizing this advantage, our captain bought a 5000m spool of 50lb. line and we changed out the line on three of our reels Friday night.  The fish that was weighed in before ours was 112kg, but they used 80lb line.  Our 95kg fish was given the 50lb multiplier and our final weight was 122kg, which was enough to win first prize.

We have entered five tournaments in the last four years and this is our third first-place finish.  This one also came with a couple thousand dollars, which was a nice sweetener.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Women of Dazhai, China

As I mentioned earlier, after realizing I would not get the rice field shots I'd come for I made a decision to concentrate my last 24 hours on photographing the [famous] women of the village.  They are famous because they don't cut their hair, except when they have a baby.  But the hair that is cut after the baby is kept and wrapped up top with the rest of the hair.  The unofficial starting date for hair collecting is at age 18.  The woman below had two cut lengths of hair included in that big blob.  She washes it often in the post rice-cleaning water, which apparently keeps the hair very healthy?  She's been putting the same hair back on top of her head for 30-40 years so I guess there must be something to it?

The women are used to being photographed (for a fee - about $.80-1.60), but got restless after 10 frames so I learned to be quick.  This was tough in a few low light situations, where I was happy for all the photography learning I've done so I could react properly while working on the very edge of what my camera's capability (ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/100sec.).

In the order I photographed them:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Houses of Dazhai, China

The houses/buildings of Dazhai, which is one of the two regions of high altitude rice terraces in the area above Longsheng, China, are amazing.  They are made entirely of wood and from what I could gather, are mostly made without nails.  Also, there aren't roads...  I think donkeys must be used to bring in the wood, but I'm not really sure.  I don't even know where the timber is coming from, except maybe way up on the mountains above?  It would be fun to live in the region for a month (and speak Chinese) to watch the progress of putting up one of these buildings.

You'll see a school and a basketball court in the lower right of this picture [above], so a concrete truck may have driven up the road at the bottom of the village, but I watched the top-most 'resort' building being put together with concrete and there was no road for miles.  The sand for the concrete was being run up a gondola on a neighboring ridge, but the concrete was mixed by hand.

[they cut out a couple of rice terraces to put this one up]

I heard word that a gondola is being built into the area so customers no longer have to hike up the mountains to get to their hotels (which is part of the allure, if you ask me).  If this is true, I imagine it's why I saw no less than a dozen new buildings (hotels,?) being raised.

Staying in one of these buildings was not a typical hotel experience.  The floors creaked and and the walls were thin, but I really enjoyed this little bit of unexpected traditional architecture.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

China - Overview

I went to China over Golden Week.  The main goal was to build my photography portfolio with some landscapes.  I'm pretty sure I've got some winners, but I've barely begun sorting through the ~4000 photos from the trip, so I'll post them slowly as I process over the next couple of weeks.  Between this trip and the photo project on Zamami, I've got a huge backlog of unprocessed photos and more coming as I have a lot of shoots scheduled for this month.

In order to get to my desired hub (Guilin) I had to travel through Beijing on the front end of the trip and Shanghai on the back end.  While I was only in Beijing briefly, I was not impressed.  Shanghai was another story.

[I was staying very close to Tiananmen Square so I decided to wake up at 4am to go catch the guards raising the flag.  It was.. meh, but I was impressed by its importance to Chinese tourists.]

[Getting the requisite pictures in front of Mao's portrait, though soon after I took this shot I became a more popular figure for parents to take their children's photos with.  I'm not kidding - I had hundreds of pictures snapped of me in the Square.]

[I flew to Guilin the first morning, then took minibuses for 5-6 hours to reach my destination]

[These ladies are relentless in trying to get you to pay them to carry your luggage the 30 minutes up the mountain to your hotel (the entire village exists as a series of trails - no roads))

My first destination was Dazhai Village near Longsheng.  This is waaay up in the mountains and it's famous for these rice terraces which were carved into the sides of mountains many thousands of years ago by people who apparently could not find flat land.  Unfortunately for me they hadn't really started flooding the fields yet for the spring planting, so I I didn't get the awesome morning reflection shot I'd hoped for.
[I was up here with a couple dozen other tripods at dawn, but as the sun rose I realized there was no shot to be had]

 [Since the fields were a bust I made a snap decision to concentrate my efforts on photography some of the old people who inhabit the village.  This lady let me put my arm around her for this photo because I just paid her 10 yuan to take her portrait.  Nothing is free in China.  More of these portraits soon.]

[A typical setup for me.  I did still photograph the fields and I got a few shots with nice black-and-white potential.]

[My hotel room which cost just $16/night for double occupancy.  (I was alone.))

[View from the front of the hotel]

[China's take on protecting the environment at a construction site]

 Next I made my way to Xingping, which is close to it's far-more-famous cousin, Yangshuo.  This area is known for the limestone karsts that you can see below.  It was very beautiful and I was happy to have three nights there.  I chose well on my hostel and the location and really enjoyed the company of other hostel-goers.  That's honestly a not-insignificant part of the appeal to traveling through SE and Eastern Asia.  Backpackers are cool.

[On the first evening I climbed this karst with a couple of French girls, only to find a throng of photographers set up for the nonexistent sunset.  Mediocre-to-good photos from here will come later.]

[REAL Chinese Ringneck pheasants!  I hunt these in America..]

[Xingping market fare]

[Prepping another one]

[This is a nicer picture, eh?]

[Market haircuts]

[Chinese medicine]

[Stones that look like bacon]

After Xingping I made my way back to Guilin before flying to Shanghai, where I had an afternoon/evening and morning to kill.  I quite liked the portion of Shanghai where I stayed (The Bund).  I walked around and played inside a Gap, H&M, and Uniqlo, realizing that I haven't clothes-shopped in the U.S. (or really 'anything-shopped') in over five years.  I attended the Shanghai Acrobatics Troupe's show in the evening, which was pretty cool (though a Chinese friend later told me I missed out by not doing this in Beijing.  Shanghai is apparently for the rejects).  I walked along The Bund at night which was nice, if a little lonely (it's very much a romantic, couples' activity).

[This was the only time during the week that I was separated from my big camera, but these are pretty nice for a point-and-shoot, I think]

[Me on my last morning on The Bund, killing time so well that I almost missed my plane (I arrived after the gate had closed).]

Overall it was a great trip.  I had about $1000 into the flights and another $250 into the visa, which was quite a bit more than I'd expected when I originally planned the trip, but thankfully the in-country expenses were very low and I  spent less than $300 for everything for a week.  I really liked the places I went but I was also inspired by other travelers to look into some different parts of China.  I still have one more visa entry I can use in the next 11 months so we'll see if I can find a gap in my schedule somewhere.