All posts filed under: Japan

Dino Park in Nago, Okinawa

Visitors to the Nature Park Yanbaru Subtropical Forest could quietly stroll along a short paved trail among the trees looking at various types of vegetation including palms and orchids. Unfortunately, the tourists didn’t really come. In 2016, the addition of around 50 dinosaurs many of which have basic animatronics and sound, has transformed the nature park into “Dino Park” a far more popular sightseeing destination. The new additions do fit in well with the subtropical forest setting and several are quite impressive. The dinosaurs are reasonably realistic and vary in the level of animatronics from static models to automatons with jointed necks, jaws, tails and eyelids.  They do not surge forwards out of the undergrowth, and there are no fully mobile dinosaurs so they probably won’t terrify many children.  The outdoor speakers that give the dinosaurs voices are also a little small and lack any bass, so although you hear the roar of the T-Rex you don’t feel it in your body. The Nago Dino Park  is located on route 85, the winding mountain road …

Goat Wrestling on Sesoko Island

  Goat wrestling is an annual event on Sesoko Island in Motobu, Okinawa.  Two male goats are placed in a ring, and then do what comes naturally. If they are evenly matched they will butt heads until one turns in submission. If they are unevenly matched, or uninterested they ignore each other, or the weaker goat wanders straight back to the gate often sticking its head through the railings. The goats seem to be unaffected by the occasional headbutt. Sportingly, they never tried to headbutt their opponent anywhere except the head. The curved horns also seemed to avoid any puncture wounds or lacerations. The only goat that came off badly at the whole event was the young goat that was given away as 1st prize in the raffle. The winner was asked what he was going to do with the goat. He replied, “eat it.” The video was shot with the Sony A7SII camera with a 16-35mm lens on a CAME-TV Single gimbal.   The video was shot and uploaded to YouTube in 4K.

Camera Test – Fujifilm EPX-4440HD

Photographers looking for lightweight portable imaging devices often give rave reviews of  mirrorless Fuji cameras. So this week I decided to test out one of the latest cameras in the Fujifilm line, the EPX-4440HD. Positive points about this camera include “User-friendly menus” and “Advanced image technology” it also offers an “anti-blur function  that allows an optimal image to be extracted from multiple images.” A great option for those with less steady hands. Portability is a little restricted. Although the camera is small, it does require a cart for the processing system and monitor. Photographers accustomed to tethered systems in the studio will probably be the most familiar with this setup. Wedding photographers and fashion photographers may find the range of angles a little limiting. Those with an interest in macro photography will enjoy the camera’s ability to focus at short distances while the “300 watt xenon primary light source” brings illumination to the most restricted of shooting locations. For portrait photographers the camera offers new possibilities beyond your basic profile, full face, and three-quarter view. This may be a way for …

Serendipity

A final post from the Kyoto workshop. One evening we had a memorable few minutes that resulted from being in the right place at the right time, and a fair amount of luck.  The featured image at the top of the post may be my favorite of the trip. It is nice to get a shot that captures several  aspects of Kyoto life in a single frame. Why luck? Because a maiko or geisha will prebook a taxi then wait for it to arrive.  You usually get a brief glimpse of them as they dart from a doorway into the taxi. On this occasion, however,  a geiko and a maiko were stood waiting on the sidewalk for their taxi. Close by another geiko was talking into a mobile phone.  For three or four minutes they stood on the street, and unsurprisingly, drew stares from locals and tourists. Finally the taxi arrived and the two geikos, followed by the maiko, got in and were whisked away. Another memorable moment from a great Kyoto workshop. A big …

Gatekeepers

During the Kyoto 2017 Workshop we jumped on the bullet train to visit Himeji City and the finest example of a Japanese castle.   I didn’t get any new shots of the castle itself, but did get a few snaps of the guards. A short BTS video taken by Tech Ninja Patrick. And here are few shots of the castle from 2016 in case you were wondering which one is Himeji. For movie fans, it’s the castle used to train the elite fighting force in James Bond’s. “You Only Live Twice.”

Karate Seminar at the Karate Kaikan

Last Saturday I photographed a special 1-day seminar at the Karate Kaikan taught by 4 masters of different styles. In the morning there was a demonstration and class by Isao Yagi, 9th -dan of Ryuku Royal Family Martial Arts Bu Mai Moidi Motobu ryu Gassen Tuidi school. In the afternoon the first class was given by Yoshio Kuba 10th Goju ryu karate and followed by Tetsuhiro Hokama 10th-dan Goju ryu karate. At the end of the day, the event organizer Terry Wingrove 9th-dan karate jutsu gave a final class focused on the efficacy of techniques. The seminar was a clear reminder that Okinawan karate goes a lot further than simple punches, kicks and blocks. Although not covered in sanitized sport karate, there are plethora of different ways to incapacitate an attacker’s body and  mind. Along with documenting the seminar, I brought a long a black background and strobe to take a few portraits for Terry Wingrove. At 75-years old he’s still a fearsome man.  

Off Camera Flash with the Profoto B2

During the 2017 Kyoto Workshop it was great that I could introduce new pieces of equipment and techniques to others in the group.  One of these was the Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash System. This strobe allows me to add light to my images to make the subject pop a little more and add catchlights to the eyes. I also use it to fill in shadows. In the featured image taken at Fushimi Inari Shrine I used the Profoto B2 with no modifier, while the image taken at the Philosopher’s walk below (right) was with a shoot-through umbrella. The system works really well. Dividing the head and the battery pack makes life for the assistant easier as holding a B1 light on the end of a pole can be top heavy. The option to use the pack with two lights is useful, and also gives you redundancy if a flash bulb stops working.  I used the Profoto Air Remote triggers with my Pentax cameras, as there is still no Pentax TTL/HSS trigger (unlike Canon, Nikon …

Tea with a maiko

One of the highlights of the Kyoto Photography Workshop was tea with a maiko in Gion. The maiko we met was Kanohiro-san who is just 18 years old.  After her years of training she will become a geiko (Kyoto geisha).  We took photos and asked her many questions with Yuki interpreting for the group. Kanohiro san was very happy that we were so excited to met her. She gave us tea, performed a traditional dance, then posed for individual and group photographs. A really memorable experience with a lovely young lady.

Geisha, Geiko and Maiko

What’s the difference between a geisha and a maiko? How do you tell them apart? A geisha, 芸者, is a professional entertainer, the direct translation of the kanji would be art person.  Geiko 芸子 is sometimes used when referring specifically to geisha from Kyoto. A maiko 舞妓  is a geiko in training. This process takes many years as she masters the various instruments, dances and social graces required to become a geiko. Along with their age, there are other ways to distinguish maiko from geiko. The hairstyle of a maiko is created with natural hair, while a geiko wears a wig. A maiko usually has many more ornate accessories that adorn her hair. For footwear, maiko usually wear okobo (platform sandals) while the geiko wear zori (low sandals). The inner collar of the kimono is usually red with patterns for maiko and plain white for geiko. And when looking from the back, the obi of the geiko is folded to form a box knot (taiko) while the maiko have the obi folded in a longer elaborate display  known as …

Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Toei Company produces anime, movies, and Japanese historical dramas. The Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a theme park where you can stroll through movie sets of Edo Japan, encounter ninjas and samurai, and buy souvenirs from various TV shows. The park is worth a visit if you are traveling with children, but if you’re only in Kyoto for a short amount of time it’s better to check out Kyoto’s real historical buildings rather than a movie facade. Images shot with the Pentax K-1 with the 24-70 f2.8 lens.