One of my favorite purchases has been my Sigma 4.5mm fisheye. I take it with me as part of my kit and try to shoot with it to see what I can do — and when it’s good, it’s very good.
But what to do with all these round images?
Here are a few different ways I’ve found to express my content with the fisheye. These are from a theme park in Noboribetsu, an Edo style village. In one location are mannequins set up to approximate the way people in the Edo period used to live. Seeing the actual dimensions with figures really brought that world to life in my mind.
I have been learning exponentially. I can’t explain it, but I’ve hit a new groove which has given me confidence behind the camera.
These photos will not appear on WordPress as they appear to me because WordPress flattens out the color space from the larger ProPhoto I use on my computer to sRGB. It’s heartbreaking because the colors as they should appear are richer and more weighted. So, I invite you to check out my Flicker page to see these, and other, as I intended them to be seen.
So as you see, I’ve been learning loads. I’m actively studying composition and creating experiments so that I can better understand color. Your feedback really does help me learn. Tell me what you think.
I mentioned in my last post that I’ve taken up drinking as a new hobby. Let me explain.
For Christmas a friend sent me the book The 12 Bottle Bar. Christmas puts me in a shopping mood and I was looking for something new in 2015, so I got it into my head that I need those 12 bottles.
Mission complete, I mixed a few drinks a night, tasting things along the way. One of the first surprises was Vermouth. I’ve been using it in my cooking since I was in high school, but I’ve never drunk it. I encourage you to taste the vermouth from a FRESHLY opened bottle. The flavors are herbal and somewhat floral. I was stunned. Vermouth isn’t the kind of thing I’m going to have a glass of, but alcohol has it’s own palate of flavors I’d never taken the time to pay attention to.
So drinking is a meditative practice. 😉
When I was looking for rye whisky (to complete my bar) I came across a bottle of Coffey Whisky which I misread as Coffee Whisky. “What’s this?”, I thought and pulled up an online review on my iPad. What I read convinced me I needed to try this with soda and, OMG, it was better than a glass of wine.
I read on that Japanese whiskeys are made to be diluted as Nikka’s Coffey Whisky most certainly is. Neat, it doesn’t deliver it’s flavor profile but thinning it out with water brought forth fruits and woods while subduing all the harshness in a hard liquor. An online review equated it with the complexity of wine and I have to agree.
When I like something I read up on it. Liking this whisky I read up on Nikka and found out that their distillery was in Hokkaido, not far from where I’d be for the Snow Festival, so I decided to pay a visit — and I’m so very glad I did.
I left by bus from Sapporo to Yoichi, a 2-hour trip, with my morning Starbucks in hand. I arrived without having eaten breakfast and by eleven I was in their very busy bar sampling a variety of whiskies produced by Nikka for what you might call a very Irish breakfast.
Before December 2014, if I drank six pack of beer within a year, that was heavy consumption. For breakfast I had five glasses of whisky and an apple brandy. It was a very good morning. Very good. 🙂
Theres’s more to this story I want to share with you soon. Something I didn’t expect to find. I’ll try to write about it soon.
I really did and do intend to blog — really, really, really I do — but I get distracted easily.
I’ve been studying Photoshop through Lynda.com tutorials and when I found out about the Pen Tool, well, lets just say it opened up new possibilities. I can draw in Photoshop now and with my nifty new stylus and pressure pad I’m teaching myself how to paint. Consequently, I’ve been in the kitchen once since the new year to cook. It’s been all tofu, all the time in my kitchen. (Wanna a quick recipe? Take cotton style tofu [momen], wrap it in a towel and put a weight on in to press out the water. and fry it with some veggies, marinade it in some kind of flavorful liquid, or add a drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkle of chopped green onion and some grated ginger. Voila!)
From February 3rd I went to Hokkaido for ten days to see the Sapporo Snow Festival; my new hobby is drinking (long story for another post) and so I also went to the Nikka Distillery; and if you’re in Hokkaido you have to ski and go to onsen — pics of all of that in time. I wanted to touch base before getting absorbed back into Lynda.com, so even though I want to keep a cooking blog you’re going to have to settle for pics for now. 😉
Fist off, I started this blog a year ago today — time flies.
I need to apologize for the unintended absence. For my birthday (on October 6th) ANA sent me a special promotion which I used to take an unscheduled, unplanned, always needed two-week vacation. When I came back I had essays up the kazoo to grade and, by chance, there was opening for a promotion.
I wanted the promotion.
I needed to prepare for the test (the first step in the application process), then for three successive interviews. I made it to the third and final group interview, but I didn’t get the job. That was at the end of November.
I sulked through most of December before getting in holiday mode — cooking, shopping, planning, and getting all my work done as our third year students graduate.
Excuses aside, I’m back. I didn’t mean to take a long holiday. Life happens — and I don’t get paid for this, so priorities. 😉
I did have time to consider what my blog means to me in the time I was away. I did start this as a means to reach out and connect with other people who share my passion for cooking and food — all things connected to food and eating. My blog then turned into a photography blog. I tried different ways to separate the two but photography was more fun to post about, however it’s not my real goal. I want to focus on my cooking and so I’m going to keep my photography in Flicker with a few here and there to liven up a given post.
I do love photography, perhaps even more than food. To take pictures and edit them require lots of time. To balance blogging and photography I’m setting a goal to post here once a week. I might post more, but I’d rather post a quality food post that’s informative than several small ones. We’ll see how it works out.
For this first week of the new year I thought I’d post about our New Year’s Osetchi.
Every year I’ve been in Japan for the New Year’s holiday I’ve spent the week it takes to make all the best dishes I can eek out of my kitchen — and it’s expensive. Two years ago I spent the equivalent of 700USD for Osetchi and it’s accompaniments (crab, sashimi, wine, etc). This year I purchased one of the many pre-made osetchi boxes available through department stores. They range in price from 2000USD to a modest 100USD. The food should be enough that it lasts for three days. I went with the Dean & Deluca osetchi box and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
I enjoy Japanese traditional foods (tray one); however, the other two trays of western delicacies blew them away. The duck confit, the home made sausages, the sea urchin mouse and on and on and on were some of the best things I’ve eaten in ages. The beef! I’ve never had beef so tender that it literally begins to melt while chewing.
So enjoy these photos of my first feast of the New Year and let me know in the comments how you’ve all been doing.
The new year in Japan.
On January 2nd the Imperial Family opens the East wing of their palace to the public. While we may not enter their residence we are allowed into the mail courtyard. The family makes an appearance at the window, the Emperor makes a short speech, and they all wave. It’s my first time attending — I’ve never been to a more crowded place in all my life (I’m tall enough to see just how crowded it was). These are a few photos I took at the event.
Early this year I walked into my bedroom showered, tired, and ready for bed. Flipped the light. Baby spider was on my pillow. We both looked at each other for a beat. I charged, it JUMPED behind the bed, and I slept in the other room. I am not an arachnophob. Not really. Unnerved. Unsettled. Proof that they live amongst us both fascinates me and puts me on edge and, yes, terrifies me.
Walking through Dejima’s orchards and gardens in the rain — umbrella in one hand, camera in the other — I dodged a few spiders perched eye level to me (because no one else walking though is 192cm/6’4″ they can spin their webs lower than I’d like) until I walked face first into one.
Instinct and expectations collided — I am a man, I can not scream!
I shuddered deeply from within, shook my head violently from side to side, managed to drop my shoulder bag on the wet ground and land my camera on top. With one self possessed step forward I practically undulated with complete and total revulsion and fear. I don’t know how I didn’t scream or completely freak out in a dance.
I couldn’t bring myself to pat myself down for a spider check so dropped my umbrella over my camera and calmly walked over to a near by gardner and told what happened. I asked if he wouldn’t mind checking if I missed any “web” on my person.
I was spider free.
I am in awe of what social expectations and a ridged idea of how one thinks they should behave can, thankfully, reign in even the primeval emotions hidden deep, deep within. Remember that the next time you get pissed at someone. 😉
And ladies and gentlemen, that is how I’ve come to post this set of pics from Nagasaki.
I remember that first hit off my Nikon bong. I thought I could handle it — I really did, but before long I was in for a major headtrip in Lightroom. Before these addictions started eating away my life I was just a normal man engaged in average things: Molecular gastronomy, Marvel Comics and the New 52, Japanese pop music, yoga and free weights. And dinner parties. I loved throwing weekend dinner parties.
This year I got into blogging and got into the routine each morning of making a pot of espresso, opening up WordPress, and engaging with people until the caffeine kicked in. But two days ago I opened Photoshop. Have you ever opened Photoshop?
It’s h a r d.
Nothing is intuitive.
I got the Fundamentals series from Lynda.com and that was it. Lost time. I was late for work — did not hear the phone ring when they called; I forgot to eat; and I ended up buying instant coffee because I couldn’t tear myself away from my iMac to look for my Starbuck’s Bean’s Card — It is impossible to do M.R. in the morning with instant coffee!
So here I sit, sifting through copies of copies of copies of re-edited photos of the next stop on my photo journey, Nagasaki. The rains were building in intensity, the anniversary of the nuclear bomb was approaching, and people all over Japan were beginning their summer Obon Holiday, so despite the weather everyplace was packed. I had a great time. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow if I can get a handle on these Adobe cravings.
Odaiba, which I’ve posted on before, held an “American Festival”. I needed to know. If Japan is sushi, samurai, manga in the US, what is America in Japan? Oh, you don’t want to know.
I was going to take photos but I knew I’d be taking them to jab and jeer.
I will briefly outline the people and venue: Every worker was dressed in denim shirts AND jeans with HUGE cowboy hats. Over that women wore white homestead aprons and/or Aunt Jemima-esq headscarves. The shops were cooking up huge steaks on BBQ’s and the Budweiser was everywhere. On either side of the audience/tables were food stalls with steaks, the Japanese interpretation of pulled pork (if you think you’ve been eating Teriyaki chicken and sushi where you are, I’ve got a surprise for you), and SPAM. Oh, and used clothing bins, boxed cake mixes, and toy guns because that’s America folks, used clothes and guns. Yes, sir.
Picture it: The average Japanese person is about 170 – 175 cm and narrow waisted. Their Texas belt buckles were like shields and their poor little heads peaking out from those hats — oh, lord. No. No photographs — for their sake — save the stage, which was playing an unusual bossa nova/jazz with Japanese lyrics because that’s how we roll in the states.
Odaiba is popular and crowded all the time. The rest of Odaiba was packed with people; however . . . .
I felt so bad them. The people in the shops were doing the best to bring in customers but…. I, too, abandoned them and took a walk around some of my favorite places. I came back a few times but I never saw it any more crowded twenty people in that HUGE venue.
I love this building. It’s the Fuji TV building. With a little tilt shift I can do this now.
And a day in Odaiba without a sculpture of a bird flying overhead and a beautiful sunset is incomplete.
I didn’t want it to rain during my vacation. I didn’t plan for it. I didn’t expect it, but it rained every single day. That first day, in my white linen shorts and black underpants (never again), I knew whether I enjoyed myself was entirely up to me.
So when things don’t go the way you plan, the sky seems — or is — gray, do as I did with this series of photos: Lighten the mood; find the beauty; be grateful for what is, not unhappy about what isn’t.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a rainy day — or a gray mood, but you do have the power to lighten either one.
How to talk about something which is an individual impression and which is forbidden to photograph or draw? Naoshima Chichibu Art Museum.
The rains were heaviest when I arrived on the island peaking with several squalls sending rain down the long winding roads as a rivers into the sea. No traffic moved until the intensity lessened to a hard rain. With a dozen others, I waited in the ferry terminal (link to pictures) till about ten a.m. after which we piled into a tiny shuttle bus and were motored twenty minutes up and through the hilly terrain to the Chichibu Art Museum where we purchased our tickets and walked the prerequisite half kilometer up the slope to the actual art galleries, designed by Tadao Ando.
The three galleries are built into the hill to preserve the landscape. I invite you to read about the three artists and their projects. James Turrell, Walter De Maria, and Claude Monet. You can not photographic what is inside (you must check in your bags and the gallery staff are watching for cell phones). All works have to do with light. No image can truly capture what is there. The number of people who can enter a gallery is limited, maximum eight, leading to a build of anticipation before you enter each work with time for your eyes to adjust to the specific lighting in each area.
One of three works by James Turrell is a room with eight marble steps leading up to a neon blue painting which, we discover upon ascending, is actually a room filled with blue light. We are invited to enter into the room, which by optical illusion, becomes a wide white void once you’re inside. The people in my group were using words like “floating”, “boundless”, ” limitless”. The effect is tranquil and recalled, for me, the idea that when we die we enter into a white light of love and warmth — you lose your orientation inside. Turn around and you’ll see a beautiful orange light painting, which is the room you were is just in, floating within the void — another optical illusion impossible to truly photograph. (The image below is from Getty Images and is of a different James Turrell work to give you an idea of what I’m writing about. Clicking the image will take you to more of his work.)
Monet’s Water Lilies are in another gallery of smooth white light, a floor in white marble mosaic, and walls smoothed of all angles. Click this link for a 360 degree tour of the room.
My favorite room was Walter De Maria’s. I managed to sneak two cell phone photos before I was caught — and curtly reprimanded. The room is illuminated by a rectangular hollow in the ceiling letting in natural light allowing the room to change minute by minute –there is no artificial light in the picture below. In the center of two ascending flights of stairs is a large round marble sculpture polished so finely that it mirrors all the light in the room like a fisheye photograph might. The effect is mesmerizing. I stood back from all angles within the space and observed: Every one was equally facinated by the effect. (The photo below is also from Getty Images. Click the photo for more work by the artist.)
By the end of my stay there I felt as though I’d meditated all day. I listened to other people echo this feeling. Even with the pouring rain and all the discomforts in getting there everyone found their own zen by the end. Below are the two images I was able to capture. Because the room is partly about the play of light I used this as an opportunity to see how light affects the great sphere (through Lightroom). That tiny spec in the center is me. I think of these as a composite self portrait. 🙂
Many people like the words ‘I’m blessed’, for me it’s more like I’ve made some really good decisions.
I used to think I wanted children, then my friends started producing them, I stated babysitting, and all my paternal feeling went down the commode. I am so grateful to be gay. I will never, ever come home to Hiro knitting baby booties.
Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy being around children. I’ve two jobs in which I get to work with young people (whom I call short people): One a high school and the other an ‘English School’, where I work with kids 3 to 17. (I adore the itty bitty ones, but only for forty minutes. After that I’ve had enough. With high school kids it depends on their hormone levels for the day, but half a day is about right.)
The larger point is that I chose not to have children — No, thank you! — and chose instead a job that gives me that familial feel without any of the paternal responsibly. I’ve been doing this long enough that I have watched a few go from knee-high to engaged. At this past weekend’s bunkasai, those graduated kids I mentioned came back all grown up, many already in careers. Watching them grow up puts my own life in perspective and keeps my heart filled with boundless optimism: I watch short people who can barely stand grow into adults who make our world go round.
(It’s often really hard for me to chose between the monochrome and color. Which do you prefer?)
Education is not just book learning. Japanese schools hold several team building events throughout the year which are viewed on par with academic performance. The teachers are only superficially involved in an administrative role. Depending on the event young people will be grouped by age, by class, by club, or randomly, but never by ability. From the chaos a leader rises, the group coalesces, and the events are held — sometimes for the public, as in this event, Bunkasai, or the Culture Festival.
Several days before the Bunkasai all classes stop to set up the event. The students aren’t monitored. When I first started working in the public school system I hung out in the classrooms to see it all unfolds. I half expected the girls to get bossed around, but gender has nothing to do with it. Students didn’t just blindly follow, either. They argued, debated, and often settled an impasse with Rock, Paper, Scissors and lived with the result. What needed to be done was done — equally. They have a sense of what’s fair and they have never been shy to point out inequality. Everyone participates. There are no slackers. And in the time I’ve been there I’ve yet to see the students go to get help from the teachers to settle something.
In case you’re wondering, during Bunkasai students set up shops on campus. They make foods like sandwiches, cakes, yakitori and set up restaurants or cafes; they open game booths, karaoke rooms, haunted houses; they hold fashion shows, perform concerts, organize galleries. Every year, and each school, is a bit different, but where I work they tend to revolve around those things. You might have heard of the movie Waterboys. That schools Bunkasai became famous nation wide for their all male synchronized swimming events. Japanese groups like Radwimps came out of the Bunkasai. Alumni make the trip and so do people who live near the school. It is a wonderful slice of Japanese life.
These are just a handful of shots from the preparations — and the first edited with my calibrated monitor. 😉 I’m giving all of them to the PTA for the yearbook. I don’t want to upload portraits without permission from the students, but you might get to see some of those later.