Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, is one of the most beautiful places William Milberry has ever been to. I’ve been there four times, two of which on scooter, and the landscape awed me each time. It is one of the largest volcanic caldera in the world. In ancient times a massive volcano erupted there causing the entire surrounding area to sink. The land is twisted and rippled with lots of natural countryside. Only soft-looking, short shrubs and grasses grown on some of the volcanic hills due to the nutrient poor soil which is mostly volcanic ash. If you ever visit Japan’s Kyushu region, Aso should definitely be put on your list of places to go.
Photographing landscapes is a challenge for me because it’s tough to capture the awe that amazing places inspire and their grand scales in a single image, especially with a DSLR. Landscapes demand a much larger imaging surface such as medium or large format. Landscapes also demand a very careful, technical, methodical approach. I’m very capable of this and engaged in such work a lot in the past, but in recent years I’ve been finding my inspiration in a more Japanese style wabisabi aesthetic which is a very different mindset.
Kome Zuka (lit. ‘Rice Mound’), is a volcanic cone found in the Aso caldera – William Milberry
Centuries of erosion cause deep grooves in the volcanic hills
Sparse vegetation on the rocky, volcanic, landscape
The sulfurous, boiling, active crater “Nakadake”
Sunset on Kome Zuka
I went to Fukuoka to see a friend who was returning to the U.S. the next day off. Before meeting him I was walking around a bit and there was a beautiful, orange, sunset. I only had my little point-n-shoot camera, but I used it’s manual controls to capture it as best I could.
Comet Pan STARRS (C/2011 L4) can be seen right of center, just above the horizon with it’s tail going up. This is a non-periodic comet (meaning it doesn’t come regularly like Haley’s Comet.) My wife and I watched the sunset together and waited a long time for the sky to darken so it would be visible. It became freezing cold and windy outside and we were about to give up when I decided to do a slightly long exposure in the general direction where the comet was supposed to be. While it turned out to not be visible to the naked eye, it showed up in my picture! I shot this with a 50mm lens, but am going to go out with my telephoto lens again tomorrow night and take another stab at it now that I know where it is.
In my last post I commented on how the Japanese follow both Shinto and Buddhist traditions at the same time. One place where you see Buddhist beliefs is in funeral and death related rituals. The Japanese cremate their dead and places the ashes into family tombstones. I’ve been told that in Buddhist beliefs cremation is a way to free a person’s soul or karma.
This is a photo of a Japanese cemetery. The color is not a digital effect, but rather the result of a technique that combines infrared and color light to make the photo. Plants strongly reflect infrared causing them to stand out dramatically in infrared photos. A normal color photo is made by combining red, green, and blue light. What I’ve done here is combine infrared, green, and blue.
March 3rd was one of my favorite festivals in Japan – Hina Matsuri. Hina Matsuri is otherwise known as the Hina Doll Festival and celebrates Girl’s Day. It is a day to pray for the health and wellbeing of young girls. It’s celebrated through displaying a set of often very ornate and beautiful dolls which portray the royal court of the Heian Period (794 to 1185).
It has it’s origins in the Heian period and the belief that dolls can entrap bad spirits. Usually in the weeks leading up to the Hina Matsuri storefronts, historic buildings, and families put the dolls on display which traditionally inclues the dolls sitting on a tiered shelf resembling steps draped in red fabric. My town has a very old looking historic street/district where some historic buildings are opened and have large displays of dolls including some antique ones. I have a lot of fond memories of going to see the doll displays with my wife while we were dating. She is the youngest daughter of her family and thus she never got her own set of dolls, so I bought a small set which I put out for her. I want to buy a proper set some day, but they can be expensive easily passing the thousand dollar range for a finely crafted set wearing many layered kimonos.
Here are a few photos I took during last year’s Hina Matsuri.
My wife and I recently moved to the U.S. from Japan. We’re happy with our decision to live in the U.S., but I was worried that I might not enjoy photography anymore because even the most normal streets of Japan never stopped entertaining my eyes. I’m rapidly finding a new appreciation and a new perspective on old and familiar sights like the state fair that I used to go to every year when I was a child.
This is a series of photos of the Venus transit in front of the Sun on June 6, 2012 (Japan time.) The moving dot is the planet Venus and the small specs are sunspots.
I kept running outside and taking (hand held) photos with my DSLR and homemade solar filter at work then assembled some of the frames into this movie.
The event was fully visible from southwest Japan with the weather holding out for all but the last 30 minutes of the 6hr and 40min long event which won’t happen again for 105 years.
The music was recorded on the streets during a festival in Japan.
Venus is the 2nd planet from the Sun and Earth’s sister in some ways. Venus is about the same size as Earth and made of about the same things. However, due to a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide, believed to have originated from volcanos, the planet has a runaway greenhouse effect with a surface temperature over 460 °C (860 °F) and crushing atmospheric pressure.
It’s orbit is slightly inclined compared to Earth’s so the proper alignment to see it pass in front of the sun happens twice in 8 years followed by a more than 100 year wait for the next time.
I went to the Saga International Balloon Fiesta 2 weeks ago. It was really a sight to see. In the morning they launched dozens and dozens of hot air balloons at once. It was BEAUTIFUL. They had over 100 hot air balloons in attendance from many different countries and throughout the almost week long event they counted over 900,000 visitors. During that time you can see hot air balloons over my city during the day, the balloonists have competitions for rather large prizes, and there is a large festival-like area with food and entertainment. It is COMPLETELY FREE to attend, there is no charge for going to the grounds and enjoying it. You can get up quite close to the balloons too.