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Category: photography

Class is out

Class is out

One of the schools I taught at in Japan was large (~1,000 students) and old.  The decades had worn on the main classroom building quite a bit.  Students were moved to temporary buildings as the main building was scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt, adhering to new earthquake resistence standards.

The number of memories held by these walls must be uncountable … first loves, best friends, fights, successes, failures.  No matter what memories one winds up carrying away from their high school experience, it is an extremely rich time in our lives in terms of memories, experience, and development.  Japanese, who culturally have very strong group identity, seem to feel particularly strong about their schools.  I wonder how the graduates of this school feel about it’s demolition?  Is it the end of an era,or the rebirth and continuance of it?

Given the native Japanese religion of Shintoism’s views on renewal, my guess is that most would look upon it positively.  The main national Shinto shrine, located at Ise, actually has it’s main building torn down and rebuilt every 20 years.

My guess is that while the buildings wall’s seem full of memories, the actual holding place of the memories is in the existence of the school.

(Shot on film – Kodak 400tx @ HC110)

Comet Pan STARRS (C/2011 L4)

Comet Pan STARRS (C/2011 L4)

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.

-William Milberry

Japanese cemetery – Infrared composite

Japanese cemetery – Infrared composite

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.

Hina Matsuri (Hina Doll Festival)

Hina Matsuri (Hina Doll Festival)

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.

The State Fair

The State Fair

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.

The last Venus transit of our lifetime.

The last Venus transit of our lifetime.

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.

 

Vensu transiting in front of the sun

Karatsu (part 4) – Takashima (高島)

Karatsu (part 4) – Takashima (高島)

There is a small oddly shaped island off the coast of Karatsu.  It’s more like a little hill that sticks out of the tree and is aptly named “Takashima” or which means “Tall Island.”  There are only a few dozen people living on it and a few ferries there and back each day.

Karatsu (唐津) part 3

Karatsu (唐津) part 3

Japan likes to look like a modern country, but it still has a lot of the old-world left in it

A slow afternoon in the shop

Karatsu (唐津) part 2

Karatsu (唐津) part 2

I spent a day shooting in Karatsu which is sleepy seaside town in the north-west corner of Kyushu.

The town in home to an amazing festival held at the beginning of November called Karatsu Kunchi.  The festival is hundreds of years old and designated as an intangible cultural treasure.  The town also produces beautiful Japanese-style ceramics.