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
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 news both local (to me in Japan), as well as international, has been showing the massive destruction in Japan from the magnitude 9 earthquake followed by the powerful tsunami one week ago. Without downplaying the seriousness of the situation, the severe destruction in some towns in the region, and the suffering of those involved, I think it’s important to point out that a majority of Japan was not directly affected.
The earthquake was off the coast, centered on the ocean floor, therefore the shaking of Japan in most cases, while severe, was less than the magnitude 8.9 rating of the quake at it’s source. The horrible tsunami hit the Pacific north-east coast and came as much as a mile or so inland in some areas. Many towns were leveled by it and thousands killed. We must do everything we can to help them, and this will likely be the most expensive natural disaster in history and the human suffering is enormous with over 6,000 deaths and 10,000 missing at this point. However, I think it is also important to remember that this represents a moderately small portion of this island nation of 127,000,000 people. Japan is by no means out for the count.
Away from the scenes of destruction, there are scenes of normality everywhere.
So please, keep Japan in your thoughts, make donations and send any help you can, but try not to let the images lead you into thinking that the whole nation is in such a dire situation. Japan will recover and it will still be a beautiful and exotic place that you should visit!