Friday, November 12, 2010

Wild Life Photos???

As you can see from the heading, I like to include things like Okinawan culture, dance, festivals, tourism information and the like on this blog. In particular, I like to post photos and let them do most of the talking. My partner in crime on most of my photography excursions is an old friend I've known for years.

Most bloggers on Okinawa know him as Ryukyu Mike and he caught the photography bug shortly after I began writing for a local English language rag. I enjoyed that stint for a few years until they hired a new editor who started cutting up my stories and limiting the photos due to what he said was "in the name of content." When I and most of my fellow freelancers went from earning a couple of grand a month to only a few dollars, we realized what he really meant by content.

But my good friend and I still enjoyed getting out with our cameras a couple of times a month just to see what we could shoot and post it on line for all to see. If you've been following this blog, you know that we've covered lots and lots of festivals. But Mike's first love with photography is still shooting wild life. As he likes to put it, "you don't need a model release from a bird to post it online or sell it to a magazine."

Over the years he's studied the art far more studiously than I and has garnered a good deal of respect. He's even had quite a few of his photos published both online and in print, had galleries exhibit his work and even though it's nothing to write home about, he's even made a little money at it.

so it was really nice for both of us to be able to get a day off during the week and go shooting wildlife again. We started not far from his home in the early morning light just to see if there were any birds feeding along the shore. The area near his house has a beach where it is not uncommon to see egrets feeding or Osprey's soaring overhead.

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

It wasn't long before this fellow landed on the beach nearby and did what he does best, catch fish. fortunately we were on the retaining wall for the boat harbor and had the sun to our backs. Mike had his 500mm Sigma lens already attached and took quite a few photos of this fella in action. Unfortunately all I had was my 18-200mm Tamron lens mounted on my Pentax K200D so this picture had to be cropped down quite a bit to bring it in to view. Still, that's the beauty of digital photography. With a few mouse clicks you can take a picture that you couldn't hardly see a bird in, crop, frame, adjust the exposure and blow it up to a decent image.

Mike's already posted some of his stuff from this shoot in his gallery at his website as well as online with his blogs. But I was really shocked today when I went to visit his blog. It seems as though Mike has taken the concept of shooting wildlife and gone in a totally new direction. All I can say is that you'll have to see it to believe it! It's available right (HERE).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ryukyu Kingdom Festival Parade

Sunday October 31st marked the beginning of this year’s Ryukyu Kingdom Festival. It was only a few short weeks ago that we covered the Great Tsunahiki “tug-o-war” in Naha. That time we were able to find a relatively unobstructed observation point well above the madding crowd so this time, we decided to see if we could accomplish the same feat.

We looked up and down Kokusai “International” street on which the grand parade, a recreation of the royal procession of the Ryukyu King and Queen would take place and spotted a second level balcony in front of a souvenir shop. It was on the opposite side of the street than where we would have liked to have been and we were worried about the angle of the sun affecting our shots but it was close to noon and if the sun was directly overhead, we felt it probably wouldn’t give us too much glare.

 We walked up stairs and asked the manager of the store if it was OK and he said yeah. Unfortunately this is Okinawa and that means everything runs on what the locals know as “Okinawa Time!” Okinawa time is a result of the laid back atmosphere of the island culture. Things will happen eventually so don’t get your panties in a wad. For example, if you were waiting for the 2 O’clock bus, just plan to keep waiting if it’s late, it will eventually get there and who knows, one day it may even be on time.

So the parade finally got to where we were waiting and we were glad that we had a spot well above all the crowds. We’ve done the low angle street level shots before and it’s always a pain in the “you know what” when you’re setting up your tripod, have your shutter release in hand, you get your aperture and shutter speed set and are ready to squeeze off that perfectly composed shot only to have some terrorist, aka tourist with a $5.00 disposable camera step right in front of you.

After the King and Queen as well as the dignitaries passed by, we were ready to show our support for the local farmers i.e. have a smoke and something to drink. Kokusai Street is now mostly a “No Smoking” area so we had to go to one of the handful of designated areas. Just as we were heading across the street, the dance troupes came by. We stayed for a few more photos and since we were near the end of the parade route, the crazies aka terrorists weren’t too bad.
The festival this year seemed to be a little shorter than in past years. I’m almost certain that has to do with the down economy. On Wednesday the 3rd of November, the players in this day’s events all gathered up at Shuri Castle to do it again. I wasn’t able to attend due to work but “Ryukyu” Mike was. He has some pretty interesting photos posted at his blog. You can see them by clicking on the link to his post provided (HERE).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Street People

Sunday was the big Ryukyu Kingdom Festival Parade in Naha Okinawa. It was also Halloween! As you can see from the photos, the nuts were out in full force.
 I can't quite understand the Japanese obsession with Samba dancing but it's taken the nation by storm. I first noticed it at a local festival when I was living up in mainland Japan about ten or so years ago. Although the festival was a "Mikoshi" parade, thats where they carry those local portable shrines on their shoulders and chant about the neighborhoods during summer festivals. That time it was a Japanese Samba group that led the parade.

While admittedly, I don't mind gawking at scantily clad women dancing in the street, I have to say that Japanese women tend to be a little small in the hip and leg area so perhaps it's my problem more than anything. I would also add that unlike up in mainland Japan, this troupe didn't end up leading the parade. Instead they took their little gig into the market. I guess they were paid to draw customers to the shopping area instead of watching the parade.
 Another phenomenon that has gotten a little crazy over on this side of the pond lately is the desire to dress up like cartoon or as the Japanese call it "manga" characters. The other thing is the obsession with maid outfits. Up in mainland Japan, "maid kissa" or maid kissaten are said to be quite popular. A maid kissaten or "coffee shop" is where the men, usually losers who couldn't get a date even if they had Bill Gates sized pockets sip coffee and gawk at all the girls dressed in French maid style outfits.
 I couldn't quite get whether the girls pictured here were doing the manga thing or the maid kissa thing.

This gal was the last to show and I thought the street sign was most appropriate for the occasion.

By the way, I will be posting pictures of the Ryukyu Kingdom festival parade a little later this week, probably this weekend so stay tuned. But just to make sure you know the real reason why I happened to be in the big city, click on the post title and it will redirect you to a story I posted for JPG Magazine a few years back. Lots of pictures there and more to come to this site later. Until then, peace!