Monday, January 31, 2011

Flower: Sakura (桜) Okinawa, Japan (Photo) and a Little Secret


Sakura (桜) is the Japanese word for Cherry Blossom. Yesterday I posted a blog entry about my trip up Nago Mountain in Okinawa, Japan to get some photos in my collection of the Cherryblossom Festival.

To my surprise, over 6,000 people viewed that blog !  It's going to take all day for me to reply to the tons of emails I recieved so, today's post will just be a quickie.

Now, I don't know if the sudden popularity was because someone likes my warped sense of humor or people just like to see photos of Cherry Blossoms.

A little secret I'll let you in on: I usually don't put my best photos on my blog.  The best of the best don't go on the internet, anywhere. I hide stuff like that under my futon.

But, today I'm putting one of my favorites here for you to see. I'll probably enter it in a contest, too.

If 6,000 people view this I really won't care what the contest judges think of my photography. Hah !

But, if you like it and they do, too I'll be tickled pinker than a Sakura (桜) up on the mountains of Okinawa, Japan !

Visit my Homepage for THE PHOTO OF THE DAY

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cherryblossom (桜) Festival Okinawa, Japan (Photo Essay)

The photos will have to do the talking because I'm still worn out from the hike up Nago Mountain in Okinawa, Japan yesterday. It was cold, windy and rained a few times but, was one of the best Cherryblossom (桜) Festivals I've seen in a long time. Look and enjoy.


Getting lost for a while in the mountains, thinking we could beat traffic, my trusty driver from Texas (Rusty), spotted this scene. So, we pulled over and snapped a few shots of the sun.  

Wherever it was shining,  it never hit us. We managed to miss it all day.



Here's what we ran into as soon as we parked the car and entered the walkway leading to the mountain. It was an international conglomeration of festival goers. Look. I think one guy was all the way from Italy.

And the first thing you smell isn't people. It's all the chicken yakitori (chicken on a stick) and soy sauce cooking on charcoal fires. But, there was a mountain to climb so, I didn't eat.



The stairways going up the mountain must be made for people with smaller feet than mine. I had to stretch my legs and go up two at a time. I have no idea how many steps they have but, I know I'm not in any hurry to go back and try it again today.

If you really need to know how many steps there are, maybe, somebody from Wikipedia can tell you.

Or, ask a kid. They count stuff like that.



Everytime you think you have reached the top of the mountain, you find more stairs to climb. In front of that concrete lantern is a cherryblossom sprig. The red, white and blue balls you see strung out above everything are paper lanterns. They're made by Orion Beer Company, my favorite beer, just in case you ever want to buy me one.

See that girl with the umbrella?  She must have popped into a dozen of my pictures while I was trying to compose a great shot. I kept this one, only because she wasn't moving and, she was a little bit cute.

But, I really don't like girls in my pictures, especially when they've been rained on.

I'll go back someday and get you a good picture when she's not there and it isn't raining.


Did I mention it was cold ?  Well, here you go. It was so freakin' cold they had a snowman and kids in winter clothes playing in the snow. It's not supposed to snow on my tropical island.

They imported the stuff or had a machine making it.

I've never seen snow here, before but, I'm glad they had it to keep the kids busy. It's hard to pick your nose when you're busy making snowballs. Ever notice that ?  All kids should have snow.



This was the best part. They had sleds and trails with snow on them. People were lined up, waiting to hop on a sled, or whatever they call those things.

They were having a blast. It reminded me of the Swiss Alps.

Only thing was, I kept looking around for the ski lift so I wouldn't have to walk all the way up the mountain. They didn't have one.



There weren't any blue skies to shoot but, I wanted to get some pictures away from the crowds and found this suspension bridge. This is another shot I'll have to go back and try on a nice sunny day.


Nago City and the bay are down below the cherryblossomed railings on the bridge. That'd be the East China Sea out on the horizon.

I killed some time here waiting for sunset. I zoomed with my lens a few times and as far as I could tell, the Chinese were staying on their side of the ocean. So, don't worry. I'm always checking.



This is what I was waiting for. The sun went down, the wet girl that kept popping up, must've got cold and went home and I got to set up right in front of the stairs.

The guy with the cell phone camera was holding still and I caught the whole scene with half a second on my camera shutter.

All I had left to do after that was get a close up shot of a Cherryblossom (桜) or two and I'd be happy.


The freezing, the cold, even the rain didn't really matter. Everybody on that mountain had a good time. The Nago City Cherryblossom Festival in Okinawa, Japan only happens one weekend out of the year. It's a special event and worth some sore muscles to climb that mountain. I've got a picture to prove it !




Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wildlife Photo: Ryukyu (Okinawa) Ground Gecko an Endangered Species

Photo by Shawn Miller taken with a Nikon D3000 18-55mm lens at focal length 44mm  f/5.3  1/60 using camera flash.  Location: In the dark jungles of Onna Son Okinawa, Japan  1 MAY 2010.

The Ryukyu Ground Gecko (Goniurosaurus kuroiwae)  is an Endangered Species found only on the Okinawa Islands and Tokunoshima of the Amami Islands.

These creatures cannot climb trees. They don't have the specialized suction cup toe pads seen on most geckos so, are restricted to ground areas.

Their diet consists of worms, insects and spiders. Unlike other geckos, these critters can close their eyelids.

The fact that this animal is rare has contributed to it being endangered. Exotic pet dealers have created a black market trade for them.

If you spot an Okinawa Ground Gecko anywhere outside these islands call the authorities and have the greedy humans thrown in jail. They kidnapped an endangered species.

Make them send the Goniurosaurus kuroiwae back to the Ryukyu Islands where they belong !

See more of Shawn Miller's OKINAWA NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY HERE



Friday, January 28, 2011

Photography Tips: Long Exposures in a Tourist Trap (Cave)

This series of photos was taken in Gyokusendo Cave Okinawa, Japan last Thursday. A friend and I figured a weekday would be the best time to go in order to avoid busloads of tourists. We were wrong.

There was a steady flow of Chinese, Japanese and Korean tourists and gazillions of students stomping through the place on field trips. It seemed as if the teachers, or whoever is supposed to supervise these rambunctious youth, just dumped them in through the hole at the entrance and wandered over to the exit to round them up an hour later when they emerged.

After I (not-so-silently cursed) under my breath because my well-composed, long exposure shots got ruined from the metal walkways shaking, it dawned on me. The tourists are supposed to be having fun.

I was working. That's fun, to me but, I take it seriously. So, I had to compromise.



GET AWAY FROM THE METAL AND WOODEN WALKWAYS THAT PEOPLE SHAKE.



PLANT YOUR TRIPOD ON FIRM GROUND AND USE A TIMER OR CABLE RELEASE.



ZOOM AND FOCUS ON A POINT HIGH ABOVE THE HEADS OF THE TOURISTS.



TAKE PLENTY OF SHOTS FROM THE EXACT SAME POSITION AND EXPERIMENT.


THESE PHOTOS WERE TAKEN WITH APERTURE F/11  2.5 - 5 SECONDS ON SHUTTER.

All caves that are designed for tourism have some sort of interior lighting. It's just a matter of moving around to where you can take advantage of it for your camera's exposure.

Stationary lighting makes it fairly easy to adjust exposure but, the pinwheel-colored lighting above, controlled by motion detectors was a bit more challenging.

In high contrast photography with a DSLR it's always best to shoot underexposed photos and bring the exposure up in editing afterwards.

Reading the lightmeter in my viewfinder, for these shots, I underexposed from -1 to -2 on the Exposure Value (EV) scale. I do this by changing the shutter speed and leave the aperture set at f/11.


This time of year, in Okinawa, it also pays to carry a lens cloth or plenty of lens paper. Check the camera lens frequently for moisture from condensation as you are passing through different levels of the cave. A few times, my lens fogged up and was dripping with water.

The most valuable advice to remember from this photography tip: If you plan on taking long exposures in a tourist trap, like a cave, do whatever it takes to avoid tourists.

Visit my Homepage for THE PHOTO OF THE DAY




Related Link: GYOKUSENDO CAVE

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gizmo the Dog (Photo) Sometimes He's a Knucklehead, Too!

Gizmo is part of my team of Huskies and he is the Boss Dog around my house. I got this pair of dogs from a shelter. They were so small at 8 weeks old, you could hold them both in one hand.
Their mom was a Siberian Husky.

Gizmo, according the the vet, is half Chow. His brother, Rufus, is half Japanese Shiba. So, I figure, if I have two mutts that are half Husky, when you add it all up, I have a Siberian Husky. Do the math and you can figure it out yourself.

In my lifetime I've probably had 30 or 40 different dogs. The Huskies are the best. They are strong, smart, protective of the family and not noisy or mean-tempered. They are just amazing animals. But, every once in awhile, just like people THEY CAN BE KNUCKLEHEADS !

Last Saturday morning Gizmo woke me up a 5AM, as usual, when he heard the newspaper being delivered. The dogs know they don't get walked until Papa finishes reading the morning news and chugs about a quart of iced coffee. Once the newspaper is done and folded, they start jumping around begging me to put on their harnesses so, they can drag me to the beach.

These dogs are getting up there in age. They are going on 12 years old. Gizmo doesn't like long 12 hour walks in the hot sun, anymore. He moves a bit slower in the summertime. But, when it's freezing cold outside, he's like a young pup, all over again.

The critters were surprised when I threw the newspaper on the kitchen table, downed one cup of coffee and said "Let's go sampo-sampo". That's Japanese for walking around, walking around.
Did I mention, these guys are also bilingual ?  Well, they got that way hanging around with me.

There wasn't time for me to be reading the paper. I wanted to get my cameras ready and go shooting CHERRYBLOSSOMS with Doc. So, I was on the road with the dogs way before sunup.

It was cold outside and they were grinning and tugging, giving me my daily workout, all the way downhill to the beach. One full-grown Siberian Husky can pull one ton of weight loaded on a sled or wagon. I know this from reading the Siberian Huskies For Dummies book. Awesome !

Anyway, coming back up the hill, Gizmo started slowing down. He didn't want to stay in front of me. Something was wrong. He was walking slow alongside me. I slowed down and looked at him but, it was dark out so, I couldn't see what was wrong.

Soon, he was falling behind. Just one dog was up front doing all the pulling. I slowed down and reigned in Rufus on a shorter leash. Gizmo was moving so slow I figured maybe he was having a heart attack. He kept stopping. Then, I'd coax, pull and drag until we finally made it home.

Damn, I hate it when an old friend dies. But, it happens all the time.

So, I unleashed and unharnessed the dogs at the house, grabbed my camera gear and went.

All day long, in the back of my mind, was Gizmo. Coming back down from a day of shooting in the mountains, I told Doc "It looks like Gizmo's number may have come up. I may have to have him put to sleep".

When I got home there he was, wagging his tail, talking to me and jumping up for a pat on the head. And, that's when I saw what was wrong with him. See the choker chain hanging around his neck in the photo ?

SOMEHOW, THE KNUCKLEHEAD INSERTED HIS LEFT PAW INTO IT AND MANAGED TO GET HIS WHOLE LEG, ALL THE WAY UP TO HIS FREAKIN ARMPIT, THROUGH THE CHAIN HANGING AROUND HIS NECK !

It would take a bolt cutter to get a stainless steel chain off of him quickly and I didn't have one handy. So, we rolled around on the floor snapping and growling at each other until I managed to contort his left arm enough to get the damn thing out of there.

There's nothing wrong with the dog except, maybe, a little choker chain rash under his armpit and for being such a smart dog, sometimes he's a knucklehead, too !  That's my Gizmo.

SEE THE PHOTO OF THE DAY ON MY HOMEPAGE

Gyokusendo Cave in Okinawa: Travel Photo Thursday

Tourists in the background are passing through Gyokusendo Cave in Okinawa, Japan. In the foreground is a limestone stalagmite called "The Golden Cup". Springs flowing within the cave fill the cup to overflowing and the pool of water surrounding the formation has been named "The Fountain of Happiness".

See more Travel Photo Thursday submissions at BUDGET TRAVELERS SANDBOX

More on the Caves of Okinawa at CNNGO





Related Link: PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: CAVE

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Flower (Photo) Purple Iris and an Okinawan Festival

There has been a massive jump in traffic on my Festivals of Okinawa page since I mentioned in a Cherryblossom post that we have all kinds of flower festivals in Okinawa, Japan.

So, I figure I'd better start filling the place up with whatever I have on the Festivals (Matsuri) and see what else I'll need to shoot more photos of to give everyone a year-round schedule to follow.

This photo was taken 5 APR 2009 in the village of Ogimi Okinawa, Japan. It was a cold and windy day.
I don't forget what the conditions were at the time I composed a photo, even if it was years ago.

There have been several people who live in countries where it's snowing, right now, telling me they wish it was springtime where they are like it is here.

Hah !  It's winter here in Okinawa, right now, too. It's freezing cold, to us.
It'll keep getting colder until sometime around March. We just don't have any snow.

Instead, we get the 90% humid wind blowing off the ocean and it makes us shiver just like we were up in the Arctic Circle.

People from Canada, Alaska, Hokkaido, Sweden and even North Korea would probably be running around in their underwear laughing at me bundled-up in a flannel shirt and three jackets.

I don't care. I do whatever I have to do. We don't have heaters built into our homes.
So, sometimes I turn on a 500W lightbulb and hang it over my head just to stay warm!

The Purple Iris photo makes me look forward to spring. I hope it makes you look forward to spring, too.
There won't be a scheduled date for the festival this year until someone figures the weather out. This post will be updated with the dates for events as soon as mother nature gives us some clues.

When it's time for the Iris Flower Festival this year, in Ogimi, I'll go back and shoot some more pictures for you.

Hopefully, it'll be warm enough for me to just wear a t shirt. To be on the safe side, I'll bring along a jacket.



Monday, January 24, 2011

Wildlife Photo: Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) Okinawa, Japan

A classic example of man fooling with nature and regretting it, the Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) was brought to Okinawa from India in the 1900s to control the poisonous snakes, Habu.

A mongoose will kill a habu, no doubt about it. I've seen it with my own eyes, even seen them kill larger snakes, like cobras. The shows that used to be put on for tourists to watch the event in a controlled environment have been banned but, you can still go some places and catch it on video.

As you can see from my photo, these little weasel-looking guys hang around in broad daylight. The snakes they were brought here to eliminate are nocturnal dudes, wouldn't you know.

So, instead of eliminating the snakes our little mongoose friends eat frogs and birds and their eggs. I hear Hawaii has the same sort of problem. A moongoose will pull raids on a chickencoop.

We have mongooses (mongeese, if you prefer) eating endangered species and the knuckleheads  who came up with this brainstorm are calling the mongoose an invasive species. Hah !

Now these poor critters got a bad reputation. They even have a bounty on them like they're some sort of criminals. BRING THEM IN DEAD OR ALIVE. LET'S STRING THEM UP !

Has it ever occurred to you, maybe the dingbat humans who snatch a critter out of his wildlife environment and stick him where he ain't supposed to be, might be the invasive species ?

The people who came up with the idea of bringing the mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) to Okinawa to eat snakes are the real VARMINTS, HERE. LET'S GO AFTER THEM !

We won't string them up and we don't want them dead. Bring them here ALIVE AND MAKE THEM ROUND UP THE INVASIVE SPECIES AND TAKE THEM BACK WHERE THEY CAME FROM !



B&W or Color? Trees Outside UNESCO Nakajin Castle Okinawa, Japan (Photos)

Photos taken outside UNESCO World Heritage Site Nakajin Castle Okinawa, Japan

This photo was taken today on a pretty dismal day. We had dark skies, cold wind and I used a camera I haven't seen in awhile without a tripod. I simply set the Panasonic DMZ-FZ50 on a rock, used the LCD screen to make adjustments and fired away with the 10 second timer set.

It was one of those days where I figured it would be a waste of good digital film to go inside the Castle at Nakajin and shoot photos. I 'll go back when I like the lighting conditions and shoot some other time.

This little forest and rock garden are outside the castle grounds and probably don't get the attention of many tourists or cameramen so, I decided to give them some publicity.

Only now, I can't decide whether the shot looks better in B&W or Color. What do you think ?

In order to make commenting on this blog post easier for maximum participation, I have temporarily changed settings to allow all comments without word verification. Thank's in advance for your opinions.  Spammers please show mercy. I won't !

MY HOMEPAGE PHOTO OF THE DAY

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Flowers, Wildlife and Food at a Cherryblossom (桜) Festival: Photo Essay

The plan yesterday was to drive up Mt Yadake in northern Okinawa, Japan and shoot plenty of scenic photos. "Doc, I left my big lens home so I'll get plenty of wide angle shots of the scenery and what takes place at a Cherryblossom (桜) Festival. I'm always zooming-in on wildlife and doing close ups. I have to break that habit. Travel magazines want to see the festival tents, people doing festival stuff and they want photos of the festival foods so, that's what I'll shoot today". 

That's what I told Doc, anyway. I learned a few things yesterday and Doc did, too.

As soon as Doc parked the car, I shot this branch across the road. I had to zoom in a little and shoot quick because of all the people and cars going up and down the hill.

I just wanted a photo of the blossoms with the ferns in the background without any distractions.

Well, Doc started it all when he wandered up the road and shot a bird. He had a really decent shot.

Heck, I can do that, too!  So, I shot this Japanese White Eye (Mejiro) in the blossoms.

Then, while I was waiting for some more birds to land where I wanted them, along came this bee.

The Japanese White Eye got in the spot where the sun would hit his eye again so, I shot this one.

He had the nerve to look me right in the eyes so, I shot him again. Wildlife is lots more fun to shoot than people and food at festivals. Birds really don't care what you do with their photos.

When it clouded over a bit and there were no birds or bees around to shoot, I got bored and decided to shoot this girl. She was across the road snapping pictures with her cell phone.

Around noon we decided we should walk down the mountain and see what was cooking in the festival tents. Here's my first wide angle shot of the day. I even got some people and cars. Yay!


Then, I decided to snap a shot where I zoomed-in a bit so you can see what we call festival food.

And zoomed-in even more to show you Yakisoba. It's probably the healthiest festival food you can buy.

While Doc and I were eating some of the not-so-healthy-for-you festival foods like, french fries and sausage we noticed people snapping photos of these white flowers.

Neither of us could figure out what they were. They were blooming at a Cherryblossom Festival. But, Okinawa doesn't have white cherryblossoms.

At first we thought, maybe, they were imported from mainland Japan and were Japanese Cherryblossoms. That didn't make sense, though.

Okinawa's Cherryblossoms need a cold snap of weather to start blooming. Japanese Cherryblossoms wait for the spring thaw to bloom.

The Cherry blosom season is just starting, in fact, only about 25% of the trees are in bloom right now. So, I'll be busy the next few weeks chasing the action at several festivals on Okinawa.

Yesterday was a good experience for me and taught me three very important things for the upcoming season.

1. Wildlife photographers should not take a zoom lens to document Cherryblossom Festivals.
2. Yakisoba would have been a better festival food to eat because fries and sausage are greasy.
3. The flowers in the last photo aren't Cherryblossoms, they are Plum Blossoms.

Now, we have Orchid, Violet, Azalea, Iris, Lilly and Cherryblossom (桜) Festivals on the island of Okinawa, Japan and probably a few more Flower Festivals I never heard of, like, Plum Blossoms.

Are there Flower Festivals in your neck of the woods, too?

VISIT MY HOMEPAGE FOR THE PHOTO OF THE DAY



RELATED POSTS:  CHERRY BLOSSOM OKINAWA, JAPAN

 DOC'S  BLOG :      PORTRAITS OF AN ISLAND PEOPLE

                                 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wildlife Photography Tip #6: Use Flash When You Have To

While I normally don't like to use flash in any outdoor photography, there is an exception. This shot was taken on a day in Okinawa, Japan where the skies went from blue to grey in a matter of seconds.

The bird, a Japanese White Eye landed among the Cherry blossoms and was in fairly horrible light.
He wasn't much more than 6 feet away from me, standing under the tree. I removed my lens hood, popped up the camera flash, focused and fired.

Camera flash doesn't phase wildlife. I was able to let the camera flash recharge and took several more shots of this bird before it flew away. Keep in mind, an on-camera flash isn't effective for shots more than 10-12 feet away from you.

Flash photography is not my preferred method but, a shot made with flash on wildlife is better than going home with no shot at all !



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lions, Ghosts and Photoshop

Here's a photo of the Stone Lion in Tomori Okinawa, Japan. Around this time last year my shooting sidekick, Doc, and I were working together on an article for Apogee Photo Magazine.

In order to put the story together, the way we wanted, a few things had to be done differently than any story we had ever done in the past. I don't like going to jail and Doc is a man of character.  So, I figured I'd better do everything sort of legally, this time around.

There was a snag we hit trying to get the US Library of Congress to let us publish a photo of theirs along with the article.

I heard somewhere, if you work for a living and irritate the US Congress you can get into big trouble.

They can make you pay more taxes and pay for other people's insurance policies, as well. Hah !

So, one of the tricks we used to keep things legal was had some SKETCHES made to simulate the original photo of the Tomori Stone Lion with Army guys hanging around while bullets were chipping away at it during the war.

Doc did all the keyboard banging and we sent the photos and sample sketches in to Apogee Photo.

Then, the editor at Apogee came up with an even better idea. Throw some GHOSTS in the photo with Photoshop and make it look exactly like it did 65 years ago. Yeah, baby. Let's do it.  Hah !



Now, I ain't sayin I believe in ghosts or anything like that but this image makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

I bet if I took you to see the Stone Lion in Tomori and handed you a copy of this photo, you'd be real careful walking over there to pet the lion because you might trip over a GHOST !

If you want to know more about the story and see a picture of me actually working check out THE TOMORI LION. If you like what you see over there hit it with a ThumbsUp for me.

Now, I'm not a big fan of Photoshop. I always tell people to learn how to shoot a camera right and you'll never need to Photoshop your pictures. If you want to be a digital artist that's cool.  Just buy Photoshop and all the trimmings and you won't have to waste all your money on camera stuff.

This was one of those rare exceptions because I can't think of any other way to get ghosts to sit next to a lion and pose for a photo without using Photoshop. Can you?

SEE THE PHOTO OF THE DAY HERE

UNESCO Shuri Castle in Okinawa, Japan (Photo)

When the light isn't right at a major tourist attraction, I've learned to look around and find out where the best light is available. If it happens to be behind me, I turn around and position myself where I can take home the best photo. The big stuff and all the people snapping horrible photos are behind me. Hey, they paid to get in so, they can do whatever is allowed, I suppose. I live here. I'll do the Castle right but, later.

Shuri-jo (Castle) is the number one tourist attraction on the island of Okinawa, Japan. A UNSECO World Heritage Site, it was the center of the Ryukyu Kingdom and remains the capitol of Okinawa, today. Shuri overlooks the city of Naha and its port on the East China Sea.

This photo was published in the article Five UNESCO Castles at BOOTSNALL and is my weekly submission for BUDGET TRAVELERS SANDBOX TRAVEL PHOTO THURSDAY


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Wet Puppy Kinda Day (Photo)


When the weather turns to crap on my island paradise my attitude takes a turn, too.

Well, the day before yesterday was one of those days. Freezing cold rain, the wind blowing down from North Korea or one of those other countries that don't like me and it made me mean.

When Siberian Huskies don't want to go out for a morning walk, humans should stay in bed.

But, being who I am, I went out. I wore three jackets on top of a flannel shirt.

An umbrella was out of the question; the wind would destroy it or I'd go flying.

So, me and my old bones walked and creaked over to the office.

About 10AM the store across the street opens and I ran over to buy some coffee.

There was a woman sitting on a beer crate in the corner. I got my coffee and paid the cashier.

The gal sitting on the crate, all bundled up in winter clothes asks me if I want a "Kawaii Puppy".

Kawaii, means "cute" in Japanese.

As politely as I could, in my limited Japanese vocabulary, I said "Hell no, I have too many kawaii puppies of my own, already"!

Well, apparently, I didn't hear her right. She just wanted to show me her kawaii puppy.

She had the little guy stuffed in her pocket.

So, I said "Kawaii" and grabbed my coffee and ran back across the street in the freezing rain.

Before I sat down it hit me. It was a crappy wet puppy kinda day outside.

The gal had stuffed her puppy in her pocket to keep it warm and dry.

She knew I liked dogs because everybody in the village (who doesn't know my name) calls me "The old man with the dogs".

The poor gal was just trying to be friendly and probably thought I was a grouch.

And I was. That wasn't the way I'd have talked on a sunny day.

So, I grabbed my cell phone and ran back across the street to ask if I could see the kawaii puppy one more time.

I patted him on the head and said "Good Boy" and asked if I could take his picture.

So, there you have it. This is what a warm and dry kawaii puppy looks like when somebody cares enough about them to stuff them in a pocket on a wet puppy kinda day.

VISIT MY WEBSITE TO VIEW THE PHOTO OF THE DAY.

Wildlife Photo (Bird) Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra)

Here is a close up shot taken of a Black Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) wading on the west coast of Okinawa, Japan at 3:10PM January 18, 2011.



These birds may be either black or white. It has nothing to do with whether they are male or female. The reason for the black or white morph is a puzzle to those who study these critters. 
I don't worry about it.  I just shoot pictures of them and stay out of the bird scientists business.

The Pacific Reef Egret  is a type of Heron and is also known as an Eastern Reef Egret. They wade along the coastline or perch on rocks nearby. They will dive for fish or eat crustaceans and mollusks when the tide is out.

The Black Egret is actually more of a charcoal grey color but, when they get wet, they appear to be a shiny black. To see a Black Pacific Reef Egret animated GIF's VISIT MY POST HERE.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wildlife Photo: (Turtle) Red-eared Slider and Teenage Mutant Ninja

The Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is a fresh water turtle, originally from the south of the USA but, they may found around the globe today. This one, I shot in a pond in Okinawa, Japan.

Once somebody started calling them the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES they became a hot commodity. Parents around the world just had to buy them for their children because they didn't want to take the time to explain the facts of life. Turtles don't know Karate. They don't even know which aliens they're supposed to be fighting. They just let people take them out of the ponds in South Carolina, or somewhere like that, and throw them on airplanes to foreign countries.

Well, here are a few facts I discovered about these critters today:
1. They can live to be about 40 years old.
2. They may carry Salmonella.
3. They breed under water for about 45 minutes but, really only go at it for 10 minutes or so.
4. Flushing them down the toilet proved to be a problem in the UK.
5. Australia banned them: $100,000 fine or five years in jail is what one could cost you.

Red-eared Slider Turtles, listen to me: THE PEOPLE SELLING YOU ARE THE ALIENS !


RELATED POST: WHICH TURTLE IS THE DUDE ?

See the PHOTO OF THE DAY HERE

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chinese Racing Pigeons and Sarah Palin Shoots Caribou

The news drifts over to Okinawa a bit late so, this might be old news to some folks but, I just thought maybe you'd like to hear my spin on it.

It appears the Chinese aren't all the poor, starving, straw cone hat wearing characters you might see  in cartoons or in travel photos and geography magazines.

You know, like cultivating tea plants, riding water buffalos or boats they call junks, those kind of pictures. Heck no. 
Some of these people have enough saved up to spend $205,000 on one pigeon from Belgium !

It's all verified through many sources, by me, with spasmodic internet service.

Sarah Palin, hah, the search engines are full of stuff about her shooting mooses and caribou.  I would have downloaded some videos for you but, that might offend some people so, if you really want to see them, help yourself or maybe you can just turn your TV on and catch one of her episodes.

Now, I'm not really a political type person. I stay away from politics and all their parties and just watch to see what happens.

That Sarah, she's kinda cute and doesn't act all stuffy and educated when she talks. Any gal who can look down the bore and shoot a moose is alright,  in my opinion, as long as she guts it, drags it outa the woods, loads it on the truck and brings it home to cook and eat. And if she can make some kinda hat rack or hood ornament outa the horns, tan the hide and reupholster the truck seats or the sofa, maybe make drapes, shower curtains or blankets with it, that'd be cool.

But, if she shoots the critters to prove she's just a regular guy, that's wrong. It's even scary, huh?

Remember when she was trying to be the #2 man in the USA ?  She said from where she lives, she can see the Russians coming. They must get the news late up in Alaska, too. Nobody told her, the Russians are supposed to be our friends these days.

Some people think Sarah Palin might try to run for President, next time around. Before it gets too serious somebody better go check her out. Find out which window she stands watch at, up there.

Get her a high powered spotting scope and some rocket launchers. Tell her to quit worrying about caribou and moose control and let her know the Russians are no problem, anymore.

Get a crew to pick up her cabin and turn the window towards China. She'll be the first one to spot the Chinese Racing Pigeons coming over.  That should keep her busy.  We can find a real man to do the silly presidential stuff !

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wildlife Photo (Bird) Coot (Fulica atra)


The Coot pictured here has also been called a Common Coot or Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) and is another migratory visitor to Okinawa, Japan during the winter months. These birds aren't found in salt water. They live fresh near fresh water sources like ponds, reservoirs and lakes.Their diet, when in the water could be anything live that's small enough to catch and swallow. They eat algae and plants and may even gobble down another bird's eggs. On shore, in marshlands, seeds and fruits round off their diet.

These Coots got their name in the Oxford English Dictionary way back in 1430.  That's because of the white patch that stands out on their head reminded somebody of a guy going bald. So, I learned something new today at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Coot.  The Brits coined the phrase "as bald as a coot" before the American English Dictionary was ever invented.

Now, I was gonna do some more research on American Coots but, internet service is a little shaky today.  It seems to me American, Australian, Eurasian and Common Coots all look and act pretty much the same.  And depending on which authorities you want to believe, these guys have been spotted visiting some countries that aren't exactly in their normal migration patterns. Like, some American Coots went to places in Europe and Tasmania couple of times. I wonder what they were smoking?  Not the birds, I mean the birdwatchers. 

This whole Coot business has me confused. I'll have to dig deeper when the WWW is cooperating.  It sure looks to me like Fulica atra (Eurasian Coot) and Fulica americana (American Coot) could be the same bird and there's just a buncha sore looser scientists still fighting that war America and England had a couple of centuries ago. I don't see the Australians claiming their Coots are Fulica australianas.

What research I did get done gave me an idea though. I bet nobody ever thought of opening a bar and grill, having all the staff wear black T-shirts and long-billed, white baseball caps and naming the place KOOTERS !

THE PHOTO OF THE DAY

Throne Makeover (DIY) and The Dancing Queen (Photo Essay)



Angry Queen Bee was converted to DANCING QUEEN  by doing a Throne Makeover. This Photo Essay will give you instructions on how to replace a broken, cracked, faded or warped toilet seat lid. This Do It Yourself (DIY) can be done without you having to look at Joe the plumber or any of his friends. Most countries have no license requirements for Throne Makeovers so, you shoudn't need to run down to the city office and buy a building permit.

HERE'S HOW I GOT STARTED IN THIS BUSINESS:

About two weeks ago, this guy walks into the bar and says "Hey, Mike, can you use a brand new toilet seat"? 

He had liberated a brand new toilet seat from somewhere, for whatever reason and I guess he was cleaning out his garage to make room for more treasures.
Or, it could have been his Queen Bee thought it was kind of a tacky thing to use as a frame for their wedding pictures and told him to get rid of it.  You know how women are about stuff like that.

Anyway, I'm lookin' at the guy like he's high on something. What? Why?  "No, I don't need any toilet seats today. Now do you need a beer or something"? 
"Nope, he says.  I just thought maybe you needed it. Its practically brand new.  I can't stay and have a beer. I'm walking my dog and left her hitched-up outside."

Well, my Queen Bee had heard the conversation.  Just as the guy turns to go back out the door she says, "Yes, we need a toilet seat in the lady's room."  You know how women know stuff like that. 

Ten minutes doesn't go by and I have a brand new toilet seat delivered to the bar. Groan.


Some unknown force had cracked the front edge of the throne so, the Queen used duct tape or double-sided carpet tape, whatever, to repair it.  How long has it been that way?  It may have been a few weeks, months, or even years. I haven't had any reason to use the Lady's crapper and nobody ever complained to me about it being broken.

In the Okinawan culture duct tape fixes everything. Leaky pipes, electrical shorts, screen doors and autobody parts with holes poked in them, leaky roofs, runs in nylons, antenna and satellite dishes and broken windows or bones, whatever needs fixin' an Okinawan can handle it, just give them a roll of tape and get out of the way. It'll get fixed.

When the new throne seat showed up, the Queen proudly displayed it behind the bar.  I told her to put the thing away somewhere and I'd fix the crapper, sometime when the bar was closed.

So, she stuffed it in a cabinet behind the bar and I forgot about it until last week.

The landlord came in one night. He was all dressed up in a suit, pleasantly inebriated, smiling, singing and buying everybody drinks. In the past ten years, I don't think I've ever seen him that happy.  It was all good.  Everyone was having fun until the broken throne seat came up again.

The wife starts telling the landlord he has to fix the toilet in the lady's room. I wouldn't even have known what the conversation was about if I hadn't seen the Queen reach down and pull the new throne seat out of the cabinet to show the landlord.

And, you should've seen the frown on the poor guy's face as he's asking, "What's wrong with the women's toilet seat that's in there now"? 

The wife goes on about where the thing is cracked. She mimicks a knucklehead wrapping tape around the lip of the throne.  Then, starts goin off about how lady customers complain that their fur gets caught on the tape.

The Archie Bunker Syndrome kicked in.  Somehow, I had to get her to Stifle herself .

So, I told the Queen Bee, "Please, leave the poor guy alone.  I'll fix the throne in the lady's room.  Leave the new crapper lid out where everbody can see it.  Leave it where I'll trip over it, if you want to.  I'll fix the thing first thing in the morning.  I really don't think the landlord needs to hear any more about people's fur getting stuck on the tape you wrapped around the lady's throne"!


Displayed above, to give you an idea what the mechanical parts of the contraption look like,  are the two nuts and bolts you will have to conquer. One for the left side and the other for the right side of the throne. The top of the bolts may be tackled with a wrench or a screwdriver, depending upon the where they were made. Mine had slots for a screwdriver. The plastic nuts on the bottom, I was able to twist on and off by hand; no tools required. 

But, if you have a real antique throne, you may run across all metal components.  That would require some wrenches and, maybe some penetrating oil.



Only a true commode hugger who just woke up, or plumber lying on his back would recognize this photo. I shot this with my cell phone just to give you an idea what it looks like under there.
There's really no need to lay down on the floor now that you've seen this. The nut is twisted up on to the bolt. The bolt was inserted through the china portion of the bowl from up above.

So, all you have to do is squat or kneel in front of the throne and reach up to find the nut and bolt. Twist the nut counterclockwise to remove it.  Twist it clockwise to tighten it up. Some people remember the expression "Righty Tighty, Lefty Lucy (loose)". 

If this instruction is too confusing, just practice watching the way the nuts and bolts screw on and off the new throne lid you bought and, soon enough, you'll be able to do it blindfolded !



Here's the Queen's almost-like-brand-new, madeover throne. Total Labor: About 10 minutes.

The colors don't match.  Hey, did I say I was an interior decorator ?  Total Cost: FREE !


Pretty much a supporter of all things green, I didn't want to see anything winding up in the landfill so, I saved all the old hardware and the lid from the queen's broken throne; never know when they might come in handy. 

Then, I took a marking pen and wrote some words on the old, cracked throne seat. It was payday for all the Americans from the base nearby.  I waited until it started getting dark outside.  Then, I walked across the street and hung it on a fencepost where the lights from an American-style bar shined on it. 

When I came back in this morning, I saw,  SOME REDNECK STOLE THE DANG THING !

The way I look at it, things turned out pretty good last night. My Throne Makeover got the Angry Queen Bee off the landlord's back, plus a whole swarm of queens and a few princesses showed up singing and drinking until the wee hours of the morning.

When my Dancing Queen gets in just the right mood, she puts a full bottle of sake on her head and can do some kinda Okinawan boot scootin boogie without spillin a drop.

I guess I should do DIY stuff around this place a little more often.





Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wildlife Photo (Bird) Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) in Flight

The Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) aka Curlew breeds in subarctic climates of Asia, Europe and North America and Mr Wikipedia tells me, even as far down south as Scotland.

Sometimes, I like to double check my bird sources so, we'll have to verify that with one of the EXPERTS over there who seems to have his feet on the ground (most days) and knows what's going on everywhere in Scotland. After he sees this photo, if he says he saw Whimbrels in Scotland, you can believe it's the truth because he has sharp eyes and when he writes something he calls it exactly the way he sees it.

He even knows what the Queen is thinking when she sits next to this Army guy wearing a skirt.  The dude was like a Colonel, or something and get this, he FORGETS TO PUT ON HIS UNDERPANTS!  Is he, Wee Willie Wikileaker?

Now, back to the birds who really fly. These Whimbrels only visit Okinawa in the winter. They hang around in shallow water along the shore and poke their crooked noses in mud, sand and cracks in rocks and eat little shells, crabs and whatever else they can find. It's fairly easy to shoot them when they're on the ground. But, when they decide to fly they are faster than a bat outa Scotland.

So, there's two questions I'd like to ask my contact in Scotland. First, do you have any Whimbrels there?
And, I was wondering if you guys let women be Colonels in that Army outfit; just outta curiosity !


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Okukubi River Ecotour: Travel Photo Thursday




Here is a photo I had plenty of time to compose.  I was standing on the bridge crossing the Okukubi River. The kayakers, on an ecotour paddled towards me from the opposite direction.  They would pass directly under me to get to the mangroves the tour guide was taking them to see.

As they approached, I pointed at my camera and flipped them the OK sign. That's kind of my informal way of asking, "Mind if I take your picture?"  They flipped the OK sign back at me, smiled, and nodded in the affirmative.

That's great but, I didn't want photos of a buncha giggling tourists paddling boats and flipping me the peace sign so, I waited for them to pass under the bridge and start acting naturally.

Ecotourism can be a good thing, I think.  It's an industry that can educate people, bring them closer to nature and help the economy in places where there is no real economy to speak of. 

Some folks in the travel industry use the buzz word "Ecotourism" to fill up their bank accounts, pollute remote corners of the earth and destroy or disturb nature and wildlife.  That's a bad thing.

The Okukubi River is in my hometown Kin Cho Kin Okinawa, Japan.  You can get a free tour of the area. I'll take you there. We can stand on the bridge exactly where I was when I took this photo and shoot some more.  All I ask in return is a small favor.

If we see any Ecotourists acting irresponsibly would you mind helping me flip them some birds ?

This is my weekly contribution for Budget Travelers Sandbox TRAVEL PHOTO THURSDAY