Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year of the Rabbit 2011 (Photo) Okinawa: An Insider's Tip

Here it is, New Years Eve, where I'm at anyway. I guarantee in the next few days I'll get tons of emails wishing me a Happy New Year. I know because I do the same thing as soon as Christmas is over. I start telling everybody to have a Happy and Prosperous New Year, right on through the first week of January. We all do it and it's a good thing. It sure beats talking about the weather.

The Year of the Rabbit is 2011 so, I dug up this photo that I shot back in 2007 to show you what a rabbit looks like in the wild, at night, with camera flash. That's if you don't want to use red-eye reduction on your camera or in editing afterwards. Some people I know will have eyes like this when the wake up New Years Day after a night of celebrating. In Okinawa, we have New Years twice!

The Western, Gregorian, Christian, whatever you want to call it, calendar that a lot of the rest of the world uses, is used in Japan, too. Even in Okinawa we have the Western calendar and celebrate the New Year like folks in the western world. The New Year will start January 1st and people will be popping champagne bottles, kissing strangers on the lips and singing Auld Lang Syne in Japanese in my bar tonight. And they'll be running around with hangovers for the next three days visiting temples to try and have good luck in the Year of the Rabbit, 2011.

It's good for business. People are already buying rabbit jewelry, bunny footed pajamas and slippers and probably wedding gowns with rabbits sewed on them. Some of them even buy pet rabbits for their kids. Then, when they get tired of abusing them, turn them loose, like the one in the photo above. That's no wild rabbit. He's a rabbit turned loose in the wild; a feral rabbit, I guess.

Here's a tip from an old Insider. According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2010 the Year of the Tiger, doesn't end December 31st 2010. The Year of the Rabbit starts on February 3, 2011.  That'd make New Years Eve the 2d of February according to my calculations.

Not one to put a damper on everyone's holiday celabrations I'm going to dig up that Auld Lang Syne music, buy some bottles of champagne and wash the wine glasses for tonight.

What the heck, I may as well trim the beard, get all spruced up and wear my Sunday best for the New Years Party. Even if some good lookin' stranger-gal doesn't run up and kiss me on the lips, it could be my dressed rehersal for the 2011 Year of the Rabbit New Years Eve Party in February!



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wildlife Photo (Ocean) Manta Ray (Manta birostris)

ocean, Manta Ray

My shootin' partner, Doc was the wildlife spotter extraordinaire on yesterday's shoot. Usually, I'm the guy who spots or sniffs out the critters first. Not on our most recent excursion, though, Doc was sharper than Daniel Boone. Maybe it's from being cooped up in his house too long.

He spotted the first bird, a Grey Heron, which you won't get to see here, today. Then, a few minutes later he hollered out something that sounded like "Holy carp, look!  It's a Mantra"!

Well, at first, I thought he was babbling about some kinda Hindu stuff.  Like, it was lunchtime or something and he was trying to drop a subtle hint to get me to quit shooting birds.  But, when I looked over at him, he wasn't pointing at his watch.  He was pointing at this humongous black thing swimming just over the seawall from us.  There it was, a Manta in the wild, swimming away.

Now, scuba divers and snorklers may see these all the time but, I've never seen one before in my life. Doc, he's seen them in an aquarium but, never in the wild.  So, now I'm researching because I really don't know much about these critters. If I'd have spotted it first I probably would've yelled:


So far, though I've learned these Manta Rays aren't all that dangerous. They even have some in the aquarium up where Doc lives, in Motobu Okinawa. The first two born in captivity were born there. They call the little ones "Pups".  And Scientists watch the big ones mate.  What's wrong with these people?  Maybe they don't have the internet hooked-up there yet, ya think?

If you want to learn more about Manta Rays (Manta birostris) check with Wikipedia and the Encylopedia Britannica. That's what I do. Don't trust just anybody with a blog because they copy and paste the stuff from the experts and just make believe they're smarter than the rest of us.

Then, if you like what you see give them guys some money, $20 or something.  They're asking for donations and I'd rather see you give your cash to somebody who knows how to spend it on stuff that's important, like wildlife.  At least, they ask you for a donation to help a good cause.

It isn't like they're Prime Ministers, Presidents, Dictators or Emperors who just take your money and spend it on whatever they feel like.  Call it your "mantra" if you like.  That comes from my research, too.  Hindu and Buddhist folks have mantras that are some kinda spiritual things to make the world a better place.  Maybe we should leave all the wildlife Mantas in the ocean alone and get some mantras in our hearts and heads.  I know the world could be a better place if we all gave it a chance.


Visit my WEBSITE to see more of Okinawa

Photography Tip: Shoot a Sketch and Five Reasons Why

Here's a Photography Tip I discovered by accident and it has saved they day for me on more than one occassion. So, I'll give you five reasons why I shoot sketches and hope one of them saves your day sometime, too. Shoot a Sketch. Once you shoot a sketch, it becomes a photo. You and the sketch artist own the copyright and you treat it just the same as any other photo you've taken.

Here are three of my munchkin Grand kids doing pencil sketches of an important event for me.
They are using photos I took of someone else's photos as models for their sketches. I have no right to use those photos because I am not the original artist. Not a problem. Grand kids, hah, I have plenty of them. They need stuff to keep their little hands out of the cookie jar. Sketch!

Here's an old US ARMY photo taken during the Battle of Okinawa. I needed it for a magazine article. The ARMY keeps this stuff on file somewhere in the Library of Congress,  in the USA.

I've been trying to get permission to use this photo for over a year. Congress has more important stuff to do, like raising taxes and spending more money so, they don't have time to help me do what I think is important. I don't vote for those suckers. I just work and pay their silly little taxes.

There was a deadline for this magazine back in January 2010. Well, the Grandkids got drafted for sketching, again. But, I wasn't getting the desired effect from their sketches, this time. So, I let them put the pencils down and go eat cookies. I had a better plan. Go pay a real sketch artist.

Look real close at the lower right corner. There's his copyright. He got ten bucks and I got the sketch to do with as I pleased. Now, we're both published artists at APOGEE PHOTO 2010.

One of my Grandsons got this sketch published at GO NOMAD in November of 2009.

And another Grandson hit print at MATADOR TRIPS September of 2009 with this sketch.

Five Reasons to Shoot a Sketch:
1. It gives little munchkins something to do on a rainy day besides eating all your cookies.
2. It gives sketch artists a place to get their work recognized.
3. It is a way to get around copyright violations.
4. It eliminates the need for a Model Release.
5. It can help make up for a really, really bad CAMERA DAY.

Have you ever thought of using sketches in your photography?

Visit here to see where else I have been PUBLISHED.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Year in Photos: Okinawa, Japan 2010

A photo a month taken on the Island of Okinawa by Ryukyu Mike during the year 2010. Enjoy !

 January: The first location in all of Japan to see Cherryblossoms bloom is the island of Okinawa.

February: A Buddha Statue in the Bonsai Gardens behind the Gold Hall Cafe in Kin Village.

March: A Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) along a riverbank in Kin Village.

April: Kin Village Elementary School Graduation. Ouch, my Granddaughter is a teenager, now !

May: The sun broke out over a pineapple field in Nago. During rainy season, this was a rarity.

June: A King Cobra's hindsite is as good as most people's at Okinawa World's Snake Park.

July: A view of the northernmost point on Okinawa taken from the cliffs above Hedo Point.

August: A Festival known as Unjami dedicated to the gods of the sea in Ogimi Okinawa.

September: Paper lanterns at a Full Moon Festival in Kin Village Okinawa.

October: Students perform the Eisa Dance at an Undokai (Sports Day) Kin Village Okinawa.

November: A Black-backed Wagtail (Motacilla lugens) at Kin Red Beach in Okinawa.

December: An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in flight over the west coast of Okinawa, Japan.

This is just a small sample to give you an idea of the places I've been and scenes  I try to capture with my camera during the course of a year. Many of the critter, culture, castle, festival and scenic shots I've taken throughout the year 2010 are waiting to be uploaded or are on hold pending publication.

Have a Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Japanese Karaoke: An Insider's History of Evolution

Photo from the original article Matador Abroad Singing Karaoke in Japan Published: May 2009

Here’s a brief history of the evolution of Karaoke and Ryukyu Mike in Japan. This article was first published at Matador Abroad in May 2009. Karaoke has evolved from cassettes to laser disks and on into digital media; it is piped through telephone lines, directly into the amplifiers and updated continuously. I’ve evolved, too, only not quite as rapidly, living in Japan. Here’s the latest version.
The Jack Daniels is up there on the shelf (cropped out of the photo) and quit staring at my Niece!

Way back before Karaoke hit the Western world, where it somehow turned into Carry-O-Key, there weren’t 5 or 6 monitors mounted on the walls of the bars. There were no videos accompanying the music and no words streaming across the bottom of the screen. There was no TV in the bar; they were in peoples houses. Bars were for drinking and singing. TV’s were for watching the news, cartoons, soap operas and cooking classes.

On a 17 year stint of bachelorhood, between wives number two and three I found myself doing a lot of bar-hopping. At some point during the night, wherever I was, I’d be asked to sing karaoke by whichever charming hostess I was buying drinks for at the time. “Nah, I don’t sing” was my standard answer and if they kept bugging me, I’d leave, find another bar and fall in love with a different hostess; one who could drink Jack on the Rocks, with me and not be a pain in the neck.

Karaoke, back in those days, consisted of a cassette player, microphone and a book (about the size of a bible); you know that thick book hotels leave on coffee tables.  Oh, yeah, and the really big karaoke bars had a scoreboard, a big, black board with bright LED numbers. An applause meter would give each singer a score based on how much noise the crowd made when the song was over.

Just about every karaoke-joint had the same three songs in English, My Way, Sixteen Tons and You Are My Sunshine. Even if I knew how to sing, none of them would have been on my top-ten list. Hell, I got kicked out of Boy’s Choir for skipping practice; what was I supposed to know about singing?

Well, one night I hit this bar with dozens of pretty hostesses and just the right amount of Jack Daniels in me to give it a try. I’d heard enough Japanese businessmen screw-up My Way, I figured, I couldn’t do any worse. Probably no one in the place knew enough English to understand me, anyway, so, what the heck, when a gal asked me if I could sing, I’d give it my best shot.

Sure enough, before I could finish my first drink, a hostess asked me to sing.

“OK, let me try My Way, I told her”.

I stumbled and fumbled through the song, squinting at the book and trying to make noises along with the music. Frank Sinatra probably rolled over in his grave (or hospital bed, not sure where he was at the time) a few times.

Even, half-plastered, I was self conscious; sweat was dripping off my forehead. The song seemed like it was around two hours long. I belted down the last “my way” nice and loud, set the mike down on the counter, slammed the rest of my drink and looked for the door, in case I had to make a quick exit.

The crowd went wild, the applause meter hit “98”and the owner of the bar brought over a bottle of whiskey half as tall as the girl sitting next to me; my prize for the highest score that night. I shared the bottle with everyone and soon we were all singing Sixteen Tons and You Are My Sunshine.

Now, I’m a karaokeholic and even own a Karaoke Bar.

Jack, I don’t do that anymore. It’s good cold medicine but, Theraflu is probably better for you.

Theraflu doesn’t make you climb trees, buy strange girls drinks or sing karaoke in Japan!

The way things look today. This is what the back of my office/photo-studio/karaoke bar looks like.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa's Cell Phone Top Five Photos

Here are the Top Five Photos downloaded from Santa's cell phone. Internet service has been on and off the past few days so, this will be brief. You'll have to use your imagination on the lines between each photo because I might not put anything in there.

These photos were all taken with my cell phone but, not neccessarily by anyone who knew how to use it and a few of them  may have been under the influence of something.

Due to unforseen circumstances the children's party I normally do my Santa gig at was cancelled.
So, this was my first real live performance this year.

The next scheduled event for Santa is January 2, 2011. It will be a New Years/Christmas Party all rolled into one. There will be a frazillion kids of all ages there so, I probably won't bring a camera.

Did you catch any pictures of Santa with your cell phone this Christmas?

LINK TO THIS POST: How I Became Santa Forever

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wildlife Photo (Bird) Japanese White Eye (Zosterops japonicus)

Here it is Christmas morning and instead of posting a Frosty the Snowman for everyone to see, I'm giving you a bird in a blossoming cherry tree. Did Santa have a little bit too much eggnog?

Not really.  Here in Okinawa we don't get any snow. That's something the folks up in northern Japan do. Down south, where I live, the coldest weather makes the cherryblossoms (桜) come out.

We don't have the same kind of cherry trees you see in Japan and Washington, DC.  Our cherry trees come from Taiwan. It takes a good cold snap of wintery weather to make them sprout the little red buds that blossom. And they get cherryblossoms before they ever sprout leaves.

The Japanese White Eyes love cherryblossoms. Being a wildlife photographer and a nature-lover, I guess you could say I love cherryblossoms, too.  As much as I dislike  cold weather, I'm looking forward to that freezing cold day when it wakes up the naked cherry tree branches and the little red buds start popping out all over. It'll be just as pretty as the lights on your Christmas tree.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Investigative Report: Santa Girl (Photo)

This was going to be a long investigative report on the Santa Girl Photo, so I could prove to you that she really exists.

But, gremlins or somebody decided to slow the WWW  way down today, at least in Japan, where I launched this investigation.

So, I'm going to make this quick and let you do some investigating, on your own, when things get boring between Christmas Day and the New Year.

Normally an investigation of this sort consists of Facts, Findings, Opinions, Conclusions, Recommendations and a whole bunch of other Legal Terms that give investigative people headaches and nightmares.

And that's why I don't usually do the stuff anymore.
But, this Santa Girl got me wondering if there was really such a thing.

Like, is she a real person or just a character? 

To determine the truth would require a thorough, legal-like, full-blown investigation. So, by golly, that's what I set off to do. I'm going to give you what I've found, so far, and let you make up your own Facts, Findings, Opinions and Conclusions on this investigation after you look at what I found HERE.

From what I've been able to gather, up until this point in time; the Santa Girl is a real-live person, living somewhere in Romania. I'm leaning towards making a Recommendation, with only part of a thorough Investigative Report completed.

Here's what I recommend:

Get rid of the old, fat, hairy Santa. Everybody already knows he can't actually slide down a chimney. He scares little kids and they cry and wet his pants.

Let's have a real-live Santa Girl like the one in the photo..... END OF REPORT.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One of These is Not Like the Rest (Photo)

It all depends on how you look at it, I guess. Either, none of these is like the other or, one of these is not like the rest.

It's a busy time of the year and Santa has lots of important stuff to do.

So, grab the kids, stick them in front of your computer. Make sure they don't have any hot chocolate or sticky candy canes, just a pen and paper. Put the keyboard and mouse out of reach.

Then, after you fasten their seat belts, have them write a 500 word essay about what they see in this photo.

Santa has important stuff to do.  MERRY CHRISTMAS !


See the Photo of the Day HERE

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Austerity: Some Things Take Balls (Photo)

That's right. Some things take balls. Like, let's call "Austerity" the Word of the Year. I like that idea !

Visit my Website Homepage to see The Daily Photo

Monday, December 20, 2010

Readers Choice: My Top Ten Photo Blogs of 2010

Here are the Top Ten Blogs and a sampling of the photos that were posted along with them in 2010 right here at Mike's Ryukyu Gallery. They are the reader's choice based upon the amount of views my Google analytics gave me.

All I do is take the photos and ramble about how I shot them. I try to share some of the story behind the shot whether it's in the form of tips and tricks, a sight or festival I stumbled upon, a critter in the wild or something that fits in the Rants, Raves or Humor Department and I happen to have a photo to squeeze in along with it.

It's the readers who read, googlers who Google, yahooers who Yahoo and followers who keep following and coming back here looking at my photos or reading my blog who make the numbers keep going up. I have no control over that once I hit the Publish Button. I thank you all. In popularity order, Here it is:

 Number 1. Photography Tip: JPG vs RAW                                              
 VIEWS: 4,181

Number 2. Okinawa's Guinness TUG-O-WAR                                 
VIEWS: 3,322

Number 3. Wildlife Photo: Osprey in Flight                                    
VIEWS: 2,385

Number 4. World Water Day Photo                                                
VIEWS: 1,598

Number 5. Blue Rockthrush Preps for a Date                                   
Views: 1,529

Number 6. Photography Tip: Going Wide-Angle                          
VIEWS: 1,405

Number 7. Wildlife Photo: Common Kingfisher                                   
VIEWS: 1,379

Number 8. Photography Tip: The Rule of Thirds                              
VIEWS: 1,209

Number 9. Photography Tip: Reaction Time                                       
VIEWS: 1,157

Number 10. Photography Tip: Learn How to Buy a Digital Camera
VIEWS: 1.007

Readers, this is really your Top Ten list of Photo Blogs because you are who makes any, one post more popular than another. I thank you for helping me to decide what you like and for the encouragement it takes to keep me going. I'll keep posting tips, wildlife, festivals and rant, rave and try to sprinkle a little humor along with my photos on through the next year if you'll keep coming back to visit me. Thanks, again.


Wildlife Photo (Osprey) You Lookin' at Me?

Photo taken in Okinawa, Japan Dec 18, 2010 at noon using a Pentax K10D and 18-250mm lens.

See more wildlife of Okinawa in my WEBSITE GALLERY

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday's Photos: Birds and Pottery

What a day Saturday turned out to be in Okinawa, Japan. It started off with Doc, my shooting buddy and I going to some Pottery Fair to shoot photos. It was a bit chilly and windy outside so I figured, OK.

I'll just take my short lens and tripod, go along with Doc and pretend I'm having a good time. So, that's what I did.


Only, when Doc wasn't lookin', before we even got to the pottery, I shot a bird (Photo) and you'll get to see that later. Our mission was to shoot pottery and that's exactly what we did.

See, I shot some cups. These aren't your average cup, though. These babies are handmade, hand-painted, fired in a woodburning kiln, red clay, glazed, I'm not sure, microwave-safe, works of art called Yachimun, cups. They're made in a town named Yomitan.

In Japan, sometimes, people get so good at artwork like this, the government designates them Living National Treasures !


So, I went around shooting the pottery very carefully, setting up my tripod and camera, excusing myself, being polite, asking for permission to move some pieces, sometimes, and just acting like I was a professional cameraman, doing important stuff. Folks were really nice to me and let me do pretty much whatever I wanted. They probably thought I was enjoying my work but, the truth is: Pottery shooting, just doesn't turn me on. I'd rather be somewhere else shooting birds. So, after about 35 shots of Yachimun, cups, bowls, tea pots, plates, sake flasks and some I-have-no-idea what the other stuff was, I said "Doc, let's go shoot birds".

birds,egret,Pacific reef

We found a spot along the East China Sea where the birds could use an Air Traffic Controller there were so many of them.  Well, not really, I wouldn't want to see an Air Traffic Controller here because they'd have airplanes flying into the birds and be landing the planes in the rivers, so pilots could become heros for not blowing their horns and telling the birds to get out of the way.

bird,grey heron, flying

The weather warmed up a little, the sun was shining and the tide was just right for all kinds of birds to be out flying and fishing. The only thing that could have made it a better day would have been me bringing along the 500mm lens. It really didn't matter, though, I was out where I belong and doing what I like to do.


These guys put on a great show for me. and I had the best day of the whole month, so far, just being there watching them. I filled up a couple of Gigabytes of SD cards and when I got home, downloaded and started processing them. I haven't even put a dent in the pile of photos yet. But, I was up until 3AM trying.

bird,osprey in flight,wildlife,nature

Now, I really have nothing against pottery.  It's all good stuff.  But, give me a choice and I'd rather spend the day outside at the beach, in the jungles or up in the mountains with my camera.  That's what I do.
I think all wildlife should be declared National Treasures, not just in Japan; everywhere.  That's right.

Here's Saturday's Photo Count:  BIRDS  535        POTTERY: 35

Where would you prefer to spend your Saturdays with the birds or looking at pottery?