Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Photography Tip: Woodgrain and How To Grab It With Your Camera

Get the woodgrain to stand out.

Whether it’s an old barn, wooden pier, deck, row of houses or something like the abandoned boat it the photo shown here, there are a few tricks you can employ to make the grain in the wood stand out.

Watch the lighting.

In this photo, the sun was shining from off to the right; you can see the shadow from the tree. Maximum texture is seen when you use what’s called 90 degree side-lighting. The board at the highest point on the bow of the boat shows the most texture. The 90 degrees is the angle you’d form if you drew a line from the camera to the subject and another, from the subject to the light source. Notice, the texture in the wood grain isn’t as pronounced as you look towards the right side of the picture. Had the sun been directly behind me or had I used camera flash, there would be no texture visible in the photo.

                         Aperture settings on the camera have an impact as well.

This photo was shot at an aperture of f/11 with the intention of having as much wood grain stand-out in the frame as possible. Had I used an aperture of f/2.8 or 3.5, I would have lost texture in the outer edge of the photo, even though it would be sharp at the spot I focused on.

                                            Steady the camera to eliminate shake.

In this instance, I used a tripod but, there are other methods you can use to obtain just as sharp a photo. In fact, the day I shot this, it was windy and just the movement of my camera strap in the breeze was shaking the camera. You wrap it around your neck, hold it steady with your hand and use your body to shield the camera from the wind. Not having a tripod, anything you can find to make sure there is absolutely no movement will work. The roof of a car, a fencepost, a wall, guardrail or the limb of a tree can be suitable substitutes.

                                              Don't touch that shutter button!

Once you have moved around the subject to get the best possible directional lighting, determined which aperture settings you’ll use for maximum texture on the wood grain and composed a postcard-perfect photo to show your friends, don’t screw it up by snapping the shot. Set your camera timer for ten seconds or use a remote. The little bit of motion caused by pushing that shutter button could ruin your masterpiece.

BetterPhoto.com, The better way to learn photography

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Look at What I Stumbled Upon !


This is a scene I literally stumbled upon around 1PM yesterday afternoon.

Months of preparations, visits to the remote location, translators helping, interviews with the locals, researching online, nothing prepared me for this.

Saturday night we drove to the village of Ogimi. We scouted out the area in the rain as the sun was going down.

In a little Mom and Pop store I found sake. I asked the woman at the checkout which was the most popular with the locals and bought a bottle.

We asked about the village office and discovered it was still open. We got a ride there in an air-conditioned van. It was quite a distance away and I'm glad we didn't have to walk in the rain.

My translator met with some officials. She gave them the sake and they put it on the table with the sake and beer they were drinking.

Real nice folks, they shared some drinks with us while we asked lots of questions about the events that would take place Sunday. The Unjami is a Festival held only once a year. I like to know what's going to take place and where so I can get the best photos possible when it happens.

We camped out under a bridge right alongside the ocean. The place had a great breeze and felt better than air-conditioning when I'd been there before.

It rained on and off all night long. It was dry under the bridge but I almost froze to death. It was cold.

I cat-napped on and off all night long. It rained on and off all night long.

It was good to see the sun come up. I wanted it to get back up in the 90's like it usually does. I like it hot even if I do cuss the heat occassionally, I'd rather be hot than cold.

It warmed up pretty well after sunrise but, still rained on and off through the morning.

We had three seperate districts to visit in the village to catch all the festival events.

It was pretty much a gaggle of photographers stumbling over each other at every event I went to throughout the day.

A mad dash here, rush to get there and set up a camera to shoot from the best location. Then, just when you think you're all set, another dozen idiots with cameras show up. And they screw up your preparations. You move, adjust and recompose. And another dozen idiots show up.

Then there was a mad dash back towards town where the main event would take place in a harbor.

No parking was available. Streets were blocked off. No problem, we drove back to the outskirts of town. We'd park under the bridge where we slept and walk back into town.

That's when I stumbled upon this scene. No other photographers were there.

To be continued.....

BetterPhoto.com, The better way to learn photography

Friday, August 27, 2010

Drinking and Driving in Japan: An Insider's Tips

Don't Drink And Drive. Don't Ride With A Drinker, Either!

If you happen to be out drinking alcoholic beverages with your friends and one of them is driving, grab a taxi for yourself and your friend. One or two drinks is all it takes to get you a ride to the slammer. Recently updated laws now hold passengers in a vehicle responsible for the drinking driver's conduct (or should I say misconduct?). So even if you were not drinking, but were hitching a ride with someone who was, you can be sent to jail for three years and fined about $50,000 as an accomplice to their crime.

Taxi fare is much cheaper. Even better than a cab, there's a service called Daiko, where a team takes your car and drives it home for you. Both you and your automobile are deposited, safely at home and you don’t have to worry about getting arrested or trying to figure out where your ride went the next day.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cycling in Japan: An Insider's Tips


If you choose to get around in Japan on a bicycle, remember to obey all the rules of the road, just as if you were driving a car. That means driving on the left side of the road, stopping at stoplights, and so on.

 Riding your bike on the sidewalks is prohibited except for persons under 12 or over 70.

 Always use caution when driving near parked cars. Many accidents with bicycles and motorcycles are caused when a cyclist collides with an opening car door!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lost and Found in Japan: An Insider's Tip


Lost and Found:

My teenage son and I once found a wallet in a parking lot in Okinawa, Japan. It contained a young Japanese girl's ID and money, so we did the right thing. We took it to the local police station.

Every policeman in the station counted the amount of money in the wallet and made me watch to confirm that it was the correct amount before putting it back inside.

The shift changed at the police station while we were there so, of course, the counting and verifying of every piece of change had to be done by every cop in the station, again. They'd write down the quantity and amount of each coin and bill, have me initial each column on the form and watch as they placed each item back in the wallet. Then, I'd sign my full name and they'd stamp the forms with their red-inked stamps.

Once they were done, I was told I could get anywhere from 5 to 20% reward, and if the wallet wasn't reclaimed in 120 days, all the money would be mine. The entire process took three hours, I didn’t want any reward, I just wanted to go home.

Now, I know why nobody in Japan likes to turn lost and found items into the police!

Luckily, the girl was contacted and showed up to get her wallet the next day.

The wallet in the photo was probably dropped by someone fishing from the seawall. Whoever found it did the smart thing; placed it where the wind or waves wouldn’t take it away. It sat there for a week. I know because I walk that beach every morning. I’m positive the wallet got back to its owner. More than likely, no police were involved !

There's something to be said for the integrity and honesty of the folks on the Ryukyu Islands.

How are things of this nature handled in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chopsticks in Japan: An Insider's Tip

In Japan, you're never supposed to pass food to someone with chopsticks. I had learned this in college, and had seen many Japanese parents teach this rule to their children, but I had forgotten the reasons behind it.

When my wife's mother passed away I was reminded of the origin of the taboo. After her body was cremated, everyone in the family, including her great-grandchildren, picked up her remaining bones with chopsticks and passed them to a priestess, who used chopsticks to place the bones into an urn.

To offer someone food when it’s out of reach, pass the plate it’s on so they may reach it with their chopsticks. Never use your chopsticks to pass food and expect someone to receive it with theirs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dragonboats, Days Off and Great Friends


After a night of taking pictures in the August rain I sat at the kitchen table developing RAW shots until 2AM.

I just checked to see what day it is because I can't remember. It's Tuesday, here, That means it was Sunday night I did the shooting.

It must have been around 8PM when the phone rang. The wife's phone; I don't hear or answer mine. My cell phone is for emails, a watch and a calendar and sometimes, I even use it as a camera, flashlight or something to prop-up a real camera when I get down too low on the ground for a tripod and just need something to position my lens.

I got out of the house just as a few truckloads of Eisa Dancers landed in the street right in front of my house. Before I captured a dozen pictures, it started raining. That slows them down. They took shelter for a few minutes under overhanging eaves of houses along the street. As soon as the cloudburst passes, they're at it again. After a quarter mile and 100 pictures or so I called it a day and went home.

The drums of Eisa Dancers were still banging somewhere around the village while I was developing photos. I can tell by watching my Huskies ears or feel the vibrations and if they're really close actually hear something.

I had enough pictures to satisfy me and the camera, bag and tripod were drying out in the air-conditioned living room while I developed at the kitchen table. The AC is for the bride and the dogs. I can live without it. It also comes in handy for sucking the moisture out of a camera bag and strap so, I guess it's worth the krazillion yen a month I waste on my electric bill to keep the dogs and bride happy.

Along came yesterday, which felt like Sunday, to me. I woke up late, pretty much burned out with cameras, staring at computer monitors, getting rained on, shooting festivals and trying to remember what day of the week it is. So, I did something I haven't done in months.


No going online, no Daily Photo or Blog post, nothing. The only time I left the house was the two times between cloudbursts, morning and evening, that I harnessed-up the dogs and gave them their walk. And both times, even though the sun came out before I left the house,

The people in the village call me the Rainmaker.

The wife complains because the dogs come home smelling like wet dogs. I ask her if she'd rather they smelled like wet cats.
The dogs never complain about her smelling like wet people.
Get a towel and dry them and they won't smell like wet dogs anymore. They'll smell like dry dogs, I'll bet !

A few times between listening to complaints, drying wet dogs and changing my wet clothes, I almost went and walked to my office to go online. I knew there would be all kinds of people wondering what happened and 100's of emails stacking up if I didn't visit, like I normally do.

But, I said "I'm gonna try this Day Off routine, just for the heck of it".
I just wanted to see if my website would drop in the ratings, Mr Google, Yahoo and the Alexa Dude would scratch me off their list and all my friends stop following me and nobody ever come to visit my website, ever again.

Well, 100's of emails did stack up. But, 100's of people did visit the website. Even some picked a photo and Thumb'd it Up for me. So, that's why the Dragonboat is here today.

ThumbedUp by one of my many good internet friends (netofriendo, in Japanese), if you get a chance, please visit MUZA-chan's GATE TO JAPAN and say Hello with your Thumb!

Cheers, Mike

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Butterfly ID: I FEEL SO DUMB !

The Critter was Identified a long, long time ago; I just forgot !

Well, so much for my idiotic idea to have a Contest: Name This Butterfly.

A whole flock of people, over 300 took a look but, probably really didn't have any more time than I do to research it. Or, they all lived in New Jersey, had Butterfly Phds or something like that and were disqualified. Could be they just didn't want the photo of butterflies reproducing hanging on their wall. Who knows? Anyway, I got the contest thing outa my system, for awhile, until I come up with another brillaint idea.

There really is a winner, sorta. A guy I haven't seen in years posted something about it on my Facebook account. I'll buy him a beer and give him a photo but, won't post his name without his consent. At least the contest got me back in touch with someone I haven't seen for awhile.

Last night I went through all the trouble of resizing, retrieving lost passwords, even making a donation to one of the best sites, I've ever come across for identifying critters.

This one is worth bookmarking. Don't laugh, it's called the BIRD FORUM.

The site, I think may be in the UK, or somewhere like that. They use different English than I do and when you donate money to help them run the place they charge you in pounds, I think.
Whatever it is, they must not be worth as much as the last time I donated because it took less dollars to pay this year than last time I sent them some.

Really, you don't have to pay a dime to use the site; IT'S FREE !
There's probably several million members, from all around the world and real serious bird lovers. They call themselves Birders. Well, I irritate some of them when I tell them I'm not really a Birder. I'm a Wildlife Dude. I like all critters, not just birds. They are a great bunch of people; they tolerate me, humor me and sometimes, tell me what a crackin good shot I made when I post a picture in the gallery.

Some of these folks are probably scientists. A bird, bug or a furry critter, if you want to know what it is, just submit a photo to their ID Forum and you'll get a reply. It won't be some bogus answer like you'd find on the Wiki-peoples sites, either. It'll be TRUE and you'll even get the correct scientific name, everytime.

So, why do I feel so dumb? I'll tell you why:


SOMETHING NEW: If you want to learn more about photography, LOOK HERE:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just Me and a Python

Here's a shot of Yours Truly holding a Python. It was taken back in June of this year after I came out of Gyokusendo Cave.

Down in the caves it was nice and cool but, when I got back above ground it was kind of hot and steamy, even rained a little. So, the tourist traps where you could go indoors and suck up free air conditioning, once you paid the six or eight bucks to see the snake show, sounded like a plan to me.

Back in the old days when you went in the Snake House here, they used to have a real show. They'd turn a snake and a mongoose loose in a cage together. And there would be a fight. One of them would come out of the cage dead.

Times have changed. Now natural enemies are only allowed to do that stuff out in nature. So, the critters get to spend a long time behind bars and get to come out for tourists to poke, pet and take pictures. What's up with that?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Contest: Name This Butterfly


Usually I have to go climbing trees, mountains or cliffs to get a good wildlife shot.  The day I shot these characters was different.
I was sitting at my kitchen table, just looking out the sliding kitchen door, when I noticed them. They couldn't have been more than 15 feet away, doing whatever butterflies have to do to make caterpillars. They were hanging on to Passionfruit leaves and I figured if I went to get a camera to snap a picture, they'd be gone before I had a chance to set up.

So, I sat and waited five, ten, even fifteen minutes. They were taking forever. I went and grabbed a camera, tip-toed out the front door and sneaked up on them. Using a zoom lens from a distance, I started shooting at 250mm, moving around and taking shots from different angles.

They didn't seem to mind so, I decided to try and get closer. There was no way to use a tripod. They were about 10 feet above the ground. So, I grabbed one of my favorite substitutes, an empty plastic beer case. Stood up on it and turned on my camera flash. I even set it in Red Eye Reduction Mode so they wouldn't look like some kind of monsters when I developed the shots.

Normally, I won't post a wildlife photo online until it's been thoroughly researched. Common name, scientific name, all that jazz has to be found and posted in the caption. It takes alot of time for me because I like to verify through more than one source. I know from experience, if you make a mistake identifying a critter, there will be plenty of experts jumping all over you within a matter of minutes. Instead of me having somebody with a college degree in butterflies hollering at me, I decided to hold a contest. I did a bit of research already, squinting at a few hundred thumbnails of butterflies and had enough for the day. There's a place I can send this photo to, after I shrink it and within three days I'll have an answer but, I'm just too busy at the moment.


Photo taken in Okinawa, Japan on May 11, 2010 at 3:15PM 300ft above sealevel.


People  with Butterfly Degrees are ineligible, especially if they live in New Jersey, or anyplace else where contests are prohibited.

The Common English Name and Scientific Name must be provided.

Entries must be typed in the Comments Section of this Blog post.

Deadline: Midnight EST Friday August 20, 2010 (That's NJ, USA Time, I think)

WINNER: Will be the first one to come up with the correct information. The 1st place winner will recieve a printed copy of this photo any size from 4x6 up to A4 mailed to their address anywhere on this planet. Optional: A file suitable for printing may be emailed, if desired.


Put painful photos in the past, BetterPhoto.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guys and Gals, Eisa Dancers and Facebook

So far this week, I've posted Eisa Gals and then Eisa Dudes so, today I decided to throw a photo with both in the same shot on here .

It'll be another day before I finish developing all the pictures from last Saturday night. Then, I'll sort through them all and decide which are the best to put a real story together.

The darndest thing happened today just from the few pictures I've posted aleady. I got an email from somewhere in the USA and this gal from Okinawa says she thinks one of the photos I posted is her second cousin. Now, all I have to do is figure out who she's talking about and see if I can chase the culprit down and find out their name.

Another thing that happened: People are actually finding my little Facebook Fan Club widget here on the blog and FOLLOWING ME !

It's barely enough to fill up a bus but, if I ever earn a million dollars from using my camera and these same people keep following me, I might rent a bus someday and take everbody to Las Vegas. They still give away free food, booze and cigarettes in the casinos, right?

BetterPhoto.com, The better way to learn photography

Monday, August 16, 2010

Couple Of Smiles

Close to halfway done developing RAW shots from the Festival the other night and decided I'd better post something before I get too tired to type.
This photo was taken as the sun was going down behind the scene so, I threw a little weak flash on the gals faces.
The biggest problem I have shooting young folks over here is when they know their photo is being taken, they like to throw the Peace Sign at you.
It makes for some pretty goofy pictures, I think so, I tell them get their hands down or I just zoom in and crop the hands out of the picture.
If I remember, I'll throw some of the goofy photos on here later and let you be the judge.
Meanwhile, this old boy needs to rest and save my eyes for more important stuff, like taking more pictures. More later.....

Here ya go. I grabbed an iced-coffee and got my second wind. Which photo do you like best?

BetterPhoto.com, The better way to learn photography

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Picadaday

Well, this is the picaday, so far, anyway, from yesterday's photo shoot at the Kin Eisa Festival. There are still 300 some-odd more waiting to be developed and they are gonna just have to wait for me to get caught-up. When I got done last night, instead of going home to download my camera, I made the mistake of going to my office. I wasn't even sure if the latest model laptop I bought, with Windows 7 on it had a slot to pop SD Cards into but, I figured I'd find out and maybe have one beer to unwind. Then, if the camera couldn't be downloaded, I'd go home and do it on the old standby Vista-equipped laptop.

Well, sonovagun, the camera downloaded just fine and before I could finish my ice-cold beer, customers started showing up. My office happens to be a Karaoke Bar. Usually, you won't catch me doing camera related stuff in the bar when it's open. Cameras and booze don't mix well, not for me anyway. So, normally, you won't see a camera or a computer sitting on the counter when the joint is open. The stuff I leave in the bar isn't visible and most of the camera and computer gear is carried home when I'm done doing office thingys everyday.

Here in Japan it's a custom, you buy the bar tenders, hostesses and owner a drink or share whatever you happen to be drinking with them. Pretty girls, ugly guys, old people, young folks, all kinds of customers started coming in and when they spotted me at the end of the counter they'd order a beer and send it my way. Kampaii (Cheers) and "Long time no see, Mikesan" kept happening. Then, after the third beer or so they got me singing Karaoke. No telling what time I staggered home with my camera gear and took the dogs out for their walk on the beach. All I know for sure is the sun wasn't shining, yet.

It's a rough life, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. More next week.....

Put painful photos in the past, BetterPhoto.com

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wildlife Photography: Tip #5

Tip #5. Steady the Shot with Whatever’s Available.

Even the few times I hump around a tripod with all my camera gear there have been shots I’d have missed if I didn’t rip the camera off the tripod and improvise, quickly. Critters just don’t wait for you to get the camera positioned for the best shot, so you have to think fast and move to the where the lighting suits your needs. There may be no time, no room, or no use for a tripod and if you try it, you may have missed the shot. That’s where a tree, fencepost, rock, roof of a car or sitting down and resting your elbows on your knees may come in handy.

The bird above is a Japanese White Eye visiting Cherry Blossoms on 19JAN2009 12:11PM f/8 1/640 ISO 100 Photo taken using a chain link fence to steady the shot. Pentax K10D Sigma 50-500 Focal Length 500mm.

It's Friday. That means I'll be out all weekend shooting festivals. I'll try and have something new to make you want to live in Okinawa, first thing next week. Until then, HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND !


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wildlife Photography: Tip #4

Aim for the eye:

Most of the time, the wildlife shots I take, are with the camera handheld. This is not the ideal way to shoot if you’re setting out to win a photography contest. A sturdy tripod and cable release would be the way to do that. But, I prefer to travel light and move fast so, the best thing I can do is work with the higher shutter speeds. At least 1/100 for every 100mm of length on the lens is what’s required to do handheld shooting. I like to use spot metering and move my focus point, aim and when I see the sun light up the bird's eye, shoot.

A Black Pacific Reef Egret taken 28APR2009 7:56AM f/8 1/800 ISO 200 Pentax K10D Sigma 50-500@500mm.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wildlife Photography: Tip #3

Tip #3. Look for Patterns in Behavior.

The internet, library, magazines and encyclopedias are all sources where information is available on the type of wildlife you want to shoot and some of it is true. I usually research wildlife after I’ve taken my photos. I spend a lot of time observing and I learn from watching the critters is the wild; study their habits, look for signs that a certain activity is about to happen. Shoot the photo. Then, see what the experts have to say, later. Lots of the information online is wrong and I have pictures to prove it!

How the above photo was taken:
While waiting in a favorite location for Osprey and Egrets and checking the light meter for the settings I’d need for both sea and sky, I noticed a pattern in the way fish jumped. Whenever one jumped out of the water, if you watched the spot it first appeared from, within a second or two, another fish would jump, too. Photo taken 28OCT2008 8:08AM f/6.7 1/640 ISO 125 with a Pentax K10D and a Sigma 50-500 focal lenght 500mm.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wildlife Photography: Tip #2

Tip #2. Be Aware of Lighting Conditions.

Probably every photographer with a digital camera, who’s been around awhile, has made the mistake of forgetting to check the ISO setting on their camera at least once. After doing a low light or night shoot, we’ve all been caught the next morning wondering why we have shutter speeds in the thousands when the light isn’t so bright outside. Then a little light comes on in our heads. We want to shoot at ISO 100 but, the night before, had set the camera to ISO 800, or higher!

Before I leave home, I check ISO settings, batteries, SD cards and lenses. I look at the sky, wherever I am and can tell you if it’s an ISO 100, 200, 400 or worse day out there, wherever I am. I also, make it a point to preset my aperture and shutter speed before stepping out the door. With wildlife, you want to be able to quick-draw your camera and shoot in a split second. Wildlife won’t pose for you; you have to be ready for them, always. A lot of my favorite wildlife shots were taken before I got to my shooting destination or after leaving it to head home.

This spider was at the edge of the jungle in the path I was taking to do some bird shooting at a beach. Photo taken with Panasonic DMC-FZ50 29AUG2007 9:23AM f/10 1/1000 ISO 100 Focal Length 89mm.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wildlife Photography: Tip #1

This week I'll attempt to post some excerpts from a piece I sent to Matador Travel Network's Media School. My Five Tips For Shooting Wildlife.

There's a typhoon blowing around my little island so, if I don't get out to shoot some new material, I can kill the week, Monday through Friday just posting a tip a day and answering hate mail from folks who've seen all these photos 100 times before. Here's my intro and TIP #1:

If you enjoy getting up before the sun, going for long hikes and spending hours in the great outdoors, observing what nature has to offer, you might want to consider wildlife photography as a hobby or, even a way of life. Tourist attractions, architecture, landscapes, farm animals, aquariums, zoos, offer some great photographic opportunities and may present challenges, even to the best photographers, but, to me, nothing compares to the satisfaction I get out of clicking my camera’s shutter in the wild.

Tip #1. Use the Burst Mode for Wildlife in Motion.

Memory cards will fill up faster, so make sure you carry plenty. Use Continuous Auto Focus and pan the camera keeping a bead on the subject’s eye, if you can. Your camera may shoot 3-10 frames per second, but use Burst Mode sparingly; long bursts fill up memory fast and your camera will process the shots more slowly. You don’t want to miss the shot where your critter hits the perfect light or pounces on its prey because you’re waiting for your camera to recuperate.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What's An Eisa Dance?

Living in Okinawa for over half my life I sometimes forget that things I may see everyday and take for granted would be news to folks back on the other side of the world.   Eisa Dancing?
It's something that has its roots in Buddhist Culture and has to do with Ancestor Worship, old time religious ceremonies, stuff Priests and Priestesses would do at funerals.
There ain't no sense in me trying to explain all the morbid details here when you can Google or Wiki-whatever and see what the experts have to say.

This time of year I get real busy running all over the island trying to keep up with all the Festivals going on and catch as many photos as I can to share with the world. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to keep shooting, developing and posting new material, daily on my blog and website so, I get caught recycling not-so-new material, every now and then.

Well, this picture and the one on my Homepage are brand-spanking new, shot last night, just down the street from where I live.
In fact, I have to chase these gals down and get them to sign Model Releases. I don't throw anybody's photos out for public viewing without their consent, usually.

These gals are no problem. They want their photos on my website. They know, once they sign my Release Forms, they'll get a High-Gloss Print for free and maybe even a framed picture of them will adorn the walls of my bar.

There will be a crowd of anywhere from 30-50 of these characters filling-up my little karaoke bar , singing and drinking 'til the wee hours, every weekend from now until the end of Summer.

See, they're regular customers of mine and if I get any complaints about the photography it'll be from the ones who didn't get their picture taken, not those who did get captured on digital film.

During Obon, the season where all this dancing and drum-beating originated, they even bring the whole gang of twenty-some year olds inside my bar and perform, making a racket that'll split the ceiling plaster.

If you want to know more about Eisa Dancing and see a variety of photos, some that may surprise you, have a peek at Matador Network. I've got to charge my batteries, clean some lenses and get back out on the road before Summer ends.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Photography Tips for Foreign Festivals

Showing up at a Festival in a foreign country with a notepad and camera could be a recipe for disaster. If you want to leave a remote village with a great story and photos to document it these tips may be helpful:

Months in advance I start my research. Check as many sources on and offline as you can. You will find differences and sometimes come away with more questions than answers; that's good. You want to document the truth.

Even if you speak the language a translator comes in handy. The best documentation may be written in a foreign language and in many cases, just as in the spoken word, local dialects and ancient scripts may make your college language skills useless.

On-site visits, months in advance, if possible, are a big bonus. Study the terrain, position of the sun, find the village office, determine the dates, times and locations where events will take place. Plan ahead, look for stores, water supplies and a place to sleep.

Starting with the village office clerk or groundskeeper, smile, let them know what your intentions are and be respectful. Tell them you want to learn and document their culture, if it's permissible. Most places I've been people go out of their way to assist me. Usually, I'm introduced to VIPs like the Village Chief, Elders, Historian, Mayor or the author of a book on the topic I'm documenting.

Don't limit yourself to just the City Office entourage, the farmer in the field, fisherman, an old couple sitting in a park, children playing and even, the town drunk, all have stories to tell about the festival.
Introduce yourself, get people used to you being around with a camera. They will be more comfortable around you the day of the big event. You may be able to get some photos where participants pose for you in perfect lighting, without them being self conscious, as they would be around a total stranger.

Shopkeepers, markets and vendors are all great sources of infomation and more likely than not, related in some way to the folks you met in #4 above. Have a meal or two, buy some local produce, get some snacks and drinks at the little Mom and Pop Stores. Ask about local lodging if you're not planning on pitching a tent. Learn the customs. It may be appropriate to bring gifts. You won't know until you ask.

The photo above was taken in the Village Office at Shioya Bay, Ogimi in Okinawa, Japan. It is of a photo taken at a previous  UNJAMI FESTIVAL. The Festival takes place August 29th this year.

Wikipedia Dude says the festival takes place in July and the guys in the boat are priestesses. I've only made three visits to Ogimi and will attempt two more so when I'm done with my Photo Essay it will resemble a true story! 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How It's Done: Catching Jumping Fish With Your Digital Camera

Capturing fish jumping out of the water is just like capturing any wildlife in action.

It's done by watching, waiting, studying their habits and learning their patterns of behavior.

Not much different than trying to catch some rambunctious children at play. It's easier than shooting kids, for me, actually because most animals are predictable!

These guys, I learned from watching, patiently, jump in pairs a few seconds apart. So, when one jumped, I'd start zooming-in near the area he jumped from.

It wouldn't be a split second later, one of his sidekicks would jump from almost exactly the same spot.

Then, I'd fire away with my camera in the Burst Mode.

There's a few more tricks you need to know if you want to do like I do and shoot in the Manual Mode. You can stumble around in my GALLERY and find the camera specs I used shooting the fish but they won't be taken at the readings my light meter told me to use. See, the water's pretty dark. But when the fish jump and the sun hits them, the available light changes drastically.

There's an Ebook forthcoming. I can feel it. It's just on the back burner, for now.