Thursday, January 31, 2013

In the Spotlight: Marty Robbins -- El Paso

The Word Cantina Brought This One On !


Anyone who has read this blog for more than a few servings, already knows something about it.

The photo presented doesn't necessarily match the text.

Things get hectic when you run around with a camera trying to document the Ryukyu lifestyle.

So, last night, the cameras stayed home and I went to this cantina, by myself.

Three or four times before, I've been in this place and never noticed the name, Cantina "T".

Hey, after the cameras are put away, I become very unobservant.

I could tell you stuff like, the beer was cold, the steak tasted great or, a pretty girl was there.

All of the above was true.  And, on top of that, I discovered this, last night.

The place was some kind of Peruvian/Mexican CANTINA !

Now, I want to do a TripAdvisor Review on it because I love the joint.

So, I shot this photo with my cell-phone and emailed it to myself.  That way I won't forget.

The Part Where Marty Robbins Comes In


It's been so long since I've heard that tune, El Paso, it kept me awake half the night.

He sings something about a cantina, in that song but, I couldn't remember what it was.

Just the tune and the guitar pickin' stuck in my head.

Well, I found it on YouTube for everybody to listen to, in case you never heard it before.

Man, that Marty Robbins knew how to sing some ballads. 

I decided to put him in the spotlight.  People don't make great songs like that anymore.

You know, I must have played the thing ten times.

Had to pull the shutter down and cover all the windows of my office so, nobody would think I'm crazy.

What would you say if you saw some old guy dancing with a folded tripod like he was riding a horse ?

Marty Robbins sings stuff about falling in love with a Mexican girl named Felina and then starts

 sayin' stuff like, "I gotta make it to Rose's back door" ! 

Hah !  Three times, I fell off my horse laughing.  It cracked me up !

Now, I have  to get back to my dancing lessons.

They say the best thing to do, after you fall off a horse, is get back up there and keep riding.

Wildlife Photo: A Pair of Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea)

The Largest Heron in Europe


These birds, the largest Heron in Europe (ARKive Org) live in Okinawa, Japan, too.

With that pointed bill they can grab a fish or, spear it. Fish are what they usually eat.

But, if they get real hungry, they might eat furry animals, too.

For any non-believers, who don't think a heron would eat a rabbit, I found this for you.

A wildlife photographer in Holland captured photos of the action.

He saw an Ardea cinerea (Grey Heron) grab a baby rabbit by the ears.

The heron flew off, to find some water and drown the critter.

Then, swallowed the whole thing !

Go have a look at the Daily Mail UK, if you'd like to see it.


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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Snakes and a Shrine at Okinawa World (Photos)

2013 is the Year of the Snake


Today we took the cameras and visited Okinawa World.

The Year of the Snake means something special to the folks at the Habu Museum.

There is a snake shrine right in front of the snake house we went to visit.

Inside the Habu Museum I shot lots of snake photos.

Looking for Latin or, scientific names, was my mission.  Having them helps my research.

Next time, I should get the photographers names to give them credit for their photos.

There are photos of snakes, from around the world but, I'm just interested in Okinawa snakes, for now.

Like this rascal, here.  It's probably one of my favorite snake photos in the whole museum.

And, it is an Okinawan Habu.

This snake, crawling on a torii, is the real thing, a White Snake.

There's no need to worry about him biting you.  He's in a glass cage.

There was another mini-shrine inside the place with a White Snake and a coin box.

 People could put coins in the box, get their 2013 fortune and tie it to a rope.

A sign, I saw, said the snake came from Colorado, USA.  Hah !

Do you suppose he got a round trip ticket ?

 Outside, where the light was much better, is where these tree snakes were. 

 These guys are alive but, it's so cold out, they don't move around very much.

That's great for photography.  You can shoot at slow shutter speeds.

Here's something I learned at the snake house today.

The people who live around the Atlantic Ocean, don't have any sea snakes.

Did you know that ?

This sign caught my eye, too so, I wasn't going home without a photo of it.

It's the Year of the Snake !  Calling on all Snakes in Okinawa !

Get out there and party, Dudes !

Next month, I think I'll go back down to Okinawa World.

Put on some brand-new yellow flip-flops and walk that red carpet, that's what I'll do.

And, I'm going to toss some coins in the box, grab a fortune and ring the bell.

The Chinese New Year starts February 2013.

That's when 2013, the Year of the Snake really begins so, we should do it right !

Learn more about the Chinese Zodiac at TravelChinaGuide.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Travel Photo: Offerings on the Mountain

This photo was taken on December 23, 2012, in the hills above Hedo Village, Okinawa, Japan.

The crowd surrounding the Okinawan Priestesses watched offerings being made.

To take a photo like this without barging through the crowd and disrupting a ritual can be tricky.

What I did here, was stretch my tripod all the way out and fold the legs.

Then hoisted the camera about 12 feet in the air and shoot with a shutter cable release.

Almost anything beats carrying around a stepladder or, climbing trees!

More about this New Year Water Mixing event may be seen in the Ryukyu Shimpo.

Well I Figured Kill Two Birds with One Stone

Stuck in the Office


The day started off with a plan that went something like this: Do Office Stuff Today.

In the morning emails I found one where my brother-in-law asked if I was wearing socks with my flip-flops.

So, I answered something like this, "Yup."

Then, I decided to start all the paperwork required to apply for a Foreign Press Card.

That meant I needed a recent mug shot.  So, I figure, kill two birds today.

Why pay another photographer to take your own mug shot ?

Trust me.  I am not a studio photographer and don't really have the desire to ever become one.

There ya go.  Here is how I imagined it should be done.

And, my brother-in-law can see one of my socks.  The other one has a hole in it.  You can't see.

Excuse the mess in the background.  This place is always a work in progress.

The first shot was sort of an experiment. I didn't like it. Can you tell ?

Some adjustments had to be made on the height of the camera and tripod.

See, I don't smile when I'm stuck in the office.

That's OK.  This photo is for official government stuff.  So, I don't need to smile.

The dimensions of

a photo for Foreign Press Cards are different from what I'm used to doing.

So, I'm not sure which of these shots will pass the test.

Maybe, tomorrow I should just pay the five bucks and sit in a Passport Photo Booth.

That way, if the sun comes out I'll have time to go shoot some real birds.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Full Moon Okinawa Japan Jan 27 2012 (Photos)

Tonight's Full Moon Through the Sigma

These photos were taken between 7:23 and 7:28PM January 27, 2013.

The evening started-off looking pretty grim, for moon photography.

It was cloudy, cold and windy so, I figured there wouldn't be any full moon visible.

When I stepped out the front door of my office, there it was, a brilliant full moon.

So, I ran back inside to grab a tripod and camera.

The photo above shows exactly how it appears at 500mm focal length.

Just in case any dizzy blondes are reading this, I have to tell you something.

The size of the moon didn't really change this much in five minutes.

All three photos were taken with the Sigma 50-500 at 500mm.

So, when I downloaded the camera, they all looked like photo #2.

Cropping the photos at different dimensions made the size of the moon change.

More about shooting the full moon and photo cropping may be seen in my

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Night Before the Full Moon in Okinawa (Photo)

Almost forgot about this month's full moon.

Up north chasing cherry blossoms today, we were sort of disappointed.

But, heading back home, this scene appeared in the village of Kushi.

Tomorrow night there will be a full moon.

If it isn't raining or, cloudy and windy, get out there and getterdun.  That's the plan.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Travel Photo: Prayer in a Sea Cave Okinawa, Japan

Going where no one else has been, with a camera, is the way to get the photo no one else has.

This travel photo was taken April 3, 2012 on Kouri Island Okinawa, Japan.

Over 100 photos were taken, that day, of this cultural event.

A travel writer has to get the whole story.

The entire translation isn't ready, yet so, this is all you get to see.

It was my most unforgettable day of the year 2012.

A few dozen people entered the cave, at low tide.  It fills with sea water at high tide.

The event only takes place once a year.

What do the people go into a sea cave for in Okinawa, Japan ?


Holy Sumac: These Ryukyu Trees and Buddhism

Here is What Makes Them Special


Traditional Japanese candles are not made from paraffin, animal fat or, beeswax.

Western candles are made that way.  And some are even made from petroleum products.

Buddhist beliefs forbid intentional killing of animals.

So, the candles made in Japan are made from natural products.

The Ryukyu tree we call sumac, provides the ingredients for Japanese candle-making.

These trees with red and orange leaves are about the only fall foliage we see around here.

Back in November 2011, I found a sign on one of these sumac trees, in the middle of nowhere.

Thinking it may be something important, I shot a photo of the sign.

That always makes research easier.  Especially, when you get a scientific name out of it.

Rhus succedanea, helped me identify the tree.

Once I found out it was some sort of sumac, I recalled the scratching I did as a kid.

Poison sumac was real popular in my neck of the woods, back in those days.

So, I researched no more.

Along Came Alice Gordenker the Writer for Japan Times 


Come to find out, the trees were brought to Japan from the Ryukyu Kingdom.

That's what led me to say "Holy Sumac".

What's so special about candles made from 100% vegetable material ?

They don't drip so much wax and make less smoke.

Japanese candles even stay lit better in the wind.  

Holy smokes.  I want some for next typhoon season !

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kin Kannon Temple on New Year's Day 2013 (Photos)

Kin Kannon Temple in Okinawa, Japan is just one of the eight major shrines.

It would be nice to get photos from all of them on New Year's Day.

The year of the snake (2013) started already, by the Gregorian calendar.

But, the Lunar New Year (Chinese) isn't until February 10, 2013.

So, I may be able to catch a few of the other sites in the next couple of weeks.

This Buddhist Temple is within walking distance of my home.

There weren't too many people waiting to get in when I arrived.

That made it easy for me to move around and snap photos to show you.

There are all kinds of trinkets you can buy for good luck.

Some folks hang the gadgets on the rear view mirror of their car.

Other people tie the stuff to trees at the temple, along with their paper fortunes.

Here's a photo I shot, of a girl tying her fortune before I got permission.

The second photo, I took, after getting her mom's consent.

Neither of the photos will be sold but, I like the unauthorized (candid) shot better.

Model releases are required in this business, especially for minors.

When the lines leading into the temple started growing, it was time for me to leave.

Years ago, I learned, you aren't supposed to pass gas in church.

And, I figured this place was like a church, to some folks.

So, I hurried on out of there.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Sakura (桜) Chase Is On in Okinawa Japan !

Cherry Blossom or, Sakura (桜) Season progresses from north to south in Okinawa.

Along with all the travelers clicking cameras, come the Mejiro.

That's another name for the bird known as Japanese White Eye.

There aren't enough hours in the day or, days in the week for me to catch all the festivals.

Did you know, Cherry Blossom Viewing is a national pastime throughout Japan ?

Some nature lovers chase the sakura from the Ryukyu Islands, all the way through Hokkaido !

RELATED POST: Breaking News Cherry Blossoms () Blooming !

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Travel Photo: The Moon Over Kanucha Resort

Sometimes, the simple photo is the hardest one to capture.

This picture was taken from across the highway at the entrance to Kanucha Resort in Okinawa, Japan.

Camera used:  Pentax KD10

Lens: Sigma 10-20 at 10mm

f/11  8sec  ISO 100

The camera was set up on a tripod and a 12 second timer used to take the shot.

The resort is very busy during the months of January and February.

It seemed like, every 10 seconds, a car would go in or, come out the gate.

The trick to capturing a photo like this must be patience and lots of choice words.

It worked for me.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sakura (桜) Matsuri Grand Opening at Nakijin (Photos)

UNESCO Nakijin Castle January 2013


The Cherry Blossom Season started today at Nakijin Castle in Okinawa, Japan.

Here are photos taken at the Grand Opening Ceremonies.

 The action all took place outside the castle walls.

Shortly before sunset this PR lady welcomed everyone and strummed her sanshin.

As daylight faded away, the castle walls were lighted.

These young ladies danced on the stage, waving cherry blossom branches.

Out came the royalty.  I'm guessing they were the king and queen.

Sneaking over to shoot the sakura bearing girls I captured this photo.

It's a lot easier to get the girls to hold still when someone else has them posed for you.

A big attraction was this woman painting Kanji characters with a brush and can of paint.

Everybody crowded around to watch and take pictures.

This isn't something you see every day, around here.

Moving around as quick as I could, I got back to the king and queen.

Then, backed away from the scene, to do some castle wall shots.

Nakijin Castle looks like somebody painted the rocks when those lights shine on it at night.

 Everything they did, outside the castle walls was free.

To go inside the place, you have to buy a ticket.

As soon as the sakura are in full bloom, I'll go inside and take some photos for you.

More about Unesco Nakijin-jo

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sakura (桜) Report: Mt. Yaedake in Photos

Have a Look at the Cherry Blossoms


Up on Mt. Yaedake in Okinawa, Japan the sakura are popping-out all over the place.

We drove up to the top of the mountain and worked our way back down.

Consider this a photographic report from a guy who knows, where the flip-flops meet the road.

Everywhere I walked, was flip-flop friendly.  Socks are recommended. It's cold up there.

Traffic, on the road going up the mountain wasn't bad at all.

Sometimes, I could stand in the middle of the street and compose a photo.

There were blue skies when this shot was taken from above.

It was sunny but, a bit chilly with the mountain breeze.  

Walking down the hill I met a few other travelers with cameras.

And, rain started coming down.

Don't let that dampen your spirits.  The weather can change, every five minutes.

In some spots, the cherry blossoms are sparse.

When you go around the next bend, you might find a scene like this.

It's almost impossible to get lost because they have signs in English and Japanese.

When too many cars and motorcycles come up the mountain, I just point the camera higher.

 This weekend is probably a good time to start cherry blossom chasing.

But, I'm guessing it will be another week or, two before everything is in full bloom.

 If you plan on going up Mt. Yaedake to take photos don't forget lens tissues.

A few drops of rain on your camera lens can ruin a great picture.

Every once in awhile, I'll give some more sakura (桜) reports from other locations.

Just don't expect to see me doing cherry blossom photos in northern Japan.

Hot weather suits me better. Way down here in Okinawa, I'm freezing !

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