Friday, June 28, 2013

RyukyuMike's Packing List for an Overnight Island Hop (Image)

Traveling Light


This is a quick checklist for a weekend visit to an outer island in Okinawa, Japan.

Not anticipating being able to go online, the laptop and external drive can stay home.

Bags are packed but, here's what it looked like a few minutes ago.

On the bottom of the pile is the Coleman 3 - in - 1 Blanket.

In no particular order, here's a list of things that get stuffed in the pack or, tied on the outside:

Two Pentax DSLRs.  From Sigma a 10-20mm, and a 50-500mm. One Pentax 18-250mm lens.

My flea-market backpack that helps me look like a homeless dude.

A jacket and change of clothes.

The Manfrotto 725B tripod will be hand carried along with the camera used to shoot the photo.

Hiking shoes and an extra pair of yellow flip-flops.

Moist towelettes, baby wipes, whatever you want to call those things that make you smell good.

Flashlight, cigarette lighters, emergency food, lens cleaning gear and a knife.

Toothpaste, toothbrush, body soap, insect repellent and a pair of socks.

A pill box created out of some camera and lens covers, for medicine, Aspirin and Rolaids.

Utility cord, of various lengths, always come in handy.

There are other items, such as a towel and underwear stuffed in the bag for cushioning.

I figured, the ladies wouldn't want to see that stuff.

The only thing I have to remember to do before I travel, is stuff the wallet with lots of cash.

That's just in case they have food and beer on the island I'm going to.

A camera holster will be hanging off my shoulder.

That contains extra batteries, SD cards and model releases.  I'm traveling light.

Can you think of anything else, I should add to this checklist ?


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Travel Photo: Just a Guy on the Seawall with His Sanshin

Out researching an event that takes place on an uninhabited island we spotted this guy.

Many of the cultural events we go to document, take months (in advance) of preparation.

There aren't any English language travel guides, written about them.

So, getting out there and beating the bushes, is what Map It Okinawa dude and I do.

This photo was taken March 21, 2013.

We were looking for an off shore island, rumored, to have some ceremonies in June.

When you read something that says an event takes place in "June" you have to wonder.

With June being the sixth month of the year, sometimes things are lost in translation.

In Okinawa, Japan, most cultural events take place according to the Lunar calendar.

The sixth month might be in July or, August, depending on what year it is.

The guy on the seawall could point us in the direction of the island we were looking for.

But, he had no recollection of any event taking place, over there, during the month of June.

A few hundred meters away from him, I took this shot with my lens at 250mm.

While he was playing his sanshin, I did a little dance.

That got him smiling and he gave the OK to snap a picture of him.

Someday soon, I should go back and visit that guy.  I think we'd get along fine.

He has good taste in flip-flops.  Dontcha think ?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Get Ready, Get Set, Tip Your Boat Over During the Race !

A Highlight of the Dragonboat Races


This isn't something you see happen at many boat races.

Half way through the course, the teams deliberately capsize their boats.

It's a ritual performed at the Dragonboat Races of Itoman, Okinawa, Japan.

Three boat teams overturn the boats but, I wanted to zoom-in and show just one.

It's called the Kunnukaze (Capsize) race.

The boat is rolled over and completely filled with sea water.

Everybody hops back in and starts paddling and bailing out water, like crazy.

There's no sump pump or, motors involved here; just pure muscle power.

Nobody on the team gripes or complains.  They just bail and paddle.

With the last man on board, they finally get someone to do the steering !

More about the Itoman Dragonboat Races.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Flower Photo: Yellow Alder, Yellow Buttercup or Sage Rose

Bright Yellow Flower in Okinawa


These little flowers are blooming everywhere and the color just jumps right out at you.

It took about a week to round up all the goodies on this plant.

If you like scientific stuff, call them Turnera ulmifolia.

They are asking for help expanding the stub of an article at Wikipedia.

But, I learned, over there, this plant may have some antibiotic value.

Lots of people at Dave's Garden have the plants, talk about them and post photos.

That's where, I saw, "Danger:  Parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested."

The flowers close-up at night and, new ones open the next day.

That's what I learned at the University of Florida 

Now Comes the Scary Stuff



Don't ask what led me to the next site, I checked for information.  It just happened.

Some how, I wound up at the US National Library of Medicine.

Some doctors or, scientists discovered this plant being used as folk medicine, in Brazil.

The locals use tea from this plant to cure things like ulcers.

Well, they decided to test it out on rats.  They probably had to get them drunk, to create ulcers.

What do rats have to worry about, so much, that they get ulcers ?

It seems like whatever concoction of tea they made, helped mice and rats with their ulcers.

So, if you have any vermin around your house, suffering from ulcers, you could help them.

You can get the recipe free, here.

If You Get These Yellow Flowers and an Ulcer



Listen to what Dave's Garden has to say.  Some of the stuff in these plants, is poison.

Go see a doctor.  Not a rat doctor, a human one !

Monday, June 24, 2013

Okinawa Peace Memorial Park Under The Supermoon (Photos)

June 23rd is Memorial Day in Okinawa, Japan


Mabuni Hill, in Itoman is the site, dedicated to the memory of all those lost during the war.

Last night, we went there late, to see the illumination.

Fortunately, the full moon was available to photograph, too.

Because Itoman is far south of where I live, I had no idea where the moon would rise.

Pillars of Peace Lights were turned on over a monument.

They represent the searchlights used during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

The Supermoon looked huge as it rose above the treetops.

The place was solemnly quiet.

Visitors came to a pond, where they could float a lighted candle for peace.

Many of them knelt and made prayers.

Here is one candle, singled-out, to show the reflection on the water.

Making a long exposure for the moon, the candles leave a light trail.

A gentle summer breeze kept them in motion.

Moving away from the pond gave a view of the illumination and the moon.

Is there a special Memorial Day like this, where you live ?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rambling On About Supermoon June 2013 in Okinawa

Supermoon is a New Word


The word just arrived in my vocabulary this week.

It happened when I did some online searches for this month's full moon schedule.

A new word doesn't feel comfortable until you use it a hundred times.

That fact, I learned from my English as a second language book.

So, every chance I get, I'll be saying "SUPERMOON".

And, I should probably tell the Spellcheck Dude, his stuff needs to be updated.

Here is what I saw on my way to a secluded location, to watch moonrise.

It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when I spotted these kids having a tug-o-war in the mud.

Doesn't that make you want to be a kid again ?

If anybody, out there, needs a babysitter, give me a holler.

Drop the little rascals off and I'll make sure they get some quality play time.

An hour later, I was on the waterfront and noticed, fish started jumping out of the water.

The supermoon wasn't showing, yet so, I practiced shooting fish.

Whenever you see a bunch of little fish jumping, something bigger, is after them.

The, so called, supermoon, didn't catch my eye, until around 7 PM.

That's because there was a fairly thick marine layer on the horizon, blocking the view.

By 8 PM I started getting full moon shots, like this.

To get sharp details with a digital camera, I like to underexpose by 5 or 6 clicks.

Here's a wide angle image of the supermoon over Kin Bay.

The star burst effect, makes it look more like a supermoon, if you ask me. 

It's probably best for me not to tell you how this photo was taken.

And, if you decide to drop your kids off, for me to watch, there's a few things you need to know.

If they get dirty, it's not my fault.

And, my standard fee is:  $750.00 US Dollars an hour.

It would cost a little more, if you'd like me to teach them how to flip the bird !

NOTE:  The supermoon will occur tonight, weather permitting.

And, may be visible, in blue skies, as it sets tomorrow morning.

Friday, June 21, 2013

This Bug is a Real Killer ! Meet the Assassin Fly

They Don't Eat People, Just Other Bugs


When I spotted this insect, it was sunning on a country road in northern Okinawa, Japan.

That's a pretty mean-looking bug.  So, I had to sneak up on it and take some photos.

Look at those big eyes and nasty barbed legs !

It took awhile to research this critter and get a positive idendification.

It is a Robber Fly (Asilidae) also known as an Assassin Fly.

Not to worry.  They won't bite humans.

These guys only go after other bugs.  And, they are ferocious.  They nab their prey out of the air.

This guy, lying on the road, is just charging-up his batteries.

Maybe, the sun warms him up so, he can fly faster.

Those bulging eyes aren't watching the camera.  He's looking for something, flying to eat.

When he spots a meal flying over, that's when he springs into action.

The critter he goes after can even be bigger than him.  It doesn't matter.

He will grab his victim out of the air and inject some poison.

The muscular legs insure there will be no escape.

And, he will hang from a place, up off the ground, by one leg, while munching away.

Wouldn't you like to have one of these in your yard ?

It would be more fun than watching TV, I bet !


Learn more about Assassin Flies at:


Texas A&M

University of Florida

Grab a Camera and Get Ready for the June 2013 Supermoon !

The Full Moon this Month is Called a Supermoon


It is because the moon will be closer to earth than, at any other time, this year.

That also means, the high tide will be higher than normal.

And, low tides will go lower for a few days.

It's always a good idea to get some practice with the camera before the night of the full moon.

This photo was taken last night at Hedo Point in Okinawa.

We camped out overnight to catch the summer solstice sunrise and, sort of got ripped-off.

The sun didn't come up where we wanted it to and was blocked by low-flying clouds.

A long time ago, I learned, when things don't go the way you want them to, just fix it.

You can do that easy.

Just go somewhere else and, do something different.

So, instead of a bunch of sunrise photos, I came home with something I hadn't planned on.

Besides a few moon shots, I got over 300 photos of wild critters and exotic places.

Most likely, I'll be too tired to practice moon shots tonight.

But, Supermoon Sunday, June 23, 2013 I'll be out there, somewhere.

To learn more about the phases of the moon visit the AstroblogCosmobc

Photo Tips has some information you may want to read: SHOOT THE MOON

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Officially Starts Tomorrow !

Summer Solstice June 21, 2013


It all depends on where in the world you live and a lot of other scientific stuff.

Some people call it the longest day of the year.

It's really the day we get the most daylight.  That's if you live north of the equator.

Here is a photo I took in June of 2011 as the sun was setting on the west coast of Okinawa.

Tomorrow the sun will rise at 4:25AM and set at 6:59PM Japan Standard Time.

If the silly tropical storm we're having, gets done blowing, we may have sunshine.

Like, about 14 hours worth of sunshine on the first day of summer !

Now, I'm not sure what normal folks will be doing.

Grabbing the cameras and heading for the hills, sounds like a good plan to me.

If you have trouble thinking of things to do for summer solstice, check this out:

While you are there, do what (typical redneck fashion) I did.

The Old Farmer's Almanac, gives away all kinds of neat things, for free.

I got a whole pile of stuff and didn't spend a dime. Don't tell them I sent you.  OK ?

Another informative resource: AboutComGeography: Summer Solstice

Not Excited Enough Yet ?


Another goodie, I found while Googling June 2013, has to do with this month's full moon.

This will happen just after I recover from the first day of summer.

We are going to have an extraordinary Supermoon the 22-23 of June.

Don't miss out on all the summer fun !

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Nuts and Bolts of Butterfly Identification (Photo Essay)

Today We Have a Positive ID


This butterfly is a Polygonia c-aureum or, Asia Comma.

In Okinawa, Japan where the photos were taken, it's a Kitateha (キタテハ).

Here's where the nuts and bolts idea came from.

The only place this guy would hold still for 1/640th of a second was here.

It's important to get photos, from as many angles as possible, to help with the ID.

The antennae, nose, eyes, legs, inside and outside marks on wings, all tell you something.

So, even when he turns his back on me, I keep shooting.

Once all the photos are processed, the search is on.

Butterflies of Japan is the first place, I look.  If the photo was taken in Hawaii, I'd look at their site.

It might take, scrolling through a thousand thumbnails, to come up with an identification.

Once a scientific name is discovered a lot more research gets done.

Education and government websites are the most reliable references, I think.

Before I post a new critter's name online, it has to be verified or, I won't do it.

Now, you know the nuts and bolts, of how I would ID a butterfly.

It isn't all that easy, you know. 

It could drive a man to drinking.

Gotta run.  

I think I heard a cold beer calling me, down the street !

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Butterfly Before the Typhoon

There's a Mini Typhoon Brewing




One job you never want to have, living on a tropical island, is Weatherman.

This thing, they're calling Tropical Depression #4 or, Leepi, is heading our way.

The weather folks have predicted sunshine, all day today.

Under brilliant blue skies, I walked the dogs this morning. Then, took an ice-cold shower.

Wearing brand new beach duds, I was going to take the cameras and spend all day outside.

But, before the emails were done, things changed.  A storm is coming and the sky turned gray.

So, I stayed at the office and shot butterflies out in the back yard.

Somehow, butterflies know when a typhoon is coming.

If  you studied their habits, I bet they'd be more accurate than any weather dude.

The rascals were real skittish and wouldn't hold still for a second.

So, I set up a tripod and used the Sigma 50-500mm lens.

My guess was, they'd land, again on those white and yellow flowers, I call weeds.

Time 2:49:58

At 2:52:33 a butterfly came along.

Firing the camera in Continuous Shooting Mode, it was still 2:52:33 when this photo was taken.

The little guy is moving fast.  My shutter-speed is 1/640 of a second.

At 2:52:41 he decides to land and I want to get a detailed shot of him.

So, I'm yelling stuff like, "Show me your eyes, you l'il varmint"!

It was 2:53:14 when I think he yelled back at me.

"Git back in your house, old man.  Don't you know, a typhoon is coming ?"

For Updates on Storm Conditions Check the Links Below




Find more about Weather in Nago, JP
Click for weather forecast

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nature Photos: Ryukyu Damselfly (琉球羽黒とんぼ) Haguro Tonbo

This Bug Has Been Thoroughly Researched


Many thanks to the gals at the Yambaru Wlidlife Center who gave me the scientific name.

In Okinawa, it's Haguro Tonbo, scientific name: Matrona basilaris japonica.

This is a rare, endangered species on the IUCN Red List.

 One of my favorite resources, ARKive, doesn't show much about this species.

It's easy to wear down a camera battery, trying to catch these guys in flight.

They aren't camera shy; just fast.

It's a good thing I didn't swat one to get him to hold still for me.

At the time, I was shooting these photos, I didn't know how rare the insects were.

Really, I wouldn't harm any creature just to get the image I wanted.

These Characters Have Some Unusual Breeding Habits




Lots of women and children read this blog so, I don't want to talk about peckers here.

In my research, I came across an insect biologist named Rowan Hooper.

He has  Ph.D in evolutionary biology from Sheffield University in the United Kingdom.

Checkout his Japan Times article on the Ryukyu Damselfly if you want to learn more. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mad Mike Review: Coleman All Outdoors 3 - in - 1 Blanket

A Must Have for the Traveler


This is a product I have tried and tested for a few months and am nuts about.

The folks over at Coleman should hire me as a test dummy.

There are lots more than 3 ways to use it.

Here's the box mine came in.  I still have it from way back before last Christmas.

They say the 3 - in - 1 stuff is, Blanket/Poncho/Stadium Seat.

Yup.  I've done all that stuff and, even more with mine.

 There it is covering one of those Naughahyde chairs someone gave me.

That stuff makes me sweat.

So, I take my nap on top of my blanket everyday.

That means, you could call it an anti-naugahyde device, I guess.

One night, I got stuck sleeping on a concrete park bench and used my Coleman.

That would make it a park bench cushion.

When the ocean breeze got too chilly, I squinched myself-up in it.

It suddenly turned into a sleeping bag.  The cops didn't even notice me.

It was like, I blended in with my surroundings. A camouflaged sleeping bag !

Occasionally,  my backpack gets too many items in it and something rubs my back wrong.

Suddenly, the backpack cushion was invented.

We don't do a lot of stadium-going in this part of the world but, have lots of festivals.

The standard festival furniture is overturned beer crates, that hurt your fanny.

Now, I have an Orion Beer festival cushion.

Outdoors, many times, the sun in Okinawa is scorching hot and, some shade is required.

With a little bit of cord and some imagination, the Coleman provides it.

Portable roofing ?

Traveling light, sometimes, I stuff things like, small camera, paperwork, etc. inside the cushion.

Then, it becomes a shoulder bag.  Once, it was, even a dirty laundry bag !

Windscreen, pillow, privacy screen, pup tent a few other uses come to mind but that's enough, for now.

Soon, we'll be packing-up for a trip to another island.

There will be some photos taken, using this piece of gear as a background.

That way I can show all the gear that goes along with me, as a checklist.

The 3 - in - 1 Coleman Blanket gets a five star rating from me.

More Mad Mike Reviews


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Flower Photos: King's Mantle or Bush Clock Vine

Every Flower Comes with a Story


A person could bore them-self to death researching flowers.

The best thing to do after getting a positive ID on them, is to do a little more digging, I figure.

First, have a look at these purple, white and yellow flowers I found near Todorki Waterfall.

GPS: N 26 33.766 E 127 59.294

They look something like morning glory flowers but, they aren't.

A book, Sub-tropical Flowers in Okinawa ISBN4-9901917-3-0, gave me the ID.

Page 69, told me I found some Thunbergia erecta.

Next, I went poking around on the internet to see what the story behind these plants might be.

The scientific name led to to King's Mantle or Bush Clock Vine.

Well, you can do a search yourself and find all kinds of plant talk about the flowers, if you want.

It was time for me to try and learn where these flowers get their names from.

Like, who decided to call the thing a King's Mantle ?

 Pushing some of the buttons on Wikipedia gave me this juicy story to tell you.

After the name, Thunbergia erecta, you'll see, T. Anderson.  I had to find out more about him.

The guy was a botanist from Scotland and he lived from 1832 until 1870.

Thomas Anderson was an award winning collector of plants and did a lot of work in India.

Somehow he became involved in a mutiny down there.  Who knows why ?

They have a Scottish biography, the Wiki people would like someone to help them expand.

It seems, Thomas Anderson, went back to Edinburgh, Scotland .

Some disease in his liver ended his life October 26, 1870.

Anyhow, I think he was who named this flower.

And, I'm glad I don't drink Scotch (the way I used to)  anymore.