Monthly Archives: April 2010

More thoughts from Japan

Photo © Bob Krist

Why do I love shooting in Japan?

First, there’s so much exotic stuff to see despite the ultra-first world surroundings.

Which means you’re clean, safe, and well fed but you still get to shoot exotic subjects (like this meiko, or geisha-in-training, from the Gion district of Kyoto, who performed at our farewell banquet).

D90, 70-300mm at 300mm, ISO 1600 1/125th @f5.6

It’s such a high tech place that you can feel like a real hick just trying to use the bathroom (every hotel toilet I encountered in Japan had a control console that offered a variety of comfort and,um, cleaning options guaranteed to blow your mind, not to mention blow dry your bottom!).

When I first came here in the 80’s, using the bathroom was a challenge because you had to figure out how to use the hole in the floor with the footrests.

Now, it’s similarly challenging, but only slightly less involved than programming a VCR. That’s progress!

And when you’re out shooting, you know right away that you are in photography’s epicenter, a nation of camera buffs.

I saw enough exotic Ricoh point and shoots, micro 4/3 cameras, and ingenious mini tripods and camera clamps to make a B&H salesman’s head swoon.

And nobody looked twice at me, an oversized gaijin, with my two DSLR bodies and largish camera bag. In a nation of serious shooters, I’m just one (albeit a big one) of the crowd!  It’s refreshing.

More coming from the Silk Road. I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in Destinations, Photo Gear, Photo Techniques, Technology, Travel

Exquisite Japan

We arrived in Japan and spent our first afternoon visiting temples in, what else, pouring rain. I’ve been beat down by the weather and school field trips so thoroughly these last two weeks, I was actually thankful that it wasn’t snow, and it wasn’t a school day!

Yes, Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me is not just the title of a cool 60’s counterculture novel, play, and song. It’s the story of my life, vis-a-vis the weather and schoolkid hordes, during the Asian leg of this long trip.

But, there are actually situations where a light rain and overcast helps. I remember my friend Mike Yamashita’s story on Japanese Gardens in National Geographic. Mike wouldn’t shoot a garden unless it was misty and rainy, preferring the rich saturation of those low-contrast conditions.

Photo © Bob Krist

So I put my D90 with the 16-85mm in a Stormjacket Raincover, and shot away in the downpour.

The next two days were bright and sunny, and, dare I say it, I actually missed the rich low contrast light of the first rainy afternoon.

Truthfully, if it was just drizzling and not pouring, it would be the ideal light to shoot many of the Japanese temples we visited on this leg.

But travel isn’t always about photography (at least that’s what I tell myself when the weather goes south). It’s also about food.

Yes, armies and photographers tend to travel on their stomachs, and one of the things I love about Japan is the food.

I had an exquisite sushi dinner the first night, and the second night, a shabu shabu with rich, marbled Kobe beef.

Combine one of these dishes with some nice hot sake or cold Kirin, and you really don’t care all that much about the weather when you can eat like this!

One place I could have used the overcast was at Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine known for its thousands of tori gates. Low contrast would have helped here, but I managed to find a section of gates so closely packed , the speckled sunlight couldn’t filter through.

Photo © Bob Krist

I may have been in search of Nikonian Buddha nature on this trip through the Sacred Places of Asia, but I have to admit that I love the Shinto use of the color orange.  It’s not quite photo Nirvana, but it sure helps make a picture.

Photo © Bob Krist

We head into China today for the final portion of this three part charter jet odyssey. I get a day off to repack, clean my cameras, and do laundry and then we’re off to explore the Silk Road.

I’ll keep you posted…

Posted in Destinations, Photo Techniques, Travel

Snow Falling on Cedars, er, I mean Cherry Blossoms

Photo © Bob Krist

With apologies to David Guterson for playing with the title of his superb novel, we’ve hit extremes of weather on the “Sacred Places of Asia”  portion of our long trip. From the steamy 100+F degrees and 100% humidity of Java, Vietnam, and Cambodia, to the cool highlands of Lijiang to the snow in South Korea?

Snow? Yes, and ice too. Carumba!

South Korea and Japan are in the grips of a cold snap, and at the first temple we visited in Gyeongju, we literally slid down the pathways on sheets of ice. Thank goodness for the hundreds, no, thousands, of South Korean schoolkids who were on field trips to the same temples, because their little feet churned up the slick sheets of ice on the hillside paths into manageable slush, and nobody from our group took a tumble.

The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and after the snow melted, there were lots of good photo opportunities. I must admit defeat, though, at finding good shots of World Heritage temples like Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple because they were completely overrun with school children in bright outfits.

The kids were really charming and friendly and wanted to practice their English. So I spent a lot of time chatting and posing for their pictures (turnabout being fair play, I reckon).

At first, I couldn’t figure out why, of all the Westerners visiting the temple, the kids were all flocking to have their pictures taken with me. But then, I started hearing what at first I thought was a chant: “senta craws, senta craws”! It quickly became apparent that I look about as much like Santa Claus as any Korean kid has seen in the flesh, so I was extremely busy.

I may have found a possible new income stream too, because if I got myself a red outfit and charged 50 cents a shot for “Pictures with Santa” during South Korean schoolkids’ field trip days, I’d friggin’ clean up.

Who says you can’t make money with travel photography in today’s market? You just might have to think outside the box, and do some traveling, but get on the other side of the camera for a change!

My favorite stop in South Korea, though, was the short walk through of the Jagalchi Fish Market in Pusan, on our way from the airport. Wow, talk about exotic sea creatures and colorful costumes. Great photo ops.

All the fishmonger ladies dress in primary color slickers, and the fish and giant crabs are artfully displayed. It may not be a World Heritage Site, but it sure made for some cool pictures. And the only “Claus” that got photographed were those on the crabs!

Photo © Bob Krist

Photo © Bob Krist

Next stop: Japan. I’ll keep you posted!

Note: The blog is currently being bombarded with spam from a site in India. This, combined with reentry into some countries with slow internet, may slow down comments moderation. Hang in there.

Posted in Destinations, Photo Techniques, Travel

Spectacular Lijiang

Photo © Bob Krist

We’ve caught a bit of a weather break in Lijiang, in western China.  What a beautiful area this is! In the foothills of the Himalayas, it’s one of the gateways to Tibet, and it’s being promoted heavily as a destination for Chinese tourists by their government.

Here, the lives of acceptable ethnic minorities like the Naxi and the Mosos are celebrated (as opposed to the minority in the T-word country, which as you know, is not being celebrated).

Yes, tourism is king here. I used to joke with my brother Gary, a writer with whom I’ve worked on countless stories, that if we had a nickle for every hotel folklore show we’ve sat through, we’d be millionaires.

But as jaded as I am in that department, nothing prepared me for the 500-man spectacular show called Lijiang Experience. It is the mother of all folkloric shows, and was directed by the same gentlemen who directed the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.

Gadzooks! I knew I was being fed a company line on the way all minorities get along together, but just like the Coca Cola Disney (thanks to reader Peter for pointing out the error in sponsorship attribution)  “It’s a Small World After All” exhibit did at the New York World’s Fair in the early ’60’s, this show just captivated me. What can I say?

Sometimes, despite the 45-or-so years that has passed since I saw “It’s a Small World” out in Queens, spectacular visuals still sway me and help me overlook glaring script inaccuracies. I guess that’s why I’m a shooter and not a writer!

But, despite the slickly-packaged tourism product available in Lijiang, we did manage to capture some slices of real life, including photographing a couple Dongbas, or holy men, doing their thing.  To see a few of them, plus a few more of the show pix, hit the jump.

Continue reading »

Posted in Destinations, Events, Ironies, Photo Gear, Travel

Portrait Session Timelapse

Along with Rich Kennedy, whom I mentioned in an earlier post, my friend, portrait photographer Arun Paul, was also helping me out during the weekend of pro bono family portraits we did for area military families during my New Hope portrait project. While he was busy helping me with the lighting, the posing etc, he also had his D700 shooting a long time lapse sequence which appears here.

Arun is a multitalented guy—-great shooter, and wonderful musician. He even wrote the music that accompanies the time lapse. It also looks like he did some kind of cool B&W action on the pics in the movie.

We had a great weekend photographing the families, and we were very touched by how appreciative they were. It was win/win all around and I bet I’ll be doing it again in the future….feels too good to stop.

Oh, and speaking of feeling good, Photo Traveler was recently cited by Photography Colleges as number 28 in the Top 100 Travel Photography Blogs. It’s a very interesting list of blogs they’ve assembled and I know I picked up a few more bookmarks just reading through it.

I always wonder about these type of ratings, though. For instance,  the number one rated blog was that of an Austin, Texas family portrait photographer who had no travel photography element to his blog at all, as far as I can see.

But that’s okay.

Last year, in another rating of travel photography blogs, I came in behind a blog called “Olga, The Traveling Bra.” So, clearly, I’m moving up in the world;  from lingerie to family portraits. Next year, who knows, I may come in behind a nice boudoir shooter!

Posted in Audio, Multimedia, Technology