Minoh Festival

My wife had the great idea to go to the Minoh Festival on Sunday. It's a little suburb north of Osaka famous for its waterfall (fake, construction of a nearby tunnel cut the source a few years back!) and the excellent AJI brewery. When we entered the park, as the picture on the right shows, I was a little dumbfounded as to what kind of festival it would be. But those are actually Japanese maple leaves, as the town is famous for that too (as well marauding and snack-grabbing monkeys).

During the festival the waterfall is lit up at night and of course it attracts quite a few peeps. We came early, just to take our time walking up to the sight, and once there dip our feet in the fresh water to cool down from the (it seems) never-ending summer. As the sky started to get darker, I went to the spot I thought would produce the best shot and waited for the correct time. I'm sometimes asked what makes a good picture, and there are a number of elements. An important one is timing. The composition of all three shots is basically the same, but notice how the light goes from cold, to warm (the clouds turned orange around sunset) to a deep blue sky after sunset.

As you can see, the quality of light changes a lot. You may already know this, but midday sun is about the worst light you can get for most subject. Most landscape photography you see is usually taken within one hour of sunrise or sunset, or on very cloudy days as the light more diffused in the later case, and light temperature is much nicer on the previous.

On the way back, we saw many parties on the side of the river going on. This is one below is perhaps my favorite, because of the 'redlight district' lanterns!

Lagoa do Abaete in Suma

Saturday my capoeira group went to Suma beach for Dance Studio Camuro annual showcase, SumaRoc10. As always, we held our demonstration outdoors, thus free, and on the beach. The weather was outstanding, the grapes and drinks cool, and the sea was OK, although there were quite a few baby jellyfish in the water (it felt a little spicy)! We had a lot of fun, and of course I took a bunch of shots, all with my polarizer. Here are some of them. Enjoy!

First on the left is my contra mestre, Toku, and third from the left is Shouta, one of the instructors. Fill flash used.
Kids can kick some capoeira hump too!
Toku in white, Kazuo on the left. I suspect he'll get a new corda (capoeira equivalent of a belt) at our next batizado.
Shouta high kicking one of our ex-students.
Swimming was enjoyed by all.
Instructor Toshi mid-air during a backflip. I love how the quick shutter speed, 1/1000s froze the water flying off his feet.



For the past two days, there have been some interesting cloud formations in the sky, and although they are far from being my favorite subjects, I couldn't resist, especially as they can come in useful commercially in the future. While before the sky was quite hazy everyday before, it cleared up and some nice clouds have appeared. Most of the shots benefited from a polarizer. As a side note, you can make rainbow disappear with polarizers, should you ever want to.

The first shot in the series. A bit of contrast and sharpening in post-production.

Here I used the polarizer to remove much of the reflection on the water, to emphasize the lighted cloud in the sky.
Sharpened in post production, and slight colour adjustment. I particularly like the 'goosebumps' above the building.
Shot from my balcony, just as with the first shot. The colours at sunset were gorgeous.

OK, so not really a cloud picture, but coming out of my class, I saw the rainbow, and as I was rushing to the river to shoot, I spotted this scene and I thought the composition was much better than an industrial river side.


I love this city

From sunrise to sunset, here's a shot a took last night as my evening class had been canceled. Shot from the dyke of the Yodo river, near Juso.


Rooftop Improvisations

In my last entry, I wrote about shooting the sunrise. What I hadn't told you, though, is that the evening before, I attended a fantastic dance and music performance called Rooftop Improvisations. It was held on the rooftop (duh) of a building in Shinsaibashi, in a space called AFU. With the almost full moon out, the time I spent there was almost magical. It was great experience and I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the performers and you can see them here.

I know one of them fairly well, Charles-Eric Billard, a Quebec compatriot. We don't get together that often, but we run into each other often in rather coincidental occasions. He built many instruments, with which he creates all kinds of musical landscapes. He also dabbles, well more than dabbles since his work is recognized, in art installations and 3-D photography.

Two other members I talked with were Reiko Imanishi, a young and talented koto player, who isn't afraid to use her instrument in unconventional ways, including with a violin bow, and with Jerry Gordon, who plays numerous instruments. All in all, it was a great night out, and bless their souls for spiritually enriching my life.

Post-apocalyptic sunrise over Osaka

On  a few morning weekends this summer the Osaka building in Umeda opened its rooftop observatory for early birds who wanted to see the sunrise. Judging by the guard on top, it was probably his own initiative, as he had a camera around his neck, like many of the people who showed up Sunday morning, the last opportunity to do so this year. We must have been thirty people there, a good third of them with tripods like myself. The guy next to me actually had a film camera (a Pentax 35mm, not sure the actual model number) and I was lucky to be the first out of the elevator and took what I thought was the best position. Actually, a bit to the right would have been better, but I am happy looking at the shots.

Sadly the weather didn't create some awesome colors as I would have wished (I know I could play with post-prod software), but in the end it produced some interesting shots, that looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie, save that the buildings are still in decent condition. When life gives you lemons, make post-apocalyptic views! Click on the pictures to see larger versions.

Can you spot the Sun rising?
Good use of a grad filter.
Reminiscent of Benoit Aquin's Far East, Far West.
Another photographer.


Food Porn: Tuna

After my wife came back from the clinic (still no confirmation if it's a boy or a girl, but it's very active and in a better position than before), we went to a tuna restaurant near Teradacho station called Igawamaru Maguro Donya. We were lucky to be amongst the first 30 customers to order the limited super lunch special, with 5 different kinds of tuna meat, including a bone section where we need to scoop the meat off with a spoon. Was it good? I'll let the pictures speak by themselves. At ¥1,180, it ain't the cheapest lunch, but as we rarely go out for diner these days, it was well worth it.


Fire Next Door!

There was a fire next door to my apartment this afternoon. I considered canceling my classes to shoot it some more, but as I didn't have any valid outlet to get my pictures out, I decided to listen to my good conscious and go to w*rk. I'll need to get in touch with the big Japanese news agencies: as I almost always carry my camera with me, I could have some newspaper worthy stuff in the future.

All shots were taken with my 50mm lens, and the last one was taken from my balcony. Had I had a serious lead to a newspaper/agency, I would have asked one my floor neighbors if I could get on their balcony to take some shots. By the way, as you can see on the first and last shot, I live right next door to the Shinkansen high speed train, and from what I could see, no major service interruption occurred.

And the result is...

Well, I was a little apprehensive about the TV show, especially after someone gave me a false lead based on the Monday's announcement of the show. But after watching most of it on my wife's cell phone, I can honestly say that they did a good job. As far as I could see and understand there were no gross misrepresentations and the montage was pretty cool. I'm looking forward to getting the DVD of it and watching it completely on the computer.
And the effects were pretty immediate: a woman from a kimono recycling company got in touch with me. They produce some gorgeous dresses from used Japanese traditional wear. I don't know if it will lead to future work, but it certainly gave me some creative energy, that's always good!


Filming is done

Yesterday we had a last session of filming with the TV crew in Nakazaki-cho, in Umeda. This time, a full crew followed us around, with Sakata-san directing the crew, the cameraman and his assistant shooting and making suggestions, and a driver I only saw in the beginning.

First, as I often ride my bicycle left and right, they followed me from our meeting point to Nakazaki-cho ('cho' is a neighborhood division). Of course, once we stopped, they had me ride again, this time with the camera out of the car, for a set-up shot. Remember kids, what you see on TV is almost never spontaneous, it's almost always set up. Then, we walked around the neighborhood, and they shot me shooting things around there, asking a few questions along the way, and me sometimes making comments on my own. Here's a shot I took then.

Then, we settled in a park for a small interview. Some of the questions were the same as before, and surprisingly enough, they didn't ask questions that were too personal. After, they wanted me to film me working on a computer, looking at the pictures I took of the okonomiyaki restaurant and the Osaka Central Market. As I didn't want to do it at home for privacy, and because they forgot to bring a laptop, we had to find a plan B. I called my friend Patrice from the Osaka European Film Festival, but he was in the Shinkansen so the timing wasn't right.

The cameraman, who lives near, suggested to go get his old laptop at home, and we would settle in a cafe. I suggested Cafe Taiyo and they felt it was a great location. After getting the staff's OK, we ordered some drinks and waited for the crew to arrive. When it did arrive, we quickly did the segments, with me working on a laptop that doesn't belong to me, working in a location that I would never go to. That's TV my friends, and even if it wasn't a true representation of my life, it wasn't a clownesque situation so I didn't feel uncomfortable with it.

As to what will the final product look like, there is only one to find out and that is to tune in to Channel 7, TV Osaka, on Tuesday between 5:17 and 5:30 p.m. for the News Biz broadcast. My friend Diane, with whom I had a piknik after the shoot, is also part of the series of broadcasts on how foreigners in Osaka are fairing during these hard economic times, and she'll be on tonight, Monday, at the same time.


Osaka Central Market

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. this morning to assist and cover the tuna auction at the Osaka Central Market. Sakata-san was following me, filming for the aforementioned profile that will air next week. The action furious and the sights were not for the squeamish. Here's a quick view at what went on (Sorry about the messy layout, I was little time).


Ma, I'll be on TV!

Indeed, I met with a director from takeone.jp production company and they are doing a series of foreigner profiles of workers in Kansai, and how the current status of the economy is affecting them. Through Kansai Scene magazine, they got in touch with me and will follow me on two assignments to see what I do. This prompted me to update my portfolio on my website earlier than anticipated. You can get a bit more information here if you are interested.

If everything goes according to plan, the show will air next Tuesday on TV Osaka (channel 7) between 17:13 and 17:30. As they say, hope for the best, expect the worst!


Who Said Oil & Water Don't Mix?

My friend Sylvain, with whom I went river wading last week, asked me about some funky pictures I had taken, adding oil to water, to create some colorful designs (see some of the originals here). I took out my extension tubes again and had some fun this morning. Here are some of the pictures.


Yodogawa Fireworks

I shot pictures of the Yodogawa fireworks last night, and although shooting fireworks, when you know how to use a (D)SLR , is fairly easy, a company's billboard did prove challenging. For some shots I had to angle the camera just right to leave it out of the final result, in other cases I had to rely on post-production to remove the ghastly sign out of it. You can see the early results here, and I leave you with some shots as well, in case you're too lazy to click on the link!