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Day 2: Close Encounter of The Third Sludge

Traffic and a bit of unpreparedness delayed us in the morning but we arrived early enough to do some work.

Our 30-strong group was divided into three teams and off we went. Our team's morning tasks were pretty simple, removing furniture, including a piano, and clear, from a garden, the 4-5cm layer of clayish dark mud that came with the tsunami.

In the neighbourhood where we worked the water came about one-meter high. We saw little earthquake damage, even the first home that didn't look that new nor strong.

After breaking for lunch, we got our first real assignment, ripping floorboards in order to remove the layer of sludge that got into the foundation of a house (see the picture). The team was happy to get some real work and we got down to business. The young couple looked a little bewildered at first, but when they realized we knew what we were doing and that most of us could communicate in Japanese, they relaxed and assisted us well.

We didn't have time to finish all rooms before the oh-so official 3:30pm finish time so we'll need to go back tomorrow, if the operations aren't officially called off because of the rain. As you can deduce, there's a bit of red tape, but less than in regular-life Japan.

We're heading back to camp, where we'll clean up before heading out to eat. Dinner is gonna taste good tonight.


Day 1: Ze Drive

We're currently driving through the mountains in Yamagata prefecture, and a long drive it is. We left Osaka at 6:30 and save for a few service area stops, we've been going non-stop.

Marty, a harrier friend from Iwakuni, is not only driving this HHH car, but he's also entertaining us, mostly at my expense by saying my name in a comical French accent.

We're still probably at least two hours away from our destination, our final time depending on traffic and the state of the road in the deeply affected area.

I'll sign off with the picture taken taken in the mountains.


It Is Time.

Well, it's time for me to leave my comfortable nest, my wife and son, and get dirty. Especially considering since they're both running some fevers (nothing too serious, rest assured), it's not easy to do. But this is something I feel I have to do. The reasons are many-fold, and I guess it boils down to this: Japan has given me so much, and I wish to give something back.

Someone posted this on our secret group in Facebook (some members are going even if their families or workplace are against it), and I wish to share it with you:

Why we go.
There's a scene in "The Blues Brothers" where Jake and Elwood pick up dry white toast, four fried chickens with a Coke, ...and one more of their old band members. They're getting the band together (and so are we). The man can't leave work, can he? Responsibilities! He can't leave his wife and family, can he? Yes, he can. And his wife (played by Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul), understands.
What is the point of this message? Just to suggest that if you're in doubt about your reason for going, consider that "You are doing this for your family." Not for your company (to hell with work); rather, for family. Family comes first, work does not. 99 times out a 100, to live for your family means staying right with them no matter what. That one other time means: GO, get the band together, and protect the society in which your family is trying to reside. We do it for our families.

Lucky for you, I have found the way to post picks directly from my cell phone, so I will try to post something everyday of our trip. Our message is one of reconstruction and hope, don't expect anything else on here.

Well, I need to wake up in less than 7 hours. Of course there was a SNAFU tonight, but it's gonna alright. Here's perhaps a song that resumes well my thoughts, and here are the first two pictures of the trip.

I got more than I bargained for when I offered to do a
Costco run for the group, more than half my luggage is
food for volunteers; GOMA & JRS and The Holy Grail
will keep us entertained on the 12-hour drive.

My cellphone wallpaper for the trip


Big Trip

In less than 72 hours I'll be traveling to Tohoku, the area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. I'm part of a 30+ people team who are traveling there to help with cleaning up. Don't worry, we'll be at a safe distance of the power plants that are on their way to melting down.

As mentioned before, we go there to give a hand, and hopefully, loaded with construction equipment as we'll be, we'll be allowed more than just moping floors and so on. I'll be one of the official documentarist of the expedition, but don't expect devastation and crying children pictures from me. We go there to help and I plan to bring images of hope back, as well as tips for others interested in doing similar work. I may be able to upload some shots during the trip, but I can't guarantee anything.

Well, I leave you with a shot taken last Friday. I can't decide if I like the color or B/W more.




Good Friday

I'm not particularly religious, if anything I'm not egoist but egotheist, i.e. I believe in myself. However there is definitely something religious about this shot, and thus I decided to wait until today to post it. For those who think I'm a little early, remember that Japan is ahead in time compared to North America...



Digital photography opens many doors in the realm of creativity. Of course there is a debate wether some of those endeavors can still be considered photography. From my point of view, it depends purpose. In the realm of photojournalism, something I really respect and like to shoot, then there should be basically no alterations. Then again, even with film, the choice of film and adding of filters will alter the final result. What about exposure and white balance adjustments with digital photography? In these cases, is using post-production really affecting the final result to the point where it should be rejected? Many publications have decided that it is fine, and I agree with it. But it is a Pandoras box as the line is hard to draw.

In the case of commercial and art photography, I believe anything goes, the power of the image prevails. Although we tend to have the view that photography should reflect reality (whatever that is), photographers have been manipulating theirs images since the beginning. With film, in addition to choice of film and filter(s), development, dodging and burning, multiple exposures, choice of angle and lens and cropping, to name just these, have altered reality to fit the artist's vision. Sometimes there is backlash, like people complaining about some images being quite different from reality (cheap target, I agree, but most clients ask for it, don't be shocked). But think about it, do we feel cheated when a painter's image doesn't reflect reality? What about Chopin's Funeral March, is it a "real" representation of a funeral?

No. It's in an interpretation. And art, in the widest sense of the term, is also the interpretation of a feeling an artist wants to express.

With this in mind, digital photography and post-production does allow you and I to alter an image to convey meaning and feeling to our audience, even if it's an audience of one. Recently a technique that's been getting exposure is the use of textures. Basically, you super-impose two or more pictures and then use masks and blending modes (Photoshop terminology) to create a new image. A few photographers/artists employed these at this year's Fotografika exhibition and I used it myself last year.

Today, when I was out, finding textures was my aim. I leave you with some recent use of textures, and two that I shot today. Instead of buying some 'texture packs' on the internet, I strongly encourage to get your own: this way, your images will truly be unique.

Kazuma and some grass

Tomoko's daughter was born '11.4.8;
the texture is from a Goma concert
Anything can be a texture; let your imagination run wild

Flattish subjects work best; don't worry too much about
size since layers usually are not the main subject


Night Photography

Night photography is a different beast than it's daytime counterpart. Tones, colors and atmosphere (to name these few) are different, opening new opportunities for creative minds. My mood itself is quite different too when I go making pictures at night, perhaps because the locales are much quieter. Here are some shots from the past few days, minus my favorite one which I'll upload on Good Friday.

Temple near my place

Tree near my place

Road near my place

Park near my place

Cherry blossom tree near my place
Not many people out for the cherry trees on Saturday

On my way back from the KMFH3


The Day in Pictures

When I shot Osaka Castle the other evening, I had my 70-300mm on my camera, and it hasn't left it since. Here are some shots taken with it today.

The temple near my home

Titled 'Friends', a message to my Dutch friend Edith

"Johnny take a walk, with your sister the Moon..."

Jigsaw Falling Into Place


Osaka Castle Cherry Blossoms

I went out tonight hoping to get a shot I didn't manage to create last year. Reflecting on last year's attempt, I thought I hadn't positioned my strobes correctly to catch my camera's wireless signal. I sadly learned tonight that they were simply out of range. A little disappointing, but I still managed this shot; can you spot Batman's shadow on the castle? Not what I was exactly going for, but maybe next year I can try again.


Montbell Charity Event: Super D in Action

Diane Orrett is an awesome woman. So much so that from now on I shall refer to her as Super D. There just isn't a better way to describe her. In case you didn't know, she spent 5 days in Tohoku, the tsunami-afflicted area, helping out volunteer crews to load, unload and distribute necessities (such as hand lotion, honestly), as well as entertaining locals, young and old, with her balloon antics.

Today and tomorrow Montbell is hosting it's Friends' Fair, with this year's proceeds going to relief efforts. Super D was on hand to entertain the crowds and collect some donations. I met the president of the company, Mr. Tatsuno. I took the opportunity to thank him personally, as his company sponsored my Trailwalker team when we joined in 2007 and 2008 (I'd like to join again, but it ain't that easy to find 3 other like-minded individuals and find the time and energy to train for it: go for it, do it at least once, it is worth it; I hope to join again in a few years). Along the big cheese, I did meet many interesting people, and if you read this in time, please drop by; besides the stands and outlet section, there are many activities for the whole family to enjoy. Here are some shots from today.

Transporting the wall of friendship

Yes you can!

Yes we can!

Yes I could

Yes I can (with a little help from my friend)

This is the way you do it

Spirit Sisters

Serious as ever

Who's the fairest one of all?

Super D and I wished we were still (recognized as) kids


New Look

I'm not done yet, but what do you think so far?

Spring is Here pt.2

I had fun today again, especially as I had quite a bit of bicycle commuting. Although I was never much into flower photography, a macro lens opens doors into abstraction, which attracts me more to be honest. All shots are not of flowers, but...

The shapes attracted me

My wife says I look like Winnie the Pooh; well, I do
like honey, and thus, bees too.

Regular cherry blossom

Shallow DOF

Backlit yellow

Backlit orange

This sign has seen more than one spring

Don't ask me the name of this flower


End of the day


Spring is Here

Well, as far as I can tell, the Osaka Spring (a.k.a. Montreal Summer) has arrived. Of course, most of the time my macro lens is on when I go out. Here are some shots of the past week.

Don't know the names of these big ones

The first blossoms

Shot with my 20-35mm

A very pink variety of cherry blossoms


Fotografika Reception Party

Last night was the reception party for the Fotografika exhibition I joined. I feel humble to be amongst so many talented photographers and artists. This year, as I mentioned, the theme is midnight and the pictures represented the theme quite well, with every photographers' interpretations. The party was lively, and it was great to talk shop with many of the people present. The daughter of one of the artist of course stole the show, and my model, Diane, also showed up. Thank SoHo Gallery for a great evening and exhibition.

Things were still civil then

Mireiyu and her daughter: where's Duckie?

Don't worry, she was drinking softies

Canon people: you're excused

Nikon people, with at least 2 missing on the shot

I'll show you the strength of my Kung Fu

On the right the mother who didn't worry a bit

Celio, one of the gallery owners

My model on the left

Fun times for all