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October 26, 2007

Stillness in Nikko

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If I could give any advice to a traveler who wants to come and see Japan it would be simple: do not try to see everything and try to spend as much time away from Tokyo as possible.

Japan has such a variety of things to offer and such a well developed transportation system that it is easy to yield to the temptation that one should try and see it all as quickly as possible. Tokyo too has the allure of being so large and well documented, either popularly in films such as Lost in Translation or in guidebooks, that it is all too easy to hop from place to place while actually experiencing very little.

Instead I would advise breaking the journey into two segments: megapolis and countryside. See the big cities and resist the urge to stay. Try to be fully aware of the crowds, the concrete, and the looks of exhaustion you see everywhere. Did you make any real connections with anybody or were they merely being polite?

CameraKonica Minolta MAXXUM 7D
Lens (35mm Equiv.)Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8 @ 28 mm (42 mm)
Exp. Prog. / Shutter @ ApertureAperture priority / 2 s @ f/8
Metering w/Adj. @ ISOPattern w/0.00 eV @ 100

Next, travel to the countryside and notice how everything improves: the temples, the food, the prices, the people. Stay in a Ryokan. Bathe in an onsen. Eat the local specialties. Talk to the people that are interested in talking with you, often their interest is genuine. Above all, try to forget yourself for awhile.

If you want the Lost in Translation experience it is actually very easy to come to Japan and have it. It is entirely possible to arrive in Tokyo with grand dreams of acquiring a new cultural awareness only to find that hope somehow dashed when dotting from tourist cliché to cliché and attaching oneself from one lonely and alienated foreigner to another. It is the busiest emptiness you may ever experience. Is that what you really want?

 

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October 9, 2007

Viva la France

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Objet trouvé dans arrondissement 1.

 

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September 19, 2007

Welcome to Europe: The Eiffel Tower

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I have arrived in Europe. I have arrived in Logroño, Spain and will be staying here for at least the next three months. Drop me a line if you are in the neighborhood!

 

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July 11, 2007

Birds in Flight in Vancouver

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CameraPolaroid 101
Lens3 Element Glass
Shutter @ ApertureUnknown @ Unknown
ISO100

My apologies for my absence. I've settled into my summertime routine of work and travel and not much at-home computer time. It's just been too nice to sit down, acquire and organize what I've shot. Although I haven't been posting often, I have been out shooting a lot.

I recently returned from Vancouver and decided to take along only my Polaroid camera. I love the Polaroid medium. I find it combines an elegant and interesting set of constraints to my photography which force me to slow down and think about a composition before I click and commit it to a three dollar antique piece of paper. As an added bonus it often works well as an ice-breaker for meeting people!

Walking around the Gas Town a group of us were invited to sit down and enjoy a performance that was part of a dance festival. I am remiss to remember the name of the piece or the name of the group that played—perhaps it was Birds in Flight by a Fujimoto Dance Theatre Company of Toronto?—but I do recall the majority of us seated on the steps of a building facing the dancers were at times more captivated by the actions of a small precocious child down in front of us.

From his mother's lap he would imitate the movements of the dancers. Sometimes he would make a mask out of his hands to imitate a birds face, often accompanied by little animal noises. Soon the excitement of the dance built to such an extreme degree that he reached his arms high into the air and demanded to his mother, "shirt, off!" Breathlessly, we watched him for his next move.

Boldly he stood and made a little mask over his eyes with his hands, his arms and elbows jutted out sideways making little bony wings of a bird. He walked slowly but intently toward the performance area. All eyes were on him. I raised my camera.

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I adjusted my focus through the greasy range finder and composed the scene. I checked focus again and recomposed it. I opened both my eyes and checked for any obstructions. I clicked the frame...I clicked the frame just as a fat, oblivious man walked in front of half the audience and obscuring the right third of my frame. A couple to our left let out a whisper of, "oh, darn it!" on my behalf.

"I hate fat guys!" I quietly ejected.

The moment was over. The boy sat down and asked his mom to put his shirt back on. The photo developed and there was my fat man, as surprised by the scene in front of him as I was in finding him walking in front of half the audience. All in all it wasn't a bad photo—even the couple next to me felt that he added a second dialog to the photo— but I wasn't happy with him there. I fantasized immediately about erasing him from existence.

For a couple of evenings since I've been back I've been painstakingly removing him. I am much happier with him out than in. I'd love to hear what you think about this photo.

 

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June 5, 2007

Zion National Park - Knob Canyon Up Close

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CameraKonica Minolta MAXXUM 7D
Lens (35mm Equiv.)Sigma 170-500mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm (600 mm)
Exp. Prog. / Shutter @ ApertureAperture priority / 1/200 s @ f/8
Metering w/Adj. @ ISOPattern w/0.00 eV @ 100

The land of Southern Utah is supernaturally beautiful. Every tree, rock and snowflake appears to have been placed with purpose. If every a man was to be tempted by faith, he would find faith in Zion.

The Utah drivers had us reaching for prayer too. Jim and I had a number of close calls on the State's winding canyon roads. We were rewarded richly with both our lives and scenery nearly impossible to represent truly in a photograph.

This long shot was taken with a tripod and my long lens from a car park in Knob Canyon, on the often overlooked west side of Zion National Park.

 

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April 21, 2007

Presidio 101

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CameraPolaroid 101
Lens3 Element Glass
Shutter @ ApertureUnknown @ Unknown
ISO100

My amazing friend Steve took my brother and I kiting. After eating at the best restaurant in the universe we headed up to the Presidio in search of a steady wind and open space.

The wind was high and variable, but I found a photo. We headed on up to Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley.

 

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February 14, 2007

The North Tower

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CameraHolgaroid 120GF
LensHolga Glass 60mm f/8
Shutter @ Aperture1/100s @ f/8
Film / ISOPolaroid Type 84 / 100 ISO

This is a photo I took last summer of the Washburn Water Tower. The tower was built in the Tangletown neighborhood of Minneapolis in 1932. The tower is ringed by 16-foot-tall ominous and sword-wielding soldiers standing sentry under huge concrete eagles. The tall statues are "guardians of health" and are supposed to guard the water from pollutants which were blamed for the occasional outbreaks of typhoid fever at the time. There's more info about the tower and its curious history here and another great photo here.

I live about six blocks South of the tower. It's very difficult to see from my house, even in the winter time when all of the leaves are gone from the trees. The geography of the land and the homes that surround the tower in Tangletown hide it from everyday view. I've often heard my fellow Minneapolitans exclaim, "where is that?" when we are descending into Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. The path of descent often takes you close enough to this tower to see the downwardly cast faces of the statues. It's a fantastic welcome.

I think it properly introduces people to our eccentricity and our humorously sullen outlook on life and weather. Cold, stony, and odd. This tower explains in perfect detail how we could elect someone like Jesse Ventura. When I get visitors, this is always one of the first places I take them.

In other news, I'm off to Utah today. I'll be on business there for the remainder of the week but I'm hoping to get some picture time in on the weekend. See you all soon! Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!

 

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February 12, 2007

Smile!

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CameraHolgaroid 120GF
LensHolga Glass 60mm f/8
Shutter @ Aperture1/100s @ f/8
Film / ISOPolaroid Type 84 / 100 ISO

EDIT: Tanja corrected my memory: I removed the adapter lens, I didn't turn it backwards...although that would be something to try :)

I'm continuing with the summer theme for a bit. Smile!

I was armed with the Holgaroid and taking a walk through the woods by my office with a colleague when I smelled something foul being carried by the hot, persistent summer breeze. I followed the stench upwind to a marshy area when I came upon this grin. I remembered some advice that Tanja-Tiziana from DoubleCrossed.ca had given me when I had bought my Holgaroid: remove the adapter lens and use the stock Holga body lens as a macro. I got in closer than I thought I need to and came away with this shot, which still looked wide: but at least it was in focus!

I love the way this shot turned out. It works perfectly for me!

 

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February 6, 2007

The Boys (and Girls) of Summer

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CameraPolaroid 101
Lens3 Element Glass
Shutter @ ApertureUnknown @ Unknown
ISO100

When it's minus 10 Fahrenheit and snow drifts pile up outside your door, you find yourself reaching back to try and find any memories that might convince you that summer actually is coming. Each memory is scrutinized for authenticity, examined and cross examined. Surely there are warmer days to come.

This photograph is one such memory. I've had this photograph sitting on my desk. These are the kids next door.

Sure they ripped off the window screens and broke into the house (for the cookies). Sure they pick the garden flowers. Sure the other neighbors eye them suspiciously when the ride by on the broken down, rusty bicycles. It doesn't matter: they are our neighbor kids and we love them. It wouldn't be the neighborhood without them.

They are the reason that we learn how to hang window screens. They propel us to think leafy colorful coleus instead of flowering clematis. They make us want to set good examples for when the ground thaws, school is out, and once again the boys and girls of summer go roaming the neighborhood.

 

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February 5, 2007

Under the Tangletown Bridge

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CameraMinolta 9
LensSigma 15mm f/3.5
Shutter @ Aperture1/250 @ f/5
ISO100

When my Minolta 7d failed and had to be sent in for service for the second time, I used the digital down-time to shoot more Polaroids and 35mm transparencies.

Walking around the neighborhood, this has always been one of my favorite spots. It's a mysterious urn-like object underneath the Tangletown bridge that spans over Minnehaha Creek linking north and southbound Nicolette Avenue.

The shot was taken with Fuji Velvia, scanned on my poopy HP scanner, desaturated, colored, and augmented with a grain field.

I've got the Minolta 7d back from the shop, but I haven't been out shooting seriously with it for awhile. Hopefully, that's about to change.

 

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