Today is Zoe’s second major ballet recital. This time they are doing Swan Lake. (Here are some shots from her first recital last year.) They don’t let me photograph during the actual show, but I went to dress rehearsal yesterday and took about 1,000 photos. I’m swamped with work right now, so going through them all and selecting the winners, then posting them here, will take time. But here are a few that jumped out at me in the first go-through.
(The girl she’s dancing with here is two years older than Zoe.)
Every week we pass this car on our way to swimming, and every week Zoe says, “What a cool car!” or “I want a car like that when I grow up!”
(Notice the rhinestone-encrusted Nissan symbol.)
Of course, she does have one complaint: it’s not a convertible.
“Come to think of it, this car may be just barely cool enough for me.”full exif
The other day I went with Jeffrey and Nicolas to the home/workshop/mountain gallery of some stonecarvers who live on the outskirt of Kyoto. I have wanted to come here for a long time, and it turns out that I went on the perfect day, where the whole place was blanketed in a thin enough layer of snow not to hide the moss underneath.
This same family of stonecarvers have been at the same location for five generations, and some of the pieces in their “showroom” are 800 or more years old. Here is a post of Jeffrey’s showing them working and describing them. I had little interaction with them on this trip other than our asking if we could go out back to shoot, to which their response was, essentially, “Don’t bother me with stupid questions. I gotta get back to work.”
I was highly amused that when we were about to leave they were sleeping on the concrete floor of their workshop, taking a nap outside on the ground in the cold in the middle of winter, when there house was probably just a minute’s walk away. Work with stone enough, I guess, and you become half stone yourself.
Normally I would have used a macro lens here, but today for some reason I was particularly enjoying wide-angle. Perhaps because Jeffrey was nice enough to loan me his 24/1.4.
Some Sanskrit to be Determined Seed syllable hrih in Siddham
Yesterday I let Genbo stay home from school, just because. And of course Zoe wanted to get in on the action as well, so it was a play-hooky day for the three of us. I told him a couple months ago that we could have a school-free day once a month as long as we went out and did something special. I’m not convinced he learns anything meaningful at school anyway.
(I had originally thought of it as a way to have some one-on-one time; one day each month with Genbo and once with Zoe. I like interacting with my kids one-on-one, because it allows something to happen that can’t when there are three or more people present. However, in practice, I’ve learned, it’s hard to have a special day with one kid and have the other kid not be invited.)
So, we went to Higashi Honganji, after spending some quality time at a bookstore. This photo was taken approximately 5 seconds before the security guard pointed out a sign to me forbidding photography.
After culture, ice cream:
I described here how my friend Jeffrey and I were asked to take some photographs for a flier of an exhibition of my friend Koji Kamada (鎌田幸二), who is known for his tenmoku (天目) pottery. I ended up getting an exquisite tea bowl out of the deal, which is the subject of these macro shots.
OK, back on the blogging wagon after my year-end hiatus. These are just some pictures of Genbo and a friend of his eating banana bread batter at my house. I love their expressions. This is the first time they had ever had banana bread batter, having been doomed to grow up in a country of fermented bean paste, seaweed, and pickled plums ;)
And, a bonus, a rare shot of Zoe and me:
Sometimes I can get such good results with my iPhone that I wonder why I lug my big heavy DSLR and lenses around….OK, not really, but when the circumstances are right you definitely do well on the iPhone. Basically, you need something that doesn’t move and which is in good light. And, you need the right software. I’ve talked about Pro HDR before, but recently I’ve been having fun with something called Snapseed.
It’s put out by a company called Nik Software that creates plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop, and which I’ve wanted for years. They’re a little too expensive for me to be able to justify, but essentially the same technology is now free (down from 5 bucks after the company was recently bought out by Google).
Here is one recent shot, followed by the original, non-Snapseed-ed image:
The above is a little more processed than I usually like, but I was just learning and having fun with the software. I realize that there are all sorts of bogus filter-effect apps out there, and Snapseed does indeed include some filters, but more importantly it enables an impressive amount of very hands-on pixel-level editing. For example, I was able to selectively increase the saturation on the red bushes at the bottom of the frame, as well as on only some of the golden leaves.
Here I was able to bring down the almost-blown highlights in the fallen leaves while raising the contrast and brightness in the circular tiles at the bottom, which were lost in shadow in the original:
Here is a photo of the moat that I very nearly fell into while standing on a ledge to get the photo above. I used HDR Pro first, to meld two photos taken at different exposures, then I used Snapseed to tweak the photo until I got a result I liked. I love how the light shines on the big green lotus leaves.
(Don’t miss the giant Koi half-hiding under the leaves.)
The other day my friend Jeffrey and I were enlisted by my friend Kouji Kamada, the potter, to take some photos of his work for fliers/invitations to an upcoming exhibit. He knows we are camera buffs (Jeffrey more so than I), so he figured we would enjoy the challenge. And boy, was it a challenge. Product photography is hard, especially when you don’t have a properly equipped studio.
Below are some of my favorite shots from the session. You’ll notice that the backgrounds we were using had quite a bit of dust etc. on them, but Jeffrey managed to remove that in post-processing.
This big pot was the hardest of all, both because it was large enough to require extra background, and because the glaze is so reflective. We had to move things on the far side of the room because they were visible in the reflections.
The next few shots are of an incense burner. The little holes in the lid are for the incense to come out of. Come to think of it, shooting this with incense smoke wafting elegantly out of those holes would make for some awesome images. Too bad we can’t use the products before they’re sold.
Here’s our setup in his workshop. Notice the broom hanging from the ceiling on the left with traditional Japanese paper attached to it to diffuse the light. His potter’s wheel is right under the boards of where the incense burner it.
Here’s a tea ceremony bowl.
Another tea ceremony bowl…
After we shot it, this last bowl fell over and got a 2 mm or so chip in the lip. Very minor, but obviously it wasn’t showable or sellable any longer. So, Kamada-san gave it to me. Bad luck for K-san, good luck for meeee!
Previous shots of his work here, here, and here.
A few weeks ago we went on our first hike as a family. Maki and I have always enjoyed hiking, but we haven’t been for years because of Genbo and Zoe. We finally decided that they were ready, so we went for a hike up Daimonji hill, which is on the east side of Kyoto. We had actually hiked up this hill on one of our first dates nearly two decades ago.
Here’s how this hill looks every August 16 from Kyoto.
This is the character for Big, and it’s lit on fire every year to guide the spirits back to the spirit world after the festival of O-bon. There are four other hills around Kyoto with various other characters, although this is the biggest one. (Photo by Jeffrey Friedl)
Here’s Genbo and then the rest of us mimicking the character for Big. We’re standing on concrete risers which are used for lighting the fires.
On our way up the mountain. It takes about 45 minutes to climb up, and about 25 minutes to go back down. I love the expression on this guy’s face as Genbo brandishes his “sword.”
Here’s me helping Zoe down. These huge steps are hard for a five-year-old. I was proud of her, though; she didn’t complain or asked to be carried once. (Did fall asleep nearly as soon as we got back in the car, however!)
18 November 2012 Undoukai
About six weeks ago Genbo had his undoukai, which corresponds to field day in the US but is a much bigger deal. The entire school divides up into three teams, with each class belonging to a team and wearing the team’s colors. Points are awarded for everything, and at the end the team with the most points wins.
Here is Genbo’s team, the Yellows, engaged in their cheer, a several-minute long song/chant in which they assert their inherent superiority over the Blues and the Reds. It’s all very militaristic for a country that considers itself as peace-loving as Japan. Genbo is the one right in front of his teacher, the man in the yellow shirt.
“The Senkaku Islands Belong to Japan! Protect our Territory from Outside Invaders!”full exif
During lunch (the entire
ordeal event takes about six hours), the field is free, so Zoe went running around pretending that she was part of it.
OK, it’s been a while. Too long, I think. I’m going to endeavor from now on to post every Sunday evening (Japan time).
Here is just a short, simple post of the four of us biking along a river in Aspen this past summer. Zoe doesn’t know how to ride without training wheels yet, so she ended up riding behind me. The children decided that we ought to buy a house in Aspen, and Maki and I just laughed.
My last post was about the rodeo we went to in Aspen; this is about my kids at the Rodeo. Here they are in cowboy hats procured for them by beloved Aunt and Uncle:
Who says Jewish/Japanese mutts can’t be cowboys?full exif
Here’s a series of Genbo practicing his wrangling skills on a plastic cow:
Zoe likes BBQ chicken and lemonade almost as much as pickled plums and miso soup!full exif
And, we’ll end with a couple pictures of Genbo looking dashing:
16 August 2012 Rodeo!
We’ve been having a great time in Aspen for the past few days, and I already have tons of posts worth of photos. Tonight, however, we went to the Snowmass Rodeo, which was just about the most quintessentially American thing that I think I could have exposed Genbo and Zoe to. In fact, at the moment I feel like any part of the US that is NOT a rodeo is somehow just not authentically American.
Today was breast cancer awareness day at the rodeo, which was why all the cowboys were wearing pink shirts. This guy below was in charge of opening the gates for the practice session, which took place for about an hour before the main events. Two cowboys would get into gates, and then a calf released. This man waited a few seconds and then opened the gates, which he straddled with such an easy air of confidence that I can only assume he won every single rodeo himself between 1960 and 1970.
One cowboy lassoed the calf’s head (which seemed relatively easy), while the second was charged with lassoing the rear hooves, which had a much higher failure rate. This was one of the events of the rodeo, which apparently is like a sport with lots of prize money on the line. This cowboy below struck me for wearing the most flamoyantly pink shirt of the lot, along with a pink-rhinestone studded belt and rhinestone-studded glasses. I figured that if you’re going to be that flashy, you had better be good, and indeed he managed to lasso the rear hooves of the calf with an easy nonchalance that completely escaped everybody else.
Below are some more shots of the calf-lassoing competition. I was experimenting with trying to capture a sense of motion.