Winter in Yakushima – Chapter Two: A New Adventure

I have never asked my wife to take me to the train station in the early morning or to pick me up late at night. When I got up at 4:30 on February 11th and made myself ready to leave for the airport, I was fully prepared to walk the twenty minutes with both my hiking backpack and my camera pack. But my wife woke up early to have a cup of café ole with me and then offered to drive me to the station. Our two children were sleeping soundly and we hoped that during the 10 minutes or so that she’d be gone neither would wake.

I was going to be away for eight days, the longest I had ever been away since we had children. I hoped that she would be able to cope on her own. Our two little darlings can be quite the handful, as I am sure any parent facing a two-against-one situation with their kids will concur. I boarded the first train of the day at 5:40 and enjoyed a relaxing ride until crossing the river into Tokyo where I had to transfer. The holiday assured that there would not be as many people as on a typical weekday morning, and so even boarding the monorail to Haneda Airport was fairly smooth.

Memories of my previous trip to Yakushima surfaced as I searched for my travel mates. I recalled Mr. Hatenaka’s smiling bearded face, and the friendly relaxed nature of the crew to whom I was introduced in the check in queue. This time I already had met the crew once two weeks prior in Shibuya. Mr. Ichino was assigned as director. With much experience climbing mountains in Japan in the winter, he would be well-prepared for our snowy ascent of Miyanouradake. I was later to learn that he had been to Greenland, Iceland, the table lands of Venezuela a few times, and several other exciting places in the world. He started out, as he would later tell us one night, as a salesman for Asahi Beer. After three years he quit and turned to acting, during which time he appeared in some TV dramas. But he decided that directing was more for him and studied to be a nature documentary director.

Other members of our team were to be Mr. Mori, a veteran world traveler and camera operator and the oldest member of our group. He would tell of his experiences in Chad, northern Canada, Antarctica, and other places. As it would turn out, Mr. Mori had also been the cameraman shooting the scenes I had watched on TV of the two climbers in the snow on Yakushima. Our youngest member, Mr. Kurihashi the sound engineer, had done a bit of traveling abroad for work as well. At dinner times I would listen to my companions talk about their adventures abroad and other well-known people in the documentary business of whom I had never heard. Thankfully, I would at least be able contribute with a few stories of my own of foreign travel experiences.

Unlike the previous trip where I had met the rest of the crew for the first time and there had been a round of introductions, this time was very casual. Mr. Ichino greeted me and let me step in front of him in the queue for check in. The other two were nearby and gave a simple morning greeting. The feeling was like this was just another day of work for the four of us. Perhaps everyone else was still in early morning mode.

Before long we were taking our seats on the plane and I noticed that we were all seated separately. That meant I could plug in to some music and keep a watch out the window and snap some scenes above the clouds with my phone camera.

Walk the plank! Looking down shortly after take-off

Walk the plank! Looking down shortly after take-off

The tip of the Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa

The tip of the Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa

Numazu City, the Izu Peninsula and Izu Oshima beyond

Numazu City, the Izu Peninsula and Izu Oshima beyond

What would this trip to Yakushima bring? As I watched Tokyo disappear below and then saw the golden orange and yellow reflected light on Tokyo Bay, I wondered what weather would be in store for us. The previous visit had been at the very end of a three-week drought and we had enjoyed sunshine for four of the five days. Only on the last day did we experience the heavy tropical rains. At least I knew to expect rain frequently. It would be a little warm by the shore but the high mountains were covered in snow and the night time temperatures were still down just below zero. Snow would be alright. Heavy rain would not be so welcome. But I wasn’t able to shoot satisfactory forest views in the bright sunshine of the previous visit. Some rain would be essential for creating typical Yakushima forest scenery.

We sailed over the clouds most of the way to Kyushu and descended through them to Kagoshima. I noticed that the volcanoes of both Sakurajima and Kirishima were smoking. The sky seemed to be clearing as our small prop plane flew from Kagoshima to Yakushima. I caught sight of Satsuma Iwojima and saw the volcano was smoking as well. The mountains of Yakushima came into view. It was partly cloudy weather and sunshine was streaking in here and there. This was a good start.

The approach to Yakushima

The approach to Yakushima

At the airport there was no filming of me stepping onto the airstrip and taking in the view as there had been last time. We simply stood waiting for our packs in the tiny airport and then loaded them into the taxi van. The driver came round and began chatting to the director. I recognized his jovial expression and friendly manner. He had been my driver on the previous trip. I asked him if he remembered me and he seemed put on the spot. No matter. It made me feel welcome to return to a place now familiar to me and see a face I knew.

The Mr. Ichino instructed the driver to take us to a Korean restaurant for lunch. I was back on Yakushima with much to look forward to. The taxi van left the airport and we set out on the road for day one of our Yakushima adventure.

Winter in Yakushima – Chapter One: Getting Back There

Ever since the success of the first Yakushima program in which I appeared in 2013, the head of the production company was for going back to do a winter episode. At the end of 2013, I was told that a winter story was being put together for proposal to NHK for their internationally broadcast Journeys in Japan program. In early January 2014 I was told that I should clear my schedule for January 31. On a program about World Heritage Sites, I watched two men climbing up through the snow of one of the mountains on Yakushima. That was going to be me, I imagined. A week later, I received notice that the plan had been scrapped. There was something about the danger of climbing mountains in the snow, risks to the cameraman and director, and not wanting to give foreigners the idea that climbing mountains in Japan in winter was an easy thing.

I accepted that this was how things were going to be and forgot about winter in Yakushima. I proposed some other locations that I hoped to visit, but nothing came out of my ideas. Then the word came in early December, 2014: a new story proposal was being prepared and they wanted me to be the reporter. It sounded great, but I knew not to get my hopes up.

January came and I was told that we had to set the dates. This time they wanted to go for eight or nine days in the middle of February. Because of my work schedule we had to negotiate back and forth between their shooting desires and my manager and boss. The main issue was that I couldn’t miss two of the same weekday consecutively. Fortunately, Wednesday the 11th was holiday, and we decided on February 11 to 18. I had to be back at work for the morning of the 19th because of a very important event.

The dates were agreed upon, the proposal passed, and I received a message saying we were good to go. But right after that came a message informing me that the guides on Yakushima all needed a three-day training course and we wouldn’t be able to get a guide until the 14th. Could my schedule be changed to go from the 14th to the 20th? To the credit of my manager, she tried to arrange something, but it was not up to her to make any final decisions. The schedule could not be changed, and I was informed that the production company would have to find another reporter.

This was a crushing disappointment. The chance to climb Miyanouradake in winter and to see more of Yakushima had been dropped in my lap. And yet due to a single important event in my work schedule I would have to give the opportunity to someone else. That night I went home and sent a message to my contact at the production company. I thanked her for all her efforts and expressed my regret that I could not be the one to go.

The following morning she replied. They really wanted me to go because the story was based on my return to Yakushima. After a couple of hours I got a message saying that they were looking for a new guide who could lead us up the mountain through the snow during the dates that I was available. And then soon after, I received the great news that a guide had been found. We were – I was – going back to Yakushima. I still didn’t want to leap in the air for joy, but somehow this time it felt like it was really going to happen. I was really going to go back to Yakushima for another adventure.

The Country of Water: Japan

Last night on Fuji Television (March 10, 26:00 to 27:15) the program, “Mizu no Kuni Nippon – 水の国ニッポン” was aired. The program featured four stories from around Japan where water is used for some special purpose. See my previous post for details about my trip to Miyagi Prefecture. Now here are some snaps of my TV screen during the broadcast.





To Call a Magan

From January 16th to the 17th, I visited Osaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, the next bullet train stop north of Sendai. I was asked to be a foreign travel reporter for a TV program called “Mizu no Kuni Nipppon – Japan: the Country of Water” to be aired on a television station in Kumamoto, the station being part of the Fuji Sankei Group. The program would also be aired a week or two later on Fuji Television during the late night.

I met up with the director, assistant director, sound engineer and camera operator when I boarded the bullet train at Omiya Station in Saitama, and we rode through the morning mist in Utsunomiya, past the cloud-covered peaks of Bandaisan and Adatarayama, and the clear white summit of Azumasan, on past snowy fields to the bare brown fields north of Sendai. From the train station, two people working for Osaki City Hall’s land use and environmental department took us off to the rural areas outside the city.

Our first real stop was Mototaki, a waterfall located in a hidden alcove carved out in layers of volcanic tuff in the small mountain mass of Kagoboyama (加護防山). The water seeping through the layers of tuff was barely a trickle but it was clear and naturally filtered and enriched with minerals leached from the rock.

Mototaki

Mototaki

As we were visiting the area – me shooting away with my camera and the camera operator busy filming this and that – the local caretaker came to the shrine located before the falls. The director said this would be a great chance to speak to a local and ask about the significance of the water. I greeted the old man and first asked if the rock was indeed volcanic tuff. He immediately replied that it wasn’t and that there were no volcanoes around here (I later checked a geologic map of the mountain on the web and found that it truly was tuff). Next I asked about the significance of the shrine. He went on to explain a lot about how in the old days people came here for the New Year’s traditions and the water used to be used for the rice paddies below. These days few people come and the water in the fields is recycled water from the river. I understood that much anyway, but there were many times I couldn’t catch a thing and only looked at him and smiled in interest. After he left, the director said, “I think I understood only half of what he said.” Everyone else concurred. The man had spoken in some local dialect. “If we use that part for the program we’ll have to use subtitles,” said the director.

Closer view of Mototaki

Closer view of Mototaki

Next we drove to the top of the mountain. In the old days, there used to be a shrine on the summit; however, it burned down. We saw some unnatural mounds in the ground and some large stones place in the ground with hollow bowls carved out. These stones used to be for the main support pillars. Ironically, the name Kagoboyama includes the Kanji for “Add”, “Preservation”, and “Protection”. It seems the mountain didn’t live up to its name when the shrine burned down; due to a drought, there was not enough water at the time to douse the fire!

View from Kagoboyama

View from Kagoboyama

We drove down to visit the wide tapestry of rice paddies below. It was unusual to see fields that still retained water during the winter months. Usually the rice paddies are left dry in winter. But here parts were muddy and wet, and a type of wild goose called magan in Japanese and swans waddled about in the mud, searching for rice grains that had dropped off during the previous autumn’s harvest.

Water in the winter fields

Water in the winter fields

As I was to learn, this visitation of water fowl was a crucial aspect for the local rice farming industry. For the time being, however, we drove around and I was filmed walking about and photographing or we went in search of birds in the fields to shoot for the program.

Magan in flight

Magan in flight

As evening approached, we went over to see the Kabukuri Marsh (蕪栗沼)where the birds would all come to roost for the night. The weather had been mixed sun and cloud during the day but the clouds were taking over the sky and a bitter wind blew in from the northwest. A Mr. Saito had been arranged to come and meet with me on the dyke overlooking the marsh. He described how in old times people thought the wild geese and wild ducks were the same creature. But then they learned more about the geese. The birds are actually from Siberia but they come to Japan in the winter and try to fatten up. They eat the dropped rice grains in the paddies mostly. Mr. Saito explained how the farmers made great effort to keep water in the fields in winter to provide the birds with a wetland environment and a source of food. I saw how this benefited the birds, but what did human beings stand to gain from this magnanimous activity? I asked but Mr. Saito suddenly looked awkward and said to the director, “He should just ask me about how we look after the birds.” So I did and got the explanation about how the farmers help the NPO people by observing the birds and keeping records.

As he spoke, the sun began spreading a beautiful orange light between the clouds. I was shivering in the wind and eager to start shooting. At last Mr. Saito wrapped up his story and gestured for us to enjoy the evening light as dozens of flocks of geese came in to feather down for the night.

Geese come in to roost at Kakikabu Marsh

Geese come in to roost at Kabukuri Marsh

IF

IF

As darkness fell, we wrapped up the day’s shooting and headed into town for our hotel rooms and dinner out together.

The following morning we awoke to rain. Nevertheless, we returned to the dyke to watch the birds take to the skies, flock by flock, and start their day.

IFOnce the morning shoot had concluded, the clouds began to stir and soon the sun came out. The crew had to film some scenes of the car driving down the road past the paddies, so I had an hour to kill, roaming about the area until it was time to move on.

IF

IF

We spent some of the morning driving about, looking for scenes of geese to film and visiting another small shrine nearby, though there was not so much for me to do at this time. I just followed along and photographed as much as I could.

Geese in a rice paddie

Magan in a rice paddy

The next big scene for me was meeting Mr. Nishizawa, one of the local rice farmers. He was out tending to one of his fields, making sure water was being diverted into the paddy and being retained by dams of clay.

Mr. Nishizawa at work

Mr. Nishizawa at work

At last I was to learn the secret importance of this operation. In a document from a few hundred years ago, the words “fuyumizu tanbo” (ふゆみず田んぼ) showed up in an explanation about farming practices. It seems that during the Edo Period, local farmers flooded their fields in winter to attract the magan. The birds ate the fallen rice grains and in turn their excrement provided fertilizer. Additionally, the water in the field keeps the mud from freezing and microscopic organisms can continue doing their thing all year just as in the marsh. This means the previous year’s stalks become soft and easily decompose, adding more nutrients to the mud. Crayfish, freshwater eels (dojo), and other larger aquatic critters keep the ecosystem active, too. The net result is more fertile mud for planting and growing rice in the following spring and no chemical fertilizers are necessary.

IF

Mr. Nishizawa invited me to his home for lunch. Well, that was part of the script, so to speak. His house was very new and a little expensive-looking. I asked him how new his house was and he responded that it was built after the 11-3-11 earthquake. Many old farm houses in the area had been badly damaged by the earthquake, but after the tsunami hit, the news focused entirely on that extraordinary catastrophe.

I was served rice balls of just the fuyumizu tanbo rice and I have to honestly say it tasted really good. I felt I could just eat this rice for lunch and be satisfied. But the real winner was the Chinese cabbage. The entire crew agreed that it was so crisp and juicy and served naturally it was a delight. The cabbage was from his garden and watered with water from his well where the mineral-enriched water from Kagoboyama flowed.

After lunch we set off to shoot some more scenes of magan in the fields and then stopped at the Kabukuri Marsh for more bird views. The sunny weather wasn’t going to last as a cold wind blew a messy mass of snow-laden clouds our way.

IF

As we drove north, the snow began blowing horizontally. Our last stop was a sake plant  where they made Japanese rice wine using the fuyumizu tanbo rice. Normally, rice wine is made with a different kind of rice than what is used for mealtime consumption. After a tour of the facilities and an explanation of how rice wine is made, I was treated to a glass of the local brew. I can drink sake but I don’t order myself. However, this stuff was actually really good. I was considering buying a bottle when I was told that we were out of time and I had to get back into town to catch my train. As I was quickly being ushered out the door, my tour guide of the plant came rushing up to me with a big bottle of fuyumizu tanbo rice wine.

The short trip was certainly informative, and even though I wasn’t able to capture any views that I consider among my best work, I enjoyed the time I had to photograph and look around at the local scenery.

I am still waiting to hear when the program will be aired. There was a lot of follow up work, including finding photos of myself when I was younger, but the lines have been quiet for a week now and the initial broadcasting in Kumamoto was said to occur in late February. I will update this post when I know more information. For now, I am enjoying a small glass of fuyumizu tanbo saki while I prepare dinner on my days off.

To Be or Not to Be on TV

At the beginning of each year I make a list of objectives to accomplish before the year is over. Since having children, the list of objectives that can possibly be reached within the year has grown smaller. May of 2010 saw my last overnight trip to the mountains until my trip to Yakushima in 2013. And that trip has turned out to be my last hike anywhere. I did manage a visit to the Arasaki Coast early in 2014 but only a day outing and no hiking or mountain photography was involved.

As for writing objectives, I have found it very difficult to feel inspired to write about photography and mountaineering when I have not been able to do much about enjoying it. I actually wrote some things last autumn and had full intention of submitting them to potentially promising publications; however, between an increased work schedule and family obligations, I lost the enthusiasm. There have been times over the last three years or so where I felt very much like just taking a year or two off from any professional pursuits in photography and writing. That would remove some of the uncomfortable pressure, that feeling that I am not doing enough. But the Yakushima adventure seemed that it may have opened up a new door for me.

Originally, when I was asked to be a reporter for NHK World’s program “Journeys in Japan”, I told myself that it may very be a one-time-only gig. I was lucky to be asked but I couldn’t expect that I was beginning any new kind of chapter in my career. But during the studio recordings of the voice overs and later at the year end party again, I heard so many compliments and encouraging remarks about my performance that I felt it was safe to look forward to being asked again. I was told that we’d be going back to Yakushima for a winter episode, however, that plan was soon quashed. Still, the producer said that he hoped I would work for them again.

Last spring, things really began looking up. Someone from TBS contacted me about a new program that would begin airing later in the year. Soon after, I met with some people putting together another program for NHK World. It looked really promising, too. And then a third person met with me to discuss the possibility of being on a program about Japan’s 100 mountains of distinction, the Hyakumeizan. Finally, the production company who had done the Yakushima episode told me that they were working on a plan for me to go to Yamagata in the fall. My only concern it seemed was having to take so many days off work!

The first news to come back to me was about the mountain program. No, someone wielding more power in the decision making had decided I was not to be in the program. TBS simply didn’t contact me after I had filled out their questionnaire about interesting places near where I live. As for the other two programs, I sent a message to both of them advising of my autumn schedule and when I’d best be available for shooting. The Yamagata one didn’t reply but the other one did. They explained that the shooting schedule had been pushed back into next spring, but they would definitely be contacting me. That left me with only one more hope.

On Saturday, December 8th I emailed the Yamagata / Yakushima production company about an idea I had. I got a reply very soon. They told me that the winter in Yakushima plan was still alive and that the producer was trying to work something out. Of course, I was told, I would be the reporter. That left me feeling a little more positive about things. So maybe this winter or spring I might have a chance to work for some television program again. That’ll be wonderful if I can. They have even given me a tentative departure date but cautioned that this is not 100% confirmed. The plan might never take off.

Then as the year of my least activity in the photography field drew to a close for me, I received good news. Someone producing programs for Fuji Television sent me email about a program to air in February. A TV station in Kumamoto was doing a series about fresh water its influence on Japanese culture. Would I be available to go to Miyagi Prefecture in January? Dates were discussed and then the winter holidays began and I heard nothing for two weeks. But Monday night I received a call and Tuesday morning I met with the producer, director and assistant director. They asked me many questions and explained about the program. That plan was set.

So next week, I will be off to Miyagi for two days. Basically I am to do as I did in Yakushima: photograph specific scenery and talk to local people. Only this time it will all be in Japanese, my comments and thoughts as well. Am I up for it?

You bet!

A Contest

I haven’t entered a photo contest for some ten years. When I first came to Japan, I had no idea of how to start working on getting my photographs published. I was a newcomer with nothing but a selection of slides I had brought with me and several publication credits in North America. So I entered photo contests to see what that would get me. Naturally, I received twice as many rejections than placements, but the times I placed, even as nyusen 入選(accepted for the exhibition but no prize) or shinsain shoreisho 審査員奨励賞(judge’s award of encouragement), meant my photographs would be exhibited in a gallery or hall and I could add a small notch of achievement to my CV.

Once a stock agency (Ainoa) took on handling my photographs, I was encouraged by a magazine editor to no longer enter contests as it would not look good if someone recognized me as a “professional” but with a low placement in a contest. “Now’s the time for people to start asking you to submit photos, not the other way around.”

However, recently I have not been doing much in the professional department and a friend told me about the Canon New Cosmos of Photography Contest. We looked at the previous winners and had a derisive chuckle over the selected images. Some were appalling, nothing more than point-and-shot snaps of someone’s lunch or friends posing at the beach. What was this rubbish? But the prize money was impressive and provided a juicy enough carrot for the both of us to consider entering.

I toyed with the idea of some joke themes at first (holding the camera over my shoulder and shooting randomly) but then considered seriously the purpose of the contest, which was to show images that were only possible through photography. How about images edited in iPhone apps? The iPhone idea intrigued me. These days, people are capturing marvellous images on very expensive cameras and then editing them in software until they look like paintings. But the camera phone allows people to shoot many fleeting moments that most would otherwise have missed. In fact, I had only recently supposed that we are all becoming “Big Brother” because we are all watching and recording moments (usually of embarrassment) of other people’s lives. That gave me an idea!

My theme for the contest became “images of people behaving as they would in private on the train platforms and in the trains.” For short, I used the album title by a band called Dark Suns and replaced the word “grave” with the word “train”: “Train Human Genuine”. The images were all iPhone snaps of people behaving either a little too privately or inconsiderately at the train stations or on the trains, plus some of people captured at interesting and decisive moments. In a way, I wanted to show how Japanese people’s manners in public can be at times not so proper and exemplary. It was to be a sort of photo journalism piece of real people in commute.

But there was one problem: the contest stipulated that any recognizable human subjects should give permission to having their photograph entered in the contest. I did not know who these people were and had never spoken to them. I decided to try to edit their faces to conceal their identity. The result was some poor efforts at concealing their eyes.

Well, my submission was out in the first round of judging. There were some possible reasons why: the people were still too recognizable; the bad job of distorting their eyes spoiled the effect of the photos; the submission just wasn’t impressive enough; the submission just wasn’t surprisingly mundane enough; the iPhone-captured images weren’t approvable by Canon; showing Japanese people’s bad manners would not make for a good winning submission; and others. So, the next best thing I can do for now is share my submission here with the titles I gave each image. So, here it is:

Train Human Genuine

Ascending Priority - Every day in stations across Japan, disembarking passengers flood the staircases, completely ignoring the descending priority sign. People like me who occasionally have to rush down the steps to reach the train often need strong shoulders to force our way down the descending priority stairs through the dumbwalkers staring at their feet or phones.

Ascending Priority – Every day in stations across Japan, disembarking passengers flood the staircases, completely ignoring the descending priority sign. People like me who occasionally have to rush down the steps to reach the train often need strong shoulders to force our way down the descending priority stairs through the dumbwalkers staring at their feet or phones.

Her Choice - Not an example of bad behaviour at all but rather not an unusual scene in Japan. However, recently the news reported that young people entering seaside stations had to be told to change their clothes as many attempted to board the train in sandy, wet, revealing beach wear. Maybe I needed some shots of bikini-clad babes.

Her Choice – Not an example of bad behaviour at all but rather not an unusual scene in Japan. However, recently the news reported that young people entering seaside stations had to be told to change their clothes as many attempted to board the train in sandy, wet, revealing beach wear. Maybe I needed some shots of bikini-clad babes.

His Secret - Again, not bad behaviour but an amusing coincidence. A man sits beneath an advertisement for a TV program "Youkai Ningen", roughly translated as "Monster Human"

His Secret – Again, not bad behaviour but an amusing coincidence. A man sits beneath an advertisement for a TV program “Yokai Ningen”, roughly translated as “Monster Human”

Otsukare 1 - After a hard day's work in Japan, people say, "Otsukare-sama", an acknowledgement of their fatigue from their efforts. This man was really shagged out. He was alive; I checked! But when the train finally came (over 40 minutes late), he didn't get up. I think he had fallen asleep.

Otsukare 1 – After a hard day’s work in Japan, people say, “Otsukare-sama”, an acknowledgement of their fatigue from their efforts. This man was really shagged out. He was alive; I checked that he was breathing! But when the train finally came (over 40 minutes late), he didn’t get up. I think he had fallen asleep.

Otsukare 2 - Another guy who is probably very glad that the day is done.

Otsukare 2 – Another guy who is probably very glad that the day is done.

Our Space - Two young ladies take up the priority seats meant for elderly, pregnant or disabled passengers. Two girls, four seats. When an elderly woman boarded the train she politely yet firmly requested a seat. The girls obliged without looking up or saying anything.

Our Space – Two young ladies take up the priority seats meant for elderly, pregnant or disabled passengers. Two girls, four seats. When an elderly woman boarded the train she politely yet firmly requested a seat. The girls obliged without looking up or saying anything.

Special Notice - This message intrigued me as it flashed across the message board. The full message announced that a train was delayed due to an act of violence committed against the station staff.

Special Notice – This message intrigued me as it flashed across the board. The full message announced that a train was delayed due to an act of violence committed against the station staff.

No One Offered Her a Seat - It's very common to see young people and some middle-aged commuters seated with their eyes closed, while elderly passengers or mothers carrying babies stand until someone alert and awake notices. This elderly woman seemed not to care about being without a seat as she quite comfortably squatted by the door.

No One Offered Her a Seat – It’s very common to see young people and some middle-aged commuters seated with their eyes closed, while elderly passengers or mothers carrying babies stand until someone alert and awake notices. This elderly woman seemed not to care about being without a seat as she quite comfortably squatted by the door.

The Dance of Commuter Feet - The arrangement of the different pairs of feet gave me the impression of a kind of dance. Shortly after snapping this scene, the young woman with her feet pointed inwards changed her position.

The Dance of Commuter Feet – The arrangement of the different pairs of feet gave me the impression of a kind of dance. Shortly after snapping this scene, the young woman with her feet pointed inwards changed her position.

The Kingdom of Sedimentary Rock and SSP

Back in 2010 I was given the wonderful opportunity to visit some of the most astoundingly beautiful locations in the United States, places I had long dreamed of visiting but curiously had never prioritized. My sister’s wedding in Las Vegas required her one and only sibling’s presence and our parents, aware of my finances, graciously paid for the plane ticket.

Though my stay was only for five days of which two days required my presence at the obligatory family events (wouldn’t have missed my sister’s wedding for the Grand Canyon!), I still managed to steal away on a whirlwind road trip to four of the most photogenic sites in a neighbourhood crowded with natural wonders beckoning the souls of the hiker, photographer, adventurer, and naturalist.

Upon returning to Japan I desired to write about my impressions of the geologic history and share them alongside my photographs with a Japanese audience. I worked hard to write up an article and had my manager check over my Japanese. It took time to complete and once submitted to Nippon Kamera it took time to get an affirmative response. At last my photographs were published but the text of some 1,200 characters had to be shortened to 300!

I was delighted to see my published work but still wanted to see my story in print. My membership with the Society of Scientific Photography was temporarily on hiatus, so I renewed it and promptly submitted my story and a selection of photographs to the editor of the members magazine. At last in May of this year my impressions were published in words as well as images.

The article describes in brief the rather vertical history of the Japanese archipelago with volcanoes rising up and collapsing, mountain ranges being pushed up, and rain and rivers washing and cutting away at the rising peaks. This serves to contrast the more horizontal history of the Colorado Plateau, which experienced roughly 200 million years of gradual sedimentation in seas, deltas, flood plains, and deserts. Only in recent history was the sedimentation process interrupted by uplifting, fluvial incising, and some volcanic activity. The results are these spectacular landscapes unrivaled by anything in Japan. The differences in the two landscapes are due to the distinct differences in their geologic history as well as their present locations and climates.

In the May 2014 issue of the Society for Scientific Photography

In the May 2014 issue of the Society for Scientific Photography

Clockwise from top left: Zion Canyon - The Narrows; Valley of Fire - Strata at dawn; Valley of Fire - Differential weathering; Red Rock Canyon - strata

Clockwise from top left: Zion Canyon – The Narrows; Valley of Fire – Strata at dawn; Valley of Fire – Differential weathering; Red Rock Canyon – strata

Bryce Canyon and Valley of Fire aeolian erosion (bottom left)

Bryce Canyon and Valley of Fire aeolian erosion (bottom left)