Category Archives: Announcing…!

Formally Introducing “Waterside”

Musician Devin Townsend has stated in interviews that once he’s completed an album he loses interest in it. He says that creating the album is part of an emotional experience and once it’s done, he is ready to move on from the emotions behind the album and looks forward to the next thing. I can relate. I’m often very excited about projects coming to fruition but once they’re done my interest rapidly wanes and I begin to think about what is to come next.

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Sea cave at Onamitsuki Coast in Chiba

Sadly, this means that the energy I have to put toward promoting my projects is quickly sapped. Take my latest book project, Waterside, for example. I worked on it for nine months, making special trips out to places for the sole purpose of filling out the project to a nicely rounded representation of landscapes featuring water. When I received the book, I was very pleased. It is, quality wise, perhaps the best project I have done using Blurb dot com. I eagerly showed it to adult students at the English school where I work. I sat down with my wife to let her look at and comment on the photos. And then I just left it on the shelf. The next project already coming together in my mind.

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The Daigaku Pond at the Taisetsu Highlands in Hokkaido.

Naturally, I should have given this book a very nice introduction on my blog, here. So, here it is!

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The Ara River at Aketo in Fukaya City, Saitama

Waterside is a collection of landscape images featuring bodies of water, including seasides, rivers, lakes, and ponds. It began after I moved to Kumagaya City in Saitama and started thinking about where I could continue to do early morning photography as I had done for my previous project, Little Inaka. I started with visits to nearby Arakawa – the Ara River – and also drove a little farther away to the Ranzan Gorge. By January of this year, I had a small collection of riverside photographs which I thought would look good in print. I looked through my digital photo files and selected images from Yakushima, the Arasaki Coast in Kanagawa, other places in Saitama, and the Kita Alps of Japan. I was very pleased with my selection and began putting the book together.

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The Upper Kurobe River in Toyama

Originally I wanted to do a small project of 60 to 80 images. Little Inaka was a whopping 180 pages and was more of a vanity book. I wanted something small, less expensive and beautiful. But I noticed something: I had only two seaside locations and only one lake. So, this spring the plans were set in motion to visit three more locations, and in addition to that, I was going to Hokkaido for the NHK World program, Journeys in Japan. I considered a couple of more locations but it became clear that it would be easy to keep adding places to photograph and end up with another 180-page book.

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Kumonodaira Plateau and Suishodake, Kita Alps

I decided to organize the book by locations. Because each outing produced at least a few images I wanted to share, having a location as a feature with anywhere from 2 to 12 photographs would allow me to organize the book with some text and use a few shots from each outing. I am satisfied with the resulting work.

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Tilted sedimentary rock at the Arasaki Coast, Kanagawa

Waterside is available at blurb.com as are my other blurb books, Little InakaThe Japan Alps, and This Little Corner, which is a book of film photographs from British Columbia, Canada. Discounts become available throughout the year, so anyone who is interested can leave me a comment and we can discuss about the discount codes when they become available.

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The Upper Anbo River in the mountains of Yakushima

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A Case of Mistaken Identity

Previously, I reported that a new photo book of the Japan Hyakumeizan – One Hundred (Famous) Mountains of Japan – had been published and one of my photographs appears in the book. Very excited about the book’s release, I hurried to purchase a copy only days after it went on sale. Then the story became more interesting.

My stock agency contacted me with questions about a mountain in the Kita Alps known as Kasagatake. As with the photo in the book, they asked me to identify the summit and confirm that the mountain in the photo was Kasagatake of Hyakumeizan fame. I asked what was going on, somehow imagining that perhaps some new interest had come to my photographs or the Hyakumeizan mountains. The story was as follows:

The photo of Kasagatake in the book was provided by another stock agency and it was the wrong mountain. Kasagatake is in Gifu Prefecture but the photo in the book was of a Sanbyakumeizan (300 Famous Mountains – there’s a 101 to 200 list and a 201 to 300 list) that also goes by Kasagatake. The location on the map, the elevation, and the brief summary of the mountain were all correct for the intended mountain but the photo was of a different peak.

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Kasagatake of Nagano, mistaken for Kasagatake the Hyakumeizan of Gifu

So the publisher was looking for a photo of the correct mountain and as it turned out, I had three with the agency. As I had it explained to me, the book is going to be reprinted with the correct photo. It still won’t be for some months but when the reprint comes out, I will have two photos in the book!

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!

Skyward and Yakushima

Just a small bit of news regarding Yakushima and my photography:

The December issue of JAL’s in-flight magazine, Skyward has a feature on Yakushima and a one of my photographs.

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Kingdom of Sedimentary Rock in Print

This week the June issue of “Nippon Kamera” has landed itself on bookstore shelves, and within the portfolio pages near the front appears my contribution of photographs.

Entitled “Kingdom of Sedimentary Rock”, the portfolio consists of six images captured in Utah and Nevada during my visit to that area in October of 2010. On pages 82 and 83, all contributors to the portfolio pages are shown in a small mug shot along with a brief text explaining their portfolio and a briefer bio. I received a complementary copy on Saturday and was very excited to see how my latest published piece turned out.

The first thing I noticed and greatly appreciated was the reproduction quality of the images. My photographs are tack sharp and the colour is great. In one image of very strong reds and oranges, it is a little difficult to discern the details in the setting; however, this is not a fault in the printing but a result of the very warm light of the sunrise shining on the rust-coloured sandstone. That the location is The Valley of Fire makes is very appropriate to have such flaming colours. In particular, I like a photo of two rock towers in Bryce Canyon because the direct sunlight and reflected light offer good contrasts in lighting and wonderful details in the rocks. This spectacular crispness of detail I attribute to the fact that five of the images were captured with my Tachihara 4×5 and the one other image with my Bronica 645. Nothing like medium and large format for sharp images in a magazine page. Nippon Kamera’s scanning must also be really good.

Regarding the photographs, I have only two disappointments. The first is that Zion Canyon, which became one of my favourite places I have ever visited, was represented here in a solitary image of a stone in wet mud near the placid waters of the Virgin River North Fork. All those awesome cliffs and canyon walls reflecting orange or blue light that I had desired so much to see in print were not selected. The other disappointment is that the final image of a rock known as a “Bee Hive” in The Valley of Fire is printed on the page opposite an advertisement featuring a young woman in a very active and dynamic pose. The poor rock, no matter how beautiful, can hardly compete! Couldn’t they have put a less eye-catching image on that page?

The explanatory text was sadly edited down from over 1,100 characters to just over 300. The original text contrasted the rather vertical geologic history of Japan with mountains rising and volcanoes collapsing to the mostly horizontal geologic history of the centre of North America with sedimentary layers from seas, deserts, deltas, and river valleys piling up over millions of years before being uplifted and fractured and cut by rivers. I had to strip away paragraph after paragraph until only a brief summary of the geologic history of the area (the Colorado Plateau) remained.

As for my short bio, here is where the most surprises showed up. I was asked to provide a bio which I did. However, what was printed was a combination of parts of what I had submitted and snippets from my Japanese blog. I had noticed a few weeks ago that someone had been visiting that blog, using my name for the search. Some changes are as follows:

My Tachihara field camera became a Linhof field camera.

I wrote that I came to Japan in 1999. The magazine says 1997 (a vacation trip only).

The magazine mentions that I visited New Zealand. Fair enough. What about all the other countries I have visited? But since they published my New Zealand photographs previously it kind of makes sense.

I wrote that I had self-published a book on the Japan Alps. The magazine mentions my books “Earth Tones” and “Earth Cycles” as well as an older POD book from many years ago called “Nature Song”. This was my earliest effort at self-publishing and done more for fun than anything else because the cost was not economical. I was hoping to promote the Alps book the most.

Finally, they wrote that I am a member of the All Japan Alpine Photography Association and the Society for Scientific Photography in Japan. I requested time out while my daughter was young and did not pay my membership dues for the last two years. Only just this month did I reactivate my membership with the Society for Scientific Photography.

Overall though, there’s plenty to be pleased about. As Michael Saddler of the Canadian rock band Saga once said, “As long as they get the name right.” In the end I am the only one who will care about the erroneous information anyway.

Check out the latest issue of “Nippon Kamera 日本カメラ” in book stores now!

Some of my photographs in Nippon Kamera magazine. Image created with Diptic app for iPhone.

Some of my photographs in Nippon Kamera magazine. Image created with Diptic app for iPhone.

Coming Soon: The Kingdom of Sandstone

The June issue of Nihon Kamera (日本カメラ) should feature some of my photographs from my trip to Nevada and Utah in October of 2010 (which I never finished writing about).

I sent a submission to the magazine back in August, 2011. After a few months without a word, I contacted the magazine in February, 2012 and asked what the status of my submission was. I was told that they were holding on to the photographs and short text and still considering it. For nearly a year I kept thinking about calling. I became worried because in 2010 and ’11, I had four submissions at three other publications disappear – something that had never happened to me in all my years of submitting photographs to magazines. I called at last this January but the editor was unavailable.

I called again a week later and was told the same thing, though the person with whom I spoke gave me his name. Three weeks passed before I called once more, this time asking for the person who had given me his name. He was out at the time. Finally, I called a fourth time, and this time when I was told he was out I explained my situation to the woman on the line. She asked me to wait a moment and then, without given his name or a greeting, a cheerful man came on the line sounding as if we’d already been talking long enough to be on good speaking terms that such trivialities as usual Japanese phone manners were not necessary. I didn’t mind his informal way; his news was what I had been hoping to hear.

The man told me that they were thinking about running my photographs in the June issue. He confirmed that they had my email address (my submissions always include postal address, telephone number and email address but every time I am asked anyway) and said that they would send a PDF later on and ask me then to check it over and provide any essential information not yet included. I am sure my tone of voice conveyed my gratitude more than my words could carry.

The photographs are from Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire in Nevada and Zion and Bryce Canyons in Utah. The text contrasts the rather violent and vertical orogeny of Japan’s geologic history with the somewhat sedate sedimentary layering and fluvial erosion of this region of North America, whose periods of volcanic activity and tectonic uplift are not as dramatic as the creation of the Japan Archipelago. Due to the eons of peaceful sedimentation and erosion these spectacular canyons were able to form.

This will be the second time a portfolio of my photographs appears in Nihon Kamera. Previously eight images from New Zealand’s South Island were published.

On Other Pages

Just to mention where my photos and thoughts have been featured on other people’s pages, here are links to three sites.

The Campsite Blog

Writer and climber, Sean McIntyre wanted to help promote my book on the Japan Alps, so after unsuccessfully trying to get the interest of the Alpine Club of Canada’s journal editor he moved on to this site and posted his review.

Kaley in Japan

A young woman from Orlando now living in Japan, Kaley asked me to write about my favourite place in Japan to feature in a post on her blog.

Dark Roast Blend

Love the name of this site even though I only tolerate drinking hot coffee. A post about concretions (explained in the post) includes a photo of mine from the Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand. The author saw my photo on ArtWanted and requested permission to use it.

Here is my photograph:

Elephant bum? A detail of one of the unusual concretion boulders at Moeraki Beach on New Zealand's South Island. This photo also appeared in an issue of Nature Photographer.