Category Archives: photo art books

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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Up and Running!

Before I take time to write a proper blog entry, I wish to make a quick announcement about my latest book project, “Waterside: Photograph’s from the Water’s Edge“.

I began working on it early in the year, or perhaps late last year, when I decided that I had a number of very nice waterside-themed images from around Saitama, Japan, and other places in the country, as well as some good ones from Canada.

As the project developed, I decided to add more locations and I began setting out very early in the morning or even the night before to reach locations that were a little far from my home. Last weekend, I finally made it to the last location for the project, the Onamitsuki Coast in Chiba.

Only 30 minutes ago, the finalized book was uploaded to the blurb.com web site and it’s ready for previewing and ordering.

In other news, the NHK World program, “Journeys in Japan” episode about Taisetsusan in Hokkaido is available for view-on-demand at the web site. You can watch the incredible scenery, the wild flowers, bears, and me!

Little Inaka

When my son was born in 2008, I still had a fair bit of freedom. It was a good year for earnings from photography and writing and I was beginning in earnest to complete my book project on the Japan Alps. When I was away, my wife took our infant son to her parents’ home.

In 2010 things changed. My wife became pregnant with our second child and it was not so easy for her to bring our growing boy to her parents’ house as there was not enough space and he was restless. I wrapped up my book project a little early, managed a few more hikes and a trip abroad to attend my sister’s wedding. After that, my adventures seemed to have come to an end, at least for the time being.

Not wanting to give up photography entirely, I began a project of shooting locally. I purchased a used DSLR and chose some places that were within reach. I would wake up in the early morning and go out somewhere to shoot, trying to make it home by 7:30 to help get ready for the day. Three years later, my son entered elementary school and I had to be home by 6:45. We moved house and autumn brought later sunrises. My three years of early morning photography were also temporarily wrapped up. I had, however, amassed a few hundred photographs or more and set about putting them into a book. The result is this: Little Inaka.

The locations are the Sakitama Burial Mounds in Gyoda City, Hatcho Park in Yoshimi Town, a rural area in Higashi Matsuyama City, and a rural area straddling Ina Town and Ageo City. All places are in Saitama Prefecture, Japan.

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A tumulus at the Sakitama Burial Mound Park in Gyoda City

This Little Corner – A Photo Book

A Concept is Born

On many warm spring and summer days during my late teens, I sat outside on a lawn chair with a book of British Columbian or Canadian landscape photographs opened on my lap, my eyes taking their time to savour the natural beauty presented on each page. In the early mornings when I rode about the neighbourhood delivering newspapers, I made plans to visit various places in southern British Columbia and hoped to someday soon see a book come together of my photographs. The title would be This Little Corner.

As my photography skills grew and my subjects turned from the planned landscape views and geological wonders towards nature scenes and intimate landscapes, the idea for my first book changed into a book of nature photographs along the lines of Eliot Porter’s In Wildness is the Preservation of the World. Time went on and I had many ideas, but in the end I left Canada without any book being published.

Some 23 years after the book’s conception, I decided to revive the idea as I sat down in the autumn of 2010 and went over a list of ideas for my next photo book with blurb.com. There were many ideas: New Zealand’s South Island, mountains of the world, geologic art, the Canadian Prairies, autumn in the Canadian Maritimes, travel photographs from 12 countries… the list went on. Though any of those ideas would have been a pleasure to bring into reality, at the time I was becoming homesick for the mountains and nature of British Columbia and I decided that my next book would be my first book idea ever.

Scanning Nightmares

A rough selection of photographs was made and then they were organized into a rudimentary theme which in turn dictated how the photographs would be grouped and which ones would be culled or replaced. At last I brought the winners to the store for scanning. I requested the same Kodak scanning process as I had for the Japan Alps photographs. Two weeks later, I viewed the scans on my computer and was disturbed to find many foregrounds or backgrounds out of focus. Though many photographs were from my first years of photographing with slide film, I knew those images should not have been out of focus. I had been a stickler for employing hyper focal distance and even gave a brief lecture once at my local camera club about it. But when the vertical slides showed the same out of focus areas but this time across the foreground and background (i.e. along the side of the slide and not the bottom or top) it became apparent that the trouble was with the scanning and not my photography.

I brought the slides back and had them rescanned at no charge but once again most images were not sharp throughout. I also noticed that the colours of some images had changed, some for better others for worse. After a third try there were still so many images that were unusable that I gave up and put the project on hold. I later tried another camera store outfit’s service which did not scan at as high a resolution but the resulting scans came out sharp. Was this going to be good enough?

The Test Copy

The next big project was creating the map of Southwestern BC by tracing a printout of a map and then drawing in my own details – mountains, cities, etc. I scanned it at work and spent some time colouring it in on my computer. With the map ready and the text having been prepared in the early stages of the project, I was finally ready to upload the book and order a test copy.

I was both pleasantly surprised and dissatisfied with the result. The cover photo and text were not centred and in fact the cover image bleed around the edge to the inside cover. This was not how I had designed it. Also the dust jacket was not cut straight and fit poorly on the cover. But this I could chalk up as a single mistake because I had printed over 15 copies of the Japan Alps and had no such problems.

Inside the book, the Kodak scans came out either acceptably or with glaringly obvious focusing issues. The other scans, however, were surprisingly sharp and with good colour. In fact, they came out sharper than most of the images in the Japan Alps book. I decided that it would be best to check all the photographs and any that was of dubious or disastrous reproduction quality would get rescanned. I also scrutinized the text for spelling, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation errors. I found a couple of dozen small errors and fixed them up. The new scans replaced the failed images and once again the book was ready for uploading.

Now I am waiting to receive the fruits of all my labour and after a year the book project is finally completed.

This book is a collection of images I made from 1989 to 1999 and in 2005 in Southwestern British Columbia, Canada. The book is divided into five chapters: Journey, Valley, Shore, Mountain, and Beyond. Journey is mostly text documenting my journey from that first roll of slide film to leaving for Japan in 1999. Valley features photographs captured in and around the Fraser Valley, mostly nature and intimate landscapes. Shore is a smaller collection of sea shore scenes. Mountain is mountain landscapes and mountain nature captured in the local North Shore Mountains as well as in many of the big provincial parks in the area, particularly Garibaldi Provincial Park. Beyond takes a peek at some of the landscapes east of the Southwestern BC border, places where semi-arid environments create desert-like landscapes and a trip across the Coast Mountains leads to the rain shadow. The book is 120 pages and available in hard cover or soft cover and with standard paper or the higher quality lustre paper at blurb.com.

The Bottleneck

On Saturday mornings I have a student who is a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company in Japan. I have known him for over three years now and I am familiar with his life and work. Over the years he has been moved up in the company and now has many responsibilities that keep him very occupied at work. Often he has to attend meetings, make reports on projects to the upper management, review his subordinates’ progress and take care of visitors such as other researchers or professors. There are receptions and business trips as well. Outside of work, my student pursues his role as a research scientist with equal energy and a great consumption of time. He attends seminars – sometimes as a specially invited guest – in the U.S. and Europe, writes and reviews papers for publication, writes and edits manuscripts, and even manages to get some research time in now and again. These past few weeks have kept him unusually hopping and he admitted to being “very tired” when last we spoke. He is single and it comes as no surprise. A man that dedicated to his passion and to achieving his goals has no time for romance, marriage and children.

Last week after our class I reflected upon my own situation. My work keeps me pretty busy too although it is more a matter of scheduling and class preparation and teaching than important meetings and large responsibilities. However, I do spend long days away from home, leaving before 9:00 in the morning and typically coming home after 10:30 at night. At home I usually have the kids to look after or some household chores to manage. My time is pretty full too. Sadly, it is not full of the pursuit of photography. Well, I often feel frustrated that I can’t spend the time I need to on preparing photos, writing articles or even blogs, organizing and filing photos, or searching for new places to find business. But that doesn’t mean I would trade my time with my family. It is very apparent though that to be that dedicated to one’s career dream or life work family gets squeezed out of the picture. My student said he envies people who can make the pursuit of their research their full-time work without having a job that occupies so much time. I could certainly relate. What if writing and photographing were my full-time job?

Once there was a time when I was single and free and I certainly could have applied myself more to becoming more professional. But there were always reasons and excuses – usually a sensible day job that took up time or a lack of money – that I let prevent me from achieving more. These days I certainly want to be writing more and preparing more ideas for photo submissions. I have lots of other things related to the business of photography to do, but I just don’t have much time for them these days. My personal time and free cash is very limited and with both in short supply there is little I can do to move along. When I re-visited Ryogamisan in May this year – my only outing and hike this year so far – I felt as though I was being squeezed through a bottle neck. I could hardly move with family occupying nearly all of my time away from work and money being virtually impossible to conjure up for photography. Yet from my bottomless pit of optimism I saw myself as passing through a bottleneck and believed I would be coming out the other side soon. I recall descending the mountain and feeling very positive about the things I felt I could do in order to keep doing photography.

But the fact is that many of those things cost money and take more time than I have and so progress is slow. When I found an old file on my computer called “Photography Projects” I opened it and found there were things I wrote down in 2009 that I should try to complete yet had still not completed. Sometimes I imagine having three days, then five days, and finally three weeks to catch up on all the things I want to do. That time, unfortunately, is just not available.

Even if I had sufficient time in a week to keep up, I would no doubt waste it anyway. I am easily distracted when I am busy and I can involve myself very seriously in other things that are not so pressing. At least I have avoided spending too much time on writing blogs lately!

So, one of the things that has given me a creative outlet over the last few months has been playing with applications on my iPhone and manipulating photographs. I enjoyed my results so much that I made a book on Blurb out of it.

I guess these days, I don’t have much enthusiasm for doing photo-related things in a serious business way because I can’t spend the time on it that I need and I hate starting and stopping projects all the time. I want to just be able to spend time on a project making good progress. I also think, however, that sometimes I do tend to waste time because of poor time management or sometimes simply due to my feeling that work and family have kept me too busy.

One of my iPhone application creations used in my book The Small Print

 

From my book The Small Print

 

Another iPhone app creation in my book The Small Print

Can you guess what this started out as?

The Japan Alps photo book

The book arrived three weeks ago and I finally got a post up about it. Please see the Project: Sanmyaku post to read about how the book turned out or go to blurb.com to preview and order the book.

A Blurb Experience

Since about the age of 17 I have wanted to have a book of my photographs published. By now I can say that this has happened on several occasions, though all of these occasions have been through the wonders of self-publishing and POD – Publish On Demand – services mostly.

I first published a series of three small (A5) size books through a service called Digital Publishing, a division of Gakken. The quality was not bad though I was limited to 24 pages and 32 character spaces of text per caption with no other text possible. Next came my big projects Earth Tones and Earth Cycles which went full-out with colour separation printing and hundreds of copies produced, of which roughly half remain in my closet (need to do more exhibitions and presentations). The print quality here was very good, in most cases excellent, and I was free to design the book and write as much text as I liked. No editor of course, so I do believe the text could have been stronger, but they are both bilingual books and meant to be photo books. Overall I am pleased and proud to show and sell them.

A few years ago I also used Asuka Books, a service that prints POD books of 20, 30, 40, 60, and 80 pages in three different sizes. The quality is decent considering it is not colour separation printing and the books look rather nice for show, however again there is a limit with the text and no layout options. Also each single copy is expensive.

The dream of having a book of my photographs published by a real publisher who would pay for the whole darn thing and make it look really top notch and professional has never died. I have been preparing my photographs for a project called Sanmyaku: Photographs from the Japan Alps and I have sent out a proposal to four publishers so far, all of them returning the proposal with their reason for why they won’t or can’t take on the project.

As I wrote on my other blog, I found out about Blurb.com and decided to check it out. The details of my first experience can be found here. I will continue with the results of my test copy and what happened next.

First off, the test copy came out quite nicely. Looking at the cover it looks just as though it popped off the shelf at a books store, and opening to the first few pages I think the quality of the photo reproductions looks very good and the text and premium paper look perfectly professional too. Any criticisms were restricted to slightly oversaturated photographs and slight discolouration occurring in some photos that are obvious without looking at the original. Most of the photos look very nice and only when compared to the image on screen does the book loose some of its lustre. But I have seen that even with big publishing houses. I once saw a slide presentation by a professional photographer from Canada and was very impressed with many of his images. Later when I looked at his book though, I found the colour was off in some photos and in others the colours had lost their variety of hue and tone, particularly a twilight view of a rising moon comes to mind.

Since the book quality was nice enough I went ahead and put together the whole 120-page book. Here are the problems I encountered.

As I mentioned in the other post, the flow text boxes continued to haunt me with gremlins. The final line in each box would not be justified all the way to the edge of the box. I could correct it, but later when I opened the program (BookSmart) again, other lines had indentations. Furthermore, I created a text box with the title text centered and the rest justified to the left, but when I opened the program later the title had become justified to the left and the first few lines of text centred. Not sure why that was. I corrected it but it happened again a few times.

I had mentioned my problem to the Blurb customer service staff and they had responded very quickly (four hours maybe?) as asked me to create an archive file of the book and send it to them, using a program they have for that purpose. At first, I thought I had the justification problem licked but once I added footers in order to add page numbers the justification went to heck. Suddenly each page was treated separately by the program, meaning the last line on each page was considered by the program to be the end of a paragraph and all was justified left leaving a gap at the end of the line. I tried to make an archive file but the program crashed. I asked for help again and quickly received a solution, but it wasn’t necessary as when I opened the program again I had no troubles saving the file. Then I tried to send it but found it would take over three hours for the file to be sent. When there was only 41:41 remaining the program crashed and I had to start again twice before it was finally sent, at last only requiring just under two hours to send it.

I was sure the customer service people were tired of my long messages but I was surprised and a rather peeved at the reply I received. After all the hassles I had had with the flow text containers and the great lengths which I went to in order to send them an archived file and explain in detail about my problems, I was advised simply to not use the flow text containers. Edit your text so a paragraph ends on each page, I was told. At first, I was severely irked and felt that if this was the simple solution then I could have saved myself many hours of frustration. I sent a message to the support staff firmly stating my dissatisfaction. Before a reply came, I looked over my text and reread the advice and realized that it made sense after all. The support staff admitted the program was not working for me and that in order to finish my project in time (to get the 20% discount on orders they were offering until the end of July) I should just try to rework the text. I found it was not so difficult to do this and in the end, out of five pairs of flow text containers, only two have a small, period-sized character indentation at the end, almost unnoticeable.

One word about the colour of the photographs: the Blurb site has information explaining how on your computer screen you see RGB (Red, Green, Blue) while the printing process uses CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK). Because of this difference it is very difficult to know exactly how your photos will appear in the printed book. They do offer webinars for assistance and pages that explain how to get the best colour out of your photos. There is also software you can download that can show you how your photos look in CYMK. I tried to download it but it needs to work with PhotoShop, LightRoom, or some other well-established photo editing software. I inquired to the customer service again but was told I also should have a monitor calibrator and a desktop computer, and that it wouldn’t work with a laptop. So not having any of these four essential things I wasn’t able to download the software and try it out.

I received some useful advice from four photographers who had published books with Blurb about colour correcting. They all said brightness was an issue and that the photos would need to be brightened by about 15%. I wasn’t sure how I could do this and be certain I had brightened them enough, so I guessed and made corrections to brightness, histogram, and saturation using Gimp, a free download. Perhaps I could have done better if I had all the proper gear but as I said above the results turned out mostly alright.

Looking through many of the photo art books in the Blurb Bookstore it seems there are some really talented people making photo arts books with Blurb. I have enjoyed looking through many books and even making contact with a few authors and photographers. Now I just have to wait to see how my book, The Japan Alps has turned out. Though it won’t match the quality of Yama-to-Keikoku or Nihon Kamera books and their ilk, I expect it will look as good as some of the books I have seen on the shelf.