Amami Superman Photography

A Place to Share My Photos

Oct 27, 2010

150lbs of Pent Up Rage

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/125 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400 -- EXIF
(wild boar)

I don't know if it's the demeanor of all wild boars, but this was one pissed off boar. I guess it doesn't take common sense to understand that wild animals don't like to be penned up. This guy was using its tusks to swipe at the fence hooking it like it was trying to gore me. Although he was in a cage, it was still kind of scary.

I actually had this post all ready to go to be posted and got caught up with work and forgot to post it a few weeks ago. So here it is.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/160 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400 -- EXIF
I See You

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/80 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400 -- EXIF
And Smell You

Now some people may think, "How cruel. Keeping a wild animal locked in a cage like that." But people in Amami think, "That's going to make a fine barbecue one day." I have quite a few friends who have licenses and guns to hunt wild boar including my wife's uncle and we frequently get the opportunity to eat some wild boar.

Oh, and I don't know if this boar is 150lbs, probably more like 100lbs. I was just guesstimating.

Oct 25, 2010

Amami Geography

Posted by Amami Superman

Google Earth Screenshot of Amami Island

I thought I would make another post and tell a little more about the deluge we had in Amami last week.

As stated, the above picture is a screenshot in Google Earth of Amami Island. The white lines on the map represent the boundaries between the cities, towns and villages. Although they call these areas towns and villages, they're not towns and villages in the sense that they are centralized places where people live. You could be in the middle of the mountains with nothing around you and still be in Tatsugo Town.

Amami Island has 7 different areas made up of cities, towns and villages. Starting from the northeastern part of the island is Kasari-cho (the cho means town). Next, moving to the southwest, is Tatsugo-cho. After that is Amami-shi (the shi means city). Just west of Amami-shi is Yamato-son (the son means village). South of that is Sumiyo-son. West of Sumiyo-son is Uken-son and Setouchi-cho is southwest of these. I don't know how confusing that explanation is but it seemed a little confusing rereading it. Basically I just moved from the northeastern part of the island to the southwestern part.

When Amami was hit by heavy rains Wednesday, every area in Amami experienced some degree of flooding, land slides, power and phone outages. There were also several areas that even lost mobile phone capabilities. Every major road in Amami became blocked in several areas due to land slides, flooding and erosion. I heard over the radio on the second day that they there were a total of 37 land slides on major roadways. Each and every area in Amami became severed from the neighboring areas and the rest of Amami. Hundreds of people in each area became stranded unable to return to their homes in other areas. I was one of them.

No matter where you are in Amami, you always have at least two ways to get home. The roads were blocked in so many places that pretty much no one was able to move from the area they were in. We caught wind that the people stranded in Koniya down in the southwestern part of the island would be able to take a special ferry home late Thursday night. I remember thinking to myself, "If I could only find a way down to Koniya." It was around 4:00pm on Thursday when we got a phone call saying the road between Uken-son and Shinokawa had opened up. Shinokawa is a small block (or a literal village), in Setouchi-cho. Shinokawa is pretty close to Koniya, but they still had a very large land slide just at the mouth of a tunnel in a small block called Yui between Shinokawa and Koniya. Here is a link where the land slide was in Yui on Google Maps. Anyway, on with the story. It wasn't more than 30 minutes when we got another phone call saying that it was possible to make it past the land slide in Yui but they didn't know how long it would be open for as it was only temporary. Well lickity split, I hopped a ride with another teacher who actually lived in Koniya and we hurried our way to Yui to see if we could get past and make it to Koniya.

We reached the tunnel in Yui and when we came out the other side, there was this towering wall of mud and rock in front of us. Luckily, they still had a sliver of a path cleaned on the very edge of the sidewalk to pass on. We made it past relieved knowing we would make it to our homes that night. I found out later that some of the other teachers in Uken that lived in Naze, were unable to pass after that and were stranded for another night. I think we were pretty lucky to pass from what I heard.

I live in Amami-shi and my commute to Uken-son takes me through Sumiyo-son on Highway 58 and then I switch to Highway 85 which leads the rest of the way to Uken-son. Thursday night, I was able to catch a 2 1/2 hour boat ride from Koniya to Amami-shi (Naze), and reached my home early Friday morning.

The roads in Sumiyo-son aren't completely open but are only open during the daytime and are closed at night. I'm not 100% sure, but I think the times they're open is 7:00am to 10:00pm. Yesterday, it took 2 hours to drive to Uken-son to pick up my car which usually only takes me 45-50 minutes. I figured the traffic would be backed up pretty bad in Sumiyo-son today considering how many people need to go to work in the morning at the same time so I left at 6:30am to get to the blocked areas early. To my surprise, the roads weren't backed up at all and it only took me an hour and 30 minutes to get to work today. I was even more surprised when it only took me an hour and 15 minutes to get home in the afternoon. Although the roads are still bad, they are getting easier to traverse.

It's only at the end of this post that I realized I keep spelling Sumiyo wrong. If you look in my previous post, I spell it Sumio. Not that big of a difference but, lol.

Oct 24, 2010

Natural Disaster in Amami

Posted by Amami Superman

OK, so I don't have a, "Things to do before I die." list, and sure enough, "Survive a natural disaster.", would not be something on this list if I had one. I just thought it would be funny to make one. Ha ha ha...

Well, dang, where to start? I guess I should start out with telling you how Amami got hit by a natural disaster and then tell you about my experience.

Amami is a subtropical island. In the spring, we have a rainy season. The rainy season is determined by weather pressure wether or not we have rain. We also get a slight rainy season in the fall, as the weather pressure turns back south (I think they call it tropical pressure in Japanese). With that tropical weather pressure line falling right across Amami, compounded with the effects of typoon Megi, we had unprecedented amounts of rain fall here in Amami. We had, in the city of Amami, a record of 736mm from the time it started in a little over a 24 hour period. I read on a news site somewhere (but can't find the site again), that stated the record of rain fall in Amami, over a 24 hour period, was 500 something millimeters an hour in 1976, which was completely destroyed by this new record. With a first hand experience, I can say that it was a scary 24 hours.

Although I've only heard of major natural disasters like the sunami in India, earth quakes in Haiti and Chile and things like hurricane Katrina, being this close to something this big makes me realize just how devastating natural disasters can be, being a part of one. It doesn't compare to those kinds of major disasters, but it was a disaster none the less and I feel for those who have been effected by them.

The rains started on Tuesday night. I remember being at home and hearing the hard rain start at around 11:00pm. I have satellite TV and it was about this time that I could no longer watch TV. I tried to go to sleep but the rains were so heavy it kept me awake most of the night. I eventually went to sleep only to wake up at about 5:30pm to the sound of the rain. I got up and went to my school where I teach English and started to prepare for my lessons for the day. I hadn't heard of any warnings at all and just went about my day. By 7:30am, when it was time for me to head out to Uken, we decided that I should drive my daughter to school. While heading out, I absentmindly left my backpack full of my the items I use for my lessons, along with my wallet, mobile phone and money at the door. I drove my daughter to school and made my way out to Uken (which is an hour drive to the board of education offices in Uken). It wasn't until I arrived at the offices that I had realized forgot my backpack. "Oh well", I thought. I then drove out to the school I was scheduled to teach at in Nagara and taught my classes. I finished up just before noon and then started for home. The rain was more than usually but I didn't think anything of it as I knew we had a typhoon close (unless you're in the middle of a typhoon, they're not that worrisome).

As I was making my way home, I came across several places where rainwater gushed from the side of mountain and left amounts of silt and rocks in the road. Again, I chalked this up to the heavy rain, but didn't think anything of it (not thinking things could get worse). I made it about half way home when I came to a place in Sumio where the water was exceedingly deep. I parked my car and got out in the rain to see just how deep it was to see if I could pass. I walked about 100 meters in knee high water around a corner only to see that the river in the valley had overflowed and the entire valley had turned into a huge ravaging river. As soon I saw this, I knew I was in trouble. I rushed back to my car as fast as I could, got back into my car and drove as fast as I could back to Uken. Here is a link to Google Maps of the area that was flooded by the river all along Highway 58.

While driving back to Uken, I came across places that had loads of silt and rocks deposited by water cascading off the mountain that wasn't there before when I came. It was then I felt this growing feeling like, "Oh crap, this is big!" With my windshield wipers at full blast, I hurriedly made my way over and down the mountain towards Uken. There's a small bridge at the bottom of this road that only one car can pass at a time. When I crossed this bridge going home, I noticed how much the river had risen, but the bridge still had a good 2 meters of clearance above the river water. When I reached this same bridge, the river was just brimming it with water flower over the road on both sides. I stopped the car just before the flowing water before the bridge and hesitated, deciding whether not I should cross. Although the bridge was being overcome by the river, it didn't seem to be in any immediate danger, so I floored it and shot across the bridge and flowing water and made it safely across. There were several places after the bridge that were flooded, but I was able to drive my car past and make it back to the offices, which were in a safe place. Here another link of the bridge I floored it across in Google Maps. This place actually has a road view if you zoom in close enough. When zoomed in close before you get to road view, you'll see a concrete company that makes concrete ditches and things of that sort on the southern side of the river after the bridge and a couple of orange orchards on the northern side. This was all completely submerged by this river. While looking at this bridge in road view, the buildings you see plus the large tree near the buildings were all you could see besides the river. It was huge.

I was completely drenched from walking in the rain and luckly, but not so lucky, the offices had a washer and drier in a kitchen type area that I could clean and dry my clothes. I borrowed a small hand towel to cover myself as I washed my clothes (as they were dirty with brown muddy water I had tried to walk through previously), and as I had just started to dry them, the power went out. "CRAP! I don't want to wear wet clothes!" went through my mind. "Oh well, I'll just have to manage." I thought, just as a bunch some of my students' mothers walk into the room where I'm buck naked covered by a lonely hand towel. It was an embarrassing moment, needless to say, and I covered my privates with the hand towel in one hand and retrieved my wet clothes out of the drier with the other. They sensed my embarrassment and one mother said something along the lines of, "It's nothing we haven't seen before." as every single one of them continued to watch me. Ugh! "If you've all seen this before, why are you staring so hard to catch a glimps!" I thought. I hurriedly dressed and made my way to the main offices.

The power was out, but it just so happen that the Uken Fire Department shared the same building as the Uken Board of Education and had a power generator. So with the power generator, we were able to to get power to some of the power outlets in the building. Though we had power to some of the building, the phone, satellite TV and internet were out. We caught wind that the town hall also had power and was able to use their phones, satellite TV and internet and wondered why we couldn't. I figured that our building's networking structure didn't have power to these utilities and it got me thinking. "If I could find the local hub for these utilities and run an extension cord to them, I could probably get them working." I voiced my idea to the rest of the people in the office and they immediately said, "lets not mess with that." I knew it was a simple matter so I started to check around the building for a room that housed the networking devices for the phone and computer network servers. I found it and then (without asking), grabbed a very long extension cord and stung it out to the room I had found. I then unplugged everything in the room and connected them into the extension cord I had strung, plus a few multi-connectors. As soon as I had everything connected, one of the fire department personnel came running in saying, "We have phone and internet capabilities!" No one knew that I had done this and when I told them, they all started praising me like I'm some sort of genius. I then told them they could probably watch TV too and they checked and saw it was working, they went bananas. I'm not saying I know all about server networks, routing, phone lines and things of the sort, but I know enough to know that if someone else in the area has it, we should be able to also. So I single handedly helped the Uken Fire Department regain communications of more than their mobile phones. It wasn't that great of a feat, but it seemed like it to them.

They don't have any big stores in Uken so food became scarce the first night, everyone having bought most of the instant food in the first couple of hours hearing it was going to be a disaster. While I was washing and drying my clothes, the announced that they were going to evacuate a bunch of people in the surrounding area. With no food, people donated rice and other things to feed the evacuated people, hence the mothers' of my students barging in on me while I was drying my clothes to start to prepare food for the evacuees.

How long should I make this post? Well, I guess I should tell the whole story, so it's going to get long.

Emergency rations are, well, emergency rations. The rice that was donated was divided and put into long plastic bags. They also added some watered-down soy sauce, tied the top of the bag off with a rubber band and boiled the contents for 30 minutes. What came out was a ball of putty rice that didn't taste that bad. That morning my wife had made me a breakfast sandwich that I had halved with her since I'm on a diet. So from the morning at 6:30am, I didn't have anything to eat until about 8:00pm that evening. I was hungry and didn't complain with what I had.

The next day, everyone was assessing the damage. With no breakfast, I headed out with a few members of the Uken Board of Education to assess the damage to different schools in our district. We checked the schools and headed back to the offices. More people had donated more food and they decided to make curry rice. They tried to stretch what they had and the curry became curry soup. The rice was the rice they had made the previous day and the soft mushy rice was now a cold, hard, thick ball inside the plastic back. Not having very much to eat in well over 24 hours, it was delicious.

We heard that the southern city of Koniya was going to have a boat to ferry people to Naze that evening. When I heard that I thought, "If I could only make it to Koniya." Well, as luck would have it, word came over the radio that they had opened a way to Koniya, albiet the road was very round about. Several teachers that work in Uken don't actually live in Uken. When they heard this news they started to make plans to make their way to Koniya. I din't know if I could find a place to park in Koniya, as parking is hard to come by in Japan, so I left my car in Uken and found passage to Koniya with a fellow teacher who actually lived in there. I was able to by a ticket and I found my way back to Naze early Friday morning.

So I've been back in Naze since Friday waiting for the roads to open up. I heard today that they were open but the backup was pretty bad. Since I have work tomorrow, and they probably expect me to be there, I decided to go pick my car up today. I borrowed my brother-in-law's car and made my way to Uken with my wife.

These are the photos I took of my way to Uken today. I didn't want to cause a hassle so all the photos are literally point-and-shoot, just putting my camera out the car window or shooting inside from the car as I was driving. They've had a couple of days for clean-up and it's not quite like I saw it the first and second day, but you get an idea how bad it was.

Here's the slideshow

You get an idea of just how bad it was, but as I said, they've had the chance to clean up so roads aren't as bad as they were the first and second day. They were able to move most of the silt and rock from the middle of the roads to provide safe passage but, in the hairier places, it's still pretty nasty. They also flew in a bunch of Japanese Defense Force personel to help with the disaster as you can see in some of the photos.

So those are the photos I took from the city of Amami to Uken passing through Sumio Town. This is just one section of Amami that was hit hard. There are plenty of other places that were hit just as hard, but I don't want to add to the traffic jams and hassles, just to get some photos so this is all I took.

Also, I wrote this up and tried to double check it, but I know I have a bunch of spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes and I just don't have have the time to run over it several times to look for mistakes. Feel free to e-mail me if you find any. I'll fix those up when I get the chance. Tahnsk... lol

Post Edit: Fixed up a some spelling and added a few Google Map links as well as widdle down the amount of photos I had in the slideshow to about half.

Oct 12, 2010

Field Day in Amuro

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/1600 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Competition Underway

September 26 was the set day for the schools in Uken to hold their field days. Amuro Elementary/Junior High is the furthest away for me to commute to and it takes me about an hour and twenty minutes to get to. Two of the schools I visit only have a handful of students and Amuro is one of them.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
The Entire Student Population Minus One

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 20mm, 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Doing Their Best to Pose for the Camera

There are three junior high school students and four elementary students. Recently they had a family move to the village from Okinawa and the elementary numbers were boosted by two.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Amuro Nursery School

Since there are only a handful of students they have the whole village community join the event. Even the littlest ones get a chance to do their thing.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, 1/1250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Ecstatic Cheer

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 22mm, 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Not Rambo, But Tough None the Less

This is Shutaro. He's in 9th grade and is a great young man. His father isn't around and his mother does her best to support him. They've recently been working on speeches for an English speech competition they're going to have next month in Uken. His is about his mom and how appreciative he is of her. I was very impressed with him when I heard him read his speech to me for the first time. How many teenage boys you do you know that are thankful for their parents?

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28mm, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Jump Rope Competition

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 34mm, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -- EXIF
All In

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 26mm, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -- EXIF
The Students

I teach at all 5 schools they have in Uken and since they all have their field days on the same day, I couldn't stay long at each school in order to visit them all. So these are some of the shots I took while I was there. My next post will be of Nagara Elementary/Junior High.

I'm still going through photos from this day and also my daughter's field day. It's taking some time. I took a lot of photos. On a happy note, Halloween is coming! I'm thinking up some sort of backdrop to use to take photos this year. I'm thinking of going with something simpler than last. We'll see. I also came across a bit of information that I thought was kind of cool. This October 2010 has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays all in 1 month. This only happens once in 823 years. Not sure how true this information is, but it seemed kind of cool. I would have expected it to happen a little more often. January this year also had the same as October and July this year had 5 Thursdays, 5 Fridays and 5 Saturdays so I guess they're only talking about October and just the weekends. I don't know.

Oct 10, 2010

Coming of Age

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/80 sec, f/10, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Japanese Cicada Molting

I took this shot at one of my the elementary/junior high schools I teach at in Uken. During lunch time while I was eating lunch with some of my students, I found this little guy on the tree next to me. I knew it was a cicada, but I didn't know what part of its life cycle this was. It turns out, after some study, that it's in the middle of molting. After coming out of its shell it will have wings. This is when they sit in trees and sing their boisterous songs to let you know, it's summer.

Oct 8, 2010


Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 42mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.3, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Towering Spires

I don't have a clue what these flowers are called. I think this is the first time I've actually noticed them. As I said in a previous post, after picking up photography, I'm more aware of blossoming flowers and things or the sort. I don't think I used to be.

So why am I miffed? Let me explain. It was gorgeous day and I rode my bike to work. I decided to take my camera along and this is one of the many shots I got. I had my PL filter on and I got some very rich blue skies and vibrant greens. I figured I would just sling the camera over my shoulder while I rode and stop to take shots of anything I thought was interesting. I stopped to several time and got a few good shots. I was almost back to the city when I was stopped by a bunch of police officers handing out cookies and pamphlets to everyone passing. They call this a "rode safety campaign". Now I can understand giving these kinds of things to people in cars, but for people on bikes it's just bothersome. I didn't have any pockets so I had to pull my bike off to the very side of the road to take my backpack off and store my cookies and pamphlets. Since I was so close to home, I decided to put my camera back in my bag as well. As I was doing so, I noticed that my PL filter was no longer attached to the lens. NOOOOOO! I lost my PL filter. So now I have to order a new one. I don't know how it fell off. I had a slight dent in it so it actually went on my ring-ups kind of tight. I'm not sure if that's what you call those things. They're the rings you use to adapt larger filters to smaller lenses. Anyway, I still had those on my camera so how it fell off, I don't know. Oh well.

Oct 6, 2010

Life in Your Hand

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -- EXIF

Just another random photo of my daughter holding an acorn-type nut in her hand. I forgot to mention that I recently bought a new piece of gear for my camera. As I was out taking time lapse photos of the stars, I was trying to think of the best way to deal with my batteries running out of juice and I decided to by a battery grip for my camera. The grip I bought allows me to use 2 camera batteries or 6 triple A batteries. I don't know if it's just me, but I put fully recharged batteries in and I don't know how many thousands of photos I took before I had to recharge again. I'm pretty excited.

Speaking of time lapse photos, last month on the 8th was a new moon. I told you all how excited I was to get out and try some more time lapse and hoped for some clear weather. Well, I got my wish. That day I got all prepared and put my tripod in the back of the car along with my snake catching gear just in case I come across a habu. I filled the car with gas and was all set to go. Night time rolled around and I put the rest of my camera gear in the car and headed out. I tried a few different locations trying to find a nice spot. When I actually found a spot, I went to the back of the car to grab my tripod and low and behold, NO TRIPOD! What the freak! I knew I put it in the car. I called my wife and asked her if she took it out and she said she didn't. Then she says, "Oh wait, my older brother borrowed the car today. He probably took it out to move his stuff." I was furious at the whole situation wondering why I just didn't check before I left. Lesson learned, AGAIN... By the time I got home, it was too late and it clouded up the next couple of days so I missed my chance. The next new moon is this week on Thursday and I'm hoping for some clear weather again. I'm also going to use a film camera this next time to see if I can't take some star trails. That would be neat.

Oct 4, 2010


Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF

If anyone knows me, they know that I hate spiders and bugs. Can't stand the thought of them. But there's times like these when I bite my lip and try not to run away in screaming hysteria swiping at those invisible bugs and spiders crawling up my legs and back... But it's all good when I get home and look at the photos I took and think, "I got pretty close to that sucker!"

I'm still going through the couple thousand photos I took this past month or so of different schools' undokai (track and field days). So just another small post.

Oct 3, 2010

Something Stupid

Posted by Amami Superman

I like to play online computer games, plain and simple. But, I don't get to play as much as I like. One of the games I like to play is World of Warcraft. WoW (World of Warcraft), takes a bit of time and effort to play (well at least it does for me), s0 I don't play it like I would like to. So I play games that I can just hop in and play and then leave when I need to. One of those games is Counter Strike Source. It's a FPS game (first person shooter), and it's pretty straight forward, kill the other team. I've only started to play it recently and playing on Japanese servers, most people have a "spray" they can use in-game. This is the spray I made to use when I'm playing.

"Mr. B" is my gaming handle in Counter Strike. I've gotten quite a few laughs at this spray. Most people use Japanese anime characters like Pikachu or whatever (I don't follow Japanese anime so I don't know), but they get a laugh at the "and died" part because I completely suck at the game. Even though I completely suck at the game Although I play on Japanese servers for Counter Strike, a lot of foreigners play this game that understand English. It's pretty fun.

I know this doesn't have anything to do with photography. I've been busy with work and family so I haven't had the time to go through the photos I've been taking. Now you might be thinking, "Instead of playing online games, you should focus on your photos." Well, in all honesty, it doesn't take a lot of thought to play FPS games, and that's what appeals to me. While writing up a blog post, I have to think about what I'm writing and make sure spelling and grammar are correct which I completely fail at if you haven't realized already. But instead of playing games tonight, I decided to take the time and go through my photos I've been taking over the past couple of months. I have so many of them that it's going to take some time and I thought it would be good to post something that wouldn't take so much time to post. But it's taking more time than I thought it would.

Anyway! I've been busy with work this past month or so. In Japan they have school events called undokai which, pretty much is track and field day. I have loads of photos that I've taken from the different schools that I teach English at of their undokai. I've been going through them today picking out the photos I like and preparing them for posting. The photos are not that great, but they'll give you sense of what track and field day is like here in Japan.

Today was my daughter's undokai so I'm going to do my best to get the different photos I've taken posted up on my blog. There's just so many that I have to go through that I need to make a schedule for posting. I have way to many to go through, but I'll do my best. Hopefully some turned out nice.

Sep 20, 2010


Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF

We had a holiday here in Japan and I took the family out for a drive. We headed down to the southern city of Koniya for some gelato and then took our drive to the mountains. As we drove this is one of the many shots I took of different things I thought were interesting. I'm not sure what these blossoms are called. They weren't on a bush but more of a larger, almost tree, type plant. I don't have a clue what it was...

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 36mm, 1/400 sec, f/10, ISO 400 -- EXIF

So I took a few photos here and there on our drive and I'm trying to make some time to make some posts of them. Nothing that great, but I thought they were pretty or interesting. Anywho, I need to get back to work so I'll talk to you all soon.

Sep 8, 2010

Crazy for Crawdads

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 60mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.2, ISO 800 -- EXIF

Well, I'm back into the swing of things. Summer vacation is over and I'm back teaching again at the elementary and junior high schools in Uken Town and at Shinai Yochien (the Catholic preschool here in Amami City). As before, I don't have the much time to get out and take photos as much as I would like, but I'm trying to make some time for that and we'll see how it goes.

It was another blazing day today and I rode my bike to work this morning. I forgot to put on some sunscreen and I got quite a nice sun burn on the way home and now I'm starting to feel it.

These photos were taken last month when I took the family to the river. When we first got there we were the only ones there. After a bit, a few more people came to catch crawdads. The guy in these photos is a school teach for one of the schools here in Amami City. I forget which school he said, but he was there with a few of his co-workers. This teacher is from Kagoshima like many teachers here in Amami.

This was the first time I've seen anyone use this method for catching crawdads. Usually they use some sort of bait like cooked rice and find a nice calm, shallow spot to sprinkle some rice in and sit and wait without putting their whole body in the water. These guys brought along goggles and snorkeling gear for the job. I suppose it's a lot more fun and cooler this way, but my wife's family never does it like this. My wife's family are crawdad catching pros. I'll be out and catch 5 or 6 and they've already caught like 20. It's crazy how good they are. It makes me wonder if there's some sort of trick to it. I don't know.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Moving in for the Catch

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Yanking It In

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 82mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.5, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Caught in the Net

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Carefully Untangling It

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Out of the Net

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/160 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800 -- EXIF
A Prize Catch

Some people boil their crawdads, others fry them in a pan. I like mine deep fried so they're nice and crunchy. Crawdads here in Amami (I'm not sure about other parts of Japan), are quite different from crawdads in America. The crawdads I've caught back in America look like small lobsters. These look more like shrimp with long thin claws. Here is a photo I took last year of Jade and a crawdad she caught. And here is a post I made from last year with some photos of crawdads we caught and put in our aquarium in our classroom.

I wasn't very conscientious about framing when I took these photos, but after getting them all on the same page like this, I realized I really like them. Most of all of them have a sense of depth to them and certain elements that make these photos look nice like the bokeh of rocks in the foreground as well as in the background. As for framing, I think the Rule of Thirds is starting to get instilled in my brain and it's becoming a natural thing. As I said, I really didn't think about the shots I was taking, but I think they turned out pretty nice. Even if they are of a wet, half naked guy... Not really my cup of tea.

Sep 4, 2010

Clear Night Attempt

Posted by Amami Superman

So this is what I ended up with from last Wednesday's time lapse shooting. As I said, I didn't know that what I was shooting would move out of frame so quickly. I know better now. What I really need is a wider angle lens. I've been putting a lot of thought into my next camera and I've decided to stick with Nikon and buy a D300s. I'm not going to buy it anytime soon, but with that camera in mind, I can buy a ultra wide angle lens. I've been doing a bit of studying on what would be a good lens and I've heard a lot of good things about the Tokina AT-X 116 Pro 11mm-16mm f/2.8. This lens is made for cropped sensor cameras but the only bad thing is, the auto focus doesn't work with Nikon AF-S cameras. Since the D300s doesn't have a problem with this, I'm going to get this lens before before I get the D300s and use it with my D60. I won't be able to use the auto focus, but hey, I can manage.

I have all these lenses I think I need and would love to get, but I think I find myself wishing I had a wider angle lens than anything else. So I've made the decision that my next investment will be a new wide angle lens.

Oh, and how did YouTube get that gaudy top photo for this movie? None of the photos I used looks like that first photo. It's kind of deceiving.

The settings I used for these shots were: Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 26mm, 30 seconds, f/4.5, ISO 3200, Auto Focus off and White Balance off. I'm sure that I zoomed the lens all the way out when I first set up the camera. I don't know how I zoomed it in to 26mm. The shots were taken with a 30 second shutter and about 30 seconds between each shot. The movie was put together with 71 photos at 15 frames a second.

Sep 3, 2010

The Milky Wayness

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 25 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 3200 -- EXIF
Mmmm, Chocolate....

OK, now that I got my Homer Simpson out of the way... lets move on. It was gorgeous weather yesterday and I thought it would be good to go out again and try my hand at some time lapses of the stars. Needless to say, I'm still a newb at star photography and most of all my shots, setting-wise, turned out great, but my framing was way off. I've never tried a time lapse of stars (on a clear night), and I didn't realize how fast what I was shooting would move out of frame so quickly. I suppose I learned a lot that night and we'll see how I do next time.

So my time lapse shots didn't work out quite like I would have liked them to, but through this experience, I've learned a lot... again. How's that old saying go? "Practice makes perfect.", but I've also heard that, "Perfect practice makes perfect." I guess I still have a ways to go till, "Perfect practice".

So these are some of the time lapse photos I took that I thought were kind of interesting. I didn't do a whole lot of post editing. I upped the Vibrancy and Saturation and did a bit of Noise Reduction in Light Room 3, but that's about it.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 30 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 3200 -- EXIF
Can You See The Shooting Star?

The shooting star in this photo is at the very bottom just above the tree line in the middle. It's kind of small but you can see it, if you squint really hard.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 30 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 3200 -- EXIF

Not really. A firefly just happened to fly in front of my camera as I was shooting.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 30 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 3200 -- EXIF
Shooting Star

This shooting star looked a lot more brilliant when I saw it. It looked like someone was shooting off a bottle rocket. When it happened, I had hoped that I caught it in my frame. It turned out I did, but it didn't look as cool as it did when I saw it.

So those were some of the shots I took during my epic fail attempt at taking some time lapse star photos. I'll see at making a movie on what I did get, but it will probably be only a few seconds. On an up note, I did buy a battery grip for my camera a couple of days ago and I should have a chance at taking longer time lapses next time. Next week, on Wednesday the 8th, is the new moon. If weather works out, I'm going to try again with, no mistakes hopefully, at taking a time lapse of the stars. We'll see how it goes.

Post Edit: I was just trying to read up a little more on how to take photos of the stars. It seems this section of the Milky Way is the Scorpius and Sagittarius region. I didn't have a clue what I was shooting. Not that I care what part I'm shooting right now, I just noticed a lot of people said what part they were photographing.

Aug 29, 2010

I Spy a Dragonfly

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-.5.6 @ 200mm, 1/80 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 -- EXIF

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 -- EXIF

Here's a couple more photos I took from last Wednesday. These dragonflies are different from the ones you normally see. The wings don't stick straight out to the sides. Instead, when not flying, they go straight back and are together. This second photo was just after it landed so it's winds were apart. When they fly, they kind of flutter like butterflies and not the zippy decise movements of normal dragonflies.

Ugh... I'm dreading the thought of going back to work next week. But hey, it was fun while it lasted.

Aug 28, 2010

Reposed at the River

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/50 sec, f/4.0, ISO 200 -- EXIF

This is one of the photos I took from last Wednesday on our outing to the river. It was a nice warm day and the cool water washed the uncomfortable mugginess away. Jade caught a few tanaga (crawdads), and spent most of her time swimming. She brought her camera along, but I have yet to upload those photos to a computer to look at.

Aug 27, 2010

Tiltshift Maker

Posted by Amami Superman

I was cruising the interwebz tonight and I came across a neat site that titlshifts your normal photos for you called TiltShift Maker. I've been interested in tiltshift lenses but always thought they were for the professionals and people who had money to spend on those kinds of expensive lenses. I would like to have a tiltshift lens, but I'm poor and a tiltshift lens is not on the top of my wish list. So with that, I thought I would try it out.

Now when I first came across this site, I was apprehensive. So I took a look at the flickr group they had and took a look at some of the photos people produced with this site. After going through quite a few photos, I became aware that photos taken from above looked better than the photos taken at ground view, or level, photos. With that in mind, I thought of some photos that I took from an upper perspective and came up with these two. I hope you like them.

This photo is from my post of the 2009 Hachigatsu Odori post. The original photo I posted is here.

This is a photo I posted earlier this month of the Amami Matsuri 2010. The original photo I posted is here.

I know this isn't a real part of photography, but when we mess up photos in whatever application we use, how is this much different? I thought it was a pretty cool site and I thought I would try it out. With that said, I think these photos turned out a bit artistically different that what I originally produced and I'm happy with that.

My First Attempts at Time Lapse

Posted by Amami Superman

Well, this is my first attempt at trying to make a time lapse movie sequence. I've seen plenty of very nicely put together time lapse movies and I thought I would try my hand at it.

Attempt #1

This video contains 133 photos taken about 40 seconds apart. My camera and settings were: Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 15 seconds, f/2.0, ISO 1600. The exposure program was set to manual, auto focus turned off as well as white balance. The photos were put into sequence using Quicktime 7 Pro with 24 frames per second, if I remember correctly (I forgot to write it down when I saved it). I had too much time between shots and it was pretty jerky at lower frame rates.

Let me start off by saying, I understand this isn't very good (actually craptastic more like it). For quite some time now, I've wanted to go out and take photos of the stars on a clear night. While searching the interwebz for some information and advice about this, I came across several places that had time lapse movies for star photos and instantly thought I need to learn how to do it.

It just so happened that yesterday we went to the mountains to play at the river and have a barbecue when my wife dropped my mobile phone in the weeds before returning home. After returning home, I taught a few classes and went to call one of my students, but couldn't find my mobile phone. I asked my wife and she said she put it in the bag, which is wasn't in. We searched the car and came up empty handed. We finally concluded that we must have dropped it while loading our things into the car at the river. Since I had to drive to the mountains anyway to look for my phone, I decided to bring my camera gear and see if I couldn't take some time lapse photos.

It took a little over an hour to get to the spot were we parked by the river and it took me a few minutes of searching before I found my mobile phone. After that I decided to head deeper into the mountains were I could get further away from city lights and the like. I don't think the conditions could have been worst besides it being completely cloudy and rainy. It was cloudy with lots of patches of starry sky which I thought was OK, but it did sprinkle rain a few times. Luckily, I was set up under the back lift door to my loaner car we're using, so things stayed dry. We had some car troubles last week so we took it to the Honda dealership to get it worked on and I forgot my nice tripod in the back. Because it has been obon, the dealership has been closed and I had no way to get my tripod out the back. Instead, I had to settle with using kind of flimsy aluminium tripod I borrowed from my friend Shoriki. I figured if I kept it low and didn't extend the legs, it should be steady enough to take the kind of photos I wanted. If you look closely at the movie, I think I bumped it because the angle drops a bit part way through.

So it was partly cloudy with some rain at times, I didn't have a decent tripod and to top it off, it was a full moon and very humid. It was pretty clear despite the clouds and then a fog came creeping out of the jungle. But did I let this discourage me? Not the least. I'm going to learn time lapse photography and since this was my first time, I figured no matter how bad it turned out, I would have a better understanding of what I need to do and do things better next time. Oh, and you're probably wondering how I timed the shot intervals? "One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand..." And I used my remote to trigger the shutter. I know there are plenty of devices out there to time shot intervals, but I haven't decided on one to buy. I also looked at time lapse software that I can tether my camera to a computer and use. I found a great application for Nikon cameras and Macs called Soforbild. I actually hooked up my Nikon D60 via USB to my iMac and took some time lapse shots inside my classroom. I thought it worked great. Now I just need a Macbook to bring with me when I go out to take time lapse photos.

When I first set up everything and took a few practice shots, the first thing I noticed is that long exposure shot under a full moon can look exactly like daytime. I was so surprised. When I hit the playback button and seen this really bright daytime looking photo, I thought maybe I hadn't taken the photo in the first place. With how foggy, cloudy and humid it was with the full moon, I didn't think I was going to get any shots of the stars that night. So instead, I decided to take over exposed photos that look kind of like daytime and see what the clouds would like like. The above movie is what I ended up with.

Some mistakes I figured out right off, is I can't shoot in RAW format. It takes too long to save to the memory card and it's too taxing on my camera battery. I had a fully recharged battery and I only got off 133 shots. Now here's a kicker, the battery I used when I first got there when I was setting up taking practice shots was only about half full. Earlier in the day, it only had one battery level on the charge mark and before I swapped it out for a new one, it was back up to 2 out of 3. So I figure it was probably around half full. I switched my camera settings just a bit and also switch to normal JPEG format and swapped back to my first battery. I was able to get off 109 shots before the battery ran out of juice. Here is the movie for my second attempt.

Attempt #2

I basically just turned my camera facing the opposite direction for these shots. This video has 109 photos taken at 25 second intervals. My camera settings were: Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 8 seconds, f/1.4, ISO 400. Again, all manual and no white balance. I put it together using Quicktime 7 Pro and this time the frame rate was 15 frames per second. I accidentally threw in a test shot at the first of the movie. That's why it jumps at the very beginning.

So these 109 photos were taken with only a half a battery. It makes me think how many I could take with a fully charged battery or maybe even a battery pack grip, hmmmm. It also makes me think what it will be like on a clear night with no moon. *smiles big*

Although these two time lapse movies are completely sucktacular, I still feel pretty good about them. It was my first time trying out something like this and I learned so much from this experience. I'm excited to get out again in a few weeks when there's no moon and see what kind of photos I can take. There's so much more I want to write in the post, but I think I'll cut it off here.

Aug 26, 2010

Learning LR3

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/200 sec, f/4.0, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Random 2010 Obon Shot

I took this shot last Sunday while my wife's family was at their haka. I wanted to try out the new Grain feature under Effects in Lightroom 3. I thought the graininess of the photo turned out pretty nice.

Before adding the grain, I switched it to Black & White, put the Recovery at 100 (had just a few blown out spots), upped the Fill Light and Blacks. I then raised the Contrast to 85 and the Brightness to 65 and then gave it a Vignette. Lastly, I gave it some graininess. Here is the original photo if you would like to have a look.

So that's just some photo I chose to mess up to learn how to use some of the new features in Lightroom 3. In all honesty, I was never any good at using Lightroom 2 even, but meh, I enjoy using it. :P It makes things so much easier.

Aug 25, 2010

Flower of the Sun

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 29mm, 1/640 sec, f/8.0, ISO 400 -- EXIF

I took this shot on the way to my wife's family's haka on Sunday during the first day of obon.

Aug 24, 2010

Obon in Amami 2010

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Nagata Bochi
(Nagata Cemetary)

It's typical Japanese tradition to cremate the remains of family members passed away and keep the ashes in these monument like family graves. These stone monuments are called haka.

One of the three major holiday seasons in Japan is obon. Traditions for obon vary greatly throughout Japan, but one thing is certain, obon is a time for honoring one's ancestors. I don't know what obon traditions are like in other parts of Japan, but I'll tell you what they do here in Amami.

Obon usually last three days. Before obon starts, the family cleans house sort of like spring cleaning. They do this in order to receive the spirits of their ancestors. Obon is a Buddhist festival and it is believed that our ancestor's spirits come back to visit during this time.

At the beginning of obon, the family goes to their haka and pay their respect first.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/40 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Grandma Kaoru Paying Her Respect

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/50 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Jade Paying Hers

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF

Once respects are paid, a candle is lit and placed inside a lantern in order to help the spirits find their way back to home. The lantern is then carried back home all the while keeping the candle lit.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 116mm, 1/800 sec, f/4.8, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Keeping It Steady

Once home the spirits are then placed inside the family butsudan. A butsudan is kind of like a mini shrine inside families' homes. The spirits are kept their for the next 2 days. On the 3rd day, the spirits are then brought back to the the family haka in the same manner. Respects are paid and that marks the end of obon here in Amami.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Showing the Way

I kind of like this photo because the girl is holding on tightly to a bottle of Coca Cola. My grandfather loved Coke and you probably wouldn't need a lantern to help him find his way back home, just a bottle of Coke...

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 135mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200 -- EXIF

Lanterns come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. Jade has carried the same lantern for a few years now and it's not that fancy. Maybe next year we'll get a little nicer one to carry.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 72mm, 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Checking Out Some Bugs

I waited back some to see if I couldn't take some random photos of people walking by with their lanterns. I thought Jade and Hikari would have been home by then but as it turned out, they were waiting for me in the shade of these trees by a dried up riverbed checking out some bugs.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/40 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 -- EXIF
I'm Good at Engrish

"Baby! Love your hug♥"

"Rainbow Revive. Walk on the Dreams."


Precure is pronounced purikyua and that actually comes from the English contraction, Pretty Cure. So go figure, I never could understand how they come up with names like this. Anyway, Precure is the name of a cartoon for young girls here in Japan.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Heading Home

So that was our trip to the cemetery to pick up the spirits of my wife's father's side of the family. I wasn't particularly pleased with the photos I took, especially the first one, but I needed one to show you what a typical Japanese cemetery looked like. You only see a small portion of the cemetery in the first photo. Nagata Bochi is actually very large and is probably much bigger than a football field. The haka are built right next to each other with no room in between and you get a sense of claustrophobia looking out across this garden of monuments.

Aug 23, 2010

Cleaning My Gear

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 1/200 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400 -- EXIF

Yesterday was the start of obon here in Amami. The official holiday was from August 13th to the 15th, but most southern islands like Amami go off the traditional lunar calendar and started on the 22nd until the 24th.

I planned on taking some photos of obon this year and I got my camera gear out to clean yesterday. It being summer time and me being quite a sweaty person, my camera and gear gets kind of grimey at times. I try to keep my gear as clean as possible, but sometimes I just don't get the time after using it to clean it. So I took some time to clean my camera and lenses before I went out to take some photos.

After cleaning my gear, my daughter had some coloring pencils out and decided to line them up and take a shot to mess around with in Lightroom 3. I recently upgraded to Lightroom 3 and I haven't really had the chance to mess around with some of the new features it has. I didn't plan on posting this photo, but as I was messing around with it, my wife came up and took a look at what I was working on and thought it looked nice so I thought I would share it.

I did a bit of everything to this photo. I upped the Recovery to 100, upped the Fill Light along with Blacks a bit. I also upped Brightness and Contrast just a little, put the Clarity and Vibrance to 100 and upped the Saturation just a bit. I did a bit of Sharpening and Noise Reduction and gave it a Vignette. Obviously this photo is also cropped a bunch. Here is the original photo to show you how much I did to it. Not that much, but completely different.