Amami Superman Photography

A Place to Share My Photos

Jan 30, 2011

Naze and Itsubu Recreation Day

Posted by Amami Superman

First off, I'd like to say, influenza sucks butt! I caught it earlier last week and I haven't felt that sick in a long while. It knocked me flat. But, I'm recovering and now and I'm just trying to get over a nasty cough that I'm left with.

Last Sunday all the 3rd graders from my daughter's school, Naze Elementary, and all the 3rd graders from a nearby school called Itsubu Elementary, got together to have a recreation day together.

First order of business...
Dodge Ball!

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/500 sec, f/1.4 , ISO 800 -- EXIF
Lining Up

They played a few different matches. At first they had the children divide by school and then played all boys and all girls matches. They also had fathers play a match against theirs sons and did the same with mothers and daughters and at last, school against school. There were so many kids the school against school was almost impossible and all they did was threw in three balls and let the kids pelt each other. It was complete chaos and none of the children followed the rules. They'd get hit, pick up the ball and throw it right back without sitting out. But it was fun to watch the kids get so excited like that.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/500 sec, f/1.4 , ISO 800 -- EXIF
Throwing Heat

Jade is a pretty competitive girl and it's matches like this she really enjoys. She also started playing basketball this year for the school team and is having a ball (pun intended).

Next order of business...
Making Mochi!

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/400 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Smooshing the Rice

You're probably asking, "What is mochi?" Well, simply put, it's pounded rice. I don't think they use just any rice to make mochi, but a special kind specifically made for mochi making. They cook it like regular rice and while it's still warm they dump it into a large mortar like this and begin to smoosh it with large wooden mallets.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/800 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Just the Right Amount of Smooshing

Once the rice becomes quite pasty, it's ready to be pounded to into mochi.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 -- EXIF
The Pounding Begins!

They had fairly light mallets for the children to use and they let each child take a few swings at pounding.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Loads of Fun for Everyone

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 -- EXIF
The Big Mallet

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/1000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Like Puddy

Once the rice is pounded into a puddy like consistency, it is ready to be divided up.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Dividing the Mochi

The white flour-like substance is most likely cornstarch. This is used to keep the mochi from sticking to everything. The mochi is divided up into golf ball size pieces and then is rolled into nice round balls.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Making New Friends

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Rolling the Mochi into Balls

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Enjoying What They Made

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/320 sec, f/1.8, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Group Photo

It was a great day and all the children had fun playing dodge ball, making mochi and making new friends. Some kids from my daughter's school didn't want to miss out and even though they were sick and had fevers, they still showed up to have a good time. I think it was here that I caught influenza. A few days later I wasn't feeling well and my daughter was sent home from school early because too many of her classmates were absent after catching influenza. Go figure.

Jan 14, 2011

Ghetto Studio For The Win

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/30 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
100% DIY

So in my last post I said I would make a post about my set up I used for my Halloween studio type photos and here it is.

I made this black backdrop with some fabric I bought at the local fabric store. I used 120cm wide fabric cut in 4 meter sections and sewed them together to make it. The backdrop is held up by 2 long bamboo secured by hooks and wire on opposite walls. I gathered a bunch of cardboard boxes from my wife's family's Sanrio shop and covered the windows with them and duct tape. My wife and I went to the mountains and gathered up 4 full trash bags worth of leaves to spread over the tarp on the floor. We bought 6 jack-o-lantern pumpkins and received some other types of squash to use as props. On the left side of the photo you can see a short table stood on end. This table was my reflection board. I covered it with aluminium top to bottom. On the right side of the photo you can see my DIY soft boxes and also a long florescent light covered in orange and yellow film.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/40 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
My Soft Boxes

I made these soft boxes last year for last year's Halloween photos. I looked around the interwebz for plans for DIY soft boxes and ended up designing my own based on the materials I had at hand. The local hardware shop had some big plastic sheets kind of like corrugated cardboard and decided to use that for my boxes. I made some calculation and made a few mock-ups using A4 size sheets of paper. I designed them so that they were one piece and I would just have to fold and connect the edges together with duct tape. Before I folded them, I lined the inner side of the design with aluminium foil and then folded and taped them together. I cut a hole in the back and used a cheap garage drop light equipped with a 200 watt tungsten bulb. I made 2 of these soft boxes. The stand I used for these soft boxes is pretty basic. I got a large can (about 1 gallon size), stuck a long sturdy piece of lumber on the inner edge of the can and filled it with cement and let the cement set. Very cheap and works well as a stand. I also used duct tape to hold the soft boxes in place on the stands as the garage drop light's clips weren't very strong. I used an extension cord with multiple sockets with ON and OFF switches to power my lights. I turned off my lights when not in use because my soft boxes are made out of plastic and 200 watt bulb create a lot of heat. I've used these soft boxes twice now and have left them on at least 30 minutes at a time and I've seen no signs of melting plastic what so ever. The fronts of the soft boxes are covered in a rayon type fabric (not really sure what kind of fabric), and it did a very good job diffusing the light.

For my camera settings, I used my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens for all my shots. I really don't have any experience using flashes so I only use low key lighting for my photos. Because I'm not using flashes I set my camera to Aperture Priority with an aperture at 2.2 to 2.8 with an ISO of 400. I usually get shutter speeds anywhere from 1/40 second to 1/80 second depending on the brightness of my subjects costumes. I left my White Balance on my camera on Auto and adjusted the white balance in Lightroom 3 when I post edited the photos.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/50 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 -- EXIF

Besides trying to get small children to hold still for shots, my biggest problem was shooting group photos with these settings. I really didn't have too much problems shooting smaller groups like the above photo of my friend Toshi Nagai's family. This next photo was a challenge.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/80 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF

This was probably the most difficult photo to take. The room I'm in isn't that big and I had to position everyone so they're in the shot as well as the edges of the makeshift studio I made. I don't have a lot of room to back up and this photo pushed the limits of the size of the room's settings. The other problem I had with this photo is my wide aperture. Wider apertures have smaller focusing planes and 3 rows of people was very difficult. I had the people in the back lean forward as much as they could without making it look like they were leaning forward so that their faces were somewhat in focus. The lighting I was using was insufficient for the group I was shooting and used quite a bit of Fill Light in Lightroom 3. When you up the Fill Light, you get an amount of noise. I used a lot of Fill Light so I got a lot of noise and had to compensate with Noise Reduction and Sharpening. The above family wanted a S10R size photo printed (4PW Japan size), and I thought it turned out OK. If you got right close, 2 or 3 inches way, you can see the distortions from the Noise Reduction and Sharpening but couldn't notice if you didn't look close. I really don't like to use that much post editing on a photo, but this one couldn't be helped, I had to to make it look relatively nice.

So that's the set up I used for my Halloween photos last year. I'm going to make a slide show post of our Trick-or-Treat parade and maybe another slide show post of the other shots I took of my students and their family Halloween portraits.

Jan 13, 2011

Happy New Year!

Posted by Amami Superman

I apologize for not posting in so long. My last post was back in October just before Halloween when I was busy trying to get ready for Halloween so I guess I'll pick up from there.

Our Halloween Trick-or-Treat Parade went off without a hitch. We originally had the parade planned for October 31, but we had a typhoon come through days before and we thought it may interfere with our plans so we postponed it until November 3. I took studio type photos of my students and their families again this year and they turned out pretty much like last year's Halloween photos. This year, instead of making a big wall out of lumber I found at the dump, I bought some black fabric and sewed it together to make a backdrop and got a bunch of pumpkins for props as well as leaves to use on the floor. I just chose a few photos to share.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/80 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Daisy Duck

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/80 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Bat Girl

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/80 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF

The kid's name in the above photo is Junki (joonkee). So no mistakes are made, I wasn't saying he was junkie or junky. lol

I'm pretty happy with how the photos turned out. There were a few difficult shots that I had to make of a family group using a wide aperture, but I think I'll save that for another post. I'll also make a post of the set up I used to take these photos (super low tech).

I tell you, I had a pretty terrible month with my internet connection. Here's my story.

Last month before Christmas my old Airport Express broke. Well, I thought it broke. I started to look for a new router and I wanted one that I could connect to by LAN and wireless. Apple's routers are a bit expensive and I decided to go with a NEC Aterm WarpStar WR8700N.

My new router arrived around the 27th and I got it out to get set up. After hooking it all up and going in and putting in my ISP settings I opened a browser and saw the internet immediately. "Great!" I thought, as I went to check my email. I use gmail for my email and things come up right away with no problems, but when I tried to send an email with an attachment, the router would stall and the ACTIVE light would go out meaning it wasn't connected to my fiber optic modem. I didn't know what the problem was and I started to search for online support since it was late and the Aterm Support lines would most likely be finished for the day.

While I was searching online for some support for my router, I remembered that I wanted to do a speed test of my connection now that I wasn't on a wireless connection. I went to a speed test site and started the speed test only to have it stall again and the ACTIVE light go out on my new router. Now here's where I get thrown off trying to figure out the problem. I didn't know whether it was a setting with my computer or the router so I decided to connect my computer directly to my fiber optic modem and so see what would happen. After getting it connected things went smooth and I didn't have a problem downloading or uploading. I figured it was a setting with my new router so I decided to call them up the next day.

The next morning after 9:00 o'clock I called up the Aterm Support Line only to find that they were closed for the holidays and wouldn't be back until the 4th of January. Ugh! So I waited patiently with only one computer being able to connect to the internet. Once the 4th rolled around, I called them up only to find the support line busy every time I called. I called several times throughout the day and wasn't able to get a hold of them on the 4th. I tried again on the 5th and finally was able to get through around noon. The support representative was very kind and helpful but in the end, she didn't know what the problem was and said that I may have bought a faulty router and told me to contact the store I bought it from and have them replace it for a new one.

I bought the router from an online shop through Amazon and called them up telling them my situation. They agreed to send me a new router. After talking with them I received a phone call back from them saying that they were sorry and didn't have any more in stock and I would have to wait until they were able to get some from the maker which would take a few days. It took a week for me to get my new router and once it arrived, I didn't want to take any chances so I called up support to have them help me set it up. They pretty much told me exactly what I did to set up my first router. I opened a browser and tried a speed test... It stalled again! What the freek! The representative asked me to try a few different things and we couldn't get it to work. She finally asked me what fiber optic modem I'm using and I read her the number off the back. She said that I had a pretty old modem and maybe that might be the problem.

I called up NTT and asked them to come out and check my connection. In less than an hour they had a guy out here with his laptop testing my connection. Low and behold, he couldn't get it to work on his computer either. It turned out that it wasn't my router that had gone bad, but my fiber optic modem and I never really needed to buy a new router at all. The NTT guy pulled out a new modem and hooked it up to my fiber optic line and connected his computer and it worked like a dream. I hooked up my new router and got everything going and now I have my internet back. Yeehaw!

Our holidays were pretty regular. We got together with my wife's family on New Year's Day, but with the rainy, cold weather we've been having, we didn't do much more than that. With the start of a new year, I'm back to work teaching again and busy as ever. We're planning a trip to America at the end of March which we're pretty excited about. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to sharing more photos with you this year.