All posts tagged: photography

Merry…Solstice!

Hey, all. Well, I’d started another flashback-to-Japan post from the last trip, but it was so bleak and un-Christmasy, even for me, that I’ve decided to spare you such an un-festive come-down until my next post. What a way to kick in the new year it will be! Happily, I was reminded by the ABC weatherman this morning that today is the Summer Solstice in these parts — “when the Sun’s track across the Australian sky reaches its highest point. It is the day that has the most daylight hours of any in the year.” That news provided the impetus to throw together something lighter and sunnier, so here are 30-something chronologically presented shots from the last two or three weeks, all from the local area, the majority created in that beautiful few hours before and just after dawn when conditions are so good for walking and taking pictures. My sleep patterns are still crazed, and I’m surviving on around five hours per night/morning. My stoopid brain has lately settled on 2:00-2:30am as a good time …

Handsome Little Devils: The Water Dragons Revisited

Hey, all. I’ve bitched about Summer on here more than once: the energy-sucking heat, of course; the harsh, high-contrast, drama-killing, colour-draining light (photographically speaking); the insanely early start required to reach the waterfront or creek bank in time for sunrise (just made it this morning by heading out the door at 4:10am); cricket; bad TV (I mean badder than usual, and not in a good way); Christmas… So why bludgeon you with more of the same? Let’s focus on the good side of the Sweltering South-East Queensland Summer: the basking. Not mine — I don’t bask well, except in my own glory. I’m talking about the lizards: I’m still slogging through the pictures from Japan and have completed the editing of half a dozen days’ worth from that 47-day epic, plus several shots, at least, from each of the others. When Day 28, for example, starts to drive me crazy, I jump over to Day 13 for some variety. At least six hours a day goes by like that. When my eyes start to hurt, …

All Creatures Great & Just Plain Awesome

G’day, all. Lately I’ve been buried beneath a pile of virtual images from Japan over 5,000 shots deep, and am briefly surfacing for air and to check in with y’all before I take a breath and dive back down. As well as working on my shots from the Henro, I’ve been messing around with pictures that are a lot older, deleting mercilessly, shuddering with embarrassment at certain images that seemed decent at the time but now look like crap (basically 90% or more of my shots from Korea), and generally getting my photographic affairs in some kind of order. Between sessions at the Big Mac back home, and on the Little Guy here at the air-conditioned library or at my picnic-table “office” in the park before the sun gets too bright, I’ve done a bit of strolling and taken a few thousand more shots, most of which will undoubtedly end up on the virtual trash-heap… When I need a break from shots of temples, pilgrims, mantids, trees and Japanese coastal panoramas, I fiddle with some of …

Back Among My People

G’day, all. The standard apologies for the long time between posts, the tardiness of my response to always-appreciated comments, and for just generally being an awful human being. I’ve been back in the Bayside suburbs of Brisbane for a couple of weeks now, and am pretty well adjusted (by my standards), though there’s been a fair deal of lonesome soul-searching… ..and I do miss the feeling of short- and longer-term purpose that a multi-week walk provides, not to mention the simple daily routine of morning coffee, walking, vending machines, convenience stores, photography, nightly beer, and eating anything I damned well please in between. (No wonder I actually put on weight despite walking around a thousand miles in those three months in Japan…) I also miss the constantly rewarding 88-temple photographic project, though the editing and displaying aftermath of the actual picture-making is keeping me busy, as it will for several months to come. Meanwhile, there are occasional storms to keep me entertained back here in the subtropical Summer — including one predicted for tonight — and I’ve resumed …

The Welcome Committee

There were some things about getting home that were a definite improvement on Japan… ..but overall, this was the toughest time I’ve ever had leaving a country. Hey, all. Yup, back in Brisbane, as of Friday, and I’m just about recovered from the jetlag, lack of sleep on the plane (aisle seat + apparently weak-bladdered co-passengers = much annoyance) and I suppose the accumulated effects of all that walking. I’m still a little rundown, my walking speed has plummeted, and I’m pretty damned down over the end of another adventure. But all of those negatives are tempered by being home with my folks in a good place, and the satisfaction of getting so much done in those 88 days, including: My Daisetsuzan traverse in Hokkaido Climbs of Iwaki-San and Hakkoda-San, beautiful old volcanoes in northern Tohoku My first ascent of Yatsu-ga-Take, despite the cruddy weather A three-day return to the South Alps starting with Kita-Dake, Japan’s second-highest peak Lots of walking in and around the old capitals & temple heartlands of Kyoto & Nara Temple-rich …

Going Against the Flow: Pilgrim Portraits on the Shikoku Henro

ON A HASHIHAMA-BOUND TRAIN, THURSDAY MORNING Hi again, all. Well, my pilgrimage may be over but the journey and adventure roll on. I stayed two nights in Matsuyama, back at Sen Guesthouse right near Dogo Onsen, after a 3.5-hour bus trip across the island from Tokushima. It was great to be back there, and hosts Nori and Matt greeted me warmly. Many stories from the trail were shared. Danielle, my saviour from several weeks ago when she rescued me from that Family Mart and took me to Sen to recuperate, came over last night for a visit. First night was spent here… ..but last night I moved downstairs to a tatami-floored dorm room. I replaced some of my gear (nights are getting chilly), sent some home, and had two more hot-spring baths while I was there, and last night we retired to the rooftop for sunset with a journalist who was in town to do a story about the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Her timing was impeccable and she nearly ran out of iPhone juice recording my …

The Backwards 88, Day 47: And Then, Suddenly, I Ran Out of Temples

Hey, all! Yes, the circle will be unbroken — thanks for asking. At 4:50 this afternoon I entered the temple gate at number 1, bringing me back to where I started, completing a 1,200- or 1,300km loop of Shikoku and a 47-day tour of 88 freakin’ temples. I guess I’m in pretty good shape for an old bastard as my sum total of aches and pains after all that tarmac-pounding and mountain stomping is: zero. In fact I was seldom tired for more than five minutes on the whole walk. Injuries: three missing toenails (keep your eye out), some degraded toe skin, aching knees when I woke yesterday — but they’re fine today. I think I’m getting good at this stuff! As Matt (a former henro along with his wife Nori) at Sen Guesthouse back in Matsuyama said when I was there, you’re just starting to get good at the whole thing and then you reach the end. A damned shame. I have all my rituals and routines down, and have nights in my tiny tent/bedroom/ office/base camp …

The Backwards 88, Day 40: Pilgrim Postcards

[You might have received this post in your inbox erroneously titled “Day 39”. I just realised I’d lost a day! It happens on the blurry path to wisdom!] A LAWSON’S STATION KONBINI, KAINAN, TOKUSHIMA PREFECTURE ~  Morning, all. As threatened, here’s another batch of shots from the last week or so, mostly of scenes and subjects encountered between temples. I enjoy both my subject areas, the temples themselves and the stretches of road and path linking them, for different reasons. The temple one is far more challenging. My aim is to capture a sense of the place that is different from the others, and respond to it artistically in the conditions in which I find it. Believe me, with 88 of them to deal with, that can get pretty tough! As someone who doesn’t believe in anything, I’m obviously not reacting to the places in any spiritual sense. I’m interested in them as places, and judge them on aesthetic grounds, how they relate to their environment, their architecture and landscaping, historical elements etc. Avoiding repeating …

The Backwards 88, Day 37: Peace, Hope & Pilgrim Smokes

Hey, all. Well, this one’s coming to you from a dark bench at a michi-no-eki (“road station”) called Tano-eki-ya that — so far (the night is young) — is my favourite of the trip. It’s right on the main street of the coastal Kochi town of Nahari/Tano, but it’s a sleepy town and no trucks are rattling past. There is an elevated railway line not many metres above my head, but this is the boonies and the trains are rare. The good points: dark, my tent is set up under cover right on the “porch”, there’s a Lawson’s Station konbini 50m away, toilets are close and clean (already washed today’s shirt, socks and unmentionables), and there’s this bench, with a power outlet right next to it. I can’t tell you how rare and delightful a discovery that is. All this beauty, insight and art from the oriental road requires a certain amount of elec-trickery to make it to your device of choice. Oh, and get this: A couple of hours ago, just after I arrived, a …

The Backwards 88, Day 27: Beyond the Difficult Place

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF KONGOFU TEMPLE (#38), EAST COAST OF CAPE ASHIZURI, KOCHI PREFECTURE, SHIKOKU According to legend, this location was given to Kūkai by a mysterious female recluse named Hokke-sennin. Kūkai carved two Fudō-myōō statues and created this temple which is considered a hansho (difficult place) ~ from Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, my guidebook Hi, everyone. It’s been a while. It’s always been a while… How long’s it been since the last post? At least a week. This post will cover quite a lot of ground in more ways than one, but I’ll try to keep ‘er lighter than that last one. Shouldn’t be too hard, since, as the title suggests, I’m in a far better condition emotionally this time around. Firstly, for the sake of clarity, that header shot, which I’m unable to caption, is from Temple #45, Iwayaji, the place referred to in the quote above — not Kongofukuji, which I visited yesterday. Kongofukuji must also be considered a difficult place, since getting there nearly killed me, yet again. (Once again, there aren’t many temple shots here, as …

The Backwards 88, Day 17: Under the Big Stone Hammer

MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREFECTURE Hey, all. Well, I’m 38 temples into my journey, having visited #51, Ishiteji (“Stone Hand Temple”), the day before yesterday, here in Matsuyama, and numbers 53 and 52 yesterday. Yes, out of order, which is due to some unforeseen good fortune two days ago. What we used to call Trail Magic on the Appalachian Trail. It was about time my luck changed. Let me set the scene. Overall, it’s been a rewarding journey, though one of the hardest I’ve done and I’m only a couple of weeks in. I do remind myself sometimes that I’m not the 42-year-old who finished the A.T. feeling the strongest I’d ever felt years back; I’m also lugging the kind of pack weight that helped me develop stress fractures back on the A.T. But it’s one of them thar lonesome trails you hear about, and even for me, a man used to solitude, this one pushes the boundaries at times. Doing the pilgrimage in reverse order would challenge the social life and sanity of even a Japanese person …

The Backwards 88, Day 8: Sandal Power in North-Eastern Shikoku

Greetings, folks, from rainy Kan’onji City on the western fringes of Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku. If you’re the kind of weirdo who prefers kanji (Chinese characters), I’m here to help: 観音寺市. It’s the name of both the city and one of its two principle temples (the suffix -ji means temple). Kan’on or Kannon is a Buddhist goddess of mercy (and pets, apparently), much venerated along the Shikoku pilgrimage route: 29 of the 88 temples are dedicated to her. One unusual thing about this temple, #69, though, is that it adjoins #68, Jinnein, which meant a delightfully easy double whammy with which to start Day 8 today. I’m presently squandering that advantage by sitting here on my Z-Rest outside a 7-11, typing this long-overdue post and stealth-charging laptop, wifi hotspot and one of my arsenal of camera batteries. I haven’t tapped into a convenience store’s power outlet since I last wandered through Shikoku in 2008… (I don’t like supporting the evil 7-11 Corporation, currently in the news in Australia for ripping off their student workforce, but their stores are …

Escape from Tomuraushi/Insect Meditations

From a picnic table in the shade in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, the conclusion of my Daisetsuzan saga… I went to sleep, or what passes for sleep at Club Mountaingoat, with the peace of mind that follows a few nips of Nikka whisky and a rare attack of good sense. Ahead lurked two more days of deeper penetration into the back-est of the Daisetsuzan backcountry; again I’d scanned the guidebook, looking for some hint of reward — terrific views, for example — to justify all those “hard”s, “long”s and “tough”s. I found nothing. Again. Outside, the mountain gods hurled volleys of horizontal rain against our pitiful shelters on crazed bursts of wind. I praised the stolid German craftsmen and women who’d manufactured such a sturdy little tent, and not for the first time saluted my own genius in leaving the syl-nylon tarp back in Australia. That merits another nip, my good man. Anyway, the decision was made, and I followed the final nip with the final Snickers in my food bag. The two Sapporo-ites (Sapporoids?) were exiting in the morning, …

Boulder-Hopping in Wildflower Heaven

Well, folks, here I am again in my de facto Tokyo office with the soft-jazz soundtrack and the students frowning over their papers and textbooks with the single caramel frappuccino they’ll ride till the ice melts and beyond, and the convenient power outlets spaced along the window bench — my main reason for hanging here (apart from the tobacco-free policy). Su-tā-bakku-su.  I’ve been busy, and it doesn’t seem like my posts on this trip will ever be less than a week older than the events they describe. Here I am about to talk about Day 3 of my Daisetsuzan adventure and since then I’ve already done two Tohoku hikes and returned yesterday from a magnificent (but very hard) three-day trek through the Minami (South) Alps, highest range in Japan. It nearly killed me, but it was worth it! You’ll remember the busted tent pole from last post. Well, at a little ma-and-pa outdoor store just around the corner here in Kichijoji, an energetic youngster in jeans tight enough to break bones was able to decipher my problem …

The Highest Man in Hokkaido

Hey, folks. First of all today, would you like to see my Nikkas? Happy to oblige. First, here’s one of the pair of convenient travel-sized bottles I bought in the gift shop just before boarding the cable car up the side of Asahi-Dake a few days ago. The kind lady even wrapped each one in bubble-wrap without me even asking: And here’s one I took last night as I walked home from dinner to my third (and best) capsule hotel, here in Sapporo, Hokkaido. This is at the other end of the Nikka size spectrum: I do believe in the responsible consumption of ‘alcohol,’ even in the mountains, just like the authorities in Japan. Me, I like to keep the manner, and I do my best swearing in private: That gondola: I don’t really believe in the things. They’re like bridges to islands — they kinda mess with definitions. If you can fly halfway up the side of a mountain in minutes, is it still a mountain? But dang, that pack of mine was heavy. …

Good Things Come in Eighty-Eights: My Latest & Greatest Japanese Odyssey

Konnichiwa from Nippon, folks! I’m tapping this on my laptop, via some sweet Japanese wifi technology, from a table in my favourite Starbucks, right next to the park in Kichijoji, Tokyo. I got in to Narita last night on a half-empty flight via Cairns, and crashed in an airport hotel room smaller than my bedroom at home. Dinner was omu rice, some inari zushi, a “steam cake” and a big-ass can of Sapporo beer, in one hit checking four favourite konbini (convenience store) culinary delights on my to-eat list. I’m here for 88 days — nope, not in this Starbucks; that would be excessive. In Japan, I mean. I wanted to make the most of my 90-day tourist visa, and I’m covering a fair bit of ground, old and new, revisiting some favourite old haunts and walking some new paths. Let me backtrack, briefly. My American plans have been put on hold for some personal and legal reasons I won’t go into here. It was a rough year, and I hit rock bottom for several months. …

Leader of the Pack

“Hey, little dudes! How’s it goin’?” My magpie welcoming party always assembles the same way: one sharp-eyed individual — The same one each time? Who can say? — leaves its fellows, takes to the air, and swoops low over the grass to bank and land with breathtaking pizzaz just in front of me: By the time its relatives have spied my approach and joined the party, the first arrival has usually burst into that ecstatic warble that is such a familiar presence in the Australian landscape, rural and urban, beginning before dawn and continuing at irregular intervals till the sun goes down or even later: The tribe takes up position. There are always at least a dozen, usually several more, and several of these will herald my return with an infectious and oft-repeated eruption of glorious song, puffing out their chests till they seem set to explode, tilting back their heads, pointing their formidable beaks at the sky as they sing. It’s the largest group I’ve ever observed — “our” magpies at home form a tight family …

The Truth About Flathead Lies

The tide was low, the air crisp and a winter sunrise was stirring the embers beyond Moreton Island as I approached the mouth to Cabbage Tree Creek. A lone fisherman in waders stood near the jetty, knee deep in salt water and presumably somewhat deeper in concentration: The cruising pelicans I’d hoped to encounter were absent; I walked out onto the jetty and introduced myself to another photographer I’d seen ambling around the headland on several equally sublime mornings, an air-traffic controller called Mike who was getting in some shooting before driving to work and an undoubtedly less tranquil scene. Mike enjoyed a cigarette while we chatted about cameras and lenses and travel. The fisherman had moved a little further downstream when next I noticed him. Mike commented about the gorgeous colours reflected in the creek surface; we fired off a few shots and I went back down the bank to get closer — “zooming with the feet” as we zoom-less users of prime lenses like to put it: Mike and I weren’t the only …

Waiting for the Sun

It took more than the usual fortitude to head out the door into the pre-dawn blackness yesterday. For days the weather reports had forecast our first dose of indubitably “wintry” weather: a “polar [or Antarctic] vortex” was bulldozing its way north, with rumours of rare snow in far-southeastern Queensland and (for Queenslanders) a daunting maximum temperature of 15C (59F). It wasn’t the cold that I dreaded, but the accompanying severe winds. Although I hoped they’d whip up some photogenically frothy waves on the high tide coinciding with sunrise, their immediate effect was to dust my eyeballs with swirling grit, and I had to wear sunglasses in the dark till I left my street and cut across the park towards Cabbage Tree Creek. The creek mouth was a disappointment. Although the conditions had left the area agreeably deserted, there was no more froth on the waves than atop your standard morning latte, and I decided to climb the road to the crest of Shorncliffe. I’d been meaning to photograph the pier reconstruction project from above with the …

Like a Duck to Water

I sometimes tell people I “grew up on and around boats,” and it’s true — but I always hasten to add that they should not infer from that any competence or affinity with things nautical. Nope, sadly, though I like the idea of boats, enjoy looking at them, photographing them and (in ideal conditions) travelling on them, I’m a dyed-in-the-nylon landlubber at heart and could no more sail a boat with any competence than I could pilot an aircraft. This despite a childhood in which at least five increasingly impressive vessels took shape under our house or in the backyard and were launched a few paces away into Moreton Bay, or down the road a few minutes into the local creek. I don’t know what sparked my father’s interest in boats — he grew up in rural Victoria and northern Queensland — but he always had a talent for constructing things (our house, for example — even our caravan!) and he worked as a boilermaker constructing big steel ferries, trawlers and working boats. At home, as …