Amami Superman Photography

A Place to Share My Photos

Dec 28, 2009

Christmas Lights 2009

Posted by Amami Superman

Well, a very Merry Christmas to you all (I forgot to mention that in my last post). I hope you're enjoying the holidays and are well. There are only a few days left in the year and we finally get our long awaited break.

Christmas time in Japan isn't like Christmas in the States. Oh, they have their holiday shopping specials, but they just don't get into the whole family getting together thing. They save that for New Years. They do, on the other hand, like the more festive aspects of Christmas. One particular thing they've adopted that I like is Christmas lights. In the past 12 years living here in Amami, I've seen more and more lights go up year after year. Some just buy a few strands and hang them over their hedges, and some go all out and really make their yards look very nice. One thing I noticed this year is they don't hang Christmas lights like they do in the States. In the States, people decorate their houses with lights accenting the edges, corners and gutters to bring out the shape of the house. They don't really do that here in Amami.

Since out daughter Jade is out of school for winter vacation, she can stay up just a bit later than normal. With that, I decided it would be nice to drive around and check out some of the places that have some nice decorations (and to take a few photos).

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, 3 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Nice Bright Blue

I didn't take any photos of the people's houses who didn't put too much effort into their lights. This one was better than most I saw so I took a few photos of it.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 5 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Oooo, Ahhh, Pretty...

Most of the houses we saw had dancing lights; lights that flickered on and off with different patterns. Of course with longer shutter speeds, it all looks the same.

Most of the photos we took were from the side of the road. I suppose a few people wondered what we were doing as they drove by, but we didn't care. It was fun for us.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 22mm, 30 sec, f/22, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Side of the Road Photography


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 32mm, 20 sec, f/22, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Santa's Doing Jumping Jacks

Some of the decorations in this yard were mechanical and moved just a bit. Santa's arms went up and down and some of the reindeer heads went up and down.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, 30 sec, f/16, ISO 100 -- EXIF
In Front of Big 2

Big 2 is a large discount type store. They have big bougainvillea bushes out front and they decorate them with blue lights every year.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 42mm, 30 sec, f/16, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Indoor and Out


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 30 sec, f/13, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Christmas Lights Amami Style

This small park is just across the street from the Tatsugo Town Hall. Every year they decorate this park up very nice but earlier this year they decided to fix up the road and make it straighter. Now the park is half the size it was so it didn't seem as grand as it used to.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 36mm, 8 sec, f/5.3, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Christmas Palm Tree


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 26mm, 30 sec, f/13, ISO 100 -- EXIF
This One Gets My Vote

This is a bungalow out in Tatsugo near Bashayama. If you've ever been too Amami, it's more than likely you've driven past this house. This house has a statue of a kid riding a turtle coursing it along with a carrot on a stick. There is an old Japanese folk story called Urashima Taro about this. You can find a brief summery about this story here.

Those are just a few of the houses they have decorated here in Amami. We didn't get the chance to drive around everywhere, that would take too long.

We were lucky it wasn't rainy this day. It's been crummy weather for a few days and I'm waiting for it to clear up. I really hope it's going to be nice weather on New Years morning. We're planning on going to the beach to watch the sunrise.

Happy Holidays to you all.
Dec 25, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

Posted by Amami Superman

Our daughter Jade wanted a digital camera for Christmas. When asked why she wanted one, her reply was because she wanted to make a photo blog. It made me feel good to hear that, but on the other hand, she's only 8 years old. So after a bit of thought, Santa decided to look for a relatively cheap digital camera that was easy for her to use. This morning when she woke up, THERE under the Christmas tree, was a digital camera for Jade.


After Jade opened all her presents, I took a look at her camera and started to set it up for her. I changed the language to English and looked at the different settings she had to choose from. I then went to take a photo and it wouldn't shoot. ??? I looked at the screen and it said there was no memory SD card inserted... Way to go Santa! You forgot to get her a SD card to go with the camera! So after some breakfast and a bit of clean up, we went to a friend's electronic store and bought a 2GB SD card for her new camera. Jade was all set to go.

I had planned on taking the family up to the mountains where I previously went to show them the yakkosou flowers I photographed before. We walked around the park for a bit taking photos of everything we thought was interesting and Jade took quite a few photos. I have yet to look at what she took but we'll probably get to that later on tonight. Here are some of the photos I took while we walked around.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 135mm, 1/40 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Acorn


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0 @ 200mm, 1/60 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Nuts For Nuts

My wife Hikari and our daughter Jade love to look for acorns and nuts of the sort. I guess if you find these at the right time of year, you can cook them and mix them with your rice for a meal. They've never gathered these for that; they just think they're cute and look for lots of them. I, on the other hand, always think, "I wonder how good they taste?".

This kind of reminds me of some thing that's really not related to this but I'll share it with you anyway. When I was a kid, I used to buy candy called "Laughy Taffy". Laughy Taffy wrappers always had jokes written on the insides. One joke that I remember, but never understood was,"Peanuts are neither peas nor nuts. They're actually small rodents." I've NEVER understood that joke.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Shooting the Scenery

I was shooting on Aperture Priority and forgot to set my ISO down so this photo was a bit blown out after we emerged from the forest.

I didn't give Jade any pointers on how to take photos. I figured to just let her go to town and maybe throw in some advice here an there when we look at the photos later. I can't tell you how happy I am that she's interested in photography, but I don't want to scare her away by telling how to take her own photos. She's young and with time, I think she'll come to understand what kinds of photos she wants to take. Who knows? If she really gets into it, I may buy a new camera and let her use this D60. :)


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/150 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Enjoying the Scenery

It was sprinkling rain most of the time we were out. Under the forest canopy the rain wasn't really that much of a bother. But out here in the open, I didn't want to get my camera wet so we didn't stay here for too long.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/15 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Rurikakesu
(Lidth's Jay)

Again, I was using Aperture Priority at f/5.6 and for some reason it took this photo at 1/15 sec which was kind of bright but not blown out at all. If I did it with manual settings, I would at least have set the shutter speed to 1/30 sec. Either way, this was the best photo I got of this bird despite the slow shutter speed. Yay for vibration reduction.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/80 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Lunch Time

I've searched the web to try to find the name of this spider but I have always turned up empty handed. My wife's uncle tells me that there are no poisonous spiders here in Amami but this thing just looks nasty. I hate spiders...


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 68mm, 1/100 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Tsurusoba

I only know the names of some of the plants and flowers here in Amami by their names in Amami dialect. They call this flower, "tsurusoba".


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Hibiscus Ready to Bloom

Although it's winter here in Amami, some flowers bloom year round. During the winter time here, you don't see as many hibiscus flowers as you would in the summer.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/640 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Who is Car?

Car's Park didn't have any good rides, just my Honda Z. lol I know my grammar, spelling and punctuation isn't that great, but I get a giggle when I see Japanese Engrish like this. :)

While writing this post, I realized that next month on the 7th is this blog's 1 year anniversary. It didn't come as a shock but it did grip me. So, I'm thinking of what I'm going to do for an anniversary post for my blog. I'm still not sure, but I'm thinking about it...

Yasuhiro & Yumi's Wedding Party

Posted by Amami Superman

Last month wasn't a particularly fun month for me. As I mentioned in previous posts, I was plagued by ear infections and colds. At the end of last month after we got back from our trip to Kyushu, a friend of mine was having a wedding party and he asked me to take photos for it. When the day rolled around for his party, I was feeling miserable and didn't know if I was up to the job. But I stuck it out and decided to do my best.


It's one of those times where I wish I had paid more attention to what I was doing and thought about it a bit more. I'm not big into flashes and the restaurant they used had pretty poor lighting. I went with my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens. That wasn't a bad chose but the camera settings I used were. I thought I could get away with slower shutter speeds, around 1/30 sec and up so I could use a lower ISO (ISO 400), and not have the photos so grainy. I should have used ISO 800 and a faster shutter speed, but that's spilt milk. I guess I know better now...

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 22mm, 30 sec, f/4.0, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Not Your Typical Reception


I'll give you little background info on the bride and groom. Yumi is a teacher in Kagoshima and Yasuhiro owns a restaurant called SusuMucho here in Amami. They have been dating for some time now and recently they signed a marriage licence and turned it in to the city hall. Most of their close friends knew about this but not very many. Yasuhiro decided to give Yumi a surprise wedding party and invite all their close friends.

Yasuhiro told nothing to Yumi about the day of the party. He picked her up at the airport and simply told her he had a few errands to run that morning. He then drove her to a bridal salon where they picked out dresses and tuxedos. She had no idea about any of this or what was going to happen. She thought that they were picking things out for a later date.

After they had everything picked out, they fixed up their hair and makeup and got them all dressed up. The bridal salon then drove them to a photography studio just across the street where I live and took wedding photos. The poster you see in the above photo was taken that morning at the photo studio. My wife and daughter took a sneak peek at them while they were shooting. Yumi got so many surprises this day. She didn't know she was going to be taking photos so it must have been a real treat for her.

I don't know much about what happened after that up to the wedding party. When they got to the restaurant, everyone was waiting with cracker fireworks filled with confetti. As they walked in the door and the crackers went off, I think she was so scared she tried to run away.


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 -- EXIF
A Man of the Cloth?

When they got situated, the first thing they did was have a wedding ceremony. The man performing the ceremony is Shoichi. Shoichi is in no way a man of the cloth, but instead, a very comical man. As you can see in the photo, he put his suit on backwards and taped a not-so-straight cross on. Even thought I wasn't feeling well, I couldn't stop from laughing.


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Kampai Aisatsu
(cheers speech)

They then had a friend come up and give a speech before they all toasted to the the bride and groom.


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


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


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 -- EXIF
An Uneventful Cake Feeding of the Bride


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Desaster About to Strike


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


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


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

After cutting the cake, they had a few musical numbers performed by different people and a slide show of Yasuhiro and Yumi filling out their marriage license and some different things they were photographed in.

At the end of the party, each gave a small speech. Yumi was all emotional by this point and could barely squeak a word out. When she finally was able to talk, she mentioned how this was better than anything she had imagined. When they first signed their marriage license, she didn't expect a wedding and was happy and content just getting a ring.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/30 sec, f/1.4 , ISO 400 -- EXIF
Symbols of Vows


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/40 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 -- EXIF
The Gauntlet

I'm not sure what they call this in Japanese or English. At the end of some receptions, everyone gets together and makes a sort of tunnel for the newly weds to go through. I call it the gauntlet because some of the more drunk people take shots at them like in the above photos.


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/25 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Leaving the Party

Once they got outside, I had room on my SD card for one more photo and this is the photo I shot. I took 866 photos and completely filled my 8GB SD card.

For a honeymoon, they are going to take a trip to Australia for a week or so at the end of this month.

I recently was able to go through all the photos I took and I made a disc for them. When I brought the disc to Yasuhiro, he showed me some of the video another friend took of that day at the bridal salon. Yasuhiro seemed a very happy man.
Dec 23, 2009

Kagoshima Aquarium

Posted by Amami Superman

On our trip to Kyushu, after watching the dolphin show, we took the tour of the aquarium. The first thing you get to see is the big tank. They had manta rays, whale sharks, tuna and a bunch of other fish I don't know the names of. I took loads of photos and got some pretty nice shots in my opinion, but when posting to a blog, there's only so many posts you can make about fish. So instead of making a few more posts of the photos I took of the fish, I just chose a few of them to share.


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
The Big Tank


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/40 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Kind of Scary


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/60 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Checking Out the Sign


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/100 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Cool Looking Squid


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/100 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Job Description: Swim Circles


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/200 sec, f/3.5, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Even More Scary


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Like Something From a SciFi Flick


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/250 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Playful Otters

This ended our day and we made our way to the hotel we had reservations for. I was pretty beat and after a hot shower, I fell asleep pretty quick.

The next day was set aside for shopping. We went to a bunch of different malls. The first we hit up was Toy-R-Us in Taniyama. In that same mall, they have a pretty big pet store and we went around looking at all the animals they had there. They had everything fluffy kittens to deadly looking scorpions and one obnoxiously noisy dog that would make your ears bleed when it barked.

We also hit up a new mall they had more near downtown Kagoshima called Aeon Mall. We spent most of the day there.

After spending hours at the malls, I decided I wanted to go see a movie. They have a movie theater here in Amami, but it's nothing to talk about. No surround sound, the screens are cracked and they never have the movies I want to see and if they do, the're in Japanese. So we took the rent-a-car back and took a taxi to the Kagoshima Central Train Station where they have some very nice movie theaters. I didn't expect the movie to be so long. When I bought the ticket, I asked the lady when it was going to finish to let my wife know when to meet me and the lady told me it finished 10 minutes after our boat left. I got the ticket refunded and we just walked around window shopping again until it was time for us to head to the port to catch our boat.
Dec 22, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Posted by Amami Superman

I had the afternoon off last Friday so I decided to go on a hike. I headed to a place in Tatsugo in the north of Amami to the top of a mountain range. There they have a park with plenty of paths that wind around it made for bird watching. The name of the pass this park is found on is Nagakumo and I'm not sure about the name of the park except most people call it "shizen no mori" which means "Nature's Forest", I think...


I hiked around on the paths for about 2 1/2 hours taking photos of pretty much everything that I found remotely interesting. I haven't been out much to take nature shots lately and though I'm not unhappy with the photos I've recently taken, I haven't taken any photos that I find very interesting to myself. I like to share photos of my family or of events that I go to, but I also like to share photos that I took a few minutes and thought about before I shot them. Although some of these shots may not be that interesting, I took the time to think about what I was shooting and how I wanted to compose some of the shots without having to worry about family or the tempo of an event. I enjoyed this hike.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/25 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -- EXIF
3 Levels of Depth


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/40 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
2 Ladders


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/40 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800 -- EXIF
Wrinkled Old Rock


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/50 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Creased


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/50 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Mini Maps on a Rock

I upped the Saturation and Vibrance just a bit to make the colors pop more in the above photo.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/125 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Tangled Growth

The above photo was kind of blown out but with a little post editing I was able to fix it up a bit. I feel it didn't turn out all that bad.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/25 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Whistling Green Pigeon

As I said, the park is mostly dedicated to bird watching. I spent a lot of time looking through the trees trying to find birds to shoot also. I've never actually done any bird watching and I found it quite hard to get close enough to take photos.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Not Sure

I searched the web for the name of this bird and also asked family and friends but no one seemed to know. I also did some post editing on this photo to make it a little easier to spot the bird. I upped the blacks and gave it a pretty thick vignette to make the outer edges seem black.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/15 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
People of Lilliput

I'm not sure what kind of plant this is but it's called ヤッコ草 (yakkosou), in Japanese. From what I've read about them, this is a flower. I've seen them before but I didn't realize how rare they are here in Japan. My mother-in-law was telling me they had a something on television about these just a few days ago. They only bloom during this time of year. I thought they looked cool because they look like little people.


Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/15 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
Not Fully Matured?

I'm not sure if I'm too late or too early to photograph these flowers. I'm going to go back later this week and see what they look like. I'm pretty sure they grow to be a bit taller from what I've seen in the past but I've never seen them with the black wilted looking tops.
Dec 21, 2009

Dolphins

Posted by Amami Superman

When we went to Kyushu last month, we decided to take our daughter Jade to the Kagoshima aquarium. They have a dolphin show there and the last time we took her, she was too young to remember.

We were able to get in just before the next show was about to begin, but the only spot left for us to sit was right up front. I remember the first time we came here; the people in front got splashed. It was the only place for us to sit and I figured I would be able to cover my camera with my jacket if it looked like we were going to get splashed. It turned out we never got close to getting splashed.


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/250 sec, f/1.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF
A Second Before Getting Splashed

These children were right up close to the glass when the dolphins became playful, almost as if they were roughhousing, and came right up close to the glass splashing water over the kids. It sent them running.


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Greeting the Crowd

The show got underway and the MC of the show came out and started his speech. What I thought was really cool was he did it all while using sign language. When I first came to Japan, I worked for a company with an older gentleman that was deaf. I was with that company only about a year but over that time I learn quite a bit of sign language. I was astonished at myself how much I actually still remember. One thing I'd like to mention about Japanese sign language, it's different from sign language in English. When I first started to learn it, I thought it was all the same. It was only later when I started to look things up on the internet about sign language that I found out they were all different.


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/200 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Simple Jumps


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/200 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Back Flips


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/200 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF
In Unison


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/250 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF
A Duet


Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/250 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF
Not With the Group

If I ever go back to see this show again, I'll be sure to show up early to pick a better seat. I was sitting right in front of these steps with the hand railings and it was very difficult trying to figure out where the dolphins were going to jump out of the water from and focus at the same time. So many of my photos were out of focus because the auto focus focused on the railings. Even when I changed the focus points, I still messed them up. I suppose it's something that comes with practice.

I also didn't do too much post editing to these photos. They may seem a bit dark but lighting in the big room really was kind of poor. About the only post editing I did was the white balance. Most of the photos' white balance was all messed up. Sometime the walls looked brown and sometimes even green. I think they were a light blue but most of the photos turned out kind of pinkish.

After the dolphin show, we took our time and walked though the aquarium checking out everything we could. It was a holiday weekend and there were quite a few people there that day. The inside of this building was quite toasty.

I'm not positive about this, but I believe these dolphins are from right there in Kagoshima. They have plenty of dolphins around the bay there. Sometimes if you're lucky, you'll get a large pod of dolphins that will follow the ferry you're riding back to Amami on. They come and play in the wake of the ship. It's fun to watch them as they jump off a wake as a wake boarder would do. It's a pretty cool sight to see.