Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Shooting Pictures: What to do in Poor Weather

OK, it wasn't an ideal day weather-wise to tour the best beaches in Okinawa. But as is always the case when travelling on an itinerary, there's not much you can do about it.

The sky was grey and overcast, and though it was quite bright, the colour was dull, dull, dull...

Most of these shots have been post-processed using Aurora HDR - some are bracketed and some processed off a single RAW file (because of rain drops on the lens in the second and third exposures). The results were quite interesting - not a patch on how it should and would look if there was better weather...

A Ride down the Hozugawa River

Hozugawa from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Former Japanese Naval Underground HQ, Naha, Okinawa

In the failing months of WWII, the Japanese Army command ordered the Naval contingent  to make a last stand in Naha, in what is now called the underground naval HQ -  this was all part of the army's plan to slow the inevitable - invasion and defeat under the guns of the Americans. Being subordinate to the army, the naval commander had to comply.
Tunnels were dug out of the sandstone by hand, by soldiers and civilians who had only just survived on starvation rations for months.
Not surprisingly the entire command post was overrun by the Americans and those Japanese that were not killed in action committed suicide - you can still see the gouge marks left by hand grenades detonated by soldiers not willing to face defeat.

More than 250,000 people died in the battle of Okinawa - half of those were civilians. The islands were left in a state of utter desolation for many years after the conflict ended.

It is a bit weird trying to photograph and post-process a place that has seen so much violence and chaos as this.
After the killing had stopped the Japanese people, and more specifically the Okinawans, were, I think, incensed when they learned that they had effectively been lied to for years about how badly the war had been conducted - and the losses that they had to suffer - for nothing...

The tunnels go for several hundred metres - but there are still many hundreds more that are off-limits to visitors - too deep and, ironically, too dangerous to step into...

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Shuri Castle, Naha

Capital of the Ryuku Kingdom, this castle was almost completely destroyed in the battle for Okinawa but is now restored..
Fortunately for the Okinawans, but not so fortunately for us, the lacquer was being repaired in the main courtyard so we could not get great photos of this very impressive red structure. Possibly the most impressively-coloured castle in Japan.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Sakurajima Volcano Views

Full view of Sakurajima volcano
View from the Junohira observation point located on the volcano looking west towards Kagoshima...
Sightseeing bus with the volcano in the background

Feeding Time at Kagoshima Aquarium

Feeding time at the Kagoshima dolphin show - this is held in part of the harbour just as you walk past to get to the ferry.  Here are three shots of these beautiful, intelligent creatures.

Hashima Island: Japan's Dark Past Revealed

Hashima island is around 15 kms off the coast of south-western Nagasaki city - in Kyushu. You can get to this island easily via a half day trip from the city.

One reason for visiting this island is that it's had a long reputation for being one of the most populous places on earth - averaging 5000 people per sq km at its peak. The simple reason for this is that in 1887 the Japanese discovered coal on the island and began developing what was to be a very rich source of high quality coal directly under the island. Seams ran for great distances under the sea bed and as the mine became increasingly sophisticated, so the mine, and the island's population grew.

The island, often called Gunkanjima or battleship island, because of its profile, was formally approved as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2015, as part of Japan's Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining.

It also has a dark past as the Japanese authorities used slave labour to mine coal - mostly Chinese and Korean prisoners - during the war years - and, as I understand it, the only reason that the Japanese could get this UNESCO label was if they acknowledged this dark past. As is often the case with this kind of issue, everyone denies it ever happened and the titles was approved without any real settlement of the labour question.

The company operating the tour (Gunkanjima Concierge) spent most of the 90 minute trip (there and back) running a commentary on the island's history, complete with heaps of pictures and video,  but nothing that I heard or saw referred to the war years...

It's not Cockatoo Island but it's certainly an interesting spot to visit although the repetitive, over-the-top safety and infotainment spiel wore very thin, very quickly.

The boat circles the island first before landing at the newly-built jetty to off-load the passengers
Parts of the island appear to have been bombed or purposely blown up - huge concrete walls lie collapsed in the rubble of the former mine that was closed  in 1974

Because of its decrepitude you are not allowed near the buildings

For the millions of tons of coal that were extracted off this island, there's precious little space for the inhabitants to move around.
Kids used the apartment rooftops as their playground...
All these images are HDR brackets, processed in Aurora HDR Pro - then sandwiched with a second version processed using Jixi Pix Grungetastic

It was a crowded, wet day on the island...

Whatever it is you are thinking of doing, don't!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Two Iconic Locations from Japan

Himeji Castle is one of the most spectacular sights in Japan - two years ago it re-opened after 7 years of renovations so it really lives up to is nick-name of the White Heron castle - dazzling in the sunshine. It's not only a beautiful structure - it is also original, being one of the very few castles in Japan to survive war, fires and bombing.
Though the rest of Himeji was flattened by the USAF, this part of the city was missed and is now the region's number one tourist draw card.
Another draw card, this time in Hiroshima, Genbaku Domu or the A-Dome Monument.According to Wikipedia, "...on 6 August 1945, over 70,000 people were killed instantly, and another 70,000 suffered fatal injuries from the radiation. At 8:15 a.m. on 6 August 1945, Little Boy, the first atomic bomb to be used in war, was dropped by the United States Army Air Forces from the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber. The force of the atomic bomb effectively obliterated the city of Hiroshima.

Yanagawa: Canal TownPunt full of

Very Low Head RoomA punt full of Taiwanese tourists hunker down to avoid a permanent scar across their foreheads from the very low road bridges across the canals
Boatman's Party Trick
While cowering in the boat, the boatman jumps onto the bridge, crosses the road, and when they all sit back up and realise there's no one on the boat, he jumps over the parapet back into the boat.
Our boatman was left over from the Meiji period so might have had a heart attack if he'd tried the same trick., Instead he sang to us...
Taiwanese Selfie Heaven
Despite the fact that we had three Japanese in the boat and the rest foreigners
Classic view looking down the canal
Nice little view over the canals of Yanagawa

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Yasaka Shrine - Kyoto

Here are a few snaps taken at night at the Yaska Shrine - this is a big complex at the end of Shijo street in central Kyoto that is lit up at night - making a great photo subject.
All are five frame shots post-processed using Aurora Pro 2018
In the daytime this place is humming with people - tourists, business people, locals. At night it is almost deserted and, with 20 and 30 second exposures, anyone moving through the frame simply does not show up in the final HDR shot.

Kaiseki - the Japanese art of food

Fourth night into our Japan Southern Sojourn Photo Tour it was time to head into Gion for a kaiseki meal - this is regarded as the pinnacle of Japanese food art - Asian haute cuisine as it were. The ingredients are usually sourced locally, and are prepared in the most exquisite way, usually reflecting the seasons, the ingredients and the chef's particular culinary skills.
Here are a few iPhone snaps of some of the courses...
Crab in jelly with spring onion and a ginger topping
Smoked fish and autumn veggies
Local fish in a soup with carrot, ginger and yam or sweet potato (I think...)
Grilled fish
Cooked at the table accompanied with seared yam and capsicum
Kyoto steak.
Seared beef, lotus root with sesame seeds, sweet potato and chili
Mochi, pounded glutinous rice and sugar with fruit for dessert

Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion and Gardens

This place dates back to 1490, built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa for his retirement.
After his death it became a zen temple and is now open to the public
Though called the Silver temple or Silver Pavilion, this place is best known for its magnificent mossy gardens that run up the side of the mountains at the edge of Kyoto city. This is the view from the top of the garden overlooking the temple complex, the silver pavilion which contains no silver at all - at far left...
Curiously trimmed trees at the entrance to the Silver Pavilion grounds
The mossy surfaces are wonderful and are very carefully trimmed and cared for .
The autumnal colours are exquisite.
All pictures processed using Aurora HDR 2018