It’s been a while…

But I’m back to blogging!

Well, much has happened lately, but 90% had zero to do with photography and everything to do with life/family. In fact, I’ve only been shooting three times in almost six months. First, we relocated to El Paso, Texas from Yokosuka, Japan after my wife retired from the US Navy (couldn’t be more proud of her!!). It’s a major transition for our family to say the least. Part of that trip from Yokosuka will likely be my next post, watch for it, it’s interesting and falls sternly in to realm of Murphy’s law. Then, after settling in Texas, we bought a new home and that process in itself was no simple task. With moving, being boxed in again after moving to a new house, unpacking hopefully for the last time, getting the former house ready to sell, and all that comes with getting reintegrated in to family here while adjusting to civilian life, means there’s been big things happening. I retired after a 30 year naval career myself, then spent the last ten as a military dependent. My wife retired after a 26 year naval career, so our kids have grown up in the military since birth and this transition has been huge. That means photography hasn’t been a priority, we’ve had bigger fish to fry. This morning is the first time I’m getting in my Jeep and going out shooting, no plan, no idea if I’ll get shots (or not), but just heading out to shoot with no agenda and it feels great! The one thing I do know, I have a full tank of gas. 😎

I’ll be back blogging here so don’t write me off just yet. Just trying to get settled as a family, make new friends at 59 years old which is harder than it sounds, and find my place in life’s next chapter. Below are just a few photos I’ve taken since coming back to the US and hoping to have many more soon. As always, I appreciate your support!

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Kyoto Weekend

Kyoto Weekend

This morning: The To-ji Temple

This weekend we took a last family trip to Kyoto, Japan. It’s me with my wife and two daughters, since there’s no hope for departing the room before 10am I decided to head out on my own this morning to check out the local area where we are staying with AirBnB. On Billy’s personal agenda was the To-ji Temple and its 180 foot tall pagoda built in 1643, about a 15 minute walk down the road. On the way there, it was pretty chilly and my hands were getting pretty cold, I didn’t bring gloves… But this is Japan and nothing that two hot cans of coffee from one of the many machines I passed couldn’t fix. Instantly, liquid hand warmers for my jacket pockets, a wonderful thing! This morning was exceptionally beautiful and honestly, I couldn’t decide which I liked more, shooting the pagoda and temples or the autumn colors surrounding them!

This is our family’s last trip in Japan, we’re out of here in less than two weeks. In a few days we’ll be home and without a car, so I’ll be on foot capturing as much of Yokosuka as possible with my camera. Leaving Yokosuka is somewhat bittersweet, it’s a very underrated city and great location for sightseeing but at the same time going home to Texas is exciting as well. For much of our time here we couldn’t venture far from Yokosuka because of Covid-19, so most of my photography has taken place very close to home. While I’ve kind of become attached to this city, it’s also time to move on. After three years, there’s still a lot I want to shoot in this amazing place, so I’ll be out on foot once again and getting the last shots in. For now, Kyoto has been amazing in just about every way, including the food! This is also a target rich environment for photographers, just about everything here catches the eye in some way. Yesterday I spent 15 minutes shooting only the neighborhood intersection at the end of our street, yes I’m easily entertained.

All photos on this post are unedited and taken with the iPhone 12 Mini.

The Original Peak Design Everyday Messenger!

The Original Everyday Messenger

I’m in the process of relocating back to the US from Japan, part of that means I mail my camera gear ahead of the move. I do this because I trust the US Postal Service far greater than movers hired by the government. Call me paranoid, but I’ve been transferring like this in the military for almost 40 years. If someone is intent on taking your stuff when you do a military transfer, they’ll get it; that’s been my experience anyway. Mailing most of my camera gear back meant I needed to decide what I wanted with me here from August till November or December when I get home. There was no question I’d be using my old Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag, the 15 inch wonder bag that started the messenger camera bag craze. What I am surprised about is how great of a bag this still is! Having lots of bags, I don’t always grab this one, but now that I’m down to this one, well… it’s working superbly.

Today, I’m using it working out of my car shooting the little fishing village of Arisaki near Yokosuka, Japan on the Miura Peninsula. The lenses I decided to keep with me during this transfer to the US were a 15-35mm and a 24-105mm to give me some versatility but not take up a ton of space. I’ve discovered that carrying one less lens in this bag than I normally carry actually works better and keeps the bag more functional. Working out of a car means I can have the camera on the passenger side for easy access but the magnetic latch makes it super easy to close when not in use and driving. I’ve gotten in the habit of jamming too much stuff in this bag over the years and while it handles it, it’s just so much easier with only two lenses when it comes to access and weight. The bag still looks much like when I bought it a few years ago and I have no problem telling people to get this bag, even this original model! While there is a version 2 of the 13 inch Everyday Messenger (EDM), the original 15 inch EDM only received minor improvements. I would love to see an upgraded 15 inch bag with the improvements put in to the 13 inch bag, but I don’t think that’s likely. While I’ve used backpacks and still have a few, the messenger style bags just seem to work better for me. This is especially true when changing lenses, there’s just better use of workspace that I don’t find in backpacks. Backpacks seem to work better if you plan to lay it on the ground. No matter how ‘easy’ the access is, I always seem to needs something nowhere near the access points.

If you’re looking for a bag that’s going to hold up, inside and out, the Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15 is still an awesome bag that can be found just about anywhere at a great price. Why am I writing about it now? Well, I just got a little giddy using it today realizing it was money well spent a few years ago. When the EDM bag came out it was the head turner, people couldn’t wait to get their hands on it, it was followed by even more great bags. In the process it seems this bag has gotten lost in the mix by some of us. However, it’s still relevant, still working like it was intended, and hopefully I’m in the minority of those letting this thing collect a little dust. When I get home, I see me using this old timer a little more!

Osaka

Last week, we spent four days in Osaka, Japan with two of those at Universal Studios Japan. Theme parks wear me down, mostly mentally, and generally I’m good for one day. Don’t get me wrong, Universal Studios is very cool, the kids had a blast, but by the second day it felt like I was Teddy Kennedy’s drinking buddy after a weekend of carousing at Martha’s Vineyard. I was tired… Universal Studios Japan redefined expensive and almost made Disneyland seem cheaper, for the four of us to eat anywhere near Universal Studios or Universal City was about $300 a day. All in all, it was fun, and our kids had the time of their lives, for that alone I’d do it again. The next stop was the Osaka Castle, an iconic piece of Japan and because I’m a history geek who loves photography, locations like the Osaka Castle are usually the perfect storm. However, it would have been better if it had been an original castle, not a reconstruction, but you can’t have everything! Wow, with Hogwarts, that’s makes two fake castles in one week! I forgot to use my inside voice there… This five story castle sits in a large grounds of 15 acres that is mostly the rock foundation for the castle itself. While a reconstruction, it surely gives you the impression of how incredible the original structure must have been! If you’re worried about home invasion, nosey or noisy neighbors, or want to get your local HMO off of your back, I’d highly recommend this type of construction. Lastly, we ended up in Namba, the downtown area of Osaka that had everything from the most expensive shopping on planet Earth to mom-n-pop joints, very cool! Below are some photos from Universal Studios, life wouldn’t be complete without a plastic T-Rex… If we had more time left here in Japan, Osaka would deserve a second trip for sure!

The Last Carrier Departure.

Yesterday I was able to go out and shoot the USS Reagan as she departed for sea, through Tokyo Bay, from her homeport in Yokosuka, Japan. I was sitting at a parking lot on base looking in to the foggy bay, shooting in the rain, when my wife who is active duty Navy came from work. She came to have a glance mentioning this would probably be the last time she’d see an aircraft carrier departing. My wife is retiring at the end of the year and we’re off to Texas and we’ll both be retired, I retired 10 years ago. Until she mentioned this, the last time she’d watch a carrier depart, I hadn’t thought of it that way. It kind of hit home that I’ve been around the US Navy for 40 years now, I realized I need to get out there and shoot plenty of ships before leaving as the chances of finding ships in El Paso, Texas are fairly slim.

The USS Reagan, CVN-76, departed as I was shooting with a handful of families around me having soft conversations. It’s the part of the military most people don’t see, the part families don’t look forward to… Departing ships aren’t as much of a big deal as when they return, there was no band or ceremony, just these few families. There is nothing like the aircraft carrier departing, seeing the harbor tugs out there before waiting and clearing out the boat and ship traffic to be followed by a helicopter flying circles around the mighty ship slowly moving through the water; it’s a big evolution. On this rainy day, the weather was less than desirable as I stood there with the families photographing the Reagan. Now she slipped in to the fog bank quietly, with the loved ones aboard of those few around me.

Behind me is the USS Ronald Reagan departing Japan.

The Greatest Person You’ve Likely Never Heard Of…

While not a fan of Facebook, it’s a good place to post photos of my kids for family to view, a place to keep up on what family and friends are doing, and for getting my photography out there. However, beyond that, I really don’t enjoy it much. I find out about most things there because my wife sees something and tells me. Honestly, I like Instagram where people just seem nicer, that’s a bit strange as well because I don’t know most of the people I follow there. Just post a personal opinion on Facebook and watch how many of your friends suddenly become subject matter experts, Facebook lawyers, Facebook MD’s, and Facebook Political Experts. In less time than you can have a pizza delivered to your front door you’ll see a side of people you didn’t know they had. However, every now and then there’s something incredible like the video of Sir Nicholas Winton being surprised on a BBC Program called That’s Life surrounded by some of the 669 mostly Jewish children now grown up that he’d saved during the Holocaust. If a video like that doesn’t get to you, nothing will. Recently, a Facebook post was forwarded to me by my wife, it was historical and she thought I’d like it. It was about a Japanese man the article claimed was the “Japanese Schindler.” It claimed he saved some 6,000 Jews during the Holocaust, five times more than attributed to Oskar Schindler, the subject of the famous 1993 movie Schindler’s List. If everything in the article were true, it seemed to me that Hollywood had made a movie about the wrong person. Believe me when I say I love history and read about it plenty, but also trust me that you could fill an encyclopedia from A through Z on what I don’t know. It’s a vast subject; however, it seemed that something this big would be more well known.

Chiune “Sempo” Sugihara

The Facebook post, while having a few embellishments, I came to discover was mostly true so I began to read more about this incredible man named Chiune Sugihara. It turns out there had been a movie about Mr. Sugihara entitled, Persona Non Grata in 2015 and a PBS film as well, Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness. Chiune Sugihara “was born to a middle-class family in Japan’s Gifu Prefecture on the main Japanese Island of Honshu on January 1, 1900. Sugihara was also called “Sempo,” which was “an earlier rendition of the Japanese character for part of his formal name.”(1) Chiune, or Sempo, “graduated from high school with top marks.” He later studied English at the Waseda University paying for his “education with part-time work as a longshoreman and tutor.” Chiune spotted a classified ad in which “the Japanese Foreign Ministry was seeking people who wished to study abroad and might be interested in a diplomatic career.” After passing the entrance exam, he went to the Japanese language Institute in Harbin, China where he studied Russian, graduating with honors, and converting to Greek Orthodox Christianity in the process. Harbin, also then called ‘the Oriental Paris,’ opened Chiune’s eyes to the rest of the world. From Harbin he took on a role “with the Japanese-controlled government in Manchuria” and was “promoted to Vice Minister of the Foreign Affairs Department.” This job put him “in line to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Manchuria.” While in this job, Chiune “negotiated the purchase of the Russian-owned Manchurian railroad system by the Japanese” and “saved the Japanese government millions of dollars” but had ” infuriated the Russians.” However, as a sign of things to come, Chiune was “disturbed” by the Japanese government’s policies, the “cruel treatment of the Chinese,” and with that he “resigned his post in protest in 1934.” In 1938 Chiune Sugihara was sent for duty at the Japanese diplomatic office in Helsinki, Finland and by 1939 the Japanese government posted him in Kaunas, Lithuania “to open a one-man consulate” before the opening days of World War Two in September 1939. In late 1939, now the Vice-Consul for the Japanese Empire in Kaunas, Chiune had a random meeting with an 11 year old boy named Solly Ganor in a store. During their conversation, young Solly invited Mr. Sugihara to his family’s celebration of the first night of Chanukah. Chiune, and his wife Yukiko, accepted and spent that night with young Solly’s family with Chiune being touched by “the closeness of the Jewish families and how it reminded him of his family, and of similar Japanese festivals.”

Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara

While in Kaunas, part of Chiune’s job was to “report on Soviet and German war plans.” Once war broke out “the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania” and “ordered all consulates to be closed. Sugihara was almost immediately flooded “with the requests of thousands of Polish Jews fleeing German-occupied Poland.(1) As Nazi forces invaded Poland, waves of Jewish refugees “streamed into Lithuania,” traveling “without possessions or money” and bringing “with them chilling tales of German atrocities against the Jewish population” in Poland. The Lithuanian Jews “continued living normal lives” until the Soviets invaded Lithuania on June 15, 1940 ” At that point things began to worsen and “it was now too late for the Lithuanian Jews to leave for the East.” However, the Soviets “would allow Polish Jews to continue to emigrate out of Lithuania through the Soviet Union if they could obtain certain travel documents.” Thousands of Jewish refugees headed to Kaunas and began to line up outside the gates of the Japanese Consulate building. On a “summer morning in late July 1940,” Vice-Consul Sugihara and his family were “awakened to a crowd of Polish Jewish refugees” at the Consulate gates who were “desperate to flee the approaching Nazis.” They understood well “that their only path lay to the east” and only “if Consul Sugihara would grant them Japanese transit visas.” Their lives were literally in his hands as documents from Sugihara meant “they could obtain Soviet exit visas and race to possible freedom.” Sugihara “was moved by their plight, but he did not have the authority to issue hundreds of visas” on his own without permission from his bosses in Tokyo. He “wired his government three times for permission to issue visas to the Jewish refugees” but was denied each time. Finally, Chiune discussed “the situation with his wife and children” because this was “a difficult decision to make.” He had been “brought up in the strict and traditional discipline of the Japanese.” He was conflicted, while he was a career diplomat who “was bound by the traditional obedience he had been taught all his life,” he was also “a samurai who had been told to help those who were in need.” If he signed the visas, Chiune would likely “be fired and disgraced, and would probably never work for the Japanese government again” resulting in “extreme financial hardship for his family in the future.” Everything he had worked for would be gone. In the end, Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara knew what they had to do, while they “feared for their lives and the lives of their children,” they knew they “could only follow their consciences” and that the “visas would be signed.” These visas were called ‘Visas for Life.’

One of Mr. Sugihara’s ‘Visas for Life”

The decision made by the Sugihara’s to defy the Japanese government was made with no regard for their personal costs and from July 31 to August 28, 1940, the Sugihara’s “sat for endless hours writing and signing visas by hand. Hour after hour, day after day, for these three weeks, they wrote and signed visas.” They produced “over 300 visas a day, which would normally be one month’s worth of work for the consul. Yukiko also helped him register these visas.” During this time Chiune “did not even stop to eat. His wife supplied him with sandwiches. Sugihara chose not to lose a minute because people were standing in line in front of his consulate day and night for these visas. When some began climbing the compound wall, he came out to calm them down and assure them that he would do is best to help them all.”(2) Over a six week period in the summer of 1940, Sempo “worked 18-hour days, eventually writing out by hand 2,139 transit visas – a record only discovered years later in the archives of Japan’s foreign ministry.(3) “Hundreds of applicants became thousands” and Chiune worked hard to “grant as many visas as possible before being forced to close the consulate and leave Lithuania.”(2) Because Sugihara spoke fluent Russian, he was able “to bargain with Moscow to ensure the Jewish refugees had safe passage through the Soviet Union, as well as the right to leave Vladivostok for Japan. The promise of hard currency earned from the sale of refugees’ travel documents helped the Politburo reach its decision in July 1940. Stalin signed the order approving transit for refugees, which the Soviet document said included Jewish religious (yeshiva) teachers and students, salesmen, lawyers and other liberal professions.” And with that, the Sugihara’s had done all they could do.

Sugihara departed for Berlin on September 1, 1940 and later, during “Soviet army’s march though the Balkans in 1944, the Soviets arrested Sugihara together with other diplomats from enemy nations. Soviet authorities held him and his family, under fairly benign conditions, for the next three years. When Sugihara returned to Japan in 1947, the Foreign Ministry retired him with a small pension as part of a large staff reduction enacted under the American occupation.(3) After the war, Chiune Sugihara moved his family to Fujisawa, Japan and “to support his family he took a series of menial jobs, at one point selling light bulbs door to door.” It turned out that the Sugihara’s were correct in their assumptions some seven years earlier as Chiune’s training and promising diplomatic career were gone. In 1947, “his youngest son, Haruki, died at the age of seven, shortly after their return to Japan.” Sugihara “later began to work for an export company as general manager of a U.S. Military Post Exchange. Utilizing his command of the Russian language, Sugihara went on to work and live a low-key existence in the Soviet Union for sixteen years, while his family stayed in Japan.”(4) Today, “beyond the record of 2,139 names Sugihara filed belatedly to Tokyo months after issuing visas, there is no certainty over how many lives were saved.” Estimates of 6,000 people “comes from assuming each holder of a transit visa travelled with two other people, a wife and child. Other researchers have suggested that 10,000 people were saved.” While Sugihara was recognized by Israel during his lifetime, and his fame grew outside of Japan, he remained a humble man with only a few of the refugees finding him in Japan to thank him. “Despite the publicity given him in Israel and other nations, he remained virtually unknown in his home country. Only when a large Jewish delegation from around the world, including the Israeli ambassador to Japan, attended his funeral, did his neighbors find out what he had done.”(5) Chiune Sugihara died at a hospital in Kamakura, Japan on July 31, 1986. While there is no possible way to know the exact number of people saved by Vice-Consul Sugihara, it is estimated that 100,000 people are alive today because their descendants were issued his Visa for Life during the summer of 1940. (6)

Researching and writing this was a labor of love. Thanks to whoever got this man on Facebook where my wife spotted it. Mr. Sugihara was a rare human being who did the right thing, which was not easy. Not only did the Sugihara’s perform such a great deed that summer, they told practically nobody in Japan; Chiune and Yukiko were the epitome of humble. Finally, When I saw that Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara were buried at the Kamakura Cemetery near where we live in Japan, I had to pay respects to these incredible human beings. Getting to the cemetery was easy, finding the grave was not. In the end, we walked a few miles and thankfully four cemetery employees helped us find Mr. and Mrs. Sugihara’s grave. One of the men offered to take a photo of us by his grave, something I hadn’t planned on. While I do shoot gravestones, I don’t shoot them as a sort of tourist shot and try to be very respectful of my surroundings with a camera. The Sugihara’s were definitely humble people, humble in death as well. Their gravesite is also humble, ordinary in fact, so ordinary that we walked by it once without noticing. When people used to ask me, “if you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be?” I used to say it was Louis Armstrong that intrigued me, now it would definitely be Mr. Chiune Sugihara. He gave up practically everything to help people he didn’t know during the summer of 1940 and remained humble for the rest of his life.

Even a hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge. Do what is right because it is right; and leave it alone. I had to do something.”

– Chiune “Sempo” Sugihara

Works Cited:
1. Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Museum, 1980. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/chiune-sempo-sugihara Accessed January 6, 2021.

2. Jewish Virtual Library: A Project of AICE. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 1997. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/chiune-sugihara Accessed January 6, 2021.

3. Rankin, Jennifer. My father, the quiet hero: how Japan’s Schindler saved 6,000 Jews. London: 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/04/chiune-sugihara-my-father-japanese-schindler-saved-6000-jews-lithuania Accessed January 6, 2021.

4. Sugihara, Seishiro (2001), Chiune Sugihara and Japan’s Foreign Ministry, between Incompetence and Culpability. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

5. Lee, Dom; Mochizuki, Ken (2003). Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story. New York: Lee & Low Books. ISBN 978-1-58430-157-8.

6.  Liphshiz, Cnaan (23 May 2019). “Holocaust hero Chiune Sugihara’s son sets record straight on his father’s story”Times of Israel. Retrieved 09 January 2021.

Ōfuna Kannon

It’s been a while since I posted anything about my shoots, while I have been out shooting, I just haven’t been very good at posting here at the blog. I’ll be doing better with that… Today I drove north to Kamakura to shoot the Ōfuna Kannon, an 82 foot tall statue of Bodhisattva Kannon that weighs in at 1,900 tons. While the statue is definitely impressive and worth seeing, it’s better to add it to other places you plan to visit in the area as it only takes a few minutes to visit this small site. On this day, a Friday, there were only 3 or 4 other people, so it definitely could be more packed on weekends. Getting there was fun because I use Apple Maps and generally, my iPhone works pretty well as a GPS, but today wasn’t one of those days… It started with Apple Maps telling me to turn right where there was a divider and ended when got me to the Ofuna Kannon by sending me down a road big enough for car and said, “you have reached your destination, please find a parking location.” I had to carefully back out with help from locals, fortunately no cars followed me in. Anyway, lots of photos to edit.

There’s going to be lots to write about coming up. My stock photos are doing very well, that’s always a good thing, and there’s a post in itself. Additionally, I’ve been shooting with a new camera for few months now and loving it. There’s still this crazy thing I’ve got for Peak Design gear and that hasn’t changed, still crazy about how well their products hold up! Back in March, when the covid virus hit here in Japan and we were locked down to our houses, I used it as an opportunity to take a break from shooting. During that time I sunk myself in to editing my huge backlog of photos. Now that it’s mostly done I’ll be more engaged here in the future. Hope you’re all staying safe!

Covid-19 Lockdown…

Covid-19 Lockdown…

I can’t think of a five or six month period since 2012 where I’ve taken out my camera so little, but that’s not to say I haven’t been engaged with photography in some way. Since I didn’t really get out and shoot, I concentrated on the future by researching potential gear changes, checking out new bags, and trying out some new stock photography companies as well. However, an actual camera in my hands didn’t happen much beyond the occasional iPhone shot, which I still find fun. Since the corona virus had us locked down on the base where we live in Japan, I decided to take a little break from shooting. A lot of time was spent researching cameras, lenses, filters, bags, and even accessories which led to some purchases that I’m excited about. While I didn’t break out the camera much, I did manage to shoot a little, the shots on this post were all taken with the iPhone 7 Plus. The photo at the top was taken just before the lockdown in February 2020 at the harbor in Yokosuka, Japan and the others were taken at various times during lockdown.

My daredevil daughter jumping out of the seat of the playground swing.

While researching cameras, the Canon EOS R caught my eye and it looked like a great upgrade from the 6D Mark II that I had currently been using. I had been absolutely loving the 6D Mark II since 2017 and had even purchased a second backup body. My intention was to keep one 6D and use the Canon adaptor one EOS R for my current EF lenses. The EOS R arrived, I played with it for a while and was completely blown away. Mind you, at this point in time I was planning on keeping one 6D Mark II. I played with the EOS R’s new control ring on the adaptor, decided to use it for exposure compensation, again… blown away. Now I began comparing my current EF lenses with their new RF lens counterpart. Over the next few days I sold both Canon 6D’s and all but one EF lens, the EF 100-400. So much for my plan to keep my backup 6D. I’ve been very happy with the switch to the Canon EOS R and I’ll be sure to do a future review. While the new RF lenses cost a lot more they are noticeably better. The good news is that if you want the Canon mirrorless EOS R but don’t want to upgrade from EF lenses (or EF-S) to the new RF series, the adaptor for the old lenses is pretty incredible and you will see improvements using your EF lenses on the EOS R via the adaptor. My EF lenses looked sharper on the EOS R with the adaptor than they did on the 6D Mark II.

A Latte Florentine Milan Stetson summer straw fedora.

I can hear you already, “ok Mr. Bigshot, if the EF lenses worked so well with an adaptor, why did you switch?” Well, like I said, I spent a lot of time researching and a few things caught my attention. First, the RF lenses have been out since 2018 there is a ton of information online about them. It was this, an interview with Digital Camera World, where a Canon Europe Product Marketing Senior Manager stated that Canon had already launched ten new RF lenses and that, while they’re ready to create new EF lenses if the need arose, “for now, our focus is on RF.’ That told me exactly where Canon is heading, their compass points to the land of RF. Secondly, the last time I believe Canon ditched a series of lenses was around 1987, after more than 20 years of producing over 130+ models of their FD lens series, they made a similar announcement regarding their move to the EF series. As I see it, when Canon goes all in on something, they commit. Just as they committed to the EF series lens and over time dropped the FD series, I believe they are now at the same crossroads with their new RF series. The handwriting is again on the wall and I believe at some point they’ll stop supporting the EF series. However, the BIG difference this time over Canon’s 1987 move is that because of these new adaptors released by Canon, their loyal EF lens users won’t be left holding unsupported lenses as FD users probably were. While I could have stayed with the EF lenses, I took a chance on moving to the RF series because I believe Canon is all in and committed. I bought what RF lenses I could afford leaving me with one lens, the 100-400, that I use with the Canon adaptor and it works no differently than the RF lenses.

So in the end, while there wasn’t a lot of photography happening in my life, there were some meaningful photography changes that I’m hopeful will change the way I shoot. I had been using the Canon 6D Mark II since 2017 and it was still a love affair, but the EOS R unexpectedly rocked my little world more than expected. While “just researching,” the search took me to a new Canon camera which led to new lenses, then new filters, some new Peak Design bags which I’ll be reviewing, and other things that come with being locked down for months with nothing but “research” time. It turned out to be pretty productive and actually did some good. Oh, also during this Covid-19 lockdown in Japan, I somehow got in to the wonderful world of fedoras too, please don’t judge me…

Verny Park Backup Plan

Today was a good day of shooting in Yokosuka, although it meant going with my back up plan of shooting in Verny Park.  I’m very fortunate to live in Japan and especially love shooting the western coast of the Miura Peninsula.  Why? because there are seascape shots, harbors, plus rock formations and on a clear day Mount Fuji is visible.  It’s a good thing any time you can have this snow-capped, iconic, mountain in photos.  The problem is that it’s not always visible, the solution?  Well, about two blocks from my house is a place where, between buildings and hills, is an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji.  On days when I can see Mt. Fuji, I drive to the other coast; however, when it isn’t visible it’s time to go with the backup plan and today that plan was to shoot at Verny Park right here in Yokosuka.  Verny Park is located on Yokosuka’s harbor, across from both a US Navy base and a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force base where ships of both nations can be found.  Not to mention the park itself with people, a fountain, some interesting Japanese architecture, and a host of things to shoot.  These are all iPhone 7+ shots of today, so it was a good day!

 

 

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Tokyo SkyTree

Yesterday we visited the Tokyo SkyTree, the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure on Earth at 2,080 feet tall!  It’s actually for sending radio and television signals but has observation decks for tourists.  Shouting out to Mrs. Madrid’s third graders at Ituarte Elementary School in El Paso, Texas!

 

 

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Tokyo SkyTree Shout Out

Yesterday we visited the Tokyo SkyTree, the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure on Earth at 2,080 feet tall!  It’s actually for sending radio and television signals but has observation decks for tourists.  Shouting out to Mrs. Reynoso’s fourth graders at John Drugan School in El Paso, Texas!

 

 

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Hakone, Japan

This is a shoutout from my daughters to their aunt who teaches at Sgt. Roberto Ituarte Elementary School in El Paso, TX!  This week we are also still on vacation here and went to the Hakone Shrine in Hakone, Japan and were able to see Mount Fuji from here as well.  Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest peak at 12,389 feet high and looks very cool when it’s covered in snow!      

 

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Hakone, Japan

This is a shoutout from my daughters to their aunt who teaches at John Drugan School in El Paso, TX! This week we are also still on vacation here and went to the Hakone Shrine in Hakone, Japan and were able to see Mount Fuji from here as well.  Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest peak at 12,389 feet high and looks very cool when it’s covered in snow!      

 

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Shout Out to Mrs. Reynoso!

It’s that time of the year where we start getting out checking out the sites here in Japan.  Here’s a shoutout from our kids to Mrs. Reynoso’s fourth grade class at John Drugan School in El Paso, TX from Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan near Tokyo.

 

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Shout Out to Mrs. Madrid!

It’s that time of the year where we start getting out checking out the sites here in Japan.  Here’s a shoutout from our kids to Mrs. Madrid’s third grade class at Ituarte Elementary School in El Paso, TX from Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan near Tokyo.

 

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5 Photos in digital expositions!

Yes, five, pretty happy about that!  From time to time I enter various photo contests in hopes of being published, making the cut for expositions, or to simply get exposure. Many times it’s through Gurushots.com, a great place to find photo inspiration and check out the work of others!  When I do make the cut, it’s usually for a digital exposition; however, it has resulted in being published in a books, twice!  Recently, five of my photos were selected for digital displays at various locations.

Yakitori Stand was selected for digital exhibit in the People in the City exhibition at the Valid World Hall Gallery in Barcelona, Spain on November 1-3, 2019.  ItYakitori Stand was taken at one of my little stops when I’m out shooting here where I currently live.  It’s in an alley just off Blue Street in Yokosuka, Japan at a yakitori stand where they grill meat in front of you and you stand in line and eat.  Each piece of meat is on a kebab stick, eat as much as you want, they count the sticks at the end.  80 Yen per stick or about 75 cents in US Dollars, not bad.  Love eating here!  I chose to shoot this at night because I wanted to capture just a little motion, also it’s just more colorful in the evening with the lights and coffee machine.

Kegon Falls 6 will be digitally shown in the Our Amazing Planet Exhibit at the Annual Photography Conference held by the Galitz Photography School in Tel Aviv, Isreal Kegon Falls 6on November 26, 2019.  This is the amazing Kegon Falls near Nikko, Japan.  To say this place is breath taking is an understatement, it’s incredibly huge and has several smaller falls surrounding it.  Kegon Falls is considered one of “Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls“, according to a listing published by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in 1990.  I’m already planning return trips in autumn and winter!

This photo, Closing Time, was chosen for digital Exposition for Dramatic Lighting at the Valid World Hall Gallery in Barcelona, Spain on November 2-3, 2019.  It was taken at Closing Timethe Taiko Drum Festival in Narita, Japan.  The festival was over and we were waiting to board our bus to return home when I spotted these guys cleaning and prepping the kitchen for the next day.  I didn’t bring a tripod, so this was shot completely handheld at ISO 3200 while steading myself a telephone pole!  I’ve read all the reviews about how the Canon 6d Markii is totally inadequate in low light situations, I don’t buy it.  I like this camera so much that I purchased a second one as a back up!

Chureito Pagoda 5 was picked for digital display in the Artistic Photography Exposition at the Thessaloniki Art Fair, November 21-24, 2019, Thessaloniki, Greece.  It was taken atChureito Pagoda 5 one of the most iconic Japanese shot locations you can get, the Churieto Pagoda near Fujiyoshida, Japan.  First you have to climb the 400 stairs, but once you’re up there it’s pretty incredible with an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji.  I was really to go for something different in the black and white genre here, I already had a bunch of shots showing how beautiful this place was.  I was trying to give it a mysterious look without being gloomy, because that’s how the Churieto Pagoda feels, beautiful and mysterious.  I’m hoping to get back this year when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom!

This photo, called Skipping, was chosen to be digitally shown at the Blank Wall Gallery in Athens, Greece on December 13-15, 2019 with the At the Beach Exposition.  I had justSkipping received a new lens in the mail (Tamron 150-600 G1) and my girls wanted to go to the beach, so we went and I let them run while trying out the lens – win/win!  This photo, taken at Imperial Beach, CA, kind of describes my daughters personalities. On the left is the older and more grounded one who doesn’t take chances, plays it safe, probably future Jeep owner who won’t leave second gear.  On the right, in the air, is the younger who operates at full speed 24/7, throws caution to the wind, and totally opposite of her sister.

I truly appreciate the support I receive through my website and this blog, thank you all so much as well as Gurushots!

 

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Just another day…

Today I’m shooting the USS Ronald Reagan departing Yokosuka, Japan on a Tiger Cruise this morning. A Tiger Cruise is a one day trip where family and friends come along, very cool.  Living on a naval base has its perks!  Look for pics in the future, meanwhile check out my photos at BillChizekPhotography.com.

 

Tokyo Disneyland!

Upfront, I had a great time at Tokyo Disneyland, this paragraph might not start like that, but it was very cool.  This week we had a family trip to our local Tōkyō Dizunīrando and as someone who has been to Disneyland or Disneyworld no less than a half-dozen times or so, I’d honestly love to go somewhere else sometimes.  The first couple of visits were cool, but the ever-increasing ticket prices, paying top dollar for cafeteria food, and long lines, seemed to wear me down.  Fortunately for me, my wife is like-minded in that if there’s a long line she’s not likely to stand in it either, there’s lot of other things you can do in that hour besides wear down your iPhone battery.  Two years ago we did a three-day park hopper pass at Disneyland and it was about 2 days too much, she handled it better than me.  This photo at the right shows me on day three and after 72 hours of all things Disney and Mickey the Rat, I was done.  This is the only photo from that fun fulled excursion, the others on this post are from Tokyo Disneyland.  19756701_10155732733276494_7057349512680706714_n I’d like to say that the heat, the crowds, and long lines weren’t so bad and that I wouldn’t mind doing it again, but that’s what I’d like to say…  However, given all these complaints about theme parks, and Disney in general, I have to say Tokyo Disneyland was pretty darn cool!  I don’t know if it was just because we caught a bus there, spent the day, and took the bus home or that it was just different enough to keep me engaged.  I am an oddity when it comes to Disney parks, I actually prefer Disneyland over Disneyworld.  Huh?  Yup, because I love history; Disneyland was historic and the first of the mega theme parks.  I really don’t care about Disney’s new tribute park to Star Wars and Luke SkyVader, it’s the old stuff that I love.  America had nothing like this until Walt Disney came along, sure there was Coney Island and world fairs, but nothing on a scale like what Disney proposed.  By the time Disneyland opened in 1955 the entire world was already in love with the famous Disney cartoon characters!  I also love that Walt Disney actually lived over Disneyland’s firehouse and that they’ve preserved his apartment.  While the park was being built, Disney would often stay above the firehouse with his wife, click [ HERE ] for a video and more info about the apartment.  At Disneyland, I love sitting in the back of a boat on “It’s a Small World” with my young daughters.  Yes, it’s corny but I love it.

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Overall, Tokyo Disneyland feels very much like Disneyland in Anaheim, with a couple of exceptions.  One of the most visible is that the main street is covered, which I actually liked because you can get out of the sun and if it rains, you’ve got somewhere to go.  I’m IMG_2681sure it doesn’t hurt the Disney bank account when thousands of park visitors are trapped in their stores because of the weather.  Also, Tokyo Disneyland is newer than its American counterparts, this means it lacks the tall trees like the older parks that provide much-needed shade.  The place is somewhat deceiving in size, after driving by Tokyo Disneyland a few times it just didn’t look very big.  My family also thought the same after seeing it from a distance, wondering if there was enough there to fill an entire day.  However, Tokyo Disneyland is actuallyIMG_2690 about 30 acres larger than Disneyland in Anaheim!  Is it done with Disney magic?  Not sure, but once we were on foot in the park we realized it was huge.  Many of the rides are very similar to Disneyland as well, outside of the Japanese language, you’d never think you were sitting in Tokyo.  Disney goes very far to make language a non issue, we had no problem getting around, having fun, or felt like we were missing out on the experience because we don’t speak Japanese.  Some places, like the Tiki Room, even provided electronic devices that translated, something we didn’t expect.  There were no major cultural or linguistic stumbling blocks whatsoever, at one point a Disney employee actually came up to us wanting to help after seeing us stare at our unfolded map.  The classic Disney parades that happen in the American parks were no different, my kids enjoyed them just as much.  The parade featured the same familiar Disney characters and music, almost exactly like Disneyland.  The food was very cool too, a mix between American and Asian could be found all over the park.  Again, Disney is trying to please everyone, nobody starved on this trip, although I wasn’t a fan of the butter and soy sauce flavored pop corn…  We did eat dinner at a buffet that was actually pretty decent.  Yes, I just called Disney food “very cool” and “pretty decent” after complaining about their cafeteria food.

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Anaheim, California is home to Disneyland and another park across the street called California Adventure.  Tokyo Disney also has another park nearby called DisneySea which was the fourth most visited theme park in THE WORLD in 2018!  We haven’t gone there yet but it’s on the list.  I have to say that Tokyo Disney was a pretty cool experience and I’d do it again as a day trip.  One last piece of advice, leave your big camera at home and just use your cellphone, you’ll have more fun.  I used to be that guy carrying my camera to Disneyland, getting on rides, lugging my crap around.  Cellphones do a great job for capturing family fun, the below shot, called Castle Garden, was taken with an iPhone 7 Plus as were all the others taken and shown on this post.  All in all, I’m not a three-day park hoppin’ Star Wars lovin’ theme park guy, but I’d go back to Tokyo Disneyland again and definitely planning on visiting DisneySea.  Regardless of what I think of theme parks, it’s not about me, my kids have fun and that’s the most important part.

 

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A flower in front of the castle at Tokyo Disney (iPhone 7 Plus).

 

Chureito Pagoda

A shoutout to Mrs. Reynoso’s class in El Paso, Texas at John Drugan!  Yesterday we travelled to the Chureito Pagoda near Mount Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain at over 12,000 feet.  Just like El Paso schools, our girls are on Spring Break too.  Hope you have a great time while you’re out of school!

 

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Hakone

Shouting out to Mrs. Madrids 3rd graders at Hurshel Antwing Elementary in El Paso, TX!  Yesterday we travelled to the Chureito Pagoda, along the way we stopped to shoot this for Mrs. Madrid’s class near Hakone, Japan.  That’s Mount Fuji in the background, the tallest peak in Japan at 12,389 feet hight.  Our girls are on spring break just like Mrs. Madrids kids probably are now and we hope they have are having as much fun us!

 

A Great Day

Today was a great day, I drove about 30 minutes down the road to Hayama and the location of this selfie in Inamuragasaki, Japan to shoot photos of Mount Fuji.  Along the way I stopped at 7-11 for something eat, why 7-11?  Because it rocks in Japan!  I did my thing of grabbing something to eat that I’ve never had before, no idea what it was, but as usual it was awesome!  For practically my entire Navy career, I tried to get to Japan.  However, it wasn’t in the cards, I was fortunate to spend many years in Italy and I’m not complaining because that worked pretty well too.  Everything happens for a reason and I’m thrilled to be in Japan at this point in my life, retired with a camera, living here as a military dependent and all the time in the world to experience this incredible place.  Yup, today was definitely a great day!