The End of the Blog

THE END…

of this blog

That’s right, this is the final post, I won’t be renewing my .net URL when it expires this year. After nine years of sharing thoughts, plugging gear, and getting some cool freebies, I’ve decided to pull the plug on this .net blog. It’s been fun but I’ve decided to better focus on my .com website, posting at Instagram and Facebook, and shooting/editing pics more because that’s what I really want to do. Contrary to what some people think, blogging takes time, it really does. Below is a link to my digital business card, please follow me on social media, and thanks for your support over these years, it meant a lot!

Digital Card: https://link.v1ce.co.uk/aabex2/168963

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Fort Garland, CO.

Shooting in Fort Garland, Colorado!

Yes, there’s really parts of an old US Army fort here…

I arrived in Fort Garland, Colorado last night, driving through two lightning storms along the way, in a soft top Jeep, was not my idea of fun. I went to Lu’s Main Street Cafe which was pretty good, I’m sitting there again as I write this! I just finished shooting the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center, which was a great experience. It contains five buildings of the original Fort Garland, a US Army fort built in 1858. It was established to protect settlers in the territory of New Mexico. The fort had a short life as the US Army abandoned the fort in 1883. Interestingly, it’s commander from May 1866 to November 1867 was none other than Kit Carson who was famous as a mountain man, trapper, guide, and by this point an Army officer. Not only did Carson reside in the Commander’s Quarters, but he lived there with his wife and children. A pretty cool piece of history that I didn’t know about till this morning! After the Army closed the fort in 1883, it fell in to disrepair until a local citizen took it upon himself to restore and get the old fort designate as a Colorado historic site. The Colorado Historical Society purchased the fort in 1945, restored it, and opened it as a museum to the public with five of the original 22 buildings restored! Those buildings, with the parade ground and its restored original 1858 flagpole at the center of the compound are a perfect day trip!

However, the morning started off with an early morning visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park. I had hoped to shoot the sunrise but there wasn’t one. Well, there was a sunrise as there is every day, the park was clouded in. These dunes are the tallest in North America coming in at approximately 750 feet high and cover about 30 square miles! Because the temperature on the dunes can reach 140 degrees in the summer, I brought plenty of hot weather gear. But… the warmest it got was 57 degrees by the time I left. These dunes are so massive that the photos just didn’t do them justice so I had to include people for scale. Sometimes the human eye/brain needs people in a photo tOverall, even though Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, I think I may have still gotten some good shots.

Tomorrow I’m heading out early to shoot the little town of San Luis, Colorado, the states oldest town (establish April 5, 1851). After that I’m off to do some shooting in Taos, New Mexico, and finally spending the rest of the day/night in Santa Rossa, New Mexico on the old Route 66! I plan to shoot the old hotels and buildings, some still in use and some abandoned, on the old road in Santa Rosa and Tucumcari, New Mexico. Then a few more things to shoot on Saturday and home that evening. It’s been a pretty cool trip! Below are iPhone 13 mini shots, all except the shot of me are unedited (that was edited on the iPhone).

iPhone 13 Photos

Field of Dreams…

Field of Dreams Movie Set

Near Dyersville, Iowa

I left Manitowoc, Wisconsin this morning and headed for Dyersville, Iowa. Shooting in my hometown, for an extended period of time, was something I wanted to do for a long time. Two of the highlights for me were these; the people I met and the horses! There was a lady who let me photograph her horses, it made for an incredible experience. I learned a little bit about horses, and she actually knew who I was from the local Facebook page where I post. There was also the guy fishing at sunrise and the lady doing yoga also at sunrise, who graciously allowed me to photograph them. Even an elderly lady let me photograph her front yard while she worked. I had so many conversations, with so many people, they all made my day(s)!

But then there were the horses… I really got interested in horses a few years ago while living in Virginia. Photographing horses is especially a kick when they’re curious or affectionate. When these animals give out their trust it’s a pretty amazing experience. When I get back to El Paso I’m going to actively search out horses again.

After leaving Wisconsin today, I went to Dyersville, Iowa to shoot the movie set from the 1989 film Field of Dreams. Why? Because I’ve always liked the film and it’s a great baseball movie. It was cool, very cool. Tomorrow I will be on the road all day followed by an entire day shooting in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Below are a few iPhone shots from today in Iowa, hope you enjoy!

Shooting in WI

Shooting in WI: Days 3 & 4

Shooing in and around my hometown of Manitowoc, WI is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m finally getting to do exactly that. I’ve also wanted explore the nearby city of Two Rivers as every photo I’ve taken there sells. However, in the process I’ve been meeting so many people and taken a huge number of photos that I can’t wait to edit when I get back to Texas, and… was able to hang out with horses. Gaining the trust of horses and making friends while behind the lens is a thrill, apparently they like the sound of the camera. Since horses are found on farms, getting rural shots has been easy to do in the process. I’ve also been shooting flags and patriotic themed shots which, after Independence Day, are everywhere. In both Manitowoc and Two Rivers, many older buildings can be found, some of them even with corner stones, trying to capture those in interesting ways is more challenging than it sounds. Previously unknown to me was the fact that there are many building here that are on the National Register of Historic Places and capturing those has been a treat as well.

Over the next couple of days I plan to attempt to capture my hometown’s urban settings and possibly a sunset. Overall, from a photography standpoint, this has been very interesting. Now I’m seriously considering a trip up here in fall to capture autumn forest colors. Next stop this week, I’ll be off to Iowa to shoot the movie set for Field of Dreams and some back roads as I get there. See, I am making an attempt to get better at this!

😃

Wisconsin Photo Trip

Shooting in Wisconsin Again

Day 2

Below are a collection of iPhone 13 mini shots of my photo subjects for today, it was a fun day! My day was interesting, lots of cool photo subjects while driving about a hundred miles of back roads over 5 hours. The day ended photographing one of my absolute favorite subjects, more on that in a bit. So, after waking up a little after 4am, I headed down to the harbor to catch the sunrise over the north pier on Lake Michigan here in Manitowoc, it didn’t disappoint! Other than getting eaten by some gnats, I think it paid off and I got some great shots. After shooting the sunrise I made my way down Mariners Trail to shoot the Spirit of the Rivers statue by R.T. Wallen depicting three Native Americans carrying a birch bark canoe. Manitowoc has a long history with the Native Americans but that’s an entire blog post on its own. This beautiful statue sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is simply amazing at sunrise. I shot another nearby statue called On Eagles Wings by sculptor by Carl Vanderheyden.  After shooting a few other sites in the city, I drove out to the county to shoot several lakes, a few farms, old cars sitting in yards, and a few other things. Then, I happened upon some horses…

Having lunch with my dad was THE highlight of my day but the horses were the best time with a camera in hand. I drove by this farm with nothing short of stunning horses and man… I LOVE taking horse photos; they are amazing creatures. I drove on the property and asked permission to shoot these beautiful horses and the owner was a super nice lady who let me go wherever I wanted. These horses were magnificent, I could have stayed here all day! When I have a camera in hand, horses seem to either spook or become interested in what I’m doing. It seems some are attracted to the shutter sound and when that happens it’s something beautiful. All in all, a great day shooting here in my hometown. I’m here till Monday when I’ll start making my way back to Texas with a few blog-able and interesting stops that should prove fun.

As always, thanks for following and reading!

All photos taken with the iPhone 13 mini

Shooting in Wisconsin Again

The Sheboygan Acuity Flag

This is my first time back in Wisconsin in about four and a half years. The first week was with my family and this upcoming week is shooting time and I’ve got lots in the works! After taking my family to the airport for their flight home today, I shot the worlds largest free flying American flag. This is the 400 foot tall Acuity Flagpole of the Acuity Insurance Company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The flag hangs on the tallest flagpole in North America, each star is approximately 3 feet across on this 9,800 square foot flag that weighs a whopping 250 pounds! It’s not just big, it B.I.G. While I’ve driven by it many times on Interstate 43, standing underneath this enormous Old Glory was a completely new experience. It’s gorgeous, Acuity (get it – couldn’t resist…). When it waves in the wind it sounds more like a low rumble than a flag waving. If you’re ever heading north of Milwaukee on I-43, get off at exit 123 and check out this jumbo sized patriotic wonder.

Lots of photos coming on this in the future! But for now, I’m seriously trying to get better about blogging a little each day so please come back!

Sheboygan, Wisconsin (iPhone 13 mini)

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Nothing describes my trip from Washington State to Texas last December better… My wife had just retired from the US Navy at Yokosuka, Japan in December and had flown back to the naval base at Silverdale, Washington to begin out processing from the Navy. The rest of us remained in Japan so the kids could finish up with school, we later caught up with her in Silverdale, east of Seattle. We were hoping to be at our nieces birthday party on December 19th in El Paso. However, the airlines informed before leaving Japan that the kennel for our dog was too small according to new airline guidelines, so we were forced to buy a new and much bigger kennel. A few days after, the same airlines told us that while this behemoth of a kennel would fit on the airplane, it wouldn’t fit through the aircraft’s door. Hmmm…. to me that sounds like it won’t fit on the airplane but that’s just my opinion. Once in Washington we decided that we’d rent a vehicle and I’d drive with our dog, Lupe to El Paso from Silverdale, about 1,800 miles. However, my wife and kids would fly so they could definitely make the party. I’d make it if I could but wasn’t going to do anything stupid, just travel safely taking it easy, no worries. The weather wasn’t looking good and my wife and I decided I needed to get out in the morning if there were any hopes of making the party. By heading south in the morning from the Seattle area it looked like I could avoid most of the winter storms in the area.

Leaving Silverdale early on December 15th and heading south meant there was an extremely limited choice of routes needed to avoid storms. I had to drive I-5 South through the one open route called Snoqualmie Pass. I was up against the clock to get though the pass before the storms came, then chains and four wheel drive would be required to enter the pass and I’d be stuck. As I drove, the weather got worse heading south. By the time I was passing Ashland, Oregon and after driving almost a full day, a sign lit up a few hundred feet up the road saying, “Chains required in 20 miles.” Yes, this was Snoqualmie Pass. I immediately pulled over, called to get a hotel room in Ashland, then drove to the new hotel cancelling my previously booked stay in Bakersfield, CA along the way, I kind of knew it anyway because of the time lost during the storms. Making it to the hotel parking lot, which was empty except for a few cars, but that changed by the time I got to my room and looked out the window. The evening was spent watching the news and weather channel, this storm wasn’t going anywhere but it seemed that the weather improved considerably west toward the ocean. I decided to drive west in the morning and hug the coast south till I was safe from the storms, then hopefully get back on the original route.

On December 16th I woke early and got on the road driving west to Crescent City, California and south down the coast. At this point I didn’t realize I was actually on US 101, also known as The Redwood Highway. Suddenly, I was driving on one of the most beautiful coastal roads that America has to offer, literally breathtaking! I arrived in Klamath Falls and simply couldn’t believe my eyes at the natural beauty of the Northern California coast! I stopped to take a quick couple of photos, and before I knew it I was in the Redwood Forest, again unbelievable! One more time, a few quick photos and back on the road. Looking back, if there was one part of this trip I want to do again, and soon, it’s the Redwood Highway. Frankly, at this point in time, the detour was amazing. However, by the time I got to Fortuna, CA the GPS asked if I wanted save some time with a new route. Why not? I felt I was far enough south to avoid snow and was in the middle of some of the best scenery. I decided to go with new route, curving through the more Redwoods and then mountains, AGAIN absolutely gorgeous. Things looked so incredibly promising… until it started snowing again. Then another sign appeared, literally in the middle of nowhere, or snowhere, California, “Chains required beyond this point.” CRAP! I made a u-turn and headed back, in the opposite direction, down the winding road I had just traveled. I came around a curve previously passed only minutes before and suddenly, in front of me, stones slid across the road and I swerved trying to miss them. I didn’t and felt a large bump, then quickly lost traction going downhill so I immediately pulled over. DOUBLE CRAP!! Now the back right tire had a large hole and I was on a curve, I got back in the car and drove on the rim for about half a mile till I was in a safe place, near a farm house. No problem, just change the tire and get back on the road right? I began looking for the spare tire, I’ve owned a couple of minivans over the years so I checked the obvious places, nada. I got the manual and it stated the spare was located externally, outside and on the bottom, between the driver and passenger seats. Great, it stated a special tool was located in the rear to access and lower the tire. I found the location of the tool in the van, but no tool, TRIPLE CRAP!!! Now I needed to call my insurance company, no signal, QUADRUPLE CR… you get the point. I couldn’t get a signal, was sitting in a snow storm in a rented minivan, just wondering about my next move.

Just then, a man who I’ll just call Mr. Oblivious or Johnny Helpful, came out of the farm house. “You picked a hell of a place to break down” he said. I replied, “I didn’t exactly pick it.” This guy literally stood at his driveway gate saying things like, “wow, you’re screwed,” “you should change that tire,” and “man, you’re really broke down huh?” but never once offered any help whatsoever. While he was yappin’, my BS filter began to flow over, so I got in the minivan and drove another half mile on the rim, not recommended but worth getting away from my new friend. I parked next to the Dinsmore Airport which is to aviation like my driveway is to the Daytona 500; nada, nothing, just a simple airstrip but I also created distance from myself and California’s most obnoxious Good Samaritan. It was now about 1PM, I had no cell signal and was next to a field full of goats and sheep but also had a three quarter plus tank of gas. Lupe and I would be warm till I got help, well I was about 85% sure. Still no signal and it was still snowing. After about an hour, the sun came out and I finally had a signal, two bars. However, I still couldn’t make calls but once I opened the USAA app was able to send a message to them and they were able to ping my location; they said help was on the way within 60-90 minutes. As quick as the sun broke through the clouds, it went and more snow came.

By 4PM the tow truck hadn’t arrived and the sun was going down. Now I received a call from the towing company telling me there had been an issue but the driver was on the way, coming from Fortuna, the city I passed through hours before. If he just left, it would be a while before he arrived, but at least help was definitely on the way. By 6:30 the tow truck arrived and we were headed back to Fortuna, oh and the tire place closed at 6PM, now I needed a hotel. I struck up a conversation with the driver, he was helpful but informed me that company policy allowed him to take me only as far as the tire shop. I’d be on my own from there, and I still had no signal. Once in Fortuna at the tire shop, the car was dropped off and I had a cell signal so I began calling hotels. Finding a hotel was a very good thing, it meant not sleeping in my car for the night; but have you ever tried finding a cab at 8:15PM willing to take a passenger and an 80 pound labradoodle? That didn’t go well. So I packed exactly one t-shirt, a clean pair of underwear and socks in a plastic bag, putting it in my camera bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and deodorant; I had everything I needed and began the two mile walk in the dark with Lupe, hoping nobody would rob me with thousands of dollars worth of camera gear. I safely arrived, got some sleep, then walked back to the tire place in the morning only to find out that not only was the rental missing the spare tire tool, there was NO spare tire. The Budge Car dealer in Silverdale, WA sent me on my way with no spare tire. I made my way back to El Paso only to fight with Budget numerous times on the phone trying to get them to pay for the hotel room and the tire. Don’t even get me started on call centers in India. It took a few weeks but they finally agreed to cover the costs. The rest of the trip, fortunately, was uneventful.

Lesson learned? Well… too numerous to mention. Honestly, had I checked for a spare tire upon accepting the rental, this trip would have turned out much differently. If it hadn’t been for USAA I don’t know what would have happened. Did I make it back in time for my nieces birthday party, no. But nobody was hurt, Lupe and I safely made it home to El Paso and below are photos from the adventure in chronological order. Then after that, my daughter and I got Covid, so there’s that… So in a game of “Would You Rather..” I would chose Covid-19 over California’s most obnoxious Good Samaritan, seriously I would, well maybe not but he did make an impact. Thanks for humoring me with the writing therapy.

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!

New Wisconsin Collection!

A work in progress…

Having a Wisconsin Collection is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I grew up in Manitowoc but now live in Texas, so I try to get back every couple of years and hopefully now that my wife and I are fully retired I’ll make the trip more. Needless to say, I hope to get more photos in this collection very soon. Please check it out and as always, I appreciate your support!

Wisconsin Collection:

https://www.billchizekphotography.com/Photo-Collection/Wisconsin/

Merry Christmas!

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!

About This… Japanese Food?

Japanese Food?

When we arrived in Japan almost three years ago I just knew it would be an amazing experience. After hearing about Japanese food from many friends over the years, my family and I were ready for what was to come… or were we? Sushi and ramen certainly lived up to the hype, so much that we’re already looking for places to hopefully get our favorite dishes after we move to El Paso. While everyone in our family loves ramen, one of our daughters isn’t crazy about sushi, and I’m the only one who likes eel. Other than that, we never have a problem eating Japanese food, it’s always fresh, almost alway healthy, and tastee. However, what we weren’t ready for was the variety of international cuisine that the Japanese embrace. My first outing in Japan on New Years Eve, we went to a little park and there was everything from from curry, hamburgers, German sausages, to Shish kebabs. The Japanese have the ability to cook these foreign dishes to almost perfection, and the SWEET S. Huh? Yup sweets, you read that right! All in all, eating in Japan has been nothing short of amazing.

First, the sweets, and yes the Japanese have a sweet tooth, with a bit of a twist. Upon arriving a friend told us, “you have to try Japanese pastries.” Ok… something you don’t typically think of about the Japanese. But it’s true and you’ll find it all here; cakes, pies, cream puffs, ice cream, sundaes, chocolate, caramel, cookies, you name it and it’s probably a Japanese favorite! Yes, it’s all amazing, and you’ll find Americans really like the Japanese sweets too! So what is the twist or catch to it? Very simply put, they use less sugar and the emphasis (in my opinion) is on the flavor of the food and not the sweetness of it. The first time I ate a cream puff the taste of the cream was out of this world and the pastry itself had, well…. flavor! Sundaes are incredibly tasty too, again, not as sweet but every bit as chocolatey and tastee! Also, the Japanese exercise portion control, something not seen in ‘Merika since the seventies. After my doctor got on my case about not meeting her weight expectations for me, but actually exceeding them, I’ve found it easier to satisfy a sweet tooth and keep it healthier in Japan than anywhere I’ve live in my life. Japanese pastries are a definite treat and the perfect end to an evening or for something worth a family trip. My daughter, not the neatest eater on plante Earth, love ice cream but you’d better have lots of wipes. Here, she eats ice cream served from a foil package similar to a juice pack. It’s delicious ice cream and no mess, something my wife and I love! Japanese chocolate is another area where the Japanese excel, and by the same formula of apparently toning down the sugar a bit. When I write “less sugar” please don’t think it’s not as good. Most people arriving from the US upon trying Japanese chocolates and sweets wonder why we can’t have the same thing at home?

Having Italian food, in Italy, is about as good as it gets! Pizza, something of a work of art there, is amazing every time, and there is also nothing like it the variety of pastas! God knows that I’ve eaten my share of it while living in Naples. I never imagined Italian food would be so authenitic here and much better than most of the Italian food I’ve had in any ‘Little Italy’ across the US. Most of those ‘traditional’ places cater toward American tastes, not so in Japan. I’m not sure where they learned to make pizza but they learned it the right way, and the same for the pasta! Overcooked pasta is something most American-Italian restaurants specialize in, that’s not a good thing. Don’t even get me started on Olive Garden. Focus Bill, focus!! Pasta in Japan is cooked al dente just like Italy and it doesn’t break apart when you try to eat it. While pizza and pasta are done right the flavor is sometimes limited by those ingrediants only available in Italy, such as fresh mozzerella cheese. Again, the only catch with this in Japan is that, once again, portions are smaller. Seeing a theme here? Absolutely delicious but just smaller servings! I haven’t had the Japanese wine yet but the beer is very good. Japan is incredibly strict when it comes to drinking alcohol and driving, 0.03 BAC is considered drunk driving. It’s not worth chancing as one drink could spell disaster, even other adults in the car may be held liable for allowing the person to drive in Japan. When we go out to eat I drink nonalcoholic beer and I have to say that Japanese nonalcoholic beer has more flavor and body than Michelob Untra (again, just my opinion), I know that doesn’t say much… It comes down to this, I’m a pretty happy camper if I can find good Italian food and Japan does not disappoint.

Lastly, walking in to a bakery in Tokyo makes you honestly think you’re somewhere else! France… the US maybe… or even Italy, but not Japan. The scene inside Japanese bakeries is one from a magazine, bread and pastries lined up in a presentation all bakeries should strive for, it makes you wonder again, where did they learn? how did they? Just shutup and eat!! Seriously, Japanese bakeries are up there with the best of them and it may be possible to gain weight from the smell along! We bought some and took it to our hotel room and it didn’t last long at all. It comes down to this, whether you’re eating at a nice Japanese restaurant, Denny’s, or even 7-11 for that matter, the food is high end. Did I just say Denny’s and 7-11 were “high end”? Yup, not a typo. You can always find delicious and healthy food choices at even these establishments. Plus, I can find coffee 24/7 within minutes from my house but that’s a whole nother blog post! When Americans return to the US you’ll always here them talk about Georgia Coffee, and with good reason, it’s very good. But I personally feel there has been some sort of US business or diplomatic failing because it’s made by Coca-Cola, so should be readily avaible in the US too? Not so…

Now I finally see what the talk was about, Japan is a culinary wonder every time we head out the door. While I had been to Japan several times in the 90’s, I had never lived here till 2018 and it’s been eye opening! When the Japanese do something, they do it right. 7-11, Denny’s, Georgia Coffee, Italian food, and bakeries will floor you, they seem to have it all! As our time here winds down, the list of things we’ll miss as a family continues to grow, starting with the food. It’s been the journey of a lifetime.

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!

Photos in The Atlantic!

On December 13, 2020, The released an online photo collection entitled, Virginia: Images of the Old Dominion. The article contains 33 photos taken at various picturesque locations in Virginia and three of those photos were mine. Virginia has had a special place in my heart since first visiting as a child in the mid-seventies. Later, in the US Navy, I would live there on and off for three years or so in the Virginia Beach area and another year at Fort Belvoir just south of Alexandria, Virginia (probably my favorite city in the US). I have many friends in VA and will always visit there and am looking forward to my next trip there!

In The Atlantic’s list and coming in at number 22 is Boush Street, taken in Norfolk at the USS Wisconsin. Number 24 is Mount Vernon, the was taken on our first day living at Fort Belvoir. My kids and I were out driving and I turned my head to look through a break in the forest and there was George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon with sheep grazing! Finally, at 30 is Summer at the Palace taken in front of the Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, this is THE place that got me hooked on Virginia as a child in the seventies. As a completely nutty history geek, I could not be happier! As anyone who know me can tell you, I’m never happier than when my little photography and history worlds collide. It doesn’t matter if it’s where and when my photos get used or when I’m out shooting, in this case they collided hard. Living on Fort Belvoir for one year of my life was the absolute best one year of my photographic life, and yes, I miss it.

While 2020 was not the best of years for anyone, I’m hopeful that 2021 will be much better. Happy New Year to all of you following my blog!

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!

About this…

Photo: The Beast

Location:  Washington, DC

Date:  October 23, 2017

Camera & Lens:  Canon 6D Mkii and EF 70-300 DO Lens

 

    About This Photo:  This photo is all about getting lucky.  We had moved to Fort Belvoir, VA in August 2017 and, like I normally do when we move to a new area as a military family, I explore close to home first before venturing out.  Why?  Because there are many times sites near, that are easy to miss when you head out looking at all the popular places first.  It’s a lesson learned after living in Italy where I drove by the Pozzuoli Amphitheater ruins for years on the way to and from work, never giving them a second thought.  Then one day, after living there for about 10 years, I decided to check them out and they were mind blowing!  This is a way to attempt not missing all that is close.  In northern Virginia there was so much to see in the immediate vicinity of Fort Belvoir that it took a few months to make the short trip to Washington, DC.  Less than 10 minutes from our house was George Washington’s Mount Vernon home and tomb, also his Gristmill and about 15 minutes away was the city of Alexandria which was founded in 1749, an incredible place in its own right.  Yes, the Northern Virginia area is THAT cool.

    I made the approximately 25 minute drive along the Potomac River on the George Washington Parkway and parked at the Washington Monument on the National Mall.  Taking the camera bag from the car and walking, I paid for the parking spot on an iPhone app and began to hear sirens.  Hearing emergency vehicles in a big city is not much cause for alarm unless they are nearby.  While paying, the sirens got closer and louder, now there were lots of police vehicle.  As someone fortunate enough to have been in a presidential motorcade once in my life, I knew someone important was coming.  Here I was, standing on a sidewalk by myself, no crowds, nor nobody near…  In just a few seconds, I opened my camera bag, took out my camera and turned on the power, switched to shutter priority, then switched the drive to the continuous shooting mode, hoping a bunch of rapid fire shots might land one keeper.  As I pulled the camera to my eye, I saw it was a presidential limo of some sort but not 100%, I squeezed the shutter and held it down.  In less time than it took to set up the camera, they had passed.  It was the presidential limousine with its Washington DC license plate of 800-002, also called “The Beast.”  As you can see in the above photo, the Secret Service agent in the front passenger seat is looking directly at me, probably because I was standing alone pointing my camera at the presidential motorcade.  A slight silhouette of the president can be seen above and to the right of the presidential seal on the door.

    Out of all the shots taken in those few of seconds, there was just one keeper, the shot at the top of this post.  However, there were also plenty of blurry shots as well, those are below.  Returning many times monthly and sometimes weekly, I never again saw the motorcade seen on this first visit.  Getting the shot was pure luck as there was no way to foresee the motorcade coming, nor my proximity to it.  Also, anything such as a dead battery or memory card malfunction, cluttered camera bag with too much stuff to dig around, or even being unfamiliar with my own bag, could have all prevented this shot.  The lesson learned, if I had not kept my gear in good working order or not immediately switched to the continuous shooting mode, this shot would never have happened.  Those were in my control, my coincidental location to a presidential motorcade was out of my hands.  Most of all, this was a lucky 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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Two more pics for expositions!

I recently found out that two of my photos were selected to be shown digitally, this time they are both from special places for me.  I am a lover of history and while I’ve had a few jobs in life, two were great.  The first was as a US Navy Musician for 30 years and the second was as a US History adjunct professor after retiring from the Navy.  In the latter I learned what you’ll hear several people say, it’s not work if you love what you do.  I really miss that job, loved going to work, and loved discussing history.  Both of these photos are at historic locations.

The first photo was taken at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) in Virginia.  I remember visiting here as a child on a family vacation in the early 1970’s, even then the history amazed me.  However,Snowfall later in life, after having a few friends buried here, it has taken on a different meaning.  Whenever I’d find myself shooting photos at ANC I’d pay my respects if I was in the area. While I loved shooting here, I never took photos of those grieving or burial services and if a procession was passing I put my camera away.  Besides, there’s plenty of other photo opportunities inside this hallowed place given all of historic people buried here.  This photo, Snowfall, of winter graves at Arlington National Cemetery was selected for a digital exposition in Berlin Germany at the BBA Circle at the Mostly White Exposition.  

The second photo today was taken at Colonial Williamsburg, also in Virginia.  This is another place we visited on that seventies family trip and it’s as amazing today as it wasAfter Darkthen.  Frankly, it’s amazing to walk with my wife and girls in the exact same places that I walked with my parents and brother on that trip.  I only hope my girls will visit some day with their children.  This photo of the Governor’s Palace was a night shot that my oldest daughter came along, it’s always more fun when my family is with me.  I don’t think they can say the same…  I’m a pain to be with when I’m shooting and it’s probably worse in a historic place.  About two year prior to when this photo was taken, I visited by myself, and before I knew it an entire day had passed.  Anyway, this night photo, called After Dark, is of the Governor’s Palace and was selected for a digital showing at the Valid World Hall Gallery in Barcelona, Spain in the Dramatic Lighting Exhibit on November 1, 2019.

Many thanks as always to all of you follow this blog and support this thing I do!

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Two pics @ digital expositions!

I found out today that two of my photos are to be shown digitally, it’s always cool when this happens!  Both of these exbitions were possible through Gurushots.com.  I like Gurushots not only for the exposure from these exhibitions but also to see what other photographer’s are doing creatively.  Viewing photos at Gurushots, Flickr, and a few other places only helps me to get better.

This photo was taken recently near where I currently live in Yokosuka, Japan.  I was walking near Verny Park in the morning and able to see the base where the US and Japanese ships are Morning Subsdocked.  The sun was obscured mostly because of the buildings but a little light was hitting these Japanese submarines making for a cool effect.  Really hoping to get some shots of these heading to, or from, the sea.  This shot, Morning Subs, was selected to be digitally shown at the Blank Wall Gallery in Athens, Greece in the Mostly Black Exhibit from December 13-15, 2019.  Living in Japan has been a great experience so far, I’m trying to capture as many ‘daily life’ type shots and while a photo like this might seem to not fit that category, it does.  Yokosuka is a HUGE Navy town, not just for the US but the Japanese as well, something I was unaware of prior to living here.

I lived in northern Virginia in 2017 and loved every minute of it.  I didn’t really know much about Alexandria, VA prior to living at Fort Belvoir, but it quickly came to be one of all-time favorite cities.Plum Crates  This was for a few reasons, first I’m a huge history nerd and Alexandria is history nerd central!  Second, for shooting stock photography it was a target rich environment.  Whether I wanted/needed food shots, generic patriotic material, or flags (literally EVERYWHERE), it was all there in front of me!  This shot, called Plum Crates, was taken at the Old Town Alexandria Farmer’s Market held on Saturday mornings next to City Hall.  It the four corners of wooden plum crates, I shot a few others but this one stuck with me more.  The photo was selected to show at the BBA Circle in the “Artistic Still Life” exhibit from January 31-February 2, 2020.

As always, thank you to all of you for the support I receive and hope you enjoy the blog.  I really am trying to keep it going this time around!

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Laurent Gallery – Melbourne, Australia

Two photos were recently selected to show in digital expositions at the Laurent Gallery in Melbourne, Australia on September 20th! The shot of Times Square will show in the Dramatic B&W Exposition and the other (the sailboat) from Coronado, CA will show in the Less is More Exposition. Love when this stuff happens!!  See more photos that have been exhibited at:

https://www.billchizekphotography.com/Exhibitions

 

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.