Walkabout

Shot while on the first outing to Venice, I have a line on a mask maker I am dying to shoot with.  I have always adored the power and mystery of masks and I am looking forward to documenting their creation.

Transient

“The way is beautiful…but maybe it is heavy”

I find it hard to know where to start when so very much has transpired in the last several months.  It all started with our leaving our home in Japan, via a whirlwind of visitations across Texas culminating with our move into our beautiful and exciting new house in Italy.   

The gear is finally unpacked, the Profotos are charged, the Drobos are plugged in and I am once again on the road.  Two days ago I loaded the car with camera, climbing, and camping gear and took off on a crushing 14hr drive to Rodellar, Spain to essentially return to work.  I came to shoot with world class Adidas climbers Sasha DiGuilian and Dani Moreno on beautiful, mighty Spanish walls.  Sasha, following her win at the Spanish Championships in Gijon last weekend, is working on what would be the first female ascent of a powerful 8c route. The first day went without a hitch and both Sasha and Dani are amazing to watch and even more inspiring to photograph.  We tentatively have all week to shoot and push it but now however, we are stuck.  We are in a holding pattern as the rain curse, which has followed me since I landed in Europe, follows me.  With a forced rest day I was able to edit a bit but for the most part I am just itching to get back on the rope and behind the lens. 

After the cursing of the sky and the lamentation over a lost day of opportunity we spent last night eating a beautiful meal at the Refugio and I found myself content with the realization of my wilderness office and my assignment.  I often talk about the gratitude I feel towards my subjects and my career but it is something truly difficult to convey with words of appropriate weight.  Hanging 90 meters of the valley floor watching one of the sports most talented and accomplish athlete’s crossing over the lip of the cave with grace and power and being there to capture that feat is still, to me, a wonderful gift.  As a photographer and I would imagine professional athletes we find ourselves fighting for days like these, through the rain days and in-between assignments.  When however, you finally get on the rope or behind the lens it all becomes fluid and right.  Like my Italian climbing partner says, “The way is beautiful…but maybe it is heavy” but the weight, the difficulty is so very worth it. 

As I type I am watching the sun fight through the clouds, time to go see if the rock is dry.  More to come.

 

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Daruma Fair

The Japanese New Years Break ended and with it the throngs of people pouring through temple grounds.  However, before it ended I made a visit to the local Haijima Daruma Fair.  I have noticed Daruma dolls, also known as Dharma dolls, at temples and even gifted one but this visit brought more understanding about the doll and its cultural significance.  The doll is a papier-mache hollow figure modeled after the "Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism."  The dolls are typically a red painted bearded man (Dharma) but vary in their price, color, and even actual hair or facial expression details.  I always believed the doll was a toy but had it explained to me in a greater detail at the fair.

The dolls is purchased blind if you will, meaning there are no irises painted on the eyes.  They Daruma are considered a powerful talisman for good luck and used to encourage this luck throughout the year.  First, you craft a wish or goal followed by painting the first iris on the eye.  Once your goal or promise is achieved you may then complete the Daruma and paint in his other eye.  The larger the Daruma the more important, powerful or difficult the goal and vice a versa.  At the end of the year people bring their completed dolls to the temple grounds to burn them and to purchase the new luck for their goal or resolution.

I know many people who love making to-do lists and feel great satisfaction crossing items of the list once accomplished.  I even know people who write achievements on the list they already finished for the sheer satisfaction of crossing it off.  If I am honest, I am both of those people.  The dolls were not my goals nor my wishes going into the fire but there was something much more visceral and symbolic than my extra lines crossed through a to-do list.  I like the idea of a physical manifestation of your goals to keep you visually accountable to your intentions.  As a result, I picked up a Daruma for myself and already gave him a wink for this year.  I will be planning my own bonfire this time next year on a Dolomite camping trip perhaps heres to him going up in flames.

If your interested in creating your own conflagration of achievement I know my buddy at Unique Japan can ship the dolls worldwide.

New Years Shishimai

2013 is upon us and after I a non-eventful New Years Eve, 2 and 4 year olds need their sleep, I headed out on the 1st to see if I might find local images at the temples.  New Years and New Years Day are arguably the most important holiday in Japan, though you might think otherwise if you have ever tried to drive during golden week, so I went feature hunting.  Unfortunately, the local temples here in Fussa don't see the two million visitors that Meiji Shrine sees on the first day of the year.  Knowing I could not make a trip to the city I thought I might find a quiet image locally as people made their important trips to get their Omikuji (years fortune) or make their first prayer.  After my third visit to a temple and still nothing impressive I heard drumming in the distance and headed off to find the source.

Instead of temple imagery I found a Shishimai ceremony going from house to house driving out evil spirits with lion dances.  I am told this is a rare site in cities these days, I was just happy to have found something to play with.  I only caught their last three houses and never quite caught the quintessential lion image I wanted.  Imagery aside, I love the idea of waking on the first day of the year to the sound of drums and flutes and a lion costume undulating and chomping his wooden jaws in my home or business consuming evil spirits in the air or even nibbling them off of me.

I did not make resolutions this year.   It is going to be a big year for my family and business as we prepare to move and start another chapter of adventures and images but whatever the year brings I am happy to have had it ushered in by a lion dance and the sound of early morning japanese drums.

Good Luck to all of you in 2013,  it should be amazing!

Jesus in Japan

Christmas is over but hot on its heals is a Jesus story in the new copy of the Smithsonian magazine.  Inside the January issue is an article accompanied by a couple of my images from a story they sent me on during the summer.  This gig was hands down the strangest matsuri (festival) I have attended in Japan.  The Christo Matsuri is a celebration upon the alleged burial ground of Jesus Christ.  As folklore would have it Jesus of Nazareth settled in the north of Japan with a wife and three kids as a garlic farmer and died at the age of 106.  The entirety of the convoluted lore is a humorous read and I wont try to convey it here, grab a copy of the magazine.

The early morning festival itself lasted all of an hour beginning with what appeared to be community awards and culminating in a group of female dancers doing traditional dance around the burial site.  After the official ceremony people mill around for snacks and a visit to the one room museum on site and then it is over.  As quickly as everyone arrives they pack it up and head down the hill until next year.  While the festivities did not yield powerful imagery I thought I would share out of the sheer respect for the kitsch of it all.

Pink on the Wind

It is always with a mixture of melancholy and spring anticipation that I watch the pink succumb to the wind and yet the Sakura have all but dropped.  We never did get to throw our own Hanami party this year but I  thought I would share a few images from a short evening I spent last week in Ueno park prior to its soggy rain out. Regardless of the rain I had a wonderful evening and I would like to say thank you to everyone who invited me onto their tarps, fed me and kept the beer and sake flowing.

Crushing Xmas

My family is here in Koh Tao, Thailand for Christmas vacation and while the trip is fundamentally very Thai, those of you who have traveled here will know what that means, we are having a wonderful time together and for Christmas Eve I was even able to get away and shoot a Muay Thai match.  I have always wanted to shoot one of these bouts and while I would have preferred to shoot with more lighting then a couple fluorescent bulbs, definitely with strobe and in the heart of Bangkok it was still great fun to hear the Yuletide roar of the local crowd go up in response to the dull thud of foot and knee crushing abs and ribs well into the night.

Up again

Finally got up in the plane again for a dusk flight over Tokyo only to discover the winter air is a true trade off between crisp visibility and turbulence.  If anyone with experience using gyros or other suggestions for shooting a city at night from above I would love hear from you before I give this another shot.  Here are a few images that were not soft, though the noise at 1600 on the 5D Mark II is a bit disappointing.

7,000,000,000

While the world marveled last week on its new population of 7 billion people I decided I needed a way to illustrate our new vastness.  This quoted text from Wikipedia seemed like a good place to start.

"The Greater Tokyo Area is a large metropolitan area in Kantō regionJapan, consisting of most of the prefectures of ChibaKanagawaSaitama, and Tokyo (at the center).  A 2007 UN estimate puts the population at 35,676,000,[4] "  (The current number 37,730,064.)  "making it the world's most populous metropolitan area by far. It covers an area of approximately 13,500 km² (5,200 mi²),[5] giving it a population density of 2,642 person/km² - which is somewhat more than twice the population density of Bangladesh. It is the second largest single metropolitan area in the world in terms of built-up or urban function landmass at 7,800 km² (3,000 mi²).[6]"

Japan is approximately the size of California in land mass but still manages #10 on the most populated countries list and Tokyo's population is close to the entire population of the Roman Empire (AD 300-400).  It will be interesting to watch how the world adapts to the new space, agricultural, and industrial challenges of a planet hosting this level of human diaspora.  The following aerials attempt to illustrate the sheer sprawl that is greater Tokyo.  From the air I could view the population horizon in a manner impossible from the tight-knit street level of the city. I  scheduled a future dawn flight, even though my pilot informed me the city has yet to return to its full force illumination in the wake of last years tsunami and subsequent power shortages.  For now this hazy mid-day flight was an amazing glimpse at the worlds largest city and possible a sign of things to come.