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Michigan

When I got back home from Asia this summer, I was looking forward to just catching back up with life.  However, it just wasn’t it the cards just yet, at least for another few weeks.  After I completed my last doctoral course (just have to write a dissertation now), I was off to Michigan for a long weekend.

The target destination in Michigan was Marine City, just across the River from Ontario.  After the worst flight experience I have ever had (shoutout to Spirit Airlines), I arrived In Michigan a day and a layover longer than anticipated.

The first day of the weekend in Michigan was spent in Marine City.  The old maritime vibe of Marine City is still present as it never moved away from the river or its roots with many historical sites, houses, and museums to check out.  Not to mention you can sit in the grass anywhere along the coastline against the river and watch the boats crawl by.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

On the main drag of Water Street, there are plenty of antique stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and parks to spend your time.  Looking for a reprieve from my busy summer, I spent most of the first day just taking in the small town atmosphere, drinking the local coffee, and doing some light exploring around town.

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

Day two was a bit more exciting as I headed into Detroit for the day.  First, I headed to a camera store in Dearborn, just west of Detroit.  Being a huge Eminem fan growing up, I was excited to visit the filming locations of 8 Mile and checking out other iconic spots from the movie.  I also meandered around downtown and hung out in Hart Plaza after seeing the Joe before they tear it down in favor of the Red Wings moving into Little Caesar’s Arena this upcoming hockey season.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

Walking a few blocks west from Hart Plaza, I ran into an event celebrating the birthday of the city.  Children and adults alike lined up for free ice cream, played basketball, and took photos with Paws, the mascot of the Detroit Tigers.  I even decided to take part and take a few shots with the kids on the court.

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

As run down and abandoned some parts of Detroit were, there was an strong, intangible feeling of brotherhood in the air every where you went.  If you could put, “yeah life sort of sucks sometimes, but we’ll get through it together” into a city’s atmosphere , then that’s exactly what it felt like.

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

There was also something about the city that just exhaled some sort of historical pride that has been carried and passed on through the decades.  It could have been and probably was the echoing of the bustling automative and manufacturing industries of years past.  But there was something about the decay in the city that was also beautiful.  Something like a flower that grows through broken concrete.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

The last full day in Michigan included checking out the massive amount of local antique shops in Marine City for cameras and a drive up to and through Port Huron and taking in the sites of the Blue Water Bridge, just across the water from Sarnia, Ontario.  I managed to pick up two new cameras, a Rollei 35 LED and a Minox 35 EL, both of which I have yet to test out.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

There’s just something about Michigan that just felt so…American, but in the best way possible.  In the few places I got to see in the limited amount of time I got to see them, I got to see both ends of a few different spectrums.  Each one of those still aligning somewhere within stereotypical American ideals.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm on Fuji 400h

Contax T3 on Kodak Color Plus 200

Overall, the trip was rather relaxed and provided a little bit of a break since I did basically no planning whatsoever.  In that regard, it was a nice way to end my marathon summer.

 

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Hiroshima

Our last day trip was to the city of Hiroshima.  Hiroshima was the city I was most looking forward to since I have a deep interest in social studies and history, especially that of World War II.  The five-hour train ride surprisingly didn’t feel as long as it actually was.  Although, we definitely felt the constraints of time since we were only able to spend about five or six hours in the city.

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

Right out of the train station, we caught a cab to the north side of Peace Park.  With the Hiroshima Carp baseball game on the radio with the every-so-often cheer from our cab driver reacting to the game, it was already evident that Hiroshima truly was a city that rallied around baseball and each other.

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

The highlight of Hiroshima was the A-Bomb Dome, an untouched dome just a short walk from a three directional bridge, which was the hypocenter of “Little Boy”, the atomic bomb dropped on the city over seventy years ago.  On the other side of the river, surrounding the dome lies Peace Park.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

At the memorial, I couldn’t help but notice an odd feeling of guilt.  Perhaps it wasn’t guilt, but it was something along those lines.  Being an American that had nothing to do with the bombing that occurred well before my lifetime (and my parents’ as well), I still carried a guilt-like and dejected aura walking around the dome.

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

On the far side of the dome, I came across a group of Japanese people chatting and sitting in lawn chairs with books spread out at their feet.  Books and binders that told the story of the day the atomic bomb was dropped on their city.

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

One woman who was sitting in the lawn chairs took some time to share her personal story about her grandparents who were in the city that day.  It was a sobering tale, one that truly pulls at your heart in hopes that such tragedies need not happen again.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

After spending a bit of time at the memorial, we decided to randomly wander about the streets, stores, and markets for the remainder of time we had left.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Contax T3 // Fuji Natura 1600

 

 

Kyoto, Japan

Getting out of the mega-city of Tokyo was a nice break every couple days or so.  It just so happened that after we got our rail passes that we decided to schedule a day trip outside of Tokyo about every other day.

The bullet train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto was about three hours.  When we arrived in Kyoto, we decided that it would be a good idea to rent bicycles and ride around the city.  This allowed us to move quickly but also gave us enough control to stop when we wanted to and move slowly enough to still take in the city and soak in the sights.  With only a couple things on our must-see list, we figured the day would be an easy one (it wasn’t).  The first thing we did was ride our bikes towards Kiyomizu Dera.  We rode a few miles before arriving at the west entrance of the park.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

We spent a few hours walking through the park, most of which was uphill, passing by a few temples and a insanely large graveyard.  The views along the walk were impressive to say the least.  Up until that point we had only seen a handful of people.  Nearing the end of our trek, we turned a corner and finally arrived at Kiyomizu Dera.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Along with the temple, there were literally thousands of people buzzing along the main drag filled with shops that sold food, trinkets, and other things.  Many Asians wore kimonos and geta, which just made the environment that much better.  While walking around taking photos, I was approached by a group of Japanese middle school students.  They asked if I could help them with their English homework.  Of course, as a teacher myself, I obliged.

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Contax T3 // Provia 100

After spending a bit more time walking through shops, we jumped back on the bikes and grabbed some udon for lunch.  After lunch we planned on biking to the bamboo forest in Arashiyama.  While riding and navigating simultaneously, I dropped my phone.  Not only did I drop it, but it ended up right in between my spokes, slamming into the back of my front fork.  Needless to say, it was done for.  After riding a bit more, we decided that the additional mileage was not manageable before the last train left for Toyko.   We returned the bicycles, had a match shot frappuccino, and hopped on the train back to Tokyo.

We did however make a second trip to Kyoto two days later.  While this did mean that we would have to cross Osaka off our list for this trip, we thought the bamboo forest would be worth it.  When we arrived the second time, we took a cab straight to Arashiyama.

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Still, we got sidetracked (a little lost) and ended up taking a hike to the highest point in the area.  We were greeted at a temple at the top of the trail and decided to take in the view and reap the reward for our walking.  I observed quietly at first, but then decided to make small conversation with some other visitors and took a few portraits.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

After the temple, we took the easier walk back down and headed toward the bamboo forest.  For someone who likes to take photos of natural environments, it was hard to wait out the perfect shot in an area that is packed with tourists and selfie sticks.  I didn’t expect the amount of people that were there but I did manage to grab a few shots I was happy with.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji Pro 400h

While Kyoto was a bit more tourist-filled than anticipated, we did find the nature-based reprieve we were looking for although it took a bit of walking (and biking) to do so.  Of course, we only were there for two half days so we remained focused on the bigger sites to see.

 

Mount Fuji & Aokigahara

Of course, Mount Fuji was at the top of our to-do list while in Japan.  Driving in Japan is manageable in a physical sense, but perhaps not as feasible in a mental and emotional sense.  Just getting out of Tokyo was an adventure in and of itself.  Although, once we got moving, it wasn’t so bad.  The interesting thing about Japan, is that since it is an island, most of the tourists in many of the sightseeing areas are actually Japanese citizens on day trips to a different part of the country of which they are from.  There was only one rest stop on the way to Mount Fuji from Tokyo, and it was here that we saw couples, families, and motorcyclists getting away from their busy weekday lives on a Sunday morning.

Contax T3 // Velvia 50

After driving about eighty miles, spending about $40 or $50 on tolls, getting stuck at a toll booth, and a single pit stop, we arrived in the vicinity of Mount Fuji.  The air was fresh, the trees were green and spread as far as the eye, condensed over rolling hills and smaller peaks in the distance.

Contax T3 // Velvia 50

Mount Fuji, of course, is stunningly beautiful and is probably the number one nature-related thing to see while in Japan.  And rightfully so.  The ride to Mount Fuji wasn’t terrible, but was definitely much improved after crawling through Tokyo traffic and getting stuck at a toll plaza.  Driving towards the mountain is just as scenic as arriving at the destination.

Contax T3 // Velvia 50

The base of the mountain is surrounded by campgrounds, viewpoints, and traditional dwellings.  We stopped at a small cafe on the opposite side of Mount Fuji and took in the sights of the sun lowering behind the low-hanging clouds, windsurfers, canoes, and fisherman.  Every person individually partaking in their own activity, but collectively embracing the beauty of the countryside.

Mamiya 6 // Fuji Pro 400h

Contax T3 // Velvia 50

Mamiya 6 // Fuji Pro 400h

Contax T3 // Velvia 50

Aside from the mountain itself, the reason we journeyed to the area was to walk through Aokigahara, or the suicide forest.  Aokigahara is a vast forest with dense vegetation and a ground layer consisting mostly of hardened lava from past eruptions that consumes most sound leaving it very quiet, tranquil, and even a bit eerie.  However, the forest’s solemn mood does is not derived solely from its sound-deadening surface, but from the fact that it is the second most popular place for suicide in the world.

Mamiya 6 // Fuji Pro 400h

Mamiya 6 // Fuji Pro 400h

Without getting too much into details which can be readily found elsewhere online (here and here.  Oh, and here’s a Vice Documentary here), there are many interesting traits to Aokigahara.  The opening of the forest is set up more like a tourist attraction than a destination for suicide, including a gift shop that serves corn ice cream (which was delicious as it was life-changing).  The forest is utterly beautiful and truly is an attraction on its own without the mystique and theme of suicide.  Of course, the forest is not marketed to the public as “The Suicide Forest.”  That large, lingering, and pretty well-known detail is seemingly swept under the rug.

Mamiya 6 // Fuji Pro 400h

Before I went, of course I did a little research about the forest.  I had read that there were signs throughout the forest.  These signs were said to have been hung by a man who previously set out to commit suicide and serve as a reminder to those who go with the intention to end their lives that their families are home waiting for them, depending on them, and of course love them.  Another thing we were on the look out for were any ropes, strings, or long pieces of ribbon; as these are frequently used by those who are still uncertain about their choice to take their life and use this as a tool to get back to the main trail if they so choose to live and leave the forest and return to their families and lives.  We did see some of these things (no bones or skulls, though) throughout our short trek through the forest.  Needless to say, you can’t help but feel a bit despondent.

The forest is vividly green, the trees and foliage only allow for the sound of a light breeze and narrow rays of sunlight to cut through the cracks between the leaves (it was so dark at points, that my cameras couldn’t get enough light to take an automatically-metered exposure).

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Contax T3 // Provia 100

We didn’t spend too much time walking through the forest, maybe an hour or two (we spent an hour or two just driving around looking for it).  We should have spent the entire day hiking the forest, to be honest, but we weren’t exactly prepared for an all-day hiking excursion.  So if you plan on visiting, I definitely recommend blocking a whole day for a proper journey through the sea of trees.

If anything, Aokigahara is a place of peace for both those who are dead as well as those that are living.  It’s a place for quiet, serenity, and reflection where time and sound seems to stand still.

Mamiya 6 // Fuji Pro 400h

Kawagoe, Japan

After three days of struggling with a rental car in Tokyo, me and my two friends racked up a $300 parking bill, sideswiped a cement pole, and got stuck in what was essentially an alleyway (but is somehow used for cars).  It took us a solid four hours to actually get the car out of the parking spot due to a language barrier and a need for 1000 yen pieces.

Contax T3 // Provia 100

After an anxiety-inducing ride to Mount Fuji, and $60 in tolls later, we decided it was time to return the rental car and buy some bullet train passes.  The first place we went with our newly-obtained train passes was a beautiful city named Kawagoe in the Saitama Prefecture.

Contax T3 // Portra 400

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji 400h

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji 400h

Luckily for us, we had a tour guide in our good friend Manabu, who is the founder, designer, and maker of Southern Field Industries.  He makes some really stellar canvas products.  He is a native of Saitama and hand-makes his bags with his wife in his studio in the same city in which he lives.  Without him, we would have never truly enjoyed Japan the way we did.

Compared to Tokyo, Kawagoe was a relaxed retreat with much less people, but with what they lacked in numbers, they made up in quality in terms of friendliness and making three American dudes feel welcome in a smaller Japanese town.  Kawagoe wasn’t short on touristy things to do downtown, but in the quieter backroads and neighborhoods not too far from the train station, there was much to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Contax T3 // Portra 400

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji 400h

Walking around Kawagoe was seriously a treat.  It was the perfect city to walk around as it was as quaint as it was full of people and things to do.  A truly perfect balance which made it my favorite stop during my stay in Japan.

Contax T3 // Portra 400

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Throughout our day here, we ran into some really beautiful shops that had an attention to detail that I can’t even express verbally.  It was as if every single piece of every shop was staged, but looked just so natural ever so effortlessly.  Not to mention that the people who owned these shops were more than friendly and were just so incredibly gentle and kind.

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji 400h

Contax T3 // Provia 100

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm // Fuji 400h

After a teriyaki burger at McDonald’s, Manabu drove us into the mountains where we were able to unwind and detox in a natural hot spring, giving us our first onsen experience.  It was just nice to sit in outdoor silence, listening to the crowing of birds and the waving of trees; appreciating that fact that we were lucky enough to be where we were with the people we were with at that point in time.

Contax T3 // Provia 100

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan

Thus far, this summer has been filled with a lot of traveling and adventure to say the least.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting about my previous few weeks of summer travels and highlighting the places that I visited, people I met through the images I was able to capture with my camera(s).

The first trip of the summer was to Japan, and more specifically Tokyo with two of my friends.  After ditching a full blown itinerary we had planned, we scrapped our rental car, took a beating on some AirBnB cancellation fees and opted for a train pass and claimed Tokyo as our home base for two weeks.  It was quite a relief to not worry about driving, insane toll prices, hourly parking rates, and traveling city to city every few days.  We opted for the bullet train and took day trips every other day or so.  If you need any travel tips, I have a lot of strong opinions due to the amount of adapting we had to do.

Over the course of those two weeks, we spent the majority of our time in Bunkyo, a quaint neighborhood on the north side of the city.  We frequently ventured out into other neighborhoods but there was a certain charm about where we stayed that was void of the overwhelming amount of people who live in the city.

We drank a lot of coffee, ate a lot of food, and made a lot of new friends.  Of course, I personally bought and shot a lot of film.  We also did a lot of walking.  Enough until the blisters on our feet grew blisters of their own.  But luckily, there aren’t any photos of that.

On to the photos.  Enjoy.

Contax T3

Mamiya 6 w/ 75mm

 

Busan, South Korea

Since I created my book, twenty seven, twenty eight, the creative process that went along with it has transformed how I want to view and live my life.  I want to learn and experience as much as I can of all that the world has to offer.  I do not want to waste time or lose opportunity.  If there is bait to explore, learn, or try something new or completely out the realm of normalcy and redundancy, then I plan on taking that chance, mostly because, “why not?”

You should do what you want to do, when you can do it,  because you want to do it and because you can.  Do what makes you happy.  Do you.

With some time off from work, I decided to take a trip to Busan, South Korea.  The trip was breath taking, awe-inspiring, and life changing for more than a few reasons.  It was just nice to disconnect from the world that I was familiar with for one that I was not.  Thankfully, I got to read a good portion of 1Q84 on the plane, as I have been dying to find time to give this book the time it deserves and will hopefully finish it very soon.  I will leave a quote from the book that I feel is applicable to the things I talked about above:

“It’s just that you’re about to do something out of the ordinary. And after you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before. But don’t let appearances fool you. There’s always only one reality.”

Here are some images from the trip:

Mamiya 6 on Velvia 50

Contax T3 on ColorPlus 200 & Portra 160

Charleston, South Carolina

This past weekend, my two friends and I decided to do a long weekend trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  With jobs and life in general always eating up time, we thought it would be a decent idea to just get away for a weekend.

Since none of us had never been and we didn’t really plan anything out, the focus was truly on spending time with my best friends while listening to music and talking noise on a six-hour drive to Charleston.

Over the course of the weekend, we got to stop into some rad shops like Indigo and Cotton, eat food at Butcher & Bee, and meet some rad people at AC’s BBQ.

While we definitely did our share of sightseeing, shopping, and general walking around, the essence of the experience lied in just being with simply spending time with two of the best dudes I know.

Contax T3 on Ilford Ilford HP5

Contax T3 on Portra 400

Coffee and Cameras: Gainesville, FL

This past weekend, my friend Ryan and I took a day trip to Gainesville, FL to hang out with some other rad people (Justin, Aaron, Royce, Steele and Sam) who shoot film at this month’s Coffee and Cameras meet up.  After grabbing some lunch and some coffee (rightfully so), we decided to bust out my c-stand and backdrop to shoot some portraits and become more acquainted and comfortable with one another.  Although it was the coldest day of the year here in Florida, we fought off the tough elements of 57 degree weather and light sprinkle of rain.  After taking some portraits, we just walked around downtown Gainesville and kicked it for a little while.  It was really nice to hang out and shoot with a bunch of new creative minds.  Definitely looking forward to next month’s meet up and happy to be a part of it.

Here are some of my photos from the meet up:

Bronica SQ-B with Ilford 3200

Contax T3 with Ektar 100

 

 

 

Road Trip: North Carolina

It’s been a minute month or two since my last post.  Suffice to say, the fact that the blog has been sitting here untouched for the better part of the month has been biting at the back of my mind.  It’s a relief and joy that I am typing a new post.

With just seven days of a much needed break from work and my doctoral program, a road trip was necessary to assist in clearing the mind and giving attention to the things that may have been neglected in the whirlwind of the past month or so.  The ten hour drive from Tampa, FL to Asheville, NC and then another four hours to the Raleigh-Durham area was definitely welcome.  Without getting anywhere near long-winded this time around, I’ll get right to the photo stuff.

Cameras: Contax T3 & Olympus OM2S

I really wanted to limit the gear I brought on the trip in hopes that I would just focus on shooting images.  I left the medium format stuff at home and I can’t say I regret it.  I only brought the T3 and the OM2S, both of which I had yet to put a roll of film through since acquiring.  I didn’t realize the accidental risk I took by only taking two untested cameras until I was on the road.  My initial thoughts on both cameras are definitely positive.  The T3 will most likely replace my Ricoh GR1 (maybe for good) and the OM2S will probably replace my Pentax ME Super for the time being.  The T3 was definitely the most used camera on the trip, it was hooked on my wrist almost every minute of every day and made shooting simple and pleasurable. The portability and simplicity is something I appreciated and something my shoulders thanked me for later on.

Film: Lomo Color 800, Portra 400, Ektar 100

I never used the Lomo Color 800 film before this trip and based upon reading the reviews, I would have to agree that the color temperatures are inconsistent and unpredictable.  Some shots got really cool blue tones while a few were spot on and others were extremely warm.  However, I would have to say that’s part of the beauty of the Lomo company and product as a whole, no?

Well, so much for being succinct.  With all that being said, enjoy the photos: