Archive for 26 August, 2013

Nara Lantern Festival, Tokae

This Photo of the Week (POTW) is from the recent Nara Lantern Festival (in Japanese, “Tokae”). English language information about this event is quite hard to find. I’ve seen tourists in Nara, right where the event was set to occur that night wonder what was being set up. So what can be found? Nara is attributed as the first permanent capital of Japan over 1,300 years ago, until a revolt by senior Shinto priests who moved to Kyoto and successfully set up their new capital (the current imperial lineage comes from the renegade priest). Nara is also the sister city of Canberra Australia, Gyeong-ju Sth Korea, Toledo Spain, Versailles France, and two Chinese cities. See the blog tag ‘Nara’ or a friend’s website Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips for more info.

The Lantern Festival began in  1999, and is situated in the main tourist areas of the city, including Nara Park (where the infamous deer roam), Kofukuji Temple, Todaiji Temple, and other major places. The lanterns are mainly small plastic tubes with candles in them, of which there’s about 20,000 set up (Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips). There are also bamboo art-work frames set up, and only on the final night was Todaiji and Kasugataisha Shrine open with their own lanterns, too. See the official map for more info. Also, it seems the event runs annually from 5th to 14th August, but double check the official website before committing to the trip.

If you plan to visit for the festival, you’d need at least a couple of nights, as there is no way you can see it all and at a comfortable pace. When I went, it was 37°C, one of the highest temperatures recorded for not just the 2013 summer, but for that area on record. Spend the morning seeing the sights, the afternoon avoiding the heat and recuperating in air conditioning, and the evening enjoying the night time stroll, with several tens of thousands of people spread out through the town. And, don’t forget to take your camera…

This image, and more, are available at my agent’s website: Henry Westheim / Asia Photo Connection. (Thanks to Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips for alerting me to this event).

Candles at Ukigumoenchi display during the Nara lantern festival, known as 'Toukae' in Japanese.

Candles at Ukigumoenchi display during the Nara lantern festival, known as ‘Toukae’ in Japanese. Photo available from my agent.

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5 Travel Tips for Japan

There’s lots of advice out there, and this blog has already contributed (5 things every visitor to Japan must know, and 5 things you must see in Japan, 5 things Guidebooks don’t say about Japan). Here is a another five, but a unique five ideas to make the most of travelling in Japan, especially in summer.

A tourist using Google Maps on an iPhone at a major tourist destination to find their way.

A tourist using Google Maps on an iPhone at a major tourist destination to find their way.

1. Use Maps

If you can use Google Maps. Of course to do so, you’d need to access the mobile phone networks with a data plan. There are very few and hard to get options to get a SIM card, mainly to make it difficult or impossible for criminal gangs to operate. See this link for info, and organise this BEFORE you leave your home country: http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/index.html.

 

2. Local info

Of course you’ll use your guide books, but it doesn’t hurt to use local info, too. Drop into tourist info offices, check street maps, or ask a local. You may find something unique not included in your guidebook.

The deer in Nara roam freely about the major tourist hotspots, especially the historic temples and shrines.

The deer in Nara roam freely about the major tourist hotspots, especially the historic temples and shrines.

3. Drink lots

Especially in the humid summers, you especially need to. When I visited Nara in mid-August it was hitting 37 degrees Celsius (about 100F), and about 70 to 80% humidity. Aquarius and the… err… uniquely named Pocari Sweat are ion drinks that have an osmotic value close to that of the body, which means the fluids can be much more easily absorbed by your body, thus staving off dehydration. Vending machine drinks cost ¥150 (USD$1.50, GBP£1).

Aquarius is especially good at rehydrating in the extreme summer

Aquarius is especially good at rehydrating in the extreme summer

4. Parasols and umbrellas

If you’re a lady, feel free to shade yourself from the sun. It often rains, and since cars are not often used, you’ll need an umbrella. In my experience, portable (small folding) umbrellas available in Japan are good enough for you not to bother to get one until you really need to while your here in Japan. Umbrellas are very easily available in convenience stores, and are almost as disposable as snack wrappers. Convenience store umbrellas cost about between ¥200-¥500 (USD$2-$5, GBP£1-£3).

Many young women use umbrellas and parasols to shade them from the hot sun.

Many young women use umbrellas and parasols to shade them from the hot sun.

5. Have fun

Of course! Isn’t that why you’re here? Travelling is very tiring and uses a lot of your energy and strength. Take your time, plan a rest day where you can just chill and relax in one of the many, many cafés, where you can read and restore your energy. Then just enjoy being here.

A tourist tries to get a deer to pose for her camera in Nara.

A tourist tries to get a deer to pose for her camera in Nara.

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POTW 19 Aug 2013: Domatsuri

The annual Nagoya Domatsuri (dance festival) is on this weekend, and so it’s the Photo of the Week. It usually attracts about and over 20,000 people in over 200 dance teams, and of course, many, many more spectators. Teams compete for prizes, but usually it’s just a hobby that brings community groups together.

For some info and history see previous Domatsuri blog posts, and for more Domatsuri photos see my agent’s website: Henry Westheim / Asia Photo Connection, and my Domatsuri gallery on my portfolio.

Participants in the annual Nagoya Domatsuri performing on stage, Nagoya city, Aichi, Japan

Participants in the annual Nagoya Domatsuri performing on stage, Nagoya city, Aichi, Japan

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Explosion in Kyoto

Earlier, the BBC News website reported that there was a fireworks explosion, injuring and seriously injuring about 50 people including children in Kyoto, and of which caused the cancellation of a fireworks display (BBC News). It was later revealed that it was a food stall or similar (like shown below) was using a generator and possibly was refilling the generator fuel tank when some fuel splashed onto the generator itself, causing a fire and explosion of the fuel tank. Then later a second fuel tank exploded, of which was recorded and released on the internet. Stalls like these below are typical scenes seen all over Japan for all festival and cultural events. See the Japan Today article for more information. These images, and others like them are available at my portfolio and my agent’s website.

Both images are typical stalls found at all Japanese festivals. The lights are typically powered by fuel generators.

Images like these are available at http://ablyth.photoshelter.com.

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The Nara trip

I just got back from Nara. It was hot, 37°C all afternoon and most of the evening, 2° hotter than the forecast maximum. It was really humid, and so sweat just rolls off like it’s raining from your head. And then there’s the smell of deer dung cooking in the sun. Not to mention the your own sweat. Then there’s the long walks between everything. Phew, what a trip! Definitely, if you plan to travel and tour in Japan, August is not the month to do it in, unless you plan to avoid the afternoon heat and avoid heatstroke. You really need to take refuge in your air conditioned hotel room. I’ll be processing the photos from the trip over the next few days, and they’ll be available soon, probably at my agent’s website: http://www.westheimphoto.com/lightbox/index/gallery/AsiaStockPhotosAndrewBlyth.

I’ve noticed that since I first posted camera-back photos for tweeting ‘over 468 days ago’ (http://twitpic.com/9h20am), more and more photographers have started doing the same. I wonder if I was the first, or how many others thought of it independently, too. Anyway, to whet your appetite here’s one of my favourite deer-feeding photos from Nara. Photo taken with More Lomo, and processed with Adobe PhotoShop for iPhone.

Feeding the deer in Nara.

Feeding the deer in Nara.

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Copyrights & infringement

Copyright is simple and straight forward. If you want to use a photo you need to get written permission, usually in the form of a licence that you pay for (see these examples at my portfolio). The only exception is photography not under Copyright licence, but Creative Commons. It really is that simple. Almost all countries (including the US) have signed to international treaties (see Wikipedia) and so have agreed to protecting the rights of creators and the creators’ choices. Me, I also need the money. Photography is not a free / cheap game to play (see why, here).

The US has muddied the waters in two ways, firstly by creating a copyright office that requires US based creators to register their works so that they can get full damages awarded. No other country has this requirement, but the US tries to impose this on all creators, US-based or not. The only benefit I see of this system is that the US gets money from international creators, and hopes to profit from the fear of US-based infringement. The second way the US has muddied the waters is by not teaching their children in education enough about copyright and what is considered infringement, so ignorance and this lax culture has permeated on the internet. However, this second problem is not a US exclusive problem. There are reports on websites like Photo Attorney of India based website designers and creators building websites for US owners, only for the US owners to be (successfully) sued for copyright infringement. If you own the website, you approved of all of the content and so are legally liable for all infringements (see point 1 on this page of the Photo Attorney website).

In any case, there are now lots of websites that describe the “myths of copyright” and the common excuses violators make. Of most pertinent to me, as I’ve seen this a lot recently on social media is the notion that it’s ok to use someone else’s photo on your website, provided you link it back to the original source. I was livid when I saw some leech using my photos without paying me. I already have an agent and his lawyer pursuing a case of this; refer to point 9 of this Photo Attorney document: http://www.photoattorney.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Excuses-excuses.pdf. Also, PetaPixel recently did a great article that is pretty current, and in the same vein at the Photo Attorney list, just because you put my name there DOESN’T give you licence to use my photo without paying for it: http://petapixel.com/2013/08/03/10-bogus-excuses-people-use-when-they-steal-photos-from-the-web/.

For some strange reason, the most commonly violated photos of mine are my sumo images. I dare you to steal them… my lawyer needs a new spa on his back porch and I’m dying for a new Sony a99. 😉


Sumo – Images by Andrew Blyth

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POTW 5 Aug 2012: World Cosplay Summit

This Photo of the Week comes from the World Cosplay Summit. It was on on the weekend just gone. This year I was unfortunately busy with other things, and so I couldn’t go myself. Today I learnt on Twitter that the Italian team had won the competition, well done to them. Though this is a past photo, and I may have already shown this as a POTW before, it is my absolute favourite cosplay photo. This fan, like most others, would have spent many, many long hours preparing this one particular outfit, and then perhaps equally lots and lots of money buying all the materials to make it herself. No wonder why the sewing machine manufacturer has sponsored this event in the past. So, I present to you Misa Misa from the fantastic comic book and TV series, also made into a fantastic movie, Death Note. For this, and more see my World Cosplay Summit portfolio, and previous cosplay blog posts for more info.

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