Tag Archive for traditional

Using the #Gnarbox for the first time

Women at the Arimatsu festival posing next to a banner that says "Arimatsu" in Japanese script.

The Gnarbox was a Kickstarter project, and it is an in-field storage and back up device. It also lets you edit and post pictures without a laptop, and do it away from your office. I pitched in on Kickstarter paying USD$149, and it now retails at $299. It has a capacity of 128Gb, and a claimed battery life of 4 to 6 hours (a wide error of margin) with 4,000mha capacity. It can connect to your smarthphone or Android or iOS tablet via wifi and the Gnarbox app.

 

Sony a99 with Sony 70-300mm G lens, Gnarbox, iPad Mini 4 with Gnarbox app in index view.

Sony a99 with Sony 70-300mm G lens, Gnarbox, iPad Mini 4 with Gnarbox app in index view. (photo taken on iPhone)

The Gnarbox arrived and it sat doing nothing for about two weeks. It was already obsolete by the time I received it. It was originally meant to be delivered in March 2016, but finally came in May 2017. My previous blog posts describe the ordeal of waiting for the Gnarbox, the constant new promises, and missed delivery deadlines. There were constant complaints by Kickstarter backers near the end of 2016 and early 2017. For me, by the time it arrived it was already replaced by a Toshiba wifi memory card. Also consider that most new cameras now include wifi connection to your smartphone, too. Anyway, I paid for it (back in July 2015), and it’s finally just arrived. On Sunday just gone, I went shooting at Arimatsu. They are known for their cloths and tie-dying industry; no, not hippy tie-dying, but the kimono type, as you’ll see below. So, I thought it would be a great chance to do a real life test of the Gnarbox.

 

A kimono on display blowing in the midday breeze at Arimatsu.

A kimono on display blowing in the midday breeze at Arimatsu. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.

 

To prepare this blog post, I’m using the WordPress app, the Gnarbox with my iPad Mini 4, the Gnarbox app, and an ice-cold Chocolista from my favourite cafe in Japan. Firstly, the wifi connection doesn’t show in the top bar of the iPad, and so I thought it wasn’t connected. After five minutes of trying different things, I thought I’d just try the viewer. Lo and behold, it was connected. It was showing 40% battery. Then I realised it didn’t automatically import the +300 photos from my SD card. It took a slow 5 minutes or so to do the job. In the meantime, it was sucking the battery dry.

 

From left to right. Sony A99 camera with Sony 70-300mm G lens. Gnarbox first generation (128Gb capacity). Apple iPad Mini 4. Tully's Chocolista Tall size.

From left to right. Sony A99 camera with Sony 70-300mm G lens. Gnarbox first generation (128Gb capacity). Apple iPad Mini 4. Tully’s Chocolista Tall size.

 

Additionally, the top surface of the Gnarbox was getting too hot to touch. A point of no concern for their snow-based “real world” testers. It seemed like they really did most of their testing in the Californian winter alps (just check their Instagram feed). I mention this, as I’ve not seen any other sample images and videos from the Gnarbox Instagram account. Previous blog posts describe how I was blocked by Gnarbox after complaining about yet another missed delivery date, and the social media censorship that coincided with the start of the prestigious CES exhibition. They obviously wanted to hide their missed deliveries and angry customers.

 

Editing view of the Gnarbox app. It's simple compared to the Adobe PhotoShop Express app, but it can do raw files.

Editing view of the Gnarbox app. It’s simple compared to the Adobe PhotoShop Express app, but it can do raw files.

A young lady in a kimono at the Arimatsu festival.

A young lady in a kimono at the Arimatsu festival. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.

There are good points and bad points. Mixed in with this are the two facets of the Gnarbox, the box and the app. The box itself is heavy, but feels quite sturdy and rugged. The data connections including card slots are protected with environment proof flaps. In the app, the thumbnail display didn’t complete loading, and so I sat there waiting using up valuable battery life. I eventually found the refresh button; a problem I probably won’t have again. The main concern I noticed right away with the app was the skin tones; the gamma levels seemed off. Also, it doesn’t seem to be able to manage the transition from highlights to normal very well. I’m certain this isn’t a lens or sensor issue. Admittedly, no one wants to shoot in the midday sun, which of course contributes to the problem, but the point of editing software is to reduce this issue, which it failed. However, I do love the “punch” slider. I’m not exactly sure what it does, but I do like the outcome. It is probably like the vibrance slider in Lightroom. It does manage recovering details from dark areas wonderfully. The app seems good, but lacks a range of features when compared to the older and more mature Adobe Photoshop Express. However, the Gnarbox app can manage full resolution images, in raw format and video.

 

Two men sitting in the shade in front of a store at the Arimatsu festival.

Two men sitting in front of a store at the Arimatsu kimono and cloth festival. The man on the right is wearing a summer kimono known as a yukata. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.

Other issues aren’t major ones. My camera was set to raw + jpg, as it is the only way for the Toshiba wifi card to work and connect with my phone. However, Gnarbox can work with raw files, no jpgs needed. However, the index view doesn’t indicate which is raw and which is jpg. Furthermore, as nice and neat as it looks, the cropped images make it hard to choose which photo is worth editing at a glance. You have to tap on one, check, then flick through and find out which you want the hard way.

 

The index view in the Gnarbox app.

The index view of the Gnarbox app. Using square cropped previews is nice, but which one will you want to edit? Which are raw and which are jpg?

 

Different tie-dye cloths on display at the Arimatsu festival.

Different tie-dye cloths on display at the Arimatsu festival. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.

 

I don’t do much video editing, and so I probably struggle to use this feature. Which may explain why I couldn’t figure out how to stitch two separate videos together (if it is indeed possible). It is said that the Gnarbox comes with some basic music that can be overlaid into your in-field created video, and you can add more sound tracks to the box yourself. The video colour editing function didn’t work. The error message said something about a firmware update is needed first, something not possible while working on the fly.

The Gnarbox battery went from 40% to 9% within 45mins, which hints that the claimed 4-6 hours might not be possible on this particular unit. It was at about 50% when I opened the box minutes after receiving it from the mail man. There were issues regarding battery life reported online; I hope mine isn’t one of the affected ones. Some buyers have had to return theirs and get a replacement. The Gnarbox took some hours to charge, it was charged overnight, and so I’ll now have the opportunity to test the full battery life in the future.

 

Women demonstrating creating feature patterns that are unique to Arimatsu.

Women demonstrating creating feature patterns that are unique to Arimatsu. Photo taken on Sony a99 with Tamron 28-75mm lens, processed in the Gnarbox app.

Do you really need a Gnarbox? For day trips, it’s probably not needed. Just use a $50 wifi SD card and the Adobe PhotoShop Express app (set your camera to raw + jpg). For extended trips, as a backup device in case you lose your memory cards, for some people it’s good to have. For immediate social sharing it’s a must have (if you can’t or don’t want to use a wifi SD card). For an overseas jaunt, it’s perhaps quite under capacity at a mere 128Gb. An hour or so of shooting at Arimatsu created 198 photos taken at raw & jpg, which created a 5.92Gb folder. Plus two short videos at 100mb (1:09min) and 35mb (0:24min). I usually take about 300 plus photos at an event and more video. So, I typically walk away using about 12Gb of storage space on memory cards. Consequently, for a trip away, I think the last few photos won’t be transferred onto the Gnarbox. For videographers and vloggers, you might want to wait and see if Gnarbox creates a second generation product with more capacity. Of course, this is my own take on things on its first outing, and as based on my needs and uses. You may see advantage in it, or not. Overall, I will use it, but not as often as I might have 22 months ago. Would I buy one now? No. I’ve never lost a memory card, and my next camera will probably have wifi built in anyway. I have to say this once more, the Gnarbox app does a great job of recovering details in the dark areas, and the punch/vibrance slider is awesome.

Women at the Arimatsu festival posing next to a banner that says "Arimatsu" in Japanese script.

Women at the Arimatsu festival posing next to a banner that says “Arimatsu” in Japanese script.

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POTW 14th May: Kyoto store

This Photo of the Week is a simple one, but I really like it. A guy in a traditional store in Gion Kyoto adding more items to display. It’s more in the tourist area than the Geisha area, but it’s still Gion. Many shop keepers in Japan choose to wear these kinds if clothes, so I don’t regard it a costume for the benefit of tourists. This image, and more like it, are available at my agent’s website Asia Photo Connection / Henry Westheim.

A store keeper replenishing his snack displays in Gion, Kyoto.

A store keeper replenishing his snack displays in Gion, Kyoto.

 

 

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Happy birthday JapanesePhotos.Asia blog

And Photo of the Week (POTW)

It’s two years since the first blog post. The website was already a few weeks old, but it took a while to design and finalise the website, and then must up a few words for the first official blog post… nothing sensational though. The first important post was to promote a set of photos of Tado Gagaku, a traditional court music group playing Sino-Japanese instruments in traditional garb. This little blog has come a long way since then. See more of these at my agent’s website: Asia Photo Connection by Henry Westheim.

A performer of Tado Gagaku playing the sho (cheng)

A performer of Tado Gagaku playing the sho (cheng)

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Nagoya Domatsuri

Next weekend is the Nagoya Dance Festival, or ‘Domatsuri’. I’ll be attending. Usually it’s either extraodinarily hot and sunny, and terrible to photograph in; or wet, humid, hot and terrible to photograph in. Wish me luck this year. The Nagoya dance festival is not a traditional town festival, nor traditional dance event. It was modelled on the Hokkaido event that the Nagoya university students attended, and were impressed by. Consequently, because of the Hokkaido influence, there are Sino-Japanese style dances, rock/pop influences, as well as more traditional or jazzed-up styles as well. It’s dynamic, and a feast for the eye. I always love to see the Kyoto University teams, they have time and depth-of-knowledge to dedicate in their preparations for this event. This is a must see for all tourists visiting Nagoya at this time of year.

My blurb for PhotoShelter portfolio gallery (shown below)

The Nagoya Dance Festival competition, known locally as Domatsuri is an annual summer event held at the end of August. Domatsuri was first organised by university students in 1999, and later taken over by the city. It now attracts over 200 teams with over 20,000 participants, with an audience of nearly 2 million viewers.?

As you can see it’s a big event, and a very big deal.  More information can be found at the Domatsuri webpage (in English). Below is the gallery available on my PhotoShelter portfolio, but more is also available at Asia Photo Connection (13 images available, see pages 5-6).


Nagoya Domatsuri – Images by Andrew Blyth

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Stone-bringing Festival

Each year in summer, at the most humid time of year, when it’s really, really, really hot. When people have been dying because of heatstroke and dehydration. The people of Kuwana City have their annual summer festival, known as the the “Stone-bringing Festival”, or “Ishidori” in Japanese.

I’ve asked around, but haven’t been able to get a clear and certain story of what it’s all about. The best guess an educated friend of mine could make is that usually these festivals are  a time when the local people bring offerings of rice to their main local Shinto shrine. Though, one year, there must have been a problem, and so the people couldn’t bring rice. Though, the show must go on. Instead, each town, with their portable shrines deliver a white stone, to represent the rice that they would have brought if they could spare it. For one reason or another, the idea must have stuck and is continued to be repeat to this day. Incidentally, in convenience stores like 7-11, cooked rice balls are available, and make a convenient small meal on the go; much like our sandwiches. I don’t know if they had rice-balls a couple of hundred years ago, but it’s possible, and may explain why a single white stone can so easily represent rice.

During the bombing of the area in World War two, many of the town shrines were destroyed. Each year, even recently, another portable shrine is added to the annual festival, as a replacement for the one they lost 60 years before. It is expected that there would be more portable shrines added in the coming years, at least until all the towns of Kuwana City have a portable shrine again, and perhaps some new comers, too.

All these images are available now at my PhotoShelter account.


Kuwana Ishidori (Kuwana City Stone Brining Festival) – Images by Andrew Blyth

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Tado Gagaku Winter Performance

A performer of Tado Gagaku (a traditional Japanese performance troupe) performing at Rokka En (Kuwana Mansion)

A big thanks to Shu’uchi (pictured right) for letting me know about this performance. It was great to get the invite and to see Tado Gagaku perform again. This performance was again held at Rokka En (Kuwana Mansion). The first performances were musical, and were held inside the mansion itself, in the Japanese style quarter (the building includes a Victorian-style quarter). Once this indoor performance was done, the audience were then invited to move to the large windowed-doors to view this outdoor performance (seen below), from the warmth and comfort of the building. Some images are now available at Asia Photo Connection (Henry Westheim).

Tado Gagaku's outdoor winter performance

A performer of Tado Gagaku (a traditional Japanese performance troupe) performing at Rokka En (Kuwana Mansion)

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Naked Man Festival

The Naked Man Festival (Hadaka Matsuri) is an annual even held at Kounomiya, just outside of Nagoya City in central Japan. It’s held in the depths of winter and is a weekend-long event. The part that the public sees (and is shown in my portfolios) is held in the afternoon. The event date varies from year to year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but is held during the lunar New Year.

It began over 1,200 years ago, in the year 767, when Nara was the capital of Japan. At that time, there were plagues affecting the Japanese people, so Emperor Shotoku ordered special prayers to be said nation wide. The governor of Owari Province (now Aichi Prefecture) asked the shrine at Kounomiya to do something about this, and to remove the bad luck. So, the Naked Man Festival, held in the coldest time in winter was formulated (first published by me at Winjeel.Com, Feb 2009).

See these portfolios:

PhotoShelter, Asian Photo Connection, and Gekko Images.


Naked Man Festival – Images by Andrew Blyth

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Tado Gagaku

A few weeks ago I saw a wonderful performance. Tado Gagaku is a traditional Shinto-related performance troupe. They have both actor-dancers and musicians. The Tado Gagaku performs two or three times a year. This time, they performed at Kuwana Mansion, known locally as Roka-En (Roka Park).The performances are done outdoors on a temporary stage. On this particular day, it was cold, rain threatened, miserable, and the lighting was less than par. But, the people were really nice. I was fortunate enough to get some model releases. A performer of Tado Gaku

There are several performances done in the course of two hours. Some are solo performances, some were group performances, in some the performers wore masks, but they all wore wonderful costumes. The musicians played all Japanese court instruments.

All images are available at Asia PhotoConnection / Henry Westheim.

A performer of Tado Gaku playing the sho (cheng)

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Homepage picture: Kuwana City Ishidori

The current homepage picture was taken in the Kuwana City Ishidori. “Ishidori” literally means ‘stone-bringing’ festival. It’s an all weekend Shinto religious festival held annually in Kuwana City in mid summer at night.A man marks his town's portable shrine cordon in a crowd of onlo

It’s history is a little uncertain, but probably dates back about two or three hundred years. Each town or ward in Kuwana City has a portable shrine. Each portable shrine has a large drum and Japanese style cymbals. They beat out a traditional rhythm non-stop, for the entire duration of the procession, lasting for about six hours on Saturday and Sunday evenings. They follow a set route around the town. This route can vary from year to year, as it is said that it is lucky for the businesses to have the festival pass by their shop fronts. So, in consideration of these businesses, the route is varied each year. Along the route there are intersections, where there can be four portable shrines that meet. In concert with each other they would play the traditional drum and cymbal rhythm with extra energy and zest. This can last for up to 10 minutes, before they quieten down slightly, and move on, allowing the next shrines behind to have their moot. The Kuwana City festival is said to be the loudest in Japan.

Eventually, at somepoint in the night, they portable shrines make their way to a local Shinto shrine and hand over a white stone. These stones were previously gathered from a nearby river perhaps some weeks before hand. It is uncertain as to why the Kuwana City festival is unique in that they bring white stones to the shrine, instead of rice-balls, which is the norm in other places in Japan. It is thought by a local high school teacher and Ishidori enthusiast, that at one time rice might have been quite scarce, and the local people might not have been able to bring their annual rice-ball offerings to the shrine. So, it is possible that white stones were accepted in place of rice-balls.

Once these portable shrines make their way to the front of the Shinto shrine, they perform the drum and cymbal rhythm in earnest for the Shinto priests. Once the priests are satisfied, they give their blessings to that town or ward which is represented by the portable shrine.

I have many photos of this event on both film and some in digital. It is a night festival, held in the humidity of summer. Consequently, the quality of some images is a little compromised. However, other images can be made available upon request under Rights Managed licensing.

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