Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Cinemagraph

Thanks for the comment mom. I appreciate it. I'll try to explain this a little more clearly for you.

Small animated pictures on the internet are called gifs. The file extension is .gif at the end of a file. Videos are made by shooting thousands of frames of individual pictures. Much like a flip book. Essentially a video file is then taken into a program like Photoshop and you can can cut the clip into a smaller file with fewer frames.

The way to make these is to cut a video down to about 13 frames. Then you start with the first frame that you want frozen. You make a copy of this to place over the 13 frames that will be the video. Then you paint or erase out the portion of the image you want to be displayed. Think of it like this, I have a screen of a video playing and I place the exact same image you are seeing over the top. I then cut certain parts out that show specific video but keep the rest still. That is how this works.


Stay tuned for more as I experiment more.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Time Wasters

I've been reading a lot about photography and different finishing techniques using Photoshop. But this is mostly reading because I don't have any images that I want to work with right now.

In the meantime I decided to take a stab at a simple cinemagraph. Basically video turned into a gif file with isolated parts for movement. The effect is rather interesting. I think it's only achievable if the camera is fixed and not moving. This might lead into some interesting things later on. For the time being take a look at my simple little setup with a fan turned on. Notice the strings attached to the fan are frozen but the paper on the door flutters about.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lensing Up

Yesterday was technically a day off because we worked on the national holiday. However, I didn’t want to waste a rainy day doing nothing at home. I went into the BOE and worked anyway, if you can even call that work. I did some minor organization of old teaching materials. I would like to go through everything and sort even more but it’s a tad overwhelming. No wonder nobody in the past years has really sorted much of it. There is probably some worthwhile material lurking in the stacks of papers and folders. Do I really want to delve into all? Not really.

After feeling overwhelmed by the aging English teaching materials, I contemplated elementary lessons for a short while longer. That soon gave way to doing research on camera lenses. I had been thinking of buying a new lens from the time I got my camera but I didn’t have the funds to buy at that time. After a few paychecks I had planned to buy. That obviously didn’t happen. Just like those teaching materials the choices were overwhelming. I’m pretty sure it’s easier to throw away paper though. I probably shouldn’t compare the two ideas. You get the point anyway.

At first I thought the great 15-85mm EF-S was a perfect option for a beginner as me. Then I saw other reviews of the 17-55mm EF-S which said it was very good as well. That pretty much stopped my interest to buy a lens because I wasn’t sure what to consider. After a year though and learning some more it has become a bit easier to discern. The 17-55mm is a very fast lens and can shoot well in low light. Also has great optics. The 15-85mm is slower but is more ideal for being outside anyway. It has the extra zoom range and is all around a great piece of glass. I thought for awhile that the 10-22mm super wide angle would be good for me instead because I could do big landscape shots. I would have a nice wide angle but still have my generic kit lens for multipurpose use. I didn’t want to go down that route until I had a better everyday lens.

I finally came back to consider the two mentioned before. Seemed the extra zoom and a newer lens specifically made for my type of camera was a better choice. The 15-85mm will be a great high quality lens to take anywhere I go. That is more important right now. I don’t think I will regret my purchase too much. There is always some doubt in purchasing even after lengthy research. It will be just fine I think.

So today I finally dropped my money down and got the 15-85mm EF-S lens that I had been thinking of getting all along.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Working on streamlining my blog a bit more and cleaning it up. I'm too lazy to really figure out the CSS formatting for all the widgets and such. For the time being you won't even realize they are at the bottom of the page in a horrible mess. Just don't scroll down there unless you want to go back through history of the years. Speaking of history or something. This was probably the highlight of all the sports days. Is that sad?

Radio calisthenics (rajio taiso) is the preferred form of stretching for many people in Japan. The music choices range from a very typical song to more tasteful selection. Who would have thought that Huey Lewis would be playing in these valleys. I want to know who picked that. Must be a Back to the Future fan. They better be...

Nothing remarkable happened to mark the fall equinox. In fact I didn't even realize it had passed until I did some petty research for playing fall themed games with kids. Rather than actually find some games I clicked the history section of some website and saw that the equinox had come. In other words it's officially fall and it sure feels like it.

I enjoy posting when I have pictures to share and because I don't have any recently my posting has slowed down yet again. No worries, fall should be splendid.

I'm glad sports days are over with and done for another year. I'll post a few of those pictures to satiate your interest but I choose to let those events fade into the recesses of my memory. Not because they are bad though.

I had a pleasant time with Yuka and Mito on Saturday. Too bad we can't go back and be pioneers on the great plains. That life might have been too harsh anyway. Spending months inside during winter would be terrible. I could only handle so much knitting and quilt making before I want to die. Yes, I'm speaking of Little House on the Prairie. Yuka claimed I was very much like Laura's husband Almanzo or her father. I take that as a compliment. Plowing up some prairie grass seemed very appealing. The imagery of cutting through thick clods of grass with a steel blade relaxes me.

I've got camera lenses, cheesecake, and mountains on my mind.

Time to do something about all those.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back To 足谷


On Sunday I went to Ashitani to investigate the whereabouts of a waterfall. Based on the vague information, it was supposedly off to the lower left of a trail that to went to the top of mount Hirakataira. But this was all from memory and I didn't check the information again before leaving the house. About half way into my drive I was wishing I had checked once more. I zoomed up the road toward Nagasawa. This is always a fun road to drive as it ascends into the mountains. The scenery of reservoirs, cedar forests, and cliffs are enjoyable no matter how many times I've seen them. I remember the first time being on this road last year and how much I liked the views. I thought it might become commonplace for me but I find myself smiling as I look out into the valleys. It's always more of the same, "Do I live here?" Yes, in some random bureaucratic and government blessing I exist here.

Anyway, I was talking about lambasting myself about not checking the information on the waterfall location. I figured I would just keep an eye out for signs pointing me the way to the mountain. This worked rather well until I got to a fork high up in the hills. There was a sign here but both ways were rocky uneven forest roads. I took the left path that gave me familiar memories of when Nate, Danny, and I went up Fountain Bluff one early spring afternoon. I've referenced this numerous times in this blog because I think about it whenever I'm on bad roads. At least I didn't break the axle on the Camry that day or get stuck driving through a landslide. The conditions on Sunday weren't quite as bad but as soon as I got to a wet patch I turned the car around and parked it back at the fork. I wasn't going to risk getting stuck just because I was too lazy to walk. The reality is that I could have driven through the wet area. It's not so much mud as it is crushed up rock and sand. You wouldn't sink into that mixture. I'm just slightly paranoid half the time because of my prior experiences. I don't think I ever got my car stuck when I went places during my college years. It was the landmark time when Nate got his car stuck in a river bed that infests my paranoia glands. As I'm usually by myself these days when I'm out exploring, I have to be extra careful.

I threw the car alongside the road, grabbed my bag, and hoped I came to the mountain trail soon. I was quite pleased to find the trail entrance a few minutes later after a short stroll. But I was a bit confused because I had ascended pretty far up the mountain already to get to this point. How could there be a waterfall so high up? My instincts would later prove me right. In the vague information I read, I thought it said the waterfall was about 20 minutes in along the hiking trail. I also later found out that there was no 20 minutes written anywhere I got my information. I wonder how I conjured that one up? I decided I would at least hike the trail up for awhile and see what would happen. The worst that could come from it was not finding a waterfall but best would be getting to the top of a mountain. About 15 minutes in I was already thinking of going back. I almost stepped on a venomous snake a few moments later. I pressed on anyway hoping there would be something good.

I came out of the dull and steep switch back part of the trail in the trees to a more open ridge line. It looked down into a valley below and had views of the surrounding mountains. However, this is about as far as I would go. The trail become thickly overgrown with grass and weeds. After that close encounter with a snake I didn't see the point in trying to push through it with the possibility of nasty creatures hiding out. Plus I was only wearing shorts. No secondary protection from attacking snakes. I'm sure their fangs would go right through my jeans though. At least it would make me mentally feel more safe, right? There was a small metal bridge that I stopped at for awhile and listened to the sounds around me. I could hear roaring water and see another forest road meandering down below but there wasn't any indication of where exactly the sound was coming from or where the road was going. I thought maybe the trail would lead closer somehow. Yet, I just turned around and went back to the hiking trail entrance.

Maybe I needed to continue on the forest road and had just read the information about the location wrong or at least remembered it wrong. I didn't want to waste the opportunity despite feeling like I didn't have the slightest idea where the waterfall was. The road slowly started to descend and I began to hear the sounds of water. Well surely this was a good sign as I had heard sounds earlier when I was higher up on the mountain. I hate going down to get somewhere though. I hate the thought of having to walk back up. All for the sake of uncharted territory I guess. Suddenly through the trees I caught a glimpse of water cascading down some rocks and a big grin came over my face. This had to be it! All my walking had paid off. Now I just had to get over to where it was which required a decent walk along the road. About 10 minutes later I came to the spot and could hardly see anything through the trees into the valley below. There was definitely water crashing down but this wasn't the waterfall and sure didn't look like it from the pictures. Curses! I thought about trying to walk through the dense undergrowth but it was thorny. I headed back to the car wondering if I was close or still far off. In all it wasn't a very successful turn of events Sunday.


I managed to get in contact with the person who had posted the information about the waterfall on Monday and he had made a mistake about the location. He informed me of the correct location which was still a little vague. He said it was about 3km up some road (which I had gone past on Sunday) and then to the lower left obscured by trees. Armed with this new knowledge and a beautiful Wednesday afternoon I made it to the new coordinates in no time. The road was a fairly standard for the countryside but soon became the infamous forest road which usually amounts to a uneven gravel road that is made of up large rocks and stones. There is usually a continuous rut being washed out from water that flows down the roads in rainy weather. It wasn't too bad and I felt pretty comfortable. Then it got a bit more uneven, rocky, and precarious. It was time to stash the car and walk. Sometimes walking is better anyway because you can hear and see so much more. You can really use your senses and that is indispensable for unmarked waterfalls.

It wasn't more than a couple minutes that I had left the car that I heard roaring water. This can be misleading because a small rock shelf with water cascading over it can create a ruckus. This might make you think it is a grand waterfall when in reality it is nothing more than a couple meter drop of water. That qualifies as a waterfall but nothing that I'm entirely interested in. The situation was made more difficult because it was nearly impossible to see down into the valley below. From the places I could see it just didn't look like the video of the waterfall I had seen. I thought about descending the steep rocky walls and hiking up the valley but that would have been high risk and a lot of work. More than likely it would be impossible to directly walk up the valley at the bottom because it would be too steep anyway. I continued following the windy forest road along the valley until I came to a open clearing that happened to have a small trail off to the side of the road. It lead to a concrete shrine with broken whiskey bottles and tarnished coins. It was so loud in this area so the waterfall had to be near. I slid through some branches and down to a ledge and finally saw the falls. This view was terrible because there were so many trees and branches in the way. I had to find the view where the video I watched was taken.

After a bit of scrambling through another thicket I found the ideal spot to view the fall. It is no wonder this fall isn't listed and has no official name. It is remote and fairly well hidden from sight unless you are willing to do a bit of bushwhacking (not really so bad). I think this makes it all the more satisfying in the end. Places that are easy to get to for waterfall viewing don't always feel as personal and special.

It drops down the two tiers and thunders into the basin below. I imagine it's probably very deep down there but there is not telling. The frothy bubbles obscure any view into the dark water. 


To go from teaching to waterfalls in the afternoon, I love my Shikoku more and more.


This nature is shared by all but in these moments it's just mine...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nametoko And The Tengu Highlands At Last

What was supposed to be a 2 or 3 part series about last Monday has been delayed a whole week. I was a bit too lazy to sort through the RAW photos of everything last week. It was hot and humid and I was out of my mind. I hardly remember what I did all week. Today was a stark contrast to the past several days. It was clear and sunny with a bit of a coolness in the morning air. It warmed up considerably but not so much that it was uncomfortable. As I prepared dinner tonight I was struck with nostalgic feelings of cool autumn evenings as the sun slowly would head behind the trees. The smell and temperature reminded me of football practice and a number of other fall related things.

But more of that later. Back to last Monday. If you are up to date, then you should recall I woke up at 2:30AM and went to shoot pictures of the sunrise at Torigata. At about 5:45AM I left the mountain side and started my next lengthy journey of about 80 or 90 kilometers south east. I descended the mountain the same way I had come up. I did some research and on the maps there was a long old tunnel through the mountain. Because this isn't a main road I didn't think it was possible to drive into the tunnel to get to the other side. Sure enough, that tunnel was locked up and looked like it was ready to catch the first person who tried to enter. Remind me to start taking more pictures of these random things I encounter. I could tell a much more vivid story if I had pieces of the adventure (pictures) all along the way. In fact lately it has been on my mind to do this very such thing but every time the thought pops in my head I just get lazy and think, "I'll just write about it." To which I regret not having taken the picture once I'm back.

Anyway, having been lost earlier in the morning didn't turn out so poorly because I knew exactly where I needed to go. Route 439 is supposedly one of the longest scenic roads in Japan or something. The 439 stretches far across Shikoku so I think it fits its claim to fame.There was a special last fall about it on TV, which I missed regretfully. I did a bit of searching online and people said it wasn't that great. I still would like to see it just because it's my area and all. Some major sluething will be necessary to figure out where I could view this program. This road is a very beautiful scenic drive through windy mountain passages, cedar forests, tunnels, rivers, and rice paddies. All of these are best viewed with your own eyes as pictures never do such sweeping scenery the same justice. Plus, there is just too much to photograph anyway. The roads were mostly deserted till I proceeded into Ehime. In the back of my mind I'm waiting for the day I get pulled over (not really) by the police. I never see them waiting to gun cars but people speak of getting tickets. Well I take that back because I once did see some police hanging out along another road in Ehime. Freaked me out too because I was going really fast not expecting police at all. I didn't see any police on Monday and enjoyed cruising through lush valleys in the early morning. Sometimes foggy. Sometimes sunlight breaking through. Other areas completely clear. The valleys took on their own character from one place to the next.

I ended up at Nametoko Valley just before 8AM. Nametoko gets the name because of the unusually smooth rocks and boulders in the valley. I'm too lazy to look up the actual name of the most famous geological feature in the valley but it is listed on the top 100 waterfalls in Japan. As I believe I mentioned before it is more like a water slide though. When I rolled up to the parking lot everything was pretty quiet. Nobody else was really around except for some guy who was sleeping in the car with it running. It was a pretty mild morning temperature wise so I'll never figure that one out. I just wanted to get to the fall and swim in it before I encountered anyone else. I guess you can defile a water fall by swimming in it but doesn't the flow cleanse it? That is what people thought the Chicago river would do back in the 1800s as they dumped stock yard carcasses and butchered animal remains into the river. The river wasn't so self cleansing as they thought. Well this is nowhere near a million plus population center so I think it was okay. I didn't take too much to get up to the fall which was a short 1.4km away or something. Kilometers sometimes seem short and on the way back seem oh so long.


A nice piece of slippery rock. I've never seen such a natural water slide in my life. There are some places out in the western United States that have similar locations. I stumbled across some videos one day and it got me dreaming. So to have then come across this waterfall I was rather delighted. The whole drive over I kept thinking how great it would be to slide the fall. It never occurred to me until I got to the bottom of the fall how scary it actually was. It was much more steep than it looked in pictures. I started to have some second thoughts about the safety of trying to slide down it. Then I reminded myself that I didn't drive 130km to this natural water slide to only take a picture of it. The walk up to it got me sweating so I quickly changed into my swimsuit at the bottom of the fall while hoping no one was going to stumble across a random foreigner changing his clothes in the middle of the valley. Without too many more second thoughts I threw on my shoes and went a little bit up the side of the fall. Before taking a higher and steeper plunged I sounded out the ride ability by starting lower. I pushed myself slowly into the water stream and before I could get centered it was so slippery the water didn't need to try hard at all to push me along. Even at this small height there is little control once you are on the slippery slope. I believe that scared me more than anything because not having control to position myself to hit the deeper water at the bottom was somewhat unsettling. Yet that didn't turn out to be a problem. The first trial run sent me splashing into the slightly chilly waters with a grin on my face.


The highest I went was about half way up because any farther and it gets very steep. It would be insane without some sort of safety gear to try sliding down that steep part first. You would likely just slide off onto the dry rock and get some nice rock rashes. I had some nice rides and managed to shoot several videos of the excursion for the history books. Those can be found somewhere on the internet I'm sure. The whole time I was playing at the fall no one ever showed up. It was just too early and a Monday for anyone to really be there. I love having places to myself. More often than not that is the way things go. Granted this is more of a tourist spot because of the top 100 water fall status but it is a peaceful place. 


After having my fun I made my way up the valley to see what other interesting things were waiting for me. The map said 2 hours to the last marked spot in the Nametoko valley. There was some sort of water hole that I wanted to check out. But after 2.5km and not having eaten more than that apple at 2:30AM there was no indication when I would get to the final spot. I turned back and headed out through the valley. I later looked at the map when I got back to the parking lot and I was so close to the final spot. The only problem there was no sign that told me where to go at the fork in the river. It seemed the only option was toward a mountain trail. That was a little defeating after I had walked so far. Such is my life of exploring. Some days you see more than you ever hoped and other days you just see the same roads you have driven a million times before. It's worth it for the former when you do find it. There was a restaurant near the parking lot that I had my belly set on while i was walking back. You have no idea how hungry I was. It was driving my pace into desperation mode (melodrama, okay?). Then I realized the restaurant would probably be over priced and less than satisfying compared to something else along the way back. Given my hunger, I managed to drive almost half way back without eating.

Thankfully the town of Yusuhara met my hunger needs in the best way possible. There were a handful of little eateries and rest areas with food but none of them could get me stop. I kept telling myself to just pick one and eat for the sake of eating. But my thrifty nature kept telling me no! I pulled into the grocery store in Yusuhara and began to browse the premade lunch items, none which looked too delicious or affordable. So without a second thought I figured I would buy everything to make my own lunch. This included a clump of 4 bananas, 12 slices of pastrami, loaf of 6 slices of bread, olive oil chips, and a small individual serving of ice cream for about 750 yen. I rationalized the purchase by telling myself I could eat the rest of the food later at home. I couldn't have been more pleased with the purchase. Those bread and pastrami sandwiches with chips in the middle were some of the simplest and best sandwiches I've had to date. Perhaps it was the hunger or my low standards for food satisfaction. People get the wrong idea when I say I have low standards for food consumption. It's hard to explain my eat all philosophy appropriately. Many things just taste good to me that others would whine about (see ketchup spaghetti and hot sauce bananas). I ended up eating all the pastrami in two sandwiches, two bananas, chips, and the ice cream. I maxed almost all of it and felt so good. 

With my soul renewed by pastrami and ice cream I continued my journey onward. For over a year I had been wanting to visit the Tengu Highlands. I just never took the time to drive down and scope it out. All the pictures I had seen looked rather beautiful and many had told me to visit there. One thing about driving in the countryside here is that sometimes certain signs will only be posted one direction on the road. I have no idea who made these decisions. It might have been for saving money. Needless to say there have been countless times where I'm navigating and pass a road I needed to drive on. It isn't until I turn around that I find a sign telling me the way I wanted to go. That happened but there was this TINY sign post that pointed the right direction that I had missed. What am I complaining for though? I kind of like figuring things out even if it makes the journey harder. I almost always do anyway. After a windy road that switch backed up the side of a mountain it opened up to a very wonderful view.


I've never been to a place like this before. The Tengu Highlands are a karst. Reminds me of somewhere in the Alps I've never been to. Lots of wide open grassy fields on the top of this mountain with craggy rock outcroppings all over the place. It is a very stark change of scenery compared to the densely forested mountains surrounding it. The views from Tengu allow one to look all around at the nearby mountain ranges. Most of the grassy areas are fenced off however. These are cow pastures. Seeing fields with cows in Japan is very rare but I enjoyed the smell and familiarity of it all. I was never put off too much by the smell of farm animals growing up and have come to enjoy it. Fills me with many nostalgic memories. We even went to a dairy farm in elementary school for a field trip. Can't tell you how much I loved that. I think that explains some other things related to dairy things... if you know what I mean.

I had a pleasant conversation with a lady selling コロッケ (Croquette). Usually reminds me of a deep fried potato salad. We talked about teaching English and where the cows go in winter. She told me it can get very snowy up there and its too difficult to drive up so they move the cows down lower. 
I once wrote on a bucket list of some sort that I wanted to fly a kite up here someday. I promise you that I will fulfill this dream. It's just too wonderful to not do such a thing. I want to run around the fields (if there weren't cow patties) and laugh my head off while eating sugary candies. I bet I can come close to doing that too. I won't turn my back on such dreams. Tengu feels kind of magical to me in a way. Possibly because it is very different from the terrain all around it. The lack of trees and open hillsides with grass have a depressurizing effect on my mind. When that happens there are all sorts of things that can happen...
Token shot of some cows just so you know I'm not lying. After this picture I didn't spend too much time up there as I was very tired from the day. I sped off down the mountain and was suddenly trapped. I saw a vending machine with Pepsi in a 500mL (20oz) can. I couldn't refuse. I think subconsciously I was just giving myself a boost for the drive home which wasn't as half bad as I thought it might be. No nodding off earns an A plus for the day. But as soon as I hit the couch at home I fell asleep. After being up since 2:30AM and having been all over, there was not much else I wanted to do.  The only thing remaining was to file my day into the permanant storage sector of my brain. 
You must go somewhere in order to go back.

Oh No, A Week Gone By

What was supposed to be a 2 or 3 part series about last Monday has been delayed a whole week. I was a bit too lazy to sort through the RAW photos of everything last week. It was hot and humid and I was out of my mind. I hardly remember what I did all week. Today was a stark contrast to the past several days. It was clear and sunny with a bit of a coolness in the morning air. It warmed up considerably but not so much that it was uncomfortable. As I prepared dinner tonight I was struck with nostalgic feelings of cool autumn evenings as the sun slowly would head behind the trees. The smell and temperature reminded me of football practice and a number of other fall related things.


Tomorrow I should finish everything up and get it blasted all over my blog. Sounds like a massacre.

It will be worth coming back to check.