Well another year has gone. So long 2012, hello 2013. As I'm sure it was for many photographers, this past year has been one of challenge, change, great photographic opportunities and a lot of fun. I thought I would share with you some of my favourite images from the past 12 months. Some of it travel, some of it editorial portraiture, and some from my private vault of family pics. Because my family are the people who allow me to do what I do. They give me the inspiration to come up with new ways of seeing the world, the encouragement to keep going when things are tough, and the pats on the back when I score a home run or two.
What can I say about this tropical paradise? It was one part of Japan I'd never been to before and when my wife suggested we go and take a look I was jumping up and down. The top image is from the Churaumi Aquarium and is definitely one of my favourite shots of the year. Three fully grown whale sharks in the world's largest tank? Pretty hard to top. Below are some more of my favourites from that trip.
Churaumi Aquarium backs on to the ocean, and much of its sea water is pumped into the park and then out again in a giant recycling system. Many of the tanks are open to sunlight above as well, which means that gorgeous rays slice down into the water to create beautiful natural effects.
This is another favourite from that day. Next to the giant Kuroshio Tank (where the whale sharks live) is a cafe where you can sit and have your lunch and watch giant grouper, Manta Rays and giant tuna swim by. A truly amazing sight.
Another wonderful attraction on the main island of Okinawa is Ryukyu Mura (Village), a historical museum/theme park set up to show what life was like in the Ryukyu Islands centuries ago. Many of the houses are original dwellings brought from the surrounding countryside brick by brick. This man is a wandering minstrel who entertains the crowds.
This lady performed a traditonal Rykyu dance on stage for visitors. Afterwards my ham of a son got a chance to go up and show his skills!
KYOTO AND NARA
My second big trip to Japan this year was Kyoto, Nara and then up to Hokkaido for 3 weeks or so. As regular readers of my blog will know, my wife's family lives in Sapporo so we visit every year. This year we timed our visit for Summer and my eldest son went to school over there for a couple of weeks - which he absolutely loved.
But before we flew up to Sapporo we spent a week travelling around Kyoto and Nara, somewhere I hadn't been since I was an exchange student 23 years ago! Wow, I feel old now. :)
You could almost call this trip the Buddha Tour! We saw a lot of Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines. This statue is in the grounds of one of my favourite temples - Ryoan-Ji Temple. Buddhism was imported from China centuries ago and lives comfortably alongside the native Japanese religion of Shinto.
The other big theme this year was green! What amazing colours. The greens really are luminescent, and with all the rain we had the whole world was just glistening. This beautiful yellow leaf and moss is also in the Ryoan-Ji Temple.
These beautiful maple leaves are in the grounds of the Golden Temple or Kinkaku-Ji. Unfortunately (or not depending on how you look at it) it was pouring with rain so most of my shots were taken from beneath a protective umbrella and I hardly got anything worth showing of the actual temple itself. But what the weather lacked in blue skies it made up for in soft, overcast conditions perfect for details shots and bringing out the brilliant greens.
This is a small waterfall just behind the main Golden Temple. Without soft, cloudy light there is no way I could have held details in the highlights and the shadows.
Next stop was Nara and my favourite place was the divine Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, a Shinto Shrine. You are greeted at the door by lots of wild deer looking for a feed, giant barrels of sake (donations to the shrine) and hundreds upon hundreds of stone lanterns, probably the most famous sight of all.
These are the stone lanterns - or Ishidoro - leading up to the main Shrine. Simply stunning and a telephoto lens brings them really close together to give a sense of how many there are.
Another favourite from the Kasuga-Taisha. Usually I prefer portraits where there is obviously interaction between the photographer and their subject. In the case of shrine attendants that is often very difficult because many of them are quite reluctant to be photographed. So instead I tried to create a type of envrionmental portrait showing their relationship to their chose profession.
Of course no trip to Nara would be complete without getting up nice and close with some deer! This one fellow was lying beside the main entrance path to the home of the Giant Buddha - Daimonji Temple. He had obviously had his fill of deer crackers, patting tourists and crowds and was just taking it easy by the side of the road, watching the world go by. Needless to say he had to have his portrait taken. After Nara we headed back up to Sapporo. Most of the time was spent doing family things - which often involves a lot of baseball, playing in the park and eating yummy food! But I did also get to spend a day climbing the local Mt Maruyama with my father-in-law, a man in his late 70's and still fit as a fiddle. Here are a couple of my faves from that day's hike.
A local squirrel - the Ezo squirrel - half way up the mountain. They are quite tame and a local photographer had been feeding it some sunflower seeds in just the right position for a nice backlit shot. The elderly lady photographer kindly showed me the best position to be in. That's what I love about photographing in Japan - people just respect what you do and try to be as helpful as possible.
To be honest I can't really tell you why this one appeals so much. I think it might be the deep green, and the naturally vignetting darker leaves in the corners. As soon as I walked past this spot I just had to grab a photo.
Of course my trip wasn't a solo effort. I had my wife, two sons and father-in-law along as well so my favourite images of 2012 wouldn't be complete without some of them!
I bet you never knew I had an afro! Rocking the funky look here. :)
Stay tuned for Part 2! This time I'll move on to the great fun I've had creating memorable environmental portraits here in Cairns over the past year.