It has been my unfortunate experience throughout my life that I generally don’t like what everyone else likes, and I like what everyone else generally hates.
For example: Star Trek Voyager was pretty good when the writing staff were paying attention to what they were writing. And Captain Janeway was the best captain for her very contradictory personality that made her a more human character than the other demi-gods sitting in the big chair. (I wrote this confession, by the way.) I cannot convince anyone of this truth because everyone is like, “Voyager Time Travel Reset Button. Derp.”, whenever the topic of the show comes up. This could just be me having weird, contrary tastes in entertainment. But given that the Transformers movie series has made more money than GDPs of most countries, I’m suspecting that it may be more of a case of everyone else having crappy taste.
This leads me to this photo. I posted it up because I’ve found that the photos I take that I’m so-so on tend to get the most positive reactions. The images I think are my best largely get a strong round of, “Meh”s. This also leads me to wonder if I should start posting up the photos I think are crap just in case they take the internet by storm.
I’d ask your opinion, but you probably think Guns ‘n’ Roses were a good band. How can I trust you?
High school band performing at a late summer festival outside of Miyakonojo Station, Japan.
That summer saw an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in the farms of Miyazaki-ken. In order to combat it, traffic coming in and out of the district were forced to pass through a chemical tire wash, all places that saw many people come and go (such as malls) had their entrances had something similar across the entrances to their parking lots. As well, all summer festivals were cancelled.
A huge disappointment, for sure. Since the summer festival is pretty much the highlight of the year in Japan. But their efforts saw the disease taken care of by September, so the city (or maybe the local merchants association?) quickly put together a much smaller event in front of the train station. Local bands, high school clubs, and a few other acts. Not a bad event for a last minute sort of thing, all said and done. And with it so late in the season not a drop of rain fell, unlike every other year when it was held at the tail end of the rainy season.
I have been made aware that there are some events here and there through the calendar here in Gunsan. Nothing kind of cool and groovy like a Japanese summer festival as far as I know. Lots of big showy things like theatre festivals and a marathon. Once I get a new camera I’ll have to make the scene.
My theory: Old folks wake up early because, when they were young parents, “before the kids wake up” was the only time of the day they had to themselves. This photo was taken with the Olympus Pen EE2 during one of those periods at a friend’s home.
Speaking of friends, my old pal Jayavant has made a habit of posting photos he took a decade ago in Korea. While he made the transition to back home (amazing what you can do when you have a desired skill set) and I’m still here slinging English, these images were from around the time we met. Korea hasn’t changed a bit since that time. All the cities still look the same. The housing too. The only real difference that I can tell is the massive influx of coffee houses on every corner now.
I don’t have any photos from a decade ago. [Insert rant about how you must double back-up your image files here] The above is the best I can do and this is from 2011. For all intents and purposes it might as well be from a decade ago. Or two for that matter. As much as I’d love to get back in Japan, realistically I’m deep in that undesirable age bracket for work there and the odds are pretty damned long.
I really shouldn’t be here in Korea for that matter, saggy old fucker that I am. Score one for being willing to live in a small city while your betters fill up Seoul and Busan.
I usually wish I could blend into the background when I take this sort of photograph because, as you know, once the subject knows that it’s being observed it changes it’s behaviour. Unfortunately I’m a big, fat, ugly guy and the only way I could blend into the crowd would be to go back to Canada.
Burn on you, Canadians!
The problem with thinking like this… The wanting to vanish part, not the self-loathing… is that you are separating yourself from the crowd because you feel they are simply a thing placed there for your use and not people. I think that’s why a lot of street photography makes people uncomfortable. The photographer is basically treating the subject same way a sociopath would. Yes, there are a lot of street photographers with this attitude. Several of them are hanging in galleries right now.
I guess there’s a balance to be found between being courteous towards your subject and getting the so-called “moment”. I sure haven’t found it yet.
Nice of her to not glare at me like most people here do.
For the first four months of my time in Japan, I would pass through this parking lot on my way to the PC Cafe to get my weekly internetting done. I got internet at home at the same time I got a bicycle. I would still pass though this parking lot, just on my way to getting lost somewhere.
One of the best partner teachers a guy could have setting sparklers alight one summer night. Pentax MX.
I’m about to write about Korea in a less than adoring way. Cover your eyes if you have posters of Sistar all over your walls and the thought of kimchi makes you go weak at the knees.
I really don’t like having the foreign teacher flying solo here. The preferred method is to have the foreign teacher standing up in front of a bunch of kids blabbering away in a language they simply don’t understand. Then the next day the Korean teacher is supposed to go over all of it again, this time bringing much needed translation.
The theory is that this is immersion learning. It’s not. True immersion requires the new language surround the student. The parents must speak the language. The teachers must speak the language. The signs must be in the language. The TV and radio as well. Korean kids are not in an immersion learning environment. They get English from a native speaker forty five minutes a day. Everything else they learn comes with Korean helping the learning process along. Having the lesson solely in English is a hindrance outside of classes with advanced students. It slows understanding down. The student may not get the answers they need to questions such as, “What they fuck is this asshole telling me to do?” for a day or even more. This is a bad way to go about it and it should not be done.
My job in Japan had a Japanese teacher in the classroom teaching with me at the same time. We helped each other. We stood back and let each other display their expertise, and helped each other in our weaknesses. If the students didn’t understand something like, “Close your book” …even with my slow speech and brilliant miming… they could ask the Japanese teacher what that meant. Then they never had to ask again because those words now had meaning and weren’t just a collection of meaningless sounds to be tossed into their mental trashcan. They also didn’t have to suffer from the embarrassment of me invading their personal space and shutting their books for them like they were simpletons just to get the idea across. Then we were able to get on to the learning and the boss wasn’t wasting money having me stand there for an hour just to have the Japanese teacher do it all over again the next day.
Now, I’m not an ESL-teaching noob. I know that foreign teachers here are essentially expensive, imported dancing poodles. We’re advertising. But if I became the king of Korea, one of the many changes I’d make is to have the Korean teach and the foreign teacher up there in front of the kids together, every day. Working as the team they’re supposed to be.
This is another one of those images where I feel that any cleaning will ruin it. Olympus Pen EE2.
It’s been a year and one week since I finished my job in Japan. All that was left for me to do after that was enjoying my final April there before returning home to find out what went wrong with my insides. If things had worked out better for me in the end, I probably would have left earlier. But my boss, who had asked me to stay until May, suddenly told me my replacement would be there on April first. This threw everything into disarray. Not only had I been budgeting for May (leaving me short on money), may lease required me to give them a month’s notice for cancellation or they’d take the month’s rent out of my account whether I was there or not. So I decided to stay and try my best to memorize Miyakonojo as best I could before it became nothing but some old photos.
I feel the statute of limitations on posting the images I took on the job there has passed now and I will be poking around in those archives for images to post up in the next few weeks. The above was a coworker who had been forced into the fur mascot costume to wave at children while I fended off teenaged boys who wanted to knock the head off for the lulz.
One of my new students showing off her stylish umbrella before heading out. Pentax KX. Scan of a print.
I’m going to have to look in other parts of Gunsan, but film seems limited to Fujicolor C200 and the vastly over-priced Instax line. In limited amounts. Having to wait a week for my developing to be sent off to Seoul isn’t too bad given how much cheaper it is compared to Canada.
Not compared to Japan though. Japan is half of what it costs in Korea. A third of Canada. It’s almost like they want me to buy a new DSLR or something. Which, when I do so, will probably be a Pentax to go with my collection of lenses.
I don’t have a single karaoke photo that’s in focus. In-focus would mean that it wasn’t a very good time at karaoke so this is as it should be. Pentax MX?
This is an old friend from Japan showing me that she’d be the best model a photographer could have. I never thought to ask her to do so for many reasons. Not having the gear and assistants needed to make it worth everyone’s time being one of the main ones. Even simple glamour shots need a fair bit of work which is why I’m a documenter instead of an image constructor.
Not that I would have a model leaning on a car in a short skirt or something. I’d probably just have them hanging out in front of something like a shop or fishing boat in order to get a human aspect to the subject. It may seem like a waste of a model to some, but everyone tries to copy fashion magazines. Boring. But pointing into a crowd and hoping you capture strangers doing something interesting is more miss than hit. At least for me.
I like to think that having a willing model could help you get a nice balance between both approaches. Maybe one day.
I think this was at an event featuring some Tarento in Kagoshima. Shot with a Pentax MX.
You who care to click all the way through to the original image may notice that it’s slightly smaller than my usual 1400 pixel wide images. This is because I grabbed this photo from a folder called “Done Shots”. That’s where I dump images that have been uploaded to various blogs and sites like Flickr. It’s also where a lot of my images that were lost in The Great Crash of 2013 can be found. Just in reduced size.
While this one is big enough that I could probably get a decent print out of it, most of the others aren’t. And while those are big enough for blogging purposes, the small size means it’s impossible for me to work on them anymore. They are at the end of their use as images. I cannot crop them down or do some ‘shopping with them without rendering them an illegible mess. That is tragic to me. Like a friend that’s no longer alive.
Another study of my little light in Japan. Shot with a Pentax MX.
I thought it appropriate to use this again since I’m now in Korea counting my pennies until my first pay day. There are benefits to the once a month payment method such as it being easier to make a budget and having it coincide with the bills coming in. But those first couple of months at a job can be tight and you inevitably have to get an advance on your next paycheck in order to make it through. This puts you at a disadvantage for another month.
Thankfully, the apartment comes with free internet so I’m starting off on a good foot and not getting sick from the grubby keyboards at the PC Bang.
Mamiya C220f. Two ladies exploring an international festival in Kagoshima’s Tenmonkandori area.
International festivals were always great ways to discover how isolated expats tend to be from each other unless they’re living in foreigner ghettos like Haebongchong in Seoul or Roppongi in Tokyo. You get there and, “Where did all these people come from? I mean aside from different countries.” crosses your mind. “Man, I really am out there in the boonies!” quickly scurries after it while giving your mind a sheepish grin.
Isolation is something that you will have to deal with as an expat unless you have particularly lax standards for the people you spend your time with. Even if you don’t you do have to make allowances for personalities and traits that may set your teeth on edge in normal circumstances. This is very true if you’re someone who is uncomfortable with their own company. I view “Comfortable with your own company” to be one of the most important traits to have when you embark on The Path Of The Expat simply due to the bad company you inevitably find yourself with when the idea of doing anything by yourself is frightening.
A sign warning kids away from the outskirts of Miyakonojo Station. Shot with a Mamiya C220f.
Miyakonojo Station shows every sign of once being a much busier station than it is today. The train yard still has three platforms, but there’s far more space than that on the grounds. I don’t know if it was used to store trains at night or if there were more frequent trains heading towards the other small towns of Miyazaki-Ken and Kagoshima-Ken. Today the traffic pretty much just runs east-west between Miyazaki city and Kagoshima. One line does head north around the Kirishima volcanic mountain range towards the “cities” of Kobayashi, Ebino, and Yoshimatsu. I often wanted to take an exploratory trip to the end of that line but the every-three-hours-ends-at-dinner-time schedule turned me off of the idea.
There was another train line heading south from Miyakonojo that was discontinued in the 80s. I assume it went to Shibushi* because there isn’t much else down there. I did bike down this route one spring. A good ten kilometers of the line had been converted to a public trail for use by joggers and cyclists alike. Something similar happened here in Nova Scotia with our abandoned lines, except this one was paved for its entire length and no one would have thought it funny to use an ATV to destroy the path by spinning doughnuts.
This is why we can’t have nice things in the Maritimes.
*You know how to use Google Maps. Look these places up.
The typical small village you find littering all of Japan’s mountains and valleys in the furious glare of the Kyushu sun. Olympus Pen EE2.
Like in the west, it’s not all farmers and the unfortunately trapped who live in these small places. A lot of times yee olde country house was bought or built by some rich urban retiree who felt they needed to get away from the neighbours and into something more rustic. Maybe they have a little hobby farm. Maybe they just spend heaps of money of gas getting back to the city regularly for work. But at least they’re still doing all of that getting in touching with whatever they’re trying to get in touch with.