My winter visit to Yellowstone National Park was organized and led by Barbara Eddy and John Gurlach. In the wintertime, one cannot simply drive into the park. The Gerlach team led us on wonderful excursions for five days, rising before sunrise and shooting until it was too dark.
This past winter I spent five full days exploring Yellowstone National Park by snow coach. Passenger cars are not allowed at that time. The only modes of transportation inside the park are snowmobiles or snow coaches. I signed up with Gerlach Nature Photography Workshops led by Barbara Eddy and John Gerlach. It was a wonderful time with two very knowledgeable leaders. We were exploring the park daily from shortly after sunrise to past sunset.
The 9-11 memorials I’ve visited seem to be very appropriate tributes to that terrible day. I have visited the NYC memorial twice. Below are links to my previous posts regarding 9-11. The YouTube video was created in 2001, posted in 2006 and has almost 50,000 views.
How appropriate to photograph an American bald eagle on the Fourth of July in Alaska. In Hoonah, Alaska I was able to slowly approach this eagle which had apparently just eaten some fish. Yep, we made a return visit to Alaska to visit Denali National Park and cruise the beautiful coastline for a second time in two months.
It was quite a wonderful sight to finally see the mountains of Alaska from our cruise ship. First small mountains in the distance, the Aleutian Islands, then bigger mountain ranges on the Alaskan mainland. Back in the USA after about six months of travel to places too hot for any human. Great to see snow again.
Yokohama, Japan just outside of Tokyo has the largest Chinatown in Asia. We were fortunate to be staying near Chinatown during their Lunar New Year’s celebration. Walking to dinner in Chinatown, we unexpectedly encountered many loud celebrations involving firecrackers and drums.
These macaques are cute, but before we visit the monkeys we must visit one of the most famous Shinto shrines in all of Japan, the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. Inari is the patron God of business, prosperity, rice and sake.
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto
This was a must-see for me from a photographic standpoint. Arriving shortly after sunrise I was surprised how many people were already walking around and some already leaving, mostly other photographers. We visited Japan during a religious period when the Japanese visit many different shrines, so it was extra crowded. The photos I took were not so much based on composition, but rather taken when people were not walking through my frame. Reviewing my photos upon my return, I’m disappointed I did not get a much lower angle of view. For some reason, out of the over 50 or more photos taken, none are from a more unique low perspective.
Each gate is purchased by a patron in the hopes of bringing good fortune to their business. They cost thousands of dollars each, depending upon the size. The name of the donor is inscribed on one side of the gate. There are also private shrines off to the sides of these walkways.
The further you walked into the shrine, the higher up Mount Inari you climbed, where there were considerably fewer people. This is yet another visit to an active religious site where the members seem to get no break from the tourists and selfie seekers. If the faithful are praying for some privacy, peace and quiet, it was not working this day..
When inside the shrine I was told it is considered poor form to walk in the middle of the path as that is reserved for God.
There are many fox statues scattered about and in the individual shrines. They are thought to be messengers to the Gods.
In one section of the shrine there was a person kept very busy keeping walls of candles lit. The massive colorful cord on the left in the photo below would be strongly pulled on, ringing some bells before praying and clapping twice. Many elderly women could not pull hard enough to make the bells ring, try as they might. More foxes are behind the candles, being good messengers to the Gods. I was concentrating on getting the large cords on the left blurred and now see I covered a foxes face with a candle. No wonder I’m not making a living at photography. Too much to remember.
Shinto shrine abstract, shades of orange.
It might be time to leave. How many photos of orange does one need? My goal when visiting any place is to take a single, simple photo which best depicts the place being visited. It seems to me anyone viewing the photo below would certainly know it was in Japan, somewhere.
Macaques at Iwatayama Monkey Park
It is not easy, but if you can get one of these monkeys to look right into your camera lens you can see some very expressive eyes.
These monkeys are not in cages and roam freely about the mountaintop. It is actually the other way around. If you wish to feed them, you must go inside of a house with fencing over the window openings to feed the monkeys. They are mostly trained to eat and beg only at the caged house. Almost 200 macaques are roaming freely. It is a moderate hike to reach this mountaintop near Kyoto. I could certainly have spent more time here, just hoping for some more of these expressive photos, but the heat, hunger and plumbing issues eventually required us to leave. We spent almost $80 to get here by cab, but learned we could return by train for about $5.
Why is it some little boys will always make faces at the camera, especially when dad is not looking.
There are two large museum buildings in the Hiroshima Peace Park related to the atomic bomb. The park and museums are not billed as historical museums and for good reason. Touring the many atomic bomb exhibits I found not a single reference to Pearl Harbor or the events which led up to World War II.
Time for us to move on to our final stop in Japan before getting on our cruise ship to take us home.
The Wat Arun Temple was a fun night of photography. The vantage point for this photograph was extensively researched on the internet in advance. I’m sitting on the second floor of a bar having drinks using a special low profile tripod (Platypod) which fit perfectly on the wooden railing along the perimeter of the bar. I never made the journey across the river to actually visit the temple. Continue reading
The Patara Elephant Sanctuary allows you to get up close and friendly with elephants of all sizes. The sanctuary’s advertisement says you can be an elephant owner for a day. With the elephants walking around freely, our first task was to scrub the mud from their tough skin, then walk them to a large pond and give them a bath.
Wanting to see more of Thailand than the typical iconic Buddhist temples crowded with tourists, I made a special request of our guide, Lucky 8. This day was to be spent out in the Thai countryside where there would be neither tourists nor admission tickets. It was by coincidence that we happened upon a Buddhist funeral in Lucky’s home village. Yes, this entire blog will be about attending a Buddhist funeral in rural Thailand.