I first traveled to Japan in 2004.to meet my wife's family. It was the first time I traveled to Asia, and had no idea of what new chapters this trip would open in my life. My wife's family lives in Kagoshima, and thus most of my travels in Japan are throughout Kyushu. Some of my favorite places to photograph in Kyushu include the canals at Yanagawa, Mt. Aso in Kumamoto, Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima and the beach onsens at Ibusuki. Outside of Kyushu, I've visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Naoshima and Kanazawa. it would be impossible to name a favorite. I love Kyoto in winter; the fog banks in Naoshima; Kenrouken Gardens in Kanazawa; Jigokudany Monkey Park in Nagano and the list goes on.
Our daughter, Mai Isabel was born in March 28, 2012. and has quickly become my favorite subject to shoot. Following on my father's footsteps, I've had a camera with me at all times to document every wonderful step along the way.
Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park
When we were planning our trip to Japan back in 2008, we decided to make it during the winter. I was excited to go photograph the countryside. I remembered as a child seeing on the cover of a National Geographic magazine the snow monkeys bathing in hot springs in Nagano and began to research a possible visit. I learned of the Jigokudani Park in Nagano, and quickly booked a room at the Korakuan Jigokudani minshuku, just a few feet from the park. When visiting be forewarned that it's about a 2km hike to the park. The trail is unpaved but mostly flat but can be a bit tricky when carrying luggage as it gets muddy and covered with snow in winter. We stayed for 1 night and it was more than enough time; that said I was very fortunate that it snowed on our second day. When visiting be sure to follow the signs instructing you how to behave around the monkeys. The monkeys are wild and highly territorial. I was amused by the number of tourist that would treck the 2 km hike to spend 5 minutes taking photos with their cell phone before heading back.
The minshuku was great. The food mostly consisted of local vegetables, wild duck and fish. The room was ample and the view was beautiful. Like most minshukus, the bathroom facilities were shared. The indoor onsens were small and not really inviting, but they did have an outdoor bath that you could dip in early morning and watch the monkeys come down the ridge and make their way to the park. Don't be surprised if some of the monkeys decide to join you in the hot water. The innkeeper, also boils the eggs served at breakfast next to this onsen. The inn was pretty dated but charming.
I'm a foodie, but not as much as my wife. I'm one of those people you see at restaurants taking photos of their food.. I make my wife wait until I'm done shooting and it drives her completely bunkers and its understandable. I also have no problem admitting that on Sunday's when I go to the farmer's market I pick my vegetables by how they'll photograph. There's an art to the presentation which is what first draws you in and that is what I strive to capture before filling my tummy.
I was happy to be part of Aozora Gakuen's graduation this year. Aozora Gakuen is the only Japanese-English bilingual preschool in Brooklyn, NY. The school emphasizes teaching the children Japanese values, morals and spirit, as well as instilling a world perspective through activities derived from American and international cultures.
In 2006 we traveled to Cambodia to visit Angkor; a place at the top of my bucket list of places to go photograph. We stayed in Siem Reap for 4 wonderful nights. Angkor was everything I had imagined though I was troubled by the speed at which the jungle was being cut back and the temples were being rebuilt. These were surely taking away the very thing that had put Angkor on my list to begin with. The trick to visiting Angkor is to get there early; by early I mean before sunrise. At this time the temples are at their most beautiful, as they are still in used by the locals and also deprived of the hoards of tourist that come in bus loads after 8 am. The temperature is also much cooler and the light is much better for photography as it quickly gets too hot and too bright as early as 10 am. We made a couple of trips to Kampong Phluck, a village on Tomle Sap Lake and to Beng Mealea; a temple located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor; both which I highly recommend.