Fall Color with my new little Sony

During my first of many adventures in Japan, I noticed that I had a camera gap. Meaning I felt there were times where my DSLRs were too much camera to use while site seeing. As well as my iPhone 11 Pro max did not offer the versatility of a point & shoot camera. I really enjoy how freely it is to capture images with it and not interrupt the pace of the experience. But the major drawback of smartphone camera systems is the inability to change settings such as aperture, shutter or ISO.I still love shooting any of my DSLRs but… they are cumbersome when it come to taking photos in the moment without becoming an observer.

And ever since then, I’ve wanted a point and shoot camera to fill in that gap. Something pocket size with a respectable auto focus system, about 20 megapixels and with a fast wide to medium zoom. And Thursday, my new Sony’s ZV-1 showed up. It has a 20.1-megapixel sensor, Zeiss 9.4-25.7mm (35mm equivalent, 24-70mm) F/1.8-2.8 lens. It too has a shit ton of autofocus points and I can fit it into any of my pockets with no problem. Now with new gear, it’s testing time.

I wanted to spend some time getting familiar with my new Sony’s features and functions along with capturing some images of the fall foliage in and around Detroit. After a long non-creative workday Friday, I was eager to get home and play with my new little point & shoot. But unfortunately, Mother Nature was being a bitch and was not willing to cooperate. The weather conditions were hit or miss, and I’d hope for more favorable weather in the morning. Woke up early Saturday morning but my plans were to do chores before playing. I needed to start laundry, gas up my car along with do some grocery shopping. And after that, I was going to go and have some fun at Belle isle with my little Sony.

During the overnight hours, the temperature dropped down close to freezing, so I remote started the car. Grabbed my glasses, wallet, keys, mask and was out the door. Stopped at 7-Eleven to get gas before heading to the grocery store. And as I was patiently pumping gas in the frosty morning air, I looked up and noticed the abundance of fall color popping all around me in the soft morning light. That’s when I heard myself say, “Go back home, get your camera and let’s go shooting!”

So, I raced back to my apartment, left the car running and doubled stepped it up the stairs. I thrust the key in the door, twist right, push and the door fly’s open! Sprinted directly to my cheap Meijer nightstand where my Sony was chilling and scooped it up. Locked the door behind me and it was a mad rush to the car. As I made my way to the freeway, I spotted a vibrant autumn scene at a nearby church. It looked like there was something going on at the entrance of the church and I didn’t want to disturb them. So, I timidly pulled in the driveway, stopped short and turned on my hazards. With my little Sony in hand, I respectfully and inconspicuously captured the stunning autumn scene. Then jumped back in my ride for some quick heat and was excited to continue taking photos on at Belle isle.

Once on the island, it took me a hot minute to scope out my subjects. And when I did, my little Sony preformed magically. It rekindled my dwindling passion I once had with photography when I first began. I found myself wanting to shoot anything and everything. One subject after another, I stop, half ass park my car, rapidly compose and shoot then hop back in to warm up and chimp. After about an hour or so, that star of ours was well on its daily journey to the horizon and it was time to make my way back to Southfield.

After a few stops to get groceries, I made it back to my apartment safe and sound. And once I got my food put away it was time to see how I did with my little Sony. The images straight from the camera are amazing. Sharp details and rich colors. And no, I did not bump up the saturation or add any vibrant in post. (Only minor exposure adjustments and resized them). I was a little leery about the touch screen and using it to select what I wanted to be in focus. But the more I used it, it quickly became second nature and thoughtless to use. The only issue with my new Sony is that it didn’t come with some type of lanyard or hand strap. But a quick search on Amazon took care of that.

All in all, I’m really excited about my new ZV-1 and the rekindling of my passion for photography. I can’t wait for the United States to get its shit together and get healthy so I can safely travel again and experience new adventures.

Stay safe and keep busy,

Steven

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Banners of Change

During a break from my quarantine activities, I decided to see what was going on in the world. Since the start of my time in lockdown, I limit how much news I consume on a daily basis. Enough to stay informed but not too much to get mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. And it’s a struggle to find that balance with the state of the world nowadays. I did stumble upon something that made me feel good and hopefully a sign of positive change. Southfield the city I live in, put up “Black Lives Matter” along with “Southfield Strong” banners to show the city’s support and solidarity. Seeing these banners gives me hope that this movement will continue to bring positive change toward ending police brutality and racial injustice. We still have a long way to go and a lot of hard work to do.

BLM banner

 

Stay safe and keep busy,

Steven

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Detroit’s island Getaway

Due to the growing global COVID-19 pandemic, my traveling plans are put on hold for while. And like many other travel bloggers, we are going on a virtual trip. I want to show you a place that is very near and dear to my heart, the island park of Belle Isle. If someone told me, I had to pick one place to take photos for the rest of my life, Belle Isle would be a strong contender. Even though I strongly dislike Michigan, I do have an infinity for Downtown Detroit. The best way I can express my feelings, is with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross amazing quote about beautiful people. I just substitute places for people.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

And within this beautiful city, hides a twinkling gem out shining its surroundings. The island park known as Belle isle. The always Photogenic Anna Scripps Conservatory, the soothing sounds of the James Scott Fountain along with the proud standing Nancy Brown Peace Carillon are a few of the attractions on Belle Isle. I’m not going to bore you with some long-winded narrative explaining the history of the island. But what I do want to share, is what Belle Isle means to me, a few of my projects and images that I have captured there along how I use Belle Isle as my photographic classroom.

Map of Belle Isle

Belle Isle has always been a place of peace and serenity for me. A haven where I could go and forget about all the madness and endless complications of the world. And when life shows up with a grin on its face and deals me a hand of shitty cards, I have found that going to Belle Isle offers me a form of mental sanctuary that I have not found anywhere else. Even though the island is technically connected via the MacArthur Bridge, I’ve always felt by going there I could get away from Michigan. Even during my darkest and trying times, Belle Isle has away been the needed distraction to help me cope with life on life’s terms.

Detroit’s island gateway has been home to a few of my blog projects. Off the top of my head, I can name at least 4, if you include this one.

  • Race Cars on water. A little adventure about trying to capture a shot of a racing hydroplane that I had envisioned for years, along with practicing my hand-held panning technique.
  • Knowledge or gear. My experience driven post that ask a simple question; “What’s more important, having knowledge of photography or having Professional gear?”
  • Passion. The post that started my “Exploring My Creativity” My personal journey into what makes me creative.

During my lifelong journey into photography, I’ve visited Belle Isle countless times over the pass 16 years. And has captured some of my favorite and unforgettable images. In late May, Belle Isle is transformed from my loved getaway island, to a world class race track to host the Grand Prix of Detroit. During the weekend it’s held, Friday is the day to go. It’s a day of testing and practice for all the car classes. As well as you can venture to various grandstands and the paddock for free.

The racing of the Unlimited Hydroplanes during the APBA Gold Cup is always brimming over with fast paced action. The Belle Isle side of the river offers a bunch of exclusive shooting locations to catch the intense pace of the race. From up on the MacArthur bridge to the down low perspective of the fishing pier, it’s always exhilarating to see the untamed power and speed of the hydroplane.

Many years the Gold Cup manages to get the Navy to bring one of their Super Hornet demonstration team to perform during the race weekend. It’s unique venue to see the Super Hornet get run through its paces. The is flown much close than normal due to the tight confines of the city. Where the sound of the twin General Electric F414s are noticeably much louder.

I can’t remember how I found out about Belle Isle, but I do remember my first time there. After months of saving up, I was finally able to purchase my first DSLR, Canons Digital Rebel. Those days I was so excited about photography, I try to shoot the whole 900-acre island in a half hour. As I grew as a photographer, I learn to use Belle Isle as my testing grounds for new gear. It’s a place I can go that has a consistent setting. I know what’s there and there’s no surprises. As well as going to the conservatory, I know I’m going have a ton of colorful subjects without worry of Mother Nature being nasty.

The conservatory is my classroom, it’s where I developed and continue to nurture my creative eye. It was there that I discovered my walk through then shoot technique. Were I would go through the conservatory, gear still packed up. Walk from room to room, looking at the light and how it hits things. And all the while asking myself “What is the light doing? What do I want to show?” Portrait or landscape? Once I’ve made a complete lap, I then go through again and shoot the subjects that stood out to me.

There were days that I would give myself photo assignments. For example, concentrating on color, focusing on texture & light, and playing with depth of field. There are assignments I still want to do, like portrait format only along with shoot just one color. Both should be challenging and fun. As a result of my assignments, it had taught me many things, such as to focus in and appreciate the tiniest of details, to celebrate color and to know what to emphasize.

Belle Isle, my little getaway island, my project place and my inspiring classroom. After all this is over, I can’t wait to return to see what I’ll stumble upon next.

Stay safe and busy,

Steven

Part Two of “Japan for the holidays”

If you missed part one look here, https://anadventureinawesome.com/2020/02/04/going-to-japan-for-the-holidays/

Day six, Into Yokosuka with my sister

Cynthia planned for her and I to have lunch, hang out around Yokosuka. So, we took the van for our little trip and again parked the van close to the base gate to make the short walk into Yokosuka. We headed to one of her favorite restaurants in town, a little Thai restaurant. We got there before they opened. But soon it opened, and we made our way up and had an enjoyable lunch. After eating, Cynthia introduce me to one of her new pastimes, visiting the recycling center! The recycling center is basically a thrift store where you can buy used products just like the Good Will or Salvation army store like in the States, but all the stuff is Japanese. We talked and searched through the little packed shop and while we were there we ran into Stacy. Cynthia’s friend who got her into thrifting at recycling centers. Searching through the center, I quickly found a bunch of things that would make great gifts for my friends. 2300 yen later (about $23 dollars) I had to cash out. There is so much to search through and thrill of finding something really cool holds true. It had been a long time since my sister, and I spent any time together along with talking about what we are going through in our lives. The time we spent together was personal and special.

 

Day seven, Trip to Mount Fuji and the Ice caves

One of next things on my list of things I want to see in Japan is the iconic Mt. Fuji. During our trips into Tokyo, you could easily make it out as it pops its head over the landscape. I told my sister and brother in law I wanted to see it closer than that. The night before, John prepared our trip of Mt. Fuji. He had found an observation deck at the base of Mt. Fuji. Along with he wanted to see some Ice caves nearby. In the morning, John was ready to go before the rest of the family. We all tried to dress in layers to stay warm for the change in elevation and for inside the Ice caves. We stopped by the base’s commissary, got some food for the road, gassed up the van and we were off to Mt. Fuji!

According to Google, our trip would take about two hours to get to Mt. Fuji. As we made our way through the windy roads with scenic views and tunnels galore, our ears were popping as the elevation changed. The closer we got, the sheer size and presents of Mt. Fuji grow more and more impressive. To get to the parking lot for the observation deck, we found one of the sketchiest roads in Japan! It was a mud covered one lane dirt road that had a bunch of switchbacks up the side this huge hill with one hell of a drop-off . John cautiously white knuckled us to the observation deck parking lot. There was a sweet old couple running the place. Not sure if they lived there but oh my, what a view they have! We spent some time there taking pictures as well as enjoying the spectacular view. Being there and looking upon Mt. Fuji is a memory I will not soon forget.

It was time to pile back into the van and down the super sketchy road. Once down, it was a quick trip to the Narusawa Ice Caves. Which are old lava tubes and due to its cold temperature, they were use as a natural refrigerator. We geared up and headed down. With a death grip on the handrails, we make our way through the first cave. Once there, it was very quiet and noticeably much colder. The ice was cut and place throughout the cave and was lite with lights. We made our way back up to the surface and paused for a breather. The slick steps and cold thin air were taking its toll on us.

After going to the second cave (Wind cave) we hit up the gift shop got some Mt. Fuji swag. Now what? It was only about 12:30 am and we had seen both things we set out to do. While we are here, let’s find something else to go and do. After some googling, we found the ancient village of Iyashi no Sato. The village is nestled in the valley near Mt. Fuji. Once there, in the parking lot, it was time for some much-needed lunch. And after a quick refuel, we made our way through the ancient village. One could only imagine living in such a fantasy like setting. It was truly like we had traveled back in time. Absolutely and unforgettable experience. I can understand why Mt. Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”…UNESCO

By the end of our stay there, John was starting to get a bit antsy about the drive back to the base. We said goodbye to Iyashi no Sato and headed home. The trip by to Yokosuka was uneventful. To show my gratitude, I wanted to cooked dinner for the family. So, I introduced them to my favorite taco. Grill sriracha-marinated chicken, pineapple, onion, cilantro, cheese, salsa and sour cream. Oh yeah, we smashed a box of 18 shells with the quickness!

 

Day eight December 29.

Cynthia, John, Bella and Little John went to church in the morning. I stayed home and chilled. On their way home, they stopped and got lunch for the kids. John, Cynthia and I were going to go into Yokosuka to have lunch somewhere. With took the van and parked it close to the base gate and walked into Yokosuka. We made our way through town and finally decided to have Shabu shabu. After a bit of struggling and frustration, we managed to order and enjoy our lunch. After eating, we decided to walk around the mall and do some window shopping. There were two adorable puppies in one of the shops. And while we were out, we sampled some sweets. The lunch trip gave Cynthia and John a little time away from the kids as well as they had time for themselves.

Day nine, New Years eve in Tokyo with Elizabeth

Earlier this year Elizabeth, a friend I have known for many years moved from Michigan to Japan. Upon my arrival there, I informed her that I was going to spend the holidays in Japan and hopefully we could get the chance to meet up, talk, site see or whatever. I felt it would be a shame if I had traveled all the way to Japan and not get a chance to see her. Soon after I got here in Japan, she suggested I travel to her to just outside of Nagoya, over 3 hours by train. And at the time, I didn’t feel comfortable traveling that far in a foreign country alone. The week leading up to New Year, it was looking more and more likely that we were not going to get a chance to see each other.

For New Year’s Eve, Elizabeth was planning to go to the samurai museum in Tokyo and then travel on to see Mt. Fuji. With Tokyo only being about an hour and half away by train, we made plans to meet up there and hang out in Tokyo. After our trip to Tokyo Tower and Akihabara, I wanted to spend more time in and around Tokyo. But this trip would be different. It would be my first solo trip into the Japanese capital . Having to navigate the train system as well as the busy streets of Tokyo. I was a bit nervously about it first. But during our other trip into Tokyo, it showed me what to expect as far as switching trains and locating stations. And after some time in google maps along with talking to Cynthia and John, I felt confident enough to make the trip.

The morning of New Year’s Eve, after a shower and a quick cup of coffee, Cynthia dropped me off at the train station at Yokosuka. While at the station, I added some more yen to my train pass. I then made my way to the correct train platform and before long, my train to Tokyo arrived. I nervous watched the little blue dot in google map move along the route. And as it moved in the right direction, I grow more confident in my ability to navigate. The test to come will be switching train. Getting off at the correct station, exiting and entering the correct station along with finding the correct platform and train. I rode the train from Yokosuka to Shinagawa Station. Then I would switch from the Yamanoto line to Shinjuku station.

Once at Shinjuka station, I would exit the train and head to the Samurai museum. I arrived in Tokyo early which I wanted to give myself enough time to find the museum. Elizabeth messaged me stating that she would be arriving a little later than expected. Which was fine. It gave me more time to wonder around Tokyo. As I made my way around, I came across a small park that has a Japanese shrine. I find the architecture and spiritual nature of them fascinating. The history, the colors and rituals all interesting.

Leaving the park behind, I passed by a coffee shop and thought this would be a good place to pass the time and people watch until Elizabeth shows up. While there enjoying a cup, she messages me that she is close and would near soon. I replied back letting her know I was getting some coffee and she replied back that she could use one too. I message the address and was going to meet me there. Well… google maps freaked out and I ended up sending her a different address from where I was. I noticed my error and made my way over to the other coffee shop which was in an underground mall.  So, I ordered cup number two and a pastry . Elizabeth soon arrived and we sat talked for a while before heading up and making our way to the museum.

It was a short and enjoyable walk over to the samurai museum. Once there, we got tickets, but we had about an hour to kill before our tour. We made our way over to the little shrine I visited earlier. We discussed various parts of the Japanese culture as we walked through the park. Once back on the streets, it was time to start heading to the museum for our tour. I found the samurai museum tour informative and enjoyable. Such a rich and tragic history. The last part of the tour involved a short demonstration with two actors role-playing. After the demonstration, we made our way back to the entrance, taking photos along the way.

Leaving the museum, it was time for some food. We both agreed with we are in Japan, we are going to try something Japanese. We came across a shop that looked promising and it turned out to be pretty good. During our meal, I mentioned that my sister enjoyed going to recycling centers. And to my surprise, Elizabeth enjoys them too. After a bit of googling, we decided to head over to Harajuku with the hopes of finding a recycling center. According to google, a quick bus trip could get us there in about 5 minutes. But as we waited, a taxi became our better option.

Japan19_set_9_29

Once there, google said it was about a block away. But what it didn’t say was we had to walk through an extremely busy street. Holy crap! It was super packed, and as you would expect we didn’t find the recycling center. It was still fun people watching and window shopping. The sites, the sounds and the smell of the food was all a bit overwhelming but still exciting.

Japan19_set_9_30

The sun was starting to go down along with the temperature. Elizabeth wanted to find a place to charge her phone before the second part of her trip. Starbucks should have a place for charging and along with a quick cup of coffee. Turns out, I think we found the smallest Starbucks in Tokyo! After a quick warm up, it was time to head to the train station and to part ways. I had fun spending time with Elizabeth and hope we get a chance to do it again. I made my way back to the base with only one hiccup. Understandably, after that enjoyable day, I did not make it to midnight to ring in the New Year!

 

Day ten, New Years day

That mornings writing took me a few hours due to all the things Elizabeth and I saw and did. The family slept in a bit after staying up and celebrating the New Year. After all we been doing and seeing it was going to be another lite and easy day. Especially after spending New Years eve in Tokyo. Cynthia, John and I was thinking about going somewhere for breakfast but due to the limited choices for breakfast on base, we decided to go to lunch at Chili’s . We got a table by the window that looks out on to the bay. After lunch, the whole family loaded up the van and headed to Cynthia’s favorite place in Japan, Sankeien Gardens.

As we exited the highway, making our way through the narrow streets until we reach the Gardens. From the cramped and crowded streets to this open and peaceful space, it was like stepping into another world. The Garden had a sense of peace and serenity. The noise of the world faded out as if it knew it did not belong in such a place. As I was taking it all in, my sister which was farther along on the pathway, text me to come on! That this wasn’t even the good part! And she was right. In the matter of a few turns of the path, the park opens up to a small pond with several traditional Japanese style building placed around it. From houses to bridges to even a temple built in 735, was all move to this tranquil place.

On the drive back to the base, as houses and building passed by, I started reflecting on my time in Japan. Walking the streets of Tokyo, being in the presence of Mt. Fuji along with experiencing the Japanese culture with my sister and her family. I was and still am envious that they get to live here for a few more years. Japan is truly a magnificent place. It has been such an unbelievable trip.

We were going to have dinner at an Italian restaurant on base, but it was closed. There were other restaurants open and everyone ordered food from different places. But we all sat and ate together. After dinner, we dropped Bella off at her friend’s house and we got home and chilled out the rest of the night.

 

Day eleven,  My last day in Japan

I made my way downstairs, got some coffee and talked with Little John and Cynthia. After a lite breakfast, it was soon time to say my goodbyes. Bella and Little John wasn’t going to go to the airport. After all my suitcases packed in the van, we were off to Narita international airport, which was about 2 hours away. The trip was slowed by traffic but still managed to get there about an hour and a half before boarding. After finding parking, we headed to the proper terminal. After a brief check in at the kiosk, I turned to my sister and brother in law, told them thanks for everything, that I love them both and it was off to my gate after security.

Got boarded and seated without any difficulties. Again, flying in Premium Select on Delta’s flagship, Airbus A350. My plan this time, was to try and stay awake the whole flight, (11 and half hours) get home around 3 in the afternoon, try to stay up until 7 to get my sleep schedule back to normal. As I watched movies and shows, before long it was time to eat breakfast. About an hour or so after breakfast, we started our descent into the metro area. And just like that, the flight was over, and I was back in Michigan.

Of the little time I spent in Japan, it has left a profound and positive impression on my mind and body. Japan and its amazing people have altered my perspective of the world. Showing me a kinder, more courteous and well discipline society. Even after a week from my departure, I’m still having dreams about being in Japan. As well as waking up thinking I’m still there. During my stay, I never felt unsafe or unwanted. Everywhere we went, we were genuinely greeted and welcomed. On the physical side, it took me a full week to get over the jet lag. I had never been so tired for so long, but it was worth it. If you ever have the chance to visit Japan, Go! I saw a lot during my stay but there is much more I still want to see. I’m hoping to post “Japan 2.0” this time in 2021!

Arigatou, Sayonara

 

 

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