Shinkansen train, with motion a little blurred, entering a bridge from the right. Blue mountains under a cloudy sky are in the background.

Shinkansen at Yasugawa

Just before Typhoon 19 came to Kansai, I shot a short video clip of the Kyoto-bound Shinkansen as it entered the bridge over Yasugawa near my home in Ritto City.

This Fall I plan to shoot more video with my still camera, an Olympus OM-D E-M5. I have several old Olympus OM System manual lenses, which seem to work very well for video. For this clip I used a 300mm/f4 OM System Zuiko Auto T lens that I bought in 1986 for my OM-2 film camera. On a micro 4/3 camera like the E-M5 the crop factor makes it equivalent to a 600mm lens on a 35mm film or full-frame digital camera.

An additional motivation is to learn to edit video with software on Linux operating systems such as CentOS. This clip was edited with OpenShot. I have an old Apple MacBook with professional video editing software, but I want to be able to all of my media work with free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS).

Japanese black kite hitting a high-voltage power line in Deba, Ritto City, Japan

Black Kites and Power Lines

High-voltage power lines span Yasugawa along the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) tracks. Japanese black kites perch in trees on both banks along this section of the river, and often we can see them soaring overhead. Often they fly along the power lines. On October 12, 2014, I happened to be shooting video when a black kite hit a power line and fell. Fortunately, the kite recovered and continued to soar.

Later a crow was chasing a black kite. The kite flew up to and parallel with the same high-voltage power lines. It seemed to be using the wires, sometimes even brushing them or rolling around them.

I don’t know if that behavior is a defensive tactic or a form of play, but it seems that high-voltage power lines are both hazards and objects of interest to black kites. Power lines, pylons, and other tall human-built structures are part of the habitat in which birds live. In order to minimize harm in the future, we must document their interactions with our artifacts. Such knowledge can help us plan with more consideration for our non-human neighbors.

Two pheasants on the north bank of Yasugawa, cropped image.

A Brace of Pheasants

On August 30th I was taking some photos at Yasugawa near my home when two pheasants flew out from the bushes on my side of the river, just below where I was standing. My camera and long lens were aimed and focused far down the river, so the pheasants crossed the river before I could react.

I’ve had similar experiences quite a few times. It’s very rare to see two together, and usually they quickly disappear into thick vegetation across the river. I often hear pheasants along the river, especially in Spring, and sometimes they suddenly fly out from nearby as I walk through patches of weeds. Every time I’m startled and delighted to know they are alive and well. For years I had hoped that one day I’d be able to photograph one.

This time, to my great astonishment, they briefly stood in the sand on the opposite bank. I had just enough time to focus my manual lens and take one photo before they disappeared in high grass. Neither of these two showed the colorful plumage we can see on male pheasants, but I’m grateful that I had a chance to see them.

Two pheasants on the north bank of Yasugawa

Two pheasants on the north bank of Yasugawa

Duck at Yasugawa

Birds at Yasugawa

This morning several species of birds were active at Yasugawa in Ritto City near the sports park between the Shinkansen tracks and Japan Route 8 (map). All of these photos were taken with a micro four-thirds camera and a 27-year-old 300mm manual focus lens. Focusing on moving birds is a real challenge with this lens, but it gives me a good excuse to stand along the river and watch wildlife.

Community bulletin board in Hayama Danchi

Neighborhood on a Gloomy Day

On a gloomy Sunday I took some photos of my neighborhood just before the rain started again. This is a fairly typical middle-class neighborhood in semi-rural Japan. My wife and I have lived here since 1980. Our two sons attended the local elementary school, and we have been active in neighborhood affairs for more than three decades.

The neighborhood has two playgrounds, although the smaller one is no longer used very much. Kids on our block often play in the street, which has little traffic. Today the kids are all indoors, and the neighborhood is unusually quiet.

Our section of the neighborhood is surrounded by canals. Two or three times a year we clean up the playgrounds and sometimes pull weeds from the inner canal, which runs all year.

On one cleanup day each year the local Fire Department offers training for emergencies. Almost everyone has practiced operating the fire equipment and hoses that are placed in red boxes on every street. Fortunately, we have never had to extinguish a real fire.