Wakayama Castle and sakura

Wakayama Castle

This year, Japan had a terrific string of sunny days right during the peak cherry blossom season in early April. Usually, it rains or storms half the time while the cherries are in full bloom. But this year was sunny skies and little wind. I had a great time going out to shoot the flowers under blue skies every day for a week.

One place I visited was Wakayama Castle. Great place to shoot a castle with cherry blossoms.

More sakura photos coming later.

Vintage sumo videos

I’ve been digitizing some old videotapes I shot years ago. Here are a few sumo gems.
This is Akebono making hand prints at his stable in Tokyo in 1991. This was before he became Ozeki/Yokozuna.

This is Konishiki at a party in 1987 at a party held in his honor by the America-Japan Society in Tokyo. He and the late US Ambassador Mike Mansfield compare the size of their hands, and Konishiki also sings on stage.

Yokozuna Akebono performs the dohyo-iri ring-entering ceremony during an exhibition sumo tournament at Yasukuni Shrine. He was the only yokozuna and looking totally awesome.

Using blurb.com

Almost all photographers have a dream of publishing a book of their photos. Now anyone can easily publish their own photo book using an online printing service like blurb.com which I have recently tried out.

I first heard of blurb on the Webby Awards list for 2008. Some months later, I finally got around to trying them out. I also looked at similar photo book-making services at Apple, MyPublisher, lulu.com, etc., but I found that blurb offered the most serious options for bookmaking via their free software.

Blurb’s bookmaking software, called BookSmart, is free for anyone to download. They have a Mac version as well which I downloaded and used.

The software is easy to use, however, it’s still quite buggy with some display and formatting problems, at least on an Intel Mac. None are catastrophic, but troublesome and time-consuming to work around. One glaring bug is the program’s inability to wrap Japanese text within the text box. If you copy Japanese text from MS Word and paste it into BookSmart, the text won’t word wrap. So what you have to do it close the book and open it again. Then it appears correctly.

The software hasn’t come of age yet and I’m sure they are working to refine it. I use a 24″ screen so I can see the entire layout and all the necessary windows. On laptop screens, it might be a hassle to keep scrolling around to see things.

I created a 40-page (20 sheets), 7-inch square book with a soft cover. My very first blurb book arrived via FedEx which took about a week after I ordered a copy. The paper quality and overall impression was good. It was quite a thin and light book, more like a booklet or thick pamphlet than a real book. The colors on the cover photo though came out very saturated (too red). The people’s faces looked sunburn. But it was within tolerable limits.

Fortunately, the photos inside the book came out fine. The text was nice as well. Most of the photos were adjusted to 300 dpi and shrunk to fit the image box on each page. A few images came from my iSight camera on the iMac and even those came out decent. If you’re a Mac user, be sure that the gamma setting is set to 2.2 instead of the default 1.8. This will make the on-screen images look darker, but it will more accurately reflect the brightness of the images printed in the book. Go to Preferences/Display/Color/Calibrate to change the gamma. I wish they told you these things when you start out making your blurb book.

My blurb book cost $12.95. Shipping to Japan costs around $12 for one copy. So the shipping cost becomes a major issue if you’re in Japan and ordering only one copy. Things get much cheaper when you order multiple copies. Even the book price is discounted by 10 percent if you order 10 or more copies. If you’re targeting mainly people in the US, shipping would be much cheaper for them.

The main advantage about designing and publishing your book by yourself is that you have total control over the design and content. BookSmart includes a variety of page formats for text and images, but they can be somewhat limiting. You can format the page anyway you like by using Photoshop for your images/text and importing it to the book.

Another major advantage is on-demand printing. It’s no problem for them to print only one copy. They print only after an order is received.

And if you see a mistake or typo in the book, you can correct it on the fly and subsequent printed copies will reflect the correction. If your book is printed by a regular publisher, any mistakes will remain in all the copies you initially print (hundreds or thousands).

But if you need to make hundreds or thousands of copies, find a publisher or a real printing company to publish the book. I’m sure it will be cheaper per book.

Latest images as of Feb. 2009

Hardly any snow this year in Japan. I currently have about 25,000 images from all 47 prefectures online. Here are the latest:

Obama for Obama
Obama, Fukui Pref.
Battle of Sekigahara Festival
Grand Sumo Tournament
Maibara Sumo Tournament
Hikone Mascot Character Festival
Atsuta Jingu Shrine
Taga Taisha Shrine Setsubun
Kyoto Ebisu Shrine Toka Ebisu
Otsu Matsuri, Shiga
Kiyosu Castle
Ogaki Castle
Lowrider Car Show
Tokyo Apache vs. Toyama Grouses basketball
Shiga LakeStars vs. Fukuoka Rizing basketball
Tokyo Apache vs. Ryukyu Golden Kings
Nagoya Osu Kannon
Ogaki Bicycle Races
Onjuku, Chiba
Shigaraki Pottery Festival
Spo-rec Maibara Aerobics
Azai Folk History Museum
Kohoku Waterfowl Park
Miidera temple
Central Otsu lakefront

Also here are my latest videos:

Obama for Obama
Battle of Sekigahara Festival, Part 1
Battle of Sekigahara Festival, Part 2
Taga Taisha Setsubun
Otsu Matsuri Yoimiya
Otsu Matsuri Procession
Hikone Mascot Character Festival
Maibara Sumo Tourney
Asakusa Odori geisha dance
Lowrider Car Show
Na Palapalai in Japan

Izima Kaoru’s new Landscapes with a Corpse photo book

Photographer Izima Kaoru got a new book out which includes most all the photos in his corpse series published in previous books and magazines.

It’s published in Germany with text in English and German. Large-format book with color photos. The cover photo show actress Kimura Yoshino.

For details about his work and previous book, see my previous book reviews here:

Buy the book at Amazon.com here:
Izima Kaoru: Landscapes With a Corpse

In Japan, the book costs a pricey 12,000 yen at bookstores, but cheaper at Amazon.jp:
Izima Kaoru, Landscapes With a Corpse

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