Eisuke and daddy

It was in early December when the news came; it was a boy!

Keisuke runs a bottle shop along the highway in northern Osaka. He loves driving his MX-5, though his regular car’s been changed to a red Alfaromeo hatchback that he bought when he got married. He is no older than I am, but every evening he is in the truck delivering cases of drinks to this bar and that restaurant, while sitting behind the counter in the store during the day. Since his father passed away a few years ago. His talk is gentle, with accent of people from Tokyo – something he’d picked up in his university years. Always smiling, listening well, it is not very often he talks of himself. I guess that’s what you become when you are in a customer-facing business for a long time. First rule – customer first, you listen.

It was a pleasure to be a part of his wedding which coincided with my last short visit to Japan, and this time his first son. December is a crazy time for anyone in Japan, but especially so for people who are in business. Following the custom you have the gift giving and receiving, you visit your business relations like your wholesaler, customers, and all that, to congratulate each other for another hard year passed and wish for a safety and prosperity in the new year. It is often with a sigh of relief that those people welcome the first day of January, when you can finally sit down and enjoy the meal and sake with family, appreciating the new beginning. I waited until all those madness is gone from his life, and in the mid-January visited his parents’ home behind the bottle shop where his wife and son drove in from their apartment for this photo shoot.

Osaka had a very cold winter this year. During the month-and-half I was there, I saw flakes of snow come down probably more than 10 days. It is not continuous fall, and it tends to melt before it starts to cover the ground white, but it did get to that level for once or twice. On this day, however, I had my sunglasses on, not because of the snow glare but it was a sunny beautiful day, as I drove my father’s Peugeot. I walked into the liquor store to find the tiny baby in his mother’s arms. Her sister-in-law called for her brother for me, and together we walked to the house in the back. I believe this was the first time little Eisuke came to the home his father grew up in. With eyes wide open he keeps staring up at things around him. So much intensity!

Finding himself in the father’s arm, Eisuke seems to be communicating a lot with his father. Unfortunately we would not understand him even if he had made some sound, so he tries with his intense eyes. I wonder what the father is feeling. Is there some special communication only parent and child can have? It must be nice to have your prince. I am happy to travel around the world to find my princes and princesses, only they are not quite ‘mine’ and raised by my friends and brothers. But it is a pleasure to see them grow.

mother's embrace

Kumiko-san takes over as Eisuke starts to cry. Mother knows best. She quickly understands what he wanted. Keisuke seems a bit concerned. I think this is just a lovely image of a couple. Don’t you think? With both parents giving all they can to protect, the little boy is growing up.


Keisuke’s mother, or Eisuke’s grand-ma, had not had many opportunities of holding her first grand child in her arms. She looked very happy to hold her even for a brief moment. I went around to photograph them where they were.

In this cold winter we were blessed with plenty of sunlight on this day. We get to choose the type of light that comes through window and had a great hour of photo shoot. Unfortunately the printed photos I gave the couple as a gift was way too light (whit-ish). I guess that is the problem when you do not have a pro-lab in your neighbourhood and want a good set of prints done quickly. Next time, I’ll know better to choose a professional lab in town, and give it extra few days to process. I’m sure Eisuke would have become a larger boy by then.

I’d like to thank little Eisuke for his patience, and the kind couple of Keisuke and Kumiko for allowing me to photograph their precious boy. And many thanks to Keisuke’s mum for sweet snack with coffee, and a box of rice crackers to take home. I will definitely come back 🙂


CNY in Melbourne’s Chinatown

Today the city hosted a big Chinese New Year celebration. Melbourne is no exception among the city of immigrants in the world that it has a large population of Chinese origin. There is a block downtown that is Chinatown, although there are more genuine Chinese restaurants in areas such as BoxHill and Footscray where the people actually live, shop and eat. While I was in the city for the morning already, I walked across the CBD to Chinatown to check out the action.

Parents have their child up on their shoulder, tourists with cameras. A girl in red is excited she managed to touch the passing dragon – that will bring her and her family luck and prosperity for the year. I’d put a 85mm telefoto on my 7D and looked for the expression on people’s faces.

I turned into a laneway and noticed this gentleman waiting with the offering on a chair in front. We started to have a chat and I bent down low on the side of the entrance to position myself for the dance. Switching back to the zoom lens, I also was about to reach for my speedlite in bag when I realised that the battery for the flash was in the camera bag in the car. Oh well, so much for carrying a gear you can’t use! Fortunately, though, my camera has a built-in flash, and it is strong enough to do things in a close range! It was not the ideal set of gear for the kind of situation, but then again, when does a photographer ever have the perfect gear for the job? You always make do with what you’ve got, and know the gear well enough to make the best of it.

I looked up and down the narrow laneway and there was nobody else shooting at this close range. Everyone was at either end of the closed-off area. I guess they did not think they needed to move me out of there as I was waiting with the gentleman here. In another location later, though, they were more careful in ensuring everyone is at least 5 metres away from the fire crackers, and yet I still was showered with blown paper shells as I bent down low to photograph hundreds of fire crackers go off in seconds. Next time I think I’ll have the ear plugs ready 🙂

It was not a very hot day today, but it must be exhausting to jump around in front of every shop on the street like they do.

It is pretty funny to see people walking in and out of the local supermarket as if it was just another ordinary day while the Lion is dancing at its entrance, people circling it at 5 metre radius behind the crew’s bars. Still, once the fire crackers are set alight, there wasn’t any shopper taking chances in the danger zone!

Pieces of paper, dust, smoke and burnt gunpowder (if there is any such thing) in my eye and hair, and snowing over my equipment, I stepped away. Yep, seen enough for the year, and there is just way too much fire crackers, not so much for the noise that echos against concrete buildings around but the smoke it generates. Maybe next year I’ll check it out in Footscray or smaller chinese community somewhere. If you went to celebrate Chinese New Year, where did you go?

Happy New Year of Rabbit

A woman and a rabbit

It has been 4 weeks since the opening of ‘our’ new year, as both Japan (where I was at the time) and Australia uses new year as defined on Gregorian calendar. But for a large population of our brothers and sisters especially in Chinese community and some small parts of Japan, this is the new year, today. So happy new year, and welcome to the year of rabbit. Let’s hop forward and make a positive progress! (Shame they don’t have a year of roos, they’d really hop way ahead!)

As some of you know, I am already back in Melbourne and just surviving the heat patches, but this blog is still playing a catch up on the backlog of my images from January. So stay tuned, and watch out for more photos from my visually inspiring winter still to come.

In the mean time… here are some of my photos from the first week back down under. Enjoy, and be sure to drop me a comment, here, Twitter, Facebook page, Flickr, RedBubble, email, any way you like, but I LOVE to hear from you!

C'mon mate, it's your turn. Out of the hole!
Cool inside NGV even on a 40-degree summer day
Collins Street
Australia Day on the Block
"Let's go! Laputa's inside that cloud!!"
night ascends
the show
fading light
between the heaven and the earth

Thank you for your continuing support for 2011. I look forward to photographing you and your friends, sharing my visual inspirations and just catch up and have a good laugh. See you ’round!