What I owe Japan and the Japanese
I wouldn’t be a photographer if it wasn’t for Japan.
I wouldn’t enjoy my vocation if it wasn’t for Japan.
My first camera was a Nikon SP rangefinder—made in Japan. I took many photographs with that camera when I was in college. Most of my photographs were slides and color photographs that I had developed commercially. But I also did reverse processing in my hallway closet darkroom which enabled me to make black and white slides. In my darkroom I also developed black and white negative film and printed 8 x 10’s.
I wasn’t happy with the results (except for the black and white slides) and determined that someday I would do better, but my work took precedence for 30 years.
I finally had the time and money to resume photography 10 years ago. I was impressed with the results from medium format film, so I bought a Mamiya 7II and a set of lenses. The camera has brilliant lenses that all score on the very top of comparative lens tests. I took that camera with me to Europe every summer on my bike—the moving parts of which were made in Japan. One of the photos from that camera hangs in my living room. It is 12’ by 14’ and looks stunning, thanks to a Japanese camera and its Japanese lenses.
Next came the Fuji GW690II, which produced an even larger slide or negative. That was followed by the Fuji GX617 with three lenses which opened for me the world of horizontal and vertical panoramics. The cameras and optics? All made in Japan.
To tell the truth, not all my cameras were Japanese. I did buy a Hasselblad system because I always wanted one and could finally afford to get it on ebay. It has certainly been one of my favorites. And my 4X5 Linhof Master Technika was made in Germany—but all the lenses are Nikon and were made in Japan.
Then came along the digital age of photography. I remember how excited I was to get my first Canon DSLR—the 10D. Of course the camera, lenses and CF cards were all made in Japan.
This is when my expertise in photography took a sharp upturn. Digital allowed me to immediately see my results, to experiment, and to make improvements. I learned focus stacking and HDR. By the time my technical ability outgrew the 10D, Canon came out with the 5D. I loved working with it and finally started to come into my own with that camera. That’s when I started buying Zeiss manual lenses (made by Cosina in Japan), testing them to pick the best one and returning the rest. I recently had an exhibit of 50 of my prints, all 38” x 58” up to 38” X 120”—printed on canvas on my Epson printer. People who have seen that exhibit can’t believe the photographs were shot on a 35mm camera.
Needless to say that the camera, lenses, CF card, ink, canvas and printer were all made in Japan.
Now I have moved up to the 5D2 and the quality of the photographs I can now produce extend far beyond my wildest imagination in college.
It’s possible, of course, that I could have done all this with just a Hasselblad and Linhof—if they made canvas, inks and printers—or affordable, digital cameras.
Oh yes--the hard drives that store my photographs are also ‘made in Japan’.
I drive a classic car—a 1963 Corvette—but cannot take it to Point Lobos and Yosemite for shooting trips because it has no trunk. So I rent a car for these two-week trips and always ask for a Japanese car. Why? Because I know it will handle well (many American rental cars do not), will have good gas economy, a decent stereo system, be reliable, and have seat belts that work effortlessly. A car like this makes my photographic vacations that much more enjoyable—especially on a five-hour drive.
My vocation is training elite athletes by videotaping, analyzing, measuring and improving their sports mechanics. My Olympic athletes have won 44 Gold Medals and have set 11 World Records.
I could not have done this without Japan.
When I started out, I used an 8mm film camera. Many times the film would burn up in the projector as I tried to analyze a runner’s mechanics. Finally, Mitsubishi came out with one of the first consumer video decks. I remember it was the size of a small suitcase, but it enabled me to go to running shoe stores and offer video stride analysis that slowly built up my business. The expertise I picked up from using that Mitsubishi deck (and many other Japanese video decks and then camcorders) over the years enabled me to analyze running mechanics for marathon broadcasts , including for NBC Sports, and writing assignments and stories in many sports magazines. The use of Japanese camcorders to videotape and analyze swimmers underwater enabled me to discover that the power in swimming comes from the rotation of the hips and not from the muscles of the arms. This discovery was later confirmed by research at Colorado Springs that showed that my swimmers doubled their peak hand force output after I improved their hip rotation. Many of these swimmers went on to win multiple Gold Medals and set World Records—to be followed by many more.
None of this would have been possible without Japan and the Japanese.
Which leads me to the triple disaster that has befallen Japan—an earthquake, a tsunami and now damaged nuclear reactors. The satellite photographs leave you in shock. Whole towns wiped of the face of the earth in just a few moments. News videos of mothers looking for their children and children looking for their parents—bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes.
As I think about these disasters, I think about how much the Japanese have helped me in all areas of my life, from transportation to photography and videography. Even in recreation, much of the enjoyment in my life comes from Japan. My 43” Sharp LCD screen, where I enjoy watching my high definition fine art landscape videos and an occasional TV show, and the Onkyo stereo receiver that forms the basis for my home theater system were both designed and built by the Japanese. I also think of how amazed my athlete clients are to see the walls of my office covered with huge prints of my own making. And finally, I think of how the Japanese have helped me convey my love of nature to others.
This is why I sent $100 to the Red Cross last week to help the Japanese and why I will continue to do this every month they continue to suffer from these triple disasters.
It’s the least I can do for those who have enriched my life so much and for so many years.
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