I know I should broaden my photographic opportunities by stepping out of my well worn routes from time to time, but having a full-time job, and working next to one of the bigger parks in Nagoya, I continue to find myself back at Heiwa Koen. As mentioned in a previous blog, my daily bike commute takes me through the park, and as I've gotten into the habit of always carrying my camera with me, it's easy enough to stop, even if just for twenty minutes, to get in a few quick snaps before I get to school in the morning. At the moment, tulips and other spring flowers have been planted around the grave stones here and there throughout the park, and the morning light is perfect for casting them in a soft glow. The park is also full of retired Japanese people, who go there every morning to walk and meet with friends.
Besides its forested areas, grassy fields and ponds, there are also 190,000 gravestones scattered across the park. People in Japan are generally hesitant about taking photos of gravestones (some say you might see ghosts in the photos), but I find them comforting somehow and the way they blend into the landscape sort of reminds me of the white buildings built into the cliffs in Greece, only on a smaller scale. There are also many crows in Heiwa Koen. Their black feathers make them stand out in bold relief against the grey and white of the tombstones. I see them as guardians of the cemetery.
In a previous blog, I posted photos of sparrows, crows and pigeons in Heiwa Koen that I took while a Japanese man was tossing out bread crumbs for them. It turns out the man visits the park every morning to feed the birds and cats, usually getting there around 8:00, by which time the park animals are all waiting and watching for him. When I first discovered him there a month or so back, the sun was still low in the sky at 8:00, so I was able to get warm, softly lit photos of the birds with back-lit wings. I hoped to get similar photos yesterday (a Sunday--on weekdays I have to leave the park by about 6:20 to get to school), but the 8:00 sun is higher now and the quality of light has changed. It is harsher and less forgiving so I had to opt for shade, or try to catch the birds silhouetted against the sky. I've been practicing my focusing techniques for fast moving objects, and I managed to catch a couple pigeons that were flying towards me, and even got one clear photo of a speedy swallow. The cat sat and watched the birds with me, occasionally going into its "ready to pounce" crouch, but the birds seemed to know the cat well, and were always a step faster. While it may become routine, there are benefits to frequenting the same place for photos, in that you get to know its rhythms and eventually become a part of the scene yourself, at which point new photographic opportunities may arise. I do want to explore new places and get out of my comfort zone, but it's also nice knowing Heiwa Koen is always there.