I follow about 600 people on Instagram now, the majority of whom are photographers. I do this to make connections, get content and location ideas, and to spur myself to keep striving for improvement. Sometimes, though, it feels masochistic. I see photos taken in exotic locations that get hundreds of likes (I average 50 or 60) and think, a tad bitterly perhaps, "I could take a great photo too, if I were in that location at that time of day." For example, someone might post a portrait of a woman in a red dress sitting on rocks at the beach at sunset, or a hiker topping a mountain summit at daybreak, or dancers at a Tokyo club in the middle of the night. Of course, time and location alone don't guarantee a good photo, but they can definitely provide a good start. I suppose I could rearrange my lifestyle, change my sleeping hours, and spend less time with my family at home in order to do more shoots in exotic locations, but I am a creature of habit, and I like my routines, so instead, I mostly just shoot what's around me, including whatever I can find in the park next to the school I teach at, Heiwa Koen. If I leave my house at 5:20 in the morning, instead of 5:50, I can get in 30 minutes before school, which is about as efficient as shoots go. One advantage to spending a lot of time in the SAME location is you get to know the location. You know where to go at what time to get certain shots, so you can check the weather and plan accordingly. There is one area in the park with flower beds that contain blooming flowers, no matter the season, whether tulips in early spring, or sunflowers in the summer. I don't know who plants them, but I often stop by there on my bike to see what is in bloom. Usually, I use my 35mm for its close-focusing ability. These tiny flowers, which look like little suns to me, are about the size of M&Ms.
Heiwa Koen is also home to many crows, and if I know it's going to be a cloudy day, I'll often grab my 70-200 telephoto lens instead of my 35 to catch their antics. There's something about crows on a cloudy day that speaks to me, and again, having spent a lot of time in the park, I usually know where to find them.
The Jizo statues scattered throughout the park are another favorite subject. They are guardians of travelers and people with ailments, and every one has a distinct face. There are thousands of them throughout the park, and if I go searching, I can find new ones every visit. Even as they become covered in lichens and moss over time, their peaceful unchanging expressions are a comfort to me.
Since getting my 35mm lens with close-focusing abilities last year, I've felt my photographic focus shift. I pay more attention now to the world of the very small. I've realized that changing the scale you use to view the world is another form of travel, and one that doesn't involve trains and massive expenditures of time and money. This ladybug was in a small, unremarkable field with a few scattered wildflowers in the park. Previously, the field would never have caught my attention. At first glance, there's nothing there. But if you sit down, get close to the ground, look around and wait... you start to notice that the field is actually full of bugs, ants, tiny flowers, and little dramas playing out all around you.
Of course, Heiwa Park also attracts humans. I tend to be a bit shy about taking candid shots of people, but these fisherman didn't seem concerned with my presence, so I indulged myself. By chance, I'd brought my telephoto lens that day (probably intending to shoot crows) so I was able to sit at a distance and wait for something to happen. It didn't take too long for one guy to hook a funa, which my dictionary says is a type of carp, though they are not colorful like their famous koi cousins.
None of these photos are particularly dramatic, nor likely to garner the type of response on Instagram that photos taken in more dramatic locations do. But, hopefully my "local" perspective will appeal to some viewers, and I can reveal aspects of the park that a one time visitor would likely miss. I'll probably continue to feel the occasional twang of envy as I view dramatic images in my Instagram feed, but I realize that it's also possible people will look at these photos and envy my time spent in this comfortable and familiar little neighborhood park.