Select Page

Rising to the Occasion

Rising to the Occasion

It’s mid September. My plan is to quit working as an ALT at the end of March next year. Six months left.

However, there have been a couple of complications since I started preparing to quit. For one, the studio that my wife and I built got flooded during a recent storm. While most valuables in the house were left undamaged, the studio itself stinks badly of mold. There are a lot of places in the studio for mold to hide. The flood was a rather large setback for us. I wanted to have English lessons in there, but unless we can fix the smell, having lessons in there won’t be practical.

On top of that, I have personal compatibility issues with the mother-in-law, so my wife and I have decided to move out into an apartment. That means we’ll be saving less money than we are now.

Those challenges have prompted me to reevaluate my plans.

My feeling was that if I could replace about 25% of my current salary with part-time, personal work, then it would be feasible for me to quit. But given these new circumstances, I feel like I need to raise that to 50%.

That’s a substantial amount of money. How can I possibly make that much?

The original plan I had was to have at least 5 lessons a week. That sounded like an achievable goal.

10 lessons a month? Now that’s a real challenge. 

How will I do it?

I have no idea.

It’s times like these that I am reminded of a scene from my favorite manga, Attack on Titan. During a pivotal point in the series, a small group of soldiers are sent to do something that had never been done before: Win a battle against the Titans. The fate of humanity rested on them.

The only way they could win and thereby save humanity was to use an experimental power they discovered. Unfortunately, almost as soon as the battle started, it looked like the experimental power failed. When they realized that, they sent a signal that the mission had failed. The mission failed almost as quickly as it begun.

When the commander of the army got the signal, his advisers asked him to order the troops to abort the mission and retreat. His response?

No.

“I won’t let them admit failure so easily. All that we can do while we are alive is struggle through this.”

The troops on the ground began to panic. Most of them wanted to retreat, but their commander ordered them to stay. They had to protect the people with the experimental power until they could escape.

In other words, they had to struggle against a seemingly invincible enemy, the weight of the future of humanity on their shoulders.

There are times in life when we don’t know what to do. In those times, all we can do is struggle through the fear and doubt. We can’t run away or accept failure. We have to fight.

That’s the burden we are given from the day we’re born until the day we die.

Time to rise to the occasion.

Playing with light

Playing with light

At the end of this month, my wife and I will be taking family photos at an outdoor event at a nearby park. We did the same event a couple of years ago. While my wife took pictures, her friends ran a booth selling handmade goods. I took pictures of the event and my wife while she was working. I wanted to promote the event and my wife’s work.

This year, my wife wants me to help take pictures. We’re going to split the work. It’ll be the first time that I work for her taking photos. She originally envisioned me running a mini-studio experience. As a result, I’ve been thinking about I can run such an operation by myself.

The main obstacle to running the experience outdoors is going to be the weather. Cloudy weather and sunny weather require different lighting setups. Additionally, any heavy wind will also hinder efforts to use things like diffusers or paper backgrounds.

Well, since we have some time to prepare, I’ve been looking at potential setups online. I found a couple I liked, so I took my wife to the park to try them out.

As it turns out, the weather cooperated quite nicely. We had one cloudy day and one sunny day, perfect for testing out both situations.

The setups we tested used only two flashes, diffusion, and a reflector. For cloudy days, no diffusion is needed.

We found one setup that works really well: sitting down in the grass. It’ll work well in both sunny and cloudy conditions, and even if it’s windy, the diffusion is light and plenty of weight can be placed at the base of the stand. On sunny days, as the sun moves, the setup can be easily and quickly turned to adjust. If it’s cloudy, no change is necessary. It’s a stable, easy-to-manage build out for a photo shoot.

Later, we tested out using a tent for building a mini-studio setup, but our tent is too small to use for family photos, so we scrapped that idea.

So, the sitting, two-light setup is the one I am going to use.

 

Reflecting on Summer Vacation

Reflecting on Summer Vacation

Well, summer vacation is over. That means it’s a good time to reflect on how I spent my time during these last few weeks.

The first three weeks, my wife and I spent in the US. We went last year, too, but we mainly focused on visiting places and taking pictures. This time around, we wanted to do something other than just photography.

Of course, we still took lots of pictures.

 

 

Some of the most fun we had was in the first few days. We sent to a place called the Nisqually Wildlife Reserve. At the reserve, we expected to just walk around a see a bit of nature. What we got to see was beyond out expectations. After walking for about 15 minutes, I spotted my first frog. Little did I know that, once we paid attention, there were frogs practically everywhere! That lead into a fun couple of hours of walking and photographing frogs, turtles, deer, and other wildlife. I’ve been to a few zoos in my time, but that reserve was better than most I’ve been to.

The only other place that we got to see interesting wildlife was at Mount Rainier.

 

 

There are several different trails starting from the Paradise visitor center. I’ve been up the more popular trails several times in my life, so I decided to take us on a less popular one. The trail lead past a small waterfall. Most people went to the fall and then return back to one of the main trails. Instead, we continued on the trail and enjoyed unusual and blissful peace and quiet. At the same time, we had a chance to see the two Marmots, someone large rodents that enjoy munching on the wildflowers in the fields.

Of course, as I said, it wasn’t all photo taking. Near where my parents live, there is a small, slow moving river that is a popular summer inner-tubing spot.

 

 

We don’t have very many photos from our fun times then. Unfortunately, we forgot our Olympus Tough, a waterproof camera, back in Japan. We had to make due with a smartphone sealed in a plastic bag.

Originally, we planned on going to a locally famous water park for a day, but when we found out how expensive it was, we decided to buy some inner tubes and enjoy unlimited rides and relaxation on the river for about half the price.

Another activity we enjoyed was taking a small class on night sky photography in Seattle. The class was conducted at an amazing camera store called Glazer’s. After the class, while everybody was downstairs looking at cameras behind glass counters, we spent a while just checking out all of the lighting, stand, printers, and other less popular photography items.

 

 

In Japan, I like to go to a store named Yodobashi Camera to look at camera stuff. While Yodobashi’s camera-testing experience is better than Glazer’s, nearly everything else about Glazer’s is better. I was surprised to find such an interesting camera store in the US.

The last activity we did before coming back to Japan was shooting guns at a shooting range. A family friend arranged for us to take some shooting instruction for a day. We expected to take a short lesson, shoot for an hour or two, and then go home. Instead, we spent about four or five hours shooting. It was a fun, American experience that my family enjoyed.

 

The main event for us, however, was the wedding reception my parents prepared. Friends and family traveled to meet and congratulate my wife and I on getting married. There was lots of food and good conversation for us.

 

My parents used to do a lot of large gatherings like those in the past, but they rarely get the opportunity these days. I was happy to see that they both haven’t lost their touch.

After all the fun was over, we packed up the souvenirs and said goodbye.

 ***