Photographer Takashi Yasui captures the mystique of Kyoto

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Japan is captured in spellbinding fashion by photographer Takashi Yasui in this photo series. Training his lens on well-known sights such as the Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizudera shrines, Arashiyama bamboo forest, and Gion geisha district of Kyoto, the founder of the RECO photography collective portrays them in new light and a heightened artistic sensitivity to the country’s undeniable mystique.

My name is Takashi Yasui, I’m 35 years old, and live in Osaka, Japan. Basically, I take photos in Kyoto so I call myself a “Kyoto Photographer.”  About five years ago, when my niece was born, I started taking family portraits; that’s how I got into photography.

About 4 years ago I installed “Instagram”on my iPhone and began to follow photographers from all over the world. This had a big impact on me: I met a lo of Instagrammers in Japan, leaned about photography, how to shoot, how to edit, how to find a location, composition, perspective, and things like that. Recently, I met few talented photographers from the US, Canada,  and France, and was exposed to their take on shooting. It really helped me to grow as a photographer. Now, photography is a more of a pleasure, it is a passion for me.

I’m shooting with Fujifilm X-T10, X-M1 with XF14mmF2.8 R, XF35mmF1.4 R. Editing with Lightroom, using VSCOfilm presets.

More info: takashiyasui.com | reco-photo.com | facebook | twitter500px | instagram (h/t: designtaxi)

Celebrate Earth Day with 5 of Asia’s most beautiful spots 

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Audrey Magazine:

One of Buzzfeed’s top posts is a list called “27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die.”

Since it’s release in 2013, the list has gained over 10 million views and for good reason! All of the locations are absolutely breathtaking.

In honor of Earth Day, we’re taking a closer look at the five locations in Asia that made it onto this list to remind everyone that the earth is capable of such beauty. Lets work to keep it that way.

1. Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China

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The Danxia landforms are sandstone formations most known for (you guessed it) their vibrant color patterns. They are located in a remote region in northern central China. The mountains and hills retain such color because Danxia landforms are composed of red sandstone. Mineral deposits were compressed into rock for 24 million years, thus gaining colors ranging from deep red to yellow and green.

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2. The Hang Son Doong cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

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The Sơn Đoòng cave is currently the largest known cave in the world and is located near the border of Laos and Vietnam. It is five times larger than the Phong Nha Cave which previously held the record for being the biggest cave in Vietnam. Although it was created 2-5 million years ago, the cave did not become public knowledge until 2009. Inside, there is a fast flowing underground river as well as cave pearls the size of baseballs.

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 3. Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan

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This popular tourist destination has been given the nickname “flower paradise” because the 32,000 square meters of flowers look amazing all year long. With each passing season, a different variety of flower will blossom throughout the Hitachi Seaside park such as the Nemophilas. The popular blue flower blossoms annually during springtime.

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4. Bamboo groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan

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These Japanese bamboo groves, located in Northwest Kyoto, are a tourist favorite. The gorgeous line of bamboo not only looks beautiful, apparently it sounds beautiful too. Amusing Planet notes, “The sound of the wind in this bamboo forest has been voted as one of ‘one hundred must-be-preserved sounds of Japan’ by the Japanese government.”

The bamboo in this grove is still used to manufacture various products such as cups, boxes, baskets and mats in the area.

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5. Kelimutu crater lakes in Flores Island, Indonesia

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Kelimutu is a small volcano in the central Flores Island of Indonesia. It has gained popularity because the volcano has three craters which each contain a lake with a different color. The lakes periodically change colors from red and brown to turquoise and green, independent of each other. The lakes are named Tiwi Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People), Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Sprits, or Enchanted Lake). The scientific explanation behind the colorful lakes? Chemical reactions from the minerals in the lake are triggered by the volcano’s gas activity.

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Sony World Photography Awards 2015 Winners

A photo exploration of the nomadic culture in Mongolia

My Modern Met:

Always curious about the world around him, Santa Barbara-based photographer Brian Hodges recently traveled to Mongolia to document the everyday life of traditional nomadic communities throughout the country.

He spent his time getting to know the culture and living within a wandering community.

According to the artist:

These families migrate based on the season and the needs of their animals, who require ample grazing space and safeguarding from extreme temperatures.”

The collection of work visually describes the nomadic way of life. Viewers are introduced to rows of yurts that function as temporary homes, as well as various food, weapons, and daily activities such as playing basketball and riding on horseback. A number of these intimate scenes are featured in publisher Assouline’s upcoming book, Gypset Living.

 

Brian Hodges’ website

The Dukha tribe, Mongolia’s last nomadic reindeer herders

My Modern Met:

After living in Nepal and exploring Tibet and the Himalayas for more than a decade, photographer Hamid Sardar-Afkhami decided he would travel to outer Mongolia to document the nomadic tribes and their unique way of life. A scholar of Tibetan and Mongol languages who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Sanskrit and Tibetan Studies, Sardar was just the right person to capture the Dukha people, Mongolia’s last nomadic reindeer herders. The Dukha are an ancient group of people of Turk descent who are dependent on reindeer for their way of life. In addition to milk and cheese, the reindeer provide transportation for hunting. They’re ridden to hunt wild elk and boar.

The Dukha tribe is quickly disappearing. Only about 44 Dukha families remain, or between 200 to 400 people. In the 1970s, it’s estimated that there was a population of about 2,000 reindeer but that number has since dwindled to about 600.

Sardar has not only captured fascinating photos of this lost culture, he shot a film called The Reindeer People which followed a family on its seasonal migrations.

Synopsis:In Northern Mongolia, there exists a sacred alliance between people, ancestor spirits and reindeer. This film is an intimate portrait of a family of Dukha reindeer nomads following their migration through the forests of Mongolia’s Hovsgol province. They move with a herd of about a hundred reindeer through a sacred forest inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors, who communicate to the living through songs. The oldest Dukha, is a divine seer, a 96-year old shaman, called Tsuyan. She is the link between the healing songs of the forest ancestors, her people and their reindeer. She is the centerpiece of an extraordinary adventure that unites people and animals in one of the wildest regions of Mongolia – where people still live and hunt in a forest dominated by supernatural beings. To live in harmony with them, people had to learn to respect nature and animals and to pass down their beliefs, from generation to generation, by invoking the song-lines of their deceased ancestors.”

The film earned a jury prize for Best Film on Mountain Culture at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Hamid Sardar-Afkhami’s website

The Floating City: Inside Hong Kong Now

View of Hong Kong from Lion Rock, which overlooks Kowloon from the North, November 2011. Almost half of Hong Kong’s population lives in public or government-subsidized housing. Lit up at night, the glowing public estate blocks are hard to distinguish from high-end luxury towers.

View of Hong Kong from Lion Rock, which overlooks Kowloon from the North, November 2011. Almost half of Hong Kong’s population lives in public or government-subsidized housing. Lit up at night, the glowing public estate blocks are hard to distinguish from high-end luxury towers.

 

ChinaFile:

Hong Kong rose up as the essential gateway into Communist China over the second half of the twentieth century—a British-run laissez-faire playground whose bottom-line pragmatism proved lucrative for all, maintaining a fluid, delicate balance between East and West, socialism and capitalism, the ancient and the hypermodern, legitimate society and the underworld.

In the 1997 return to a booming Motherland, official blurbage promised to continue this function, assuring “One Country, Two Systems” and “Hong Kong will remain unchanged for fifty years,” a showcase of Beijing’s good-faith efforts to foster democracy and rule of law. Fifteen years on, however, continued lack of universal suffrage and fading relevance are provoking local anxiety that Hong Kong is becoming just another freedom-deficient Chinese city.

Beneath the designer skyline and the gleaming hordes of suits and shoppers, we see mounting disquiet. Hong Kong’s rich-poor gap is the highest in the developed world. Nearly half the population lives in government-subsidized housing. Even gangsters complain that the scramble for scraps has displaced triad virtue and loyalty; a former enforcer from the organized crime group Sun Yee On said, “It’s more of a business for profit now.”

China’s presence has ratcheted up the economic pressure as well as the political. Hong Kongers once looked down on visiting Chinese nationals. Now, dependent on their spending power, they resentfully call them “locusts” for devouring real estate, luxury goods, and maternity beds. Meanwhile, news reports critical of China are disappearing, and schools are being “urged” to adopt patriotic, Party-whitewashed history texts.

This is the landscape of imbalance and unease in a Hong Kong that—after more than a decade and a half of Communist rule—is trying to preserve a unique identity that is both more cosmopolitan and more traditionally Chinese than China itself.

The Mongkok district in Kowloon is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world, known for its underworld controlled nightlife.

The Mongkok district in Kowloon is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world, known for its underworld controlled nightlife.

The dashboard of a “discount taxi” displays trinkets, charms, official placards, and several extra mobile phones mounted in view, connecting the driver to various dispatching syndicates who book discount long-haul fares to undercut the traditional first-come-first-serve rule.

The dashboard of a “discount taxi” displays trinkets, charms, official placards, and several extra mobile phones mounted in view, connecting the driver to various dispatching syndicates who book discount long-haul fares to undercut the traditional first-come-first-serve rule.

The downtown central district is the center of international finance and commerce and <em>Gweilo</em> (“foreign devil”) culture.

The downtown Central district is the center of international finance and commerce and Gweilo (“foreign devil”) culture.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company, headquartered in a Norman Foster-designed post-modern cathedral-to-capital structure that was built in 1986, is arguably, a quarter of a century later, the most powerful non-government institution in the city. Hong Kong’s traditionally dominant financial infrastructure continues to thrive as the balance of wealth and deals increasingly comes from Chinese interests.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company, headquartered in a Norman Foster-designed post-modern cathedral-to-capital structure that was built in 1986, is arguably, a quarter of a century later, the most powerful non-government institution in the city. Hong Kong’s traditionally dominant financial infrastructure continues to thrive as the balance of wealth and deals increasingly comes from Chinese interests.

A street scene of the Sham Shui Po district, December 2011.

A street scene of the Sham Shui Po district, December 2011.

Wong Tai Sin Temple, a Taoist place of worship known for fortunetelling, is popular among Chinese tourists, who make up about seventy percent of its visitors. On this day, December 10, 2011—the day before the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races at Shatin horse track—the temple also draws in many gamblers looking for betting picks.

Wong Tai Sin Temple, a Taoist place of worship known for fortunetelling, is popular among Chinese tourists, who make up about seventy percent of its visitors. On this day, December 10, 2011—the day before the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races at Shatin horse track—the temple also draws in many gamblers looking for betting picks.

Mall stalls crammed with whimsical toys and doodads, mostly all made in China, are ready to be peddled for the right price, December 22, 2011.

Mall stalls crammed with whimsical toys and doodads, mostly all made in China, are ready to be peddled for the right price.

A candlelight memorial in Victoria Park, February 27, 2011, for democracy activist Szeto Wah, who died at the age of seventy-nine. Under China’s one country, two systems policy, Hong Kong citizens enjoy free speech, but voting rights are limited.

A candlelight memorial in Victoria Park, February 27, 2011, for democracy activist Szeto Wah, who died at the age of seventy-nine. Under China’s one country, two systems policy, Hong Kong citizens enjoy free speech, but voting rights are limited.

High above street level, a bird’s-eye view of Mongkok district belies order and stillness, though the Guinness World Records has labeled this district as the world’s busiest.

High above street level, a bird’s-eye view of Mongkok district belies order and stillness, though the Guinness World Records has labeled this district as the world’s busiest.

A potential customer shops for Chanel’s new J12 Chromatic titanium ceramic watch at the company’s launch party, June 9, 2011. These watches run in the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of U.S. dollars.

A potential customer shops for Chanel’s new J12 Chromatic titanium ceramic watch at the company’s launch party. These watches run in the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of U.S. dollars.

At a party for Chanel’s new line of watches. In Hong Kong, where expensive tastes and luxury goods continue to fire the economy, today’s biggest spenders now come from the mainland, putting locals in the uncomfortable position of being dependent on the visitors who not long ago they considered unsophisticated bumpkins.

At a party for Chanel’s new line of watches. In Hong Kong, where expensive tastes and luxury goods continue to fire the economy, today’s biggest spenders now come from the mainland, putting locals in the uncomfortable position of being dependent on the visitors who not long ago they considered unsophisticated bumpkins.

In the restricted section of the Happy Valley racetrack, Hong Kong Jockey Club members and horse owners can see the animals up close between races. The Jockey Club, along with being the city’s center of gambling and society, is the largest single taxpayer and a major supporter of charity in Hong Kong.

In the restricted section of the Happy Valley racetrack, Hong Kong Jockey Club members and horse owners can see the animals up close between races. The Jockey Club, along with being the city’s center of gambling and society, is the largest single taxpayer and a major supporter of charity in Hong Kong.

“J,” a former factory accountant from Northeast China, poses for a photo in her current workspace, a legal one-woman/one-room brothel on Hong Kong Island, in the summer of 2011. In just a few years, “J” had saved enough money to buy two apartments on the mainland, and she is currently planning to buy another property in Hong Kong where  the sex trade is legal.

“J,” a former factory accountant from Northeast China, poses for a photo in her current workspace, a legal one-woman/one-room brothel on Hong Kong Island, in the summer of 2011. In just a few years, “J” had saved enough money to buy two apartments on the mainland, and she is currently planning to buy another property in Hong Kong where the sex trade is legal.

Actors playing a mainland gangster boss and two of his bodyguards rest between scenes of the Johnnie To film <em>Life Without Principle</em>.

Actors playing a mainland gangster boss and two of his bodyguards rest between scenes of the Johnnie To film Life Without Principle.

At Asia Game Show at Wan Chai Convention Center, young people dress up as their favorite video game and animation characters as they participate in the cosplay competition.

At Asia Game Show at Wan Chai Convention Center, young people dress up as their favorite video game and animation characters as they participate in the cosplay competition.

Artists act out in street performances commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations that ended in a bloody crackdown. A young man covered himself in sticky memo note paper that he had invited other artists and passers-by to inscribe with messages of protest, mostly to the Chinese government and their handpicked Hong Kong leadership. Among the messages inscribed: “Free China,” “End Totalitarianism,” “Release Activists,” “Don’t Be a Slave—Remember June 4,” “Investigate the Massacre,” and “Democracy Forever.” China’s tolerance is wearing thin, but the adherence to the one country, two systems policy still allows the freedom for such expression in Hong Kong. If this were in China, these artist likely would already be in prison.

Artists act out in street performances commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations that ended in a bloody crackdown. A young man covered himself in sticky memo note paper that he had invited other artists and passers-by to inscribe with messages of protest, mostly to the Chinese government and their handpicked Hong Kong leadership. Among the messages inscribed: “Free China,” “End Totalitarianism,” “Release Activists,” “Don’t Be a Slave—Remember June 4,” “Investigate the Massacre,” and “Democracy Forever.” China’s tolerance is wearing thin, but the adherence to the one country, two systems policy still allows the freedom for such expression in Hong Kong. If this were in China, these artist likely would already be in prison.

Sun Yee On, a retired “red pole” enforcer for the organized crime triad, parted ways with the triad peacefully several years ago, but still has the phoenix-tailed dragon tattoo hidden under his shirt. “Back in the old days,” he says, “it was all about heart—about righteousness and virtue. Now it is more of a business for profit.” Criminal gang activity, though still present in Hong Kong, is decreasing as triads pursue more lucrative activities of varying degrees of legality across the border in China.

Sun Yee On, a retired “red pole” enforcer for the organized crime triad, parted ways with the triad peacefully several years ago, but still has the phoenix-tailed dragon tattoo hidden under his shirt. “Back in the old days,” he says, “it was all about heart—about righteousness and virtue. Now it is more of a business for profit.” Criminal gang activity, though still present in Hong Kong, is decreasing as triads pursue more lucrative activities of varying degrees of legality across the border in China.

An ad for a Chinese movie above an alleyway in the Tsim Sha Tsui district.

An ad for a Chinese movie above an alleyway in the Tsim Sha Tsui district.

Security cameras eye the traffic in Chungking Mansions, a seventeen-story hive of market stalls, restaurants, and cheap lodging where global traders do business. Indians, Nigerians, and Pakistanis all show up, buying made-in-China goods to sell back home. This block of grungy apartments has been called “The Ghetto at the Center of the World” by Hong Kong University professor Gordon Matthews, who says that the phone dealers, curry shops, sex workers, flophouse travelers, and asylum seekers from over 130 different nations engage in myriad daily micro-exchanges and that this is real world globalization in action.

Security cameras eye the traffic in Chungking Mansions, a seventeen-story hive of market stalls, restaurants, and cheap lodging where global traders do business. Indians, Nigerians, and Pakistanis all show up, buying made-in-China goods to sell back home. This block of grungy apartments has been called “The Ghetto at the Center of the World” by Hong Kong University professor Gordon Matthews, who says that the phone dealers, curry shops, sex workers, flophouse travelers, and asylum seekers from over 130 different nations engage in myriad daily micro-exchanges and that this is real world globalization in action.
A shanty town of corrugated metal shacks atop a Kwun Tong factory building. Hong Kong’s overwhelming density (6782.9 people per square kilometer in 2010) and lack of affordable housing mean that even such crummy homes can charge unexpectedly high rent.
A shanty town of corrugated metal shacks atop a Kwun Tong factory building. Hong Kong’s overwhelming density (6782.9 people per square kilometer in 2010) and lack of affordable housing mean that even such crummy homes can charge unexpectedly high rent.