Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happiness & Cheer

Behold the Noble Fir!

Monday, September 05, 2011

More Japan: Fushimi Inari-taisha

I realize I have a lot to catch up on. This last month of 100 degree weather has inspired much laziness around these parts.

Time to wrap up Japan! Only a couple more posts to go!

On our last full day in Kyoto, we started at the Fushimi Inari-taisha, the head Inari shrine in Japan.

I already posted the photos below of this shrine:

This shrine is well known for the hundreds of torii, or gates, lining the mountain path up to the three head shrines. These torii are actually found everywhere in Kyoto:

But nothing compares to the ones at Fushimi:

So why all the torii? And what of the inscriptions?

One of the difficult things about traveling in Japan is that most things are in Japanese. All week, as we visited Kyoto's temples and shrines, we were often left clueless as to the rituals and purpose of all the many elements inside. Thankfully, at Fushimi, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a willing and unexpected guide.

The older Japanese man on the left is a Buddhist priest who was at the shrine with his student, on the right, to worship that day. And after he struck up a conversation, we decided to hike all the way up the mountain with them since they offered to come with us. He spoke pretty good English, and so we had many of our questions answered by this very kind man.

The torii lining the mountain path have all been bought and paid for by patrons. The engravings on the gates are the names of the families, companies, etc. who have paid to install the shrine. The patrons enjoy added "blessings" by donating their funds for new gates. All the torii were in various states of deterioration, and the Buddhist priest told us that there's a long waiting list of patrons waiting for their turn to fund a new wooden torii. Fascinating stuff!

Also on the Fushiumi shrines are literally thousands of family shrines.

Most of the people at the shrine were Japanese people visting and praying at their own family shrines. Since Fushimi is the main Shinto shrine in Japan, it's a very popular place to have your own shrine.

Our two friends spent some time chanting/praying at the three main shrines on the mountain.

We felt incredibly privileged to meet this man, who's name unfortunately eludes me now. He was very kind to a couple of Americans who had little idea of all that the Japanese culture entails and had lots of questions. This morning, which lasted much longer than we had planned for, was definitely the highlights our of trip.

Stay tuned for what should be my last Japan post!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Twenty two & twenty three: Helsinki & Leningrad

As I mentioned last week, Matt was in Finland and Russia for two weeks and had the privilege of taking my camera with him. And he took some awesome photos.

Here's a sampling of about a dozen. I'll definitely continue to edit and post more of Matt's photos in the coming week(s), and then, just maybe, I'll be caught up on this whole 52 weekly blogging thing. Maybe.

(The captions are from Matt, since I have no/little idea what he photographed since I wasn't there. Such a shame!)

Uspenski Cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki.

Helsinki Cathedral, also called St. Nicholas' Church, a Lutheran cathedral.

A store front on Market Square, Helsinki.

A Mini Cooper just kicking it on Market Square, Helsinki.

This is one of my favorites thus far. It's a perfect photo of a typical European city street.

A statue of a bearded dude at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Artist unknown.

Matt's really into beards. I wasn't surprised to find many photos of sculpted bearded dudes from the Hermitage.

More great statuary at the Hermitage.

In Soviet Russia, hotel stays with you. Actually I think this is an apartment block, but it was just adjacent to our hotel.

Escalators down into the St. Petersburg Metro, which apparently are the deepest in the world. And they call it a mine...

Vladimirskaya church, St. Petersburg

I'm not sure if this building has a name, but this is along Nevsky Prospekt, the main drag in St. Petersburg. For any interested, the sign transliterates as "Kompaniya Zinger".

Inside Kazan Cathedral, St. Petersburg.

Statues on top of the Hermitage. Everything in St. Petersburg had statues.

Carvings outside St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg.

Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Twenty one: Windmills

I apologize for completely falling off the wagon for the the past few weeks. The combination of life craziness, my camera being in Russia, and old fashioned laziness are all to blame.

Week twenty basically just didn't happen, which is my own stupid fault. Our anniversary was July 22nd, and Matt surprised me by coming home that day (best anniversary present ever), but then had to leave again for 2 weeks 3 days later. With my camera. Matt had the opportunity to spend a week in Finland and another week in Russia, and he rightly convinced me to allow my camera to leave my side for those 2 weeks so that he could capture his trip in all its glory. I will be going through his photos this week and begin posting them this weekend. Stay tuned!

Oh, and here's an obligatory wedding shot to commemorate our 3 year anniversary. :)

Last weekend while Matt was gone, I was able to fly up to Lubbock to see my sister and her family. Hooray for sister time! And my best brother-in-law let me borrow his DSLR, which is a better camera than my own. Did I mention that I've been looking at new camera bodies lately? And wishing I could just blow a grand on a new one?

We went out to a big windmill farm/museum in Lubbock for a perfect photographic opportunity on a gorgeous hot day. (My BIL knows me oh too well.)

I love it when the sky is covered in fluffy, cotton-like clouds when I photograph. It's such a perfect backdrop, especially for such rustic subjects.

The interior of the farm was dark, but I managed a few shots and thoroughly enjoyed the better image quality of the D5000 in low light situations.

The windmills made for such a wonderful photo subject, and a huge shout out goes to my BIL for letting me use his nicer camera and taking me here!

And this last shot is my favorite.

Stay tuned for pictures from Matt's trip to Russia/Finland, and this week, I will also be posting some more photos from Japan!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nineteen: Ikea

I've came across a fun photo shoot a little while ago entitled, "If I lived at Ikea". And it occurred to me that with all the bright colors and patterns, photographing the inside of an Ikea would be a fun adventure!

I did one smart thing, and that was going late on Saturday night. Two years ago when Matt & I were about to purchase our town home, we spent many weekend nights at Ikea looking for furniture/inspiration. We discovered that going late on Saturday (or Friday) nights was the best time to avoid the hoards of Ikea weekend shoppers.

Speaking of Ikea inspiration, I took a very similar picture to this one two years ago that gave us the idea for the colors we used for our downstairs' walls.

I must say that I was proud of myself for not buying a single thing. I had a few moments of weakness in the kitchen gadget area, but I succeeded in reasoning with myself that, no, I do not need another whisk.

I always like to look at the filler books on the shelves in the fake living rooms. Ikea sends us their furniture AND their literature!

I loved trying to find interesting patterns amongst all of the merchandise, which Ikea displays quite naturally.

While we already own a lot of Ikea stuff, I can't help but want more, especially their kitchens. If money was no object, I'd basically let Ikea come, tear down my kitchen, and rebuild it Swedish-style. Until then...I'll continue to wander Ikea on the weekend nights...