Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fall is for Festivals

Well, spring is for festivals too, but the October weather here in Memphis is notoriously good--dry and clear--well, generally. That is October, but what about September? That depends. Why is it that I am talking about festivals in September rather than October? It turns out that festival season in Memphis starts out with many of the smaller, lesser known festivals, targeted for certain groups. They do not want to compete with the huge Pink Palace Arts and Crafts Sale, or even the Arts Festival, both in October. 

And festivals are a fun place to take a camera.

I prefer September festivals. I am always telling my friends and family, "Everything good gets ruined."  Really I am referring to festivals, and my own "Peter Principle" type effect. The Peter Principle was developed by an author who made a very good case for people being promoted in companies to their level of incompetence. They do a good job but once promoted, they may not have the skill set required for the new job.   
But, with festivals, the argument is that once a festival gets really good, it gets popular. Once it gets popular, it gets crowded. It is hard to find a parking place. It is hard to fight the traffic. The same is true with tourist attractions. I love tourist attractions until they get really good and thus attract more patrons. So my children were deprived growing up because we never went to DisneyWorld. When they complained, I pointed out that we had gone to Six Flags and Sea World. These were acceptable because, even though popular, they at least were in my home town of San Antonio, so we didn't have to make a special trip. We just went when we visited relatives.

I also love the beach, but will no longer go in the summertime.  I prefer some sort of off season. 

That brings me back to festivals in Memphis in September.  Festivals are a must for any photographer interested in candid shots (frankly, I don't really like posed shots that much!)  And the best festivals are easily accessible, fun, and not so popular as to be overcrowded. Enter the Japanese Festival in Memphis this past Saturday. The weather was perfect, the crowd good, but I could still get front row seats at the main stage. If truth be told, there was only one stage, with three rotating acts.  I actually lost my program so I am not sure that is the case, but they started repeating after I was there for awhile.

A lot of the charm of the Japanese festival is that it takes place in a Japanese tea garden at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.  It was actually a good time to go to it because I have been seeing the world through orange colored lenses lately, as I have been hosting an informal photography contest with the subject of "orange".  There are few better places to find orange than anything Japan! 
For example, Japan uses a lot of orange in architecture, as seen  above in the roof of the tea room in the Memphis Botanic Gardens.
And then there are the koi fish, a must for every Japanese garden.
That's a pretty good orange start already.  Even better, though, orange koi fish are even used in the theme for the festival.  And there is the traditional reddish orange Japanese bridge-

I was not done with orange, as the first act on stage were the Taiko drummers.  You guessed it--orange!  In the first one, since the drummer's pose looks as if he might take off flying, I decided to experiment with an effect call "focal zoom" in Picasa.  A lot of serious photographers don't like effects like this, but I think they are fun.  And I have a straight version of this anyway.  They good thing is that you can make up your own mind about using effects like this.
And below is a behind the scenes look.  Because I got there early before the crowds, I could take photos from almost anywhere, a big plus. 

Here I am going to insert a video I took with my camera, if only because I get frustrated seeing photos of musical performances without getting to actually hear something.  Although I took this video in high definition, You Tube reduced the quality. Please remember that I do not pretend to be a videographer!

The other acts were a very short Japanese dance, and an aikido exhibition.


I am going to include my very short You Tube of the aikido demonstration because it showcases a huge mistake that I made.  I knew that one thing about my camera was that it could take video and photos at the same time.  Well, I won't make that mistake again.  Every time there was a throw, I started snapping away, actually interrupting the video.  The result is a little odd to say the least.  

This is called learning from mistakes, a very important concept for photographers. Here are a couple of more interesting photos of some attendees.   

A wonderful Japanese street performer made this sugary concoction, which is a dragon I think:

I wasn't done with orange, though.  As the acts began repeating themselves, I meandered toward the exit.  I got hit in the head with a persimmon falling from the tree.  I couldn't resist this photo, which is probably one of the closest I have come to setting up a still life photo.  I did it for "orange".  I started and ended the whole experience with orange, and I wrapped it up thusly:

Check out your community's calendar for some fun fall festivals. Pick out the unknown gems, take your camera, and have a great time.


  1. Nice pictures. I like the orange theme. Persimmon (kaki) are delicious and all over the grocery stores in Japan from late September - early November. Can't wait!

  2. Now, this is a nice respite. What a beautiful place for a festival. There's so much more to Tennessee than I imagined! I like the focal zoom, it seems to add energy and ambiance to me.

    Hey, I thought you caught the falling persimmons in mid-air. Good shot though!

    Excellent writing as usual. Always makes me feel as though I'm there.