Posts tagged photography

All photos by Calvin Abe

I had the opportunity to visit Biei, the northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido, for the third year in a row this past winter. Although I have never traveled to the island’s quiet and beautiful landscape in the spring or fall, photographs online tell me that the location is equally beautiful during those seasons.

As I reflect upon my last visit – already almost three months ago – I wonder what is it about this place that piques my interest and ignites a strong desire to return. Biei is a place where I return to experience silence, beauty, and the sacred. The simplicity and the quiet is surreal, unworldly and restorative. And besides, there is nothing like sitting outside in zero degree temperature in an “onsen” (hot bath) naturally sourced from a hot spring, with long distant views of nothing but rolling snow covered landscape.

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All photos by Calvin Abe

Over the holidays I went up to Sacramento to visit my family. While there I decided to visit the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant in nearby Herald, California, about 12 miles from my where I grew up. Although the plant was decommissioned back in 1989, it was built in the early 1970’s when I was in high school, and was operational for nearly two decades. The plant was eventually decommissioned due to operational problems.

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This post and accompanying photos are not presented to argue the merits or criticism of nuclear power, but simply to share a dualistic thought that popped into my head as I drove around the facility: the admiration for the bucolic beauty and sculptural qualities of the reactor towers as structures – each sitting atop the landscape – while at the same time recognizing their potential to alter the face of the landscape for thousands of years in an instant. Chernobyl in 1986, Three Mile Island in 1979, and the recent Fukushima incident still remain vivid memories of this dualism between potential and pitfalls.

Is the future of nuclear power a sustainable or resilient approach? I’ll let you decide. But here are a few of my photographs from the two days I was there to view and witness their history firsthand.

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All photos by Calvin Abe

I recently traveled to Myanmar. My travel expectations were cautiously optimistic given its recent political and militaristic history. But I knew that it was an opportunity that I just could not pass up. I went thinking that I might discover and experience a new landscape – which I did. But what surprised me more were the people and their culture.

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I discovered a country in transition. The contrast between the larger city of Yangon and the small tiny villages were eye opening. With Myanmar in a state of “under construction”, so to speak, I believe the time to visit the country is now.  Myanmar won’t not be the same country in even ten years time from now. The influx of investment money from the outside world will change this small third world country, hopefully for the better.

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I was particularly fascinated by the historic Buddhist relics throughout the region. With 95% of the population practicing Buddhism, there are thousands of temples and pagodas, some as old as 600 to 1000 years old. I was also fascinated how the city of Yangon is being transformed into a modern metropolis. Yangon reminds me of mainland China during the 1980-90’s. You can still find recently completed high rise hotels and condos with horse drawn carts carrying fruits and vegetables on the street.

For the sake of brevity, I want to share one of my visits to a small isolated village in Chin region of northern Myanmar. I want to share a few of my photographs which illustrates this unique world.

All photos by Calvin Abe

Although it took 6 hours on a small river boat, the day long journey was worth the humid hardship. I traveled on the river starting from the coastal city of Sittwe. Still on the river, I passed through a small town called Mrauk-U where I stayed for a day. At sunrise, I got onto the boat an reached a remote Chin village. My local guide told me that this village was a great example of the Chin people. It is a place where the river acts as the main source of food, drink water, bath, and linkage to the region. This small village had no vehicular roads, but was organized around a series of pathway connecting the small thatched roof houses. The local people were warm, inviting and curious about us foreigners.

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Although everyday modern day conveniences such as running water or flush toilets were absent, I did experience something much more profound: the love of family, joy of children, and the respect of the elders and community. The experience made me ponder the true meaning of community in the world.

I think this is where it was invented.

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All photos by Wendy Chan

I grew up living in Los Angeles, but I hardly ever ventured into Downtown LA while growing up. I remember visiting the Central Public Library, being in awe by the architecture. I also remember taking the bus with my mom to the Fashion District to get fabric. So when our office moved into Downtown Los Angeles on 7th and Hope over 2 years ago, I was surprised by the walkability and energy that Downtown offered.

I decided to take my camera and walk straight down 7th Street as far as my one hour of lunch allowed to document my experience. I chose 7th Street because it takes you through various neighborhoods and districts within Downtown – from the jewelry, theatre, fashion districts, then finally to the Los Angeles Flower Market before turning back. There are some great finds and artifacts along the way that deserves a double take.

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Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, where the mouth of the Los Angeles River meets the Pacific. All photos by Calvin Abe

Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, where the mouth of the Los Angeles River meets the Pacific. All photos by Calvin Abe.

Few Los Angeles area landscapes have been transformed as dramatically within the past century as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Recently, Calvin Abe flew over the ports in a helicopter, capturing these stunning images of the port from an unusual perspective. Calvin’s images bring into sharp relief the massive physical form of progress, and compared with historical images (see here for comparison), the photos illustrate a rapidly evolving historic record.

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Massive mountains of containers cover port real estate.

One of the casualties of progress in the port’s history is the Lost Village of Terminal Island.  Located on the southern edge of the port of Los Angeles, this piece of land was once a mudflat and coastal marsh within the Los Angeles River estuary, then later a fishing village for thousands of first and second generation Japanese immigrant families. The land is currently used as a shipping container processing station and a Federal Penitentiary.

Before WWII Terminal Island was an idyllic village of Japanese and Japanese American families that made a living working for the fishing and canning industries in the port area. According to “Furusato: The Lost Village of Terminal Island” the landscape provided a backdrop for the children growing up in the community who were allowed to explore the island and dive for abalone off the nearby beach.

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The Evergreen shipping cranes with the Ports O’ Call Village in the background.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many of the men of the village were incarcerated, and all of the Japanese-American families were sent to internment camps. While the residents were away, the village was razed by the United States Navy. Today, all that is left  is a small memorial dedicated to the lost community, a few of the remaining building sites with National Trust for Historic Preservation designations, and the fading memories of a generation that once called Terminal Island “home”.