Seaweed Beds


I had another opportunity to travel to Japan this year in May and, after a few bullet trains from Tokyo, found myself in the area surrounding Ise in southern Japan. The weather was perfect; almost too perfect, with no puffy white clouds or anything but blue sky. I ran across some seaweed beds or old abandoned seaweed beds with just sticks in a uniform pattern but no nets nor seaweed. It was then that the journey or "obsession" began to find the perfect seaweed bed. I drove up and down the Pearl Road near Mikimoto Island (where the famous pearls are harvested) and driving or hiking down roads that look like may deliver on the perfect vantage point to photograph a seaweed bed. I also realized that I was trying to find the seaweed bed at low tide so they were above the water and created depth and shadows underneath. Not an easy task to do both; find a full seaweed bed at low tide.

Landscape photography is part luck, weather, research and talent. Notice that I mentioned talent at the end. Sometimes, it is more about luck and happenstance than raw talent. Well, after a day and a half, I finally found a full seaweed bed at low tide. The seaweed bed was in two sections and had a background of rolling mountains with green trees. A perfect specimen of a seaweed bed. The only problem was the vantage point for the photography just off railroad tracks. Correction, the railroad tracks were for a commuter rail that ran along the bay and up the coast. So, as I am taking the first of three long-exposure shots, the train went by...loud and closer than expected with the conductor, clearly visible in a uniform and hat, staring at me with my camera on a tripod as he went by briskly. When I checked the final shot, the train vibrations had moved the camera slightly to generate a sort of double-vision shot (Scott Amling–0, Commuter Train-1). Frustrated, I setup another shot and took a 2 and ½ minute exposure and, as it turns out, the only clear and final shot that was good enough to edit (Scott Amling–1, Commuter Train-1). As I am setting up for the third shot, I hear the whistle of the commuter train in the distance. Not good (Scott Amling–1, Commuter Train–2). Commuter Train won.

It was good luck to find a full seaweed bed at low tide, but, bad luck that the vantage point happened to adjacent to the commuter train tracks. Anyway, I am very proud of this image and really is a product of perseverance in southern Japan.