Sunday, November 29, 2015

Projection Mapping Event

As part of the Kokumin Bunkasai events this November, Kagoshima had a music and light show at the Volunteer Center for the entire month. It's about 7 minutes long and showed at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 PM on the weekends. Basically, it's a short summary of the history of Kagoshima City. It's pretty impressive, especially since it was specifically designed for the building next to the International Volunteer Center. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for the video.)

(The projectors are protected during the day, which is good because it's been raining again lately.)

On Saturday, as I was finishing my last class for the evening, the owner of the school mentioned that the projection mapping event was going on and it was the second to the last night for it. Two of my students had seen it before, and were planning on making the 5 minute walk to the Volunteer Center after the class to catch the 8:30 showing. They talked me into going with them, so I said, "sure". It was really well-done, and I enjoyed watching it.

(The projection screen for this show.)

Now, for a bit of a "short adventure" story, which connects to Wonder World in a way.
The lens on my big camera has been getting progressively more dusty, but I was hesitant to buy a cleaning kit from Bic Camera because their selection was over-priced and limited. Then, last week when I was trying to watch the rocket launch from the top of Shiroyama, I was putting the camera on the tripod, and the camera slipped from my hand. I made a panic-grab to catch it, but I ended up putting a big sweaty fingerprint in the middle of the lens, pretty much guaranteeing that I'd have to do something about getting it cleaned right away. I had a class near the Volunteer Center in the morning on Thursday, and I figured that this was my chance to use the walk to swing by a camera shop I'd seen advertised in Tenmonkan.

(The start of the show.)

Niimura Camera is in the middle of a collection of small shops about 100 feet from the 7-11 where all the events take place, on the second floor over the new gourmet pudding store. The entrance looks like it's for someone's apartment, but the big steel door actually leads to steps to the upper floors. The stairs are lined with abandoned electronics, parts and stuff, and the door on the second floor doesn't have a window. I was starting to think the place had gone out of business and was fully expecting the door to be locked. But, it opened, and inside was a crowded little office with two desks, and bookshelves filled with equipment, catalogs and boxes of papers. One person, Niimura, was sitting at one of the desks, relaxing, obviously not expecting visitors. I told him I was looking for a cleaning kit, and the next thing I know he's grabbing a plastic bottle of cleaner and a cotton pad and cleaning the lens for me. We start talking, with me wanting to know if this is a camera shop or not. It used to be, but now they act mainly as an ordering service, while also doing professional photography. Since I really do want to upgrade to a semi-pro camera at some point, I asked what kind of cameras he deals with. Niimura then launched into a one-hour lecture on how cameras work, what makes for good photos, and how to use my existing big camera better.

90% of his suggestions were on how to approach the shot, deciding what to have in the frame and what to exclude, the angle of the camera to the subject, and the idea of thirds (i.e. - not placing the subject dead center in the photo). He spent the remaining time talking about aperture, and how I should take my camera off of "Auto" and "Scene", and work more with "A" to manually control aperture. He also said that I should go to Bic Camera and get a neutral filter for the big camera to protect the lens (the filter being easier to clean and cheaper to replace if damaged). Finally, I thanked him and headed back out on the street.

The problem with the filter is that both Bic and Nikon say that the CoolPix P600 can't take filters. I went to the U.S. Nikon site and looked up the accessories list for the P601 (the American model number for this camera) and it doesn't mention taking filters either. I did find some people in a couple photography forums that talked about this, and some of them said that they'd located a specific kind of filter adapter that allowed them to use a smaller neutral filter. Apparently Nikon thinks that using a neutral filter with this camera may cause vignetting (the presence of a darker area surrounding the outer edges of the photo) and rather than deal with complaints, they just say that you can't use filters at all, even though the front of the camera is threaded for them. Anyway, I went to Bic and located the 52mm "clear protector" filters. They don't have anything called "neutral". It's one of the more expensive filters there, at 4,200 yen plus tax (the soft focus filters are half the price). Fortunately, I had enough points built up on the points card that the filter was free. It does fit the camera. More importantly, the lens cap fits the filter, too, which I hadn't realized was going to be a potential issue.

Now, I have the lens cleaned, and a new filter that may or may not cause vignetting. So, what's the problem? I'd forgotten to bring the points card with me on Thursday when I was researching filters, and couldn't actually buy one until Friday evening. Saturday I had to work pretty much all day, and the projection mapping event was at night when I couldn't check for darker areas in the photos. Sunday? It was raining all Sunday and the sky was so dark that it made getting good, clear photos almost impossible. Here I am with my head filled with information on how to use the camera and everything, and the weather won't cooperate. Sigh. Anyway, I learned more about how to take photos in that one hour with Niimura than I ever had before, which was a good thing. And I still ended up using the small pocket camera to record the projection mapping video.

Direct youtube link

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