The good people of the Photographers Adventure Club, PAC for short, hold monthly photography contests for its members.  This month, under the supervision of event organizer Evy Olivia, the contest was a photo shoot at the Matsuri Festival of Japan held down at Heritage Square Park.  I had not participated in any of the previous contests, so I thought this would be a great time to enter one, not with any expectation of winning, but as a chance to enjoy the new experience of the festival and to practice and improve my photographic skills.  On Saturday, many of the PAC members were meeting together at 10 AM to go as a group and shoot the parade.  Unfortunately for me, I had another commitment that morning and could not make the 10 AM meetup, but I did have the organizer’s number and could call her when I got to the festival and meet up with the group at that time.

Saturday morning, functioning on about 3 hours of fitful sleep, (my Medifast counselor asked “are you OK?   You don’t look good!) I finally got my act together and headed downtown.  As I was driving, my I-pod, which normally tries to make every other song a Christmas carol, shuffled a back to back selection of “Sea of Tranquility” by the Japanese trio Rin’ followed by Deep Purple’s “Woman from Tokyo”.  I thought this to be good Karmic evidence that this would be a great day.

Although there were a few bumps along the road, such as going the wrong way in the parking garage, paying $12.00 for parking and $3.00 for a Pepsi, and not meeting up with anyone from the PAC, (I decided that at 1:00 everyone was probably gone or getting ready to go)  I had a great time.  Visited some nice exhibits, met some nice people, bought some incense and a CD from the Nippon Kodo booth, sampled and purchase some Hawaiian Crispy Wafers (Cherry Vanilla) from the High-T Snacks booth.  (, and shot some decent photographs.  I sit here now, lighting the incense, listening to the CD and noshing on a Cherry Vanilla Wafer while I share my thoughts and photographs of the day.


I normally head to the events and displays I like first, and then take in the rest if time permits. Being a drummer, the first thing I headed for was the drum show. So had everyone else. There I was with my 50mm lens getting shots of the back of people’s heads with the drummers way in the background.  I kept thinking of a play on words of a line from “Jaws”.  “We’re gonna need a bigger lens.”


Many photographers are reluctant to crop their original images.  Although I agree that composition should be done in the lens, I have no guilt or shame when it comes to cropping. I will crop any image if I believe that crop makes for a stronger picture.


I eventually maneuvered myself up as close to the stage as I could.  I took this picture of a drummer watching the show from offstage.  I was reminded of the lyrics “the drummer relaxes and waits between shows” by Neil Young.



It was suggested to bundle up because it was going to be cold.  After all, it DID snow in Phoenix just a couple of days before.  I wore a sweatshirt, which I quickly ditched.  People found many ways to try and keep out of the sun and cool down.

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Once again I followed the sound of drums, and came upon this performance.



Another example of my willingness to crop. I wanted to showcase this tambourine.


The “dragons” unmask.


One of my favorite photos of the day.  One of the “dragons” lost a flower from  his mask.  The child quickly picked the flower up and gave it back to him.


The Dragon Masks were provided by Masks by Zarco


I would love to own and care for a Bonsai tree.  However, I know it would end up an epic fail.  I once  bought a lucky bamboo plant that promptly died.  These trees were at  The Phoenix Bonsai Society display.

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The following photograph initially reminded me of a Japanese ink painting.  I turned it to black and white trying to emphasize that similarity.




As I was photographing this display, a young woman came up to me, gave me her business card and asked if I would send her copies of the pictures I was taking.  Being an affable guy, naturally I agreed to do so.  We started chatting and I asked what the cranes were made of.  She told me they were mad out of cyanotypes.   I knew what a cyanotype was.  When I started teaching photography I had a supply of special blue print paper so I taught the making of cyanotypes until the supply was gone.  Cyanotypes are made by the placing of objects on the special paper and exposing the paper to the Sun.  Whereever the objects are, the paper stays white. The paper that is exposed to the light turns blue.. Look at the following closeup.The objects she used on her cyanotypes were feathers.  All the cranes were made out of feather covered paper.


BUT, as my friend Shannon Gillis says, there’s a story…there’s ALWAYS a story.

This is not your typical high school photography class cyanotype paper.  The artist, Airi Katsuta, makes her cyanotype paper from scratch.  She takes a special type of paper, coats it with two different chemicals to make the paper light sensitive.  Once the paper is made, she proceeds with the laying on of the feathers.  All 1,000 cranes were created from handmade cyanotype paper.  For a complete look at  the step by step process illustrated with photographs of Airi making the paper and the origami cranes, click here

But the creation of the 1,000 cranes did not come about because of her desire to make a pretty wall hanging or a conversation piece at the Festival. Airi started creating the cranes after the May 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  That summer, she went to Japan intending to stay a week as a volunteer working in the village of Ishinomaki.  She ended up staying longer and was determined to come back to Japan after her senior year at ASU was finished.  She used the symbolism and importance of the 1,000 cranes in Japanese culture as a fundraising vehicle to raise enough money to go back to Japan to continue her volunteer work.  Additionally, Airi, as a photography major, used her photography skills to record the devastation and recovery of Ishinomaki.

For the full story of the 1,000 cranes and Ms. Katsuta’s efforts, click here.  To view her photographs of the village, click here.


Airi Katsuta, it was a pleasure to met you, and thank you for letting me share your story of the 1,000 cranes on my blog.