Most of my time living in Japan has been spent going back to the same places and trying again. I've climbed the same mountains multiple times, go for walks in the exact same route, eat the same breakfast almost every day, and vacation in the same few places. Osaka, 3 times. Kyoto, twice. Yokohama and Kawagoe more times than I can count.... And most importantly Kagoshima, my favourite city in the world.
The thing about being a 'repeat customer' to a place is that the ties to the land run deeper. One of my good friends was born and raised in Kagoshima and tells me I'm the only person she knows who loves Kagoshima like I do. It sure as Hell ain't no Tokyo or Kyoto. It's a small city next to a massive volcano. This article is about that volcano.
A little over a month ago I got back from my 3rd trip to Kagoshima. To date, I've spent close to a month of my life in Japan in that city. My first trip to Kagoshima was in August of 2015. I spent about 5 days there, and took a million meaningless photos. I had my point-and-shoot LX-5 and no real desire to focus on photography. At that point, I had no idea photographs were even composed. A camera was a part of my life, photography wasn't. I took a photograph of Sakurajima from the same spot nearly every photo was taken from.
To my own credit, it isn't a genuinely bad photo. The pier was far enough into frame to feel deliberate, the Kagoshima Ferry just about lines ups with the rule of thirds. But it's not processed, and it still falls into the snapshot category.
In April I returned from Nepal and ended up booking a last minute ticket to Kagoshima, with my flight leaving about 12 hours from the time I bought it. The next day I was back in the 'motherland'. I'd just stuck my foot in the door of photography and spent every ounce of my free time watching some video or another about it. I had been using lightroom since my trip to Nepal and was in my 'High clarity black-and-white' phase. During that trip, I was determined to take a picture of Sakurajima that could be in some way considered 'art'. What I came back with was this...
Not the worst photo... but that goddamn contrast is almost unholy. The only thing worth noting is that I used black and white for nearly every photo at the time. Not because I particularly thought it worked, but because it was safe. I used it to bypass blown highlights, and worrying about color. It was like a blanket over my learner's mistakes that said 'THIS IS ART' on it.
My last trip to Kagoshima was in August of this year. Nearly 5 months into my 'career' as a photographer. I'd been using colour comfortably and more than anything I had a good grasp of what I was doing when I turned those sexy dials on my X-T1. However this trip was with my girlfriend, not my camera. While I still took photos, I'm just not focused on it. At the same beach I took the photo in April, I took another photo of Sakurajima.
That was a month ago. Since then I've come even further. This isn't the photo I want. This isn't the Sakurajima photo I dream of taking. It's just another milestone on the path to taking that photo. I think everyone should have a place they can go to over and over, with the ability to see how much they've changed since that last visit...
For me, this must be the place.