Passing the Baton

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My twelve year old son Jack at the Seal Beach Pier.  He just began taking pictures at this time and I wanted to capture that moment.  I guess that’s the photographer in me.

With all the researching, translating and documenting I’ve done on our family history during the past several years, I’ve come to the realization I was living in the past.  And as time marched by, I wanted more time…but now, that time has gone.

I reflected on the near future; in the past month, things have changed.  Things that cannot be undone.  And I realized, too, that in addition to passing on what I’ve learned about our family history through these blogs, I need to pass the baton on as well for tomorrow.  Small things.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve held a camera in my hand… from the time I was perhaps eight years old.  I vividly recall looking down on the ground glass of my dad’s Rolleiflex TLR.  And I know it was my grandmother or aunt who sent me a “Fujipet” 120 film camera from Japan as a gift.  It had a plastic lens.  There were two levers, one on either side of the lens; you pressed one down with your left finger to cock the shutter.  Then with your right finger, you pressed the other lever “to take the shot”.  I took a bazillion shots during our 1964 road trip to Chicago and burned through a lot of 120 film.  I don’t think mom was too happy.

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I’m in the center; dangling from my neck is the Fujipet 120 film camera. The “model” on the left is my cousin Jane.  Chicago, circa 1964.

When I was twelve, I spent a summer in Tokyo; I was born there.  My Aunt Eiko got me my first “real” camera: a Canon Demi-S.  It shot 35mm film but in “half-frame”.  In other words, if you had a 36-shot roll of film, you would get 72 shots – plus about four or five more at the end.  I loved it.  It even had a built in light meter, a soft case and a wrist strap.  It went everywhere I went.  I even bought yellow and red filters.  I used it to take photos of the TV set when Armstrong landed walked on the moon…but none of the images came out because I wanted to use my new fancy-schmancy electric strobe with a DC cord.  I got great pictures of our RCA color TV, though.  LOTS of great pictures of our TV set.  But on one – just one – you can BARELY make out Armstrong as he stepped of the Lunar Module.

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The Canon Demi-S, complete with the soft case. Under the lens, there is even a filter that enhances skin tones when shooting color.

While I did take one class in photography, everything else was self-taught through the years.  Trial and error.  That means lots of moolah down the drain…literally.  I had a full darkroom in my parent’s house at one time.  I must have developed and processed over a thousand rolls and printed thousands of pictures.  While I did win a few contests in sports photography, I never learned the critical things that define a pro…like my bud Alan Miyatake (but I did best him in ONE contest. LOL).

Since becoming a young adult, I’ve always been the “photographer”…  taking pictures at events, parties, of this and that…  I don’t know if I was any good at it but people always seemed to ask me to take photos.  Perhaps because I took them for free.  But finally, I took snapshots at my own daughter’s wedding…and not someone else’s daughter for a change.

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As I was taking my kids back to their mother’s two weeks ago, my twelve year old son surprised me by asking if he can have a “real” camera.  Totally out of the blue but I was happy.  He wanted to take pictures like his old man.

So yesterday, we headed towards the nearby beach; he wanted to take pictures of the sunset!  I handed him my (getting old) Canon DSLR and monopod and while in the car, I gave him a crash course on shutter speed, f/stops,  and ISO.

But he asked, “But don’t you just push the button, Papa?”

So with temps in the high 50’s (cold for us here) and a chilling wind, I gave him some basic instructions and I left him pretty much alone.

He took on his own challenge.

Here are a few of his photos; sure, I edited them a bit but he did darn well for his first time.

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Must be in his genes.

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As I watched Jack from a distance in that chilling wind, feelings of being alone and lament swirled.  Sadness that time has surged by with tomorrows dwindling.  It felt as if I was looking at myself…  fifty years ago… with that Fujipet camera with a plastic lens dangling from my neck.

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My son Jack must be thinking of his next shot…

I hope he continues.  The family needs a photographer.

42 thoughts on “Passing the Baton”

  1. Those are excellent photographs. Someone told me (I can’t remember who) that if you want to learn photography, you have to learn it in black and white. I don’t know about such things … I have no skills.

    My very best to Jack. I can tell you are very proud of him, and should be. Hold him close, as he will be 30 years old in a few days.

  2. A photographer is a historian. He captures one second of time, and keeps it for others to see at a far distant time. I am proud of the fact that you are proud of Jack …

  3. Many blessings to you–in sad times and in happy. You have the future before you in what you have passed on to your children, and the research you have done will mean a lot as they grow up, as it has in my family. It is so very much worth it.

    This blog and the things you have shared enrich all of your readers and it is enjoyed and appreciated. Don’t stop. Great photography–the talent is there, and it shows in your son.

  4. A very moving blog, Koji. Great to see your son taking an interest in photography. I wish I would have started at the age that you, and now your son, started. My dad, who was an avid photographer, certainly encouraged me. He was always irritated that I traveled to so many places and didn’t have a record of it. –Curt

    1. Gee, thanks, Curt. You had written about him earlier…Was it sunsets he liked to shoot? But now, you’ve got Peggy. And it’s never too late to take on photography with renewed energy.

  5. Beautiful moments you captured here Koji. You are as wonderful with your words as you are with your photography. That picture of Jack still gets me. I love it.

    And how daggone adorable you were! (and are!)

    Thanks for sharing these lovely moments with us.

  6. I don’t know what I thought was more beautiful–the sentiments you expressed in this post, or your son’s photographs. I hope you take great pride that your son has asked to follow in your footsteps. It says a lot for his love and respect for his father.

  7. Time does pass way to quickly, it is nice to see that your son will preserve time like his dad. He is off to a great start ~ those were beautiful shots he was able to transport me from our snow filled streets to the beauty and warmth of the California coast. (50 degrees is warm for me ;D )

  8. A lovely post all ways round. I don’t suppose Jack will ever forget that day, even if he doesn’t make much of it now. I am continually amazed, overjoyed and proud of what my children do. They are kind enough to make much of me when I try and do something now so I bet your children are proud of your photography.

  9. Wow, Koji! This is such a beautifully pensive post. I love Jack’s photos. He must be very pleased with himself, because these first efforts are fantastic. I hope you continue to tutor him a bit. The time spent learning from you would be such a wonderfully personal exchange between father and son. I would love to be able to see his photos as he gains experience. A photographer and a baker…your children are creative. Isn’t that wonderful!

      1. Thank you, Koji. The older I get, the more that “passing on the baton” means a great deal to me. I’m now focused on grandchildren, and when I think about how quickly time passes, I am very humbled!

  10. Cool story, and it looks like Jack has a great eye! Mechanics can be taught, vision cannot… His wonderful photos prove that he will have a lifelong hobby (or profession) with a camera and carry on your legacy!

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