The Army Museum and Other Curiosities

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on April 20th, 2011 by MadDog
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I can hardly take in the fact that I have only three days left in Honolulu. As I’ve said already, it has been strange and disturbing to be here without Eunie, but I realise that these intensely unhappy feelings are going to be with me for a long time and I need to learn to deal with them. More distressing yet are the seemingly unending series of meetings, appearances and presentations I must take care of in order to properly discharge my responsibilities to my supporters. These were once obligations which Eunie and I attended to with confidence. Now it is the loneliest thing in the world for me.

Still, there have been some distractions which I have enjoyed. I had decided to go to the Army Museum, forgetting that Eunie and I had been there many years ago. I had a couple of false starts finding it. People kept giving me instructions like, “It’s right down there.”, pointing in some vague direction or, “Keep going until you’re almost to the water and look for the flags.”, indicating generally in the direction of the Pacific Ocean. Having finally found it I immediately recognised that I’d been there before and the inevitable weird feeling that there was something very important missing flooded over me. I toughed it out and went through the museum. You can cover the whole thing easily in an hour.

There are many well designed displays chock full of goodies for war buffs. Here is a nicely done display of all of the Japanese war planes which participated in the attack on Pearl Harbour:

The models were very beautifully constructed down to the finest details. All of them had tail numbers of planes which were in the attack and most gave the pilot’s name.

Here is a display of a period photo of Waikiki beach with a replica of one of the many machine-gun nests which were placed there in preparation for the expected invasion:

I tried in vain to find any other images of these defenses on the web – no luck.

No history of Hawaii’s role in World War II could be complete without the story of the 442nd. The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was “Go for Broke.” It was composed of Japanese-American men, mostly from Hawaii. The tale is powerful and it is well told in the museum. These men proved their loyalty without doubt during their bloody battles with the German Army in Europe. They were one of the most successful and highly decorated units of the war. The price for this was paid in flesh. The casualty rate for the unit was extremely high.

I saw a couple of flame-thrower demonstrations when I was in the National Guard. My general impression was that I wanted nothing to do with them:

My opinion hasn’t changed at all after seeing this display once again.

I have done some wandering in other places. Here is a carefully composed image of what I not-so-jokingly call The Hundred-Million Dollar Mile:

Such naked displays of wealth can be found in countless breezy ports around the world. Honolulu hasn’t the glitz and sophisticated, snobbish class of the Euopean leisure nests, but it holds its head up when it comes to flamboyant spending.

I ducked my head inside the outer door of this establishment and eyed with great amusement the intimidating iron gate hidden just out of view of the aimless wandered. The stern warning, “MEMBERS ONLY” was enough to turn me away:

Ah, well, the Yacht Clubs in Lae and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea are much more welcoming, if not so ostentatious. The Madang Club, along with the Madang Game Fishing Association is a very friendly place where visitors are gladly welcomed. Maybe the principle here is that the farther away you get from the big money, the more hospitable the atmosphere becomes.

More in line with the common man’s reach and taste is this sort of yacht, the classic Hawaiian outrigger racing canoes:

This shot was taken on a Sunday morning. As you can see, it is a very popular sport.

I got all arty while composing this shot. It was a little tricky, because I was working against the rhythm of the small groups of canoes racing for the finish line. I wanted to capture the contrast of the small canoes, steeped in Hawaiian history, the glamorous yachts in the mid-distance and the cold, blank-faced buildings in the background. The image as it came from my camera was speechless. All of the elements were there, but the hues and light levels were all wrong:

It might surprise you that I spent more than an hour working on the image. The sky was all blotchy, pale white, so I made it blue. The buildings had an unnatural cyan cast and seemed very flat. I sharpened them, and the masts, warmed up the hue and boosted the contrast. It took a while to get just the look I wanted.  Moving down, the larger boats behind the canoes and the dock were deeply shadowed on the sides, so I brightened them up and removed a bluish cast which made them look strange. Finally, the canoes required a lot of work to make them look the way I wanted. It’s still a very ordinary photo, but it now speaks to me much more clearly. Except for the cost of a modest camera every three or four years, this hobby costs me nothing but time, which I count better spent than staring at a television set.

As my final gasp of artistic expression for the day, I’ll present Buildings and Sky:

Simplicity appeals to me, mainly because my life seems to be far more complicated than it needs to be. I looked up at these buildings against the dark blue sky and listened. Little observations, sounding much like me speaking to myself, began to whisper. . . See the faint cirrus streak connecting the tops of the buildings? See the stark contrast? See all those angled lines, some strong and some faint, barely observable? See the strong black columns intruding? See the reddish glow of the sunlight reflected from the coppery windows. The width and height of this image exactly match the Golden Ratio, which is supposed to be a most pleasing shape to the human eye. The buildings follow the Rule of Thirds.

It’s fun to see how much information can be crammed into such a simple picture.

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