Readers’ wildlife photos

May 12, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have a set from James Blilie, or rather a set of photos taken by his father in East Asia. James’s captions and introduction are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here’s another batch of my Dad’s photos from Japan, for your consideration. You previously posted his photos here and here.

These are more street photos my Dad (James L. Blilie, 1923-2010) took in Japan in 1952 and 1953.  All are scans of his B&W negatives.  These are mainly shot on Kodak Super-XX film.  I spent many evenings in February and March this winter scanning in all his negatives from this tour of duty in Japan (several hundred).  (Thousands more to go from elsewhere!)

My Dad served in the US Army Air Force in WWII, flying a full tour of combat missions (35 when he was in) in the 8th Air Force over Germany and occupied France.  When the Korean war broke out, he was called up in 1950 or 1951.  Since he’d done his full combat duty, he was assigned to Military Air Transport, where he continued to fly as a navigator on cargo airplanes.  He was mainly based in Tachikawa Air Base in Japan; but also flew frequently into Clark Field near Manila in the Philippines, Taipei, and Taegu and other fields in Korea:  The work involved supplying US forces in Korea.

When he was not on duty, he wandered the areas around the air bases.  These photos are ones that he took around Tachikawa, Japan.

I have scanned his negatives, cropped the images, adjusted exposure and contrast, occasionally spotted out a distracting element, and spotted out the dust (some of my dust-spotting is sub-optimal).  My Dad’s equipment:  A Rolleiflex (twin-lens reflex camera, Schneider lenses), a Leica IIIf, and a compatible Canon III rangefinder.  I think these were among the first 35mm cameras to use interchangeable lenses and were the high-tech cameras of the time.  My copies of his cameras (the Rolleiflex is actually his original camera, he gave it to me in the 1980s) can be seen here.  (L to R:  Rolleiflex, Argus C-3, Leica iiif, Canon iii)

As my Dad noted:  “Japan has changed greatly since 1952-53.  These photographs represent an era that has passed, as I have been told by various people from Japan. I think this makes the pictures more interesting and valuable.”

Stevedores unloading bulky cargo at the docks in Tokyo:

Woman at Nikko, following a trail lined by funeral markers:

View from the window of a guest house where my Dad stayed in Kawaguchi-Ko.  I love the details of the shutters (if that’s what they are, maybe just decorative framing).  You can see my Dad reflected in the glass at the left.

Portrait of a young man (I wish my Dad had written his name down!; I can find nothing) holding the wooden model C-54 airplane he was building for my Dad.  He built 3 airplane models for my Dad: the C-54, a C-97, and a B-24.  My Dad flew these types often (the B-24 during WWII).  We still have these models.  They are beautiful.

The remainder are shots of people from around Tachikawa City, Japan.  No further details are provided in his notes.

Finally, another photo of the guy who took these photos.  My Dad, at Taegu, Korea.

17 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Some really good photos of that important period of Japanese history. I think it was 1952 that the occupation of Japan ended. It did not end in Okinawa until 1972. Both Japan and Korea have changed so much since those days, no one would believe it. Tachikawa is close by Yokota Air Base in the Tokyo area.

  2. Outstanding photography! Your father was obviously an exceptional person. These photos are a real treasure. I know how proud you must be of him.

  3. These are magnificent – also a comment for the other RWP contributions – I don’t always comment but I am never disappointed with this wonderful series in general.

  4. Not really wildlife, but outstanding photographs. Your dad clearly had ‘the eye’.

  5. Such a special set of pictures. It must be so thrilling to both connect with your father in this way, and to gaze into the past through the many negatives that you are preparing.

    1. This is true. I feel closer to him now than ever since he passed in 2010. Some friends say, how can you do this, I’d be too sad. But I feel the opposite — I am connecting with him in a very strong way. I am remembering him and honoring his memory. He’s gone forever; but his words and artwork live on.

      I have been also scanning all the old documents from my family and writing up everything I know about my (Norwegian side*) family. The document is already 40+ pages long. I’ve been visiting the graves of my grandparents and great grandparents (and other realtives) and cleaning them up and making them good for the next bunch of decades. Again, family connections. My ancestors emigrated from Norway to Wisconsin in the 1880s.

      This has connected me to dozens of my relatives around the US, some of whom I wasn’t even sure how I was related to (but now I know). This is one thing Facebook is really good for.

      (* My mother’s family were of English, Scottish, and French extraction, Her family had traced their tree back to Robert the Bruce and other known people. Much of her family were French Huguenots: Ventress (Fentress), LeNoir. Her ancestors were Methodists Bishops in Mississippi. Some of her ancestors were founders of Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. So her side is already well documented. My Mom was in DAR (much fmaily tracing required.)

      A couple of websites I’ve found super helpful:

      Family search is owned by the LDS Church for their own religious reasons. But they give free access. Bless those LDS workers (volunteers, I’m sure) who have scanned, viewed, and indexed names to huge numbers of public records, such as draft cards, census records (1940 and earlier only), birth, death, burial, and marriage records.

  6. Very nice shots. Love the detail of the faces that comes through in black and white. Loved seeing these!

  7. These photos capture real character; they were mesmerizing. Nice to know you still have the wooden models- from the looks of the C-54 (scratch built I presume), he was a damn good modeler. Do you still have his Leica iiiF? I’ve been tempted to purchase one on eBay, but I’m so used to the automation of my DSLR I doubt I’d get much use out of it. The Leica demands that the photographer knows what the hell they’re doing.

    1. Hi Mark, I do have a Leica iiif and a Canon iii (copy of the Leica). My Dad’s main gear is viewable here:

      Rolleiflex (6cm film, this is his actual camera, I’ve had it for about 35 years), Argus C-3, Leica iiif, Canon iii.

      I recently bought used copies because I am enjoying his photos so much. Mainly just to put on the shelf in our “pretties” cabinet (though they DO seem to work). I haven’t shot film since 2004. I am all-in with digital. Some of my photographer friends are into retro lenses on their digital cameras and some are still shooting B&W film. But I’m all digital now.

      I am using m4/3 gear now (Olympus and Lumix) and I too am addicted to my electronic viewfinder (EVF), AF, AE. My eyes are so poor for close work now, I really rely on the AF. I use aperture-priority AE and use the exp-compensation to tweak exposure. With the EVF, which provides exposure preview, I almost never miss exposures anymore.

      That said, in my 20s and 30s, with good eyes, I was all-manual, all the time. I just used the exposure tables from Kodak (which I have memorized for KR64 and Tri-X-Pan). And I used MF all the time. And I pretty much never used the light meters in the cameras (only in really tricky lighting conditions). Days gone by!

      The models were exactly that: Built from lumber, by hand, solid wood (though light weight — feels like pine perhaps). They are true works of art.

    2. The hard part with the Leica/Canon is the rangefinder focusing. Very challenging with old eyes! Tiny viewing ports, small apertures (rather dark), old optical system. Challenging.

      1. Hi James, thanks for all the added information and the photo of your dad’s gear. For the time he was shooting, that is top-of-the-line equipment. I’m with you re. EVF/AF. My eyes have never been good, but now I need bifocals so manual is just too iffy for consistent sharp photos..

  8. I think you posted some photos of your Dad earlier, right? I enjoyed them also. The Japan of the early Showa period was certainly a different country to the one I lived in in the 1990s – unrecognizable. It looked very third world back in your Dad’s day.
    There is a large museum in central Tokyo called the Showa-kan devoted to that period 1935-1989.
    Great pics! Thank you.

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