Long-exposure photography at Banzai Cliff

DSC_6581YOU should visit Banzai Cliff at night to see a totally different aspect of one of the most frequented places on island.

Recently, I was there with five other photographers. We wanted to learn time-lapse photography and we were told that Banzai Cliff was the best spot to do it. We arrived just before 8 p.m.Setting up our tripods and cameras, we studied the sky. Only a few stars were visible and I was beginning to get disappointed, but I followed what my companions were doing and set the timer on my camera and left it to do its work. We kept repeating the process and paid more attention to the food and drinks that we brought with us.IMG_2196

Banzai Cliff was so different at night. It had an eerie feel and the silhouettes of monuments seemed sinister. My imagination was running wild, as usual. I thought the statues would come to life at any time, and I could almost hear the screams of the people who died in that place during the war.

Half an hour and several gigabytes later, I scrolled back to have a glimpse of what my camera collected. I was in for a big surprise. I saw only a few stars but the camera showed more — in fact the sky was filled with glittering dots and I had to check if my camera was not playing tricks on me. I peered at the screens of my companions and discovered that yes indeed, there were more stars in the sky than we saw.DSC_9006

Fascinated, I repositioned my tripod to face the area above Suicide Cliff and turned it to the widest angle to capture the silhouettes of the monuments with the stars.

My images did not come out good as well as the time-lapse images of the other photographers. I need more practice, but the experience taught me a lot about the wonders of the sky.IMG_5663

First published at the Marianas Variety here



A Japanese gun among the bushes

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I HAVE been visiting Ladder Beach on the northern part of Saipan for the past five years, so I was familiar with how the parking area could become bushy and “jungle-like.” On a recent visit, however, something presented itself that had previously remained unnoticed.

Just before you make the left turn toward the Ladder Beach parking area, somebody had painted two posts. I had a quick peek at what was there just before we drove on. It looked like a big rusty gun standing there in the thick shrubbery. My friend Donna  and I decided to stop on our way back and examine what was there — it turned out to be a Japanese anti-aircraft gun, rusty but still formidable looking.


It was hard to get to where the gun was because of the hundreds of spiders and insects in the thick vegetation. Carefully making our way around the World War II artifact, we inspected it without touching it. We feared that the whole thing might collapse without warning.

The gun was intact, and for a few moments I could not help but imagine the deafening sound that it would certainly have made during the Battle of Saipan.


Spiders nestled in their comfortable webs all over the gun — signs that not a lot of people had ever seen it, even though it was right there within reach.

Going on a trek by yourself to look for good photo opportunities is different from being on a guided tour with someone who knows about the history of the island. Alone, you are often surprised at the number of things that you have never seen before, or things that you have seen but never paid much attention to — or even things you never thought existed in places you frequently visit.


Donna shooting the gun behind a stone

That Japanese gun is among the World War II artifacts to be found in the area around Ladder Beach and all the way to Obyan and Naftan Point.

The next time you visit Ladder Beach, keep your eyes open, pay closer attention and you will see a pair of green posts. Stop and get out of your vehicle. It is where the Japanese gun is located.



A lot has been happening in the Ladder Beach parking area. The bushes have been trimmed, the ladder has been cleared and, very soon, it will become one of the most sought-after venues for weddings, picnics and family gatherings.

There’s more to the island than you know! Explore!

First published at the Marianas Variety