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The playful calf swam towards the snorkelers, tapping its tail and fins, as Takahashi began to imagine the picture she hoped to create of this special moment. “I was swimming behind the calf. I imagined the back of the calf with a calm water surface above,” she says. “I completely fell in love with the calf and it’s very energetic, large, and beautiful tail.” The image she envisioned fell into place. “On that day, I felt a deep love between the mother and child. The calf was truly curious and pure, while its mother watched with care. It was a special scene for me, to be able to take a photo of the calf, completely relaxed in gentle waters.” These moments are what draws Takahashi to underwater photography . “We live on the land, but the view underwater is different—living organisms, plants, minerals—are all slightly different,” she says. “I think being underwater is similar to climbing Everest—it is not a place where we can easily go. For me, it is a special and sacred place.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/photography/2018-travel-photographer-of-the-year-humpback-whale-underwater/
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While fine-tuning their recipe, Emily and Melissa Elsen — the sister-sister duo behind Four & Twenty Blackbirds — stumbled on a source that would eventually lead them all the way to Japan. “We met a woman who knew the owner of Ippodo Tea , a 300-year-old family business in Kyoto ,” Emily says. “They produce a superfine, high-quality matcha, and sourcing from them really improved our custard. That’s probably what prompted everything.” That pie would end up connecting the Elsens with more Japanese producers and, ultimately, the New York Fair — a Big Apple-themed arts and culture festival at Osaka’s Hankyu Department Store . For the past two years, the sisters have been the fair’s pie ambassadors, and last year they extended their trip into a full-fledged dessert research expedition. Their latest project, a 10-seat bar and pie counter in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, channels the hyper-focused, hole-in-the-wall restaurant culture they admired in Japan , where some restaurants only do ramen, some only soba. Here are some of the sisters' reminiscences, recommendations, and favorite desserts from their trip: 1 of 9 Courtesy of Four & Twenty Blackbirds 2 of 9 Courtesy of Four & Twenty Blackbirds Emily: We got these ice creams at one of the many stalls near the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto. One is black sesame, and the other is yuzu. We had a scoop of hōjicha as well, a roasted green tea with a hint of toasted marshmallow. Melissa: One thing Japanese desserts do well is balance. Nothing is too sweet, and ingredients that might traditionally be savory are used to add nuance. That’s something we also try for in our flavor profiles.
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit https://www.travelandleisure.com/food-drink/japan-dessert-tour-four-and-twenty-blackbirds