CHATAN, Okinawa — Even with several photography awards under his belt and a showcase debut Thursday, John Burgreen III doesn’t consider himself a photographer.

He prefers “creative type” or “artist” — titles he says don’t limit one’s identity.

“I’m not trying to fit into some elitist group. That’s the great thing about being an artist — I’m not defined. I define myself by the things I create,” said Burgreen, 29, during an interview Saturday at a Starbucks in the Mihama district of Chatan.

Burgreen’s vibrant photographs of the American Village in Chatan, scenic Naha skylines and other images depicting life on Okinawa will be on display Thursday through Tuesday at Cafe Nirai in the Mihama district. The showing is the first time a series of his work will be on public display.

“I think, literally, they’ll see Okinawa, just in a different kind of way. If that makes them smile, then it’ll be worth it,” Burgreen said.

As a teenager in Gloucester, Va., Burgreen would sketch superheroes and paint religious symbols. He then worked in graphic design during a five-year enlistment as a Marine.

He took up photography as a hobby two years ago at the suggestion of his supervisor at the Marine Corps Community Services, where he’s worked for the past six years as a senior graphic designer and art director for Okinawa Outdoors and Okinawa Living magazines.

He wanted to try his hand at photography, but sought to capture the sights around him in a way more illuminating than what’s possible with traditional digital photography.

After discussing the idea with his wife, Tomoko, Burgreen bought $15,000 worth of camera equipment and hit the streets — teaching himself.

“That first week I went out every night. It was all trial and error,” he said.

Using high dynamic range (HDR) imaging, Burgreen shoots with light settings ranging from underexposed to overexposed. Then, through a computer program, he merges exposures into one photograph, sharpening details and adding contrast and color.

The result is a photograph intense in light and color.

“It breathes new life into the image,” Burgreen said.

His photography has received recognition from several organizations, including the International Academy of the Visual Arts.

Last year, Burgreen launched, a Web site to showcase his works and those of others. The site has morphed into a forum where creative types can trade techniques, discuss the latest trends and swap travel stories.

To find his subjects, Burgreen and his wife, who live in Ginowan, wander through districts — back alley markets in Nago to the sandy beaches in Naha — searching for good lighting and inspiration.

“I like seeing and capturing light and then I just let that paint the scene for me,” he said.

Burgreen said he plans to continue expanding his knowledge of HDR photography and perfecting his technique.

“I’d rather do something that challenges the artistic sense, whatever’s next up on the horizon, the next big thing,” he said. “But, I never want to make it like a job. I just do it for fun.”

Check it outWhat: Images of Okinawa and mainland Japan, a showcase of the photography of John R. Burgreen IIIWhen: April 17-22Where: Cafe Nirai, in the Mihama district in Chatan, near the Sunabe Seawall

For directions and more information visit or call Burgreen at 090-6869-4603.

Prints will be available for purchase.

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