Category Archives: Japan

Yoshino River

The Yoshino River is one of the three great rivers of Japan. Located on Shikoku Island, it is nicknamed “Shikoku Saburo,” Sabaro being a popular first name for a third son. The photo shows the wide sweep of the Yoshino near its outlet in the ocean near Tokushima. The landscape is actually much more built up than it seems in this image—typical of Japan, most flat areas such as the lower Yoshino Valley are heavily populated.

Yoshina River © Harold Davis

Yoshina River © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 28mm, circular polarizer, 1/500 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200; hand held, processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, and converted to black and white using the “Ansel in the Valley” preset in Perfect B&W.

Views of Japan

Hokusai, the famous Japanese woodblock print artist of the Edo period, created many views of Japan that included Mt Fuji, but the one shown here was probably not in his contemplation as they didn’t have air travel back then. I made the photo on an internal Japanese flight from Tokushima on Shikkoku Island to Haneda Airport near Tokyo.

View of Mt Fuji © Harold Davis

View of Mt Fuji © Harold Davis

For my own homage to Hokusai in the context of San Francisco, check out my book 100 Views of the Golden Gate.

As part of a chapter in the new book I am working on, related to black and white photography, I’ve been looking through my photography of Japan. These are some of the iPhone photos I’ve found, mostly of subject matter that I also photographed with conventional, high resolution cameras.

Misty Mountains © Harold Davis

Misty Mountains © Harold Davis

For example, the view of misty mountains long the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage on the Kii peninsula shown above can be seen more extensively in Distant Japanese Landscape.

The somewhat bleak courtyard shown next is in Koya-san, where I stayed for a couple of rainy autumn days as a guest in a monastery.

Autumn in Japan © Harold Davis

Autumn in Japan © Harold Davis

If you’ve ever visited Japan’s ancient imperial capital of Nara, you’ll know that the deer of Nara are a big touristic deal—which is why they are portrayed in the attractive design on the manhole cover that I found on a Nara side street.

Manhole Cover, Nara, Japan © Harold Davis

Manhole Cover, Nara, Japan © Harold Davis

I liked wandering around Nara. There was a great deal to look at, such as Kofuku-ji, a Buddhist pagoda temple with origins dating to the 669 AD, once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. Today, even monuments as important as Kofuku-ji radiate a palpable sense of time having moved on, and despite all the hustle and bustle in Japan Nara seems like a delightful backwater.

Pagoda in Nara © Harold Davis

Pagoda in Nara © Harold Davis

Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo

In the eighteenth century, Tokyo—then known as Edo—was the world’s largest city, with a population of over one million. Today, Tokyo is still one of the world’s great metropoli, sprawling over an almost unimaginable population and area with numerous “cities within the city,” districts that are important in-and-of themselves.

The Rainbow Bridge crosses northern Tokyo Bay between two of these districts,  Shibaura and the Odaiba waterfront development in the Minato district.

Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo © Harold Davis

Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo © Harold Davis

Walking across this graceful suspension bridge is an uplifting experience in several sense of the word. The graceful curves of the bridge take you high above the bustle of the city, at the same time making the lines of modern Tokyo apparent.

As I crossed the Rainbow Bridge with my camera in the dusk of a foggy November day, I tried to align the curves of the bridge with the lines of an apartment complex in Odaiba in image that uses selective focus to contrast the curves in the Rainbow Bridge with the linear spaces of the buildings beyond.

300mm, 1/200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 400, hand held; processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop, and converted to black and white using Perfect B&W.

Nachi-san

Japan, as someone put it to me, is the most exotic place one can go that is absolutely safe. Nachi-san, shown in this image, is one of the ends of the Kumano kodo pilgrimage trail. It is a religious Shangri-la above the ocean with an impressive waterfall behind the temple complex.

Nachi-san © Harold Davis

Nachi-san © Harold Davis

In my initial story on this image, I noted that “while some pilgrims do it the hard way and walk the ancient stones of the Kumano kodo up to mountain passes and down through valleys to arrive in Nachi-san, most visitors arrive by scheduled bus, or by tour bus. Like Lourdes in France, or Mt Koya in Japan, Nachi-san is a destination for religious tourists, almost all of whom are Japanese.” There’s more about the location in the story about my long exposure photo of the Pagoda at Nachi San.

When I first processed the image I straightened the lines of perspective, but my mistake left a little of the amrgin in the finished image. The version shown here fixes my earlier mistake.

Please consider joining me in the spring for a photographic trip to Japan, which includes a visit to Nachi-san.

Umbrellas, Tokyo

Umbrellas, Tokyo © Harold Davis

Umbrellas, Tokyo © Harold Davis

When it comes to photographic technique, sometimes simple is good. I photographed these umbrellas on the street in Tokyo in a light rain on a overcast but bright autumn day, handheld at 1/160 of a second, f/4.5 and ISO 400. There was no post-production involved other than a little adjustment in the RAW conversion.

Shirakawa River, Kyoto

Getting to Kyoto late in the afternoon, I checked into my hotel. Next, I proceeded to wander with my camera. In November, the sun set early and found me along the banks of the Shirakawa River. Somewhere between a canal and a river, and bounded in a stone channel, one-way streets ran along either bank. I set up my tripod on one of the stone foot bridges that crossed the Shirakawa, and shot the peaceful urban landscape as ducks played in the water.

Shirakawa River, Kyoto © Harold Davis

Shirakawa River, Kyoto © Harold Davis

 

Boss Coffee

Boss Coffee © Harold Davis

Boss Coffee © Harold Davis

Isuien Garden

Gardens in Japan are almost never just about nature. The key point in a Japanese garden is how the natural elements interact with structural and human elements.

Isuien Garden, Nara, Japan © Harold Davis

Isuien Garden, Nara, Japan © Harold Davis

The style of Isuien Garden in Nara is specifically to use extrinsic elements—landscapes and structures  that are outside the domain of the garden—to enhance the garden itself. My image echoes this stylistic idea by including only the reflection of the temple in the pond, in addition to the stone footbridge and natural reflections.

This way is not the way

Not the way © Harold Davis

Not the way © Harold Davis

Awagami Video with Botanique

I’m really pleased to note a new professionally-made video from Awagami about photographers who print on Awagami washi that shows my Botanique. The video can be played below, embedded from Facebook. The video is in Japanese with English translation in subtitles. Botanique is shown in the video at about the 50 second mark. 

Sunrise in the rice fields

Waking up just before dawn in the small Japanese village of Chikatsuyu (see bottom image), I threw my clothes on and hurried out with my camera. There were pockets of fog, and crystalline ice structures on some of the plants. As the sun rose, moisture evaporated up from the earth, and I headed for the nearby rice fields.

Field, Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

Field, Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

The trick when shooting into the sun is usually to radically underexpose—otherwise your image will be overexposed and full of blown-out highlights. The exposure data for this image in the rice fields using a 300mm lens on a full frame camera was 1/3200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO, hand held. As you can see, I purposely selected a wide open aperture for shallow depth-of-field. My underexposure was by about 2 EV relative to what the light meter indicated.

Morning Mist on the Hiki River © Harold Davis

Morning Mist on the Hiki River © Harold Davis

Back along the Hiki River, the morning mists were rapidly clearing. I turned my camera away from the fields, and shot an image back towards the mountains.

Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

The Minshuku—a budget version of a ryokan, roughly speaking a Japanese bed & breakfast—where I stayed is to the left in this photo, right along the river.

 

Temple Flags

The temple flags shown in this image are along the steps leading up to the grand shrine of Kumano Hongu Taisha located in Tanabe, Japan on the Kii peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture. This temple has been one of the most important centers of the Shugendo Buddhist faith for more than 1,000 years.

Temple Flags © Harold Davis

Temple Flags © Harold Davis

My idea was to create a mystical, ghost-like image. I wanted to use the natural motion of the flags in the wind to create a soft effect, with the forest landscape in the background partially “peeking” through. To make this image, in the gathering twilight, I put my camera on my tripod, and dialed down the ISO as low as possible (to ISO 50).

With my ISO set low, I next picked a small aperture (f/22). At ISO 50 and f/22, an eight second exposure was about right—which created the flowing and soft otherworldly effect I wanted.

Special Edition Print: Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po

What better time to consider the spiritual side of things than at the beginning of a new year?

Hiking the ancient Kumano kodo trail on the Kii peninsula in Wakayama prefecture in Japan, involves a spiritual quest where walking itself is part of the pilgrimage. And the views themselves represent a spiritual and dreamlike landscape.

Weather on the Kumano kodo

During a short break in the very wet weather, from Hyakken-gura—a lookout high on the trail—I shot this panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po—which translates to “view of 3,600 peaks of Kumano.” When the wind gusted, rain splattered my face and my camera lens and tripod, so it was pretty hard to make notes to keep track of the positioning of the frames in the panorama. It was wet and cold. I had to work hard to keep myself—and more importantly—my camera dry. But I realized that the weather was a part of the spiritual scenery that makes the Kumano kodo so special. And as Ansel Adams put it, “You can’t capture a clearing storm without being out in the weather.”

Peaks and Panoramas

I don’t think there are actually 3,600 peaks—it’s important to remember the role of metaphor in life, particularly when you are on a pilgrimage—but as you can see there are certainly quite a few mountains. You can click here, or click on the image, to view it wider than it is shown here.

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis—Click here to view larger

This is a high-resolution panorama, shot in 10 separate sections with my 36MP Nikon D800. The final, full-size processed file measures 12,256 x 4,747 pixels at 300 ppi.

A Fusion of Old and New

This special edition panoramic archival pigment print is presented on the fantastic Kozo washi made by Awagami on Shikoku Island. The Awagami Mill has been making this paper for generations.

The print measures 24″ wide by 11 3/4″ high (the image size is 20″ X 7 3/4″) with generous 2″ margins. It is hand-signed and inscribed in pencil on the bottom margin. This is an elegant collectible print, handcrafted in my studio, that will add the spiritual essence of the Kumano kodo landscape to any environment.

For a limited time, we will ship one of these unique prints to you, packed flat and insured, for the special price of $675.00.

To order your Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po panoramic print, or for more information, please click here to contact my studio. Larger sizes are also available, please inquire.

Samadhi Mudra

The hand gestures of representations of Budhha are significant, and have specific meanings. The Dhyana mudra (hand gesture of Buddha), also called the Samadhi mudra, is shown in the photo below. This hand gesture invites meditation and a sense of deep involvement with the universe.

Dhyana Mudra © Harold Davis

Dhyana Mudra © Harold Davis

I photographed this statue of Buddha in the garden outside Senso-ji, the oldest temple in Tokyo (also known as the temple of the Asakusa Kannon). Click here to read my story about having my fortune told at this temple!

Distant Japanese Landscape

About half a mile before reaching Hyakken-gura, I paused in the steady rain. Peering out from beneath my umbrella, I could see through the pine trees to a distant landscape in which the cloud cover seemed to be breaking up. The view seemed to call for a panorama, so I mounted by camera on my tripod. Holding the umbrella over the camera, and ignoring the cold rain splashing on me, I panned from forest edge to forest edge, encompassing the entire view spread out below me. I knew there would be time enough later to warm myself in a hot communal bath, and to clean my camera lens from the drops of rain that were inevitably falling on it.

Distant Japanese Landscape © Harold Davis

Distant Japanese Landscape © Harold Davis—Click here to view larger

You can click here, or on the image, to view it wider than it is possible to see it on one of my vertically-oriented blog pages.

Related story: 3,600 Peaks of Kumano