Fushimi Inari-taisha

I recently vitsited Kyoto, Japan. Before I left on the trip a friend of mine who had been to Kyoto before me showed me her pictures of Kyoto and said that she would be interested to see what kind of pictures I would take at Fushimi Inari-taisha (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fushimi_Inari-taisha). I thought of it could be a good challenge for me.

On my first day in Kyoto I went to Fushimi Inari-taisha midday. It was very crowded with tourists. At times the stream of torists moving through seemingly too narrow torii was so thick that I could not stand in one place, I had to move with the stream. It was hard to get any picture of the place. So, I did not. Instead I spent my time exploring the place, experiencing it first hand.

Next day I went there in the very early morning. It was dark and cold. The city was asleep. Occasional taxis on the narrow roads were asleep too with their drivers sleeping in reclined seats. The subway was  closed in such early hours and I walked along the streets of the quiet Kyoto to Fushimi Inari-taisha for an hour. I walked the path that would become all too familiar to me in the mornings after that.

When I got to Fushimi Inari-taisha it was still very early and I had it to myself until the first train would bring early-risers. I took some pictures but they somehow did not capture the place the way I felt it. They were too obvious, lacking uniqueness, my personal experience with it. They were technically perfect but that was too low bar for me. I wanted to go beyond technical.

On the morning of the third day I realized that I kept approaching photographing Fushimi Inari-taisha the same way I approach landscape photography paying attention to details. Every picture had every detail sharp in highlights, mid-tones and shadows. But that was not what Fushimi Inari-taisha was about. It was about mystery. It was about unseen and unheard. It was about my deepest wishes and deepest fears hiding away from light in the dark shadows of night. They were there for me to find, they were there for me to imagine.

Only after abandoning the idea of capturing every little detail in each picture I started getting pictures that spoke to me. A hint of torii, a striking pattern of shadow and light, a light revealing nothing but a few characters of Japanese script was enough. The rest could be filled by one’s own fantasy.

Once I saw the magic of the place I fell in love with it. It became the destination of my nightly pilgrimage.

On the last two days of my stay I finally got to the summit of Mount Inari (I had too many interesting photos to take at the lower levels before). As I got to the shrine at the summit I felt moved, touched by the experience of all those days and prayed following the local customs I had observed for so many times all the previous days. It just felt appropriate, like that was the single purpose of climbing all those steps.

I could not get enough of Fushimi Inari-taisha. On the departure day I stayed there as long as I could taking more and more pictures. Even as I had to leave I saw even more pictures that I did not have time to take.

Having Fun

Photographic trip does not have to be all about art. It can also be fun.

I’ve just returned from a trip to the Death Valley where I spent several days with a photographer friend photographing at various locations around the valley. It involved a lot of driving and hiking and of course photography. We woke up before sunrise and hiked in the dark to a location to photograph at sunrise every day. We drove quite a bit to remote locations where we photographed sunset, then drove back in the dark.

It sounds very tiresome but it was not because we’d have fun playing photographic jokes on each other, taking silly pictures, sharing and laughing at them. Photographic trip does not have to be all about art. It can also be fun.

Follow Your Heart

When I go on a photographic trip the hardest decision is always picking a destination.

Last week I had a knee surgery (which went quite well and I’m recovering quickly). The weekend before that I was going on a photo trip. I knew it would be a while I’d go again, so the choice was really hard.

The way I often make such decision is first decide whether I want to explore a new place or visit again a place I’ve been too. Once that is over I decide within that group which place to go based on time of the year, weather, etc.

The way I decided this time was simply by following my heart. So, I went to the Palouse. After so many years and so many visits I still love this place.

It’s rolling hills have calming, meditative influence on me. Despite its growing popularity I still have my places where I can be alone. And I keep discovering dirt roads I’ve never visited before.

When I arrived there I realized it was the right choice for me. Calm and peace filled my heart. First day I did not even get the camera out. I was just looking at the hills following their lines in their slow rhythm of a heartbeat.

When Less Is More

With better and better sensor technology and better software for HDR processing we can capture an incredible dynamic range in our images where we have an incredible details in highlights and in shadows.

Would photographers of the past be amazed with amount of details we can capture? Maybe. But I really miss silhouetted photos that have become such a rarity. They reveal very little leaving a lot of room for imagination.

The photo can be not about what is said but about what is not said, or to be more accurate about what is not shown and not about what is shown. It can be about mystery left in the shadows.

Imaginary Worlds

I’m not sure where I picked this up but I was stuck with a thought that Photoshop is bad for photography. as a landscape photographer I should use as little of it as possible. It dawn on me that I was holding myself back from what I craved for a long time. I wanted to create landscapes from my imaginations. I always envied artists who could draw what they saw in their minds, not what they saw with their eyes. So, this summer I started working on a new project “Imaginary Worlds”. In this project I use multiple images to combine into one. I don’t limit my creativity.

The first of the series was in my post a month ago: From Real into Surreal. Though I was not yet conscious at that point about why I was attracted to it and where it was going. This image is the first one where I was consciously working on it as a new project. (click on it to see larger size)

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Simplicity of a Curve

What can be simpler than a single curve in snow. It is like an artist calligrapher drew a hieroglyph with a single movement of hand.

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What’s interesting is that I found the same curve in a track of foot steps that a fellow photographer left behind.

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Shadows in Fog

I like photos in which fog is taking over, photos where viewer need to take an effort to make out what’s on the photo. So, when I was returning once from Snoqualmie Pass and I saw clouds falling down, dispersing into fog and taking over the mountains I exited freeway at the closest exit and photographed it.

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