Evening Cherry Blossoms, and some White-Balance Gymnastics
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.
, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image data — nearby photos Cherry Blossoms at Dusk over the Biwako Canal, Kyoto Japan -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 20 sec, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Cherry Blossoms at Dusk
over the Biwako Canal, Kyoto Japan

So, unlike yesterday's gloom and rain, today was clear and sunny. The cherry blossoms are not yet near full, and they don't seem to be particularly good this year anyway (we had an extended cold snap just as they were starting to blossom, which seems to have messed them up in varying ways), but nevertheless, I took the tripod and headed out for the last evening of the local cherry-blossom lightup.

Last year I took shots from closer to my place, but this year I wanted to try the long view, from where the canal bends, so I made the arduous 60-second trek down there. (What burdens I endure for my readership! 🙂 )

I'd shot the evening cherry-blossoms, sans lightup, from this same spot two years ago (see Nighttime Long-Exposure Cherry Blossoms), so I thought it'd make for a nice comparison, to see whether I've learned anything since.

(I like this spot anyway, as the nearby photos links under the pictures illustrate; they show the many other photos taken from near this spot that have appeared on my blog over the years.)

Anyway, I arrived at about sunset (6:20pm) to find a few other photographers looking bored, waiting for the lightup to start at 7pm.

, f/11, ISO 400 — map & image data — nearby photos 6:36pm 15 Minutes after Sunset -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 4 sec, f/11, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
6:36pm
15 Minutes after Sunset

The lights were turned on earlier last year, which made for much better photos because (as I discussed in last-year's post) you could get a nice balance between the deepening sky and the lit-up blossoms. This year, I knew that the sky would be too dark to matter by the time the lights came on, so I actually expected to get the best shots before then, without the lights.

As the clock ticked away toward 7pm, I kept trying test shots, looking for that perfect balance of sky/ground light. The crowd grew thicker, but I seemed to be the only one taking photos.

, f/10, ISO 400 — map & image data — nearby photos Five Minutes Later 6:41pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 42 mm — 3 sec, f/10, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Five Minutes Later
6:41pm
, f/13, ISO 400 — map & image data — nearby photos Getting Closer 6:47pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31 mm — 25 sec, f/13, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Closer
6:47pm

In this last one, I changed the white-balance setting to give it more of a daytime look (removing the extremely blue cast one gets during dusk), but because it's such a long exposure, the lights along the road and beyond the trees really get a chance to glow, giving it a surreal look that I like much better than the dreary dull reality of the view at that point.

Ten minutes later, just before the lights came on, I took this fairly-overexposed shot...

, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image data — nearby photos Overexposed and Dramatic 6:57pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 20 sec, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Overexposed and Dramatic
6:57pm

This is just how it came out of the camera, and I think it's got some unearthly (but appealing) aspects to it. The overexposure, though, robs the sky of the richness a long exposure at this time of dusk should give, so I played with Lightroom's develop settings on a copy of this image to come up with a version with more “punch”. The resulting image is what I led this post with.

As a point of further comparison, here's a third version of the same image, this time with a wild white-balance setting perhaps more appropriate for a Venusian landscape...

desktop background image of trees laden with cherry blossoms hanging over the Biwako Canal in Kyoto, Japan, at dusk -- , f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image data — nearby photos Whoa, Cool -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 20 sec, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Whoa, Cool
Desktop-Background Versions
Standard: 1024×768  ·  1440×1080  ·  1600×1200      Widescreen:  1280×800  ·  1680×1050  ·  1920×1200  ·  2560×1600

It's completely unreal, but I like it, so I threw some desktop-background versions in there as well.

The lights started coming on at 7:00, but it's not any kind of big dramatic thing. Some lights come on, then more, then more, and you can easily imagine some low-level worker somewhere hurriedly moving from switch to switch trying to get them all on.

The camera, however, can make it seem much more dramatic...

, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image data — nearby photos Lights On! still a touch of blue in the sky at 7:00pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 10 sec, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Lights On!
still a touch of blue in the sky at 7:00pm
, f/13, ISO 1600 — map & image data — nearby photos Much Nicer than Reality 7:03pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56 mm — 6 sec, f/13, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Much Nicer than Reality
7:03pm

I often complain that my photos don't do such-and-such a beautiful scene justice, but this evening lightup is definitely a case where the images are much nicer than the reality. If you enjoy the evening with someone special, well, that's a different story, but from a wholly practical level, a cherry-blossom lightup is much less impactful than many of the other “lightup events” on the calendar.

Much more interesting in person are some of the fall-foliage lightups (such as this one at the Eikando Temple and this train-line foliage tunnel), and the Kyoto Higashiyama “Hanatoro” Lightup. (Arashiyama, on the other side of Kyoto, also has a lot of lightup events, but I've never been to them because they tend to coincide with those near home, and I'm too lazy to make the trek and fight the crowds.)

I also tried a portrait orientation...

, f/13, ISO 1600 — map & image data — nearby photos 7:04pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 52 mm — 6 sec, f/13, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
7:04pm
Portrait-Mode Vertical Desktop-Background Versions
1050×1680  ·  1200×1920  ·  1600×2560     

Soon after, some ducks came in for a landing and messed up the relatively smooth water, and with the sky approaching total darkness, I decided to pack it up.

There were a good 30 people in the immediate area when the lights came on, but the crowd thinned considerably soon after, as those who had waited got their shots did so, then ran off in search of brighter pastures. Some remained, and others were continually joining the churn, so I thought I'd snap a shot that included them to place my vantage point into some additional context. I turned the camera 90 degrees toward the left, looking down the canal as it flows away from the right-angle bend I was standing at...

7:10pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 0.4 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
7:10pm

The camera's auto-whitebalance did a nice job here, ignoring the horrendous green of the street lights (which you can see on the ground under the fencing).

Like most shots on this post, the one above is much brighter than it actually was. This next shot give a better feel for what it was actually like at that time...

Pretty Dark 7:10pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 0.6 sec, f/11, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Pretty Dark
7:10pm

The tall building with the bright top at left is a wedding venue, with a glass-enclosed top floor reception hall. On weekends you can always look up and see a wedding reception going on, as was the case this evening. Congratulations to whoever it was.

Pretty in Pink crazy white-balance settings can be your friend — 7:18pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 58 mm — 1/4 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Pretty in Pink
crazy white-balance settings can be your friend — 7:18pm

Before leaving, I stepped back to take another “context” shot. This time, I “corrected” the white balance for the foreground, but I have to put “corrected” in quotes because you can never really correct for the horribly-uneven light from most street lamps. The really wonky compensation needed to restore the foreground colors to some sense of normalcy turns the mostly-incandescent fine-was-it-was background wonky.

Wonky Color and Overexposure let's file this one under “artistic license” — 7:21pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 0.4 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Wonky Color and Overexposure
let's file this one under “artistic license” — 7:21pm
Mini Hanatoro Okazaki borrowing some of Higashiyama's lanterns — 7:37pm -- Okazaki Cherry-Blossom Lightup -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56 mm — 1 sec, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Mini Hanatoro
Okazaki borrowing some of Higashiyama's lanterns — 7:37pm

Walking back home, I came across a short string of lanterns, the same kind used during the Higashiyama Hanatoro Event (Hanatoro combines “flower”, “lantern”, and “road”; Higashiyama is the neighboring ward), as shown here in detail. The big building in the background is the National Museum of Modern Art.


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

very cool shots, thanks for sharing.

— comment by T.J. Powell on April 6th, 2009 at 1:51am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Gorgeous pictures. Better than reality indeed.

— comment by Zachary on April 6th, 2009 at 9:54am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Wow, great photos. My favorite is the 7:04PM photo. There is so much I like about that photo I don’t know where to start. I particularly like the vanishing point of the river and the overall contrast of the photo. I also like the blossoms in the top right of the photo. They give some foreground to the picture adding balance in an unbalancing sort of way. Does that make sense? Either way, awesome photos.

— comment by Earnest Barr from Amami on April 6th, 2009 at 10:20am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

BTW, since so many of those are taken at 24mm…I remember reading on DPreview that the 14-24 beat out the 24-70 at 24. If only one had one of those lying around, this scenery would make for some great test photos….

— comment by Zachary on April 6th, 2009 at 6:20pm JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I like the first photo, although they are all interesting. I brought my camera a few times to work this week to your area, but didn’t shoot anything on my breaks because the trees weren’t really ready as fast as expected, as you wrote. Today I walked the Takano River and Kamo River, but blossoms are still only 80-90%. I switched to video for evening shooting around Kiyamachi.

— comment by nils on April 7th, 2009 at 1:40am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...


All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.


You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting