When You Tempt Fate, Sometimes You Lose
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On January 1st, we made a visit to the Heian Shrine for hatsumode, a ritualistic “first visit to a shrine in the new year” that's a religious experience for some, but a cultural event for all. The shrine was open all night, but even at noon it was still crowded...

Street Fair streets near the shrine were closed to traffic -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Street Fair
streets near the shrine were closed to traffic

(The shot above was taken from under the big orange shrine gate that straddles the road... view the “nearby photos” link under the pic to see area views.)

Inside the shrine courtyard there was a long line waiting to get in...

from the End of the Line -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
from the
End of the Line

The line looks long, but it moved briskly and we were in and out in just five minutes.

There was snow on the ground, but because of the crowds it wasn't particularly pretty, unlike previous times I'd visited the shrine after a snow (such as this, this, and my personal favorite, this).

But what I really noticed was the snow on the roof of the main building, in the left half of the photo above. Kyoto had a huge (for it) snowfall the previous two days, but today the sun was out and it was getting warmer, so I knew that snow would be sliding down at some point soon, and anyone heading in or out of the main building would be a potential target for a few seconds each way.

Reverse-Angle View from the top of the steps, looking back at the main gate building from the opposite side as seen in the first photo -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Reverse-Angle View
from the top of the steps, looking back at the main gate building from the opposite side as seen in the first photo

As we were leaving, a bunch of slushy snow fell in a big wet sploosh to one side of the step, making quite a sound and an impressive splash. It had started, and every so often some snow would give way and slide down the grooves of the roof, launch off the end, and sploosh down on whatever was below.

Fumie and Anthony eventually returned home, but I stuck around to witness the splooshing. (I had only one medium-size zoom with me, so most of the photos below are heavily cropped from larger frames.)

Wide View with a line of wet slush starting to fall center frame -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/400 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Wide View
with a line of wet slush starting to fall center frame

Once it started, the pace picked up quickly, with hunks falling at random locations every 10 or 15 seconds. Judging from the amount of snow on the roof in this photo compared with the second photo of this post, it seems that half the snow has already plopped down.

In the two shots below, a shrine worker makes an ill-timed excursion to fetch a dropped umbrella when a vertical grove of snow from the tiled roof all slides down in unison, dropping a dozen big wet hunks of slush in quick succession right next to him...

Splat two small hunks of snow caught mid-air to the right of the worker following a bunch that had already splatted moments before -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Splat
two small hunks of snow caught mid-air to the right of the worker
following a bunch that had already splatted moments before
Well and Truly Splattered at least he got that third umbrella -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/800 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Well and Truly Splattered
at least he got that third umbrella

Temporary guards hired for the season soon set up shop on the three sets of steps with an umbrella in each hand, trying to protect the people as they filed in and out...

3, 3, 6 three sets of steps, three guards, six umbrellas -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
3, 3, 6
three sets of steps, three guards, six umbrellas
Not Too Effective -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/400 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Not Too Effective
Here Comes One -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Here Comes One
Snow: 1,   Guard: 0 -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/400 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Snow: 1,   Guard: 0

The umbrellas weren't very effective because the snow was heavy enough for the most part to collapse the umbrella, plowing right through it. Or, like an air-burst bomb, allowed the splat to happen high up, thereby covering a wider area.

But splats on the ground were pretty effective as well...

Haze of Splatter -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Haze of Splatter

I didn't feel too bad for the victims because by this point everyone had had a front-row view of the splatterings while approaching the steps in line, so everyone knew the situation clearly. The smart ones took a glance up before venturing through the kill zone, but not everyone is smart.

Here's a guy that's either smart or lucky, as he held up his descent and saved himself from being a target...

Near Miss -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Near Miss

The next pair of photos is of another near miss...

First Splat -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/640 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
First Splat
Escape! -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Escape!

I had my hand down on the eight-frames-per-second rapid fire frame release, so I got a nice sequence of the dad and his daughter. I gave him my card with an offer for the photos, as I sometimes do (such as to the dad in this photo), but no one has ever taken me up on it. Sorta disappointing, 'cause they'd be fun memories for the folks in the photos.

Not all memories are necessarily “fun” (at least not for everyone ;-)).  Consider this photo...

Foreboding -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Foreboding

Notice the blobs of white snow mid-fall in the top of the frame, and the lady in the long white jacket heading down the steps....

This Won't End Well another blob mid-fall just above her as she doesn't pause her descent -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
This Won't End Well
another blob mid-fall just above her as she doesn't pause her descent

The lady continued her descent of the stairs, and the snow continued its descent toward its own destiny, splatting right in front of her...

We Have a Winner! -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
We Have a Winner!

I would have liked to stick around, but was running late, so with that shot in pocket, headed home. A parting shot shows that most of the snow was gone from the roof anyway...

Parting View -- Heian Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 — 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Parting View

All 4 comments so far, oldest first...

Happy New Year 😀

What a great story and funny pics – that must have been fun watching the people and taking the shots.

Well Done
Michael

— comment by Michael Vaahsen on January 4th, 2011 at 10:51pm JST (6 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Most excellent sequence! I’d have been tempted to bring a portable chair and a bag of popcorn to sit back and enjoy watching the snow bombs!

— comment by Marcina (USA) on January 4th, 2011 at 11:20pm JST (6 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Great shots of the snow bombs at Heian Shrine. It was fun to watch the falling snow in your photos, and no doubt
even better in real time. Happy New Year, Jeff. Father Mac Kyoto

— comment by Father Mac on January 6th, 2011 at 7:21pm JST (6 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I agree. Really fun series. Not what one generally expects to encounter when viewing photos of a shrine during ritual. Well, mother nature will do as she will, as always, and it seems that she likes to have a little fun with us now and then. Thanks!

— comment by James on February 22nd, 2011 at 4:12am JST (6 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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