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A Thin Slice of Big Crowds at Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri Festival
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Youth Gion Matsuri Festival, Kyoto Japan -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Youth
Gion Matsuri Festival, Kyoto Japan

This is the season for the Gion Matsuri festival, and tonight was the first of three evenings when a lot of streets around Shijo Karasuma are closed off for pedestrian traffic. The streets fill with folks (and photographers) enjoying a festive atmosphere..

First Photo I Took This Evening Shijo/Karasuma intersection, not long after being closed to traffic -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
First Photo I Took This Evening
Shijo/Karasuma intersection, not long after being closed to traffic

I was shocked to see the photo above when I came home and checked out my pictures, because it makes it look much more crowded than it actually was. I hear that tomorrow and the next evening will be so crowded that it'll be difficult to move, but this evening was nothing but pleasant.

People come out for the mood and drink, and to check out the many massive wooden yamaboko floats that were assembled in the streets over the last few days, and take part in a big procession on Sunday. There are 32 of them scattered around, four of which can be seen (sort of) in the next photo.

Scrum Of Photographers beside the kankoboko float (函谷鉾) in the distance are tsukihako , kakkyouyama , and shijoukasaboko -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Scrum Of Photographers
beside the kankoboko float (函谷鉾)
in the distance are tsukihako, kakkyouyama, and shijoukasaboko
Tsukihako -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/3200 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Tsukihako

However, I came out not to look at the floats, but to try to capture a specific kind of photo made possible by my 300mm f/2. I brought it, a monopod, and a small stool to stand on to get me above the crowd, pretty much left the aperture at f/2, and just played with the plane of focus.

Looking East Down Shijo Street from Karasuma, toward the Yasaka Shrine at the foot of the mountain -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking East Down Shijo Street
from Karasuma, toward the Yasaka Shrine at the foot of the mountain
Looking West -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking West
Announcement -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Announcement
Cute -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Cute
Every Which Way -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Every Which Way
Playlist Adjustment -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Playlist Adjustment
Lots of Yukata (light kimono) -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 1800 — map & image datanearby photos
Lots of Yukata
(light kimono)
Trying to Recall -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Trying to Recall
Trying To Get Higher -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Trying To Get Higher
Trying To Get Attention -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Trying To Get Attention

I feel a bit bad for these girls... they were hamming it up for the camera as they approached, and asked if I'd take their picture. I told them that I already had, and gave them my card so that they could contact me for copies, but now I realize that one of the group never clearly appears, so I wish I would have had them pose.

This next group of restaurant coworkers approached and asked that I take their photo, so I told them to step back (way back) and took a few shots. I wanted something more, so I pantomimed a jump, and they obliged....

Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos

The idea for the jump came earlier with the guy in the first photo. I saw him jump out of the corner of my eye — either for another camera, or because he thought I was focusing on him — so when I actually did make eye contact a bit later, I pantomimed that he repeat his jump, and the photo that leads this post resulted. They smiled and started to walk away, but I motioned them over to look at the shot, and they really liked it.

Throughout the evening, lots of people would approach to chat, or just smiled as they walked by. The lens really attracts attention in a pleasant way, just as I experience the first time I used it.

Camaraderie -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/640 sec, f/8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Camaraderie
Wave a slight rise in Shijo Street makes the crowd look like a wave -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Wave
a slight rise in Shijo Street makes the crowd look like a wave
The Shot I Was Trying To Get -- Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
The Shot I Was Trying To Get

This is the closest shot I got to what I had been imagining, where the only thing in focus is a single couple. I do wish it were landscape instead of portrait, but the lady's smile makes it for me. I saw her smile bloom in the corner of the viewfinder, and I quickly recomposed to grab this shot. Moments later they were lost in the crowd.

I had to leave early because my assistant had homework before bed, so I packed away the big lens to a backpack, and threw on a 50mm f/1.4 for the walk back. Here's a shot showing how crowded it really was, and with the evening-dusk color left uncorrected...

Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/100 sec, f/1.4, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos

I might try the same thing tomorrow, when it's supposed to be much more crowded.

Despite having lived walking distance from this event for the last seven years, today was the first time I'd attended in more than 20 years. I've never seen the big float procession, which is supposed to be amazing, but it's either unbearably hot or raining, so I may forgo it again this year as well.

Continued here...


Comments so far....

こんばんわ
ポリスマンの写真がとてもCool!!です
あと東山がとても綺麗です
土曜の夜と日曜の朝は撮影に出かけようと思っております

— comment by Junichiro-Kosera on July 15th, 2011 at 12:22am JST (3 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Great use of a long and fast lens to frame and excentuate your subject and looks like a fun place to take some shots.
Chris

— comment by Chris on July 15th, 2011 at 11:29am JST (3 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Great shots that really show off the benefit of the 300/2. I know you are naturally reticent, but you should post a link on Nikon Lens forum of DPreview. There are lots of people there who would appreciate these.

— comment by Zak on July 16th, 2011 at 3:03am JST (3 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

bbbbbbbbeeeeeeeaaaaautiful shots. I LOVE the lense.

— comment by Tanner on July 16th, 2011 at 6:24am JST (3 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

These are really, really cool shots. The difference between the 300mm and 50mm in terms of how crowded it looks is also really astounding. The shallow depth of field worked out really nicely.

I have to admit, though, that my absolute favorite thing about these shots are the parts where you can see the crowd (blurred), you can see the lanterns and signs (clearly), and then – way in the background – there are a ton of trees rising up. What fantastic scenery.

— comment by David K. on July 16th, 2011 at 6:24am JST (3 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you very much, Jeffrey! Best memory of Gion has been captured by you and your lovely camera and huge lens! : )

One of the international researchers v( ‘ v ‘ )v

— comment by Jade He on July 18th, 2011 at 10:49am JST (3 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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