Traditional Japanese Archery: More Ladies, Part 1
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Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 two-shot composition — full exif
Tall Tale
young lady wielding a huge traditional Japanese archer's bow
Kyoto, Japan
( it's also somewhat of a tall tale for other reasons, presented below )

Picking up from my “Badass Japanese Archery: Now It's The Ladies' Turn” post the other day, here are some more of the very colorful young ladies at the shooting platform.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Dozen at a Time

As described in “Total Discipline: Anatomy of a Japanese Archer's Shot”, each archer goes at her own pace, but each group of a dozen starts at the same time, so they're fairly in sync at the beginning, which can make for some interesting shots.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1800 — map & image datanearby photos
Stringing the Arrow

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 102mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1800 — map & image datanearby photos
Second Arrow

You can tell it's the second arrow because she has no spare in her right hand. You can also tell by the fact that the group is much further out of sync, with more than half having already left the platform.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos

As I mentioned in an earlier post the crowds were ridiculous, so it was challenging to get a good vantage point, and at that, “good” meant that you could see one or two archers well. With the crowd, hanging branches, ropes, lamp posts, and such, no place offered a good view of everyone, so it was always a compromise.

I figured I'd have less clutter in frame if I could zoom up more, so I switched to the 300mm zoom, and less foreground/background clutter with a thinner depth of field, so I kept it at f/2 most of the time. This would allow me to get more intimate with the archers, such as this boss-looking dude and this tough-looking badass.

The ladies could have the toughness, but their style of dress offered a softer side as well..


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos
Well Framed

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos

There were about 90 groups of women, and I got there in time for the last eight or nine, so I had just a bit of time to try to jockey for different vantage points.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Lined Up

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Anti Zoom
I could get a wider shot when the view to the furthest archer was relatively clear
( also, it helps that I moved slightly further down range )

Another way to get a wider shot is to composite multiple shots together, like the vertical panorama I opened up with, but that's a lot of work.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
( focus here is on the hands, but with her serious look lost to fuzziness, it doesn't work )

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 1800 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1250 sec, f/2, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Sporting Some Determination

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos

So, about the “Tall Tale” caption to the lead photo, as I mentioned, it's a composition made from two separate photos stacked one above the other, but what I failed to mention is that the two photos are of different people, taken five minutes apart.

The top photo provided the bow, the visible body (face and arm), and most of the upper half of the hakama attire. The rest came from the lower photo, kindly provided by a conveniently-similar stance by the lady seen above in “Anti Zoom”.

Interestingly, sleeve of the bow arm from both ladies appears in the composition: they just happened to align such that one appears to be the inside of the other, and doing that area that way allowed other parts to blend more smoothly. Lucky happenstance.

I also removed a big ugly rope that had been cutting through the background, and extended the bow string along its natural path.

I did all this because I really liked how the top shot showed the mammoth size of the bow, but in it the archer was cut off just below the chest, leaving an unbalanced lack of person in the shot. Other shots of the same archer didn't show the bow as well, so I looked for a way to recover balance to the shot I liked, and among the 1,000 photos from the day, exactly one showed a clear view of one archer standing in the same spot, and voila, we have this post's opening image.

One more “tall tale” aspect is that the bow doesn't actually extend below the handle as far as implied by the composition because that particular bow is very uneven, with the portion above the handle much longer than that below. It's still absolutely gigantic, but not quite as much as implied. For reference, see this otherwise-unremarkable shot of the “upper-photo” archer...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 4000 — map & image datanearby photos
Miss Upper
unretouched

I've got to wonder whether that kind of bow is harder to shoot. I'd think that due to the uneven lengths to the curves, the bow string would not snap back perfectly perpendicular (the lower curve would have less distance, so would snap back quicker, I'd think).

Continued here...


All 8 comments so far, oldest first...

I can imagine what the first archer would think beyond “Huh!! ” if she would happen to come upon that most interesting first shot. Well done, at least from my perspective, if not hers. 🙂
I wondered about a number of things, and if you knew the answers:
1.Why do they shoot in stocking feet? Wouldn’t socks make it more slippery with such a wide stance?

2. Did you ever notice any left-handed archers?

3. The feathers (fletches?) on the arrows were different…some appeared to be from hawk or turkey
wings, another from a vulture, …just very interesting. If there are any archers or fletchers reading this, maybe they could comment?

4. What is the purpose of the black breast shield?

They’re wearing tabi socks, which go with traditional Japanese formalwear. In this art/discipline, the shooting platform is apparently considered “inside”, and like taking your shoes off in the house, they slip out of their footwear before stepping up onto it. All archers, regardless of being left-handed or right-handed, hold the bow with the left hand and pull with the right. This leaves the body always presented the same direction. It’s like shaking hands… you offer you right hand regardless. I don’t know anything about the feathers, but the purpose of the chest protector should be obvious (and if not, think of the action of the bowstring along the lines of an egg slicer, and then think of trying to prevent that). —Jeffy

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on January 27th, 2012 at 1:00am JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Very nice. I like the last one (JF7_106099), the composition works well.

— comment by Luc on January 27th, 2012 at 1:02am JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Some of these are very good! It’s a pity you can’t offer them prints.

I can, but I don’t. —Jeffrey

— comment by Zachary on January 27th, 2012 at 1:52pm JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Wonderful! The thin depth of field does a terrific job of cutting down on the clutter and conveying the determination and concentration. I particularly liked the “Well Framed” photo best of all.

— comment by GJC on January 28th, 2012 at 8:55pm JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffy,

Just a bit more on the tabi socks, breast plate and feathers.

Without looking closely at their footwear I would suspect they are wearing jika-tabi (地下足袋 tabi that contact the ground?). Made of heavier, tougher material and often having rubber soles, so unlike normal tabi their feet would actually have a great deal of grip. Shojiro Ishibashi, the founder of major tyre company Bridgestone Corporation, is credited with their innovation.

Female archers wear a chest protector called a muneate, which is generally a piece of leather or plastic which is designed to protect the breasts from being struck by the tsuru (bowstring) during shooting.

The feathers were originally sourced from Eagles or Hawks, but since these birds have become endangered archers now source their feathers from Turkeys or Swans. Interestingly feathers are sourced from alternate sides of the birds body and applied to opposite sides of the arrow (ya) to provide balance. Each ya has a gender application and the feathers are applied so that a male ya (haya) spins clockwise and the female ya (otoya) spins counter clockwise.

Regards,

Richard

Thanks for the details. The tabi are the kind the wear with sandals, so they just step out of the sandals when stepping up to the shooting platform, so I don’t think they’re the same thing that construction workers wear. I’ve never shot one of these bows, but I don’t suspect that foot grip is a major component to it beyond the simple act of standing. —Jeffrey

— comment by Richard on January 28th, 2012 at 9:56pm JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Thank you, Richard, for clarifying some of these points. This was most interesting.. Wish you had mentioned an area where you’re from, though. Actually, wish everyone would. And an extra thanks to those that always do..it surely adds a fascinating aspect to your comments.

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on January 29th, 2012 at 1:16am JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Grandma Friedl,

I agree, it is nice to know where are all from and the connection. Without taking too much away from your son’s blog……..I am from Queensland, Australia. Married to a lovely Japaneses lady and we have a beautiful 11 year daughter. My interests – Japanese History and General knowledge and photographing un-usual things. It is nice to meet you……..Richard.

Nice to meet you too, Richard. —Jeffrey

— comment by Richard on January 29th, 2012 at 7:39am JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Love the shots where the archers face is in focus. In particular the one framed by all the other archers

— comment by Pavel on February 5th, 2012 at 5:23am JST (5 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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