Setsubun Festival at the Heian Shrine: Intense Burn Begins
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Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/16, ISO 5600 — map & image datanearby photos
Lots Going On
three conflicting sources of light, multiple planes of interest, and some serious heat

Continuing with posts about the Setsubun Festival at the Heian Shrine (Kyoto, Japan) earlier this month, following on from “Attack (and Repulsion) of the Evil Spirits” and “Beans of Good Fortune”, we move on to the bonfire event.

I covered the same event four years ago in “Intense Burn: Shinto Rite at the Heian Shrine”, so this year I was concerned less about documenting the event in photos than to see what kind of interesting shots I might get.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/3200 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Half
there were two pallets of sticks, and two pyres to be set alight

In the event, two bonfires are set alight, and the bundles of sticks are thrown in one by one. Each stick has a wish written on it, and it's my understanding that the thought is that the wishes ascend to the gods with the smoke.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
9450 Sticks
189 bundles at 50 sticks per

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Photo Op While Waiting
taking a picture of someone taking a picture

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 cropped — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Priests Arrive

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos

The light was a challenge... things were predominately lit by either the warm glow of the setting sun, or in the shade, which is lit by the cold blue of the wide expanse of sky.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 cropped — 1/4000 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Ready To Light

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 cropped — 1/3200 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Ripples

Intense heat was quickly apparent, before flames or even much smoke. With the thin depth of field at f/2, one got an interesting and unique slice of the tumultuous air.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Smokin'
Pyres, beyond the row of chanting priests, start burning in earnest

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/5000 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Minute Later

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Raging
just two minutes after “Smokin'”

Once the flame was raging in earnest, I tried some shots of the chanting priests with the flames as a backdrop...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/2500 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Paper
isolated at f/2

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Priest
Isolated at f/5.6

This was a situation where the thin depth of field didn't work, and even at f/11 — the Burning Hot Lyrics photo that I posted on the day of the event — I think the flames in the background weren't emphasized enough. The lens in question is meant to be used wide open, so I don't have much at f/16 of note except for the photo that leads this post.

I wasn't able to move easily from my position (I was the first to have staked out a spot, but eventually was cemented in by a solid wall of folks with cameras) but I tried the same kind of shots with one of the other priests, with less luck....


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Centered
but not compelling

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/1600 sec, f/2, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
A Bit Better
but still not very good

It was better with more depth of field and some wind-whipped flames, which again brings us back to the aforementioned “Burning Hot Lyrics” shot.

I'll continue this in another post, but for context, here are some wider shots that I was able to take because I had arrived so early to get a good position...


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/6400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Scene at 50mm

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/1600 sec, f/7.1, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Scene at 24mm

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14mm — 1/1600 sec, f/7.1, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Scene at 14mm

Continued here...


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

Jeffrey – the Priests Arrive – one of your best I think.
Annie

— comment by Annie in London on February 14th, 2012 at 8:39pm JST (5 years ago) comment permalink

Good afternoon, Jeffrey
Their records are amazing, congratulations.
I was in love with the place you shoot; Here in Brazil we have a beautiful Buddhist temple to visit and many Japanese colonies, where we can enjoy some of the wonderful dishes.
Once again congratulations for your records.
a hug

— comment by Francisco Eduardo on February 15th, 2012 at 2:32am JST (5 years ago) comment permalink

Ripples and Raging are spectacular Jeff.

— comment by Wesley on February 15th, 2012 at 5:43am JST (5 years ago) comment permalink

Raging looks like an effigy. That is fascinating.

— comment by Sean on February 16th, 2012 at 2:22am JST (5 years ago) comment permalink

Thank you for posting the priests juxtaposed next to the flames. I think the challenge with some of those photos: PAPER, PRIEST, CENTERED & A BIT BETTER, is the depth of field. This may be an example of where (in my opinion) it might be nice to see very deep depth of field.

In LOTS GOING ON, there is a bokeh’d priest in the foreground but a sharp focused priest just in front of the sharp focused flames. In a way he looks like he is in the fire! If those shallow DoF photos were deeper there would be an immediate feeling from the viewer of, “What was going on in that scene?” The crops of those photos are great because it reduces the narrative to the 2 most important elements. There is this a striking contrast between the raging flames and the delicate looking priest w/papers. My eye wants to see them both in sharp focus. My eye wants to zoom into the fury of those flames and then back to the serenity of those priests. Rinse & Repeat.

— comment by Ron Evans on February 16th, 2012 at 5:47am JST (5 years ago) comment permalink
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