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Scenes from the 2014 Kyoto Higashiyama Lightup
the Yasaka 5-Storied Pagoda (八坂の塔), Kyoto Japan
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Yasaka 5-Storied Pagoda
given a bit of an artsy treatment
八坂の塔
Kyoto, Japan
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夕べ、友達と一緒に京都東山花灯路を見に行きました、6年ぶりで。光源と影の間の明るさが大きすぎたので、撮影がなかなか難しかったです。

Yesterday after seeing the plum blossoms in the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, I made a trip out to see the annual Kyoto Higashiyama Lightup. It was the first time since 2008, when I posed a report in two parts.

As I tried to take photos, I remembered why I skipped it all these years... the difference between the dark of the evening and the brightness of the lanterns and other displays is just way too much for a camera to do anything reasonable with, unless you move to HDR and its often unearthly results. (Unearthly results can be quite stunningly good, as Trey Ratcliff often shows, but it's not really my cup of tea.)

I did bring my big tripod with me, but didn't use it all that much because I'm just too lazy. The photos reflect that laziness, with a lot of mushy softness due to slow shutters, high ISO, and heavy noise reduction in Lightroom. The lead photo above was so mushy that in order to (perhaps) recover something useful from it, I pushed the mushiness further and added some grain. I guess I must like the result, since I'm leading with it.

My evening started at the Chion'in Temple where I met some friends. This is the temple undergoing roof repairs that I recently wrote about. Since I had the tripod with me, I tried a crisp photo of its main gate (which I also wrote about recently, here)...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 0.8 sec, f/5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Main Gate
Chion'in Temple (知恩院)

They had some kind of light projection artistic event going on inside, and the line to get in was huge...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Line Snakes Out to the Street

(You can't tell in the crappy photo above, but the path is quite nice, as seen here.)

As I waited for friends, I filled my time with the camera...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Rickshaw Parking

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Well-Dressed Photographers
or, at least, well-dressed ladies snapping a cell-phone photo

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 0.5 sec, f/3.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
This Entrance Closed
please use the side door

We then made our way to the Shouren'in Temple, often seen on my blog due to the flower-arranging show they have every year (pics: 2013, 2012).

Lanterns along a wall across from the temple (at a condo, which is actually where I lived when I first moved to Kyoto):


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Condo Wall
tastefully done, as should be, across from the Shoren'in Temple (青蓮院)

Facing the wall, between it and the temple proper, are several 800-year-old camphor trees. They're very hard for me to photograph for some reason, but perhaps one is because the utility wires cutting through just destroy it for me.


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/100 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Lit Up Camphor Tree
800ish years old

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/100 sec, f/1.4, ISO 4500 — map & image datanearby photos
I Do Love The Roots, Though

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 6 sec, f/16, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos
Standing Steady
Damien doesn't seem to move during the six-second exposure

Over in Maruyama Park they had all kinds of various displays, many the same as I showed six years ago. A new display had a bunch of light cylinders on which people could put blossom-shaped papers with their wish written...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/200 sec, f/2.2, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Light Wish Cylinder... Things
Maruyama Park (円山公園)

When I walked up to them and saw that the blossom-shaped papers had writing, the very first text I noticed was a wish that stock prices end high. The one immediately below it asked for happiness for all the world....


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/200 sec, f/2.2, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Full Gamut of Wishes

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos

Not really inspired by the technical difficulties in photographing such dark/bright scenes, I moved over to the little pond and tried some longish exposures of quite dark scenes...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 8 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
10-Second Exposure
makes the moving crowd disappear

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 10 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Well, Mostly Disappear
the ghost in the reflection apparently stood still most of the time

Moving along...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/160 sec, f/2, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Quintessential Japanese Aesthetic
refined sense marred by a useless traffic cone

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Rock
undoubtedly to encourage drivers not to clip the wall

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/1.4, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
Cute Kid

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
Modern But Powerful
at the entrance to the Daiun-in Temple (大雲院)

The photo doesn't seem to capture it, but for some reason I really liked the modern stone lantern at the entrance to the Daiun-in Temple (大雲院). Its lighting was really well done, which certainly helped.


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Another Entrance
this time to the Entoku-in Temple (圓徳院)

Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Yasaka Pagoda From Afar

(The photos I took from the same spot in 2008 came out better; then I used the tripod, and a much longer lens.)

One could also look down onto a lane that sort of leads to the Kiyomizu Temple, which looks quite different now compared to six years ago...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 cropped — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Last Night
昨日の二年坂

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 at an effective 180mm — 4 sec, f/4.5, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
Six Years Ago
6年前の二年坂。電子柱ばかり

Kyoto has slowly been trying to remove the ugly utility poles and wires. It's been eight years since the big construction in front of my place to make tunnels for the wires under the road, but the poles still remain. The effect when they're gone, as seen above, is almost surreal. Walking later on that road, I felt as if I was on a movie set.

the Yasaka 5-Storied Pagoda (八坂の塔), Kyoto Japan
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Yasaka Pagoda
closer this time
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On the way home, I passed through the Yasaka Shrine (quite a distance from, and perhaps unrelated to, the similarly-named pagoda seen above)...


Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Quiet Path
Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社)

I don't really care for the Yasaka Shrine, but I do like this path, which has appeared on my blog here and here.


Comments so far....

Every time I’ve gone out for this event, I’ve come home somewhat disappointed with the results.
I haven’t tried HDR, though. I guess I should…

Regarding the Yasaka pagoda, you should try viewing (and shooting) it from the east, as well as from the west… Here’s an example :)

I see what you mean. Next time! —Jeffrey

— comment by Nicolas on March 18th, 2014 at 5:59am JST (7 months, 2 days ago) comment permalink

Enjoyed it a lot for the last 2 nights. Very nice atmosphere even with the large crowd. Was there around Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park and all the way down to the Yasaka Pagoda for those 2 nights. Tonight will be my last night in Kyoto. Will be aiming to start from Kiyomizu Dera and walk northwards.

Using a Lumix GF6 with the standard 18-42mm lens for this trip. No tripod nor filters. Made it hard to get nice shots without a tripod and filters for the hanatouro as there is too large a difference in contrast between the lights/lanterns and the darker areas. Daytime shots were easier and fine.

— comment by berantle on March 18th, 2014 at 7:26am JST (7 months, 2 days ago) comment permalink

Hello, it’s Alvin from NYC again. Really enjoy seeing your photos and the beauty of Kyoto!

Slightly off topic, but do you have a Flickr account too?

I have a couple for testing, but I don’t really host anything on them. I’ve been thinking to replicate the “selected blog photos” that I put out to Google Plus (here), and just started to try it, but Flickr’s servers were so bad that it was taking minutes to process each photo (it should take just a few seconds), and often their servers were just bailing. Unusable. I suppose I’ll have to try later. —Jeffrey

— comment by Alvin on March 19th, 2014 at 6:27am JST (7 months, 1 day ago) comment permalink

You really ought to try HDR with a tripod. It doesn’t have to be extreme a la Trey to help create a nice looking image; I’ve done a few where the extra stop or two of DR makes for a much nicer picture. And they look “real”, whatever that is when you represent a 3D world in a 2D image.

— comment by Bassman on March 19th, 2014 at 11:18pm JST (7 months ago) comment permalink
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