By Paul Crouse / Kyoto Photo Shoots & Tours
Kyoto is world famous for beautiful cherry blossoms, known as sakura in Japanese language. It is a very important part of Japanese culture. It heralds the beginning of spring after the cold dark winter.
While the cheery trees are beautiful when in bloom, it can be a challenge to take a unique picture.
Avoid the Crowds
Cherry blossom season is one of the most popular times of the year in Kyoto. That means many locations can get REALLY crowded. But there are lots of less crowded spots, sometimes just around the corner.
Basically, if a location is a the on the top of a Google search, then everyone else has seen the same thing. Take a bit of time to research where you want to go.
I suggest getting up to the locations early in the morning. Sunrise is about 6 am during sakura season. The best shots are while everyone else is eating breakfast.
Have a look at my friend Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto webpage for avoiding crowds.
Take the Obvious Shot First
One of the first things I learned as a daily newspaper photographer when I was you was to take the obvious photos right away and be done with it.
That way, you’ve got the shot and have gotten the ball rolling. Sometimes the best photos are very first one’s you take because your intuition is usually the first idea the comes to your mind.
Why Are You Taking Photos?
Know why you are taking a photo. What is its purpose? Are you trying to make art? Are you simply documenting your trip to show your friends and family back home? Is this for your social media feed?
Once you know why you are taking a photo, then you know how much energy to put into it. And when to stop.
Take Time To Look
Instead of the “spray and pray” technique of mindlessly taking pictures of everything, take the time to look and to see what is around you.
In our modern, attention deficit world, we have been programmed for instant gratification. Slow down in one location and look around. Look at the details. Look at the broad scope. Look the toddler playing with her parents. Feel the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair. This can be a kind of a meditation
As you slow down, your mind will slow down and you will be notice things that you did not before. Different colors or shapes or textures.
Look for Something Different
“Great postcard” was a sarcastic insult hurled by overworked photo editors when I was a photojournalist. Translation: “Any competent photographer can make the postcard picture. Show me something different.”
For example, cherry trees are often planted in small gardens next to a house or an office building or a school as a small bit of beauty in a concrete jungle. A beautiful cherry tree in middle of an industrial complex might make for an interesting picture
Use the Sakura as a Compositional Element
Sometimes the hint of something is more powerful than the whole thing. Add the element of the flowers as part of the composition.
Put Your Camera Down and Enjoy the Beauty
Remember, you are on vacation. Enjoy it. Unless photography is your profession, you don’t need to lug 20 kg of gear around. You don’t need to rush from place to place.
Keep your photography in it’s proper place.
The sakura symbolize the brevity of our lives. We blossom for a short time in this world but eventually we all drift away like sakura petals in the wind.
Experience the world around you. Look -- really look -- at what might be one of the most beautiful moments you ever have in your life. By obsessing over your photos, you might just miss out on being alive.
It can be fun to take great photos. But often it is better to simply enjoy the beauty of the world right in front of us.
Contact me if you are want someone to take great photos of you and your loved ones while you are visiting Kyoto, or if you want a guide to take you to great photo locations, or someone to help you improve your photos.