Most of the best photos aren't serious at all.
Being 6'5" / 197cm tall, I am a giant here in Japan. People often ask me if I still hit my head, even after living here for more than two decades. The answer is: "Yes, all of the time." And half of the time, when the elevator door opens, people jump backwards in shock. LOL!
Here is another shot from Hachi Shrine here in Kyoto from the other night.
These are sake rice barrels placed on the stage of the shrine. I don't know if they are actually filled with sake. I bet not.
Sake (Japanese rice wine) is used in Shinto religious rituals in a similar way that wine is used in some Christian religions.
I like the painting of the horse at the top of this photo.
I bought a new work camera recently and took it with me for my evening walk. (I'll talk more about the camera in an upcoming post).
This is the stage at Hachi Shrine, which is near the famous Ginkakuji Temple. I hadn’t here in several years. I don’t remember it having lit-up lanterns before (but there is a lot I don’t remember so well nowadays. Ha ha ha!).
It is always a challenge to find a new image of a familiar sight. The last of the twilight in sky makes this shot. 15 minutes later, the sky would be dark and you wouldn’t be able to make out the roof.
While I was out on New Year’s Eve with my wife participating in the traditional Japanese temple bell ringing ceremonies, I was on the lookout to pictures beyond the usual. It is a different mindset that just taking the family snappy pix.
While walking up north Teramachi Street, which is lined with temples, we saw some people coming out of a temple we had never been to before. We went in to investigate. There was a relatively smaller temple tower with no attendants and a few other people around. It was lit on by small candles placed around the bell tower.
After taking photos of my wife ringing the bell, I took this shot of candle. I am fascinated by fire. An open flame is not something we actually see often in the modern world. I love the glow of light around the flame.
I moved in close with my high speed 35mm f1.4 Fujifilm lens (it's like 50mm film lens) and shot several frames so that I would have to some choices with the shape of the frame while editing. One of the things I love about my mirrorless cameras is that I get to see the exposure while I am shooting and can adjust my settings accordingly.
As for the composition, I find the very simple subject appealing.
We can think about the light inside of ourselves. How do we keep it lit? How do we make it brighter? And how do we relight it if it goes out?
(Photo by Paul Crouse)
My wife Shino and I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year filled with good health, happiness and abundance.
This selfie was taken a bit after midnight on New Year's Day at Shimogamo Shrine here in Kyoto. New Year's is by far the biggest holiday in Japan. It is the time of year when families get together.
We traditionally go to a neighborhood temple to ring the bell at midnight, and then go to this important shrine, where we ran into a bunch our good friends. We at some great Turkish kebabs and prayed of a good New Year.
Here are some other shots from that evening.
The Golden Hour is a term used to in photography describe a period of time when during dusk or dawn when the sun is below the horizon when you have a clear sky. The light is diffuse with typically a golden hue. Some people describe this light as magical.
It is great when you get an opportunity to shoot is this sort of light. The feeling of a place changes in this light. Remember, amount of light is low, so you will probably have to boost your ISO or open up the lens or drop the shutter speed. This might be a good time to use a tripod.
Some people are obsessed with shooting is this sort of light. Personally, think you can get good photos in almost any kind of light. A lot of it depends upon the weather. Of course, take advantage of the light when you have it. Advanced planning can help. So can hiring a local guide like me to show you where to be when the light is good. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com).
There can be some challenges while taking autumn colors photos.
Firstly, the crowds. You can't see it, but there were hundreds, if not thousands of people on the street next to me here outside of Tofukuji Temple. Needless to say, where you point your camera makes a big difference. I find that simply stopping and looking around 360 degrees helps me get in the right mindset to see when I am in a crowded situation.
Also, trees by themselves rarely make an interesting picture. There needs to be some other element in the photo to anchor it. Here, we have the wall of the temple, which gives it the traditional Japanese quality.
Finally, the late afternoon lighting really helps with this photo. It would look quite different from the sun overhead at midday. (Photo by Paul Crouse / (KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Being a Yank, I want express my thanks to all of the wonderful people whom I have met this year whilst as a photographer and tour guide here in Kyoto City. If you read the news, you would think that the world is falling apart. Yet, everyday I continue to meet really great people from all over the world who are interesting, friendly and kind. I am sincerely grateful that I have the opportunity to have this business in such an amazing city. Thanks! (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Be aware of the autumn season crowds in Kyoto. November is a peak tourist season because of the “momiji” (maple leaves). The locations famous for autumn colors can get insanely crowded, especially on weekends. This is a photo of crowds at Tofukuji Temple on a Monday morning.
Transportation systems can also be very crowded. Be careful getting on city buses going to popular destinations. Not only can they be jam packed full, they also can get stuck in traffic. This does not mean that you shouldn’t see the autumn colors, but you need to do some planning. Going early is always a good idea.
If you hire me as a guide, I can take to great locations. I know where to go, how to get there and can tell you about history, culture and funny stories from 23 years of living in Kyoto. I can also take great photos of you. Believe it or not, I know more than you can learn from Google. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
The autumn colors are nearing their peak here in Kyoto.
Even though it was a cloudy, dreary Monday, there were lots of visitors at Tofukuji Temple today, which is famous for its maple trees. The colors are looking nice, although there is still a lot of green on the underside of the canopy.
If you want to visit the famous locations for the autumn colors, I recommend getting there early. The crowds can get insane.
(Photo by Paul Crouse / (KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Sometimes all of the elements of a great photo line up, but you have to wait, shoot a lot and edit carefully.
I was with a photo tour group I was leading. We had walked into a small temple in Ohara, Kyoto which had a lovely pond outside of the entrance.
We were in the shade, but the late afternoon light was shining the autumn foliage above and reflecting on the water's surface. The pond was filled with brightly colored koi (Japanese carp). The fish were swimming back and forth. I lined up the shot and waited for the fish to swim into the frame. I shot as many frames as possible, sometimes focusing on the surface of the water and sometimes on the fish.
Back at home, I sorted through all of my frames and came up with 5 shots I liked. I then loaded them onto my phone (I LOVE Airdrop) and showed them to my wife, who helped me choose this one. I helps to get a second opinion when editing. It is too easy to get attached to a certain shot of silly reasons. My wife has a great knack for correcting me of that. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
These are offerings to a Jizo-bosatsu, which is a kind of Japanese buddhist divine being housed in this small shrine. This particular Jizo offers protection from fire. Through out crowded Japanese cities, you will find small religious shrines cared for by people in the neighborhood. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
At Japanese Shinto shrines, people of often buy wooden plaques to offer their wishes to the gods. Here at Fushimi Inari Shrine, plaques in the shape of a fox god head are decorated with manga style faces. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Buddhist statues inside the main building at Jingo-ji Temple in Takao, Kyoto (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
The autumn colors are starting to turn in Kyoto. I was up in Takao today, which is a village in the mountains just north of Kyoto City. The weather was sunny and warm, and the trees are turning a bit more than down in the city. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
The autumn time "illuminations" in Kyoto can be great photo opportunities, but be aware that they can be very, very crowded. Here is a shot from the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. What you don't see in this photo are the thousands of people around me. Think of a crowded subway train and then imagine it on the street. Get there early. (Photo by Paul Crouse/KyotoPhotoTours.com)
A great portrait gives reveals someone’s personality while being visually interesting. It is easy to fall into a repetitive formula of Headshot A and Full Length Shot B, etc. Of course, for my clients, I make sure to get simple, clean standard images in a beautiful environment because that is what they expect and are paying for. But I am always keeping a lookout for something different, like when this Spanish newlywed took a moment to check her makeup. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
When I worked as a daily newspaper photographer, one great insults given out by editors or other photographers was “nice postcard.” (People in the news business don't do "warm fuzzy bunnies." If your work sucks, they tell you directly). Any capable photographer can get the obvious shot. Finding something different is much more difficult.
Here is shot of autumn sunlight on the pillars of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. I have been there many, many times with my photo tour clients and I have countless frames of the same old “tunnels of torii." Yawn. How do I find something different?
Look. Put your camera down. Stop thinking. Just observe. Zen mindfulness can be useful here. Just look at the world and let your thoughts slow down. Don’t try to find a shot, because if you force it, it won’t work. Inspiration just happens. Somedays you get a good flow and somedays you don’t. By letting go, you leave yourself open to receive.
As a photographer, you need to see something that exists in the real world, unlike an illustrator. So look. And be ready when it happens. You don’t need the fanciest camera, but it really helps to have a camera and know how to use it.
The altar of a Buddhist sub-temple at Tanukidani Fudoin Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Carlos and Maria, from Guatemala, enjoy the famous Zen garden at Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto on their wedding day. Getting a shot like this takes patience. This garden is like the Mona Lisa of Kyoto and is often busy with tourists. There is an ebb and flow to tourist crowds, so I lined up the shot and waited. Some Japanese folks nearby chatted with Carlos and Maria. When then learned it was their wedding day, they kindly gave us some space. Most Japanese people are kind and generous, and this was no exception. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)