Home > Kyoto This Month >> EYExplore

Challenge Your Eye Vol. 2
How to photograph temples and gardens in Kyoto 3 simple and effective tips

It's no secret: Kyoto is scattered with some of the most picturesque gardens in the world. When we step inside one of them, we instantly want to capture on camera the elegance we witness. Yet, we often fail and end up with images that don't portray the striking beauty around us.

You know the symptoms already: washed out colors and uninteresting composition. We then wonder: ''Shall I buy a new camera?'' Here the blame is to be put on the cameraman, not the equipment. So, what's the formula for good garden photos?

There isn't, unfortunately, a single magic trick that will give us great results every time we click the shutter. However, we can put into practice three simple tips to drastically boost the quality of our shots-no extra gear required!

#1 Avoid the sky

Image #1: Include as little sky as possible

Image #1 was taken at Taizo-in Temple on a chilly autumn afternoon. After trying several angles for well over an hour, I settled for this one because previous compositions included too much contrasting lights. I waited for the sun to set behind me so that only the very top of the garden was bathed in bright sunlight. I made sure to include as little sky as possible in order to get an ideal exposure in the shadows and to focus solely on the garden itself. Bonus tip: create depth with foreground (stone on the left and red leaves on the right), middle ground (pond with ripples in water) and background (green hills with wooden lookout).

#2 Focus on details

Image #2: Less is more!

It's easy to get images overloaded with clutter. Remedy: cut through the chaos by focusing on compelling details. Image #2 was taken at Tofuku-ji Temple on an early November morning. I was surrounded by masses of tourists invading every photo I was taking. In order to get rid of all the confusion, I aimed my camera up at architectural features serendipitously framed by the autumn foliage. Remember: less is more! Note again the depth created by closer elements (leaves) and farther ones (blue sky and white clouds).

#3 Include people

During our photo adventures we often hear participants say: ''I don't want anyone in my photos.'' Why not? What's wrong with people? Sometimes, there is no other way but to include someone in our photos. The most important point is to choose wisely who will be in the frame. In Kyoto you're in luck: suitably dressed passersby abound. Don't be fooled though: watch for details! When it comes to traditional Japanese garments it's all about the season. Ask yourself: is the kimono appropriate for the time, weather, location? Pay attention to fabric, colors and patterns.

Text and photos by EYExplore: EYExplore are friendly photo trainers providing fun and educational photo adventures. All levels welcome! www.eyexplore.com