PHOTO OF THE DAY- Fushimi Inari Shrine, Japan

This is the Fushimi Inari Shrine pictured at dawn and its about a 15 minute train ride from Kyoto in Japan. These torii (gates) are the most recognizable icon of the shinto, the native religion. Let me set the scene a little for my experiences here….

So, like all sunrise shots I got up around 4:45am, dressed, grabbed my camera and wet weather gear, some breakfast to eat on the go and headed for the train station. I had been there the day before and asked at the ticket office when the first train was in the morning (always fun talking to Japanese people when I know very little Japanese) and it was at 5:10am and like all things in Japan it arrived on the dot (never ceased to amaze me). I also got one of those double black espresso’s from one of the vending machines, which I also love. The photograph you see below is the one I took near the entrance to  Fushimi Inari Shrine and through the technique of HDR photography I’m able to brighten the scene whilst keeping detail in the highlights, so in reality when I took this it was a lot darker… almost a black sky really.

Now, this red gate is the first of many which wind their way up the mountain behind these lower shrine… and OMG !!! there are millions of them ! haha. They basically have one of these gates, but a smaller version say about 12feet high, spaced every 2-3 feet all the way up the mountain and its kilometers up to the summit. Plus there isn’t just one path, there are many side tracks which lead off to other shrines. My plan was to hike to the summit and take an amazing shot of the all the gates looking back down to the valley, but on this occasion I didn’t succeed.

As I said, it was dark ! and when you get through all the lower shrines and temples you get to the beginning of the trail of red gates. This is also where the forest starts and the gates carve a passage through the forest,

it’s a little scary being in a foreign country in a dark quiet forest… alone with your torch and having to climb a mountain… but that’s Landscape Photography!

I noticed as I started to climb that I was seeing movement on the edge of my torch light and I kept reacting and shining my torch in the direction to see nothing. So at this stage I’m not panicking, haha, but it was then that I saw my first glimpse of what the sounds and moving shadows were “cats!”. There was a whole bunch of cats living in the forest and as I climbed further up some of them started to become more bold and approach me. I had 6 or 7 cats following me with my torch up this mountain and I think they were a little annoyed because I had woken them from their sleep. Many of them would curl up against the red poles of the gates and would lie on the stoned path. Maybe the rock kept its warmth from the days sunlight, I don’t know… but I just have this image of me with my backpack and torch leading a group of stray cats through a forest up a mountain, and it makes me laugh 🙂 might make a good painting one day !

I didn’t get the sunrise shot I was after, but I got to explore an amazing place with no one around and wow did it work my fitness ! Along the passage and forest are 1000’s of supper tall pines with all this moss growinf on one side of them and I also noticed that many of the statues were of the fox, small ones… tall ones… all shapes and sizes. When I got back down to the bottom there was a seniors group doing their morning exercise, tai chi maybe and it reminded me of how much I love Japan. The way they bring the community together and understand the importance of mind and body exercise. I think that somewhere along the way Australia’s workforce became too interested in making money and we lost the art of mind and body exercise. I hopped off to satisfy my sweet tooth and need for caffeine at a local bakery and headed back to Kyoto to enjoy its Historic township, where I was staying in the Gion district.

Software Used:

Photomatix PRO – Is a MAC and PC HDR software for creating stunning HDR images. They have a free trial, but if you end up buying a copy of Photomatix you can get a 15% Discount with the coupon code LukeZemePhotography

– Adobe Photoshop CS6  used to layer and mask, plus much much more

– On1 Perfect Effects An amazing Filter program to stylise the image. a standalone Filter program which can also be launched from Lightroom, Photoshop or Aperture

-NIK Collection

Imagenomic’s Noiseware 5-noise removal software, discount code “LukeZemePhotography” for a 10% discount.

Image Location:

View Fushimi Inari Shrine © Luke Zeme 2013. HDR in a larger map

For the Photographers:

This is a 5 Bracket HDR shot with 1EV steps so -2,-1,0,+1,+2. It was shot using a Nikon D800 + nikkor 14-24mm lens. I had to open up the aperture to f2.8 because it was so dark and used exposure times 2, 4, 8, 15 and 30 seconds.

I made 2 !!! tonemapped images- one from Photomatix and the other from Oloneo. I did this because I couldn’t quite get the contrast I wanted in either of them so I made them both and combined them in photoshop using masks. I then used on1’s Perfect Effects Filter Program to adjust the contrast, sharpness, colour, lighting, and added a little glow. These were all done to taste but Perfect Effects has over 450 different filters to choose from! I finalised the image by removing noise using Imagenomics noiseware and added a luminosity mask.

Thanks 🙂


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