Does anyone here have much experience with Japanese garden photography? If so, what would you say is your secret to capturing good photos?
1. Take the pictures when the sky's overcast.
2. Take a lot of pictures of each scene - it increases the chances of some of the pictures being better than average. The best way to do this is to use a digital camera - with a big capacity card. With a digital camera you can take far more pictures than you'd have dreamed of taking when there were only film cameras.
3. Keeping the camera absolutely motionless while you press the shutter is more difficult than people think. Some cameras are more difficult to hold still than others. If you can't hold the camera still - even if you train yourself to use only your shutter finger & not to flinch - then use a good quality tripod.
I agree with Herb. Get a digital camera and take hundreds of photos from different angles and on different settings. Out of 100 shots at least a few will be noteworthy.
This is probably the number one criticism of how digital cameras devalue the need to take a good picture. when you add to this the ability to manipulate your one hundred bad pictures, assuming that you have two weeks to spare, there you have the complete "garbage in: garbage out."
If you take your pictures when the shadows are long, that is in the early morning or late afternoon you will capture something that is not there at noon. If you mean to be taking picture of gardens in Japan you should study the light at different times of day to get the gardens to perform as you want them to on film. If you ignore the advice above and approach the gardens with a little reverence your photos are more likely to show them as you see them.
On the professional side a garden should really be visited and studied ahead of time to decide on the angles of the photos and best time of day for each photo.
Hours are spent setting up and waiting for the right time, often only shooting a dozen photos a day. The assistants are always busy moving hoses and keeping different parts of the garden wet or damp, placing flashes and reflective boards and making other fine adjustments to the garden (bending a branch, sweeping up, or spreading leaves etc.).
Certainly for fine photos a large format is best. One guy I know uses a heavy wooden camera with a blanket over his head.
I used to shoot on 64 slide, but now only digital. do think my slides were better than my digital. Seems like I had more control and more effort into each photo due to costs. I don't think I'll ever go back, but there are now digital cameras that seem capable of those high quality film photos.
If you want drama, use the fog; brilliant color, shoot at noon. No matter what kind of camera you have, study the subject over time and remember what you saw that you liked. Watch the shadows. Try to be there when it comes around again. If you have a lot of expertise, use film. If you're learning, go digital. The most important thing is to remember the circumstance of the shot you want. One way costs more than the other. I've been "shooting" for 45 years, I went digital three years ago and I'm having a ball. My favorite time in my garden is foggy morning in springtime.
Lots of excellent advice above .. taking numerous photos from many angles will definitely train your eyes to be more discerning..
One of my favourite times is late afternoon - night time can be interesting too with controlled lighting. A tripod is essential
Here is a link that might be useful:
1. shoot at the tiniest f/stop...more than f/8...like f/16 f/22.
2. divide the frame into thirds.
2a. since there are a lot of paths do the start and end of a path at the thirds.
3. use a tripod.
4. use the slowest ISO you have like 25 or 100 instead of 400.
4a. the higher the ISO the more the contrast.
5. meter the shadows.
6. frame the picture in you mind not in the viewfinder; when something catches you it's usually a single point...then included the supporting cast of players.
6a. don't use zoom; use your body as the zoom, walk back and forth.
7. breath out when you click the shutter and move your finger independently from your palm.
8. don't pray and spray your film away, don't click hoping it will turn out...just walk...the scene will tell you when to take pictures...if you only get one, then that's the only that was worth taking...
Lots of good suggestions here. Of course there is no correct way of doing something. Photography is in the end an art form, and is therefore personal. Once you've got the basics of using a camera down, then its just a matter of slowly increasing your technical knowledge, and more importantly the time you've spent behind the shutter. You'll find your approach to framing, subject matter, etc. will change through time as you progress.
Digital photography is convenient and fun. Film photography demands greater precision in getting the correct exposure. Like others, I started in film and then recently graduated to digital. Whichever format you choose, be sure to get a SLR. Photography is one of those things that demands good equipment.
Other than that, know your subject. Try to think of it in various ways. If you are interested in a specific garden, go there and really walk the place, and if you can at different times of the day. Look for shots. Try to open your mind to possibilities. When you do shoot, take many shots of a desired subject at various angles and exposures. I've found that since I can instantly edit directly in the field with my digital SLR, I take more shots now. In the past I would look at something and say, "it won't be a good shot", so I would pass it by. Now I take the shot, and I'm finding good pictures where I thought there wouldn't be (another advantage to digital). You will also find that once you get them home and start working on them, whole new possibilities will appear within the photos you hadn't imagined in the field.
It is an adventure. So go and enjoy it!
How right you are PF :) I also started with film like many here, first b&w, then color - and well.. eventually, I grudgingly sold off all my darkroom equipment, and there was a long hiatus, as the early (affordable) digitals were just horrendous..
With modern digital cameras, especially slr/s, along with an image processing program, you have complete control over your own work (no more transparencies being wrecked by inept color-lab assistants who used the wrong process.. ugh! ) and formatting is a breeze on the computer.. you can even make several copies and crop them differently and compare results - perfect for beginners and the experienced, alike..
Your reminder that photography is an 'art' also resonates with me - and I think that a rigid adherence to 'rules' can result in uninvolving imagery... but sometimes, the motive may just be to capture a flat image for study, and this is where digitals also excel, as prodigious numbers of shots can be captured on a single memory card/micro drive
If you take a photo of a Japanese garden, is the photo the art? Or is the garden, itself, the art?
If you are a film person try using a polorizing filter. It will allow for greater color saturation and it will filter out noise or scattered light. It will remove reflected light thereby enhancing the colors of leaves, rocks, roofs, etc, etc. Over water you can chose to filter or not depending upon the affect you wish.
This filter coupled with an SLR gives you realtime saturation viewing, you can dial in the amount you want.
When using it, it works best at an angle 90 degree to the sun.
As to composition, I try to view scenes from strange or uncommon angles or aspects. this gives me an image that is uniquely mine and does not look like a just another post card.
also try changing up on f stop for a more intimate affect or when shooting water, and use wide angle lenses for close-ups.
You can try subtle filtering that enhance the scene, but I stay away from filters that dominate or radically change the view.
I shoot hundreds and maybe one is a wall hanger, but what a wall hanger it is.
Find one camera you like, one film you like and shoot like there ain't no tomorrow. You will be pleasantly astounded some day while going through your thousands pictures.
"If you take a photo of a Japanese garden, is the photo the art? Or is the garden, itself, the art?"
If you take a photograph of a work of art then you will have a pictorial record of a work of art, that's all.
"If you take a photo of a Japanese garden, is the photo the art? Or is the garden, itself, the art?"
I think the answer depends. It isn't like taking a picture of a Rembrandt where the art probably belongs solely to Rembrandt.
In the case of a garden, art may be present in the one but not the other, or in both - or even be absent from both.
Tom's advice is excellent.
If anyone has serious intentions of creating a garden, a photograph, a novel or graffiti that they want considered as 'art' it may take more effort than "shooting hundreds" in the hope that one may be acceptable.
Although it is a fact that if you throw enough mud at a wall some of it will stick it would make a lot of sense to consider the materials in more depth.
There is no effort in shooting hundreds? There is no effort in making hundreds of sketches for a painting? There is no effort in working out the details, getting the light just right, making the composition correct and re-correct and correct again.
Making hundreds of efforts and trys is how one gets to know the materials in more depth. It is what artistic training is all about - more failures than successes. Many years spent in the service of materials and techniques.
As to which is the art, the photo or the object, it's quite obvious that they both can be. Can a photo make art of a bad garden and can a good garden make art of a bad photo? It is a question that can be answered a thousand times and has been in countless art schools.
If you read back over my previous post you will see that we are in agreement on the extension of your earlier statement regarding "shooting hundreds".
Mike Yamashita said he always tried to shoot in the rain or just after...
"Shooting hundreds" seems to be a smart thing to do when it doesn't cost anything to do so. But afterwards I sometimes have trouble comparing all of the images because they all look so similar. It takes more time to sort through them than it did to take the initial images.
I've shot hundreds of photos of my garden and none of them look very good, or at least they don't look as good as the garden, itself. Photography is an area in which I'd like to improve.
The difference with shooting digital is that you expose for the highlights not the shadows. Digital tends to blow out highlights a bit more than film (exceptions are the high end cameras). If you're good with photoshop, you can take two shots at different exposures and combine them to get perfect exposures throughout the image.
Sorry..just passing through and just had to add a comment. Love your gardens :-)