Midnight Adventure in the Japanese Cemetery

The night had been dark for many hours by the time I hiked to this point. It was raining and somehow the wetness seemed to make everything even more black. There were old and new crypts, spider webs, lonely rotting wood, creaking trees in the heavy rain, and more strange sounds from the woods. Talk about eerie! Japanese cemeteries are not places that people visit very often. It’s bad luck. Naturally, I don’t believe in any of that, so it was my good luck it was empty for photography!

Of all the spots around Kyoto, this is probably my favorite. There is an area of 1,000 Red Gates that flow up and around a picturesque little mountain. This cemetery is about halfway up the trek and it shoots off to the right. It is both great and annoying to shoot in the rain. I had to carry an umbrella, tripod, bag of camera goodies, and the like, and everything gets all jumbled up when it comes time to set up for a shot. I need an assistant! 🙂

How did I do this one? There were three exposures +1, 0, -1. Normally I do 5 from +2 to -2, but in this case, it was so dark that the shutter speeds were outrageous enough. I kept the ISO at 200. The 14-24 lens was at 15mm (on a D3X). It was aperture priority at f/5.6. The three shutter speeds were 2/4/8 seconds. If you zoom into the Original size on Flickr – you can see all kinds of details.

Here is one special thing I did on the last exposure. It was DARK out there. And I mean DARK. I had my SB-800 in my bag. On the last exposure, I ran over behind the gate to the right like Carl Lewis, and jammed the “Test” button about 5 times in every direction to light up that area. I almost slipped and died… I have no idea what a police investigator might assume if they found me in the morning.

Midnight Adventure in the Japanese Cemetery

  • This is fantastic. I’ve tried to use similar ideas here in Taiwan but they haven’t turned out this good. Great work.

  • Cemetery regular photo usually looks scary…with HDR , it become scarier..especially with a good quality HDR.

  • cindy williams

    Excellent, I have photographed cemetaries in Paris and the US.

  • Great use of the flash and test button. I’ll have to try it.

  • The details of the wood on the Torii and the moss on the rocks is crazy. Quick question: why did you decide on 15mm?

  • Who said is cemetery? It’s not obvious.
    What I see is a high talented HDR creation.
    Just brilliant !!!!!!!

  • Nic

    I really like this shot! especially the lighting. As long as you don’t fall and break things, the risk makes the shot better! (at least to you haha)
    I’ll be your assistant if you need one!

  • notti

    again a great pic. as far as i remember – a local told me – this little mountain has one of the most important shrines for rice/rice wine in japan. this one is on top of the shrine hirachy.

    were there a lot of stone made foxes nearby the gate alley?

    great idea with the flash

  • fenraven

    This is an incredibly beautiful shot. You truly are an amazing photographer, Trey!

  • Count me in on the assistant gig.. 🙂

    Awesome shot!

  • casusan

    Wow love this one Trey – cool shot!

  • Anirban Chatterjee

    That’s really cool….I guess it is the Inari Shrine at Inari…isn’t it?
    It brought back memories of my trip there :)(http://www.flickr.com/photos/anirbanchatterjee/3568997162/)

  • Nice light painting Trey, I’ve used it many times for my automotive photography. Those stairs do look slippery!!

    I’ll be your assistant anytime!!

  • Awesome, beautiful, I love it!

  • Tanja Helms

    Is this the place known as the 10,000 Tori Gates? My kids tried to count them when we were there. And my daughter found a beetle the size of my husband’s hand. I kid you not. It’s ultra cool in the daytime too.

  • Fantastically gorgeous, especially at night.

  • You guys all need to look at the large format version on this one. This is a photo that would make a great puzzle. So many little things going on!

  • Thanks!

    Tanjya – yes that is the name of it !

    Anirban – I don’t know — that may be true

    Deron – well, i had on the 14-24mm on there… and I wanted to get all the vista in there! 🙂

  • Alistair McNaughton

    love the colour, detail and composition. A superb capture.

    Are you bringing any books with you when you come down under to Auckland? Personal signing for a beer! LOL

  • Trey, I really, really love the way you share tips about your technique. Thanks, that’s very generous of you.

  • Mitchell W

    Wow I love this. You continually inspire me to keep improving! I am hoping to get your book in Australia somehow!

  • Your images never fail to inspire me! the detail, the magic, each of them weave a story waiting to be told, if you are ever in Australia and looking for an assistant i would love to come along and pick up some tips along the way.

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