How best to capture Japanese landscapes that will look fantastic in print or on canvas
Japan is a stunningly beautiful country. Between the snow-capped peaks of Hokkaido, the volcanoes of Kyushu and the network of hot springs which criss-crosses the mainland between these two islands, there is no shortage of photo opportunities in Japan. If you're moving to Japan for any real period of time, of even if you're just passing through on holiday, the chances are that you're going to want to take some photos which will last a lifetime. If you're looking to capture the Japanese landscape in a way which will look incredible, it would look absolutely incredible on a photo canvas, here are a couple of tips to help you out.
Mt. Fuji, a Beautiful Japanese Landscape
1. What is it that you're looking for?
While most people only really about Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku, Japan actually an archipelago of 6,852 islands. Given that 73% of that huge land area is mountainous, there are lot of different landscapes that you're going to be able to photograph in Japan, all at different elevations, pointing in different directions.
Unless you plan on simply wondering the country, camera in hand, it's worth having a vague idea in mind as to what you're looking to shoot. Do you want to see ancient Japan or modern Japan? Do you want volcanoes or snow? Do you want monkeys in the hot springs, or do you want Golden Week festivities in Tokyo?
2. Choose a subject
Once you have vague idea, you need to pick the actual landscape you want to photograph. This is a fantastic excuse to take a few trips to some of the more interesting places in the country – take a look at a few travel blogs from people who have spent time in Japan and see what it is they've shot. You may just see a landscape you want to try your hand at.
3. Choose a time of year/day
Japan is a country of four seasons, as your local friends in the country will be more than happy to tell you. Winter, spring, summer and autumn all look entirely different, no matter where you are in the country. The momiji add a real fire and flare to any landscape you're shooting if you're in Japan in September. If you're in Japan during April, the hanami offers a stunning selection of pinks and whites which completely changes how any landscape looks, adding a truly Japanese touch to the composition.
Just as it's important to choose the right month, it's important to choose the right time of day. During the summer the sunlight can be both strong and harsh, which is brilliant if you're in one of Japan's many forests. If you're shooting a mountain, from a mountain or even a beach, sunrise and sunset may be more to your liking. Check out where the sun will rise and set and try to anticipate how the landscape will transform before you have your camera set up.
Autumn. Just a sample of the spectacular koyo colors that await you in Kyoto
Spring. The cherry blossom, Japan's national flower, is also a symbol of life's transience
4. Choose a camera
You don't need the most expensive camera in the world to take stunning photographs of Japan's many landscapes. While an SLR will give you more versatility in taking the exact photo you want, if you don't know your ISO from your f-stop, the chances are that you'll get the same high quality photographs you're looking for with your iPhone. As long as you make sure your smartphone has a halfway decent megapixel count and the option for high definition photographs, you can save yourself the effort of hauling a load of heavy equipment.
5. Do a little post-production
No matter how great a photographer you are, the best photos are made at your desk with a cup of coffee/cup of Mt Rainier iced coffee, depending on the season. There is a lot which goes into post-production, with everything from a simple crop to a full knitting together of multiple exposures all adding something a little different to the finished shot.
For the most part, a quick crop down in the rule of thirds and a tweak of exposure/colour compensation should be all that your photos need. Once that's done, you'll be ready to print them out on a photo canvas, making for a truly unique gift for friends and family, or even a tasteful addition to your office wall.