Rodney Campbell's Blog

Wandering the Streets before Dawn…

by on Dec.22, 2016, under Life, Photography

I had yet to do any, what I’d call, “serious” photography on our trip to Japan. I’d decided I’d get up early and go a wandering the streets of Kyoto before dawn.

It all sounds like I had no real plan at all; that I’d just be wandering the streets aimlessly hoping for inspiration.

Night Crawler

Night Crawler

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 57 sec at f/8, ISO 100

Note: These photographs (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger. To see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer click any of the images.

I actually had a very specific plan in mind. My intention was to go visit the epic Kiyomizudera Temple well before the sun rose so I’d get the place hopefully to myself and get the best light. So I woke very early and made my way up the street (significantly less crowded than yesterday when it was absolutely jam packed with visitors). I arrived at the temple at just after 4AM (still well over an hour till sunrise). Alas I had not planned for the temple to be closed and cordoned off and very helpful guards telling me I’d have to come back when it opened at 6AM.

Very disappointed I headed back down the street to go wandering in the streets of Kyoto looking for as they say inspiration.

Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizudera is the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the atmospheric Higashiyama District. The many shops and restaurants in the area have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries, and products on sale range from local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets and pickles to the standard set of souvenirs.

During the day this area is absolutely packed and bustling with activity. Right at the edge of twilight it has a very different feel.

Gion at Dawn

Gion at Dawn

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 2.5 sec at f/9, ISO 100

I made my way all the way towards Gion by the time the sky was getting lighter with the first hints of sunrise. The streets were still essentially empty as you can see in the image here.

Eventually my wanderings took me back to Kiyomizudera for the 6AM opening. A couple of other brave tourists also arrived in time for the opening. The majority of the twenty or so people there at 6AM were locals for whom this temple is their local place of worship.

Empty Steps

Empty Steps

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 1/10 sec at f/9, ISO 100

I spoke with a few very nice old locals whilst we waited and then we were allowed inside. It was amazing to have this whole place essentially to oneself for a while. A completely different feel to during the day when the place is overrun by visitors. At 6AM it is calm and serene, one would say spiritual – as it should be.

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