At the end of a winter trip to Japan, I found myself looking at cherry trees in full peak bloom.
Mind you, this was on February 22, 2023 – February! Which is at least several weeks before the blooms open in other parts of Japan. Luckily, I was in Kawazu, in Shizuoka Prefecture, which sees the first blooms of the spring every year due to its location.
In Japan the sakura (ornamental cherry trees & blossoms) are believed to symbolize mortality because of the blooming and fading cycles. Sakura are also a symbol of renewal because they mark the end of the cold winter and the beginning of spring. Farmers used, and may still use, the blooms to indicate when to plant. And even the Buddhist notion of mono no aware, which loosely means “awareness of the impermanence of things heightens the awareness of their beauty”, is directed at the sakura to remind us of how short and precious life is.
On that February day, I had arrived with literally thousands of Japanese families who were celebrating the sakura which bordered the Kawazu River for over 2 km. A beautiful sight, indeed. I had been traveling around Japan with several other photographers who were eager to capture the scene. As they rushed off to shoot I limped slowly behind them due to a knee injury caused by a trip & fall incident in Tokyo 10 days earlier. Because of my injury, I knew that my shooting method would not include trotting along the river, so I selected a suitable tree and then perched on a nearby bench to observe and plot my course of action. Since I absolutely did not want to produce an iconic photograph of the sakura, my options appeared to be quite limited.
After watching the endless crowds streaming by, I finally decided to approach “my tree” to begin the creative process, hoping for serendipity all the while. The day was very chilly and quite blustery, so in a move of desperation I smooshed (technical term there!) my cellphone camera directly into a handy cluster of blossoms – a very brusque and undisciplined macro approach! Between, and sometimes during wind gusts, I pressed the shutter over and over again, occasionally nudging the cellphone into a slightly different position. I wasn’t focusing the camera or paying any attention to composition or other technical aspects of photography;
I was just hoping to capture something interesting and different. In the resulting images I could see that the changing light had intensified or diminished the color of the blossoms, capturing them from pale pink to saturated shades. And what I ended up with, as you can plainly see, are quite abstract in nature; some resemble watercolors or other media. The overall “texture” on some of the images came from the moisture on the blossoms and even from the pollen. It amuses me to think that it’s like seeing the blossoms from a bee’s point of view. They do seem rather dreamy and, yes, frankly out of focus, but that unfocused appearance just intensifies that dreamy, painterly quality, in my humble opinion.
My next sakura adventure will be to capture the spent petals as they fall from the trees, blowing in the wind like a beautiful pink blizzard. The Japanese have a word for this, of course…..hanafubuki.
I’m so taken with this word that I wrote a little haiku:
Wind tossed petals are falling
iPhone 13 Pro
Post: Lights & Darks sliders and crop tool on Lightroom. Colors were not saturated.
Never miss a post
Like what you are reading? Subscribe below and receive all posts in your inbox as they are published. Join the conversation with thousands of other creative photographers.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.