Last spring I created the image, ‘Dance of the Jacarandas’ to celebrate the month when my city turns purple, so after a trip to Japan earlier this year it seemed appropriate to make a companion cherry blossom themed piece for release this spring. I’m thinking of turning this into a regular series and am toying with poincianas, wattle or bougainvillea next, so if you know of any good spots …
A cherry blossom sighting in Japan (my mother can’t be trusted with my camera).
It’s embarrassing to admit, but back in my university / goth years, on the 1st of Spring I would dress up as the spring fairy, buying fresh flowers and weaving them into a wreath, and if I felt brave enough (because clearly playing dress ups was not already brazen enough) I would give out floral gifts to strangers (there is photographic evidence of this but it’s such a terrible shame that I can’t currently find it). If this series is any indication I guess I still like to play dress ups and celebrate spring.
To my surprise cherry blossom trees are actually quite tough to photograph. For one, they are totally inundated with people. They bloom for approximately 11 days once a year so if you blink you’ll miss ’em, which of course means everyone wants to experience them in person. We were on a regular commuter bus in Kyoto and as we drove past a cherry blossom tree, EVERYONE took out their phone cameras and started snapping away. Some companies even pay an employee to sit in a park all day during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) reserving the best picnic spot for when they all finish work. The Japanese also have this astounding ability that, while it may seem as if there’s no one nearby, as soon as you point your camera at something at least one person will appear and stand in your way for as long as it takes for you to give up and move on. It’s uncanny.
Keage Incline, Kyoto: I got totally lost at Nanzen-ji temple looking for a waterfall and found this instead.
Secondly, Japan has become quite polluted. On my previous two visits this wasn’t the case so I’m sad to say it is now. I love photographing overcast scenes because colours become deep and saturated, even sunny days bring blue skies and lots of contrast, but pollution? It does no favours for anyone.
Philosopher’s Walk, Kyoto, and the most boring type of sky.
Lastly, cherry blossoms come in a stunning array of colours and varieties but the majority of them are this wishy washy pale pink colour that just blends right in with the polluted sky and looks kind of mucky.
Pale flowers, Philosopher’s Walk, Kyoto
The two trees used in my final image were both photographed at Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo on the first day of our trip, right before cherry blossom season had actually begun. They have thicker flowers and are a rarer rich, pink colour which is quite lovely. If anyone knows what type of sakura these are, I beg you to tell me so I can buy one. The other elements that make up the final photo are included below.
I had the photo all ready to go but my Mum pointed out that the hedges didn’t have any fallen flowers on them. It’s these kinds of details that really make a composite believable and is why getting a second opinion is so important. (And also why I then had to spend an extra day on the image.)
As with ‘Dance of the Jacarandas’ I created a brush out of a cherry blossom to paint some falling blooms into the scene and then added some more petal shaped brush strokes. Falling cherry blossoms are quite lovely and to experience them is like being caught in a soft, warm snowstorm. I have a video of what it’s like featuring my mother being delightful but I can’t figure out how to post it with Wordpress so check out my Facebook instead.
Sakura Photoshop brush
And then of course, there’s me, photographed as usual in my backyard using an op shop parasol and an eBay dress. I really liked this pose but there were some problems with it so I photographed it again a few days later, only to decide that I preferred the original pose afterall.
You can see more of my travel photography (I’m not up to Japan yet but I’ll get there eventually) at my travel Instagram account @hayleyrtravels where I post a photo daily. Sayonara!