Lucky for me every Japanese festival comes with its very own amusement area with food, games and plenty of things to entice young children to beg for money from their parents!
So we left Mr N like a guard dog over our spot under the cherry trees and headed off to see the sights.
I ran ahead with a wide-angle lens and waited until the girls came into view. Obviously here the family is too far away for the flash and you can see just how contrasty it is. Look how darkit is under the food stalls in the background. Pitch black even though I could see it fine with my eyes. That's just the reality of how our cameras see the world and you have to work around it when you're a natural light travel photographer.
One of the best ways to get around the problem is to put your subjects in the shade and avoid that harsh, contrasty light. Lucky for me all the action was under tents so that gave me that nice soft light that you can see here.
This is a game where you're given a little paper net. Actually you're given three (or maybe five) of them. Your job is to catch the goldfish without breaking the net. It's pretty much impossible to do because the nets are so flimsy and pretty much break at the slightest touch.
But if you do manage to capture a fish you can take it home. Just what every parent wants! For this shot I got on the other side of the fish tank, just about sitting on the knee of the stall operator who though it was a great laugh! I used the vertical format to show all the fish. You can see how white and burnt out the background is so I tried to keep it to a minimum by waiting until other people were standing behind.
There is a slight orange cast to the girls' faces caused by the orange tent which of course you could correct in the computer but I prefer to leave it there because, for me, it emphasises the fact that they're under a tent.
Now what would a day out be without a good sugar fix! So off to the fairy floss we went. By this stage I had noticed that the older sister (just becoming a teenager) was getting a bit tired of the whole photograph thing whereas the younger sister was still enjoying it so I switched focus a little.
Whereas before I was trying to get both of them in all the shots I decided to focus more on Haruna and let Shiori have some time off. The major part of photographing people is sensing when they've had enough and want to be left alone - especially when it's family!
For this shot of feasting on fairy floss I again used a touch of fill flash to open up the shadows on Haruna's face. It really is such harsh light that I probably could have pumped a bit more in but then it would have lit that hand as well and looked unnatural. The trick is to use just enough flash to lighten the shadows but not so much that it just screams 'flash'!
And look at our watches we decided it was definitely time to head back and crack open those lunch boxes and a couple of cold brews at the same time!
Of course the walk back is just as much a part of the whole story so I ran ahead so that I could look back over my shoulder at any interesting places they might walk.
I noticed that part of the path wound under a great strand of cherry blossoms. The trees were quite far apart from each other and I knew that using a wide-angle lens would increase the apparent distance and they wouldn't look as impressive. So I got farther away and photographed it with a telephoto lens, which then compressed the perspective and made the trees look like a big, swarming mass of blossoms.
And then I let them eat!