Thursday, July 19, 2012

Attention to Detail

Just got back from another trip to Japan - the second this year! This time around we spent a week in beautiful Kyoto and Nara, before heading up for a couple of weeks in Sapporo.

It was the first time I'd been back to Kyoto and Nara in more than 20 years. Yes I really am that old and yes I really have been going to Japan for that long.

Because I spend a lot of my time up in my wife's home island of Hokkaido, which has only been settled by the Japanese for a couple of hundred years or so, it was wonderful to get in touch with a side of Japanese culture that is measured in the thousands of years.

We saw lots of big things. Big temples, grandiose shrines, gigantic wooden Buddhas. And it was all very spectacular of course, and beautiful as well. But for me this trip the beauty was found in the tiny things.

It is impressive that these talented artisans and craftsmen constructed five-tiered pagodas and 40 foot high statues. It was much more impressive to me to not that they hadn't just stopped after building these incredible structures, but had then started work on the fine details. Fine swirls and lines on every nook and cranny, intricate carvings on the smallest, seemingly insignificant facade. In other words they hadn't rested on their laurels creating something big, they had then gone over their creations with a fine tooth comb and created sublime pieces of art from top to bottom. Even in places that people might never, ever notice but one would think their pride as artists compelled them to complete.

So for me that was one of the highlights of this trip. Noticing how those artists from thousands of years ago had taken so much pride in their work. And it made me pay more attention to the fine details of my photography.

By that I don't mean simply concentrating on the fine details themselves - I did plenty of that. Rather to pay attention to those little things that might not necessarily make a break an image, but if done right help elevate it to a higher level.

Things like choosing the right aperture for the job. Using the depth-of-field preview button to make sure you are creating the image you have in mind. Making positive that background is neither too clear, nor so blurry it doesn't make sense. Paying close attention to where you focus so that the most important part of the picture is critically sharp. Taking the time (at least as much as you can with two young boys telling you to hurry up!) to wait for the background elements to be perfect.

I figure if the artists who created a 40 foot Buddha statue weren't satisfied until they'd carved fingerprints into it then I could be more careful with my art as well.

Stay tuned for images from my most recent trip on the website. They've all been processed, now it's just a matter of captioning and keywording! The above image is from Kasuga-Taisha Shrine in Nara.