Gallery: seeing Japan in black and white
One thing living in Japan did for me was to make me feel that what is left out of a work of art is as important as, if not more important than, what is put inKatherine Paterson (US author)
I think this quote expresses much that appeals to me not only in Japanese art but the country’s architecture and maybe other aspects of its culture too. There’s a restraint, a rejection of what is not necessary. The traditional houses there remind me of that famous quote by William Morris:
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
Or, as the architect Mies van der Rohe equally famously said, ‘Less is more’.
In this gallery, shared for Bren’s Midweek Monochrome and Leanne’s Monochrome Madness, what I am leaving out is of course the colour. Japan is rich in colour, yet I felt some of my shots could also work well in black and white. So I played around a bit in Silver Efex Pro and these images are the result. The one exception of course is the featured photo, of a torii gate on Lake Ashi. The red of these gates is so distinctive that I felt I just had to retain it.
and by the way
Autumn in Kanmangafuchi Abyss, Nikko
A rainy day in Kamikochi National Park in the Japanese Alps
Taishō Pond, Kamikochi National Park
Bamboo grove in Arashiyama, Kyoto
‘Pirate’ ship offering tourist cruises on Lake Ashi, Hakone
Clouds obscuring the top of the Skytree in Tokyo, the tallest tower in the world
(given the weather we didn’t bother going up!)
Clouds reflected in an Osaka skyscraper, with cloud-pruned trees known as Niwaki
Modern skyscrapers in Shiodome, Tokyo
(see this previous post for the original colour version)
Inside a traditional merchant’s house in Takayama
Roof detail, Osaka Castle
Roof detail, Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto
In the grounds of Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo
Young Buddhist nun at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko
Station guard at Odawara station, with bullet train passing
On the streets of Takayama
Also on the streets of Takayama
I visited Japan in 2013
Image Earth Travel
I’m currently in Japan but sadly, only have a phone with me on this trip. Looking for a mirrorless full frame camera but they’re so pricey!
Great candid photos!
I always struggle with the phone for anything other than fairly standard shots and I hate not having a viewfinder. My preferred camera for travel and ‘serious’ photography at home is my Panasonic Lumix bridge camera but I also have a point and shoot Lumix which I use when I don’t want to carry the larger one.
Image Earth Travel
I’ve just bought the Google Pixel 6a, which isn’t too bad but need to get a ‘real’ camera. First trip that I haven’t carried one but my 3kg Nikon was out of the question this time as trying to keep the weight down.
I still have my Lumix small point and shoot from 2011 that I bought in Bolivia.
Travelling for 2 years this time so need to go light and the reason I’m thinking of buying a new one along the way.
Gosh yes, two years – you do need to consider every gram! Nevertheless I can’t imagine travelling without at least a small camera. It’s the viewfinder I miss most when I have to resort to the phone.
Image Earth Travel
I know exactly what you mean. I’m old school and still use a 35mm film camera. I used to travel with a film camera, a DSLR, and a small compact for trekking up mountains. I also miss a viewfinder as the LCD screens annoy me, but that’s progress in technology so I need to adapt.
This was fun, Sarah. The juxtaposition of the Buddha’s face with the young nun is wonderful. The faces are my favorites but I do admire that bamboo photo! 😉
Thank you again 🙂 The portraits do seem to be general favourites, and I’m glad you picked up on that juxtaposition – I do try to think quite carefully about the order and arrangement of my photos, as I can tell you do too!
Dramatic effect on the skyscrapers and the Japanese alps especially. Love your portraits as usual.Thanks Sarah for taking me to a place that I have never seen.
Thanks so much Teresa, glad you liked your ‘visit’ to Japan 😊
The people portraits work very well in monochrome and I like the simplicity of the bamboo shot. Also the roof details. As you have rightly pointed out not all photos can be transformed into black and white, careful editing is required.
Thanks for the thoughtful feedback Jude 🙂 The portraits seem to be general favourites with most people – me included!
I always wanted to go to Japan. I did a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course years ago, intending to try to go there as an English teacher. Unfortunately, I’d left it too late: when I investigated, I discovered that the rules forbade any foreigners over 40 from applying to work there (I was 39). And, since then, the vow I took years back never to fly again (to reduce my carbon footprint) means that the only way I can get there would involve a long sea voyage. (I imagine that might be interesting in itself, though!)
A shame you never made it, as it’s a fascinating country and (I think) pretty unique. Maybe you should take that long voyage?!
This is a lovely set of monochromes. But I do miss the colour in the traditional architecture: though b/w is great for the modern buildings with their reflections.
Interesting, as the traditional architecture is pretty much monochrome anyway – shades of brown rather than grey 🙂 I felt losing what colour it had brought out the simplicity of the design and patterns, but I like my colour version too (lurking somewhere in this old post: https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/gallery-the-merchant-houses-of-takayama/). Maybe the warmth of the browns is important to convey the atmosphere inside the house?
I s’pose I’m thinking more of temples and palaces, which are more richly coloured. But yes, brown and grey each have quite a different vibe.
I agree about the more richly coloured buildings – which is why I didn’t include any 😆
Great collection of images Sarah. I like how the monochrome makes you look more closely at the subjects.
Thank you Leanne 😊 Yes, monochrome often has that effect, I feel. Thanks for hosting a challenge that encourages me to experiment with it like this!
I’m running out of superlatives. Another great collection. We are really in two minds about Japan, there’s probably an equal number of things which put us off as there are things that attract. Your recommendation would be….what?
Well I would say go, as I loved the country, and would like to go again one day, to a different part but also back to Kyoto as we only had a few days there and it deserves more. What things are putting you off? Maybe I can reassure/dispel?
I guess we kind of have an opinion that it’ll be largely sterile and uninteresting in many of the cities…a bit too….what?…functional? We like a bit of rustic, as you know. For some reason we are also both of the opinion that the people won’t be particularly friendly or receptive to westerners. Perhaps all a bit too….modern??
The bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka maybe, although the former is a must if you’re to understand the culture of today’s Japan I reckon. But get away from the big cities and you’ll find places that are much more traditional, if not properly rustic (at least on Honshu, the only island we visited). I loved Takayama – vibrant market, beautiful old houses, great food (especially beef) and atmospheric shrines without the crowds of Kyoto. From there you can get up into the Japanese Alps for a bit of hiking in stunning scenery. But you should also see Kyoto, and it’s possible to avoid the crowds there by going to the less visited temples – there are hundreds to choose from, after all! I understand some of the other islands are much more rural than Honshu so with some research you should find one to combine with those main places or maybe do some island hopping?
As for the people, they are polite but fairly formal – you’ll be treated like very welcome guests but you’re unlikely get to know them on any deeper level. But I found their culture fascinating nevertheless.
Have you come across Holly of Sketchbooks and Syllabaries (https://hollymrichards.wordpress.com/)? She’s a young Brit who’s mad about Japan and recently spent six weeks in Kyoto learning Japanese. She’d be a great guide to the less visited parts of the city and to its food and drink scene 🙂
Lots of useful info, thank you!
I like the black and white Shiodome of Tokyo very much. The color version exemplifies the different mood the two pictures express. Thank you for sharing the whole set of pictures.
Thank you 😊 I think skyscrapers often work well in B&W
This is a wonderful set in monochrome. You did well dealing without color. I especially liked the portraits.
Thank you Anne 🙂 I did choose which shots to edit carefully, as many of my Japan photos wouldn’t work in monochrome I suspect. And I was quite pleased with how the portraits came out, especially the last two.
Brilliant series of black and white photography 😀
Thank you Cee, so glad you liked it!
Sarah… I love this Gallery… It really gives you insight of Japanese culture xx
Thanks so much Bren, I really enjoyed picking out which of my Japanese shots would look best in monochrome, as it’s not something I’d previously done with that set 🙂
All look good Sarah, the people especially. You’ve captured their expressions well
Thank you Alison, glad you like them 🙂
Mike and Kellye Hefner
Lovely captures, Sarah! I especially love seeing the people.
Thanks so much Kellye 😊