Ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera

Ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera

Often when visiting a new place, I tend to photograph wider landscapes to record an overall picture of the place. While I think it’s important to make those images as well and I primarily shoot landscapes, it often results in overlooking the details of the place. Looking at the photographs others have taken from locations I have visited, I’ve come to realize that as much as the entire view, the details help tell the story of the place as well. These ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera caught my eye when we were finishing our tour of the temple and leaving the area. In this case it was the aging staircase with all its cracks and the red autumn leaves on the stairs that made be want to press the shutter. The day was beautiful and sunny, but I did warm the image up and add some flare in post-processing to emphasize the summery feeling.

By the way, I hope you like the new layout of the blog. I’m still working on it, but think it makes the photos look better and is generally easier to read. What do you think?

Kiyomizudera and Kyoto skyline

Kiyomizudera and Kyoto skyline

If the view of Kyoto I posted earlier is a classic view from Kiyomizudera, this one is downright iconic. You can see the Kiyomizudera temple and its three-story pagoda from this angle from the viewing platform right next to the Oku-no-in hall. With this image I wanted to go the traditional route without subtle post-processing and make the image look as glorious as the view was. That’s one thing I love about digital photography – with just a bit of retouching I was able to bring back the lush green of the foliage and dig out the clouds and the mountains from the original raw photo where the sky looked like it was covered in white haze. Which, of course was not, what the scene looked like when I was there – or how I want to remember it.

A classic view of Kyoto

A view of Kyoto

This image was taken at the Kiyomizudera temple on a path that leads from the Oku-no-in hall down to the Otowa waterfalls. It’s one of the views of Kyoto that most visitors probably photograph (just do a search for “Kiyomizudera” and “Kyoto cityscape”), so I wanted to try to make my version a bit more personal.

The image was taken at noon and the light was a bit hard, so I softened in by applying one of DxO’s classic film presets on it. I then added a couple of paper textures on the sky in Photoshop and a third texture with a warm tone on the foliage to soften it a bit more. I don’t remember an image of this view with similar treatment or tones before, so I’m quite happy with the result. I might even end up printing this for my study.


I took a longer-than-expected break from the blog and social media in general, but I’m back and have loads of new images to upload. I’ll start with a bunch of photos from the famous Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto, but before we get to the images, I have some housekeeping to do: the print contest is over and the winner has been notified. I’m already planning the next giveaway, so stay tuned!

I don’t do massive image posts like this often, but I though the Kiyomizudera temple requires one – and even with this amount of images I think I only managed to show a fraction of the temple area, so there’s definitely another Kiyomizudera post coming up later.

Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple) is an independent Buddhist temple established in 798 and one of Japan’s many UNESCO world heritage sights. The current buildings, however, only date back to 1633. This is when Tokugawa Iemitsu ordered restoration of the Temple. The original buildings had been destroyed long before in fires – many of which were started by monks from rivaling temples who were trying to manually enlighten their brothers.

The West Gate of Kiyomizudera

An interesting point in the architecture of the temple is that not a single nail has been used in building it. I’m sure though that the builders have hammered down one nail somewhere in the building just for the hell of it.

Unlike most other Buddhist temples, Kiyomizudera incorporates shinto shrines. Probably the most well known of them is a shrine is called Jishu shrine, which is dedicated to a god of love and good matches. Near the shrine there are two stones called “love stones”. They are located a few meters apart and people believe that if you can walk from one stone to another with your eyes closed, you’ll be lucky in love. Based on my personal experience it doesn’t work.

I don’t know how often these old buildings are cleaned, but we happened to see one called Tamura Hall being brushed by two workers.

Workers cleaning the Tamura Hall

Workers cleaning the Tamura Hall

Here’s a video of the inhuman way old buildings are treated in Japan:


People washing their hands in a dragon fountain

One of the attractions of Kiyomizudera is a stage built on 13-meter-tall scaffolding, which offers a magnificent view to Kyoto. The view is not, however, the only thing that attracts people to the stage. It seems that during the Edo period the veranda also attracted jumpers, who believed that if they survived the fall they would gain luck for the following year. According to Wikipedia, 234 people plunged off the stage between 1694 and 1864 and the survival rate was 85,4 percent. Fortunately no one jumped while we were there!

Tourists inside the Kiyomizudera temple

Tourists at Kiyomizudera's veranda

IMG_1926_1600_quality 60_for blog

A view of Kyoto from the Main Hall of Kiyomizudera

Inside Kiyomizudera temple

Tourists in Kiyomizudera temple

The full name of Kiyomizudera temple is Otowasan Kiyomizudera (The pure water temple of Mount Otowa). The temple gained its name from the Otowa waterfall that runs down from a mountain near the temple. The water from the waterfall has been divided into three streams and it is believed that by drinking from these streams you can gain wisdom, longevity, or luck in matchmaking. It’s also believed that if you’re greedy and drink from all three streams, you invite bad luck.

Otowa waterfall

Streets of Higashiyama

The main gate of Chion-in temple

I haven’t done a longer photo post in ages so instead of writing about the streets of Higashiyama, I decided to show them. These are shots from the Higashiyama area in Kyoto, taken between a relatively short distance from the Jingu Michi road to Kiyomizudera temple. The gate in the above photo is Sanmon, the great gate of the Chion-in temple, the headquarters of Jodo Buddhism (the Pure Land Sect). Many of the remaining buildings at Chion-in date back to 17th century, including the the Sanmon gate, which was built in 1619. Standing 24 meters tall the gate is the largest surviving structure of its kind in Japan and a classified as a national treasure. We passed by the temple this time, so I can’t give you a detailed description of it, but I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you any more about it than Chion-in temple in Wikipedia anyway.

Rikshaw ride in Kyoto
See this photo on Flickr

From Chion-in we continued through Maruyama park. After the park we came to a street called Nene no michi (Nene’s path). The street is named after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s wife Nene, who became a nun after Toyotomi’s death and had the Kōdaiji temple built to commemorate her husband. Nene no michi is said to be the route that she walked every day to her husband’s grave. The architecture in this area is traditional and unlike most of Japan, there are no visible telephone wires and cables in the area. The following two images are from the area around Ninenzaka, where the street is lined with small shops and tea houses. It’s a perfect area for a stroll if you are interested in the the temples, shrines and other traditional architecture.

A crowd at Ninenzaka
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Shopping in Higashiyama
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The final photo is from the stairs leading up to the Kiyomizudera temple. In the next post I’ll show you a few images from the temple grounds. Meanwhile, participate in my print giveaway to win a unique fine art print of one of my images!

A happy couple near Kiyomizudera
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Shōren-in temple

Stairs leading to the Shōren-in temple

Shoren-in temple is one of the five Monzeki temples of the Tendai sect in Kyoto. It was built in the late 13th century, and it was formerly the temple of the imperial abbot of the Tendai headquarters on Mount Hiei. After the Great Kyoto Fire of 1788, the temple was used as a temporary imperial palace. The temple is known for its garden, massive 800-year-old camphor trees and a pond called Ryujin-no-ike filled with large stones.

Like the previous image, I did a just a few basic things in the post-processing. I started with basic raw conversion Lightroom, removed some cables from the stairs in Photoshop and finally Then I opened the image in OnOne Perfect Effects, where I applied a couple of textures selectively on the image. The main reason for using the textures was to add texture to the white sky and the temple wall.

I’m currently running a giveaway! where one my Facebook or Instagram followers can win a unique fine art print of one of my photos from Japan. Check it out if you haven’t done so!

Print giveaway!

Shoren-in temple

It’s giveaway time!

A couple of days ago I noticed that my recently posted image of the Shoren-in temple in Kyoto was getting more attention in social media than most of what I post online, and it turned out to become one of my most popular images. What made me even more happy about it is that this is also one of my personal favorites from the images I’ve published this year.

I thought that since you people seem to like the image, I might as well make a print of it and give it to one lucky person!

To get to the point, if you’d like a chance to win the photo do the following:

1. Like my Facebook page: Explodingfish.net on Facebook
2. Like the competition post: Print giveaway

I’m also on Instagram, so if you want to double your chances to win:

1. Follow me on Instagram: Sami Hurmerinta on Instagram
2. Comment on any of my images there

The winner will be selected 16 June and notified through Facebook or Instagram.

The image is printed on high-quality Canson Infinity BFK River paper at A4 size (about 21 x 30 cm / 8 x 11 inches). I guess you can say that the print is unique, because it is very unlikely that I will ever print this image on the same medium again.

An ancient tree at the Shōren-in temple

An old tree at the Shoren-in temple

Jingu Michi road is abundant with buddhist temples and shinto shrines that offer a lot to see. One of the things that drew my attention were these old ancient trees at the Shōren-in temple’s website, a buddhist temple of the Tendai sect. This time we decided to admire the Camphor trees from the street instead of visiting the temple, but it is on my list of places to visit in the future. The entrance costs 500 yen for adults.

The processing of this image was quite simple. After some basic edits in Lightroom, I switched over to Photoshop where I removed power lines and other small but distracting objects. Then I opened the image in OnOne Perfect Effects, where I applied a paper texture selectively on the image to emphasize the warm tone and to add some vignetting to it. As you can see from Google street view below, the tree is as magnificent, if not even more spectacular, as it looks in the photo.

See this photo on Flickr

Jingu Michi

Jingu Michi

Jingu Michi is a road stretching from the Heian Shrine to Maruyama Park near Chion-in temple on Wikipedia temple. Our planned route was to walk along Jingu Michi to the park, then continue along Nene no michi at Japanvisitor.com, a famous flagstone road to ninenzaka and sannenzaka and finally to the Kiyomizudera temple on Wikipedia.

The photo is taken about 800 meters from the Heian Shrine close to the Shōren-in temple that is known for its ancient camphor trees, some of which reach over the road. I processed the image with warm tones that have an old-fashioned feeling to emphasize the historical atmosphere and the warm sunny weather.

See this photo on Flickr

Autumn at Okazaki Canal

Okazaki Canal

This view of Okazaki Canal was shot at the same spot than the one I posted previously, but to the opposite direction. The A view east along Okazaki Canal on Explodingfish.net shows the view East towards the city while this one shows autumn at Okazaki Canal and a view west towards the Higashiyama mountain range. Because it was early autumn, the trees on the mountains are still green and only a few of the cherry trees along the canal have started changing color.

See this photo on Flickr