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

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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
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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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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.

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Evening flight

Summer evening flight

I’m slowly working through my back catalogue of images and although I’m not finding as many gems as I wanted, there is an occasional image that I like. This was a pretty simple image to finish. I cropped the image to square format to get rid of the needless space on the edges and removed some of the trees at the bottom of the image in Lightroom. Then I moved to Photoshop where I cloned out the logos of the balloon company in Photoshop and finally accentuated the colors of the sunset in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 by adding a violet/pink bi-color filter to the image. I could have done a more careful job on removing the logos, but it’s not too bad.

I was out shooting with a friend one evening because I wanted to test a Sigma 150-500mm lens he had for sale (and which I later bought). It was already quite late in the evening and the sun was setting when we saw this hot air balloon taking off a couple of hundred meters from us. I shot a few frames as it floated by just above the trees. After flying a few hundred meters, it suddenly shrank and fell down to the woods on the other side of the park. I don’t know what happened and we never found out whether the people in the balloon were ok, but I don’t think they were in any danger. It looked like a relatively soft landing.

Finally, if you’re one of the people who started following this website back in 2009 when it was still a travel blog about Japan, you might be happy to hear that I still have quite a few photos from that period that I haven’t uploaded here yet. I’ll start working on those images next and I’m really excited to visit them again! I’ll be posting the travel images in the Travel section under “Japan 2009” and return to this blog after I’ve dealt with those images. If you’ve subscribed to the RSS feed from the front page of the blog, you should receive see those posts as usual in your reader.

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Quiet sunset at Lake Tuomiojärvi

Summer evening at Lake Tuomiojärvi

A simple click of Lake Tuomiojärvi I made during an evening walk. It’s a shame I didn’t take more than one photo of this beautiful scene, but then again, this one photo is all I need to remember the moment.

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Autumn leaves in the wind

Autumn leaves in the wind

Here’s one more autumn image to start the week. One of my goals this autumn was to photograph leaves flying in the wind. There was a strong wind on the morning I took this photo and I knew it was probably one of the last days before all the leaves were gone. I saw these trees next to our office and started working on different angles. I finally settled on the one you see above and began to wait for a gust of wind that would blow some leaves off the trees. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought and I kept missing the shot because of the slow response time of my phone camera (I’d left my DSLR home in the morning). I stood there a good while, trying to anticipate the right moment until I finally got a couple of promising images.

I took the one I liked best and blended in a couple of leaves from another shot to fill some spots in the sky I thought were too empty. I’m not sure if this was really necessary, but it made the image look more balanced to my eye. I then finalized the image by increasing color contrast and adding some vignetting to the corners in Nik Color Efex Pro. Although this might sound like a lot of post-processing work for a mobile phone image and the image was by no means bad out of camera, these final post-processing steps really made the colors pop – and more importantly – they made me happier about the image. Even if you’re not shooting in raw, there’s a lot you can do to improve your images afterwards with software such as Snapseed, Lightroom or Photoshop, and I see no reason to settle for what the camera offers you.

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Maple leaf

Maple leaf against the sky

A quick update for Friday afternoon before I have to get going.

Here’s the second image from the autumn series I shot a month ago. When it comes to autumn and mobile phone photos, a hand holding a maple leaf against the sky or sun is probably one of the most common photographic clichés. Still, the weather was so nice and the leaves so colorful that I had to make my version of it. I’m not sure if I was able to bring anything new or personal to this shot, but at least its my hand in the image. I’m also happy about the color contrast between the blue sky and the yellow leaf.

That’s it for today. Have a nice weekend, and if you’re in Jyväskylä, come and see singer-songwriter Heikki Hallanoro, a friend of mine, perform at Vakiopaine tonight. I’ll also be there to take a few photos. Hopefully I’ll have some nice ones to upload next week.

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Autumn at Lake Palokkajärvi

A boat covered with autumn leaves

Autumn is almost over and the leaves are already gone, but I haven’t had time to post any autumn images yet. I’m going to fix that by posting a series of images I took on a beautiful morning in early October. This boat is one of many boats on the shore of Lake Palokkajärvi. I walk by it almost everyday during my commute, but this time the golden leaves and the morning light created such a beautiful scene that I had to stop and try to capture it. I took a number of shots from different angles, but this one stood out.

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Long and winding road

Winding dirt road lined with trees

I’m trying to catch up with posting images I’ve post-processed recently. I took this one in May only a few hundred meters from where I live. I liked the original version, but thought it was a bit too light. Because the image already had a painterly quality to it, I decided to emphasize it by adding a texture on most of the image. I think it worked nicely, making the image a bit darker and giving it a more tranquil mood.

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