Sunday, 27 March 2016

Following the steps of Hokusai up to the Mount Fuji and all things that create beauty...




The thrill was inside me and I felt somewhat tense.
Yes I knew, that would have been the common feeling of anyone in my position – I was looking to meet the dawn at the foot of the sacred Japanese Mount Fuji. The ideally shaped and symmetrical conus of the Fuji Mountain is the Japan’s highest peek (3 776 meters above the sea level). It stands on the Isle of Honshu and in clear weather could be seen even from Tokyo, the country’s capital some 60 miles away. For those born in Japan the Fyjysan is not mearly a mountain or a peek, but rather a symbol which embodies their understanding of beauty. 

I still remember that my photography guru – Prof. Rumen “Roum” Georgiev - used to mention so often the name of a Japanese artist who had depicted the Mount Fuji from various viewpoints. I can’t recall now the exact reference for Roumen to quote that Japanese artist… I am sure, anyhow, that once Rumen was repeatedly mentioning the guy that was for a reason. 

I am currently digging up in the Internet and the search results are shifting the recording tape backwards. The name of that emblematic Japanese artist turned out to be Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and he remained famous in history for his thirty six images of the Fuji Mountain. Yes, I now understand, Rumen Georgiev was perhaps focusing on Hokusai and his multiple viewpoints to the mountain’s top to demonstrate us that a photographer always had a choice. We are the ones to decide what shall be perpetuated in the frame… 





On that day I made my last checks before shooting the dawn. The sun was to appear over Fuji at a quarter past six. The weather was promising. I had to choose for the best viewpoints. I liked a couple of them, for example, the one with the streetlights as a highlight, as well as another one featuring the classical reflection of the mountain peek in the lake. I decided to start with the lake panorama. Then I detected in the frame the traces of several Japanese early riser guys who had outrun me and occupied positions around. The reflections of their silhouettes were so well visible on the water surface and against them you could still see the up-side down reflection of the Fujisan. It was a total symmetry and harmony, indeed. Those Japanese guys they definitely knew how to react when facing the beauty.


From the lake viewpoint, the sun was backlighting the peak. I decided to have a look from the other side… At the dawn sky background the snowy peak was already visually shrouded in early morning mist. Well, that was also beautiful! 

And what about the chance of a street view? Oh, quite inspiring – the image of that sleepy city matching so perfectly the calmness of the peak above. 

The above experience made me to fully comprehend how difficult it had been for Hokusai to explore various options and decide on the best viewpoint to the Mount of Fuji. That would have been a real challenge for him, indeed!


It’s now time to reveal the secret that I myself have been following the peak’s image virtually. I have been following the weather changes and shooting the dawn and the peak online, being physically all the time in Sofia in front of my computer. You know, at present I am experimenting with the ideas of Prof. Fred Ritchin stated in his work “Beyond Photoshop” where he deliberates on the remote shooting options. 
There are indeed so many operational web cameras located all over the world and provided that a man could permanently make use of their potential he as a true photographer would be always in a position to make a screenshot and become an author. 
I perfectly understand that at a first glance this could sound a little weird and even shocking for many. Anyhow, I could willingly confirm that after I tried myself to follow the above patterns my feelings when doing a remote shooting were quite comparable to those of on-site shooting. 
Take for example the series of my web pictures from the foot of the Matterhorn Peak in the Alpes. I made my choice of a camera – the one which I liked because it was providing a panoramic view from a hotel with an astronomical observatory and up to the very Matterhorn Peak. I was regularly monitoring that camera.  Up to now I’ve managed to catch the images of that specific local pre-evening mood, the early morning vigor, and the feel of a regular sunny day. I genuinely liked an airplane trace up in the sky depicted in one of my shots and the mists around the peak in another. 

Despite of filming remotely I am still the one in control. I am the one to choose the atmospheric and lighting conditions to shoot. I can always be back at any moment and follow the developments at the chosen location. 

At this point, it is the prime time to define the basic principles of the landscape photography. The big trick is to focus on the proper object and subsequently to apply instruments to film that very object in proper weather conditions and appealing lighting. 
Ansel Adams, the genius of landscape photography, was exploring the same locations all over for years in a row, but if you thoroughly check his shots you would see that none of them could be considered as recurrence or replicas. 

                                                                                    pictures by Ansel Adams

Nature has so many faces. Any of those needs a proper look to reveal its essence. 
So, if based on the perception of landscape genre looking for diversity, the remote web-photography proves to be a bingo. Just in seconds one can assure proper facilities at the foot of the Matternhorn Mountain and make bright shots provided patience of facing the monitor and waiting for some tiny cloud or even an idea of a mist to cover your targeted location. 
Please, believe me I do know how a photographer feels when filming an issue of interest. Then, you may also rely on my inner feeling that a web-filming brings the same sort of emotions. The excitement of discovery is equal – the only difference comes from the fact that you are using remotely someone else’s camera. But the copyright feeling remains with you. You are the one to choose the camera, to decide on the light, and the one to click the Print Screen button. 



Well... In the meantime, while I am telling you all this I am continuing to follow the cameras located around the Mount of Fuji. See, a stroke of wind blew around the lake and the reflection is no more such symmetric as it used to be. Some of the Japanese cameramen have obviously given up. I will still stay for a little while …


I do recognize that the digital revolution has definitely changed our lives. If we can like and admire each other in the chat, why we could not (and support each other to) shoot remotely? 


Text & Images by Krasimir Andonov 


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