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Fushimi Inari Shrine: how to avoid crowds and take great photos

Spirit at Fushimi Inari
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This article about Inari After Dusk photo adventure was published in Kyoto Visitor’s Guide (December 2017 / January 2018 edition).

According to the traveler’s bible, Fushimi Inari is the #1 thing to do in Kyoto. Every year, nearly 3 million sightseers snap the vermilion gates just like the cover page on their guidebook. Not much originality here. How can we beat the crowds and better photograph this amazing place? Our tip: go there at night!

Bespoke Photo Adventure

Few adventurers dare to explore the shrine after 7 PM. Good! That’s when we make the most of it, capturing the spooky atmosphere empty from people. Until the wee hours of the morning, the gates are lit by old-style lanterns creating a truly unique vibe. With the appropriate gear, the right camera settings and a creative vision, we can craft images that will amaze our friends. Our advice: try light painting!
We will need: a camera capable of manual mode; a shutter speed that can go to 20 or 30 seconds; a sturdy tripod and a couple of lights (nothing fancy: LED flashlights from local store or even the one on your smartphone). Not necessary but helpful: a wireless camera remote.

Spirit

Once the camera settings are set we won’t need to change them much. We switch to manual mode for granular control over exposure. We need time to paint with light so we bring our shutter speed to 20 or 30 seconds. We want sharp images with a wide depth of field (focus range) so we hit F8. Finally, we adjust our ISO (sensitivity of the sensor) to compensate for the long exposure time and avoid grain: usually 100 ISO, 200 ISO or slightly more depending on ambient light.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

That’s when the fun begins. We must choose the right spots and props. We adjust the composition to enhance the scene. We add light effects to bring life to our images. Possibilities are endless so come along on a fun photo adventure and challenge your eye!

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