Daibutsu, Kamakura, Japan, 2004
The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at the Kotoko-in Monastery in Kamakura is one of the great sites to see in Japan. At a height of about 43 feet and weighing about 93 tons, it is impressive. It’s also very old, built in 1252 according to temple records. The last building to house it was destroyed in a storm in 1498, and since then it has been out in the open air.
Given its icon status, it’s also probably one of the most photographed things in Japan. Here’s a standard view of it that I made with my Olympus Stylus on my visit there in 2004:
Still, when I visit an often photographed site such as this, I like to try to photograph it in a different way. The question here was: how can I portray this statue in a way that would be different than the standard tourist brochure shot?
After walking around it, keeping my eyes open for an interesting view, I came upon this composition. Instead of seeing it fully, I saw it peeking through, so to speak, from behind this hedge and a stone lantern. More than peeking, it seems to be looming back there – but is it really? What’s interesting is that if you didn’t know how big it is, it could be a smaller statue right behind the bush rather than something huge that’s far away.
I had my tripod with me, so I set the camera up high on it, focusing on the Buddha and blurring the foreground. I needed to put it up high, as the view of the Buddha would have been blocked by the hedge if the camera was lower. One of the advantages of using a tripod is that you can let somebody else see the exact same view that you saw. Being so proud of my composition, I wanted to share it with somebody else, so I beckoned to a Japanese man with a camera who was walking by, pointing at the viewfinder for him to take a look. He did come over and he tried to take a look – but unfortunately the man was short and even on tippy toe he couldn’t reach up to see through the viewfinder!
At least I’m able to share the view with some people now.