21 Sep 2015

Japan diaries II: a conversation with nature

The day I realized that it was not essential to come back home (or the guesthouse, hotel or tent when traveling) with multitude of pictures stored in the SD card, I was free. Free from the (self-imposed) pressure of needing to produce images of value every single time I was out shooting, no matter where; free from the feeling of frustration whenever a photowalk had not been as prolific as I wanted; free from the fear of not being able to find and see good scenes to photograph upon leaving the room. No, even though I was carrying a camera with me (two of them at times), it was not necessary to take a single picture, after all; I was going out for a walk, and the enjoyment of it wouldn't be lessened by the lack of photographs upon my return home. I would enjoy my outing nevertheless, and photographs would happen if and only I found they were worth taking. No more, and no less.

The emerald in the forest, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Trunk romance, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Companions, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The fork, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Study on green I, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Study on green II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
That's how I approached my first trip to Japan, last July (another two posts with the images of people and monuments from that trip can be seen here and here). After the trip was over and I was back at home, with countless new memories and three thousand images, I realized it could not have been any other way. Does this disqualify me as a photographer? If photography is understood as an exclusive endeavor that requires always the first and foremost attention no matter the circumstances, then no, I'm not a photographer. And I couldn't care less by not following that restrictive definition: for me, photography is a travel companion, a friend that walks with me along the way as I discover new lands, a loyal colleague that never asks too much, yet is always ready whenever I need it. As I quietly walk along mountain treks, breathing fresh air and enjoying the peace only nature can bring, the camera awaits, always ready, never demanding.

Floating mirage, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The rules of nature, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The island, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
A meadow below the clouds, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Loneliness, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Up and down, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Japan is nothing short of amazing when it comes to landscape splendor, so it was uncommon for me to walk a few hundred meters without stoping a few times to contemplate at ease a natural scene, usually capturing it with the camera, as well; in those instances, observing was always first, and photography, whenever it happened, was second, for the joy of traveling is, for me, a mood, a state of mind in which I feel at ease with my surroundings: there is never hurry, nor obligations, nor any other duty that might compromise the purity of just being there for the sake of being there. Luckily, photography is never a burden in this silent conversation between me and the places I visit, rather at the contrary, it is a supporting comrade who points in directions that my eyes might not notice by themselves, opening new perspectives, helping me to see more.

The grass and the puddle, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Serenity, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Shades of green, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The rules of nature II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Murmuring waters, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
There are no rules, no fixed itineraries nor compulsory destinations: I try to enjoy every location that I'm in, and if I don't feel comfortable, I don't hesitate skipping a landmark that everyone includes in the so abused top-ten lists altogether. I have a plan, but I'm always flexible, and I let my own mood and the unexpected flow of things direct my steps. I'm not traveling for an assignment or for some kind of research, I'm doing it purely for myself, so there's no need to stick to unnecessary rules nor schedules. Everything is disposable. Anything is welcome. The only rule I stick to when it comes to photography, however, is one and only, but of total importance for me: never modify anything in the environment, even if that means not getting a shot that could have been awesome. Patience and respect are always more important than a winning image in my dictionary. If I can't wait long enough or some other external element is interrupting the potential image that I see in front of me, then I move on with no regrets.

The watch, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The wait, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The bath, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
I won't resort to post-processing to fix an inaccurate image, either: the image that could have been, was not, but I went ahead and other images happened that maybe wouldn't have been born had I stayed longer in the first place. It's always a game of learning to let go, in order to reach new chances. At the end of the day, photography knows as much about me as my own family, and it says who I am openly for whoever is eager to have a look. There are no hidden messages nor indirect intentions, just my own, inner motivations. Though sometimes my photography, much like a good, sincere friend, reveals parts of me that even I ignored or had payed little attention to before, and in that sense is a good way to get to know oneself better. What catches your attention at a subconscious level, what drives your eyes and directs your feet tells more about yourself that lengthy and empty conversations or self explanations.

Monochrome bamboo, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Cornered, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Surrender, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
It seems that this post has become, unexpectedly, a self confession of sorts. So be it. Maybe it's very revealing that, after 3 weeks in Japan, three out of four pictures that I took were of nature, when more than half of the time I was at big cities, or visiting human-made monuments; but nowhere I could feel as relaxed and carefree as in those thick forests, expansive meadows or murmuring streams, and I guess this post has come to reflect exactly that: the wordless dialogue between me and the nature of Japan, for those moments of quietude and loneliness are some of the strongest recollections I treasure from that journey.

The crest and the queen, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Watercolor Fuji I, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Sunset over Fuji, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
The wave and the queen, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Watercolor Fuji II, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm
Framed Fuji, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm

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