The Thousand Words: Andy Yee

A picture tells a thousand words... and we are here to tell you a few more in our ongoing series 'A Thousand Words' where we dig through the vault of talented photographers at Aperture Tours and get them to open up a little about some of their favourite images. 

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Kyoto, by Andy Yee

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest  PHOTOGRAPHY: Andy Yee • CANON 5D MkIII • Tonika 16-28mm Ƒ/2.8 @ 16MM Ƒ/9 • HDR

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
PHOTOGRAPHY: Andy Yee • CANON 5D MkIII • Tonika 16-28mm Ƒ/2.8 @ 16MM Ƒ/9 • HDR

There are some images of my travels that will always resonate louder and be more recognised than others. Even though I have been back several times, I am still chasing that perfect moment. 

The Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto is one of the most iconic locations in Japan, or anywhere in the world for that matter. In a region renowned for its astounding temples, shrines and gardens, it is this simple path through a bamboo grove on the western side of Kyoto that draws throws of tourists daily. 

The pure symmetry of the path that cuts through the sky-high bamboo grove fill the frame with dense greenery, yet still lets in enough light that you can see a slither of the sky above. If you have never been, it looks like the forest goes on forever. Green for days, and in the early morning, all you can hear is the wind rustling through the trees.

The Japanese believe that bamboo trees ward off evil spirits; hence they guard many of the temples. The 16 square metre grove was created in the 14th Century by Muso Soseki, a Zen Buddhist monk.

Without planning your shoot at Arashiyama, you will end up most times with a crowd of people on the path that tend to get in each other’s photos. It quickly transforms from a tranquil space to midfield as soon as the midday bus tours arrive. 

I have been back to Arashiyama several times since this image, always with the optimism to improve on the picture I constructed in my mind. A significant factor that contributes to my “perfect image” depends on the weather, and the day that I am looking for is rarely happening throughout the year.

I have seen images from local Kyoto photographers that capture the look I am chasing. Living there though, they are fortunate enough to be able to drop everything and rush to the forest before the fleeting moment is exhausted.  This is the advantage of being a resident expert photographer.

The plan is always to arrive early; before sunrise is ideal for the blue hour and soft light conditions. Shoot wide angle, anywhere from 12-16mm wide to capture the sense of space around with a small aperture to have the bamboo all in focus from edge to edge. This shot was an HDR edit to achieve the detail in the image. I used my Canon 5D MkIII with a Tokina 12-28mm. Edited in Lightroom with Nik suite of HDR Pro, sharpening and noise reduction.

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Photographer's Profile

NAME: Andy Yee
BORN: Sydney, Australia
CURRENT LOCATION: Sydney, Australia or living out of a suitcase somewhere in the world.
PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE: Travel, landscape, people, festival, architecture
INFLUENCES: Photographers: Ansel Adams, Colby Brown, Zack Arias. Filmmakers: Wes Anderson, Sam Esmail
FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOOT: Japan. Tokyo. Sunset, evening. From the skyscrapers during golden hour to the streets at night bathed in neon. The city is frenetic and never ending opportunities to photograph something unique.
HIGH POINT: Shooting from the top of the sand dunes in the Sahara desert with the Giving Lens workshop last year. A great bunch of people that became amazing friends from sharing such an amazing experience. I took a photo that eventually won the Sony Alpha landscape award. It is hard to pick that image as a favourite from the trip as I have more of an emotional connection to other images, but this image at the moment is my pinnacle achievement in the eye of other photographers.
LOW POINT: I do not really have any low points. I tend not to complain about doing something I love. I have had very long transit days (72 hours from Sydney to Santiago de Cuba, door to door), but I have never had anything truly bad happen to me ;)
TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Give me something specific in the image to look at. Make sure that the thing in focus is meant to be in focus. Make me look for that one thing if you can.

INSTAGRAM: @andyyeephoto
FACEBOOK: AndyYeePhotograph

Andy Yee is is a photographer with Aperture Tours in Sydney. He is hosting a seven-day workshop in Japan during Autumn 2018 where we will visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Find out more information and see more of his images of Japan on our Japan Autumn Workshop page.