The Vermillion Gates

Instantly recognisable, the striking vermillion gates of the Fushimi Inari shrine should be high on the list of must-see locations for anyone planning to travel in Japan.

I knew that Mount Inari was a popular destination for tourists and photographers alike, so I made sure that I arrived at dawn and before the crowds - which wasn’t actually too gruelling given that the base of the mountain is only a 20 minute train ride from the centre of Kyoto. The locals were already setting up their stalls to sell takoyaki (delicious balls of deep-fried octopus and wheat flour), fried chicken and sweet waffles.

Aware that I probably didn’t have long before the tour buses arrived, I made my way through the first few winding passageways and under an endless stream of the beautiful red gates. Once I had found the spot that worked best for light and composition, I took a few test shots and then set up the tripod and framed the image through the viewfinder.

This was my favourite image from the series I shot in Fushimi Inari because it gives a great feel of depth; following the winding path and including two of the lanterns - one in the foreground and one in the background. Direct sunlight would have created too much contrast between the gates and so I deliberately picked a passageway beneath the trees - meaning a softer, dappled light illuminated the gates and accentuated the different shades of vermillion.

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