A Second Chance For Illuminated Stone Lanterns
Wednesday 29 July 2015 — Category: Outings
Last week I wrote about a disappointing evening at the Japanese Garden. I had been expecting that the numerous stone lanterns (tōrō) scattered around the Garden would be lit during the special members-only evening hours. I wasted six hours and a 150-mile-roundtrip drive to Portland only to find out that my assumptions had been false.
In that article I had mentioned that I was in the process of contacting the Garden, and would report back once I received a reply. Because it’s a long story, I decided to write this follow-up article instead of merely appending the previous one. Here is part of what they wrote:
We only light the lanterns on very rare occasions. Over the decades, the open flames have begun to damage the lanterns, therefore we have had to be more selective of when we light them. We do, however, plan to light them for the upcoming Photography Member Social on August 18. It looks like you are not a photography member, so if you wish to upgrade, I am happy to help you in that so that you can attend this special event.Well, that was kind of them to let me know that the lanterns would be lit for Photography Members and to offer to help me upgrade. In March I had purchased a Family Membership (so my wife and daughter could enjoy the Garden as well) for $75. In order to upgrade to a Photography Membership for just myself, I would have to pay an additional $80. If I wanted my family to retain their membership, the Family Photography Membership would set me back $20 more.
There is absolutely NO way I’m going to pay $80 to $100 just to be able to take pictures of lit stone lanterns for one evening! Sheesh! Actually, I was kind of hoping they would invite me to attend that event for free as compensation for my disappointing experience last week. Keep dreaming, Brian!
Fortunately, they had a less spendy alternative. Their e-mail continued: “The only other time we have the lanterns lit is O-Bon, the Spirit Festival, which will be on August 12 this year. Tripods, monopods and flash photography are not allowed at this event, and tickets are required.”
Wellllll ... a Buddhist festival to honor and pray for the spirits of ancestors isn’t exactly my cup of tea. On the other hand, it could be a wonderful photo op. And if I am busy taking pictures I won’t have time to meddle with my ancestors’ spirits — which would be a benefit for everyone, living and dead!
It’s a real bummer that tripods will not be allowed at that event, because under such low-light conditions, a tripod is essential for the best results. However, in the past I have been amazed and inspired by the hand-held, low-light photos that Malaysian photographer Robin Wong took a few years back at a Hindu Deepavali “festival of lights.”
It is an interesting coincidence that just as I’m writing this article, Robin has posted a new article about low-light photography. What perfect timing! I don’t know that I’m up to Robin’s level, but practice makes perfect, so I think I should give it a try.
In light of the huge cost of upgrading my Garden membership, it is quite nice that the required ticket for the O-Bon Festival is free to current members. The limit for this event is 350, and there were about 70 spaces left when I acquired my ticket online. It is going to be a challenge to get good shots with that kind of crowd.
Well, exactly two weeks from tonight I will be fending off both bodies and spirits in my attempt to make the most of this photo op. I’m sure I’ll have a story to share — I just hope that I’ll have photos to share as well.