Trying to shoot with cherry blossoms (sakura) is always a bit of a risky venture in Australia, because they aren’t all that common, and the ideal bloom period can be quite short. With the fragility of cherry blossoms, a rainy and/or windy day can quickly spell their end.
That said, a few months back, there was a particular craze for shooting during the antipodean sakura season, particularly at a certain Japanese garden in Auburn, which was doing a great job marketing its Cherry Blossom Festival.
(As an aside, it’s always quite funny when you post the photos up on Asian social media – commenters in the northern hemisphere invariably express amazement over the sakura in full blossom during their autumn season, and the fact that there are sakura at all in kangaroo-and-spider-filled Australia.)
What I knew during the planning stages of this shoot with Shikiro and Zuzu was that I didn’t want to shoot at Auburn. It had been used to saturation, and tended to be crowded on the weekends (the only time when I was free to shoot during the daytime), making it hard to get a clean shot.
Instead, I found an alternative location where the cherry blossoms bloomed a few weeks later, and we took a road trip to shoot there. Ita was second shooter for this shoot.
It just so happened that besides a heavy bloom of cherry blossoms, Japanese maple could also be found there, which really worked quite well for a number of the shots (particularly because the red colours matched that of the umbrella and obi).
The day itself was pretty overcast, which is good because that presents a plain canvas as far as lighting is concerned. I did want to get a fairly natural and soft look, so I filled with a low-power flash in a silver umbrella (which for me acts like a reflector substitute), and used wide apertures.
I used a second flash barebulb as an all-purpose supplementary light, sometimes used for hair light, other times to stimulate lens flare, other times to shoot through the curtain of blossoms for a sun-lit look.
This shoot was one of my favourites from 2013 due in part to the magical cherry blossoms which transported me out of the everyday drudgery. To be honest it was almost like being in a dream when I was shooting this, and I think the dreaminess translated into the finished images.