Shadow photography at Aoyama Cemetery

Shadow photography is romantic. It brings a lot of drama and mood to its subject. I enjoy doing it, even though I lack skill. Yes, I’ve toyed with it in the past. There are several places where I’ve practiced it. Shinjuku was one. The skyscrapers with their concrete were perfect for it. Tokyo International Forum was another. This time, I chose Aoyama Cemetery.

Why do I like shadow photography? This poem sums it up nicely for me:

How much of earth’s beauty is due to its shadows! The tree and the cliff and the far-floating cloudlet, The uniform light intercepting and crossing, Give manifold color and change to the landscape. How much, too, our life is in debt to its shadows.

I think Durfee was spot-on with his words. Shadows bring beauty to the world. Without them, the world would be mundane. They highlight what light shows. Art has used them so well.

Where can they be found in art? Do you know Caravaggio? He was an Italian painter who lived from 1571 to 1610. By all accounts, he was a volatile character but an amazing artist. You should do some reading on him. Check out his art, too.

Caravaggio was one of the great proponents of chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is a painting technique. It makes use of the contrast between light and dark. You should check out some of his paintings. Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstacy is a great example. Of course, there are many more.

I also love the work of Fan Ho. He was a Chinese photographer who did a lot of great work in the 1950s and 60s. His black-and-white work was incredible. He was an expert in chiaroscuro.

Of course, you can use it in photography. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m not an expert in this field, but I’m trying to improve my skills. I would like to produce some great work with it one day. Who knows when that will be, though?

So, I went to Aoyama Cemetery to practice. Well, it is one of my favorite places in Tokyo. I’ve photographed it many times in the past. You might have seen some of its photos on this website.

Why do shadow photography at Aoyama Cemetery?

  • Cemeteries are dull. Many of the tombstones are granite or marble. A few bronze pieces exist to break the monotony. Photographing them in color isn’t critical.
  • These photographs are from winter 2024. Most of the leaves were gone. Only the pines had them. That meant I had grey, white, green, and brown to work with. That wasn’t attractive. Black and white was perfect.
  • Color often gives away the era of a photograph. That’s not always the case with black-and-white. They are ageless. That allows photos to bridge generations. Isn’t that perfect for cemeteries? The graves come from the past and will be there forever.
  • Tombstones and graves are a dark subject matter for some people. Isn’t that reason enough for black and white?

Why are shadows beautiful?

Caravaggio and Chiaroscuro have shown the beauty of shadows. Shadows create depth, contrast, and drama. They evoke different emotions in the viewer. I’m sure you’ve seen how they can create atmosphere in a horror movie. While those created in the early evening feel peaceful and tranquil.

Wrapping up

Shadow photography is awesome. It brings mood and drama to a subject. Aoyama Cemetery was the perfect place for it. It would have been great if the afternoon had gone on forever. The skies were clear and as the sun got lower, the shadows lengthened.

I probably didn’t nail the use of chiaroscuro in these photos. Actually, on some of them, I didn’t get it at all. A few I included because I thought the subject looked (I’m looking at you Mount Fuji). But hopefully, I got something close. The technique is something I’d like to work on because it is beautiful. I’m such an amateur!

Well, that is it for this shadow photography article. I hope enjoy the photos. Please leave your comments and questions below.

For more shadow photography articles, look at:

An external article about shadows you might find interesting:

See the complete Shadows poem by Thomas Durfee:


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